Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: A showdown between past, present and near-future phablets
If you’re thinking about buying a new Galaxy Note handset, you could do far worse than picking up the new Galaxy Note 7. But if you’re still rocking a Galaxy Note 5 or Note 4 – or maybe you’re just considering them thanks to their reduced pricing – then it’s worth finding out what exactly is the difference between these three formidable smartphones.
And if you're wondering what happened to the Galaxy Note 6, the truth is that Samsung decided to completely skip that handset. It's rumoured that the decision was made to bring the Note series in line with the Galaxy series numerically, but no one outside Samsung really knows for sure.
The matter is also complicated slightly by the fact that the Galaxy Note 5 wasn’t available in the UK at launch. But no matter – they can all be bought online in the UK today. Here’s what you really need to know before making your next Galaxy Note purchase.
Related: Galaxy Note 7 hands-on
(Left to right: Galaxy Note 4, Note 5, Note 7)
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs 5 vs 4 – Price
This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle. Samsung’s Galaxy Note series is notoriously expensive, even more so than the flagship Galaxy S-series devices. But like all Samsung phones, they drop by a fair margin after launch.
Since its 2014 release, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 price has fallen significantly. It’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk in Charcoal Black for just £427.49:
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5, meanwhile, was launched in 2015, and carries a more premium price tag of £499.40 for the Gold version:
We’re still waiting for Galaxy Note 7 pricing details, but pre-launch leaks suggested the price could rise well above £700. With a potential £200-300+ difference between the Note 7 and its most recent predecessors, we’d advise serious caution when picking up this phone. It could be worth considering the similarly specced Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which is available from Amazon.co.uk for just £539.
Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Edge at Amazon.com $899
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs 5 vs 4 – Specs
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
Notice a trend here? Samsung has clearly settled on 5.7 inches as the optimum size for its Note screens, and that’s fine by us. The Note is typically marketed as a power-user handset, so having a large screen makes sense. But, fortunately, Samsung has decided not to stray past 6 inches into super-phablet territory.
But the Note 7 screen has one key change this time around: this is the first Samsung phone to be marketed with a Mobile HDR display, which means the phone should offer vivid contrast, as well as supporting HDR content from the likes of Amazon and Netflix.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and refers to the range of brightness and darkness that a screen can display. If a product touts itself as ‘HDR’, it means the screen meets a specific set of requirements that dictate the whiteness of the whites and the blackness of the blacks, which basically means you can expect better contrast overall and greater detail in the lightest and darkest areas of the screen.
Related: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6S Plus
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 1,440 x 2,560 pixels (Quad HD) display resolution (518ppi)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 1,440 x 2,560 pixels (Quad HD) display resolution (518ppi)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 1,440 x 2,560 pixels (Quad HD) display resolution (518ppi)
It was speculated that the Note 7 would finally usher 4K smartphone screens into the mainstream, but Samsung has opted to retain the tried-and-tested QHD Super AMOLED display.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Exynos 5433 chip (20nm, octa-core, 1.9GHz, Cat.6)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – Exynos 7420 chip (14nm, octa-core, 2.1GHz, Cat.9)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Exynos 8890 chip (14nm, octa-core, 2.6GHz, Cat.12)
The Galaxy Note 7 used a chip that’s more advanced than both the Note 5's and Note 4's, and is the same chip used in the Galaxy S7. The big movement was between the Note 4 and Note 5, when Samsung upgraded to a 14nm manufacturing process, which resulted in far greater efficiency and power output.
Since the Note 5, Samsung has made a number of improvements, despite retaining the 14nm architecture. (Expect 10nm in next year’s phones, folks.) For a start, two of the processor cores can hit lofty clock rates of 2.6GHz, and there’s a much more powerful Mali-T880 MP12 GPU on board. It also features a Cat.12 modem, which means the phone can theoretically handle up to 600Mbps download speeds and 150Mbps upload speeds – depending on what your network can offer, mind.
All this means that the Galaxy Note 7 packs some serious – and, by some measures, market-leading – computing heft.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
Despite rumours of 6GB of LPDDR5 RAM, we haven’t seen a step up in memory this year. We may see that jump taken with next year’s Samsung Galaxy S8, but we’d argue that 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM is plenty sufficient for 2016 smartphonery.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 32GB storage (+ microSD card slot)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 32GB storage
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 64GB storage (+ microSD card slot)
Samsung has lifted the base storage on the Note 7 to a mega 64GB – that’s huge. Better still, the Galaxy Note 7 brought back the microSD card slot, meaning you can boost the storage even further.
But perhaps the most exciting improvement is that the Galaxy Note 7 uses Universal Flash Storage 2.0 (UFS 2.0), an ultra-fast next-generation storage standard that’s 2.7x faster at reading files than the eMMC 5.0 you find in most smartphones, and consumes about 50% less energy. Samsung also recently announced a 256GB UFS 2.0 card that would work wonders when paired with the Galaxy Note 7.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 16-megapixel primary camera (OIS, f/1.9)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 16-megapixel primary camera (OIS, f/1.9)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 12-megapixel Dual Pixel primary camera (OIS, f/1.7)
We know what you’re thinking: the megapixels have gone down! Sure, but the type of camera has changed, and definitely for the better. The Galaxy Note 7 has repurposed the Galaxy S7’s camera, which has widely been lauded as the best phone camera available right now.
So what is Dual Pixel? Every single pixel on the image sensor has two photodiodes instead of one. The biggest advantage of this increased pixel count is faster focusing. That’s because when you’re taking a photo with an iPhone, 5-10% of the pixels are used for focusing, but with the Galaxy Note 7 every single pixel is able to contribute.
The other Galaxy Note 7 upgrade is the aperture, which is now marginally larger than the ones featured on the Note 4 and Note 5, meaning it should be better at shooting in low light. Huzzah!
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 3.7-megapixel secondary camera
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 5-megapixel secondary camera
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 5-megapixel secondary camera
There’s not much improvement on the selfie camera front, unless you’re upgrading from the Note 4 to the Note 7. If this is a deal-breaker for you, we’re sorry. Very sorry.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 3,220mAh battery (Fast-charging)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 3,000mAh battery (Fast-charging)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 3,500mAh battery (Fast-charging)
The Note 7 features a 3,500mAh battery, which is bigger than the one built into both the Note 4 and Note 5. That’s good news, as the phone is basically using the same display, so battery life should see an improvement. Of course, that depends on other factors such as OS optimisation and processor efficiency. Fortunately, the chip is better and the OS is newer, so battery life should be stellar.
Related: Best Android Smartphones 2016
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Micro USB
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – Micro USB
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – USB Type C
The Galaxy Note 7 is the first of any Note phone – or any Samsung phone, for that matter – to feature a USB Type-C connection. The USB-C port is intended to replace the Micro USB port, and features a reversible tip – just like Apple’s Lightning cables.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 153.2 x 76.1 7.6mm
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – 153.5 x 7.9 x 7.9mm
The Note 7 is far slimmer than the Galaxy Note 7, but it’s still slightly thicker than the Note 5. That’s probably down to the battery – it’s 500mAh bigger on the Note 7. For anyone who’s ever suffered battery life woes (read: everyone), you’ll probably learn to live with the marginally increased chassis size.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Weight: 176g
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – Weight: 171g
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Weight: 169g
The Galaxy Note 7 is 7g lighter than the Note 4, and 2g lighter than the Note 5. That’s hardly noticeable in the hand, but every little helps.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – No
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – No
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Yes (IP68 certified)
The Galaxy Note 7 is the first of the three phones to be waterproof, officially anyway. There was a suggestion that both the Note 4 and Note 5 were waterproof in all but certification, but the Note 7 is the only one officially certified and marketed as waterproof.
Related: What's new with the Galaxy Gear VR?
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – S Pen (2,048 pressure levels)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – S Pen (2,048 pressure levels)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – S Pen (4,096 pressure levels)
The Note 4 stylus made a step up from the 1,024-pressure-level S Pen used in the Note 3, and the Note 7 makes yet another leap by doubling pressure sensitivity. The S Pen featured on the Note 7 is the most sensitive yet, and it’s also completely waterproof.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs 5 vs 4 – Design
As we all know, good looks are about as important as impressive specs when it comes to buying a smartphone in 2016. Fortunately, although Samsung has offered some questionable designs in the past, its most recent handsets have easily kept up with the iPhone on the aesthetics front.
Galaxy Note 4: The Note 4 felt huge in 2014 with its 5.7-inch screen. But that was before the days of a 5.5-inch iPhone, and we’re much more used to big phones now. The Note 4 was (curiously) thicker, taller, and heavier than the Note 3, but not so wide. It featured leather-effect plastic on the rear and an aluminium trim – certainly not as chic as the newer Notes. This was still before Samsung decided to make its most meaningful aesthetic changes, so we’re not too sold on the Note 4’s design.
Galaxy Note 5: Samsung opted for a significant design overhaul with the Galaxy Note 5, borrowing plenty from the similarly revamped Galaxy S6. It features glass on the front and back, a cool silver anodised aluminium metal trim, and a rear camera sensor that protrudes even more than it does on the Note 4. It also features a curved-edge rear that’s been nicked for future Samsung flagships too. Probably the most noticeable difference in the hand is that the Note 5 is not as wide as the Note 4, and that improves its ergonomics significantly.
Galaxy Note 7: Just like the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy Note 7 ships with a glass back. That means it looks really nice, but glass is notoriously fragile – don’t drop this thing. We’ve had a Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge in the office, both of which have been cracked since launch. Nevertheless, the Note 7 looks fantastic, and is arguably the most attractive Note to date.
This is also the first Galaxy smartphone to only be available with a dual-curved-edge display. That will please fans of the Galaxy S6/S7 Edge, but it might turn off those who think it’s a bit of a pointless gimmick. We’re convinced that, while it might not serve any great function, it certainly looks good.
If style is your goal, the Note 7 has you covered.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 scored 9/10 in our review, praised for its exceptionally sharp and vibrant screen, brilliant battery life, solid all-round camera, and processing performance. Our verdict reads:
“Even if you don’t care for the stylus, the Note 4 is Samsung’s best big phone yet, and continues to stay on top of the phablet category it created.”
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 scored a slightly lower 8/10 in our review, but was lauded for its sleek glass design, speedy overall performance, great camera, and slim body. Our verdict reads:
“The Note 5 is one of the best phablets on the market, but it’s lost some of its uniqueness."
It’s still early days, so we haven’t given the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 a full review. In its stead, here’s the early verdict from our Mobiles & Tablets Editor Max Parker:
“In many ways, the Galaxy Note 7 isn’t a huge step beyond what Samsung already offers. There’s been no great leap forward in display resolution, processor power, RAM, or battery capacity. Even so, this feels like it could be the must-have phone of 2016.
“It’s a gorgeous phablet that instantly catches your eye with its sloping sides and minimal bezel. Hold it and it feels fantastic. It might be big, but I never felt like I was going to drop it. The screen is stunning too, and it’s going to be as fast as anything on the market.”
“I said this in my Samsung Galaxy S7 review, but Apple needs to do something exceptional with the iPhone 7 if it hopes to compete with Samsung in 2016.”
Should you upgrade?
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has all the makings of a truly exceptional phone, and here’s why. It’s basically a clone of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, with a few additional features. We gave the Galaxy S7 a 10/10 score, and the Galaxy S7 Edge a 9/10 score, and they’re both fantastic, easy-to-recommend handsets.
The main roadblock when it comes to buying the Galaxy Note 7 is almost certain to be price – Note handsets are very expensive. But if you’re already a Note user then you know that, and you’re probably willing to shell out for what potentially is the best (but not necessarily best-value) phone of the year.
If you’re considering buying an alternative to the Note 7, the Note 4 is possibly a little old. The Note 5 is a strong contender, and will save you £200-300. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are also both cheaper, and not significantly different in terms of specs.
If you want what is probably the most powerful phone available right now, and money is no object, buy the Galaxy Note 7. But if you’re a little more discerning, there are arguably better deals to be had with other Samsung handsets.
Related: Samsung Galaxy S8
What do you think of the Galaxy Note 7? Let us know in the comments below.