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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note II Comparison Smackdown
      05/03/13 04:12 PM

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note II Comparison Smackdown

Big brother, little brother? It's something like that. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II are both top of the line products from that leading Korean company looking to dominate the smartphone world. Though they walk alike and talk alike, a few key points set them apart. Let's take a look so we can help you decide between these two excellent Android smartphones.


Though no one would accuse the 5Ē Samsung Galaxy S4 of being a small phone, it looks petite next to the 5.5Ē Galaxy Note II. While Iíd say the GS4 resides at the large end of the manageable spectrum, the Note II exceeds manageability, even for those of us who love it. Itís simply a baby tablet, a phablet and a handful. Youíll need large pockets for this smartphone and often two hands to use it. But for those of you who want one device that does double duty as a tablet and a smartphone, the Note II is it. If you use the web and video player much more often than making phone calls, the Note 2 is a treat: itís living large. For those who do use the phone as a phone and want to slip it into a variety of pocket sizes, the Galaxy S4 is a better fit.

Winner: This depends on what youíre looking for in your phone.

S Pen Digital Pen or are Fingers Good Enough?

This is going to be another matter of personal choice: your needs and not mine. Some folks adore taking notes with the S Pen, and itís like having an endless notepad in your pocket. Artists will find the Note II an awesome way to sketch on the go, and those who need to draw diagrams will adore it. You can use a capacitive stylus with the Samsung Galaxy S4, but itís much less precise, doesnít track as well, and offers no palm rejection or pressure sensitivity.

But if you bought the Samsung Galaxy Note or Note 2 primarily for the huge screen and never use the pen, and wish it were a bit smaller, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a good choice.

Winner: Again, this depends on your needs, but the pen is mightier than the finger in my book.


Both phones have a Super AMOLED display with a PenTile matrix, but the Galaxy S4ís resolution is much higher (1280 x 720 vs. 1920 x 1080). That means the Galaxy S4 has a sharper display, though I think many folks will find the Note 2ís display perfectly lovely. The Galaxy S4 uses the latest version of Samsungís Super AMOLED display with more even sub-pixel sizing, and that and the higher pixel density means thereís no longer any halo-ing or staircasing on text. The Note 2ís pixel density is 264 vs. 441 for the Galaxy S4. Anything around 330 to 350 ppi is beyond what the human eye can resolve even at close distances.

Super AMOLED equals hyper-vivid colors and rich blacks, and happily Samsung has been dialing back the crazy colors over the past few years, so neither display looks hugely cartoony. Donít worry, youíll still get better than life colors that pop; they just wonít look like someone went as crazy with Photoshop. The Galaxy S4ís colors are a bit less exaggerated than the Note 2ís colors, and I prefer natural colors so Iím pleased. Some folks have grown to love the rich garden of colors that literally bloom from a Super AMOLED display and might prefer the slightly stronger colors on the Note II. Neither is very easy to see outdoors in sunlight, but the GS4 is a tad better (and much better than the Samsung Galaxy S III).

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4


Crazy, isnít it? The Samsung Galaxy Note II just came out in December 2012, and it already looks a little dated on paper when compared to the Galaxy S4. Thatís how Mooreís Law works, and itís frustrating for buyers who feel their tech toys only have a month of glory before theyíre eclipsed. As a consolation, the quad core 1.6GHz Exynos CPU in the Galaxy Note II and its 2 gigs of RAM are still wickedly fast. Itís one of the faster smartphone CPUs on the market, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon quad core CPU with Adreno 320 graphics used in the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro only recently bested it. The Galaxy S4ís CPU is clocked at 1.9GHz, and it does do better in benchmarks. In real world use, your Note II wonít feel slow and dated 6 months from now (a year after the phoneís introduction) and it will handle any task you throw at it. Normal users have nothing to fear, but specs hounds and technophiles will no doubt prefer to live on the cutting edge offered by the Galaxy S4.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4


The rear main camera on the Samsung Galaxy S4 wins for resolution (13 vs. 8MP), dual camera mode, more features and a better UI. The S4 is no quicker to focus than the Note II (in fact, it often strikes me as slower), but with a steady hand and some experimenting with settings, you can get some incredible shots. That doesnít mean the Galaxy Note II takes terrible photos; it doesnít. Theyíre just not as good as the GS4ís.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4

Hereís our Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 comparison Smackdown video. In the end, Iíd say it comes down to your preferred size and the S Pen. But there are other points to consider, like the Samsung Galaxy S4ís new software features (you may love them or hate them), so watch the video before you decide.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note II Review

HTC One Review


Lisa Gade
Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview

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