Galaxy Note 3 vs Galaxy S4 Comparison

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone and Galaxy S4 on a dark background

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was announced and with it comes a lot of high expectations for those who search to buy a new phablet. Nevertheless, some people still debating whether to buy the Galaxy S4, which features a smaller display and its more portable and provide great bundled apps. The Note 3 might appeal to business users, those who like the S Pen’s new functionality and those who might prefer the bigger screen and owning a phone with Qualcomm’s latest generation Quad-core processor.

In this comparison article we’ll take a closer look at the key feature of both devices and examine the cons and pros of each device. This will help you understand which device of the two will give you more benefit and better return for your investment.

Size and Design

We’ll start obviously with the external aspect and later move on to the hardware and built-in app functionality. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with a 5.7 inch Full HD Super AMOLED display. The Samsung Galaxy S4 feature the same Full HD Super AMOLED display and both use Gorilla Glass 3 glass for protection against bumps and scratches. However, the S4 has a 5-inch display, and although the difference between 5 inches and 5.7 doesn’t sound much, there is a noticeable difference between the two.

screen size comparison: note 3 vs galaxy s4
Galaxy Note 3 vs Galaxy S4 – Screen size comparison

You can see that the Galaxy Note 3 screen provides you with more horizontal space, and noticeably more vertical space (when holding the device vertically).  Due to both offering the same 1080×1920 pixel resolution, the S4 enjoys a higher pixel density (441 ppi vs 386 ppi). Although the Note 3 has a lower pixel density, you won’t notice the pixels in either device—both provide smooth visuals. The Super AMOLED display provides very vivid and oversaturated image that really makes every image pop out. Some people love those vivid colors, other prefer the more subtle colors of Super LCD. I personally love the S-AMOLED display, it just makes everything look stunning on it, even those pictures that you find boring watching on your home computer will come alive on this display.

This of course comes at the cost of portability. The Note 3 is much larger than the S4.

Phone size comparison, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4
Phone size comparison, Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4

I remember that I went to the store in order to feel how the Galaxy Note 2 feels in the hand, and I personally find it a bit too large for my taste — and both the Note 2 and Note 3 are almost the same exact size. I have a friend who bought the Galaxy Note 2 and after some time he found it to be not that comfortable to carry around. This is something that you should understand before jumping on the phone like the Note 2 or the Note 3. Having said that, the large screen improved readability, browsing experience, game play, etc. For gaming, the Note 3 acts like a mobile console machine, and videos look amazing on it.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was designed from the ground up to appeal to high-end users that take advantage of many of their phone’s multimedia functionality, as well as give better interactive multi-tasking functionality using the bundled S Pen. Writing and sketching is much easier when you have a large screen and when utilizing the S Pen for that purpose. It’s like having a mini computer with you, and it’s the best alternative for those who don’t want to burden themselves carrying a tablet device and want to enjoy many of the advantages of both phone and tablet devices.

Some of the questions that I get about the Note 2 is whether you can put it in your jeans pocket? — The answer is yes you can, but you need quite a large pocket and it will still stick out. It is however doesn’t fit, at least not comfortably, into a skinny jeans—and probably only forth of the device will be in the pocket, the rest will be outside. If portability is your main concern, the Galaxy Note 3 is probably not the right device for you, unless you are willing to make that compromise in order to enjoy the benefit of using a phone with a large display and the features that come along with this specific device.

S Pen placement in Note 3
S Pen placement in the Galaxy Note 3

The S Pen however sits comfortably in a hole at the rear side of the device, so you don’t have to carry it separately. The S Pen also connects to a hardware component, allowing the phone to know when you take it out and when you put it back, so Note 3 will launch the memo app when you take it out so you can quickly write a memo and put it back when finished.

Samsung has also redesigned the phone from the Note 2, now instead of glossy plastic as with the Note 2, you now get a synthetic textured finish for the rear cover. So you don’t need to worry about ugly scratches and it gives the phone a premium quality and just feels better when holding it in the hands. The texture reminds me of a Notebook paper texture, and I think this is the reason Samsung has chosen this specific texture for the rear cover.

The great thing about the Note 3 is that although its larger size, it’s still only 8.2 mm thick, only 0.3 mm thicker than the Galaxy S4 (7.9 mm), and 1.2 mm slimmer than the Note 2. Above all that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is available in nine different  colors to choose from. The S4 is currently available in four colors (white, black, red and blue), but Samsung announced that the S4 will enjoy five new colors, including Blue Arctic, Purple Mirage, Red Aurora, Brown Autumn and Pink Twilight. So both phones enjoy a wide variety of colors.

The Samsung Note 3 also enjoys a wide range of colorful cover accessory called S View Cover with a window at the front which allows you to view some information without opening your phone.  The phone knows when you open the cover and wake up the phone in normal view mode. In this window you can see the time, battery life and view new notifications.  There are also some regular colorful cover accessories, that cost less than the S View cover, but don’t come with the window hole at the front.

Samsung worked to make the GALAXY Note 3 more appealing externally, and the Note 3 is really impressive on the outside as it is on the inside as you’ll soon see.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, like the S4 has a removable cover, so you can swap batteries or insert a new micro SD memory card. When I first so that type of cover I though that Samsung has ditched the removable battery option, but apparently this is the case. You can read more about the cons and pros of non-removable batteries here. The Note 3 features a 3200 mAh battery and the S4 comes with a 2600 mAh.

Other features unique to the Note 3 is called “Multi-Vision”, which allows for a group of Note 3 devices to stack up several devices and get a larger screen area. So for example, you can view a video instead of a single 5.7″ display — view it spanning two or more devices. Just imagine yourself sitting in a bus for a long ride and watching a video with some friends that have the Note 3, this should be way too cool :)

S Pen Functionality

The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t come with an S Pen. With the new Note 3, Samsung introduced a new  S Pen and new functionality to go with it. It’s worth mentioning that the Note 3 S Pen is responsible for unlocking most of the advanced features of the Note 3 that differentiate itself from other phablets that don’t have this hardware device. The S Pen is not like a regular Stylus pen that you buy in the computer store. It’s designed specifically for the Note 3.

The S Pen plays a significant role in how the user actively interacts with the phone and helps make some daily tasks much easier and more intuitive.

When you hover with your S Pen on the display, you will see a small dot where the pen is pointing at. This means that by clicking the S Pen’s button, you can launch the Air Command overlay palette. This works in any place on the screen, but only in areas where it’s permitted. So when you use it in a game it won’t show the dot and therefore it won’t launch the Air Command palette. The Air Command overlay provides the following features/options:

  • Action Memo gives the user to add a note and automatically assign it to a function that does something, including converting the text into contextual information (e.g. Convert handwritten name and phone number to contextual information and add it to a contact entry), instantly initiate a call on a number while browsing, look up a specific address on a map, etc.
  • Scrapbook allows a fast way to save information from the web by circling the relevant information inside a web page that you want to save. Note 3 allows you to save that information in a specific category and also save the original source URL as a reference, so you can easily go back to the original page from which you extracted the data from
  • S Finder allows you to search for content on your device regardless of the type, and also search for handwritten content in your notes and memos
  • Screen Write allows you to capture the full screen image of a particular page and add your own comments onto that image
  • Pen Window is my favorite functionality, which allows you to sketch a rectangular shape anywhere on the screen and choose to launch a particular application inside that rectangle region. So you can launch a calculator, view YouTube video or browse a particular web page without the need to leave your current application. This enhances the multi-tasking capability of the Note 3, and it’s very useful when using it on such a large display

This Samsung GALAXY Note 3 introduction video shows you those unique functions in action.

So some things are easier, quicker and only possible to do when you use the S Pen. You might ask yourself whether you are going to use those S Pen features. I think that those people who spend a lot of time browsing the web, getting information for later use and sharing information from the web with others—those will find the new S Pen feature very handy. The handwriting recognition software works fluently and this is something that you won’t get with the GALAXY S4.  As a blogger, I found those features very useful, although I do most of the work at home, rather than outdoors—so I will probably won’t use it that much.

Samsung also improved its S Note application, and it’s now easier to manage your notes and you can even sync your notes with Evernote cloud services to view your notes on several devices. You can read more about that Evenote integration on

OK, now let’s move on to something more comparable..

Camera Comparison

Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 4 features both rear-facing and front-facing camera. You won’t find anything innovative here like Nokia’s PureView camera, but it’s good to understand the differences between the two.

Rear facing camera of the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4

Both phones feature a 13MP rear-facing camera with digital image stabilization and a 2MP front-facing camera —both phones can record Full HD 1080p30 videos. The Note 3 however takes advanced of a new High CRI LED flash. This new LED flash should result in a more natural illumination and improve your low-light photography images.

Another difference is that the GALAXY Note 3 can record smooth motion Full HD videos at 60 frames per second and 120 fps slow motion videos at 720p, whether the S4 only features the 120 fps slow-mo recording option. The 120 fps slow motion recording is quite nice, especially with its high resolution. Take a look at the video below to see what you can achieve with it.

Pretty cool isn’t it? — There are many more 120 fps slowmo videos available on YouTube, so just head up to YouTube to see how creative people get when you give them the option to shoot slow motion videos.

Both phones enjoy the advanced camera features like Dual Shot / Dual Recording / Dual Video Call Recording, Drama Shot, Sound & Shot, Animated Photo, Eraser, Gold mode, Best Photo, Best Face, Beauty Face, HDR, Panorama mode– but Note 3 adds Surround shot, which is a mode quite similar to Photosphere that was introduced in Android 4.2 to easily create a 360 panoramic images.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 also features a 4K video recording mode, which allows you to record videos at 3840 x 2160 resolution. This however means that you cannot record in dual camera mode or take pictures while recording.

4K video recording mode popup window on the Note 3

I know that you want to see a 4K video sample—luckily HardwareZone Philippines has uploaded a sample 4K video taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to YouTube yesterday, so we can have a glimpse and inspect the image quality ourselves. Just make sure that you choose “Original HD” from the image quality parameter in the YouTube video to watch the video in its highest quality.

This mode is possible due to the Note 3 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. This feature will certainly be favorable among enthusiast videographers who want to get the best possible quality for video editing in post production. It also gives you more room for zooming into a particular region without losing image quality, as you just move your video safe area to a different location in the video frame.

So overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note III offers some additional functionality, but it’s petty  that we don’t get to have an optical image stabilization, rather than only digital image stabilization for videos.

Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch Accessory

Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatchAt the same time Samsung introduced the Note 3, it also introduced its new Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which is an accessory to its Galaxy range of devices. At the time of launch the Galaxy Gear in October 2013, the Gear smartwatch will only be compatible with the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1, because both are using the Android 4.3 platform. Later on we’ll see other Galaxy devices, including the S4 enjoying this brand new accessory.

Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch works as an integral accessory to your Galaxy mobile device and can show you  incoming notifications as well as the ability to initiate and answer call indirectly from the phone, without taking the phone out of your pocket. It comes with a 1.63″ 320×320 pixel Super AMOLED touch-sensitive display and there are already 70 apps available for it, and the number will grow in time. It also comes with a camera that’s embedded into the wristband. It features S Voice app to recognize voice commands and interact with your phone.

The Galaxy Gear watch is a very useful accessory to compliment your Note 3. Samsung even designed a microsite specifically for the Galaxy Note 3 + Gear — check it out at So if you eager to be among the first to enjoy this new smartwatch as it released in October this year, you probably want to get the Note 3. However, this is certainly not a reason to get the Note  3 over the S4.

To learn more about this Note 3 + Galaxy Gear integration, take a look at this video by Samsung Mobile. This video also demonstrates some of the new GALAXY Note 3 features that I’ve mentioned earlier — just jump to 12:50 minute in the timeline to view the Samsung Galaxy Gear + Galaxy Note 3 integral functionality.

MY only issue with this smartwatch that is not independent of the mobile device and that it doesn’t work with all Android devices. However, it’s great to see how the changes on your phone have a direct effect on the phone and the hands-free calling feature is very useful.


Processor & Benchmark Performance

So we talked about the camera, external design, S Pen functionality and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch accessory. Now it’s time to talk about the device’s performance. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 800 MSM8974 2.3 GHz processor, 3GB of LPDDR3 800 MHz RAM and Adreno 330 GPU. This is a pure powerhouse machine that will run everything that you throw at it.  The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T Quad-core 1.8 GHZ processor, 2GB LPDDR3 RAM and Adreno 320 GPU.

Early benchmarks show that the Note 3 beats both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. According to benchmarks the Samsung Galaxy Note III easily takes the lead in most popular benchmark tests:

Benchmark PI (lower is better)

  • Note 3: 98
  • S4 (S600): 132
  • S4 (Octa): 791

Linpack (higher is better)

  • Note 3: 1091
  • S4 (S600): 788
  • S4 (Octa): 791

AnTuTu (higher is better)

  • Note 3: 32907
  • S4 (S600): 24716
  • S4 (Octa): 26275

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p off-screen) – higher is better

  • Note 3: 68
  • S4 (S600): 41
  • S4 (Octa): 43

GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex 1080p off-screen (higher is better)

  • Note 3: 26
  • S4 (S600): 17.1
  • S4 (Octa): 17.1

SunSpider (lower is better)

  • Note 3: 648
  • S4 (S600) 1046

Those benchmarks from certainly show that the Note 3 outperforms both the S600 and Octa-core version of the S4.  The Galaxy Note 3 even won against the LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra in most benchmarks except in AnTuTu where it came second to the LG G2. If you are searching to buy one of the most powerful smartphones on the market, you should certainly put the Note 3 at the top of the list. It doesn’t mean that the S4 is slow.. Not at all, the S4 will run everything you can throw at it, but the Note 3 is just better in synthetic benchmark that shows that its processor is capable of processing information faster. This also means that some graphic-demanding games will run in higher framerates, which makes the Note 3 to a very compelling mobile gaming device.

If you check the link to benchmark page, you can see that the Galaxy Note 2 is way beyond the Note 3 when it comes to sheer performance.


Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 are excellent premium devices.  I didn’t mention it in the comparison, but the two devices support Samsung Smart Scroll, Samsung Smart Pause, Air Gesture and Air View. Both come with S Voice, S Health, Samsung Hub, ChatON, Samsung WatchON, Group Play, and Samsung Knox. Both have IR LED (remote control), both support GLONASS/GPS, NFC and MHL.

The Note 3 enjoying the GALAXY S4 features but adds addition functionality that improved its multi-tasking capability, as well as improved LED flash and unique texture for its rear cover. The Note 3 has proven to be marginally faster than the S4, has more RAM and new generation GPU. The Note 3 comes with a larger battery, newer Android 4.3 OS, S Pen and its currently compatible with the soon-to-be released Galaxy Gear smartwatch. It has a larger display that makes browsing web pages, watching videos and playing games more fun and engaging. This comes at the price of portability—some of you won’t mind that detail, others will.

All in all, I found the Samsung Galaxy Note III to be overall the better device of the three in terms of features and performance, but it’s really boils down to ones personal preference.  The size of the device plays a significant role here, and this is something that I just can’t emphasize enough. I recommend trying the Note 3 at the store when it is released before you order it online — just to be 100% sure that you are OK with its size.

So what’s your opinion, which one do you like better, the S4 or the Note 3? — Share your opinion by leaving a comment in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply