Samsung Galaxy S6 edge vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4
While the Galaxy S6 is a step ahead on paper, the performance of both phones' cameras is comparable. Although the Note 4 might use a UI redesign.
Firstly, let's look at the raw figures. The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy Note 4 both use Sony's IMX240 1/2.6" sensor with 16MP of resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio, backed by a single LED flash. In addition, both cameras feature optical image stabilization for smoother videos and steadier low-light shots. But identical the two cameras aren't. With the Galaxy S6 edge, you get a wider aperture of F/1.9 versus the F/2.2 on the Note 4, which is why the S6 edge is expected to have the upper hand when it comes to low-light performance. Its wider aperture will be letting more light into the camera, thus likely producing better stills. Another differentiating factor is the two cameras' focal lengths. Thanks to its focal length of 28mm, the Galaxy S6 edge camera has a wider field of view compared to the Note 4's with its 31mm focal length. We must also mention the new infrared white balance featured on the S6 edge, meant to help with adjusting the white balance more accurately, depending on the lighting conditions.
As we mentioned earlier, the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge can be launched with a simple double press on its home button. And the launch is almost instantaneous – the process takes under a second as the camera app is always on stand-by. In comparison, the camera on the Note 4 takes slightly longer to open as you have to wake the phone's screen and then trigger the shortcut placed on the lock screen.
Once in the camera menu of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, we're greeted by a friendly and familiar interface. In fact, the UI doesn't differ much from the interface on the Galaxy Note 4, which is not a bad thing. The layout is simple, with almost nothing in the viewfinder's way. As before, there's a dedicated button for shooting video – you don't have to switch to a separate menu if you need to shoot a clip, which is convenient. Controls for the flash and for enabling the live HDR mode are placed on the left, where they're easy to reach.
After digging deeper into the phones' camera UIs, however, we came across quite a few notable differences. One of them is the overhaul of the advanced settings screen. On the Galaxy S6 edge, these are placed in a dedicated Pro mode, which, when enabled, lets you control the ISO, white balance, and the exposure compensation value, among other settings. What's more, these are adjusted with a simple slider at the side of the UI, with nothing getting in your way. In contrast, manual controls on the Note 4 are executed poorly. They are found in a menu within the camera's Auto mode and aren't convenient to adjust. That's because you can't see much of the change you've made as most of the viewfinder is occupied by the manual controls menu. This makes no sense, we hope you'll agree.
One ace up the S6 edge's sleeve is its tracking autofocus feature. It does exactly what its name implies, and it works pretty well in good light conditions – focus is locked on a moving object, which can come in handy when taking action shots. Furthermore, the Galaxy S6 edge gives you true manual control over the focus, while the Note 4's focus can be adjusted manually only if you tap on an object.
As far as image quality goes, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy Note 4 are both excellent performers, and despite a few minor differences in the way they capture images, we can't rank one better than the other. Given enough light, both produce outstanding images with plenty of details and eye-pleasing colors. However, the Galaxy S6 edge produces images with softer detail compared to the Note 4, presumably due to its camera's wider aperture, the way its software processes the image, or a combination of both factors. These images are not bad by any means. They're just different in appearance when you crop one or take a very close look. The Note 4's photos are sharper, but noise is a bit more noticeable. That's partially because the camera has to set a higher ISO to compensate for its narrower aperture, we presume. But all in all, we're more than pleased with both cameras' daytime performance.
In low light conditions – thing while shooting indoors or at night – the two cameras deliver pleasing results of similar quality. Details are preserved well, and while noise is present, it is kept well under control. When the flash is used from a reasonable distance to the subject, it does a pretty good job at filling the frame with light without distorting the white balance.
Similarly, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy Note 4 produce outstanding videos. Both can shoot 1080p flicks at a steady 30 or a fluid 60 frames per second, or 4K videos at 30 frames per second. What's more, videos are accompanied by loud and clear stereo sound. What makes the S6 edge stand out is its continuous autofocus. On the Note 4 it works well, but on the S6 edge it is noticeably faster.
We're happy to see that Samsung has not overlooked the front-facing shooter on its flagship phone. The Galaxy S6 edge features a 5-megapixel frontal camera with a wide, F/1.9 aperture for improved low-light performance. What's more, the camera supports live HDR for better images in tricky light. But the front-facing camera on the Galaxy Note 4 should not be underestimated. It features 3.7MP of resolution, wide-angle optics, and produces pleasing images, as we know from experience. We should mention that both selfie cameras can produce selfie panoramas by stitching a sequence of images together.
No doubts about it – to enjoy the best multimedia experience, the Galaxy Note 4 is the phone to go with.
The Gallery application part of Samsung's new TouchWiz interface hasn't really changed much. On both the Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy Note 4, the app presents us with an overview of our folders where images are present, and once we open an image, we're allowed to edit it to our liking. In the Note 4's case, the S Pen comes in handy if you want to add hand-written text to your images.
Similarly, the TouchWiz Music player on the Galaxy S6 edge has been left mostly unchanged in terms of functionality. What's different, however, is that its interface and audio adjustments screen have been simplified significantly compared to what we see on the Galaxy Note 4.
If you feel like watching a video, neither of the two phones should have troubles playing one at up to 4K resolution. With its larger and flat display, however, the Galaxy Note 4 is the smartphone for watching flicks.
Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S6 edge with a single loudspeaker. Its output of 75.4 decibels is decent, yet average at best compared to other flagships. The Note 4, for example, outputs a whopping 85 decibels. On the downside, the Note 4's speaker is placed at the back, and when you're watching videos, for example, the sound is projected away from the user, which reduces the perceived volume. The S6 edge has its speaker placed at the bottom side, which would be somewhat better of a solution in a similar scenario.