Mobile Technology

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs. Google Nexus 6: Quick look

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs. Goog...
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) with Google/Motorola Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) with Google/Motorola Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's back is a faux leather plastic, while the Nexus' back feels a bit like faux metal (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's back is a faux leather plastic, while the Nexus' back feels a bit like faux metal (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Both handsets have metal bands running around their edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Both handsets have metal bands running around their edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4's camera is a little faster, and noticeably better in low-lit conditions (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4's camera is a little faster, and noticeably better in low-lit conditions (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus (right) is technically 19 percent thicker, but that's only counting the thickest point of its rounded back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Nexus (right) is technically 19 percent thicker, but that's only counting the thickest point of its rounded back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Neither feels quite as premium as an iPhone or HTC One, but their plastic back/metal edge designs don't give us much to complain about (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Neither feels quite as premium as an iPhone or HTC One, but their plastic back/metal edge designs don't give us much to complain about (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Both phones have ultra-sharp Quad HD displays (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Both phones have ultra-sharp Quad HD displays (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's S Pen is much improved over the styluses in older Galaxy Notes (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's S Pen is much improved over the styluses in older Galaxy Notes (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4 has a 5.7-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4 has a 5.7-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus 6 has a 5.96-in screen, about 9 percent bigger than the Note's (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Nexus 6 has a 5.96-in screen, about 9 percent bigger than the Note's (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Multi Window (split-screen multitasking) on the Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Multi Window (split-screen multitasking) on the Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Air Command, your hub to all things note-related, on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Air Command, your hub to all things note-related, on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's S Pen is very responsive, but its build is still 100 percent plastic (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's S Pen is very responsive, but its build is still 100 percent plastic (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Unlike the Nexus 6, the Note 4 has a removable battery, with a durable battery cover (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Unlike the Nexus 6, the Note 4 has a removable battery, with a durable battery cover (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gaming on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gaming on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Pop-up Window on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Pop-up Window on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy Note 4 is 8.5 mm (0.33-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy Note 4 is 8.5 mm (0.33-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The white Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The white Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The round-backed Nexus 6 is technically 10.1 mm (0.4-in) thick, but its edges are much thinner than that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The round-backed Nexus 6 is technically 10.1 mm (0.4-in) thick, but its edges are much thinner than that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4's 16 MP camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4's 16 MP camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Action Memo on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Action Memo on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note's removable battery (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note's removable battery (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Side view of the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Side view of the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Multi Window (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Multi Window (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Motorola dimple on the back of the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Motorola dimple on the back of the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Android 5.0 Lollipop-running Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Android 5.0 Lollipop-running Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4's heart rate sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4's heart rate sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A closer look at the Note's metal-and-pleather build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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A closer look at the Note's metal-and-pleather build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4 weighs 176 g (6.2 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4 weighs 176 g (6.2 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus 6's 13 MP camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Nexus 6's 13 MP camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Back of the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Back of the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Side of the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Side of the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4 has a (swipe-based) fingerprint sensor; something the Nexus 6 doesn't have (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4 has a (swipe-based) fingerprint sensor; something the Nexus 6 doesn't have (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Video on the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Video on the Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Quad HD Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Quad HD Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Like every other Galaxy Note, the Note 4's The S Pen stashes away inside when you aren't using it (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Like every other Galaxy Note, the Note 4's The S Pen stashes away inside when you aren't using it (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Jotting a note on the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Jotting a note on the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus 6 weighs 184 g (6.5 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Nexus 6 weighs 184 g (6.5 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Note 4's S Pen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Note 4's S Pen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The enormous Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The enormous Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Top of the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Top of the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
One-handed mode on the Note 4, something the Nexus 6 doesn't have (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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One-handed mode on the Note 4, something the Nexus 6 doesn't have (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Sketching on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Sketching on the Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A dimly lit setting taken with both the Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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A dimly lit setting taken with both the Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus 6 (right) has a 9 percent bigger screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Nexus 6 (right) has a 9 percent bigger screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View gallery - 56 images

If you're shopping for a huge smartphone this holiday season, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Google Nexus 6 are two of your best options. Let's take a quick hands-on look at the two phablets.

You could easily argue that the Galaxy Note 4 is the best all-around smartphone of 2014. It's big without feeling ridiculously oversized, has a higher-end build than we're used to seeing from Samsung, and a responsive stylus that handles like pen on paper. Its long battery life, good camera and ultra-sharp Quad HD display only sweeten the pot.

The Nexus 6 (right) has a 9 percent bigger screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Nexus 6 (right) has a 9 percent bigger screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Nexus 6 is also an outstanding phone, but its size is going to make it a little more polarizing. Its 6-in screen is 9 percent bigger than the Note's already huge display. It doesn't use a stylus like the Note does, but it too has a mesmerizing Quad HD screen and a pretty premium-feeling build.

While the Note is like a modern evolution of the PDA, the Nexus is more like a mini-tablet that you can squeeze into your pocket (well, as long as you aren't wearing skinny jeans).

Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Nexus 6 in hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

We find both phablets to be fairly comfortable in hand, but you'll need to stretch your fingers a bit more for the Nexus. On the Note, my fingers stretch behind its back and around again to the front with room to spare, but for the wider and thicker Nexus (it has a rounded back), it's better to sort of cup the phone against more outstretched fingers.

Jotting a note on the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Jotting a note on the Note (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Both phones have metal bands running around their edges, with plastic backs. This helps them to feel more high-end than all-plastic phones, but without adding the extra weight (and manufacturing costs) that's sometimes associated with full-metal bodies. The Nexus' plastic back feels like a faux metal material (like the 2014 Moto X, and similar to the LG G3), while the Note's is a faux leather. I personally prefer the soft feel of the Note's pleather, but neither build feels cheap or flimsy.

Both handsets have metal bands running around their edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Both handsets have metal bands running around their edges (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

We'd recommend using a case with the Nexus 6; this is less necessary with the Note. The Nexus is not only bigger (4 percent taller and 5 percent wider), but its finish is smooth enough that it almost feels slick in hand. If you aren't careful, this bad boy could go flying.

We find the Note to have the superior camera. The Nexus 6's camera quality is roughly middle-of-the-pack for a 2014 flagship (great shots outdoors, tolerable shooting speed). The Note 4, though, is noticeably better in low-lit conditions:

A dimly lit setting taken with both the Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A dimly lit setting taken with both the Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Note also has a cool feature that actually makes zooming worthwhile on a smartphone camera. When you zoom between 4x and 8x, the camera automatically splices together multiple shots, to give you a crisper result than you'd see from zoomed-in shots on other phone cameras (on other phones, zooming equals cropping).

Both phones have good battery life, but the Note lasts a bit longer. In our benchmark, where we stream video over Wi-Fi (with brightness at 75 percent), it only dropped 10 percent per hour. The Nexus dropped 12 percent per hour. That isn't a huge difference, though, and with regular use we haven't had a problem with either phone lasting a full day.

Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology makes its way to both phones too. With the default chargers, you can juice up quickly from a low battery (0 to 50 percent in a little over half an hour). The more juice you have, the less of a boost you'll see. Samsung and Motorola/Google are marketing their fast charging times slightly differently, but the underlying Qualcomm tech is the same – you can even swap their chargers and get the same result.

Both phones have ultra-sharp Quad HD displays (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Both phones have ultra-sharp Quad HD displays (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

If you're still on the fence, then it's possible pricing will push you towards the Nexus. It retails for US$250 on-contract, or $650 full retail, while the Note rings up for $300 on-contract, $700 full. Depending on what you're looking for, the Note's stylus, superior camera and more compact build could easily justify that extra $50. But the Nexus does give you a bigger screen and the latest version of stock Android, along with an extra $50 in your pocket.

This was our quick rundown of the key differences, but you can check out Gizmag's full reviews of the Galaxy Note 4 and Nexus 6, as well as our image gallery, for a closer look at these two.

View gallery - 56 images
1 comment
kralnor
I was worried the nexus 6 would be too big when I first saw it, but honestly it took me about 3 minutes to get used to it. Going back to my nexus 5 to check some settings, it seemed tiny even though I'd just been using it. I've been using it for a couple weeks now, best phone I've owned.