Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy Note 4


GALAXY QUEST! The Galaxy Note 4 was the last of Samsung’s phablets to break ground in the UK. It’s since been superseded by the Note 5, but the Note 4 can still be considered a viable alternative to the forthcoming big-screened Note 7.

How does the Galaxy Note 7 stack up against the ageing Note 4?

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - pen

Galaxy Note 7: 153.5×73.9×7.9mm, 168g, IP68 certification, USB Type-C
Galaxy Note 4: 153.5×78.6×8.5mm, 176g, microUSB

The biggest difference between the two phablets lies in the design. The Note 4 dates back to October 2014 and sticks with the largely plastic build favoured by the S5. At 153.5×78.6×8.5mm and 176g it is wider, thicker and heavier than the new kid on the block.

The Note 7 borrows heavily from the gorgeous Galaxy S7 Edge with its fusion of glass and metal, polished edges and smooth curved display. In stark contrast the Note 4 has leather-effect plastic on its rear, and an aluminium trim around the sides. There’s nothing wrong with this; the textured back is pleasingly grippy, for instance, but the Note 7 is far and away the more premium of the two.

In addition the Note 7 offers advantages in a few key areas. Top of the list is IP68 certification meaning it can survive up to 30 minutes in water to a maximum depth of 1.5m. The Note 7 uses an upgraded USB Type-C connection too, where the Note 4 is left with microUSB.

Both devices are available in a variety of colours. The Note 7 comes in Silver Titanium, Black Onyx, Gold and the new Coral Blue, while the Note 4 comes in Frosted White, Charcoal Black, Bronze Gold and Blossom Pink.

Galaxy Note 7 hands-on review - build

Galaxy Note 7: 5.7in 2,560×1,440 resolution
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in 2,560×1,440 resolution

This is an interesting one. Beginning with the Note 4, Samsung hasn’t seen fit to alter the size of the screen or resolution. Both Notes have QHD Super AMOLED displays that offer bold, vibrant colour, bags of detail, and deep, inky blacks.

The Note 7 gets one up, however, by borrowing the S7 Edge’s sublime curved screen, effectively leaving the Note 4 looking vanilla by comparison. In a further blow the Note 7’s panel is capable of 800-nits brightness, meaning it can support Mobile HDR (High Dynamic Response) video content.

Another difference lies in the Corning Gorilla Glass. The Note 4 uses Gorilla Glass 4, while the Note 7 favours the newer Gorilla Glass 5.

Samsung has clearly worked hard to improve the S Pen stylus as the Note has evolved. The Note 4 presented an accurate stylus experience thanks to its 2,048 points of pressure sensitivity, but the Note 7 boosts that to 4,096.


Operating system
Galaxy Note 7: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4.4 KitKat, upgradable to 6.0.1 Marshmallow

The Note 4 suffered from the growing pains associated with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI overlay, but we’re happy to report that the beast has largely been tamed with the Note 7. Coupled with the latest Android update, Samsung’s UI is possibly the cleanest we’ve seen yet, and this from a firm that was once known for bloat.

The Galaxy Note 4 shipped originally with Android 4.4.4 KitKat but it can be upgraded to the latest Marshmallow Android build.

Galaxy Note 7: 2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820/Exynos octa-core CPU, 4GB of RAM
Galaxy Note 4: 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805/Exynos octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM

Depending on region, the Note 7 will ship with a Snapdragon 820 or Samsung’s Exynos chip. Never one to keep things simple, Samsung also put out two Note 4 variants, a quad-core Snapdragon 805 and its own octa-core Exynos chipset.

The Snapdragon 805 was a step up from the 800, and just a little behind the newer 820. And whereas the 805 boasted higher turbo frequencies, the most important thing is perhaps peak single-threaded performance in which the 820 rules the roost.

Galaxy Note 7 hands-on review - iris scanning

Galaxy Note 7: Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor
Galaxy Note 4: Fingerprint sensor

For better or for worse, the iris scanner dominates all of the Note 7’s headlines. The popularity of such biometric security measures is growing, but how useful they prove to be on a practical level will have to wait until our full review.

The two handsets come with a fingerprint scanner in the home buttons. Much like on the S7 and S7 Edge before it, the fingerprint sensor on the Note 7 benefits from a larger hit area and is therefore the more successful of the two.

Android Pay is supported on both thanks to the addition of NFC. The newer Note 7 will also support Samsung Pass and, when coupled with the biometric trickery, you’ll be able to use your eyes to authenticate payments.

Galaxy Note 7: 12MP rear-facing, f/1.7, OIS, with 4K video, 8MP front-facing
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP rear-facing, f/2.2, OIS, with 4K video, 3.7MP front-facing

Samsung really delivered on the camera technology with the Galaxy S7. Luckily the Note 7 shares the same 12MP sensor that impressed us so much the first time around. The camera focuses quickly, exhibits loads of detail and the impressive f/1.7 aperture means it copes ably in low light.

The Note 4 was the first Galaxy proper (discounting the Galaxy Zoom range) to feature OIS. This can only be a boon.

It lost out on other fronts, though, by the absence of phase-detection focus. The 16MP snapper is still capable of producing some lovely-looking shots, but we’d strongly recommend the Note 7 if your main priority is taking photos.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - side

Galaxy Note 7: 3,500mAh
Galaxy Note 4: 3,220mAh

We can’t wait to get our hands on the Note 7 and really push that impressive-sounding 3,500mAh battery capacity.

The Note 4 was something of a powerhouse when it came to stamina, and some judicious use of the screen brightness meant it could easily enter a second day of use.

Both handsets include support for Quick Charging technology, which means they can regain around half of their charge in just 30 minutes.

Something else worthy of note (sorry): the Note 4’s faux-leather back panel is removable, thus making battery replacement a reality.

Galaxy Note 7: 64GB, microSD slot
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, microSD slot

Handily, both Notes come with support for microSD expansion up to a maximum 256GB. The Note 7 comes with a healthy 64GB built in, whereas the Note 4 scrimps a bit by halving that value.

Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7: £699 SIM-free
Galaxy Note 4: £384 SIM-free

Prices for the Note 7 have just been announced. It will be available SIM-free for £699 from Carphone Warehouse and Samsung directly.

Owing to its age it shouldn’t surprise you that the Note 4 can be picked up for a fraction of that. We found it for as little as £384 on a popular internet retailer’s website.

The Note 4 still has a lot going for it. It falls down slightly only in terms of design, camera, and storage. In respect of the latter, at least it can be augmented with microSD.

Yes it lacks iris scanning, it isn’t waterproof, and the S Pen doesn’t boast the bells and whistles of the newer model, but these aren’t essentials in our eyes.

If you’re serious about owning a note-taking phablet, but don’t want it to cost the Earth, the Note 4 is definitely a viable alternative. µ

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