Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy S5

Note 4
The Galaxy Note 4 has a huge 5.7-inch screen

Samsung is often accused of making stacks of slightly different devices to fit every conceivable market niche, but the Galaxy Note isn't one of them. It's designed for a very specific task: to combine smartphones and tablets together to deliver the best of both worlds, giving you a phone that you don't have to squint at when you watch videos and a tablet that doesn't require enormous cargo pants to lug around.

This year's Note, the Galaxy Note 4, improves on its predecessor in several key areas. It has a better screen, a faster, 64-bit processor and more RAM, a better GPU, a better camera and a fingerprint scanner. Some models will even get flexible, curved screens. Even the S Pen has been improved.

That means Samsung has not one, but two mobile flagships: the Galaxy Note 4 phablet and the Galaxy S5 smartphone. They're both impressive devices but there are significant differences between them.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: design

When we reviewed the Galaxy S5 we liked it a lot, but we weren't exactly impressed by its "creaky" design: "it certainly isn't up to the same level as the likes of Apple and HTC". The standard Note 4 is similarly functional, although there will also be a premium version that swaps the plastic chassis for a metal one.

In addition to the standard black and white options there will be two colours: Electric Blue and Copper Gold. Like the Galaxy S5, the Note 4 is dust and water resistant.

Get a better view of the Galaxy Note 4 in our hands on video:

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: display

Both the Galaxy S5 and the Note 4 boast Samsung's superbly bright and readable Super AMOLED displays, but where the S5 has a 5.1-inch, full HD display the Note 4 has a 5.7-inch quad HD (QHD, aka 2K) screen - not the 5.9-inch screen many rumours predicted. That delivers a resolution of 2560 x 1440 compared to the S5's 1080x1920. QHD screens don't make a lot of sense in smaller devices, but once you start getting into the high five inches and above they make a big difference to video and photos.

Samsung is also reportedly working on a Note equivalent of the Samsung Galaxy Round, which would have a three-sided display using a curved AMOLED screen that wraps around the side of the device, removing the bezel and enabling additional swipes to control the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: camera

The Galaxy S5's camera is a speedy 16MP model, and the Note packs the same number of megapixels while adding optical image stabilisation and a 3.7MP front-facing snapper for selfies. That's a big improvement over the Galaxy S5's 2.1MP front-facing camera. Samsung reportedly considered an even bigger 20MP sensor for the rear camera, but couldn't slim it down enough to work with the super-skinny chassis design.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: battery

The Samsung Galaxy S5's battery life is excellent thanks to the combination of battery saving technology and a 2800mAh battery pack. The Note 4's battery is bigger still at a whopping 3600mAh, although of course its bigger screen draws more power than the one in the Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: CPU, RAM and storage

Where the Galaxy S5 has a snappy Snapdragon 801 processor and Adreno 330 GPU, the Note 4 gets a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 805 paired with an Adreno 420 GPU (in the US and Asia) or an Exynos 5433 with quad-core Cortex A-53 and A-57 (everywhere else). The Exyonos model of the Galaxy Note 4 is 64-bit.

With 3GB of RAM, the Note 4 has 1GB more memory than the Galaxy S5.

The Note 4 comes in 16, 32 and 64GB varieties and its microSD card slot supports cards of up to 128GB. The Galaxy S5 can also handle 128GB microSD cards, but its internal storage options are limited to 16GB and 32GB only.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: features

The Galaxy Note 4 runs Android KitKat (Android L will follow when it's officially released by Google) and features the familiar S Pen, but there's a new addition: the fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor we've already seen in the Galaxy S5.

The heart rate sensor is part of the growing S Health system, and on the Note 4 S Health also gets UV sensing to warn you if you're spending too much time in the sun. The sensor works by holding the phone to the sun at a 60-degree angle and tells you just how dangerous the rays currently are. A reading of 0-2 means there's minimal risk of skin damage while a rating of 11+ means you're probably on fire.

While the fingerprint sensor is familiar, the Galaxy Note 4 has two new uses for it: Fingerprint Shortcuts turn individual fingers into app launchers, so for example a flick of your index finger might launch one app and your ring finger another, while Web Sign-In will use the fingerprint scanner as a way to login to websites without having to enter user IDs and passwords.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: price

The Galaxy S5 currently costs around £550 SIM-free (US$650, AU$900), and while Samsung hasn't announced prices for the Note 4 yet a listing on Indonesian site Erafone predicts roughly £490 (US$810, AU$870). That sounds about right, as it doesn't take local taxes such as VAT (currently 20% in the UK) or sales taxes into account.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: release date

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is widely available, but while the Galaxy Note 4 was released on the 3rd of September it hasn't reached shop shelves yet. Expect to see it in late September.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.