Note 3 or Note 4? Here’s our verdict on the Samsung phablets
Samsung finally perfected the design in the Galaxy Note 4? It certainly
seems like it might have. Spending some time with both handsets, here’s
why we think you should make the upgrade.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: Design
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Plastic, Metal trim, removable back, 176g, 8.5mm thick
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Plastic, Leather effect removable back, 168g, 8.3mm thick
most common criticism of Samsung phones is that they often don’t look
or feel all that expensive. The company is trying to address this with
phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the new Note 4. Thankfully, it shows.
still the leather-effect plastic back, but rather than having naff
chromed plastic running around the sides, the Note 4 use real metal.
It’s a cool anodised aluminum finish that’s a darker shade than the one
found on the Alpha.
Samsung’s also managed to slim down the
bezel even further this year. There’s hardly any bezel on the Galaxy
Note 4 at all, making it ever so slightly narrower than the Note 3. This
makes it a little easier to handle, and the gently curved back also
makes it fit more snugly for one-handed operation.
The texture on
the back has been changed a little, too. While still essentially based
on the texture of leather, it’s a bit less of an obvious copy this time.
The cartoonish stitching of the Note 3, which is actually just a
pattern embossed into the plastic, has been binned in favour of
something a bit lower-key, a bit classier.
The silhouette of the
phone is also a tiny bit different, with a boxier design. Samsung’s
gradually sharpened up the Note series’ curves since it began in 2011,
presumably in an attempt to shave off some excess fat.
the Note 4’s S Pen stylus slots into the bottom of the phone. The
changes Samsung’s made are all positive ones, and for that reason the
new Note wins on the design front.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: Hardware extras
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Heart-rate sensor and fingerprint scanner
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: More
conventional IR transmitter and NFCThe S Pen is, to a large extent,
what the Note series is all about. However, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4
also benefits from a few other bells and whistles that hadn’t yet been
made ‘standard’ across top Samsung phones last year when the Note 3 came
We’re talking about the fingerprint scanner and heart-rate sensor. Both were introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S5, and both are found in the Galaxy Note 4, but not the Note 3.
fingerprint scanner sits underneath the Home button under the screen,
and can be used to unlock the phone and authorise PayPal payments. It’s a
neat extra, especially as something to show off to iPhone 6-owning
friends who brag about their Touch ID sensors. Can you live without it?
We’d say yes.
However, we really don’t think it’s one of the Note
4’s more important changes. As you have to glide your finger over the
centre of it rather than just holding a digit there, it doesn’t always
work, especially when you’re trying to do it quickly.
heart-rate sensor on the back is less problematic, but it’s also less
remarkable. Using S Health you can track your heart rate on the Note 4,
but you can monitor your heart rate pretty easily with just about any
phone as long as it has a rear camera and an LED flash near the lens.
Aside from those hardware requirements, all you need is a heart-rate app
– there are free ones on Google Play.
There’s new stuff, certainly. But these little extras don’t merit upgrading from the Note 3 to the Note 4, in our opinion.
Both phones have most extras you might see in other high-end, feature-packed phones, such as an IR transmitter and NFC.
Note 3 S-Pen (top) and Note 4 S-Pen (bottom)
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: S Pen
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: 2048 dps pressure sensitivity
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: 1024 dps pressure sensitivity
hardware extras are what you’re after, the Note series’ S Pen is where
it’s at. While there are some new software features this time around,
the core hardware that makes the Note 4’s S Pen stylus possible is
similar to the Note 3’s.
Both styli use a digitiser layer in the
screen that enables the use of a pressure-sensitive accessory that
doesn’t need its own power source. And the result is something special.
not widely publicised, the S Pen technology is powered by Wacom, the
company that makes the most popular professional-grade graphics tablets.
As well as being pressure-sensitive, this technology means the Note 3
and Note 4 can sense the presence of the pen before it even touches the
The new software tweaks within the Note 4 focus on
opening up the creative potential of the S Pen stylus and making it
easier to use. This includes the ability to select copy in web pages
when previously you had to go through the more fussy process of cutting
it out. Sensitivity has also been massively increased this time around,
with the Note 4 able to sense 2048 levels of pressure to the Note 3’s
1024. It’s real high-end hardware.
Writing and drawing is more
fluid, making this still one of the best styli bundled with a tablet,
perhaps only rivalled by the one supplied with the Nvidia Shield tablet.
SEE ALSO: Note 4 apps that need to get better
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: Screen
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: 5.7-inch 2560 x 1600-pixel Super AMOLED
Samsung Galaxy Note 3:
5.7-inch 1920 x 1080-pixel Super AMOLEDThe Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has
quite a remarkable screen. It’s the first QHD Super AMOLED phone display
and is a big step up from the Note 3’s Full HD display.
provides the same sort of ridiculously high pixel density you get in
something like the LG G3, but with the additional benefits of a Super
AMOLED panel. Pixel density is much, much higher than the Note 3, which
uses a slightly more conventional 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen.
both displays are the same size, but the Galaxy Note 4’s is a lot
sharper – with a whopping 515ppi pixel density. There’s some question
as to whether this extra sharpness really makes all that much
difference, as the 386ppi Note 3 is still very sharp, but the more
discerning among you will be able to spot the upgrade.
What really makes a good impression is the same colour accuracy that Samsung introduced in the Galaxy
S5. Use the Cinema or Photo modes in the latest Samsung phones and
you’ll get really wonderful colour reproduction.
If you want one of the best screens there is on a phone, then the Note 4 is the winner here.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: CPU and Power
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Exynos 5433 or Snapdragon 805
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Exynos Octa 5420 or Snapdragon 800
the top Samsung phones, assessing power isn’t always just a case of
looking at one CPU. Both the Note 3 and Note 4 come in different
variations that use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors and Samsung’s own
Last year, we much preferred the Snapdragon 800
version of the Note 3 to the Exynos 5420 one. The Exynos sounded more
exciting, as it has eight cores rather than four, but as the Note 3 can
only use four at once, you don’t really get octa-core power. The design
is really more about efficiency.
This year, the situation is a
little different. The Snapdragon 805 version of the Note 4 uses a 32-bit
CPU, but the Exynos 5420 is a true 64-bit processor. We’re actually
slightly disappointed to see the Note 4 use a 32-bit CPU when the 64-bit
future is on the horizon. It really matters because Android 5.0 Lollipop will soon bring full support for 64-bit processors.
But how do the two generations of Snapdragon and Exynos chipsets compare?
Snapdragon 805 is not a huge step up from the 801 of the Galaxy S5 or
the 800 of the Note 3. They use the same Krait-based architecture, and
each is basically a turbocharged version of its predecessor. You get
more power, but technically they’re fairly similar.
SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Note 4
Note 3’s Snapdragon 800 is a 2.3GHz processor, while the Note 4’s 805 a
2.7GHz one. However, it’s in the GPU that we see the real performance
The Adreno 420 of the Note 4 is about 40 per cent more
powerful than the Adreno 330 of the Note 3. It’s this that’ll make the
new phone capable of handling high-end 3D games at native 2560 x
1600-pixel resolution without dropping any effects.
about the Exynos 5433? We could easily call this what the Exynos
octa-core processor should always have been. Unlike the Note 3’s Exynos
5420, all eight cores can be used at once, and it’s a real 64-bit
processor. It’s the future, in other words.
Having a 64-bit
processor also means the Note 4’s 4GB of RAM makes a good deal more
sense. In a 32-bit system, the amount of memory that can be addressed at
once is limited to 4GB, meaning that having any more than 4GB is
pointless, and even the whole 4GB generally won’t be able to be used.
no such limit with a 64-bit system, where the addressable memory space
is so vast that it doesn’t bear thinking about in mobile terms.
phones are well equipped in the power department, so you should have no
problem with more intensive multitasking operations.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: Software
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz UI
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Android 4.3 JellyBean with TouchWiz UI
all of Samsung’s top-end phones, the Note 4 will use a version of the
custom Samsung Android UI. However, the Note 4’s is a generation on from
the Note 3’s.
It benefits from the improvements made in the
revamped version of the TouchWiz UI seen in the Galaxy S5. That means a
bit less bloat, some simpler visual style points and the new settings
menu. It’s a bit overblown, with its simplification backfiring on
occasion, but it’s not bad. And generally it looks better than the Note
The good news is that along with stripping back
the bloatware, some of the more gimmicky settings have been left out of
the Note 4. The underwhelming Magazine UX has gone, too, replaced with a
new Flipboard-powered widget.
Arguably the Note’s best software
feature is MultiWindow, and it’s even better on the Note 4. The Samsung
phone’s big screen is ideal for running multiple apps at the same time,
and now you have the added bonus of being able to run pop-up windows
that you can move around the screen.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 3: Camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: 16-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS, LED flash
Samsung Galaxy Note 3: 13-megapixel sensor, LED flash
Last year, we found that the Note 3 had a slightly worse, but essentially similar, camera to the Galaxy S4. This year, the Note 4 may even have a slightly better camera than the Galaxy S5.
Note 3 has a 13-megapixel main sensor and the Note 4 a 16-megapixel
sensor, both made by Sony. The Galaxy S5 has a Samsung-made ISOCELL
sensor that we wish had made its way into the Note 4, because it’s
Samsung’s previous camera sensors haven’t been much
to brag about, but the 16-megapixel ISOCELL sensor in the Galaxy S5 is
pretty special. The Note 4’s sensor is a bit more conventional, but it’s
still a lot better than the Note 3’s.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 photo sample
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 photo sample
OIS on-board this is one of the best all-round cameras we’ve used.
Optical Image Stabilisation means you’ll experience less hand-shake blur
when using slower shutter speeds in low light, which in turn means more
light will get to the pixels. The Note 4 also offers an improved
front-mounted selfie camera, with a 3.7-megapixel sensor to the Note 3’s
It builds on the S5’s shooting functionality,
making it one of the best all-round smartphone cameras we’ve used.
Whether it’s close-up macro-style images or from a distance, the Note 4
delivers greater detail, improved sharpness and generally more vibrant
image quality compared to the Note 3.
HDR mode is one of
Samsung’s strengths and it really impresses on the new Samsung phablet.
While low-light shooting isn’t entirely free from some image noise, OIS
does manage to produce brighter, more detailed images when shooting
conditions are more challenging.
Like the S5 and the Note 3 you
can shoot video at up to 4K resolution, although you have to sacrifice
some of the more useful camera modes such as Dual Camera and HDR. That’s
not a big issue here, as Full HD 1080p footage is still strong and the
addition of optical video stabilisation is another reason you’ll get
better results from the new Note.
Next, read our round-up of the latest Samsung Galaxy Note 5 rumours
we’re honest, we were a tiny bit disappointed with the Note 3 when it
arrived. It just wasn’t quite the upgrade over the Note 2 that we were
With the Note 4 it’s an entirely different story.
There’s the design improvements, a better camera and the screen is a
massive upgrade from the Note 3. If you’re buying the Note 4 for the S
Pen, the software that makes best use of it isn’t radically different,
but it’s a more fluid and accurate experience.
The Note 4 is
still one of the priciest big phones to buy, but if you are sold on the
Galaxy Note vision, then it’s a no-brainer to make the upgrade.
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