Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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Introduction


Until recently, getting the best Android smartphone Samsung could offer was a straightforward process involving no more than three simple steps. Step one was to get a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Steps two and three were to settle the bill and to brag about your new handset on social media. Now, however, the highly-anticipated Galaxy S6 is about to hit the shelves worldwide. This changes things quite a bit as Samsung's new flagship is no less awesome of a smartphone when stacked up against the Note 4. That's why we don't want to be in the shoes of someone torn between these two Galaxies.

What makes picking a favorite among the two such a tough decision? Well, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 offers a larger screen, a bigger battery, and expandable storage. It is fast, it is good-looking, and it is packed with perks, as any high-end smartphone should be. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is more compact and comes equipped with more power-efficient hardware, not to mention that its design can make heads turn. This kind of situation calls for a thorough comparison – let's see what sets the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 4 apart and what really makes one better than the other.

Design

While the Samsung Galaxy S6 is one of Samsung's best-looking smartphones ever, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 doesn't look or feel bad either.

We feel like we should start by commenting on the most obvious design difference between the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – one of them is clearly bigger than the other in every dimension. That's the Note 4, of course, which is a full-fledged phablet, whereas the Galaxy S6 is a slim smartphone of average width and height. It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy S6 fits better in the palm. Also, it slides effortlessly in a pair of jeans' pocket because of its smaller size. Furthermore, our thumbs can easily reach most of the phone's screen area, aided by the curvier corners at the bottom. In contrast, the Galaxy Note 4 isn't quite as pocket-friendly of a phone, and operating it single-handedly would be a challenge to many people. But in exchange for this inconvenience, the Note 4 provides you with a larger screen, and for many, the trade-off would be worth it.

While the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 draws attention with its size, the Galaxy S6 makes heads turn with its appearance. This has been achieved through broader use of premium materials, which suggests that the days of plastic-made Galaxy S flagships have come to an end. Simply said, the Galaxy S6 is a gorgeous handset, standing leagues ahead of the Note 4 in this respect. The Galaxy S6 features a solid metal frame around its sides – one that won't bend under every-day pressure, Samsung promises. On the front and back sides of the phone we find layers of Gorilla Glass 4, which are resistant to physical damage, and an optical layer underneath the glass sheet creates a unique reflective effect. On the downside, fingerprints stick instantly to the phone's surface, and we're not entirely sure how well that Gorilla Glass 4 back will endure the tests of time.

Like the case is with the Galaxy S6, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4's sides are reinforced by a sturdy metal frame. Its back side, however, is made of plastic, textured to emulate the look of leather. The material isn't as fancy or fashionable as the S6's glass surface, we have to admit, but it doesn't look or feel bad either. It provides sufficient grip, it is immune to fingerprints, and it should prove durable over time.

Now seems to be a good time to mention that the back of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is tightly sealed. In other words, the glass plate will be hard to replace if damaged, and the user does not have access to the phone's battery should they ever need to replace it. The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, sports a removable back, behind which resides a user-replaceable battery.

Both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 4 stick to Samsung's traditional button layout, with power and volume buttons on their right and left sides respectively, where they're easy to reach. These keys are made of metal and respond with an excellent click when pressed. Identically, under both phones' displays we find a physical “home” button, accompanied by capacitive keys for the “back” function and for listing recent applications.

Speaking of buttons, both smartphones have a fingerprint scanner embedded in their home button. It serves as an alternative to a traditional lock screen PIN or pattern, but can also be used for logging onto websites, for authorizing PayPal payments, and to replace a Samsung account's username and password. There's a huge difference between the two phones' fingerprint scanners, however. On the Galaxy S6, you simply touch the scanner to have your fingerprint read, while the Galaxy Note 4 requires you to swipe down on the scanner. The latter solution works, but it is unreliable compared to the S6's touch-based scanner, as our first-hand experience goes to show.

As other members of Samsung's Note series and unlike the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Galaxy Note 4 is equipped with an S Pen – a digital stylus made primarily for note-taking and drawing. It's a standout feature, there's no denying that, but not one the majority of Note 4 owners would use on a daily basis.


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Display

With their high pixel density and accurate colors, both phones' screens are a pleasure to look at. The Galaxy S6, however, is a step ahead.

As it's clear to see, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 stands out with its larger display, also protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 4. It measures 5.7 inches in diagonal and dwarfs the screens of most other smartphones currently on the market. Anyone who spends a lot of time surfing the web, watching videos, or playing games on their handset will appreciate having such a spacious screen at their disposal. At 5.1 inches in diagonal, the display on the Galaxy S6 is not tiny either. Its size is perfectly adequate for a contemporary flagship and suitable for the needs of the majority of users.

Size aside, there's a number of traits the screens on the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 have in common. First and foremost, they're both packing the same number of pixels – 1440 by 2560 of them – which results in sharp and pixelation-free visuals, as we'd expect out of a high-end handset. As a matter of fact, the 577 pixels per inch produced by the Galaxy S6's display is an industry-leading figure. The Note 4 is somewhat behind with its 515 PPI, but in all honesty, our eyes can't really detect much of a difference in the level of details produced by both screens. High-res graphics look equally stunning on both handsets.

The two phones' panels are of the Super AMOLED variety, which explains the wide viewing angles, the contrasty images, and the saturated colors they produce. And speaking of colors, both phones let you tinker with their screens' settings. One may choose between several different display modes, depending on the kind of color reproduction they prefer. Adaptive Display mode, enabled by default, automatically adjusts the color range, sharpness, and saturation of the display depending on what's being shown on the screen. It throws color fidelity out the window, however – colors are vivid and saturated, but not exactly accurate. Alternatively, there's the so-called Basic mode, which is present on both phones and designed to deliver utmost color precision. With this mode enabled, we ran our usual set of screen benchmarks to test how accurate the two screens could actually get.

Long story short, the display on the Samsung Galaxy S6 isn't just spot-on with its accuracy. In terms of color reproduction, this is the most precise AMOLED screen we've ever tested – a title that belonged to the Galaxy Note 4 until now. The S6's screen produces a color temperature of around 6550K, which is extremely close to the 6500K reference point, and its color saturation sweep chart shows how color fidelity is retained across shades and hues. But the Galaxy Note 4 does not lag far behind with its display. As we implied above, it still ranks among the most accurate AMOLED screens out there, and although it is now outpaced by the Galaxy S6, it still looks pretty darn good.

We can't complain about the outdoor visibility of either phone's screen. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 produces over 450 nits of brightness, all while reflecting a minimum amount of sunlight at the user's eyes, which allows the phone to be used comfortably on a sunny day. Same goes for the Samsung Galaxy S6, which outputs over 550 nits of brightness – an impressive figure for an AMOLED display. Besides, the excellent minimum brightness of both screens, hovering around 1 to 2 nits, allows them to be looked at comfortably at night.



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