Home » Opinions » Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3

Andrew Williams by

Galaxy S4 vs note 3
S4 vs Note 3

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Intro

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the most famous Samsung phone of 2013, and probably the best-known Android of the year too. But is it the best?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 makes a pretty convincing argument for itself. It has a clever stylus and larger screen, but is it really the better phone? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Design

Galaxy S4 – glossy plastic rear, 70mm wide, 130g, 7.9mm thick

Note 3 – faux-leather rear, 80mm wide, 163g, 8.3mm thick

Note 3 leather backWith an extra 0.7 inches of screen, the Note 3 was always going to be a bit bigger than the Galaxy S4. It’s roughly 10mm wider, which is undoubtedly the most important consideration here. The Note 3 isn’t ridiculously large like the 88m-wide Galaxy Mega 6.3, but it is a handful.

Samsung has also changed its design style a little with the Note 3. Where the earlier Galaxy S4 uses a glossy plastic finish (occasionally with a faux brushed metal look, depending on the phone’s colour), the Note 3 has a faux-leather effect rear with fake stitching. As it’s all a fakery, we imagine it’ll turn some people off, but it does afford the Note a less slippy finish than the Galaxy S4.

It’s not as dramatic a change as some people will assume, though. The Note 3’s back cover is still plastic – it just has a different, soft touch finish.

The Galaxy S4 is also significantly lighter than the Note 3 – at 130g instead of 163g. While the Note 3 isn’t a pain to live with, the lighter weight and less wide body make it a bit easier to live with.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Screen

Galaxy S4 – 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen

Note 3 – 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen

The Galaxy Note 3’s display is basically a blown-up version of the display of the Galaxy S4. They both use high-quality Super AMOLED panels of 1080p resolution, but one has a 5-inch screen, the other a 5.7-inch screen.

Note 3 screenThe similarities continue as you look further into the tech. Both phones use a diamond-shaped PenTile sub-pixel array, where the pixels share red and blue sub-pixels. In a lower-resolution screen this would cause text to look a bit fuzzy, but pixel density is high enough in both of these phones to make text and images appear sharp.

Look very close indeed and you can see a tiny, tiny bit of fuzziness in the Note 3’s text, but it’s minor enough to be considered a non-issue.

Image quality in these phones is roughly comparable – both are very good indeed. You also get some control over colour temperature. Within the Settings menus of these phones are options to cool down the temperature and saturation of the colours, in order to make them appear more natural. The default setting is slightly oversaturated.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Software and S Pen

Galaxy S4 – Android 4.2 with TouchWiz

Note 3 – Android 4.3 with TouchWiz, stylus optimisation

The Galaxy Note 3 has a slightly more up-to-date version of Android than the Galaxy S4 at present – Android 4.3 rather than Android 4.2. However, aside from the additional functionality the S Pen brings, the phones are very similar indeed, software-wise.

TouchWiz brings a bucketload of features that you don’t get in vanilla Android, many of which aren’t all that useful – if we’re honest. You can scroll through text using a tilt of your head, or flick through pictures with a wave of your hand across the screen. You can, however, switch off the majority of the additional features if you find they get in the way.

The neatest extra you get with the stylus-equipped Note 3 is optical character recognition, which lets you write texts and emails with the pen on-screen as you would if you were actually writing on a notepad. It takes a little while to get used to, but works well.

The action memo feature also lets you search the web by writing a term, or call a number by writing it out and giving it a tap. Although it demonstrates Samsung’s usual approach of bunging in as many extra bits and bobs as will fit, we like Samsung’s execution of the Note 3’s S Pen stylus. It’s the best reason to buy a Note 3 over an S4.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – CPU and RAM

Galaxy S4 – Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz quad-core, 2GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU

Note 3 – Snapdragon 800 CPU 2.3GHz quad-core, 3GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU

Where the 2012 Note 2 shared its CPU with the Galaxy S3, the Note 3 does not have the same processor as the S4. It has a more powerful one.

The Galaxy S4 has a Snapdragon 600 processor running at up to 1.9GHz. The Note 3 has the next-generation model, a Snapdragon 800. It’s clocked at 2.3GHz, giving it that extra injection of speed, and has a faster GPU – the Adreno 330 in place of the Adreno 320.

The Snapdragon 800 is a pretty standard sequential upgrade rather than something like the Apple A7 chip of the iPhone 5S – which is a 64-bit CPU (these others are 32-bit chips) – but it is undoubtedly faster. In Geekbench it scores around 3000 points to the S4’s 2000.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Storage

Galaxy S4 – 16/32GB (in UK)

Note 3 – 32GB (in UK)

As it common to all current Galaxy-series Android phones, the Note 3 and Galaxy S4 both have a memory card slot to let you add to the internal memory. The slots live under the phone’s battery covers, keeping them away from sight.

Samsung has made versions of both the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 topping out at 64GB, however, they’re not widely available in the UK. The vast majority of Galaxy S4s here in the UK are the 16GB edition, and most retailers are stocking the 32GB edition of the Note 3.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Note 3 – Camera

Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash

Note 3 – 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash

Both of these phones have 13-megapixel cameras with single-LED flashes. They both have f/2.2 lenses too – a significant upgrade over Samsung’s f/2.6 lenses used in its top 2012 phones.

We thought these cameras would perform almost identically, but the Galaxy S4 has a slight edge in most situations. General image sharpness is slightly better (not by much) and macro performance is a shade better.

Note 3 camera

Note 3 camera sample

Low-light performance in the Note 3 is significantly worse. Samsung has removed the dedicated Night mode, and in our testing the Auto mode didn’t sufficiently compensate for low-light conditions. Dark shots appear pitch black until you substantially edit them with a photo program.

Which is better, the Note 3 or Galaxy S4?

The Note 3 is a more advanced phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 in a number of respects. It has a slightly faster CPU, more RAM and a well-implemented digitiser and stylus combo. However, it costs a good deal more than the S4 at present and the larger body makes it a bit trickier to use. The Note 3 is great, but it’s not an all-out victory this time.

Go to comments


September 30, 2013, 4:58 pm



Note 3

-0.7" bigger display
-more powerful processor

Cameras are poor in every smartphone IMO. Unless the stylus is a must, SGS4 is the better choice.


September 30, 2013, 5:10 pm

It's really awesome Un imaginable phone .I like it


October 1, 2013, 6:15 pm

Wow this post is completely biased in favor of the s4 (probably because the poster owns an s4)

First of all, a bigger screen is not a con. If you are buying the note 3, then it's assumed you want a phablet style phone and not something smaller like the s4. A bigger screen is a huge plus for a lot of people, which is why they buy it. Also, don't underestimate 0.7'' diagonal size difference, it results in a much bigger screen.

Second, you can't use price as a factor. I mean really... you are comparing which phone is better, it's obvious that the newer and better phone is going to cost more.

Now lets get into it:

The lower ppi is because it's a bigger screen. You look at a bigger screen from farther away, so it will still have just as much clarity as u have with the s4 which you will be closer to. Mentioning that if you get close enough to the screen the text could appear slightly blurry is ridiculous, given you don't read text from that close.

You keep mentioning how "slightly" better the hardware software specs are. Well...

1) the processor isn't just .4 ghz faster, its a newer generation processor so it will perform better at the same speed. That's a pretty huge improvement.
2) Going from 2GB to 3GB of RAM is a 50% improvement and is currently the most RAM offered by any smartphone out (WOW)
3) Most s4 models are 16GB, and the standard model for note 3 is 32gb (DOUBLE) and even offers 64GB.
4) Newer generation GPU, that means better graphics performance

You did mention that the s pen was really good and even the best reason to choose the note 3. However, you still didn't give the s pen enough credit. It isn't just used for drawing and writing with handwriting recognition. It takes multitasking to another level utilizing it's powerful CPU, 3GB of RAM, and big screen with such things as split windows for running two apps at once, and pen window for drawing app windows on the screen. There's a multitude of other things you left out.

You also failed to mention the Gear watch accessory, but that's a different post all together.

The only negative thing u could be right about is the camera, but that seems like just an opinion, and since the note 3 has the same camera with the same features, we will need other opinions on this matter.

The note 3 takes everything the s4 has, makes it bigger, better and faster, and then introduces some completely new things with the s pen that just blow it out of the water.


October 1, 2013, 6:50 pm


cheaper quality
half the harddrive space
much less RAM
no S pen
almost nonexistent multitasking
more ppi, same clarity because smaller screen

Note 3
more expensive (newer and better phone)
much bigger display
much faster (0.4 ghz faster plus a new gen processor)
faster and newer GPU (better graphics)
50% more RAM! (3 GB instead of 2GB)
s pen enabling handwriting recognition and insane multitasking
less ppi, but same clarity because of bigger screen
can record 4k video
has gear watch accessory that can take pictures, make calls, and accept voice commands all without the phone
thermometer, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximeter, compass, infrared blaster, etc.


October 1, 2013, 8:21 pm

You don't even review the battery? This is the main I'm buying the note 3 over the s4. Honestly, with today's smartphones, battery is a huge consideration. Note 3 wipes the floor over the s4 in battery comparison.


October 2, 2013, 6:47 am

We're running a few more tests at the moment so we can update this.

June Philippines

October 2, 2013, 11:46 am

actually, it depends on the buyer.


October 5, 2013, 6:16 am

Had the note and s4. Both good phone and battery life on both was about the same. The only think I didn't was going from the note to the s4. Texting was more difficult. LOL


October 20, 2013, 6:00 am

love my S4 wouldn't take a note 3 over it but purely because of the size, my friend got the note 3 and i was blown away with the performance and features it is the better phone in every way but like i said it's just that little bit too big for my taste.


October 21, 2013, 5:19 pm

In my opinion the note 3 is the better phone, but only by a little bit. If you don't want the note 3 then the s4 will not be a bad choice. They are both very fast, wonderful phones.


December 11, 2013, 5:34 pm

For night mode on the Note 3. Open up the camera app and find 'Smart Stabilisation'.


December 12, 2013, 5:10 pm

Thank you for the free education :-)

Hannah Stern

August 3, 2015, 11:37 am

Forgot to Mention the Note 3's 4K. And FUllHD @ 60fps.
Perfect to show off in front of the S4-Users, which max out at FullHD@30fps.

Hannah Stern

August 3, 2015, 11:38 am

For those, who love recording Videos, the Note 3 has a great advantage.

Hannah Stern

August 3, 2015, 11:40 am

The S4 also has all Note 3 Sensors. But the S5, Note 4 and S6 lost many of them.
In my opinion, Samsungs biggest step to good were the S2 and S4→Note 3.

The Smallest Step was Note 3→S5, because they perform pretty much the same.

The biggest step to the hell was Note 4 → ProjectZeroCrapPhoneS6

Hannah Stern

August 3, 2015, 11:43 am

Thank you for Mentioning 4K-Video. But you forgot to mention 1080p@60fps and 720p@120fps.

Actually, the GT-i9506 can record 720p@120fps. The normal GT-i9505 and i9515 max out at 450p@120fps.

The GT-i9506 only has 2 GB RAM, but the same GFX-Card (Adreno 330) and CPU (Snapdrogan 800) as the Note 3 has.

But the Video Recording Capabilities of the SM-N9005 Note 3 are so much better than from the S4.

WARNING: DO NOT BUY A N900. BUY A SM-N9005. Why? The SM-N900 can not record 4k video.

comments powered by Disqus