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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2

Andrew Williams


Note 2 vs S4
Note 2 vs S4

The Galaxy series has taken over Android in many people’s eyes. But there’s more to the series than just the Galaxy S flagships.

The Galaxy Note 2 is one of the most interesting Android phones out there thanks to its clever stylus, but how does it compare to the Galaxy S4? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 – Design

Galaxy S4 – Plastic rear, Gorilla Glass 3 front, 7.9mm thick, 130g

Galaxy Note 2 – Plastic rear, toughened glass, 9.4mm thick, 183g

The Note 2 and Galaxy S4 use the staple Galaxy-series design template. That means a removable plastic rear that flexes a good deal when taken off the back. It’s super-thin.

This style has earned the phones a lot of criticism, but drop tests show that it’s not a bad kind of construction – the plastic soaks up impact much better than metal, which tends to transfer more of the force to the highly-smashable screen. Note vs S4 1

Galaxy S4 rear

Both phones use toughened glass for their display fronts but – predictably – the Galaxy S4’s is a little more advanced. The S4 uses third-generation Gorilla Glass while the Note 2 uses an unspecified toughened glass layer – some say it is second-generation Gorilla Glass.

Gorilla Glass is great at avoiding scratches from things like keys and coins, largely removing the need for a screen protector unless you really want to keep your phone pristine in order to sell it on down the line.

There are also clear advancements in its body shape. The Note 2 is significantly chunkier than the S4, a full 1.5mm thicker. It’s also a whopping 55g heavier.

Note vs S4 3

Note 2

Some of this is down to Samsung getting to grips with how to make its phones slimmer, but there’s also the stylus to consider. The Note 2 has a cubby hole to store its digitiser stylus down the bottom – and this is the top reason why the Note 2 isn’t super-slim.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 – Screen

Galaxy S4 – 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED, 441 ppi

Galaxy Note 2 – 5.5-inch 1,280 x 720 Super AMOLED, 267 ppi

Although the Note 2’s screen is significantly larger than the S4’s – 0.5 inches extra may not sound like a lot, but it pushes the Note 2 into another size bracket – its screen resolution is significantly lower.

The Galaxy S4 has double the number of pixels, an eye-opening 2,000,000-plus against the Note 2’s 900,000-odd. However, the Note 2 remains pretty sharp because, unlike the Galaxy S4, it doesn’t use a PenTile array display.

OLED screens like those of the Galaxy series of phones often use a PenTile array, which is an uneven sub-pixel arrangement that reduces sharpness. It was pretty noticeable in the Galaxy S3, but in the S4 the 1080p brings high enough pixel density for the problem to fade. As it doesn’t use a PenTile display, the Note 2’s 267ppi display looks fairly sharp too.

Let’s not overstate things, though – the Galaxy S4 is still in another class. Contrast and top brightness are superior. The Galaxy S4 has a truly zingy, impressive screen.

Note vs S4 6

Both phones also give you some customisation of the screen’s settings. Super AMOLED displays tend to oversaturate colours, but both phones have a menu that lets you set the screen to ‘neutral’ colouring for a cooler, more relaxed look.

Versus 4

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 – Stylus

Galaxy S4 – No included stylus, capacitive stylus support only, ‘finger stylus’ emulation via AirView

Galaxy Note 2 – Digitiser stylus included, 1,024 pressure levels

The Galaxy Note 2‘s key selling point is its digitiser. This is a special screen layer that lets the phone interact with a special stylus that slots into the phone’s bottom edge.

The digitiser is made by Wacom, which produces ‘industry standard’ graphics tablets like the Wacom Intuos 5. It allows for 1,024 pressure sensitivity levels – enabling some pretty convincing drawing apps. The stylus rib is made of rubbery material, which gives a pretty natural-feeling response on the display’s glass too.

Note vs S4 5

Some people think the stylus is a bit of a gimmick, but in use it’s great – and the preinstalled S-Note is a great stylus-optimised app that lets you takes notes, make presentations and all sorts.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 does not have a digitiser layer. You can use a stylus, but it’ll have to be the standard capacitive kind, which simply responds in the same manner as your finger. There’s no pressure sensitivity, and no sensing of the stylus when it’s hovering above the screen.

There is another bit of tech that impersonates this, though. AirView makes the phone respond to your finger when it hovers above the screen, using super-cranked screen sensitivity.

Versus 2

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 - Software

Galaxy S4 – Android 4.2 with TouchWiz

Galaxy Note 2 – Android 4.1 with TouchWiz

The two phones use Samsung’s long-standing TouchWiz interface, laid on top of the Android operating system. The Galaxy S4 is a generation ahead of the Note 2, and it has several extra bits of functionality.

One of the most significant – and one that can’t simply be added with an update – is IR blaster functionality. This lets you control your TV with the Galaxy S4, using the WatchOn app. AirView is another feature that may come to the Note 2. For more on these, read our round-up of the best new TouchWiz features.

Note vs S4

The S4's TouchWiz

Other features, such as Smart Scroll, S Translator and Smart Pause, are likely to come to the Note 2 with a software update.

The two versions of TouchWiz look more-or-less identical too – the Samsung Android style has remained fairly consistent over the last few years.

Software features that the Note 2 can brag about relate to its stylus. The Note 2 lets you scrawl over the screen wherever you are and save your notes as images for retrieval later on – and the S-Note drawing/note-taking app has been thoroughly optimised for the pen. Note vs S4 7

Note 2 TouchWiz

At present, the Galaxy S4 uses a slightly more up-to-date version of the Android OS, with 4.2 Jelly Bean rather than 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. It’s not a huge difference.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 – Power

Galaxy S4 – Quad-core Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz, 2GB RAM

Galaxy Note 2 – Quad-core Exynos 4412 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM

The Galaxy Note 2 was one of the first phones to ship with 2GB of RAM, setting the standard for this year’s 2GB RAM phones, including the Galaxy S4.

The CPU is another matter, however. Both phones use quad-core CPUs, but there’s a generation gap between the processors.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 uses the same processor as the Galaxy S3, a quad-core Exynos 4412 chip. It’s clocked at 1.6GHz.

The Galaxy S4 has a Snapdragon 600 chipset clocked at 1.9GHz. It doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but the two have completely different architecture types. The Snapdragon 600 uses a 28nm process, while the Note 2’s Exynos 4412 is stuck with ‘old’ 32nm. Increased miniaturisation means higher efficiency, more power.

AnTuTu benchmark tests tell the story in an empirical way. The Note 2 scores around 18,000 points, the Galaxy S4 around 25,000.

Rather than just a more advanced CPU, the Galaxy S4 also has a snazzier GPU. The Galaxy Note 2 uses the Mali-400, the Galaxy S4 the Adreno 320.

The difference between the two isn’t massive, but the Adreno is a little more powerful.

As the phones both have 2GB of RAM, the difference in performance is not huge, but the Galaxy S4 is clearly the more powerful phone.

Versus 4

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 2 – Camera

Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel, LED flash, 2-megapixel front camera, f/2.2

Galaxy Note 2 – 8-megapixel, LED flash, 1.9-megapixel front camera, f/2.6

The cameras of these phones demonstrate yet another generational shift. The Note 2 has an 8-megapixel sensor, the Galaxy S4 a higher-resolution 13-megapixel sensor.

It’s not quite as big an upgrade as it may sound, though, as the size of the sensor hasn’t really increased. Samsung has simply crammed more sensor pixels into the same space.

Note vs S4 2

Each sensor pixel in the Galaxy S4 is 1.12 microns in size, while the Note 2’s are a little larger at 1.3 microns. Having tiny sensor pixels is bad for low-light performance but, as with just about every phone, low-light performance is pretty sketchy in both.

The higher resolution of the Galaxy S4 makes shots taken in good lighting more detailed than those of the Note 2.

Both cameras are a delight to use, though, with good macro skills and quick focusing.

The Galaxy S4 is more advanced in other respects too. It has an f/2.2 lens while the Note 2 uses a slower f/2.6 lens. A slower lens means the camera needs to use longer exposure times, and reduces the depth of field effects a camera can produce. This is where the background appears out of focus, while the foreground is pin-sharp.



In most respects, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is clearly a generation ahead of the Note 2. A faster processor, more advanced screen, better camera and newer software age the Note. However, none of the new features are total deal-breakers, and the digitiser of the Note 2 is still a huge draw.


July 8, 2013, 12:01 pm

Is this review suppose to increase S4 sales?

gorilla glass my foot

July 8, 2013, 5:06 pm

note 2 "toughened glass"? My s2 must have Godzilla glass! The replacement of note 2 is half of new phone price.


July 10, 2013, 8:48 am

i prefer to S4


August 7, 2013, 7:03 am

Samsung is a very good brand.both phones are quite good, but l prefer the note family


August 20, 2013, 4:48 pm

BE CAREFUL ! Note 2 is a phone that can die for no reason anytime. The problem is called sudden death syndrom. Just Google it if you don't believe. Mine just died adter 8 months. The warranty is not international so they wouldn't fix it for free. The problem is with the motherboard which cost almost 300 dollars !! Yes three hundreds.

The phone's keyboard is a disaster. Very hard to write correctly if you have thicker fingers (not thick) I had to buy and try all the other keyboards. Bad impression, bad service and totally not recommended. The pen is also useless unless your notes are 2-4 words. It is a marketing product that I hate.

I will make sure to warn everybody not to buy it.

Buy Android but not Samsung !


September 3, 2013, 6:56 pm

samsung devices run android......


September 9, 2013, 4:52 am

I looked at the S4 and compared specs. with the note 2. Note 2 looked great until I read the specs. Waiting for the note 3. It has it all. 'Hope it's as promised and performs and holds up... Let's use these to save time like technology is meant to do.


September 13, 2013, 2:55 pm

I've been using my Note 2 ever since they first released it. I have the international 32GB version. This month I've started to have trouble with it. Occasionally it would completely freeze up and not respond to anything. I did a factory reset/format and it's still happening, even though it's in brand new condition internally from the formats. Now i instinctively know when it needs to be manually forced to restart, every time it slows to a halt I'm forced to hold the power and home buttons to reset it forcefully.
I debated getting the S4 but then didnt want it anymore since it doesnt have a stylus and i use my stylus a lot. I'll definitely will be getting the Note 3 though.
Also, the batteries are rapidly emptying even when there arent any background apps on and when the RAM usage is low. I have 3 extra batteries and im finding that im needing to constantly swap them around regularly.


October 28, 2013, 8:00 am

Highly unreliable! Battery life went from bad to worse, it started taking forever to charge, and of course there was the joy of spontaneous rebooting 3 times a day or so.

Because I'd saved $100 by buying it "new" (not in the box) from a dodgy unlocked phone store, there was no warranty service either. So when the speaker on the earpiece lost 90% of its volume 8 months after I bought the thing, I sold it to the other dodgy unlocked phone store across the street for half of what I paid for it. Lol.

I then picked up not an S4, but a lowly S3 - a brand new S3, from the Fido store (Fido is my carrier here in Canada). The S3 was free as I'm a long time customer and they're trying to get rid of their stock, since the S4 is what's hot right now. But to my surprise, the S3 is far superior to the Note 2 (when it was "new") in terms of battery life, performance, screen clarity, and camera quality.

Conclusion: My Note 2 wasn't new when I bought it, and was indeed partially broken or defective. Due to the nature of the defects, the dodgy phone store couldn't tell (or didnt care) that it was broken and bought it from the previous owner to be resold as a "new" phone. The fact that I was able to get $250 for it from another dodgy phone store as recently as last week (since Note 3 is pushing prices down anyways) strongly suggests this to be the case!

I've got $250 and a new phone. All I need now is that philosophy degree I never finished so I can morally justify my actiions ;)



November 9, 2013, 6:14 am

I have sticked to Samsung since the S2 (which has been replaced by S3 and Note2 in order).

I find my Note2 a wonderful high-productivity gadget, where the size if the screen, the multi-window feature, and the overall cleaverness of the Android OS makes it superior to any Windows-based laptop I own (I have laptops ranging from 10" to 17" with win7 or win8, with or without touchscreens) for anything but complex spreadsheeting or for writing reports. With cloudbased applications I handle the administration of my firm via this device (Keepass app is highly recommended).

With its form factor, fitting into a shirt pocket, it can accompany me wherever I go without need for a separate bag and by covering 95% of my daily business needs I am rarely forced to pull up an ultraportable laptop.

I used the S-pen more in the beginning than now, much because I gradually experienced problems when hovering above the screen (it is possible to activate functions when hovering). In my phone, functions are sometimes activated at random when hovering, which is a nuisance.

With this phone with its big screen I have digested dozens of Kindle books and see no need to buy a separate Kindle device.

All in all, I am very pleased with my Note2 and have not found it justifiable to upgrade to Note3. Rather, I wait for a subsequent model (Note4?).


December 27, 2013, 4:59 pm

You are simply a hater. I ve used d same device for about a year now. Sold it and moved to note 3. Fir me, the only phone better than the note 2 is the note 3 (and very slightly at that)


January 6, 2014, 5:16 am

I think this totaly comes down to personal experience. Unlike the other guy a few comments below my note2 has served me well, infact its been my companion for the last 12ish months.i do alot of writing and ideas pop into my head which makes the len excellent.the note taking system is also fatastic and if you dont write like a 5 yr old you can get more than 3 words on a page infact, I have been able to jot quite alot down. In all honesty there is no phone other than the note3 I would change this phone for its been the best phone ive ever had

Jade Gruce

August 5, 2014, 6:06 am

If I could... I used to have the note 2 and I hated it after the first month. I hated that it was massive, I hated that it was sort of slow, the camera was ok but not amazing. The screen looked horrible when I would be watching Netflix on It and the battery life sucked. So I decided to try out the s4 since the s5 wasn't out yet. By far the best phone I have ever owned hands down. It really is a total and complete upgrade in every way when coming from the note 2. I feel like I can say that since I have actually owned both... I hope this helps someone cuz the note 3 is pretty damn expensive and honestly not much better than the s4 and in some ways the s4 is STILL better.

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