If you’ve been torn between the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the new Samsung Galaxy S6 you can use our comparison review to help make your decision easier.
At a glance
|Samsung Galaxy Note 4||Samsung Galaxy S6|
|Weight||176 grams||138 grams|
|Processor||Snapdragon 805 quad-core||Exynos 7420 octa-core|
|Price||£599||£599.99 (32GB model)|
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Samsung’s flagship pairing makes for a winning combination. The older Note 4 came out during the company’s time of transition – a point at which it decided to toy with new premium materials and improving build quality. As such you get a precisely milled aluminium frame, but some older traits still remain, namely in the flexible, removable plastic back plate which, granted, lets you get at the battery and a micro SD slot, but still feels a little tacky.
Come the launch of the Galaxy S6, Samsung’s transition period had slowed and they were more focused on created premium-bodied handsets outright. You’ll be hard pressed to find plastic on the body of the Galaxy S6 or the S6 Edge. Instead you’re given a strong curved metal surround and strengthened Gorilla Glass 4 on the back. There’s unquestionably less grip when handling the S6, but it looks and feels better in the hand, even if you can’t expand the memory or readily replace the battery.
With the exception of its leading rival LG, there’s little Samsung’s top handsets have to compete against right now, if you’re talking about their screen tech at least.
Both handsets rock wonderfully sharp Quad HD AMOLED offerings and whilst the pixel junkies will side with the S6’s 5.1-inch display (which boasts an insane 577ppi) the Note 4 makes more sense for media fans with its larger screen. Whichever way you sway you can expect excellent brightness, vivid colours (sometimes at the expense of colour accuracy) and solid viewing angles.
Provided you can deal with the additional bulk, the Note 4’s larger 5.7-inch display also accommodates an extra row of icons and thanks to its integrated digitiser and the brand’s signature S Pen, packs all sorts of stylus-centric functionality the S6 misses out on. A dip into the settings menu and you’ll find that features like Air View – which lets you hold a finger or stylus over the screen to preview select content, is also absent on the Galaxy S6, likely as a result of Samsung’s drive to clean up the TouchWiz experience.
Samsung’s made great strides in improving its skinned take on Android: TouchWiz. Whilst the Android 5.0 Lollipop update is in the process of making itself available to Note 4s across the globe, the experience on 4.4 KitKat is fractionally behind the curve set by the S6, but we do mean fractionally.
Expect a clearly signposted, colourful interface with a ton of apps from Samsung directly and a number of unique features like the aforementioned Air View ability. Being a Note also grants the device standout features like Action Memo, Smart Select, Image Clip and Screen Write, which let you interact with the device using a stylus in unique ways.
The Galaxy S6 misses out on the Note’s S Pen-driven features, but on the other hand offers the greatest iteration of TouchWiz to date. For an interface that once used to be the bane of many a smartphone user’s existence, Samsung has worked hard to transform the experience on the S6 into something users will genuinely enjoy interacting with.
Many of the once locked-down Samsung apps can now be hidden or removed completely, the Settings menu has been simplified and the whole experience as a result just feels lighter on its feet, although that’s no doubt thanks in-part to Samsung’s new silicon running the show.
Whilst it’s a market-dependant affair, in the UK our Note 4s come packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 quad-core chipset whilst wherever you pick up an S6 you’ll be treated to the latest and greatest of Samsung’s own Exynos chipsets: the 7420 octa-core processor.
In general usage opening apps or loading web pages is only marginally slower on the bigger, older Note, but benchmarking places the Galaxy S6’s brain way out in front, so if you’re looking for a more readily future-proofed handset, the S6 is the choice to make.
You’ll find that the larger 3220mAh battery will see you through a day and a half comfortably, whilst the surprisingly modest 2550mAh cell in the S6 will fall short of the mark before lunch on its second day of use. Both phones boast impressive fast-charging skills and the S6’s stands out particularly well should you need to quickly add in some juice at a moment’s notice. The S6’s battery is smarter in other ways too, supporting multiple wireless charging standards for ultimate convenience.
It’s also worth noting that whilst neither phone has the edge in this regard, the integrated heart rate sensors work well in conjunction with S Health to help with fitness tracking efforts and whilst both phones offer fingerprint scanners for unlocking, the iPhone-esq scanner found on the S6 is vastly superior and more convenient.
Despite the differences between the primary snappers on these two handsets, whichever way you swing you’ll be getting a very competent camera. Both phones so happen to rock the same 16-megapixel sensor, Samsung improved the aperture from f/2.2 down to f/1.9 on the Galaxy S6 changing the resultant images somewhat, but both pack phase detection and all the other wizardry that places them high in the rankings.
The most notable difference is with image post-processing; we personally sway towards the Note 4’s extra-sharp imagery, although over-processing can be detrimental to shots at times. The S6 arguably creates the more natural looking stills and video, with a particular talent for dealing with low light and offering the better option for selfie fans too.
Speaking of video you get slow motion and 4K recording from both handsets and the inclusion of OIS (optical image stabilisation) means they both perform well against moving subjects, however Sammy has clearly spent a little more time perfecting the technology used by the newer S6 as it boasts a dynamic variation of the technology, designed to keep your footage looking stable, even when you’re tracking a moving subject.
For the most part it’s clear that the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 still has so much left to give and any discerning smartphone user would be foolish to turn their nose up at this killer phablet. However, whilst for some the bigger screen and S Pen stylus input make it the right tool for the job, many will undoubtedly gravitate towards the newer Galaxy S6.
Samsung’s new flagship not only starts at the same price as 2014’s Note 4, but leads the way in terms of battery, camera and screen technology, not to mention it’s instantly become one of the most attractive Samsung smartphones ever made.
Both the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy S6 are at the top of their respective games, but the refinements and advancements of the newcomer place it out in front by a whisker.
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