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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy Note 2

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March 19, 2013

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2

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During the last two years, smartphones have ballooned to gigantic proportions. The most obvious example is Samsung’s “phablet,” the Galaxy Note. But even the company’s standard high-end phone, the Galaxy S4, dwarfs phones from yesteryear. Torn between big and really big? Read on, as we compare Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II.

Size

Yep, the Galaxy Note II is huge

The Galaxy S4 is a large smartphone (just look at it compared to the iPhone 5). But next to the Note 2, it looks positively puny – with the phablet measuring larger in every dimension.

In the size department, our best advice is to get your hands on a smaller phone (like the iPhone 5 or BlackBerry Z10), a large smartphone (like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One), and a phablet (like the Note 2). Find your sweet spot, and then narrow your search from there.

Build

All plastic here

Yep, Samsung likes plastic. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can help to keep weight (and cost) down.

... but here too you may want to handle some glass (Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, iPhone 4S) and aluminum (iPhone 5, HTC One) phones to see how you like their feel compared to the plasticky Galaxy devices.

Otherwise, the two devices speak the same design language – both borrowing from the Galaxy S3's look and feel.

Weight

The Note is (unsurprisingly) heavier, but - considering their sizes - both should feel ple...

No surprise here: the much larger Note 2 is about 38 percent heavier than the GS4. Taking their considerable sizes into account, though, both phones are going to feel light in the hand.

Display

The Note 2 gives you more real estate, but the GS4 gives you more pixels

If you aren’t sure about stuffing a huge phablet in your pocket, perhaps this category will sway you. The tradeoff is a spacious screen that approaches small tablet territory.

The Galaxy S4’s 1080p screen is much sharper, but those extra pixels may be overkill: don’t expect your eyes to notice as much of a difference as these numbers suggest. The Note 2’s 720p display is outstanding, and - considering you may hold it a bit farther from your eyes – it may be all you need.

Both devices employ Super AMOLED technology.

Processor

Both versions of the Galaxy S4 should outperform the Note's Exynos chip, but all should be...

Both versions of the Galaxy S4 should be faster than the Note 2. If you live in a region where the HSPA+ version ships, you’ll be fortunate enough to have the world’s first octa-core (yes, eight friggin' cores) smartphone.

RAM

RAM is all tied up

Both devices are even, with 2 GB of random-access memory (RAM).

Storage

Storage options are identical

Storage is also even, with the same options for internal flash memory and an expandable microSD slot.

Wireless

Both ship in LTE and HSPA+ models

You’ll want to check with your local carrier to see if you get the 4G LTE (fastest) or “4G” HSPA+ (fast, but not LTE fast) model of each device.

Battery

The larger Galaxy Note II holds more juice than the GS4

We haven’t yet put the GS4 through the paces, but the Galaxy Note II gets outstanding battery life. Only the most hardcore of power users would drain it in less than a day.

Cameras

The Galaxy S4's camera has more pixels, but don't underestimate the Note's terrific camera

More megapixels for the GS4, but the Note 2’s 8-megapixel rear shooter takes great pictures.

On the software side, the Galaxy S4 has a ton of new features - like Dual Camera (combine feeds from front and back cameras simultaneously), Drama Shot (burst of pictures that displays as a collage), and Sound & Shoot (records audio clips to accompany still shots).

It’s possible that the Note 2 will soon get these features in an update, but only the S4 ships with them at launch.

Software

The Galaxy S4 ships with a newer version of Android - and some new TouchWiz features

The Galaxy S4’s Android (4.2.2, Jelly Bean) is a full version ahead of the Note 2’s Android (4.1.2 Jelly Bean).

Both devices sport Samsung’s “Nature” version of the TouchWiz skin, making the Android core barely discernible (though you do get all the standard Google apps, including Gmail, Maps, and Google Now).

The Galaxy S4 has the updated version of TouchWiz, with Smart Scroll (scroll emails and web pages with facial recognition), Smart Pause (automatically pause a video when you look away), and S Translator (translate foreign tongues in real time). Again, most of the S4’s exclusive software features may eventually arrive on the Note 2 in an update.

Intangibles

Infrared blaster, or S Pen?

The Note 2 won’t, however, get any of the GS4’s infrared-based features (yes, it has an IR blaster). If changing channels on your TV with your smartphone floats your boat, then look no further. The S4 also packs humidity and temperature sensors, which the Note lacks.

What could be more useful than a phone that changes channels and records the heat index? How about Samsung’s S Pen stylus. Not only is it an exquisitely-constructed stylus (complete with a solid, sharp tip), but the company has a ton of software features for it.

These include Multi Window mode (take advantage of the 5.5-inch display by viewing multiple apps at once), S Note (taking notes), and Air View (get previews by hovering the S Pen above the display).

Wrap-up

For all of the differences between these two Galaxy devices, it still comes back to size. A monstrous “phablet” like the Note isn’t for everyone. Nor, for that matter, is a large smartphone like the Galaxy S4.

If, however, you’re open to either size, it may boil down to whether you want a stylus or not. Samsung has pushed the boundaries of what a stylus can do, giving the Note 2 novel input methods that the GS4 lacks.

Of course, there’s also the Galaxy Note III looming on the horizon. At this point, it's only a rumor – and won’t likely release until the second half of 2013. But, considering that the Note II still costs a pretty penny, it may be worth waiting a few more months for an improved model.

If you want to see how the GS4 compares to a much smaller device, check out our Galaxy S4 vs. iPhone 5 comparison.

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
9 Comments

The note 2 only lacks the good screen. Everything else I think it is better or decent.

DaveBG
20th March, 2013 @ 02:41 am PDT

Left out that the S4 has 802.11ac wi-fi, upto 1 gbps speeds.

There are compatible routers on the market.

Seth Kazzim
20th March, 2013 @ 06:05 am PDT

i used to be a die hard ios fan but then switched over to the galaxy s3 because of the size of the screen and more importantly the wifi features that i was able to ‘hack.’ At the end of the day, i think the S4 will be greater than everything else in the market until the next generation galaxy.

Jinny Rhymes
20th March, 2013 @ 05:31 pm PDT

Great comparison which will be useful for those wanting to get a Samsung device now. But for fairness, the true comparison should be when note 3 comes out. It wouldn't be fair to compare new tech with old tech.

Leonard Leong Jia Wen
20th March, 2013 @ 11:46 pm PDT

Best comparison I ever read...This is so helpful to the people who are actually require it to remove their confusion of which to buy now????

Cristyn Lieo
21st March, 2013 @ 05:59 am PDT

The Note 2 is the winner, without a doubt. The Note 2 has a better screen, much more feature's and will be getting 4.2.2. There is really no rush to get that update since most of the "new" software on the S4 is gimmicky to say the least. You can translate in real time with Google's own translate app or even with Google Now.

As long as the Note 2 is here, there is no reason to get the S4. If you look into the fact's you will know what I'm talking about.

Dustin Messier
21st April, 2013 @ 03:14 am PDT

Great review i think both phones are excellent! I think for most people the deal breaker would be processor, the ir vs s-pen or the size of the screen. For people with smaller hands I still would recommend ssg4 for larger hands get the note. both are great phones.

note: when i get a phone most of the time i look at the processor and ram. I can deal with a crappy screen. but as long as my phone is running smooth i don't care.

Reese Mitchell
6th May, 2013 @ 12:26 pm PDT

For crying out loud! Stop drooling about plastic against recycled beer cans! The first thing we all do is to buy a protective case and nobody gets to see what the damned thing is made of... Weight doesn't really matter either. What matters is the size of the screen, the clarity, how long the battery lasts, overall performance, possibility to replace the flat battery with a charged one, possibility to increase the memory by getting a new Micro SD Cars rather than having to buy an entire phone. They are the things that matter! (Not so for the fanboys of course, because the only thing that matters to them is that they can show that they have the latest model). Size matters! (again... not so for the fanboys who continue to persist that their iPhone is big enough - even when (I bet you...) Apple is going to come back with a bigger phone. Anyone?

willemco
19th June, 2013 @ 03:10 am PDT

I own both an S3 as well as a Note 8. The S3 is a PHONE with tablet capabilities and the Note 8 is a TABLET with phone capability. I use them for different purposes. I bought the Note 8 so I can use it away from my WiFi only. The mere fact that there are no SIMs on the market that you can use on different a little awkward anyway. I haven't given my SIM number that I use on my Note 8 to anyone. All my (428) Google contacts are on my Galaxy S3 and I'm adamant to keep it that way. I'm not going to upgrade to the S4 either... I still LOOOOVE my S3 and together with the Note 8 I think that I found the PERFECT solution. I AM selling my Galaxy TAB2 10.1 though... Anyone?

willemco
19th June, 2013 @ 04:41 am PDT
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