Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 3

A year after the previous model, Samsung has refined the phablet again.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 3

Less than a year after the previous Samsung phablet was launched, the Galaxy Note 4 keeps a familiar leather-effect rear, but encompasses it in a more premium-feeling metal frame.

It's also equipped with a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen with a QHD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440, and packs extra grunt from a 2.7GHz Qualcomm 805 under the hood - compared to the Note 3's 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800.

The success of the Galaxy Note line raised a few eyebrows at first, but is now credited with leading other brands to take phablets seriously.

Samsung's last model, the Galaxy Note 3, was a particular success, so it should come as no surprise, then, that their latest refinement in the stylus-toting lineup has cleared up a lot of the criticisms of cheap build quality that have been thrown at Samsung phones of late.

Following the recent announcement of its similarly metal-framed Samsung Galaxy Alpha, it's clear the top Korean outfit is changing its own design language, and moving away from the all-plastic bodies found in the S5, towards a more premium-feeling chassis to rival the competition.

With an improved aesthetic and welcome specification upgrades all round, Samsung should again have the phablet market sown up - unless Apple rocks the cart in just a few short days time.

Design

With faux leather back and plastic shell the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 struck a somewhat awkward balance between a rear that felt tactile and premium, and sides and front that felt somewhat cheaper than they should have. The overall package, though, was greeted with approval from most who gave it a whirl.

With the Galaxy Note 4, there's been a obvious effort to maintain prominence in the ocean of big-screened phones. Samsung has dropped the plastic found on the Note 3 in favour of a body that could be compared to the favourably received iPhone 5s and HTC One M8.

While the Note 4 now feels more refined than the Note 3, it's still not a full metal body construction, with Samsung opting for a metal frame surrounding a plastic chassis that at 152 x 80 x 7.6 mm and 163g. This means it's still both thinner and lighter than the Note 3's 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm form.

On the rear you'll still find the fake leather material, but the skeuomorphic fake stitching has been removed in favor of much cleaner, simpler lines. On the front, the trim either side of the screen has lost the brushed aluminum effect in favor of glossy black bars - though there's a few millimeters less of it all round to make way for the increased screen size.

The Note 4 comes with the same fingerprint sensor already seen on the Galaxy S5 along with matching dust and water-resistant credentials, and heart-rate monitor nestled in next to the rear camera's LED flash.

Screen

After Korean rivals LG stole the limelight with the G3 - the first widely-available handset to feature a QHD display - it's no surprise that Samsung has bumped the screen resolution from 1080p up to 2560 x 1440, while keeping the vivid Super AMOLED technology found in the Note 3.

While screen size remains the same at 5.7 inches, the increase in resolution results in a pixel density of 515ppi on the Note 4 compared to 386 on the previous Note 3. Thanks to slim bezels around the screen, there's no noticeable increase in physical size, and the extra resolution makes using the newly improved S-Pen even more of a joy.

Camera

Last year the 13MP camera on the Galaxy Note 3 was more than adequate, but with top-end smartphones such as the Xperia Z2 and Nokia Lumia 930 upping their game to top 20MP, it was expected that Samsung would make the same gains.

It came as a little bit of a surprise, then, that the included sensor is only 16MP (the same as the S5), but it does pack proper optical image stabilization, and 30fps HD video recording up to 3,840 x 2,160 - or as the marketing bods prefer to call it, 4K.

The front-facing camera on the Note 4 takes a reasonable upgrade from the predecessor's 2MP sensor to a 3.7MP sensor with a wide-angle lens. There's also now a side-mounted capacitive button known as Side Touch which can be used instead of the touchscreen to take photos, as well as responding to a variety of gestures that work even when the screen is off.