Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy Note 2

May 6, 2013

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People like what they like. Yeah, that’s something that people (and writers, who don’t count as real people) say, but it also happens to be true. Case in point: the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Remember all your friends who liked the original Note? Yeah, neither does anybody else.

But, as things often do, it took off. It didn’t only take off, but quickly became one of the most popular phones among tech enthusiasts. Why? Well probably because it was big and did an awful lot of stuff.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, is small and does a lot of stuff. As tiny a difference as that may seem, it’s an important one. It’s the difference between people reading this article who may buy one and, well, anyone else who may buy one.

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The question remains: which is the better choice? As the opening may have implied, this is a far easier question to ask than it is to answer.

In a hurry? Check out our video review or jump to the conclusion.

Specs

While both devices have the same amount of RAM and the same options when it comes to the internal storage, the story changes once you look at the processors. While the quad-core 1.6 GHz Exynos in the Note 2 is no slouch, both variants of the S4 have a faster chipset, whether you’re looking at the Snapdragon 600 or the Octa-core Exynos.

As we’ll see in just a bit, the performance proves that the specs in the Samsung Galaxy S4 simply can’t be beat by the Galaxy Note 2.

Build Quality & Design

If you look past all the possible jokes (especially the ones about an unnamed person who may or may not have “said” something at some point), it’s fairly easy to see that size doesn’t matter. The S4 and Note 2 both share a striking amount of physical similarities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it a point in favor of either phone.

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Which phone you prefer is going to have a lot to do with how you plan to use it. The Galaxy Note 2’s larger size makes it more difficult to use one-handed, though there are benefits as well, like the aforementioned larger size. On the other hand, users who prefer a smaller form factor are definitely going to prefer the Galaxy S4.

Display

Based on specs alone, it’s easy to just simply hand this category to the Galaxy S4. The 1080p resolution and 4.99-inch display size leave you with a pixel density of 441 ppi. When you compare that to the Galaxy Note 2’s 5.5-inch 720p display with a pixel density of around 267 ppi, it’s even more impressive. If you like your display sharp as a knife, the Galaxy S4 is hard to beat.

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The one thing certain people may prefer about the Galaxy Note 2 is the sheer size of the screen, especially if you plan to often be looking at it from a few feet away. At this distance, any lack of sharpness due to the 720p display is no longer noticeable, but the larger image certainly is.

Performance

To get a solid metric of performance, we ran our usual tests, starting with AnTuTu Benchmark. We ran the benchmark 10 times on each phone and averaged the results, ending up with a final score of around 24,500 for the Galaxy S4 and around 17,500 for the Galaxy Note 2. Note that the chipset in the Galaxy S4 we used was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600.

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Next we ran Epic Citadel. Having seen decent results in the past on phones with 720p displays, we thought this might be closer than the AnTuTu results, but that wasn’t the case. Running Epic Citadel a few times in High Quality mode, we saw around 58 frames per second from the Galaxy S4, while the Note 2 seemed to struggle, producing only around 45 frames per second.

In day to day use, the performance differences are much more difficult to notice. Both phones were very responsive, though some of the animations used by the Galaxy S4 made it feel slower than it actually is at times. Still, if you want the best performing phone, your best bet is the Galaxy S4.

Software

Both phones run Jelly Bean, albeit different versions. At the time of this writing, the Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2, while the Galaxy Note 2 runs Android 4.1.2. While this gives the Galaxy S4 a slight advantage in the features department, the differences aren’t all that noticeable.

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What is noticeable is all the software that has been added to the Galaxy S4. While we’ve already covered a lot of this when we explained the features, it’s worth a quick mention. Air View and Air Gesture add S Pen-like functionality without using the S-Pen, and Smart Scroll allows you to scroll using your eyes (even if I personally found it to be problematic). S Health is a fitness app that does everything from counting calories to measuring how far you walk in a day.

The Note 2 doesn’t have any of that, and to certain people, that may be a plus, especially if you’re never going to use them anyway. Plus, it has the S-Pen and related software.

Camera

This is another category that easily goes to the Samsung Galaxy S4. Its camera comes with a metric ton of features that the Galaxy Note 2’s camera just doesn’t have. Add the increased megapixel count and the improved image sensor, and it’s tough to make a case for the Galaxy Note 2.

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While not everybody is going to use the slightly gimmicky Dual Shot mode or Drama Shot on the Galaxy S4, other features like Eraser are just too handy to shrug off. While the Galaxy Note 2’s camera isn’t bad by a long shot, taking a look at photos produced by each phone should be enough to prove who the winner is here.

Battery

Being that it’s so much larger, we expected the 3,100 mAh battery in the Galaxy Note 2 to last much longer than the 2,600 mAh battery in the Galaxy S4. That didn’t turn out to be the case.

This isn’t exactly a lab-run test, but during testing and benchmarking over a period of about 6.5 hours, the battery life remained the same between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 2. Both phones were at the same brightness and running the same apps and tests during the entire time.

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During shooting for the video for this piece, we saw the same results. As the video shows, both phones were running the same software nearly simultaneously. We found a 1 percent difference between the two devices, with the Galaxy Note 2 besting the Galaxy S4, but by an extremely narrow margin.

Video

Conclusion

For the most part, if you’re looking at numbers and sheer power, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is probably the right choice for you. That’s no reason to simply ignore the Note 2, however. If you’re looking for a bigger screen or want to use the S Pen-specific features, then you might want to go for the Galaxy Note 2. In the end, it all comes down to what you want or need out of a phone.

Are you planning to upgrade to the Galaxy S4? Or are you going to get/stick with the Note 2? Let us known in the comments!

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/henryjhealy Henry Healy

    The S4’s PPI is 441, not 468. That’s the One.

  • Zufairi Zulkarnain

    stick with my Note 2..

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000349710185 Jeric Garcia

      me too.. s4 is not a worthy upgrade

      • tamis

        but the next Note 3 will be ;)
        cant wait!

    • Zufairi Zulkarnain

      other phones feel too small for me now since i’ve been using Note 2 for a month now.. i held my Note 2 on one hand, and S4 on the other, S4 really small for me.. love my Note 2..

    • Manoj Kumar

      Me too. I love the big screen, makes it more great when it comes in watching videos, as I’m a big fan of movies and anime. After a month use of Note2, all phones seems really small to me, makes me wanna get back to my Note2 :) .

  • Tets

    I prefer the Note 2 and will upgrade when the time comes to either the Note 3 but most likely I will wait for the Note 4.

    • whoknowswhereor

      Same, note 2 should last me till note 4.

      • Bazzaq

        Note 4 will be a HUGE leap for note 2 owners, even more so than the Note 3. 64 Bit OS with the possibility of ARM A57/53 Octa better optimized for whatever version of Android is running loaded on board, 4GB of RAM and a 2.7 ghz processor in a screen that will probably be 6.5 inches diagonally with a 1920×1200 resolution. I guess the note 3 will be a big leap too. The S5 will no doubt be the revolutionary upgrade over the S4.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000349710185 Jeric Garcia

          can we see a flexible display next year? i would be glad if note 4 or s5 willl have that factor..

        • DAVID.PERRY

          I agree with you totally it would be a huge leap but. Samsung isn’t stupid they sent out the galaxy mega for a reason I think the samsung galaxy note 3 will be the same size as the mega 5.8 and the note 4 will be the size of the mega 6.3

    • Mezhal Caluza Martinez Ulao

      I agree, the SGN2 should be good for me too till the note 4. The rumored specs of the Note 3 aren’t much of a leap from the Note 2.

  • shamatuu

    The note 2 is still a good phone and it would be better to wait for the Note 3 but it will probably be the same like the GS 4 so the Note 4 is the best bet.

  • cvgordo

    love my note 2 but pretty sure i will upgrade to note 3 when it comes out just because..

  • RaptorOO7

    Ordered the LG Optimus G Pro, it makes up for the GN2’s lack of internal storage, better 1080p screen and better processor (same as S4). I expect the GN3 to be even better in the fall and since I paid full retail I still have my upgrade IF the GN3 is worth it. So pay attention Samsung and release a 32GB AND 64GB version in the US or don’t bother releasing it at all.

    • http://annunakimaster.blogspot.com/ AnnunakiEnvoy

      Good reminder “Pay Attention SAMSUNG -32GB & 64GB” P L E A S E for the NOTE3.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.roberts.16752 Christopher Roberts

    Sold my Note 2 for the GS4 and honestly couldn’t be happier. I have no regrets whatsoever :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

      Just curious, why do you like the s4 more than the gnote 2?

      • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.roberts.16752 Christopher Roberts

        I am a techie and a person who must have the latest and greatest at the time. Super Amoled Full HD, Snapdragin 600, feature packed to the gills.. Need I say more?

        • vampyren

          Don’t forget much more portable and fit better in the hand and pocket plus as you say it is the latest and greatest. I also love my s4 allot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

      I absolutely loved the note 2 and didn’t think I would do it, but I sold it for the htc one.

  • Yan Kar

    Bought HTC one ( while use Note 2) after 1 day , sold HTC one and keept note 2
    The screen is the difference, on 1080 sqweezed into 5 inch everything is so small, its clear but small and harder to read.
    HTC one or GS4 cant even come close to note 2 screen. Some people will argue for the pixels dencity but in reallity we cant detect the diff depending on the distance to our eye.

  • blake kollman

    the galaxy s4 has a pixel density of 440, not 468

  • micheal mcgee

    Note 2 all day

  • Haywood

    Sticking with my Note2, Just can’t part with this screen..

  • http://twitter.com/aomia syler

    I’m going to wait and see what the galaxy note 3 is like.

  • ccl2003

    Shots on those trees are not even the same. The shot on the Note 2 is farther thereby making the camera comparison skewed. Plus, the battery comparison is totally wrong. 3100mAh of the Note 2 at 70% capacity is definitely not the same as the 70% capacity of a 2600mAh of the S4 just figure it out yourself. Obviously, the author has a bias for the S4 because its newer with a bit better features. But it doesn’t make the review truthful and correct.

    • xmichaelx

      “The shot on the Note 2 is farther thereby making the camera comparison skewed.”

      False. The focal lengths on the cameras are different – 28mm vs. 31mm (in 35mm equivalent). The camera is not “further.”

    • juscallmechris

      I thought I was the only one who noticed that. You can’t even compare the two images because there not identical pictures.

    • Kumar

      Damn right! The author is completely biased. My Note 2 outlasts my friend’s S4 by about 2 hours!

  • Innocent Bystander

    “especially the ones about an unnamed person who may or may not have “said” something at some point”

    Do you talk about me? Because indeed, I didn’t say anything about these two phones :)

  • David

    It’s Great to know the htc one kicks both of these products rite up the ass without any trouble whatsoever :-) it gives me a warm feeling to know I’m rocking the best phone on the planet.

    • uu

      How? Haha even phonedog’s dogfight note2 vs htc one. Note2 became d winner not bcoz of specs but bcoz its a note2 haha

      • David

        If u wanna talk about websites then techradar gives the one 5 out a 5. Only the 3rd phone to get full marks. Hahaha accept defeat gracefully and just take it on the chin :-)

        • uu

          gs4 and htc one have mixed reviews..

          Phonearena, Gsmarena, Cnet —- GS4
          phonedog and androidauthority—-Tie
          the Verge out of 10 factors, htc one trumps gs4 in design only

          • David

            Hahaha very good mate. Is that why I’ve heard innovative camera lots of times :-) the new zoe highlights :-) the very best speakers on any phone. Sense is a joy to use now unlike cartoon touchwiz. Not my words :-) and at least I can tell the difference between the new HTC and the older 1. Haha but I really do wish everyone all the best with there sgs3+. Yet again not my words :-)

          • flosserelli

            I really do wish you the best with your limited memory & non removable battery. Let us know when you get 40+ hours uptime with 6+ hrs screen on time on a single charge. Then I *might* consider selling my Note 2.

          • David Brymer

            oh im so glad u joined our chat, go on xda and look for the trickdroid rom and ull see me there with my 39 hours and near 8 hours screen time, most htc one users are easy getting over 7 hours screen time HAHAHAHAHAHA, as for ur memory , is this the s4 owners complaining that they only have 8 odd gb and sd cards dont hold sum games and APPS . hahahaha, yes my 32 gb is plenty for me mate and ive more than double the space left that wat yous get full stop, so its sounds like ur note 2 will be on ebay the night.

          • flosserelli

            Thanks but I’d rather have my 40+ hours uptime AND 6.5 hrs screen time AND removable battery AND as many swappable sd cards as I can buy for those marathon movie sessions on my 5.5″ screen. Anything smaller than 5.5″ is…well…I’m sure you get by with what you’ve got ;)

          • David Brymer

            uve just repeated urself, even though my battery is better and lasts longer, weird. i tend to watch movies on full hd tv but its ok on my full hd phone 2.

          • Joof

            What are you David, 10? You act like a spoilt child. Who, other than you, cares what phone you’ve got? You’re obviously not a fan of Samsung handsets, and that’s fine, but its sad you really feel the need to come here like a childish brat and and sprout on about your HTC.

            It’s nice that you like your phone. I don’t, but I am happy for you. Do you think you might go seek life elsewhere now?

            Thanks.

  • hi

    you can´t compare note 2 with gs4. you can compare note 2 with gs3

    • disk Latvia

      They just did…

  • Tobz

    I have the Note2, My Wife has the S4. The S4 is almost the same in every respect however the display is better, much nicer too look at and the updated software has a few more features.

    I have found it is slightly slower for some things. Im an app developer and when testing apps using a large amount of particles, there is significant slowdown in the S4 over the note 2.

    I also like the spen functionality with the note2 and the fact it fells like its a bit better in build quality.

    Other than that, the S4 seems to be a SLIGHTLY smaller, more refined version of the Note2 and is probably the better choice if you dont care for the spen.

  • fuzzy

    my s4 heats up enough to burn me after 5 minutes of playing games because of the two processors – not nice ;(

  • carlos

    I’ve had a Note and now I have the Note 2. The bigger the better.

    • carlos

      go big or go home

  • Docjava

    Note 2 for sure. I don’t know how techie u techies need to be but for me an average gadget nut the Note 2 is the best all-in-one I’ve had. Love the size (specially with Netflix), I can’t tell the speed diff between my Note2 and my buddy’s S4, this camera is awesome ( put my Nikon away). And about some of those other features of the S4 if I’m not mistaken some of them will be added to the Note2 by an OTA sometime soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.bordeaux.54 Michael Bordeaux

    Keeping my note2 and waiting for the note3.

  • Bullydogger

    The only way I would replace my Note 2 would be with a Note 3 and yes Size does matter. Note 2 all the way…

  • http://twitter.com/Scott_Maulo Scott Maulo

    My Note 2 is the BEST phone I’ve ever had! I love the big screen and the S-Pen. I think the S4 is a powerhouse of a phone, but after having the Note I don’t think I could go to a smaller screen.

  • Grandma

    I really want to carry only one devise and would like to be able to read books on the phone I am just entering the smart phone market. Do you think the Note 2 is too big to hold as a phone? Help this is a hard decision for this Grandma!!

    • Bruno Ferretti

      Honestly i have my GS3 and read tons of articles on it daily. the screen is more than adequate. the GS4 has an even slightly larger screen so that should work great. but honestly put it this way…. this whole “large phones are unattractive” thing is ridiculous. how many phone calls do you make a day compared to how much you use your phone to read/browse/surf ect. the bigger the screen, the better for EVERYTHING you want to use your phone for.

  • http://annunakimaster.blogspot.com/ AnnunakiEnvoy

    I’m in struggle now – pulling myself away from the magnet of s4. My Note3 is coming home soon….

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.cottrell.92 Jamie Cottrell

    You forgot price. Note 2 will be cheaper

  • Taher Muhammedali

    This post couldn’t have been made at a better time when I’m actually planning to buy one of them within a week.

  • Belal Bassem

    I wished I could buy both for free

  • Dalton

    I have had the note 2 for about 3 months now and I have to say that its the best phone out there. I have used the s4 and there is almost no difference in the speed even with the new processor. Also the screen on the s4 is a little better but I feel the largness of my note makes up for that. After having a phone this big I will never be able to have a phone any smaller.

  • V-Phuc

    A question. After all the rage about how much bloatware was pre-installed on SG4, I’d like to know how much real internal storage was left on SN2. Did it also take half of the advertised memory, let’s say ~7-8GB out of 16GB? Thanks for the info.

  • jieng

    Currently using iphone5(64GB)

    1. Singapore have 3 telco. Only 16GB S4 available In my country(Singapore) with only 9GB Left Usable. Even if i get Sdcard most app only can be save on internal memory. 9GB Samsung You Serious?

    2. Octa Core WOW!!! for the first time i wanted to give up my iphone and try Android.
    Sorry Singapore getting the SnapDragon600 version only.

    3. As i mention before 3 telco in Singapore all of them have almost the same price for 2Year contact. The S4(16GB) Cost $50 more then HTC(32GB).

    Oh And The S4(16GB) Cost the same Price as Iphone(32GB).

  • Bhargav Tenneti

    hi guys.. I suggest not to take Note 2 because as we saw Samsung has got more advanced proto type devices which are going to be released in the very near future.. So it is good to stick to Note 2…

  • V-Phuc

    What’s the available memory storage on Note2? Can someone give a number. Thanks.

    • petebear

      64 gig

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert9162 Robert Abadam

    gonna stick with my note 2. my wife has the S4 but I will wait for the note 3.

  • Jodie G

    I just had my note 2 stolen and instead of paying another 750 for a note and having the same thing since I was spending another 750 I went with the s4 and I now miss my note 2, even though the screen size is almost the same the display is way different and I loved the note because I have bad eyes and it was like a tablet I had no problem reading it but the galaxy s4 is just a bigger screen with the same small letters and I get a headache reading and the panning is glitchy with s4 and on the note the pages would just simply be bigger move easy I find the s4 to be a bigger iphone 5 screen, if you had iphone u jnow what I mean, anyway I wish I had my note 2 back :(

  • ViN32

    Galaxy S is for girls. Real man uses Note. :)

    • maverick

      Daam right!!!

  • ROUCynic

    Possibly due to the novelty factor but in the UK the Note 2 is available on much better contract terms than the S4. An all you can eat data package with handset is £26 here were a similar deal on the S4 is closer to £35!

  • Belinda

    WHICH WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR MY PURPOSE? I WANT A UNIT ON WHICH I COULD WRITE IMPORTANT NOTES WHEN DISCUSSING WITH A CLIENT OR ATTENDING SEMINARS… I HAVE AN APPLE IPAD BUT TAKING DOWN NOTES IS SLOWER THAN IF YOU ARE USING A PEN AND AN ORDINARY NOTEBOOK.

  • ryo

    I am going to get the note 2 but I am afraid that it won’t get the jelly bean 4.2.2 update because I have the note 1 and I am still stuck on android 4.0.3 ICS

  • ryo

    I am going to get the note 2 but I am afraid that it won’t get the jelly bean 4.2.2 update because I have the note 1 and I am still stuck on android 4.0.3 ICS

  • Frank Kavanagh

    This ‘review’ has made my mind up. I am due an upgrade from an S2, The note wins. I don’t want a 13 mega-pixel camera, it will just fill up my computer faster for no great gain. I don’t care to know how far i’ve walked today, I already know it was enough. And some other ‘enhancements’ on the S4 will be played with for a week and then forgotten.

  • Bruddah Willz

    i am about to upgrade from iphone 4. I want to switch to the note 2. more so for the stylus and larger screen – (sketching/video wanted) I do take a lot of photos/vid… is the S4 worth it for photo quality. or should i wait for the note 3? to have both maybe? will the note 3 have a better camera?

  • tina

    Hello, I would like to know if note 2 has the eyes scroll feature which is availabe on S4, or the Smart pause which can pause a video when you look away. Can you help me with these information? Thank you!

  • Jose

    I have been using the Note 2 since February and it is easily the best phone I’ve ever had. It may be a little hard to squeeze into my jeans pockets but the huge screen is such a joy to use that its worth the effort. It really is an all in one device.

    Two weeks ago I caved into my curiosity and purchased an S4. It was a huge disappointment. The camera and display are nice but those are the only advantages I found over the Note 2. It didn’t feel any faster in day to day use and most of the new features are gimmicky and not very useful. I’m selling the S4 and will be sticking with the Note 2 until the Note 4.

  • swapnil shahane

    Buying not 2. As of now its absolutes bang for the buck (at least in India)

    25k INR for Note II (416 USD)

    35k INR for SG4 (583 USD)

    Bought Note2

  • Nancy Montero Boutilette

    Keeping the note 2.. best phone ever

  • BJ

    I have the SN 2 , went and compared the new Samsung Mega (3) it doesn’t sound worth upgrading to.. I am now in a pickle.. I just bought my son the LG optimus g it’s very compatable to these phones.. I can’t decide,. I love the share feature with samsung. Not offered otherwise and I have a lot of samsing prroduct (they really need to work on thhhhhheir bluray players).. but the new samsung s4 is WATER PROOF.. I am workiing on kid #4 that feature can not be over looked… justt sayin’ .. do your reaseach before you buy, these phones cost so much make sure it is right for you…

  • Ryan5ever

    i just got the note 2 and im not dissapointed at all. either way you end up with an extremely useful smartphone and amazing smartphone that makes the iphone look like a toy phone. im glad i bought the note, but either way i would’ve been happy. my advice is for you to test both of them and see which is right for you, the S4 just didnt feel right when i held it, so i went with the note 2.

  • CopsBlow247

    All these old comments crack me up. If you have ever pre-ordered a phone or have been excited about the new features coming out then there is a 100% chance that you have never been laid. Now what is important. How many times can it fall from a height of 2 feet while plugged in before the charger port or screen breaks? Right now I’d say it’s about the same as the last Samsung and last 4 HTC’s I’ve owned with that number being somewhere between 10 and 50 depending on how lucky you are because the charge ports look like the same old pathetic crap. When it gets closer to the 500-1000 range I’ll consider buying another Samsung. Until then I’ll stick with my seemingly indestructible RAZR Ms and you guys can have the plastic junk with the useless features that only serve the function of killing the battery.