Do we have a good one for you today - two of Samsung powerhouses go up against each other with the Galaxy Note 4 squaring off against the Galaxy S6 Active. Both devices are designed with a specific user in mind and many would not even consider them for their daily drivers...although that could be a big mistake as you would be missing out of a couple of great devices. The Galaxy Note series has truly owned the phablet segment since it defined it in 2011 and is a great multitasking device with an incredible S-Pen that is far more capable than most ever discover. The Galaxy Active series was designed for the outdoors person that lives a more active lifestyle...while not the prettiest designed back cover , it is effective at protecting your device.
Even though these two devices are designed and built by Samsung, they share very few core elements. They both use Samsung's Super AMOLED QHD display technology giving us some of the finest displays on a smartphone. They both have 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in internal storage, although the Note 4 allows for expansion via a microSD Card. Both sport a 16MP camera with OIS, LED flash and autofocus, but the S6 Active has additional features that improve upon the Note 4's camera. They both sport the usual suspects - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, NFC and a microUSB port for charging and data transfer. They also share a few unusual suspects - a built-in IR Blaster, heart rate and Oxygen saturation sensors and a quick way to charge their batteries.
Please take a deliberate look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another - click on the "View Full Comparison" link at the end of the chart to expand the details. After that, we will look at each individual device in greater detail and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.
Smartphones | SpecOut
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
There are certain devices that have a loyal following, and for sure that would apply to the Galaxy Note series, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is its best rendition yet. It improved over the Note 3 in every department - from the display, the build, to the processor, the camera and even the S-Pen. Even its past critics, liked the improved metal frame and trim along with faux leather back panel, making it even a more premium looking device with a build quality that feels great in your hand.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 sports one of the best displays that DisplayMate has ever tested. It is a 5.7-inch beauty with a QHD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and a whopping 515 pixels-per-inch (PPI) - however, it looks like that torch may be passed on, once again, to the 576 PPI display on the new S6 Active. The Note 4 is running the excellent 32-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor clocked at 2.7GHz (US market). In the new Galaxy S6 series, Samsung made the bold move to use their own 64-bit Exynos 14nm octa-core processor and so far it seems to have paid off. The Note 4 packs 3GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot for expansion. The new S6 Active uses a much faster 3GB of DDR4 RAM and a faster flash memory that they developed, but offers no room for expansion past the 32GB.
Its camera has really been improved over the Galaxy Note 3 with a larger 16MP sensor, Autofocus, LED Flash, ISOCELL technology, and added in OIS+ and Live HDR shooting - the S6 Active builds on that and increases the aperture to f/1.9 for even better low light shots and increased camera speed. The Note 4 has enlarged the front-facing camera (FFC) to a wide-angle 3.7MP sensor and lens for excellent group selfies and conference style video chats. The S6 Active ups the size to 5MP and adds the f/1.9 aperture and Live HDR for better low-light selfies. The 3220mAh battery will certainly last you all day and its Quick Charge feature is always available, although the larger 3500mAh battery on the S6 Active is said to last two days and has built-in wireless charging as well.
As far as additional features that the Galaxy Note 4 possesses over the S6 Active - the improved S-Pen with twice the sensitivity along with its software and functionality that it brings to the Note series. It also has the fingerprint scanner that is also on the Galaxy S6, but not on the S6 Active. It is currently running 5.0 Lollipop and is available on all major US networks. It will cost you about $300 on a two-year contract or about $700 off-contract, depending where you purchase the device.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Active
The Galaxy S6 Active is not your normal Galaxy S6 - stripped away is the pretty glass and metal body and replaced by shock-resistant plastic 'camo' in blue, white or gray. It may not be pretty, but it will protect your device from most drops. Most of the great technology of the S6 is ported over to the S6 Active, but there are a few changes - gone is the fingerprint sensor and capacitive buttons, which are replaced by three physical buttons. There are some added benefits as well, such as IP68 certification for dust and water resistance up to 1.5 meters and up to 30 minutes under water, but also adds a MIL-STD-910G certification, which means it is resistant to salt, dust, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, transport and is thermal shock resistant. It also has an extra programmable button on the left side just above the volume rocker that defaults to the Samsung Activity app, but you could reset it to be a camera button or to perform one of many other duties. The Activity app is designed for the camper or hiker and immediately brings up a menu with quick access to a flashlight button, the weather, compass and other features an outdoors person might need to use.
The Galaxy S6 Active has the same display of the normal Galaxy S6, a 5.1-inch QHD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and about 576 PPI - this compares to the 5.7-inch QHD display with 515 PPI on the Note 4. The S6 Active uses the same processor in the Galaxy S6 - a 64-bit Exynos 7420 processor...the first one to use 14nm technology. It is an octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four cores clocked at 2.1GHz. The the Note 4's Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor is a great processor, but certainly not up to the 7420 Octa-core. They both have 3GB of RAM, but the S6 Active uses the faster DDR4 RAM and they both have 32GB of internal memory, although the S6 Active uses a new and faster UFS 2.0 flash memory. The Note 4 has a microSD card slot for expansion.
The Galaxy S6 Active comes with one of the best smartphone camera currently available. It is a 16MP main camera with autofocus, LED flash, real-time HDR, f/1.9 aperture and OIS. It also has a 5MP FFC wide angle with the f/1.9 aperture and Live HDR for great group selfies and video chats. This compares to a 16MP main camera and 3.7MP on the Note 4 - a great camera itself, but not quite up to the S6 Active. The Galaxy S6 Active carries a huge 3500mAh battery, replacing the smaller 2550mAh battery found in the Galaxy S6, and should last into a second day of heavy usage. The Note 4 has a smaller 3220mAh battery, but it too will get you easily through a day. Both devices offer a fast charge option and the S6 Active has built-in wireless charging.
Other things that the Galaxy S6 Active has the Note 4 does not, would be built-in wireless charging for both Qi and PMA standards and all of the outdoor protection built-in. The price is the same as the regular Galaxy S6, so if you want this rugged device, it will cost you about $200 on a two-year contract or about $700 off-contract.
...And The Winner Is...
This was another tough one to pick, as the S6 Active definitely has a few technological specs in its favor, such as the 64-bit processor with 14nm technology, the DDR4 RAM, UFS 2.0 flash memory and IP68 and Mil-Specs. However the Note 4 has the larger display, fingerprint scanner, S-Pen functionality, removable battery and a microSD card for expansion of the internal memory. You have to decide if you want the rugged outdoor S6 Activity or the more refined boardroom Note 4 - I choose the Note 4, myself.
I just believe there are more virtues for the average user in the Note 4 rather than the S6 Active, and while I enjoy sitting on the back porch to enjoy nature as much as the next person, it would be with a Note 4 in one hand and a gin and tonic in other. However, if you are one of those people that truly enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing, you would be wise to select the S6 Active.
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