Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Should I upgrade my Note?

We compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with the older Note 5 and Note 4 smartphones, to see if owners of these mighty Note mobiles should consider an upgrade.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones used to be the company’s ‘phablet’ sized devices, offering a seriously enlarged display and construction compared with other Galaxy mobiles. Of course, that gap has significantly shrunk now, as the S-series handsets have sprouted in size; the standard Galaxy S8 alone is a staggering 5.8-inches, while the ‘Plus’ model offers up a mighty 6.2-inch smartphone screen.

The other Galaxy Note hallmarks have stayed true to form, of course. Every Note model comes packing an S Pen stylus, which has improved a lot over time, as well as premium specs – and a premium UK price to match.

The latest handset in the series, the Galaxy Note 8, is ready to launch here in the UK towards the end of August. However, we’ve already seen most of what it has to offer thanks to multiple heavy leaks and reveals. That means we know almost exactly what to expect, including how it compares with the older Note handsets.

So should owners of the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note 5 consider splashing out for the new Note 8? Has the camera experience significantly improved and what other new features can you expect from the latest model? Here’s how these Samsung handsets stack up.

Read next: Best Samsung Galaxy phones in 2017

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Specs

Phone Galaxy Note 4 Galaxy Note 5 Galaxy Note 8
Screen size 5.7-inches 5.7-inches 6.3-inches
Screen resolution 2560×1440 2560×1440 4K
Water resistant? No No Yes
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes Yes
Iris scanner? No No Yes
Processor Snapdragon 805 Exynos 7420 Snapdragon 835/Exynos 8995
Memory 3GB 4GB 6GB
Storage 32GB 32/64/128GB 64GB
microSD? Yes No Yes
Battery 3220mAh 3000mAh 3000mAh
Rear camera 16MP f/2.2 16MP f/1.9 12MP Dual-lens
Front camera 3.7MP 5MP 8MP

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Design

If you’re all about looks, the Note 8 is going to be seriously difficult to resist. Sporting a similar construction to the Galaxy S8 and S8+, this latest model is a glorious blend of metal and glass which really stands out from the crowd. And not just because it’s bloody massive.

All three of these Samsung phones offer a solid metallic edging, although the Note 4 sports a textured, leather-style rear. Both the Note 5 and Note 8 offer a glossy backing instead, which admittedly is much more prone to scuffing up and doesn’t offer as much grip. We still personally prefer the glass finish however.

All of these mobiles are on the big side, so you’ll need quite sizable pockets or a decent-sized handbag. The Note 4 and 5 sport a 5.7-inch screen, while the Note 8 boosts this right up to a 6.3-inch panel, although the newest Galaxy Note isn’t much different in terms of dimensions and weight. That’s thanks to the near bezel-free design, which sees the screen stretching to the very edges.

None of these phones are particularly easy to operate one-handed of course, yet the Note 8 should prove surprisingly usable thanks to that slick design work. Plus, Samsung has added one-handed modes to each handset to help out. These can shrink the desktops, for instance, to make life a little easier.

One other big advantage that the Note 8 has over those older models is its full water resistance. You can give it a dunking in fresh water and it will continue to function just fine, for added peace of mind. Even better, the S Pen will work perfectly well when the Note 8’s display is damp, which is great news if you live in moist climes (like the UK) and want a phone to use outdoors.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Screen and media

All three of these Note phones sport a Super AMOLED screen that’s pleasingly bright, producing vivid visuals that really stand out. You get a spacious panel no matter which model you choose, although the newer Note 8 bumps the size from 5.7-inches to 6.3-inches.

The Note 4 was one of the first smartphones to rock a super-sharp Quad HD screen, putting out impressively sharp images. This resolution was kept for the Note 5. However, Samsung has gone a step beyond with the new Note 8, which offers full 4K Ultra HD visuals. Great news considering the focus on mobile virtual reality via the Gear VR, as well as 4K streaming support from the likes of Netflix.

With the Note 8 you also get full support for HDR video playback. Again, something that is just now being offered by online streaming services. This allows for even more realistic image reproduction, including a boost to colour range and contrast levels.

You have plenty of storage to fill with your media collection, no matter which Note you choose to rock. While the Galaxy Note 4 only comes with 32GB of space as standard, you can boost that with a microSD memory card. The new Note 8 also supports microSD, on top of the 64GB storage. However, while the Note 5 offers up to 128GB of built-in space, you can’t stick a memory card inside.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Features

Android is the operating system of choice on every Note handset in this comparison review, complete with Samsung’s little tweaks and bonus features. You can split-screen multi-task on each model, as well as track your exercise sessions and calorie count with S Health.

And of course you get the rather brilliant S Pen stylus, tucked into a slot on the edge of the phone. This slender utensil is a great way to get creative or make detailed changes to documents on the move, with impressive accuracy – and full water resistance, in the Note 8.

With all three Note handsets you get a fingerprint sensor, for quickly and securely unlocking your phone and authorising online payments. However, the Note 4’s scanner is quite awkward to use. You have to swipe your digit across the surface, while the Note 5 and Note 8 merely require a tap of the sensor to work.

The Note 8 also boasts an iris scanner, as an alternative means of security. This involves infrared technology, so you can use it even in the dark, and if it’s anything like the Note 7’s sensor it should work a charm. As long as you don’t wear glasses or try unlocking the phone while walking, that is.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Performance and battery life

A Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is stuffed inside all three of these phones, in the UK models at least. While the Note 4’s Snapdragon 805 is starting to show its age a bit, you can still get relatively smooth everyday running and get busy with some quite demanding creative apps.

The Note 8 is on a whole other level, however, with its Snapdragon 835 chipset. This doesn’t just blow away the older handsets in terms of performance; the 835 also boosts the energy efficiency and download speeds.

We’re yet to fully test the Note 8, so come back soon for our in-depth thoughts on everyday performance as well as battery life. However, we’re expecting to make it through a full day without issue, and hopefully can stretch towards a second day; something we enjoyed on the Note 4.

All of these Note phones also boast quick charging, to power them up to at least 50 percent in around half an hour.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: Cameras

The Note 8 certainly has one over the older models when it comes to the camera tech as well.

Don’t get us wrong, the Note 4 and Note 5 offer solid optics, capturing decent low light shots and up to 4K resolution video on demand. However, the Note 8’s dual lens camera should capture impressive depth-of-field snaps, with improved night performance and even faster focusing.

You can also shoot more detailed selfies using the 8-megapixel front-facing camera, complete with the obligatory beauty mode of course.

Check back soon for our full Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review, camera review and other features.