Now that things are crystal clear on the internal storage front as far as both the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are concerned, and we also know exactly where the former is headed, it’s time we matched up the new S Pen flagship to its forerunner.
It’s not a matter of which is best, obviously, but by what sort of margin, and more importantly, it’s a matter of bang for buck factor. As in, do the Galaxy Note 5’s upgrades justify the price hike? Because the Note 4 sure as heck merits $540 or so factory unlocked, even as it’s about to turn the human equivalent of 40.
No midlife crisis there, begging the question: do we really needed a sequel? An arguably handsomer but restrictive, non-expandable, non-battery removable follow-up? Stay tuned for the complete side-by-side comparison:
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4 – pricing and availability
Fans of apocalyptic theories strongly believe the end of the wildly successful phablet family is near. They speculate that Sammy will gradually phase out GNotes, starting in Europe this year. Optimists expect Note 5’s limited global availability to be a temporary situation, caused by the Korean manufacturer’s wish to rapidly spread out the S6 Edge+ love.
Whatever the case, we’re glad to see the non-edgy 2015 top dog out and about stateside already, with shipments live or soon to be kicked off by all big four carriers. No-contract tariffs range from $696 at Verizon to $740 at AT&T in 32GB configurations, while Ma Bell and Sprint are prepared to sell you the 5.7 incher for as little as $250 with pacts.
Amazon doesn’t accept Note 5 orders yet, but is hands down the most generous retailer when it comes to the Note 4. A cool $150 or so separates the white, gold and black OG from its successor contract-free, which is really the only sensible purchase option.
Design and build quality
Realizing the spec wars are costly and produce casualties in the form of lagging sales numbers, Samsung shed his image of stubborn, old-fashioned OEM at the beginning of the year. An age of aesthetic rather than hardware renovations was inaugurated, and the torch was passed from the S6 and S6 Edge onto the Note 5 and S6 Edge+.
Long story short, the Galaxy Note 5 looks nothing like the Note 4. For better or worse, it’s made of robust metal and fragile glass now, with no signs of plastic, faux leather or faux anything, for that matter.
It’s also noticeably thinner (7.6 vs 8.5 mm), ever so slightly shorter and narrower (153.2 x 76.1 mm vs 153.5 x 78.6 mm), as well as 5 grams lighter (171 vs 176). Is it more durable and less prone to bending? Too early to call. But it’s definitely prettier.
Display and cameras
On paper, Samsung Xeroxed the 2,560 x 1,440 pix res Super AMOLED screen of the Note 4 because, well, there was simply no room for improvements. Yet DisplayMate, the ultimate authority in panel quality evaluation, deems the Note 5’s Quad HD glass as “very impressive”, “the absolute best” in color accuracy and “the best performing smartphone display ever tested.”
Alas, the cams are probably identical to the ones fitted on the S6 and S6 Edge, barely beating the Note 4 in selfie prowess, courtesy of a 5 MP front-facing sensor. Around the back, you get 16 megapixels from both powerhouses, with optical image stabilization, autofocus and LED flash provided across the board.
Processor, RAM and battery life
Qualcomm may have botched the heir to Snapdragon 805’s throne, but the 14 nm octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC manages to easily eclipse the E5433 and SD810 in raw speed and energy efficiency. Early benchmarks graded Note 5’s hardware at close to 70,000 points in AnTuTu and roughly 4,700 in Geekbench multi-core.
That’s 25,000+ and 1,500 points respectively north of Note 4’s marks, which the superior RAM count also contributes to. Call it overkill if you will, we’ll look at the 4 gigs of memory as a shrewd future proof tactic. You never know what kind of system requirements Marshmallow or subsequent versions of Android could introduce.
Now, it might feel like Samsung downgraded autonomy with a smaller 3,000 mAh battery, but thanks to the Exynos 7420’s frugality, it seems endurance will in fact increase, from under to over 9 hours in the most strenuous conditions.
And don’t forget, it takes you less time to fully juice up the GNote 5, including wirelessly. You wanted palpable, real-life performance enhancements, and your wishes are Samsung’s command.
Storage, software and others
Don’t complain too much of 128GB variant elimination. After all, the Note 4 is squarely available with 32 gigs of local hoarding space. You can of course lament the microSD support’s absence, but it’s good to keep in mind some of those cards do more harm than good when zippy UFS 2.0 technology is involved.
As far as software goes, the TouchWiz UI on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop is only lightly tweaked from what you’re getting from the Note 4 with 5.0. Enough to thankfully remove a bit of clutter and “bloat”, while at the same time squeezing even more productivity out of the revamped S Pen.
Speaking of, the new stylus is spring loaded, meaning you don’t have to manually take if off its slot anymore. That’s clearly a minor yet eye-catching improvement. The same goes for the fingerprint scanner, operated by touch now, not swipe, and if you’re patient, you’ll soon be able to make fast, secure, easy mobile payments through Samsung Pay. First on the Note 5, then eventually on the Note 4 too.
Any connectivity upgrades? Just a trivial move from Bluetooth 4.1 to 4.2, and LTE Cat.9 advancements… in markets where the network speeds are attainable. No reversible USB Type-C port, no iris recognition contraption, no water protection this time around either.
To recap, the Galaxy Note 5 is better-looking, sharper, speedier, longer-lasting and, possibly, more robust than the Note 4 all in all. That’s plenty to justify the $150 price gap, and make Europeans rue their bad luck.