It’s widely believed that the LG G4 and the Galaxy Note 5 will go down as the two best Android phones of 2015. We could go into semantics and say that the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, and Galaxy S6 Edge+ all use the same processor and they’re all pretty much the same phone with minor variations, but if you take those four phones as one, the Galaxy Note 5 and the LG G4 are generally considered to be the best two phones of 2015.
My time with the LG G4 is coming to an end. I’ll miss it, although I should point out that while it’s not widely considered to be, I do think that the LG G Flex 2 is a better phone than the LG G4.
While my time with the LG G4 is coming to an end, my time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is just beginning. Historically, I’ve not been a fan of Samsung phones. My review of the Galaxy Note 4 was titled, A Perversion of Innovation. The review of the Galaxy Note Edge was titled, Samsung Makes the Note 4 Worse.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 was the first Samsung phone to turn my head. Finally, Samsung was getting their act together. They were realizing that design is important while slimming down Touchwiz.
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5||LG G4|
|CPU||Octa-Core Samsung Exynos 7420, 1.5 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53, 2.1 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A57||Hexa-Core Snapdragon 808, 1.44 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53, 1.82 GHz Dual Core ARM Cortex-A57|
|Display||5.7″, 1440p, 518 ppi, AMOLED||5.5″, 1440p, 538 ppi, IPS LCD|
|Body||153.2×76.1×7.6 mm, 171 g||148.9×76.1×6.3-9.8 mm, 155 g|
|Camera||16 MP, 5312×2988, 5 MP Front||16 MP, 5312×2988, 8 MP Front|
|Video||4K UHD – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 1440p – 30 fps||4K UHD – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps|
|Focal Length||28 mm||28 mm|
|Storage||32/64/128 GB||32 GB, Expandable to 128 GB|
|RAM||4 GB||3 GB|
|Battery||3000 mAh||3000 mAh|
|Price||$739/$839 (AT&T)||~$700, Depending on Carrier|
Let’s take a look at specs for just a moment. We see that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has 4 GB of RAM where the LG G4 has 3 GB. Let me tell you secret. It doesn’t matter. There is nothing that you do on your phone that requires 4 GB of RAM, and it won’t for years to come. You can buy a brand new laptop that only has 4 GB RAM. What makes you think that you need it on your phone?
I suppose the best example is the Samsung Galaxy S6. It has the same processor as the Galaxy Note 5. The only difference is that it has 3 GB of RAM and it doesn’t make a difference. It still gets outrageous benchmark scores.
Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor is miles ahead of anything that Qualcomm is doing. It was a scandal when the world found out that Samsung wouldn’t be using a Snapdragon processor in the Galaxy S6. Now that we see what Qualcomm is actually producing, we see why.
I want to take a moment to point out that this is absolutely the fault of the OEMs. I see a lot of HTC fanboys and LG fanboys that say, “You can’t blame them. They trusted Qualcomm. They didn’t know the Snapdragon 810 would overheat.” Smart phones don’t work like legos. You don’t just put the parts in a case, load software, and ship it. You test it first, and apparently Samsung is the only one that did.
LG used that Snapdragon 810 v2.1 in the LG G Flex 2. They learned their lesson for the LG G4, using the hexa-core Snapdragon 808. The problem there is that the Snapdragon 808 is only marginally better than the 32 bit processors that were in use last year. If you check out the LG G4 review, you can see that even when the Snapdragon 810 is under heavy usage and throttles as much as it throttles, it drops below the performance of the Snapdragon 808, but only by a trivial amount.
The Samsung Exynos 7420 uses a 14 nm technology, while Qualcomm’s latest uses 20 nm. It’s a very powerful processor. If Samsung just used a 1080p display, it would be a beast.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Display
The case of the displays here is an interesting one. They both have larger QHD, or 2K, or 1440p displays. I’m not a fan of 1440p displays. Unless you’re doing virtual reality, there are no advantages, but there are quite a few disadvantages, such as the drain on battery and GPU power.
Remember, a 1080p display is 2.1 MP and a 1440p display is 3.7 MP. That’s a lot more pixels to push.
Samsung makes beautiful displays. Everyone knows that. In fact, the Galaxy S6 was one of the best smart phone displays ever made. I still say it has nothing to do with resolution. You can’t tell the difference between 1080p and 1440p on a smart phone. You just can’t. That display was so great for a number of reasons, such as color accuracy, which is a lot more important than resolution.
Samsung also uses Super AMOLED displays in their flagships. AMOLED displays, unlike LCD panels, can actually turn off pixels so you get true black. LCD panels are backlit.
Oddly enough, LG uses IPS LCD displays in their flagships. I say it’s odd because LG is actually doing quite a bit with OLED (organic LED) display technology. In fact, they’re the only ones making OLED TVs. They even used a P-OLED display in the LG G Flex 2.
Note that there are two types of OLED displays: AMOLED and P-OLED. They are different, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Just know that AMOLED is better than P-OLED.
Now there’s a funny thing to mention here. Just by looking at the two phones, you’d think the Galaxy Note 5 has a better display. After all, it’s AMOLED, which means that you get more vibrant colors and blacker blacks. It’s Samsung’s AMOLED, which means that it’s even better.
Then, I ran some display tests. The first was a grayscale test. The way it works is that it shows a bunch of numbered boxes. The smaller numbered box where you can actually see the box (rather than just black) is what you want. The interesting thing is that the LG G4 did a better job on the grayscale test.
I’m not normally one for benchmarking displays. I’m not one for benchmarking at all. After all, the important thing is real world usage, right? So let’s just say that both of these devices have beautiful displays.
If you do want display benchmarks, check out AnandTech. They’re much better at this sort of thing.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Design
One thing that almost no technology enthusiast likes to admit is how important design is. It’s important to have a beautiful phone. It’s important for it to be thin and light. It’s important that when you look at your phone, you like what you’re looking at.
Samsung has been killing it in the design department. Gone are the days of flimsy plastic backs, as well as the pleather backs. Now we see metallic glass back panels in metal frames. The Galaxy Note 5 follows the same design trend that Samsung started with the Galaxy S6.
The LG G4, not so much. The screen is curved. It’s not quite as curved as the LG G Flex 2, but it’s curved enough so that you can feel comfortable putting your phone face down on a table. LG decided to give the G4 a leather back, something that I thought was the ugliest phone I’ve ever seen. I have the plastic model, which is actually pretty nice.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Rear Camera
Both of these cameras are similar in a few odd ways. They’re both 16 MP, but they both achieve their highest resolution at a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is really strange. Most smart phone cameras force the user to switch the aspect ratio to 4:3 to achieve the highest resolution. The samples you’ll see here are around 12 MP because they are shot at 4:3, as everyone should take their pictures.
Samsung uses phase detection autofocus to focus the images in their cameras. This is the same technology that Apple uses and it’s why the camera always seems to be perfectly focused. LG uses laser focus to achieve this, so it works at night and in the fog.
I was always really impressed with LG’s laser focus in the G3 and the G Flex 2, but I was disappointed with the G4’s laser focus. At times, the image would snap out of focus, and when it didn’t, it would take a long time to focus.
LG took a lot of pride in adding manual settings to the G4 this year, which is something that comes standard in a lot of other phones these days. Samsung has a manual setting as well that allows the user to control most of the same things.
It’s important to discuss aperture here. The sensor sizes are exactly the same here and while both phones have a very large aperture, LG’s f/1.8 aperture is larger than Samsung’s f/1.9 aperture.
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5||LG G4|
I think that the photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 look better, but that’s because the Galaxy Note 5 saturates the images a bit more than the LG G4 does.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – LG G4
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One thing that I found bothersome is how some of the images taken with the LG G4 seem a bit out of focus. Throughout my time with the LG G4, I found that it was a tricky camera to keep focus, which was my main complaint about the device. The LG G3 and the LG G Flex 2 focused amazingly and I think that LG just tried to do too much with the G4.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Front Camera
The front camera was the main thing that really impressed me on the LG G4. I don’t credit that to the 8 MP resolution. I’ve seen front cameras with higher resolutions than that underperform it. It’s just a really great camera.
The front camera on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is no slouch either, coming in at 5 MP. One thing that really impressed me with Samsung’s camera, which I first noticed on the Galaxy S6, is that they cleaned up the Camera app and they made the additional features available via Camera plug-ins. One of these plug-ins is the rear camera selfie feature, which is actually pretty good, so if you don’t like the front camera, that works too.
There are a couple things worth noting here. First, the elephant in the room, which is that one of the phones is reversing the image. It’s the Galaxy Note 5. This is actually something that can be changed in Camera Settings (God knows why this is a setting). “Save Pictures as Previewed” has to be on.
While the LG G4 seems to perform better at night, Samsung seems to have packed a front camera with an f/1.9 aperture in the Galaxy Note 5, which is impressive. What’s impressive about the LG G4 front camera is that they seem to have added a tap to focus function, which is rare in front cameras.
Ultimately, I’d say that the LG G4 has a better front camera, but it’s close.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Benchmarks
I’m going to say my normal disclaimer. I hate benchmarks. They so rarely reflect the real world usage of a device, which is how I would rather judge a device; however, benchmarks are the best tool we have for writing down the performance of a device.
First, we’ll start with the worst of the worst benchmarks, a battery test done with Geekbench 3. I like to use Geekbench for battery tests because they allow you to choose whether you want to dim the screen for the duration of the test.
First, we’ll see what the battery life is with the dim screen on.
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5||LG G4|
As we can see, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 greatly outperforms the LG G4; however, I find the battery life of the Galaxy Note 5 to be horrible in real life and I find the LG G4 to be pretty good for an Android phone.
Let’s see with the dim screen toggled off.
This is not the first time I’ve seen a phone perform better with the dim screen toggled off. I think that the brightness of a display effects an AMOLED more so than it effects an LCD panel, which could show why I had my battery problems with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
Next, Geekbench 3 tests.
The results here are not surprising. The processors that Samsung is using in the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, and Galaxy S6 Edge+ blow away anything that Qualcomm is doing. In fact, with Samsung and Apple forging so far ahead of the competition, it’s going to be interesting to see how the next year turns out.
We’ll see similar results from AnTuTu.
As we can see here, the Galaxy Note 5 outperforms all Android phones. The LG G4 doesn’t even catch up with the year old iPhone 6. The only phone that stands a chance of standing up to Samsung’s flagships is the iPhone 6S, and we’ll find out in two weeks.
I think that graphics tests are going to be interesting. There are tons of disadvantages to a 1440p display. They’re a useless drain on the battery and games start to stutter because the GPU can’t handle it, which is why, when we run these graphics tests, 1080p phones always win.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the LG G4 have 1440p displays, so it should be interesting, to say the least.
In most tests, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 outperforms the LG G4, which isn’t entirely surprising.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4: Conclusion
I loved the LG G4, for a number of reasons. I fell in love with the front camera and a few other minor aspects of the device. Unfortunately, Qualcomm has released very lame offerings this year and it would appear that Samsung was the only one to test their devices before throwing a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor under the hood.
Make no mistake. The problems with the Snapdragon 810 processor are Qualcomm’s fault, but the fact that HTC, LG, Sony, and OnePlus used them is absolutely the fault of HTC, LG, Sony, and OnePlus. I’ve heard the argument that it’s Qualcomm’s fault because they trusted Qualcomm. Seriously guys, it’s up to the OEMs to test these devices. As I always say, smart phones DO NOT work the same way as Legos.
The LG G Flex 2 uses the Snapdragon 810, but the LG G4 uses the hexa core Snapdragon 808, which is only marginally better than the Snapdragon 810 when it’s fully throttled, which is only marginally better than Qualcomm’s 2014 processors.
As much as I enjoyed the LG G4, it appears that Samsung is the only one that’s doing anything in the Android space that’s worth a two year investment, and that’s really all there is to say.