Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4 full review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was unveiled in September and remains one of the best phablets you can buy, but how does it compare to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3? We reveal all in our Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4 comparison review. Also see: Best smartphones 2015 and Best phablets 2015. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: UK price 

Bought SIM-free, the older Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is much cheaper than the Note 4. At the time of writing you could pick up a new 32GB Note 3 in white with two batteries and a free 8GB Micro-SD card from eBay for £289, although the auction site notes that the price for the Note 3 trends at around £339.

On the same site the Galaxy Note 4 commands an extra £200, although we found it SIM-free at Amazon for £449. That puts at very least a £110 price difference between Note 3 and Note 4.

Few people will buy either the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or Note 4 outright, instead choosing a two-year tariff from one of the UK's mobile operators. If you are looking for the cheapest deal, though, check out the best SIM-only deals 2015. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Design and build 

With both Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Note 4 featuring a 5.7in screen, there isn't too much difference in the size and weight of these two phablets. The Note 3 measures 151.2x79.2x8.3mm and weighs 168g, while the Note 4 is 153.5x78.6x8.5mm, 176g. Both come with an S Pen, but the Note 4's has been redesigned to work more like a real pen. Also see: Best new phones coming in 2015 

But there are some differences between Note 3 and Note 4 in terms of design and build. For a start, whereas the Note 3 comes in Jet Black, Classic White and Blush Pink, the Note 4 also comes in Copper Gold.  

The Note 4 has the same soft-texture rear cover, but now has a premium metal frame. 

Also new to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is a fingerprint scanner, heart-rate monitor and a UV sensor.  

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Screen 

While both phablets feature a 5.7in screen, Samsung concentrates on quality over size with its Note 4. Like the LG G3, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 features a Quad HD (2560x1440) screen. Until you see Quad HD and full-HD side by side it's impossible to appreciate just how awesome is the difference. The Note 4's display is significantly more impressive than the Note 3's full-HD (1920x1080) panel, with a staggering pixel density of 515ppi against the Note 3's 386ppi. 

It was heavily rumoured that, in common with the Samsung Galaxy Round, a version of the Note 4 would be available with a curved (or flexible) screen. In fact, we got the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Processor, graphics and performance 

When the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was released in September 2013 it totally blew away all other contenders in terms of performance. Its 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core chip, paired with 3GB of RAM and Adreno 330 graphics, turned in an extraordinary 4057 points in Geekbench 2, 54fps in GFXBench Egypt, and 589ms in SunSpider. And that's still fast even today. 

Things get even faster with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - although it may not be obvious from the benchmarks, which have since been updated. However, as you can see from our comparison of all the latest smartphones we've tested in our article What's the fastest smartphone 2015, the Note 4 is incredibly fast. Its 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 chip, 3GB of RAM and Adreno 420 graphics powered it to scores of 3272 points in Geekbench 3.0, 1367ms in SunSpider, and 27- and 11fps in GFXbench 3.0's T-Rex and Manhattan tests respectively. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Storage 

Not a great deal has changed on the storage front, and like the Note 3 the Note 4 comes with 32GB of storage with microSD supported, here up to 128GB. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Connectivity 

In terms of connectivity we didn't expect any changes. Both phones feature 4G connectivity, the latest 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, DLNA, MHL, a 3.5mm headset jack and Micro-USB. Both Note 3 and Note 4 also accept Micro SIMs.  

One difference is the addition of Samsung's Download Booster, first seen in the S5, which pairs 4G and Wi-Fi to offer a theoretical max download speed of 400Mb/s. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Cameras 

There have been a few tweaks in the photography department. Now fitted with a 16Mp (rather than 13Mp) rear camera and a dual- (rather than single-) LED flash, the Note 4 is capable of capturing better photos than the Note 3. Both phones are, as before, able to capture 4K UHD video at 30fps, full-HD at 60fps, and slow-motion HD at 120fps. 

The front-facing camera in the Note 4 is also improved, now a 3.7Mp monster with a f1.9 lens and a Wide Selfie mode. The Note 3 features a 2Mp front camera. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Software 

Both phones run Samsung's latest TouchWiz interface over Android KitKat, although you can expect Samsung to upgrade each to Android Lollipop within the coming months. The Note 4 already has a Lollipop-cards-style recent apps menu, and the transparent clock/weather widget looks nice.

Multi Window isn't new, but it lets you use two apps at once in a split-screen view. These windows can be resized, too, to allow more space for an app that requires it, for example. The Note 4 also offers the ability to view a window as a pop-up screen that can be moved around and will let you continue working in the background.

The Galaxy Note 4's S Pen has been improved, too. Using the S Note app, the S Pen can now emulate various pen and writing types, including a fountain pen or calligraphy pen, thanks to its 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The Air Command wheel lets you access features such as Action Memo, Screen Write, Image Clip and the new Smart Select feature by pressing the small button on the side of the S Pen. By default this appears when you remove the S Pen from its holder, but if you find that annoying then you can change the settings to do something else or nothing at all.

A swipe away from the main home screen is the 'Magazine' BlinkFeed-style aggregator, which can be customised or removed if it's not to your taste.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Battery life 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is supplied with a generous 3200mAh battery, which Samsung claims offers up to 13 hours of internet usage over Wi-Fi, and about the same for video playback. In our tests battery performance was strong, lasting long enough to get us through a full day and with enough juice left over to get us into the office the next day. 

The Galaxy Note 4 has a slightly larger 3220mAh battery, and supports fast charging - from zero- to 50 percent in 30 minutes. However, it didn't blow us away with its battery life performance, and as with the Note 3 we found only a little bit of juice would be remaining on the second day. 

One thing we do like in the Note 4 is Samsung's Ultra Power Saving mode, which switches the screen to a greyscale interface and turns off non-essential features to squeeze out every last bit of life once the battery capacity gets critically low.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Note 4: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was one of the biggest smartphone (or phablet) launches of 2014. With significantly faster hardware and a fantastic Quad HD screen, and now available from just £449, you don't need us to help you decide whether you should buy the Note 4. That said, at £289 the Note 3 is an absolute steal, and you will not be disappointed with either smartphone.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.


Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Specs

  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS
  • 5.7in SuperAMOLED display (1440x2560), 515 ppi
  • 2.7GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU
  • Adreno 420 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 16Mp rear camera laser AF with optical image stabilistaion
  • 3.7Mp front camera
  • Video recording at up to 4K
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • NFC
  • Infrared
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Heart rate monitor
  • UV sensor
  • A-GPS
  • 4G LTE (Cat 6)
  • Micro-SIM
  • 11.9Wh (3220mAh) battery
  • 79x154x8.7mm
  • 175g

Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Specs

  • GSM 3G/HSPA+/LTE, GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz), LTE (800/850/900/1800/2100/2600MHz), HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100MHz)
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • 2.3GHz Quad GHz CPU Speed
  • Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Gyro
  • USB 2.0, USB 3.0
  • 3.5mm Stereo Earjack
  • MicroSD External Memory Slot (up to 64GB)
  • Micro SIM
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • 32/64GB Memory
  • 151.2x79.2x8.3mm
  • 168g
  • 3200mAh Standard Battery
  • 5.7in FHD sAMOLED 16M Colour Depth, 1920x1080
  • S Pen
  • CMOS, 13 MP BSI Sensor, Auto Focus, Smart Stabilisation, LED Flash (High CRI), and Zero Shutter Lag
  • CMOS, 2MP BSI sensor with Smart Stabilisation, Full HD recording @30fps