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Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4 comparison: notably different?

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was our best smartphone in the world for almost six months until the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge usurped it. Now there's a new kid on the block, the Galaxy Note 5, and we've put it through its paces against the previous generation device. How does the Note 4 hold up? Find out in our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4 comparison.

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Is the Galaxy Note 5 (bottom) a big improvement over the Galaxy Note 4? / © ANDROIDPIT


Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Design and build quality

The Galaxy Note 4 design appeared to have been informed by the lackluster response to the Samsung Galaxy S5's looks. Instead of the plastic chrome-effect body with dimpled rear, as seen on the S5, Samsung gave the Note 4 metallic edges and a faux-leather back. The result was a phablet that looked sharp and felt comfortable from all angles.

Yes, it's big, at 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, and weighty, at 176 g, but the combination of the black metal sides, the silver trim, and the soft, textured rear gave it an air of importance. Moreover, the display took up about 75 percent of the body, so it doesn't feel too big, as phablets sometimes can (hello, Nexus 6). This is also partly thanks to the convenient button placement and the grip provided by the rubbery rear. 

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The Galaxy Note 5 (left) and the Galaxy Note 4. / © ANDROIDPIT

Nonetheless, I'm pleased that the Note 5 is both slimmer and lighter (albeit by a small margin) than the Note 4. It's also even more attractive.

The new phablet has a sultry glass and metal body, which weighs 171 g. Its dimensions are 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm. It's soft and smooth, the gently curved rear edges make it even more comfortable to hold than its predecessor (albeit more slippery), and the S Pen now ejects automatically, rather than having to be pulled out.

This subtle change to the S-Pen doesn't affect its functionality, just the process of retrieving it, yet it gives the impression that the Galaxy Note 5 is better. It's a similar story with the metal edges of the Note 5. The actual difference in width between the Note 4 and Note 5 is tiny, but the slimmer metal band around the Note 5 makes the newer phablet appear much thinner. 

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The Galaxy Note 5 (bottom) is a little narrower than the Note 4. / © ANDROIDPIT

It could be argued that this is merely Samsung's way of convincing potential buyers that the Note 5 has made more significant improvements than it really has. Maybe that's true, but regardless of the intent, the outcome I cannot deny: the Galaxy Note 5 is simply better to hold and interact with than the Note 4. 

What is disappointing is that the Galaxy Note 5 lacks a removable battery and expandable storage, both of which are present in the Note 4. This isn’t a huge surprise given that these were omitted from the other major Samsung phones this year, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.

That being said, an interest in phablets tends to imply a higher interest in 'consumption' too, as media tends to look better on the larger display of a phablet than a smartphone. With phablets primed for watching movies and videos, which often require high storage capacity and always require a lot of power, the notion of being limited in these areas may put some people off the Note 5. 

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Despite the premium specs, the Notes are still thin devices. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Display

The Galaxy Note 4 has a 5.7-inch QHD screen. It’s super bright, highly detailed (around 515 pixels per inch), responsive and provides excellent viewing angles.

In almost every circumstance, the Note 4’s screen exceeds its competition. Like many of Samsung’s displays, it is a fraction over-saturated and not 100 percent true-to-life, but I welcome its vibrant tones. There are few smartphones with a display as sharp and clear as the Note 4's.  

And somehow the Galaxy Note 5 display is superior. Though it hasn't been bumped up to 4K, the Galaxy Note 5's 5.7-inch QHD offering (518 ppi) has even stronger contrast and definition. At full brightness, even simple webpages appear to jump off the Note 5's screen – it may be the finest display on the platform. 

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Some say that Samsung's display are too saturated. / © ANDROIDPIT

Those who were disappointed that the Note 5's display didn't make the leap to UHD resolution needn't be. Though the resolution and size don't really differ between these two devices, the quality definitely does. 

With all of this in mind, Samsung has employed a very clever 'trick' that makes the Galaxy Note 5 look sharper, and as though it has a larger display – it has shrunk the TouchWiz font and icon size. Both handsets are set to 'small' font by default, but this standard on the Note 5 is smaller. Think of it like viewing a low-resolution picture up close and at a distance: the further away it is the smoother it tends to look. 

Like the thinner edges, Samsung has created only an illusion of superiority here. But it's undeniably effective.    

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Software

What separates the Galaxy Note 4 from most other phablets is its stylus, the S Pen. With its own set of largely useful functions, the S Pen is one of the major reasons to pick up the Note 4. You can read more about what it does in our Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review.

Samsung has continuously improved the Air Command menu, which works in conjunction with the S Pen in each iteration of the Note series, and has done so again with the Galaxy Note 5. We didn't have time to test the new features in our hands-on Note 5 review, but we can confirm that Action Memo, Smart Select, Screen Write and S Note make a return, plus you can now add your own shortcuts to the menu.

samsung galaxy note 5 air command s pen
The Air Command window has had a serious redesign. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Galaxy Note 5 also comes with Samsung Pay thanks to its MST (magnetic secure transmission) integration. Unlike NFC payments, which require compatible terminals, MST works with existing credit card terminals that are already in most stores.

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Performance

The Note 4 houses a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor or Exynos 5433 (depending on the region where it's sold) and 3 GB of RAM. The Note 5 comes with Samsung's own Exynos 7420, an octa-core (2.1GHz Quad + 1.5GHz Quad), 64-bit processor, in addition to 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM.

The outcome is that the Galaxy Note 5 is the faster device, but it's only just noticeable. The specs and benchmarks suggest a significant difference, but in reality, it's very subtle when performing takes such as opening and closing apps or general navigation. 

You will notice the difference when pressing the home button – the Galaxy Note 5 jumps to the home screen noticeably quicker than the Galaxy Note 4. It's also fastest when first launching an app, but once the apps have been cached, the time taken to open them on both phones is similar.

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One of our AnTuTu benchmark results for the Galaxy Note 4. / © ANDROIDPIT

High-end gaming performance was most stable on the Galaxy Note 5, as observed when playing Implosion – Never Lose Hope (one of our best Android games). It was a little faster to load on the Note 5 and less susceptible to frame-rate dips, but once again, the difference was small.  

The Note 5's average score in our AnTuTu benchmarks suggests it's around 33 percent faster than the Note 4. It clocked in at 65,440, compared with the Note 4's 49,102 average score. But as we have argued time and again, performance on high-end devices is often comparable, and more RAM may even lead to slower speeds in some circumstances. You can read more about this in our fastest Android phones article.  

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In AnTuTu benchmarks, the Note 5 has one of the highest scores of any Android phone. / © ANDROIDPIT

When the Galaxy Note 5 first arrived it suffered from some stability and performance issues. Thankfully this seems to have been corrected, but it's still only marginally faster to use than its predecessor. Unless performance is your most important purchasing factor, the difference isn't critical at this point.

Once Android Marshmallow lands on both devices, this distinction may become clearer. We'll have to wait and see.   

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Camera

The Galaxy Note 4 camera is another standout feature of the handset. The 16 MP main snapper comes with OIS, autofocus, LED flash, and 2160p video-recording at 30 fps. The Galaxy Note 5's camera megapixel count remains the same on the back, but the front camera has been upgraded to 5 MP from 3.7 MP.

The Note 5 software and processing has received a big upgrade though, and it's more comparable to the excellent Galaxy S6 camera. The Note 5's camera launches faster and focuses a little more smoothly. It's not a faster focus, in my experience, it just requires a little less maintenance than the Note 4. 

Check out the comparison photos below – the Galaxy Note 5 is always on top, the Note 4, underneath. 

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Color reproduction on both phones is accurate. / © ANDROIDPIT
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In these circumstances it is difficult to tell the two devices apart. / © ANDROIDPIT
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In low light with ISO set at maximum (800) on the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT
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This photo was taken with the same settings on the Note 4, but contains far more noise. / © ANDROIDPIT
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A macro shot on the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT
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The contrast isn't as strong on the Note 4 as the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT
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The same image as above with a focus on the background. / © ANDROIDPIT
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Again there is little difference between the quality in this area. / © ANDROIDPIT
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With the flash on, the Note 5 captures the most natural skin tones (and also most red-eye). / © ANDROIDPIT
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The skin color is a little green when using the flash on the phone. / © ANDROIDPIT

Both cameras produce high-quality pictures in most circumstances. The Note 5 has clearly superior low-light capabilities, but in other scenarios there isn't much between them. Moreover, some of the less common features on both devices can be employed to produce some really clever shots. 

You can almost fake a DSLR effect with the use of Samsung's selective autofocus mode and though it's not perfect, it's far better than what is offered by most other phone manufacturers.

  • For the full Galaxy Note 5 gallery go here
  • For the full Galaxy Note 4 gallery go here

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Battery

The Note 4’s battery has a 3,220 mAh capacity which ensures its lifespan is good, especially with a QHD display gobbling it up. It has significantly stronger battery performance than the 2,550 mAh battery of the Galaxy S6, which also houses a QHD display.

Moreover, the Galaxy Note 4 offers quick-charging, providing around 50 percent battery life in a 30-minute charge, as well as wireless charging – though it requires a separate battery cover. So, has the Galaxy Note 5 introduced a big improvement?

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The lack of a removable battery could be a key problem for the Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Galaxy Note 5 houses a 3,000 mAh battery, down 220 mAh from its predecessor. This was expected, as the same thing happened between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6, but it's still somewhat disappointing. As both handsets feature a QHD display, battery life gets chewed up quickly.

The Galaxy Note 5 does offer the option for wireless quick-charging, which the Note 4 does not, but it requires a separate wireless charging station. Though we haven't had a chance to put the battery under strain yet, even with improved hardware/software optimization, we aren't convinced that the Galaxy Note 5 will deliver better battery life than its predecessor.

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Price and availability

The Galaxy Note 4 is available worldwide, currently at a price of around US$540 for a carrier unlocked model with 32 GB of internal storage space. The Galaxy Note 5 can be found for US$700 for the 32 GB version and US$800 for the 64 GB version off-contract.

The Note 5 represents the best hardware that Samsung can currently muster, and its steep asking price is reflective of this. If you reside within Europe, however, it will likely cost even more to get hold of the Galaxy Note 5 — you'll actually have to import one. 

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Currently, Samsung has no plans to release the Note 5 (bottom) in Europe. / © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung said that it has identified two distinct user groups: casual media consumers and multi-taskers/business users. It seems that Samsung no longer sees a market demand for its phablet with a stylus in Europe, so only the Note 5's sister phone, the Galaxy S6 Edge+, will be released there. 

In this category, as the cheaper more easily attainable handset, the Galaxy Note 4 clinches it. 

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4: Specs

Galaxy Note 5
Galaxy Note 4
System Android 5.1.1 Lollipop (with Touchwiz UI) Android 4.4 KitKat (with TouchWiz UI)
Screen Super AMOLED 5.66-inch
Quad-HD 1,440 x 2,560 pixels,
~ 519 pixels per inch
Gorilla Glass 4
~ 76 percent screen-to-body ratio
Super AMOLED: 5.7-inch
Quad-HD 1,440 x 2,560 pixels,
~ 515 pixels per inch
Gorilla Glass 4
~ 74.2 percent screen-to-body ratio
Processor Octa core (2.1GHz Quad + 1.5GHz Quad), 64 bit, 14 nm process Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 (SM-N910S)
Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (SM-N910C)
Internal memory 32/64 GB
(no microSD support)
32 GB
(plus microSD support)
Battery 3,000 mAh non-removable 3,220 mAh, removable
Camera Rear: 16 MP
front: 5 MP
Rear: 16 MP
front: 3.7 MP

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO(2x2),

Bluetooth v 4.2 LE, ANT+, USB 2.0, NFC

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct,

Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, EDR, LE, USB 2.0, NFC

Dimensions 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
Weight 171 g 176 g
Special features

- S Pen Stylus
- Fingerprint Scanner
- Fast charging
- Wireless charging (native)

- S Pen Stylus
- Fingerprint Scanner 
- Fast charging
- Wireless charging (with separate battery cover)

Galaxy Note 4 vs Galaxy Note 5 comparison: Conclusion

The Galaxy Note 5 display is almost the same as its predecessor, the battery is smaller (and isn’t removable) and it lacks microSD card support: these are big disappointments. The performance and camera specs are stronger, and the sleek design is undoubtedly more impressive, but the degree to which these aspects matter, in the grand scheme of things, may be negligible. 

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The Galaxy Note 5 improves upon the formula, but is it in the areas that matter? / © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung has definitely favored design over functionality with the new Note. If you want the latest, high-performance, attractive smartphone, the Note 5 will certainly please. If the looks don't sway you, maybe you'll prefer last year's lower-priced Note 4. 

The Note 5 refines many of the smaller details of the Note 4. But as with white flour, you may find that Samsung has removed too much of the previous goodness in its attempt to create an overall more palatable product. 

What’s your take on the Galaxy Note 5? Let me know in the comments below.   

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Scott Adam Gordon

Scott Adam Gordon

Originally from the UK, Scott graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University and attributes much of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. His current aim is to write cool things about Android. And he loves it.

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  • 6
    Jaskulski Feb 9, 2017 Link to comment

    The Note 5 is better in all the categories except:
    "The battery is smaller (and isn’t removable) and it lacks microSD card support: these are big disappointments."
    These are fixable things. Getting a juice pack and an SD module solves everything. There are great case producers like the ZeroLemon or Mophie that have wonderful products. At the same time, I decided for I-blades ( that gives extra 64GB memory at the same time and the battery is detachable. And possibility for other modules :)

  • 1
    TEGUIG Beghdadi. Dec 23, 2016 Link to comment

    my question is : i hv no hot-spot in my Galaxy note 4 ?!! why.

  • 1
    chris Jul 6, 2016 Link to comment

    I concur with all statements about the NOTE4 holding on to its performance vs. value. For this reason I bought a second NOTE4 to replace my wife's defunct iphone5. A factory refurbished NOTE4 can be had for a little as $200+, almost four phones for one new NOTE5. I love the swappable batteries and the extra micro-SD cards.
    Why would SAMSUNG morph to an APPLE like design with worms?

  • Valerie Mahaney 1
    Valerie Mahaney Jun 20, 2016 Link to comment

    Unfortunately I feel the same way... Guess what? My Note 4 crapped out on me last week when I tried to do the latest software update. Took it to the corporate store, they said they stopped making Note 4s after 6mos,they ordered me the the note 5, no charge but I am NOT a happy camper! I intentionally bought the Note 4 and the GS5 to prolong any upgrades as long as I can in hopes these dumbasses decide to stop trying to be an iPhone copycat and finally listen to us who have no desire for Apple products! Ugh! I'm so pissed! I don't know, maybe I'll like the note 5,at least I still have my S5.....

  • 7Steels 2
    7Steels May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    The problem with all of Samsung's new phones is that they don't have the "Touch Capture " feature for taking pictures . For those people who want a fast shot of a quickly changing scene, this feature is really necessary. Hunting for the the camera button is definitely not the same as just touching the screen when things are changing fast in front of you. That's why I'm sticking with the Galaxy Note 4 which has this feature. Funny thing is, that when you ask a rep or sales person at the store about the "touch capture " feature , they will ALL tell you that the new phones have it! I just say, "Show me?" That's when the fun begins!

  • 1
    Jason May 4, 2016 Link to comment

    No replaceable battery. What a joke. Dropped my note 4 in water and fried it. My employer provides my phone and unfortunately got me the 5. To the guy who said the battery goes all day and leaves you with 35%...BS I used it just for the calculator today for a class. It was under 20% after 8 hours.

  • 2
    PG Carr Apr 9, 2016 Link to comment

    The people who are defending this "upgrade"...tell me what happens if the battery eventually dies on the 5? It will you know. Then you are stuck with an expensive piece of junk. I WILL NOT be buying any more Notes till the replaceable battery (and SD card) comes back.

    Toby “Effin” Tenacious

  • Warren JB 10
    Warren JB Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Great review, thanks. I bought a Galaxy Note 10 for the arty potential of the S-pen, and I'm loving it so much I'm thinking of switching to Note phones too. This article helped me make up my mind which one I'd go for - I'm more concerned about what's on (or under) the screen rather than how much pleather's on the back!

  • 2
    ALLWYN AGARTHIS Mar 19, 2016 Link to comment

    I am using both note4 and note5 . Some points which I would like to mention here( as nobody mentioned):
    1. note4 have brighter LED flash light.
    2. Note4 have louder, crispier speaker. Eventhough the downward placement of note5's speaker appears better, while watching movies in full screen mode , sound will come from one side( left or right) which causes discomfort
    3. Eventhough note5 has brighter display, comparing to note4 it has less contrast and vibrancy.
    4. Note 5 lacks IR blaster, a real downgrading!!!
    5. Note 5's camera advertised as far better than note4, but actually not. if compare both , photos taken by note4 is more attractive
    6. Note4 has noice cancellation mic
    7. Overall note5 has a 'cheap i-phone' or 'duplicate i-phone' look. We want samsung phone as it is. 'Premium look' is a misnomer.

    Lars Roessell

  • 1
    R N Mar 17, 2016 Link to comment

    note 4 WILL BE MY LAST PHONE. why change?.....It's all set up.....nothing more I need.

  • Emmanuel Manuel 2
    Emmanuel Manuel Feb 29, 2016 Link to comment

    Hmmmm, I have taken time to read through every comments here. I tell everyone that care for the truth, that I use Note 5 and the difference with the Note 4 is like comparing Night & day. Note 5 is way way better. Most guys flogging the Note5 here have never touched the Note5. Battery life is awesome easily takes you through the day with atleast 35% juice left no matter how much u used the phone. Fast charge is phenomenal, it completely eliminates the need for a spare battery. In 30mins or less you get the battery to 90%. Note 5 also has amazing battery saver features that'll further extend the battery life to unbelievable limits. Web page rendering is at par with any 7 or 8inch tab. Speed is phenomenal,almost unbelievable. Finger print scanner is a joy to use as well as very reliable. For work, its a horse, handles almost every document format with amazing effiency. I won't fail to mention the better screen, camera and good speaker output. Its not Tinny in any like some reviewers say. I can't really go through all the amazing features once. That said I would wish for a bigger memory of 64gb or even a128gb if available ,to reduce the need to stick a micro USB for memory expansion. But the 32gb version disciplines you. You only keep important stuff on the phone and less important or very large files on the usb stick. My candid advice.... Go for the Note5 if you can afford it, it's the future.

    • 1
      gewinnste Apr 28, 2016 Link to comment

      Sounds Apple-fan boyish too me. The same level of delusion and masochism.

  • 2
    Fab Ordonez Feb 16, 2016 Link to comment

    No one brings up the IR blaster. I use it constantly with the peel remote software at gome and other places. I can litterally take over a tv at a sports bar with out bothering the staff and the device remembers which tv setup according to which wifi im on. Its not available on the new samsungs. Now it's just the same crap tactics that apple used to price gouge. No real difference or advantage.

    Kal Lo

    • Kal Lo 3
      Kal Lo May 1, 2016 Link to comment

      Right. I can remote aircon too

  • Virago J 1
    Virago J Feb 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Beside just being better all-around, part of what makes Samsung phones more appealing than Apple phones is the removable battery and the expandable memory. In my opinion, the Note 5 is a downgrade from the Note 4 and I have changed my mind about upgrading. If this is what Samsung plans to do with all of their future phones I may consider finding a new brand to buy.

  • 2
    wade Feb 1, 2016 Link to comment

    I'm staying with my note 4!


  • 2
    wade Feb 1, 2016 Link to comment

    y'all really missed up, do you hear what every one is saying.stop trying to be like Apple stay true to what you do best!


  • 1
    Christina Nunez Jan 29, 2016 Link to comment

    A huge drawback to the Note 5 and S6 edge+ is not having the capability to use the peel remote app due to a lack of the IR blaster technology that is present in previous models. I'm very disappointed with it. Plus Samsung could take a lesson from HTC desire eye's camera specs, especially it's 13 megapixel front facing camera with flash. Best on the market for camera IMO.

  • 3
    Omar Fuentes Jan 20, 2016 Link to comment

    Why switch the perfectly working Galaxy Note 4 for a lower memory capacity device with non removable battery? Design? What's wrong with the Note 4 design? Big mistake, Samsung...I hope you guys learn the lesson...millions of Apple users switched because of the same reasons of your ”improved” model!

    nightflyer2131Daniel Westerdale

  • 1
    chewy Jan 19, 2016 Link to comment

    Samsung ditched swapped batteries for cost, and having to buy their memory...profit. I swap batteries all the time so when I upgrade I'll most likely get a LG v10. Too bad Sammy had to f up a good run

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