Released in late 2014 and recently updated to Lollipop in many countries, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 still ranks among the best Android phones available. High-end specs, a gorgeous SuperAMOLED display and a camera almost as capable as the Galaxy S6 make the Note 4 a strong rival to any of the 2015 flagships we've seen thus far. However LG's new G4 could give power users a reason to look beyond Samsung's big-screened, stylus-toting device.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G4 are built around exceptional smartphone displays from their respective manufacturers. For Samsung, it's the latest Quad HD SuperAMOLED at 5.7 inches diagoally. On the G4 you get LG's impressive new 5.5-inch IPS Quantum Display at the same resolution, a vast improvement upon the company's original Quad HD panel.
These two phones aim to differentiate themselves through build quality, but both take contrasting approaches. The Note 4 packs its tapered glass display around a metallic frame with a painted matte finish, while the G4 frames its screen in regular shiny plastic, but with a choice of more exotic back panels. Unlike the leather-effect soft-touch plastic on the Note's rear, LG's device offers a genuine leather back in a choice of several colors. That's assuming you don't opt for the regular plastic back — and you shouldn't, if you have a choice.
The G4's curved display and rounded body also contrast markedly with the largely rectangular Note 4. That, combined with the slight size difference, makes the G4 more hand friendly — through some may prefer the gripability of the more angular Note.
On the inside you'll also find a few similarities — 32GB of storage plus microSD expandability and an ample 3GB of RAM, removable batteries (3,000mAh in the G4, 3,220mAh in the Note 4), along with wireless charging support through an accessory. The Note 4 does one-up its newer rival with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, however, which is a little surprising give that the G4 packs a newer, 64-bit six-core Snapdragon 808 processor. Meanwhile the Note 4 runs Qualcomm's last high-end 32-bit chip, the Krait-based Snapdragon 805 in most countries.
In real world performance, our first impressions are that the G4 edges ahead of the Note 4, and that's about software as much as anything. LG appears to have gone to war against the lag seen in some of its previous phones, smoothing out animations and producing a generally fast, responsive UI. (By contrast, there are still occasional instances of slowdown on the Note, most noticeably in the recent apps menu.)
LG UX 4.0 also incorporates neat software tricks like Smart Notice for timely reminders, and new gallery options for grouping photos into events based on time and location. Other features, like LG's dual window, have clearly taken some inspiration from Samsung's TouchWiz.
Speaking of which, a fully upgraded Galaxy Note 4 will bring you some, but not all of the software experience of the GS6, including Material Design-inspired apps and lighter, more consistent visuals throughout. Meanwhile LG has brightened things up with more vivid colors, while sticking with the largely geometric UI first seen on the G3.
Both pack what look to be excellent 16-megapixel, optically stabilized cameras — Samsung using Sony's top-notch IMX240 sensor with its own realtime HDR and post-processing tricks, LG with its trademark laser autofocus and color spectrum sensor for more accurate colors. We've taken some fantastic shots with the Note 4 over the past six months, and it'll take something special to usurp it (and the GS6) as the top Android cameras. LG seems well placed to do just that, though, with fast focus, a bright f/1.8 lens a redesigned camera app bringing manual image controls.
These are both impressive, capable Android smartphones, but we don't think we're jumping the gun by saying the G4 may turn a few heads away from the Note 4. We'll need to spend more time with the LG's 2015 flagship before coming to any firm conclusions here, so keep watching in the weeks ahead.
LG G4 versus Samsung Galaxy Note 4 — key specifications
|Category||LG G4||Samsung Galaxy Note 4|
|Dimensions||148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm||153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm|
|Weight||155 grams||176 grams|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core||Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core|
(Exynos octa-core versions also available)
|Display||Quad HD LCD @ 2560x1440||Quad HD SuperAMOLED @ 2560x1440|
|Storage||32GB + microSD||32GB + microSD|
|Camera||16-megapixel with OIS 2.0 and laser autofocus||16-megapixel with OIS|
|Battery||3,000mAh removable||3,220mAh removable|
|Software||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
LG UX 4.0
|Android 5.0 Lollipop (with upgrade)|