While the Nexus 6 presents a significant change for Google’s Nexus phone brand, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 hasn’t changed a great deal – there are a few tweaks worth noting, to be sure, but on the whole it’s a similar affair to the Note 3.
The Nexus 6 has been built by Motorola. Previous Nexus phones have been made by LG, taking design and styling cues from that company’s own device range, and the same has now happened with a switch to Motorola. Essentially, the Nexus 6 looks like an enlarged version of the newly launched Moto X (2014) – where that model packed a 5.2in display, the Nexus 6 boasts a 5.96in setup.
It has a sturdy metal surround and a soft-touch back panel, while the display is crammed in with a narrow bezel. There’s also a pair of front-facing stereo speaker grilles. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is considerably more compact, it’s also thinner too and a good deal lighter than Google’s own offering.
Aesthetically it’s quite similar to its predecessor with a textured faux leather style back panel, however, this lacks the plush finish of the Note 3 with a tackier, plasticky feel. But, with that said, the edges have been made flatter with a thin silver edging that looks far slicker than older models and offers decent grip at the same time thanks to a matte polycarbonate finish. It’s a bit thicker and heavier than the Note 3 but still fairly well balanced and noticeably thinner than Google’s new Nexus. Lastly, the Nexys 6 is splash resistant (though cannot survive a dunk) and the Galaxy Note 4 has none of the Galaxy S5’s waterproofing whatsoever.
Being a pair of phablets, display tech is a crucial point for both devices here. Google has opted for a 5.96in AMOLED screen with a 2560x1440 pixel resolution at 493 pixels per inch (ppi). Needless to say with a 2K resolution the picture quality should be pretty damn flawless, while the use of OLED should ensure a punchy and colourful experience with good contrast.
Samsung’s got a lot of clout when it comes to OLED though, and its screen is a slightly smaller 5.7in Super AMOLED packing the same resolution with a slightly higher pixel density of 515ppi (not that this small difference should be that noticeable). What might be noticeable though is the colour saturation, contrast, and brightness, all of which tend to be much better on Super AMOLED. Samsung has also come under flak for dodgy colour reproduction and tinting on previous models and has made efforts to correct this here –– it may still be high contrast and saturated, but you shouldn’t be getting bluey whites anymore.
Processor, Performance, Software & UI
Both devices should be pretty much an even match as they pack the exact same Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor chip, with 3GB of RAM, an Adreno 420 GPU, Krait 450 core architecture and four cores clocked at 2.7GHz. That said, Google’s phone is unhindered by UI overlay software, so depending on how well Samsung has implemented its TouchWiz UI we could see slightly smoother performance from the Nexus 6 – this remains to be seen, however.
At any rate, both handsets are stacked full of muscle power –– this is Qualcomm’s very latest top-end chip after all –– and each should be easily capable of handling premium content from Google’s storefront for a long while. In terms of the software, both devices are running Google Android. The Galaxy Note 4 runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with its own TouchWiz layer, which creates a distinctive aesthetic and some extra functionality, but is not necessarily as straightforward to use as the stock Android 5.0 Lollipop aboard the Nexus 6 which looks cleaner. Needless to say, the Nexus’ software is also more up-to-date, however, it’s very likely the Note 4 will get Lollipop quite soon being such a new release.
It’s well worth mentioning the Note 4’s built-in multitasking capabilities, allowing you to split the display space between multiple applications simultaneously and overlay mini application windows (for things like the calculator) on top of each other. This makes it a genuine productivity device, which is relatively rare in the Android space.
The Nexus 6 packs quite an upgraded set of imaging kit from the Nexus 5, with a 13MP back-illuminated sensor (BSI), featuring optical image stabilisation (OIS), an f/2.0 aperture, 4K video capture and dual-LED flash. It’s hard to imagine this not producing some pretty impressive visuals.
But even so, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has had a similarly hefty boost, up to a 16MP rating on one of Samsung’s ISOCELL BSI sensors, with an f/2.2 aperture, OIS, and 4K video. Image and video quality should be at least as good as the Nexus 6’s. Historically Google and Motorola’s cameras have not been the best, so there’s a chance Samsung’s kit can outdo it, particularly given how capable ISOCELL tech seems to be so far.
Storage, Connectivity, Battery & Other Hardware
The Galaxy Note 4 only comes in one storage flavour (in the UK at least) and that’s 32GB onboard with microSD support for cards up to 128GB. Meanwhile, Google’s Nexus 6 doesn’t take SD cards but does have both 32GB and 64GB onboard options. Otherwise, both handsets are quite evenly matched when it comes to connectivity options, including 4G LTE and 3G mobile data, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, microUSB and GPS. The Note 4 packs an infrared blaster and supports MHL TV-out, while Google’s Nexus 6 has wireless Qi charging support and fast charging.
Speaking of battery stuff, you’re looking at the same size battery cell in each phone. However, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a few extra tricks up its sleeve; the cell is removable so you can swap in a new one, and it has an Ultra Power saving mode which can give you 15 days of use from a single charge when restricting to calls and texts with a black and white display mode.
Another key point is the Note 4’s S-Pen stylus, which has excellent handwriting recognition software and is incredibly accurate for drawing or photo editing duties. Samsung’s device has a capable set of speakers but they’re not a patch on the front-facing stereo setup aboard the Nexus 6.