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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Note 4 – hands on specs comparison

David Ludlow
21 Aug 2015
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 S-Pen
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The Note 5 isn’t coming to the UK, so should you still buy the Note 4? We find out

If you’re a big fan of Samsung’s Galaxy Note range, you’re probably a little disappointed that the Note 5 is not coming to the UK at the moment and we’re only getting the stylus-free Galaxy S6 Edge+. This means that if you want a large-screen phablet with a stylus, your only option is the Note 4, which was released last year. I’ve gone hands-on with the new Note 5 and have its full specs, so I can help you decide if you should hold out for the new handset or try to get it on import.

Release date

It's important at this stage to be up-front and say that at the UK launch, Samsung didn't even mention the Note 5 in passing. I've also been told by Samsung that there are currently no plans to bring the handset to the UK at the moment, which makes it look as though we're very unlikely to see it in this country legitimately. So, why cover it, you may ask? Even though the Note 5 may not have an official release here, it's still an important handset. Next, there's a very good chance that it will be available on grey import, so those people that really want it will be able to buy it. Finally, if you want a phablet with a stylus and you want to buy through official channels, you need to know if the Note 4 is still any good. I'm providing all that information here for you.

Design

Dimensions: The Galaxy Note 4 measures 153x78x8.5mm and weighs 176g, compared to the Note 5, which measures 153x76x7.6mm and weighs 171g. Given that both have the same screen size, it’s not surprising that both are a similar size and weight. In the hand, there’s really very little to tell the two apart.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Air Command
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 hero shot

Materials: The Note 4 is like a big Samsung Galaxy Alpha, with a metal trim and leather-effect back. It’s a big step up from previous Note models. It isn’t quite as nice as the metal and glass Note 5, though. This model is based on the Galaxy S6 and is exceptionally well-made. The big difference between the two is that the Note 4 has a removable back, so you can replace the battery.

Conclusion: It’s tough to call. The Note 5 is more attractive and has a better build quality, but the Note 4 isn’t too shabby itself, while its removable back will be of interest to a lot of people. 

Display

Both handsets have a 5.7in display with a resolution of 2,560,1,440. They both also use Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology. Both have the same pixel density of 518ppi, too. I haven’t tested the Note 5’s screen, but the Note 4 managed to display 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, so I can’t imagine that the Note 5 will be worse.

Conclusion: There’s nothing to tell the two phones apart here. Both have excellent, high-quality screens with plenty of resolution.

Performance

Processor and graphics: The Note 4 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip, which has a 2.7GHz quad-core CPU. The Note 5 uses Samsung’s own Exynos 7420. This has a full-power 2.1GHz quad-core CPU, for when the phone needs full performance and a low-power 1.5GHz quad-core CPU for lighter tasks to help save battery life. While the Note 4 has 3GB of RAM the Note 5 has 4GB of RAM. One big difference is that the Note 4 has a 32-bit CPU, while the Note 5 has a 64-bit CPU.

Benchmarks: I haven’t tested the Note 5 yet, but it has the same CPU has the S6, so I have a fairly good idea of performance. It will be faster than the Note 4, with benchmarks suggesting that it’s around 33% faster. That’s not a massive advantage and the Note 4 will certainly handle every modern application. 

Battery: The Note 4 has a 3,220mAh battery, while the Note 5 has a 3,000mAh battery. That’s a small difference between the two handsets, although it’s most likely evened up by the fact that the Note 5 has a newer and more efficient processor. As such, I’m expecting the Note 5 to last as long as the Note 4 in the Expert Reviews video playback test: around 15h.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 rear

Conclusion: The Note 5 is the faster smartphone with the newer 64-bit chip, but the difference isn’t massive and the Note 4 can still hold its own. Battery life should be similar, too, although the Note 4 has the slight advantage, as you can change its battery.

Storage

The Note 4 ships with 32GB of storage, but it has a microSD card slot, so you can expand this cheaply. The Note 5 is available in 32GB and 64GB versions, but there’s no way to expand this. 

Camera

Both smartphones have a 16-megapixel sensor. The Note 4 performed well in our tests, but I can’t compare it directly to the Note 5, as the newer phablet has a different sensor. I’m expecting performance to be similar, but until I get some test shots I can’t make any comment.

Software

Although the Note 4 shipped with Android 4.4, it has now had an update to Android 5.1 (Lollipop), the same version as ships with the Note 5. In terms of features, then, there’s not a lot to tell the two phones apart. Both also have the S-Pen stylus, providing a very similar range of features across both.

Samsung Pay

The Note 5 will support Samsung Pay when it launches in the UK, but the Note 4 is not currently a supported device. While it’s neat being able to pay for goods using your phone, it’s not an absolutely must-have feature for most people.

Price

As the Note 5 is not coming to the UK at the moment, I can’t give you a price for the time-being. It’s likely to start selling at around the same price as the Note 4, while that smartphone will get a price drop, making it better value.

Verdict

As the Note 5 will not be available in the UK when it’s launched, it’s tricky making this comparison. On balance, the Note 4, is an excellent value, fast smartphone with plenty going for it including a replaceable battery and a memory card slot. If you really want a phone with a stylus, it’s worth buying. If you want the new design and faster processor of the Note 5, you can either wait a couple of months to see if it becomes available, import one, or check out the S6 Edge+, which has the same specs, but a curved screen and no stylus.

Specs

HardwareSamsung Galaxy Note 5Samsung Galaxy Note 4
ProcessorQuad-core 2.1GHz & quad-core 1.5GHz Samsung Exynos 7420Quad-core 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
RAM4GB3GB
Screen size5.7in5.7in
Screen resolution2,560x1,4402,560x1,440
Screen typeSuper AMOLEDSuper AMOLED
Front camera5 megapixels3.7 megapixels
Rear camera16 megapixels16 megapixels
FlashLEDLED
GPSYesYes
CompassYesYes
Storage (free)16/32GB32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)N/AmicroSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2 LEBluetooth 4.0
NFCYesYes
Wireless data4G3G, 4G
Size153x76x7.6mm153x78x8.5mm
Weight171g176g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 5.1 (Lollipop)Android 4.4.4
Battery size3,000mAh3,220mAh

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