Introduction

Google and Samsung. The two pillars of Android are good at being partners, but their rivalry is even more exciting to watch. Especially when they pull out their best. The Nexus 6 and the Galaxy Note 4. The two want to be the defining Android device, the benchmark for all other phones to go by. What they certainly don't want is share - the fame, love, the profits.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Motorola Nexus 6 come from very different company cultures, they are actually surprisingly similar - in a good way! They have a solid metal frame with a soft-touch plastic back, a large AMOLED screen with slim bezels, a beastly chipset and a quality camera with OIS. Yet, each has its own advantages.

Motorola Nexus 6 over Galaxy Note 4

  • Bigger screen - 6" vs. 5.7"
  • Fast-track Android updates
  • Stereo speakers
  • Basic water resistance
  • Built-in wireless charging (Qi)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 over Nexus 6

  • Pressure-sensitive stylus functionality (S Pen)
  • Split-screen multitasking
  • More compact
  • Storage expandable via the microSD slot
  • Fingerprint sensor (PayPal-certified for all it's worth)
  • Higher resolution still camera - 16MP vs. 13MP
  • High FPS video mode (1080p @ 60fps, 720p @ 120fps)
  • Heart rate and blood-oxygen sensors, UV sensor (offering mainly gimmicky functionality)
  • IR blaster

Google is sub-contracting its Nexus devices and didn't favor Motorola (until recently a wholly-owned subsidiary) over other makers. Now that Motorola changed hands, Google saw it off with a bang, the first Nexus phablet. Samsung worked on two Nexus iterations too, but those days are gone. Now it likes to assert its leadership and TouchWiz is front and center to maintain brand identity.

What brought the two together is technology, the best of it. Google guided Motorola to get the best hardware available. Samsung went after the best components because they're trying to dominate the landscape by offering more features than anyone else.

The different corporate cultures do transpire in certain ways. Samsung wants to be a market leader - in business (S Pen attracts heavy note-takers), in e-commerce (fingerprint-secured mobile payments), in healthy lifestyle (with a bunch of sensors and relevant software).

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Motorola Nexus 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 before the fight

Until now Google just wanted a platform to show off its software, but with the Nexus 6 it feels like it's promoting the entire Google ecosystem. There are stereo speakers (to support Google Play Music), a large screen (Play Movies), capable camera (for Google+ Photos and YouTube), but no expandable storage (you are supposed to use Google's cloud storage instead).

There's one thing the two companies have in common though, they want to be the ones steering Android as it continues its road to market domination. Google is pulling the reins through tight control over the OS, while Samsung is flexing its manufacturing muscle. The outcome here will depend on both hardware and software. Jump to the next page to see which way the first battles for the Android throne go.

Hardware comparison

These days a smartphone spends more time waiting for its user to do something than the other way around. The two phablets use the two of the fastest chipsets available, so you have lots of power to run whatever you like on those XL screens.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 packs a 5.7" screen, same size as its predecessor but with nearly 80% more pixels. The Motorola Nexus 6 rounds things off to a 6" sharp, at the same resolution: QHD or 1,440 x 2,560px. Both can fit as much content as the user can take in.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

6" QHD AMOLED on the Nexus 6 • 5.7" QHD Super AMOLED on the Galaxy Note 4

We'll go into more detail about screen quality later, but in terms of ergonomics both can be a challenge to use single-handedly. However, neither will leave you wanting for more room. One difference comes from software in that Samsung lets you run two apps side by side, while Google somewhat squanders the large screen and the powerful chipset on just one.

Our new screen-to-body ratio reading in the specs pages tell us that the bezels around the two screens are proportionately equal, though they are used for different things. Motorola followed HTC and Sony in adding front-facing stereo speakers so that the audio experience matches the visual.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

One speaker on each side of the Nexus 6 display

Samsung, however, keeps the vestigial hardware keys below the screen, leaving no room for a speaker. This time it's by necessity though - the fingerprint reader lives below the Home key. The story goes that the Nexus 6 would have had a fingerprint sensor too, in dimple on the back where the Motorola logo is now but Apple bought the sensor supplier.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Hardware keys with a fingerprint reader • on-screen keys • where the fingerprint reader would have been

Google Wallet predates Apple Pay by three years yet Apple's solution garnered more buzz and therefore traffic. We can debate whether the added security of the fingerprint sensor is what helped the iPhone succeed, but Samsung clearly wants a piece of that action.

The screens on both phablets are supported by a metal frame that's left exposed on the sides. A design used successfully by many companies (like Nokia and Sony), this gives the _phone_ a premium feel without making it as heavy as a metal unibody design. It also simplifies the internal arrangement of the antennas, important when you're looking to squeeze the components in the smallest volume possible.

More important for the looks of the device is the material on the back - plastic in both cases, but with a different finish. Samsung continues its fling with faux leather, which looks good and does well at hiding fingerprints and scratches, while Motorola went for a simple matte, soft-touch finish.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Matte plastic on the Nexus 6 • Faux leather on the Galaxy Note 4

The metallic Nexus logo in line with the Moto logo and the camera make it attractive, but the plastic is a fingerprint magnet. Keeping the expansive surface clean can become a chore. It's a shame that the Moto-maker customization options don't expand to the Nexus.

Samsung's design of the back is less attractive with the protruding camera and the hole cut out for the LED flash and the heart rate/blood-oxygen sensor. The single loudspeaker on the phablet is in the bottom left corner.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The Note 4 camera protrudes • LED flash and heart rate sensor • loudspeaker

The Nexus 6 camera is flush and features a rare ring flash. It's only provisionally a "ring flash" as it has just two LEDs, but the plastic ring does help to diffuse the light a bit. Near the bottom is the noise-cancellation mic, while the Note 4 positions its mics on the top and bottom.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The camera is flush with the back and is surrounded by a ring flash • noise-cancelling mic

The metal frames of the phablets house the ports and slots. For the Motorola this means just the nanoSIM and 3.5mm audio jack on top, plus the microUSB port on the bottom. This is a SlimPort so it offers a Display Port link to hook up external monitors (compatible with HDMI too).

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The metal sides of the Nexus 6

The Galaxy Note 4 puts the 3.5mm jack on top and microUSB port on the bottom too. This one is an MHL port so it can turn to an HDMI port with an adapter. The Samsung phablet also has an IR blaster on its top so it can be wielded as a remote control for your digital equipment at home.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The metal sides of the Galaxy Note 4

More importantly it has a microSD card slot below its removable back cover, so storage shouldn't be a concern even if you keep tons of 2160p videos or FLAC music or advanced 3D games. The Nexus 6 comes with 32GB of built-in storage as standard, but power users might want the future-proofing of the 64GB version.

Speaking of what's below the back cover, the two phablets have the same battery capacity of 3,220mAh. We would have thought that the Nexus 6 being bigger in every direction than the Galaxy Note 4 can spare room for some more but that's not the case.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

A removeable 3,220mAh batteyr and a microSD card slot

One last thing before we go - the Nexus 6 has basic water resistance, similar to the other Motorola-made phones of late. We say "basic" because it doesn't have an official IP or MIL-STD rating and you shouldn't take it into the pool, but it should easily handle a splash of water.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. This was tough to call, but the Galaxy Note 4 really improved the looks of the series and we prefer the faux leather back to the fingerprint-prone plastic of the Nexus 6. The fingerprint sensor, the IR blaster, the expandable storage and the user-replaceable battery are a hard bunch for the Nexus 6 to match.

The Motorola Nexus 6 is a very attractive device in its own right and we like that it's splash resistant. The stereo speakers, and the flush camera with ring flash are great too. It was a close call and we would understand if you rank these two the other way.

Display comparison

Both screens are AMOLEDs with QHD resolution, but they do differ in size. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a 5.7" screen, while the Motorola Nexus 6 display measures 6" (5.96" to be precise). This translates to around 10% more screen surface area, but keep in mind that a chunk of the screen is often reserved for the on-screen keys, which the Galaxy Note 4 doesn't have to worry about. On the Nexus, the keys do hide in multimedia apps, so photos and videos can use the entire screen.

Anyway, the difference in pixel density (515ppi vs. 493ppi) is negligible. More important is the Gorilla Glass that guards the screen - Samsung used Gorilla Glass 4. The difference between it and the 3rd iteration found on Motorola's phablet is the new version can be made thinner, while keeping the same toughness.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

AMOLEDs have a reputation for oversaturating colors, but that's not an issue on the Galaxy Note 4. Samsung did an excellent job of producing one of the most accurate displays on the market and with the mode selector in the settings you can still go back to the vivid, saturated colors if that's what you prefer.

The Motorola Nexus 6 screen is more saturated than the usual IPS display and there are no color-correcting options. Another thing that affects the colors is viewing angles. The Galaxy Note 4 keeps colors steady, while the Nexus 6 screen shows a slight green tint at extreme angles. It's a minor complaint as it's not an issue in regular use.

Both screens are pretty much equals in terms of maximum brightness. They are a bit dim compared to LCDs, but they make up for it with better sunlight legibility. Note that the two screens react differently to the brightness slider. When both sliders are at half, the Galaxy Note 4 is at 75% of its maximum brightness, while the Nexus 6 is closer to 30%.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 291 399
Motorola Nexus 6 149 372
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Meizu MX4 Pro - - - 0.69 775 1127
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 0.17 208 1197 0.52 705 1361


The sunlight legibility readings are some of the best we've seen thanks to the low reflectivity of both screens. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is close to the top, with only the Galaxy A3 beating it (the Nokia 808 has been retired) The Motorola Nexus 6 lands a bit lower, partly because of its lower maximum brightness. It's still one of the best displays to use outdoors though.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 features the trademark S Pen stylus. This generation was improved with double the pressure sensitivity levels, around 2,000. Unlike touchscreens which are binary (touching or not touching), the S Pen offers a more natural handwriting experience as applying more pressure leaves wider marks, just like pens and pencils work with actual paper.

The S Pen has a button on it (which works even though the stylus doesn't have a battery), which can be used to trigger alternative actions with the stylus. If you use the S Pen a lot, you might consider the premium Montblanc, which is the size of a real pen and more comfortable to hold. Like a fountain pen, it has swappable nibs, which imitate different real-world writing instruments.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The display is smaller, though there are no on-screen buttons to eat into the available room. It's also slightly brighter and slightly better in direct sunlight. The bigger advantages however, are the color accuracy and display modes that let you tweak saturation and white balance.

The Motorola Nexus 6 has an excellent display and is mostly let down by the software, which doesn't have the option to adjust the colors.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, both phablets are equal and have pretty much everything you're likely to need. They support the latest LTE and Wi-Fi standards, plus a host of other wireless and wired features.

Note that the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comes in two versions - one with a Snapdragon 805 chipset and another one with an Exynos 5433. The latter supports "only" 150Mbps downlink speeds over LTE, while the Snapdragon 805 version (also used in the Nexus) goes up to 300Mbps. Both upload at 50Mbps max.

While LTE coverage has greatly improved in recent years, real-life speeds are still well below what any of these handsets offers as a theoretical maximum.

Both phones support Wi-Fi calling. This means regular voice calls and text messages can be routed through your Wi-Fi network, great if cell signal in your location is low. This also works abroad on some telecoms, which is even better. Of course, the feature is carrier-dependent and may not work at all on your cellular network.

Locally, you can max out your home internet connection with Wi-Fi ac or share your phone's speedy LTE connection with other devices.

Bluetooth 4.1 is on board to connect to wearables, but the Galaxy Note 4 also offers ANT+, which can be used to integrate additional sports sensors into the S Health app.

Another winning card up the Note 4 sleeve is the IR blaster, which can remotely control a wide array of standard home appliances - it's not limited to HDTVs or set-top boxes.

For positioning, both phones can connect to GPS or GLONASS satellites, but the Note 4 also manages the Chinese Beidou for all its worth. Snapdragon 805 should definitely support it, but Beidou is not listed in the official Nexus 6 specs.

We already mentioned the two wired connections. These days there's not much difference between SlimPort and MHL (new adapters no longer require external power), so it's a matter of knowing which adapter you need to buy. Some TVs support those standards natively, so that's something to check.

Both support wireless TV out, but different formats. The Nexus 6 only supports streaming to a Chromecast, while the Galaxy Note 4 can do that as well plus stream over the Miracast protocol. The Chromecast was a best-seller on Amazon, but there are plenty of TVs out there that only support Miracast (which does have a reputation for compatibility issues).

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. ANT+, Miracast and Beidou are small advantages, but advantages nonetheless. The IR blaster coupled with Miracast can easily create a no-wires, no-remote media setup at home.

This is a slim victory though, these things don't hurt Nexus 6's desirability all that much. Also, we found that Miracast is just disabled by software and can be turned on with a build.prop tweak.

Battery life

We waited until the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop before we ran the battery tests as Lollipop has a number of power-saving optimizations over KitKat. Keep in mind that this is the Snapdragon 805 version of the Note 4, so both phablets have the same chipset and run the same Android version. They have the exact same battery capacity too of 3,220mAh.

Both phablets will literally last a whole day of calling, the Motorola Nexus 6 clocks in at 25 hours while the Galaxy Note 4 goes 28 and a half. Those are some excellent scores.

The Galaxy Note 4 is a long distance runner when it comes to web browsing too, giving you 11 hours if you start at full charge. Web browsing is a key discipline for phablets, there's no substitute for screen size if you have to read more than a few tweets. The Nexus 6 does well here, but it lasts three hours less than the Samsung.

If watching videos is why you want a phablet rather than web browsing, then the scales are again tipped towards the Galaxy Note 4. It lasts nearly 18 hours as opposed to the 10 hours of the Nexus 6. Yes, the larger screen with front-facing stereo speakers make for a nicer experience, but when it comes to longevity, the Nexus 6's is battery performance is dwarfed by the Note 4.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

With winning all three tests it should come as no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 gets the higher Endurance rating of 90 hours. The Motorola Nexus 6 is a solid performer with 70 hours but generally, you can expect to get a day less from it between charges.

Speaking of charges, the Nexus 6 support Qi wireless charging so it's pretty easy to top off. Both phablets offer Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0, which will put your battery from 0% to 60% in just half an hour.

You can read more about our testing procedure here, but here's the short version - we test devices with their brightness sliders set at half which, as we saw in the previous chapter, means the Galaxy Note 4 is pushing out nearly twice the nits.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It should last you one day longer with moderate use, while heavy users will see an even bigger advantage in web browsing and especially watching videos. The Galaxy Note 4 also has a removable battery so you can pop in a fresh one or install an aftermarket battery pack.

The Motorola Nexus 6 has excellent battery life measured against the average mobile device, though even at lower actual brightness can't match the Note 4.

Loudspeaker

The Motorola Nexus 6 comes with a built-in advantage of having two speakers smack on its face. This is the best setup for multimedia - the speakers don't get muffled when you leave them on a table and the sound is directed right at you when you watch videos.

The sound quality is very good and while it won't replace your home audio setup, it's great for impromptu parties without having to lug a Bluetooth speaker around.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has just one speaker and it's placed on the back. That leads to some muffling issues and is certainly not as nice for watching a video. It's a very loud one though, so it does an excellent job of notifying you of incoming calls or other alerts.

The Nexus 6 posted nearly identical results in our three tests categories - voice, music and ringtones - which suggests it has been optimized to produce all frequencies evenly. Great for music, bad if you just need loud sound and you're willing to sacrifice quality.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Motorola Nexus 6 66.5 66.2 66.3 Below Average
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 74.7 73.5 81.6 Excellent
Meizu MX4 Pro 76.9 73.6 82.7 Excellent


Winner: Tie. The Motorola Nexus 6 offers a superior sound experience with its stereo speakers but they are not as loud as the Note 4's. Since we deem sound quality equally important to loudness, we figured this one's a tie. But if you have it otherwise, feel free to adjust the score depending on your personal preferences (a point that's valid for all our chapter scores).

User interface

The Motorola Nexus 6 was the first phone to launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop and it's Android the way Google had envisioned it.

The Galaxy Note 4 meanwhile started life on 4.4 KitKat but it is in the process of jumping over to Lollipop as we speak. Both versions represent Samsung's take on Android.

Despite many shared similarities, the two companies have taken their UIs in opposite directions. You only have to look as far as the notification area to see it.

Google has implemented a two pull system - the first swipe pulls out the notification and the second swipe brings out the quick toggles. During the first swipe you catch a glimpse of the toggles, a simple but effective hint to new users that shows them there's more. There are only a few toggles here, appearing with smooth animation.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The vanilla Android notification area • first pull shows the notifications • second pull shows the quick toggles

Where Google prefers simplicity and elegance, Samsung is keen on having an abundance of features. The notification area keeps the old one pull system, but always shows you a line of toggles, plus the brightness slider. One swipe with two fingers shows you the expanded view with all the toggles. There are so many of them and that's with some options hidden by default.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The TouchWiz notification area shows both notifications and quick toggles • more and more quick toggles

Let's back up a little and check out the lockscreen. With Lollipop notifications are now displayed on the lockscreen and the quick toggles are easily available as they show up with the first pull.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Notifications on the lockscreen

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 offers the added security of the fingerprint sensor - you can set up multiple fingers that can open the device, like your index finger and thumb. This is a swipe sensor so you have to move your whole fingertip over the sensor in a fairly smooth motion or the scanning will fail. This is made more difficult by the size of the Note 4 and getting it right one-handed will take a few tries.

Overall, using it on a daily basis for each unlocking of the device can start feeling as a chore. More often than not, you need to do several swipes over the sensor, and in the end it's just easier to input a PIN or something. It's certainly not the best touch sensor implementation we've seen.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The fingerprint sensor can lock the Galaxy Note 4 and protect Private mode

The sensor offers other ways to secure your data and money. Private mode can be activated with your fingerprint and it reveals a folder that can store photos, documents or any other files. The folder is hidden and inaccessible when Private mode is off.

The Galaxy Note 4 can also secure your PayPal transactions and Galaxy Apps account with your fingerprint, to prevent costly purchases or app downloads without your approval.

Multitasking

This segment will be quite one-sided. While both devices have enough juice to run the toughest mobile apps, Google is still reluctant to let Android run two apps in one window.

Samsung is the exact opposite - it offers two ways to do just that. One is the familiar Multi Window feature that splits the screen in half and lets you pick an app for each portion of the screen. Only compatible apps will work with this, but we found that the vital ones are supported. That's typically messengers, as some use Facebook Messenger, others WhatsApp or Viber and it quickly becomes a juggling act.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

App switcher • two apps sharing the screen • a floating app

Another thing to try is to grab an app from the app switcher and pull it out as a floating window. That feature is called Pop-up screen and lets you move and resize the app out of the way as necessary, even minimize it to just a floating icon. Again, only supported apps work with this, but some might prefer it over Multi Window, which makes it a bit harder to toggle apps in and out of view.

The Motorola Nexus 6 uses the standard phone multitasking approach - one app at a time, hit the app switcher button when you need another one. As of Lollipop (and KitKat for Samsung), apps are displayed as a 3D rolodex, which is attractive but only fits a few apps even on the large screen.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The search field remains visible in the Nexus 6 app switcher

Google has chosen to keep the search field visible in the app switcher, while Samsung offers a way to close all apps simultaneously. While task managers are not needed on Android (the OS does a great job of putting apps to sleep by itself), it can still be useful to clear up the clutter.

Staying in touch

Both companies run their own homescreens. Google's Big Data approach has led to the Google Now service that offers info from the web that you'll find interesting, show game scores, keeps track of your inbound packages, warns you that you need to early due to traffic, even keep track of where you parked your car.

All this is available as a widget to all Androids, but on the Google Now launcher it's the homescreen pane on the left. You can also access it from anywhere with a swipe from the bottom.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Google Now offers info you find interesting automatically

Samsung's solution is less AI and more a traditional news reader. The Flipboard-powered Briefing pane pulls the latest headlines on topics and from sources of your choosing (including your Facebook account) and is similarly available on the left.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Reading the news with Briefing

Digital assistants and search

Google Now may not have a personality like Siri, but it's really good at finding stuff. Backed by Knowledge Graph, you can ask just about anything (by voice or text) and it does an excellent job of parsing human expressions and returns just the facts.

Samsung has that, but would also want you to use S Voice - it's a little more phone-centric than web-centric and can be used to control the phone. This forms the backbone of the Hands-free mode intended for use while driving, you can, for example, enable the GPS and launch you navigation app of choice.

While Google Now likes to focus on things outside your phone, Google recently enabled third-party apps to show info cards as well. Google Now has long supported searching inside the phone, with installed apps offering suggestions including contacts, songs and others.

Samsung has S Finder for that task - it searches for files, contacts, apps and even phone settings. On the Galaxy Note 4 specifically, you can quickly scan through notes taken with the S Pen - you can look only for handwritten notes or tag notes with a quickly scribbled symbol (e.g. a star, heart, whatever makes sense for the note) and use that to recall all notes on the subject.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

S Voice can execute voice commands • S Finder searches through your Galaxy Note 4

Text input

The stock Android keyboard used on the Nexus 6 comes in several shades (including Material and Holo looks) and is fairly simple. You get three rows of keys with the top row doubling as the number row on long press.

Samsung keeps a dedicated row for the numbers, which we think makes sense given the screen sizes we're dealing with here.

The good news is that if you go into the Google Keyboard Settings on any Android phone you can chose the PC input style and enable a fourth row for the number keys (though you'll have to disable Use system language" for that to work).

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Dark and light themes for the Google keyboard

Both keyboards offer spellchecking and correction, plus prediction. You can switch the old tap, tap method with gesture input - gliding your fingers over the keys - or using voice input.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has an extra option - handwriting recognition with the S Pen. Some will still find it more natural (even though pretty much everyone has gotten used to on-screen keyboards), but if you don't have to turn it to digital text. Instead you can leave it with your handwriting as a personal touch or easily include a quick sketch.

The S Pen can go half digital, half analog too. You can scribble a note with a name, phone number, email, street or web address and the handwriting recognition can convert that into the appropriate format. This makes it easy to dial a number or look up a street from a note you jotted down quickly with the S Pen.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Default keyboard • one-handed keyboard • floating keyboard • S Pen input

One-handed operation

There's no going around the fact that these are pretty large devices - great to use with both hands, a bit of a challenge with just one.

Samsung has included multiple options to make things easier. One puts a copy of the hardware keys below the screen on the screen (bending your finger this far down can be awkward). Another goes and downscales the whole screen into a window you can position where you have the best reach.

The QWERTY keyboard can also be squeezed so that the keys are easier to reach. You can put the squeezed keyboard on the left or right side (whichever you prefer) or enable the floating keyboard that can be positioned anywhere.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

One-handed options on the Note 4 • on-screen keys • shrinking the display

The Nexus 6 is the first phablet and this was a good opportunity to give native Android some tools to make the phablet life easier. Was as there are none - you can install third-party apps (SwiftKey seems to be a popular choice with a Samsung-like squeezing option), but there's nothing out of the box to help you rein in the large 6" screen.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. While the aesthetics of TouchWiz are not an artist's dream, there's no denying it's packed to the rafters with features. Many of them are quite useful - Private mode, Multi Window, the one-handed options.

Google has created plenty of amazing features for Android in general, but it lacks the extra device-specific features to make it stand out. The Nexus 6 is a good example of this, there's nothing in the UI or app package to suggest you're using a 6" phablet instead of the 5" Nexus phone.

You can always use third-party apps to get the missing features, but an improvement to Nexus would be an improvement to all of Android, so we're a bit disappointed.

Performance

Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Motorola Nexus 6 that we're testing are powered by the same chipset, the Snapdragon 805. Samsung has another option, the Exynos 5433 chipset that looks forward to the Snapdragon 810 with the same big.LITTLE chipset.

Anyway, we can expect similar results considering both have the same amount of RAM (3GB) and render all content at the same resolution (QHD, 1,440 x 2,560px). We have the Note 4 updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop so they're essentially running the same core software, aside from vendor-made changes (as in TouchWiz, the Nexus 6 doesn't have any).

The Krait 450 cores in the Snapdragon 805 are the last of their line. They update the Krait 400 cores of previous chipsets, but boost the clockspeed to an impressive (even for laptops) 2.7GHz. Meanwhile, Adreno 420 is the beginning of the new GPU line with 2x texturing performance, hardware tessellation and a dedicated memory controller.

In Geekbench 3 the CPU cores poke their heads up above the Krait 400 models from the previous generation. Though the Cortex-A15 cores in the Meizu MX4 Pro are giving them a run for their money.

Basemark OS II 2.0 has something to say about the OS version (it favors KitKat on the Note) and the Moto X (2014) is surprisingly competitive on this test. The older Cortex-A15 cores don't do so well against the newcomers in this test.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    3394
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    3386
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    3285
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    2970
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    2925
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    2923
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2860

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    1328
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    1267
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    1267
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    1186
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    1176
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    863

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    6224
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    6165
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    5977
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    5624
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    5235
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    3118

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    21841
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    21140
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    21026
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    18601
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    18386
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    12080

AnTuTu 5 reaffirms the strong overall performance of both flagships though there's still no clear leader among them.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    49803
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    49273
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    48489
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    46824
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    45660
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    45530
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    40393

Unsurprisingly, the GPU performance is pretty much on par between the two. GFX Bench once again shows a preference for KitKat, though with time game makers will learn to optimize for Lollipop. Anyway, the only GPU that comes close to overall performance (measured at offscreen 1080p) is the PowerVR GX6450 in the iPhone 6 Plus.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    41.7
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    40
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    38.9
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    28
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    27.7
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    27
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    26

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    18.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    18
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    13
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    12
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    12

Of course, all that extra power is needed to support the higher resolution screen. The Galaxy Note 4 and Nexus 6 render graphics at QHD resolution, which adds 80% more pixels to the workload compared to 1080p. The LG G3 is also at QHD while the Meizu MX4 Pro has slightly more pixels.

The Adreno 330 and Mali-T628 used the LG G3 and MX4 Pro respectively don't cut it at those resolutions and lag behind in the on-screen tests so Adreno 420 is definitely the better choice here. The other Galaxy Note version (the Exynos one) comes with the successor to the Mali GPU, the Mali-T760.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    30
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    29.3
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    29
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    27.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    26.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    26
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    17

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    13
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    13
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12.7
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    11.2
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    11
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    7.8

As with the processor performance, graphics benchmarks don't find much difference in speed between the two flagships. Basemark X supports the findings from GFX with a small lead for the Nexus 6.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    20901
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    20043
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    18684
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18297
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12637
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    12257
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    12190
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    9111

Apple has a strong lead in mobile web performance, but the speedy Krait 450 core and Samsung-specific optimizations push the Galaxy Note 4 close to the iPhone 6 Plus in JavaScript performance as reported by Kraken 1.1.

Page rendering is made more difficult by the higher resolution so the Galaxy Note 4 drops behind the iPhone 6 Plus a bit but is still closer than its competition. Note that we used Chrome on the Nexus 6 and the Samsung-customized browser on the Galaxy Note 4.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    5181
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    5351
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    6088
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    6260
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    6355
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    7023
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    10193

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Lollipop)
    2232
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (KitKat)
    2208
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) (Lollipop)
    1562
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1533
  • HTC One (M8) (Lollipop)
    1460
  • Motorola Nexus 6 (Lollipop)
    1447

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Same chipset, same RAM package and same screen resolution make for some very similar results though optimizations to the browser give Samsung a narrow victory here.

The Motorola Nexus 6 is an equal to the Note 4 in general performance and gaming, though we wish Google have spend some more time optimizing the browser.

Multimedia package

Google pushes its social network forward with the Nexus 6 as the Photos app for Google+ is the only gallery on the phone. This gives it great integration with the Google cloud, which also helps to search for photos of you, auto enhance your snaps with Auto Awesome and automatically create stories from your photos.

You can edit both photos and videos out of the box.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Google's Photos app

Samsung integrates its gallery with Facebook, Dropbox and Picasa. It also brings image recognition offline, the Galaxy Note 4 can sort photos by content - photos of people, pets, cars, flowers, foot and several more. It's pretty accurate, too.

There's the Studio app that adds several perks over the default image editor, including creating collages, editing Shot & more images (this mode lets you duplicate or remove moving objects, for example). Studio also includes a video editor and a simple video trimmer.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Gallery with Facebook integration and advanced image recognition

Samsung's music player is one of the best-equipped apps around. It uses square grids as a simple visual way to tune the equalizer or automatically create a playlist based on mood. A unique feature is Adapt sound that tests both your hearing and your headphones to automatically create the optimal equalizer setting.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The TouchWiz music player with advanced functionality

The Motorola Nexus 6 once again pushes Google products, in this case Google Play Music. It's a capable offline player with a 5-band equalizer but it also lets you listen to online playlists and, of course, purchase what you like.

You can easily get a 1-month free trial for All Access, which lets you listen to the entire catalog (30+ million tracks) for as long as your data connection will allow. Songs are cached for offline play, which will reduce the load somewhat.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Google Play Music works great offline and online

Both music players handle lossless audio, FLAC at 16 bit or 24 bit. Keep in mind FLAC albums are in the hundreds of megabyte so storage can feel a little tight without a microSD card.

Google offers movies too, but unfortunately the video app on the Nexus 6 did not get the same treatment as the music player and is pretty basic. It can handle videos at up to 2160p in the right format - even 2160p encoded in H.265 worked. Multi-channel sound is not supported, neither are subtitles.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

A plain video player

The Galaxy Note 4 can't handle multi-channel audio either, but it does have extensive controls for subtitles, including fonts and formatting.

The video can be detached into a small floating window so you can keep watching as you answer incoming texts, for example.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Samsung's video player has great subtitle support and can work in a small, floating window

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Both have Google Photos pre-installed, but Samsung's gallery plays well with Facebook. The extensive options in the music player and the more capable video player secure the victory.

We don't mind Google-branded apps, as long as the work well offline. Google Play Music does quite fine, even if it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Samsung player. The video player didn't get much love and no Facebook support out of the box is a minus.

Audio quality

The Motorola Nexus 6 is not a bad audio device per se, but it has a weak point in both of our tests - something you can't really afford when you are facing a rival of the Galaxy Note 4 caliber. The Google pure-bred Nexus 6 had slightly higher volume levels when connected to an active external amplifier but loses by some distance when you plug in a pair of headphones.

In terms of clarity, the Galaxy Note 4 is flawless in the first test, whereas the Nexus 6 introduces quite a lot of distortion. Plug in a pair of headphones and the two do comparably in terms of cleanness, but again the volume levels tip the scales in favor of the Samsung handset.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Motorola Nexus 6 +0.03, -0.14 -95.6 93.1 0.0028 1.076 -96.6
Motorola Nexus 6 (headphones attached) +0.01, -0.10 -95.3 91.2 0.0052 0.015 -56.9
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 +0.01, -0.04 -96.6 93.4 0.0015 0.0086 -94.2
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.02 -96.8 93.5 0.011 0.035 -55.2

Motorola Nexus 6 frequency response

Motorola Nexus 6 frequency response

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 frequency response

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It's cleaner with an active external amplifier and louder with a pair of headphones, while matching the Nexus 6 elsewhere.

Camera features

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 packs a 16MP image sensor sitting behind an f/2.2 aperture, while the Motorola Nexus 6 has a 13MP sensor and a wider f/2.0 aperture. Both are optically stabilized but the sensor in the Samsung phablet is widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio), while Motorola used a standard 4:3.

The optical stabilization should help with low-light performance, but the Nexus 6 has a lead - the wider aperture, but also the dual-LED ring flash. The Note 4 has only one LED.

For selfies, the Galaxy Note 4 has the clear lead with a 3.7MP camera (matching the QHD screen's resolution exactly) and f/1.9 aperture. The Nexus 6 has a standard 2MP shooter.

In terms of software, both companies have their own camera. The Nexus 6 runs the Google Camera by default, which includes HDR+, Panorama and Photo sphere plus Lens Blur. The UI is minimalist and relies on pulling out hidden elements with edge swipes.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Motorola Nexus 6 interface

Samsung's camera offers more shooting modes, several of which are hidden by default and you can download more as needed. This camera offers a more standard menu-based system though it has been greatly simplified from the feature-overload of previous Samsung designs.

We'll try out some of the individual modes to see how they perform.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 camera interface

That's it for still shots, video recording on both phablet maxes out at 2160p at 30fps. The Galaxy Note 4 disables stabilization at this resolution though.

Samsung does have high frame-rate modes, 1080p @ 60fps and 720p @ 120fps, while the Nexus 6 shoots only at 30fps. The smoother motion enabled by high-fps modes can make a great difference in fast-paced scenes, plus you can try slow motion effects.

The advantage in selfie photos of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 extends to video too, it records at 1440p. That's the middle step between 1080p and 2160p and exactly four times as many pixels as the 720p video that the Motorola Nexus 6's front camera manages.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Selfie cameras are a new battleground for phone makers, but a hotly disputed one and the Note 4 easily wins this round. It also offers high-fps video modes, which can be vital for some scenes. It also packs more camera options out of the box.

The Motorola Nexus 6 has the interesting ring flash, though two LEDs are not quite enough to win a crown. The Acer Liquid S2 had four LEDs in a circle, for example.

Photo quality comparison

We mentioned the difference in aspect ratio, the widescreen Galaxy Note 4 camera vs. the more traditional 4:3 shots of the Nexus 6. Laying photos on top of each other we find that the Motorola has a fairly wide lens so if you put it in 16:9 mode it will capture almost the same width of the scene.

This comes at the expense of resolution and the Nexus is already at a deficit. The Galaxy Note has more pixels to cover the same objects, which will give it a boost in image detail.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6


We collected crops from several of the photos we shot with both phablet. As you can see, things appear larger in the Galaxy Note 4 photos because of how resolution and field of view balance out.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The top row makes it easy to compare color rendering (it has the three primary colors) and sharpness (with black on white text).

The Samsung camera clearly boosts the colors a bit, not as much as it has historically but it's still noticeable next to the Motorola camera. You can see it also pumps up the contrast, which makes the black on white text pop more and the red logo more defined.

The colors in the Nexus 6 image stay closer to reality and white balance is more accurate (the Note tends to go a bit warm). The image also looks less processed overall, without the contrast boost and extra sharpening that Samsung does.

The second row shows the rough texture of a stucco wall. It's a challenging texture for digital cameras as its complexity can be mistaken for noise and removed from the image, which seems to be what's happening with the Nexus 6 shot. There's still some detail left, but a lot of it is smoothed over. The Galaxy Note 4 leaves a lot more of the detail in.

The third row shows the transition between shaded and sunlit parts of the building. Both phones show good dynamic range in this difficult transition with little in the way of overexposed or underexposed areas, no loss in detail or a spike in noise.

After dark, we went to take a few more shots to see how both cameras do in the dark. To make things easier to compare we adjusted the exposure compensation until we got as close as possible to the same shutter speed and ISO setting.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6


In this particular shot that meant +0.5EV on the Galaxy Note 4, while the Nexus 6 was left at 0EV. The result is 1/17s and ISO 320 for the Samsung and 1/20s and ISO 294 for the Motorola. Both of those can rely on optical image stabilization, but it's good to see they don't drop the shutter speed too low.

That would blur any moving objects and is good only for static scenes. The results are pretty similar give or take and we can't pick out a clear-cut winner in this department.

Here are the full resolution photos used to make the crops above.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 camera samples

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Motorola Nexus 6 camera samples

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The Nexus 6 still camera has a lower resolution sensor and still manages to keep up to the Note 4 in a lot of respects but in the end of the day, the Note 4 camera did equally good or better in most tests, so it gets a well-deserved pat on the back. Both offer an excellent all-round performing still camera.

HDR mode

Both phablets feature built-in HDR modes, which can be invaluable when shooting against the sun or the bright overcast sky. This sort of scenes is quite taxing on digital cameras.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 let the sky overexpose, but the areas in the shadows look quite good. The HDR mode works with a very light touch, bringing in some more details into the white clouds though the sky remains overexposed. The shadowy areas look pretty much the same.

The Motorola Nexus 6 paid more attention to the sky and the ground in front of the buildings (which was in the shade) and ended up quite dark. Enabling HDR rendered a nice blue sky and the clouds look great, though the ground was only marginally lit up. Also, noise increased slightly.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4: HDR off • HDR on

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Nexus 6: HDR off • HDR on

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. An impressive-looking sky can improve any picture, but if we had to pick, we'd go for mode that brought back more detail in the ground than in the sky. The Galaxy Note 4 does a good job without HDR, while HDR gives it a helping hand in developing the highlights better.

The Motorola Nexus 6 does the sky justice, but can benefit from a boost in the shadows.

Panorama

Image processing is more important than camera resolution when it comes to panoramas. Here both phablets produce more or less the same resolution. The Galaxy Note 4 shot is around 3,100px tall, while the Nexus 6 is around 2,600px.

There are no visible stitching issues in either panorama. The Samsung panorama is sharper, though a lot of that is due to sharpening post processing. The Motorola Nexus 6 offered better dynamic range, handling the sunlit areas and shadows better than the Galaxy Note 4, which both overexposed bright areas and left the shadows darker.

Shooting a panorama with the Note 4 is simpler, just start swiping left or right. The Nexus 6 process is more involved as you have to aim for virtual targets and you have to hold for about a second on each.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 panorama • Motorola Nexus 6 panorama

Winner: Motorola Nexus 6. Despite the resolution disadvantage, the Nexus 6 offered competitive detail and issue-free stitching. But that's not why it won, the higher dynamic range is very important for panoramas, which due to their wide nature very often include dark shadows and sunlit areas.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 panorama is sharper out of the box and easier to shoot. Samsung panoramas have suffered dynamic range issues for a while though (the Galaxy S5, for example).

Depth of field effects

Both cameras can digitally play with the depth of field and the focus point, an effect that has gained a lot of popularity lately. It's all digital trickery as neither phone offers control over the aperture, but on the up side you can readjust the effect after the fact.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 takes a couple of shots, so you have to stand still but it's done pretty quickly. The Motorola Nexus 6 asks you to move the phone up a bit, similar to how a panorama is shot.

When you're done the Note 4 offers just three settings - near focus, far focus and everything in focus. The Nexus 6 lets you move the focus point around and adjust the strength, which offers more flexibility but the effect looks like you selected a circular mask and then hit the blur button.

Despite the simpler shooting process, the Galaxy Note 4 was more accurate when performing the effect. The resulting image has flaws (DSLRs can breathe a sigh of relief), but the Nexus 6 is quite good nonetheless. Also, the effect fails to underline the perception of distance as you can't really blur only nearby or only faraway objects.

The processing done by the Google Camera is done at lower resolution, 3MP, while Samsung works at full resolution. A word of warning: the Galaxy Note 4 images are usually 20MB or more in size, since they contain multiple 16MP shots. This allows it to readjust the effect after the fact, but it can cause headaches when sharing these shots.


Near focus • far focus * all in focus


Default focus • focus in upper right corner * effect strength to 0

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Simpler to shoot and simpler to control, the effect is more accurate to boot.

The Motorola Nexus 6 shots seem more like a quick Photoshop job than something processed from multiple frames. And the resolution is too low, Snapdragon 805 can surely handle 13MP processing without breaking a sweat.

Video quality comparison

Shooting 2160p video eats up storage pretty quickly, a relatively short 30s clip can turn into 150MB a file easily. That's due to the high bitrate - 48Mbps for the Galaxy Note 4 and 42Mbps for the Nexus 6. A small fragment of that is the audio.

Very small in the case of the Nexus, it only records stereo sound at 96Kbps and 48kHz. The Note 4 is among the best mobile devices in that aspect, with stereo sound running at 256Kbps and 48kHz.

You can watch the individual videos on YouTube or download short samples here, but we prepared some crops like in the still photo chapter to illustrate our findings.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 videos are noticeably sharper, more so than can be accounted just by the bitrate difference. Their colors are still oversaturated and the image looks overprocessed.

The Motorola Nexus 6 earns some points for the better colors and white balance, but the Samsung has a clear advantage in dynamic range - the sunlit areas in the Motorola video are badly overexposed.

The Motorola Nexus 6 camera refocused too often and there's a noticeable shudder as the cars whizz by, while the Galaxy Note 4 kept the focus stable for the entire video.

The difference in sound goes strongly in favor of the Galaxy Note 4, which produces richer sound. Stereo also lets you follow the cars as they move past, while the Nexus 6 audio is less engrossing.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

For now most users will probably stick to 1080p. At that resolution both cameras shoot at 17Mbps total bitrate with the same audio bitrate as the 2160p videos.

Here the difference in sharpness mostly goes away. Galaxy Note 4 videos still have more saturated colors.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

You can watch the videos below, or download one of these videos:
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Motorola Nexus 6
2160p sample 2160p sample
1080p sample 1080p sample

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. We already gave it props for the high-fps video modes, but it also offers sharper videos in 2160p mode. In 1080p mode things are much more evened out, though sound recording is a definite win in favor of the Galaxy Note 4.

The Motorola Nexus 6 has less dynamic range when shooting video and following Apple in shooting mono sound did not pay off. The trigger-happy continuous autofocus did not help its case either.

Video stabilization

We strapped the two phablets together and pressed Record, so that each camera will have to deal with the same amount of shake while we walked around. The Motorola Nexus 6 did a better job of smoothing out our footsteps, the camera floating in the air.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 also managed to conceal individual steps though there's more jerkiness visible in the video. Even standing in one place and panning from side to side some handshake manages to sneak into the Note 4 footage, while the Nexus 6 stays on target.

Also, the Samsung phablet can only do stabilization at 1080p, the 2160p video mode disables that option. The Nexus 6 stabilization would work whatever the video resolution, we used the 1080p mode only to make the comparison video easier to assemble.

Winner: Motorola Nexus 6. It does the better to stabilize the video when walking, not to mention it deserves to win for the mere fact of being able to add digital stabilization to 2160p videos, something which isn't available on the Note 4.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 OIS removes the worst of the shaking caused by walking and unsteady hands, but videos could have been a lot smoother. No extra stabilization at 2160p is not a deal-breaker, but a downside for a "best of the best" device.

Final words

Google is the major driving force behind Android development, while Samsung is reigning as the biggest manufacturer of Android devices. The two companies have collaborated in the past, but now they have approached the same territory from different angles.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The Google-designed Nexus line is taking its first step into the phablet field, while Samsung has essentially started the game. However, Google came here to promote its software, its cloud services and social network, while Samsung is all about selling the end-user hardware.

With Motorola's expertise, the search giant put together an excellent device - more expensive than some had hoped, but priced reasonably considering its late-2014 flagship features. It has the best AMOLED screen outside of Samsung, housed in a premium design, powered by a top-of-the-line chipset, with goodies like stereo speakers and a ring flash to sweeten the mix.

Motorola Nexus 6

Motorola Nexus 6

It's strange that it's Samsung, the hardware-centric company, which offers the more compelling software features. There are rich multitasking options available on the Galaxy Note 4, but individual apps had distinct advantages too. The camera has more modes, the music player has more to offer audiophiles, the gallery doesn't pretend there's only one social network and so on.

As for the hardware, until the Galaxy S6 comes out, the Note 4 is the best phone that Samsung has put together. Using its own screens and on some units its own chipset too. RAM and storage are also Samsung made. In the 2015 generation "Samsung" will be stamped on even more components.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Good sales of the Galaxy Note 4 also mean that Samsung's component factories are doing great. For Google success looks differently - the stereo speakers will get you to try Play Music, the camera will have you uploading to Google+ and YouTube, the fast chipset will let you play the best games from the Play Store and the large screen is the perfect place to tap into Play Movies on the go.

With different goals, it's hard to call a definite winner. It doesn't help that both phones offer almost identical performance, though Samsung's customized software earned it a win in the web browsing performance. The Galaxy Note 4 also lasts longer while browsing the web and much longer when playing videos, for general usage too.

The S Pen is in a category of its own, for now at least, and the screen offers better flexibility in color rendering and sunlight legibility. The camera produced slightly better stills and video, the same goes for the audio output quality, too. However, the single loudspeaker won't tempt you to try Samsung Milk Music and, unlike the Galaxy S5, there's no added water resistance, something that the Nexus 6 has (to an extent).

The Motorola Nexus 6 is strong where its opponent is weak, with stereo speakers, basic water resistance and wireless charging. Google is a modern software company and its UI designs reflect that. Lollipop's Material Design has gotten so popular that web sites have started using it, never mind Android apps. And with a Nexus you have a promise of fast track software updates straight from the source.

We think the different nature of the makers of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Motorola Nexus 6 reflects the type of consumer that will buy either product. The Galaxy Note 4 is self-contained and focused on physical excellence, while the Nexus 6 tries to deliver all the cloud services Google has on offer to as many people as possible.

Hardware comparison

These days a smartphone spends more time waiting for its user to do something than the other way around. The two phablets use the two of the fastest chipsets available, so you have lots of power to run whatever you like on those XL screens.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 packs a 5.7" screen, same size as its predecessor but with nearly 80% more pixels. The Motorola Nexus 6 rounds things off to a 6" sharp, at the same resolution: QHD or 1,440 x 2,560px. Both can fit as much content as the user can take in.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

6" QHD AMOLED on the Nexus 6 • 5.7" QHD Super AMOLED on the Galaxy Note 4

We'll go into more detail about screen quality later, but in terms of ergonomics both can be a challenge to use single-handedly. However, neither will leave you wanting for more room. One difference comes from software in that Samsung lets you run two apps side by side, while Google somewhat squanders the large screen and the powerful chipset on just one.

Our new screen-to-body ratio reading in the specs pages tell us that the bezels around the two screens are proportionately equal, though they are used for different things. Motorola followed HTC and Sony in adding front-facing stereo speakers so that the audio experience matches the visual.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

One speaker on each side of the Nexus 6 display

Samsung, however, keeps the vestigial hardware keys below the screen, leaving no room for a speaker. This time it's by necessity though - the fingerprint reader lives below the Home key. The story goes that the Nexus 6 would have had a fingerprint sensor too, in dimple on the back where the Motorola logo is now but Apple bought the sensor supplier.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Hardware keys with a fingerprint reader • on-screen keys • where the fingerprint reader would have been

Google Wallet predates Apple Pay by three years yet Apple's solution garnered more buzz and therefore traffic. We can debate whether the added security of the fingerprint sensor is what helped the iPhone succeed, but Samsung clearly wants a piece of that action.

The screens on both phablets are supported by a metal frame that's left exposed on the sides. A design used successfully by many companies (like Nokia and Sony), this gives the phone a premium feel without making it as heavy as a metal unibody design. It also simplifies the internal arrangement of the antennas, important when you're looking to squeeze the components in the smallest volume possible.

More important for the looks of the device is the material on the back - plastic in both cases, but with a different finish. Samsung continues its fling with faux leather, which looks good and does well at hiding fingerprints and scratches, while Motorola went for a simple matte, soft-touch finish.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

Matte plastic on the Nexus 6 • Faux leather on the Galaxy Note 4

The metallic Nexus logo in line with the Moto logo and the camera make it attractive, but the plastic is a fingerprint magnet. Keeping the expansive surface clean can become a chore. It's a shame that the Moto-maker customization options don't expand to the Nexus.

Samsung's design of the back is less attractive with the protruding camera and the hole cut out for the LED flash and the heart rate/blood-oxygen sensor. The single loudspeaker on the phablet is in the bottom left corner.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The Note 4 camera protrudes • LED flash and heart rate sensor • loudspeaker

The Nexus 6 camera is flush and features a rare ring flash. It's only provisionally a "ring flash" as it has just two LEDs, but the plastic ring does help to diffuse the light a bit. Near the bottom is the noise-cancellation mic, while the Note 4 positions its mics on the top and bottom.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The camera is flush with the back and is surrounded by a ring flash • noise-cancelling mic

The metal frames of the phablets house the ports and slots. For the Motorola this means just the nanoSIM and 3.5mm audio jack on top, plus the microUSB port on the bottom. This is a SlimPort so it offers a Display Port link to hook up external monitors (compatible with HDMI too).

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The metal sides of the Nexus 6

The Galaxy Note 4 puts the 3.5mm jack on top and microUSB port on the bottom too. This one is an MHL port so it can turn to an HDMI port with an adapter. The Samsung phablet also has an IR blaster on its top so it can be wielded as a remote control for your digital equipment at home.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6
Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

The metal sides of the Galaxy Note 4

More importantly it has a microSD card slot below its removable back cover, so storage shouldn't be a concern even if you keep tons of 2160p videos or FLAC music or advanced 3D games. The Nexus 6 comes with 32GB of built-in storage as standard, but power users might want the future-proofing of the 64GB version.

Speaking of what's below the back cover, the two phablets have the same battery capacity of 3,220mAh. We would have thought that the Nexus 6 being bigger in every direction than the Galaxy Note 4 can spare room for some more but that's not the case.

Galaxy Note 4 vs. Nexus 6

A removeable 3,220mAh batteyr and a microSD card slot

One last thing before we go - the Nexus 6 has basic water resistance, similar to the other Motorola-made phones of late. We say "basic" because it doesn't have an official IP or MIL-STD rating and you shouldn't take it into the pool, but it should easily handle a splash of water.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 4. This was tough to call, but the Galaxy Note 4 really improved the looks of the series and we prefer the faux leather back to the fingerprint-prone plastic of the Nexus 6. The fingerprint sensor, the IR blaster, the expandable storage and the user-replaceable battery are a hard bunch for the Nexus 6 to match.

The Motorola Nexus 6 is a very attractive device in its own right and we like that it's splash resistant. The stereo speakers, and the flush camera with ring flash are great too. It was a close call and we would understand if you rank these two the other way.

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