The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S5 are surprisingly similar, which makes deciding which smartphone to buy a tougher decision.
Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note 3 six months ago and the Galaxy S5 went on sale in April 2014. Both smartphones run the latest version of Android and are on the best Android smartphone buying list that Gotta Be Mobile publishes monthly.
For all that Samsung does to differentiate the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S smartphone lines, these two devices are very close in size and in features. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 price is $299 on contract while the Galaxy S5 is $100 cheaper at $199 on contract. There are plenty of deals to help shoppers spend less on one of these new smartphones.
The Galaxy Note 3 includes a larger 5.7-inch display and a S Pen stylus that interacts with the display and allows users to take notes quicker, which are major factors for some users. The Samsung Galaxy S5 offers a 5.1-inch display that is much easier to use with one hand and Samsung includes access to the S Note software to take notes with a finger or third-party stylus.
Galaxy S5 owners get a newer version of the Samsung TouchWiz software that is a small, but noticeable improvement. Samsung may bring the new version of TouchWiz to the Galaxy Note 3 later this year, but there are no promises.
For buyers trying to decide if the Galaxy S5 is worth switching from an original Galaxy Note or Galaxy Note 2 to a device without an S Pen, and for Galaxy Note 3 owners tempted to switch to the new Galaxy S5, this guide looks at the major differences to help you make an informed buying decision.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3 are both sold at all major U.S. carriers including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. The Galaxy S5 comes to Virgin Mobile and other smaller carriers in May, while the Galaxy Note 3 is not sold on Virgin Mobile at this time.
Ultimately things like the feel and how the Galaxy S5 fits in your hand will be major deciding factors that you may need to go to a store to figure out, but this guide and Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 video will help buyers identify the biggest differences before setting foot in a store.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 Video Comparison
Watch this nine-minute Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 video that walks through the major differences between these two devices and the many similarities between Samsung’s newest smartphones.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 – Displays
The display is the biggest point of comparison for many smartphone users, and there is little to be disappointed about with the Note 3 or the Galaxy S5, but there is a clear winner.
The Galaxy Note 3 features a 5.7-inch 1080P display and the Galaxy S5 a 5.1-inch 1080P display. Obviously the Galaxy Note 3’s larger display will appeal to some users, but a 5.1-inch display is also quite large.
The Galaxy Note 3’s S Pen accessory is the biggest reason to pick the Galaxy Note 3 over the Galaxy S5. This small pen hides in the base of the Note 3 and allows users to take notes without their palm or a finger touching the display and messing with the note taking. It can also launch apps and offer quick access to Note 3 functions.
When it comes to the Galaxy S5, the display really stands out. This is one of the best looking mobile displays we’ve seen. The Galaxy S5 display is very bright and looks quite crisp thanks to a high pixel-per-inch rating. There are several modes that allow the display to adapt to brighter light or to activities for the best viewing experience.
Users can keep the phone brighter without running down the battery as fast thanks to a much more efficient display. After leaving the display on full brightness with moderate to heavy use all weekend the battery still offered 30-40% life remaining at 10PM. There is also an Ultra Power Saving mode that turns the display to black and white to stretch more power out of the last 5%.
If you absolutely need an S Pen or the biggest possible display, the Galaxy Note 3 makes sense, but for users that just want a big, bright, beautiful display the Galaxy S5 is a top pick.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 – Design
The Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3 share a similar design, but there are some key differences. Let’s start with a look at what’s the same.
Samsung ditched the hard plastic of the Galaxy S4 to offer a soft touch finish on the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S5. The Note 3 offers a faux leather back that is not very soft on the white model, but is better on the black version. The Galaxy S5 features a dimpled soft touch back in multiple colors. The shimmer white Galaxy S5 is more like an off white or eggshell white than the Galaxy Note 3’s white back.
Both of these phones feature a textured silver band around the edge of the device, headphone jack on the top next to an IR port and power and volume buttons on opposite edges. There are two touch buttons and a physical button on the front of the device, but this is where things start to differentiate.
There is a fingerprint reader in the Galaxy S5 home button, and not one in the Galaxy Note 3. The reader works about 60-70% of the time, so it is not a selling point on it’s own. The Galaxy S5’s left touch button now opens multitasking with one tap and settings with a long press. A long press on the Galaxy S5 home button also opens Google Now. The Note 3 uses a long press on the left to open S Finder and a long press on home to open multitasking with another tap to get to Google Now. As a user who moves between Android devices, I much prefer the buttons on the Galaxy S5.
The two phones are similar in size. Though the Note 3 is bigger in all areas the two devices placed next to each other reveal the sizes are closer than the dimensions would lead you to believe.
- Samsung Galaxy S5 Dimensions: 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 (Weight: 145 grams)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Dimensions: 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm (Weight: 168 grams)
The biggest design difference that buyers will appreciate is the water resistant design of the Galaxy S5. This allows users to get the Galaxy S5 wet or submerge it in water for up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. That means a drop into a puddle, sink or bathtub won’t kill this phone. The Galaxy Note 3 does not feature a water-resistant design.
One drawback of this design choice is the need to snap a cover on the USB charging port on the Galaxy S5, but with good battery life users don’t need to charge it up all day.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 – Cameras
The Galaxy Note 3 features a 13MP camera that is capable of taking nice looking photos and recording 4k videos, while the Galaxy S5 features a 16MPo camera that can take sharper photos and focus faster thanks to new hardware.
When pulling both phones out of a pocket, the Galaxy S5 is ready to take a photo faster than the Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy S5 also features a new camera app that simplifies the modes offered. Both phones offer an Auto mode that can pick the best settings for a photo if it detects a person, low light or something similar. Check out the small comparison of photos below to see how the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3 cameras compare.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 Software & Features
Samsung ships the Galaxy S5 with Android 4.4.2 and a new version of TouchWiz that offers a redesigned user interface and visual tweaks. This may not win over users that cannot stand TouchWiz, but for long time Samsung users it is a good change with a new, but familiar look.
Most Galaxy Note 3 models run Android 4.4.2 with a slightly older version of TouchWiz, but the Verizon Galaxy Note 3 is still waiting for an update.
As we mentioned the Galaxy Note 3 takes advantage of the S Pen to make note taking a better experience on the larger device. If you love to take notes, the Note 3 is the obvious choice.
The Galaxy S5 features a pulse reader on the back, which can detect and log a heart rate. There is no dedicated hardware on the Note 3, but users can download an app to tun the flash and camera into a makeshift pulse reader. For fitness buffs the Gear Fit works on both of these devices to track activity and show notifications.
Both phones allow users to multitask with the Multi-Window Mode that lets users put two apps on screen at once. This is a great feature that Samsung did not mess with.
Users can swap in a battery by popping the back off of the either smartphone and there is a slot for a Micro SD card that can expand storage dramatically.
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy Note 3 Performance & Specs
Samsung includes a new Snapdragon 801 processor in the Galaxy S5, but the Galaxy Note 3 is no slouch with a Snapdragon 800 processor. While using both of these smartphones it is tough to pick one as a faster device. Multitasking, switching between apps and using a variety of apps on each device is a nearly identical experience.
Galaxy S5 Specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- 5.1-inch display
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Storage Option (32GB could come later)
- 2.1MP front-facing camera
- 16MP rear-facing camera
- 2,800 mAh battery
- 802.11ac WiFi
- Fingerprint Reader
Galaxy Note 3 Specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 81 processor
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- 5.7-inch display
- 3GB RAM
- 16GB /32/64GB options (64Gb not on sale in U.S.)
- 2MP front-facing camera
- 13MP rear-facing camera
- 3,200 mAh battery
- 802.11ac WiFi
The Galaxy S5 display is more power efficient, but the Note 3 battery is massive, which also results in long battery life.
Read: Galaxy Note 3 Review
When it comes down to buying one of these smartphones, the best thing to do is stop into a local store to check them out side-by-side. Most carrier locations offer both phones on display and Best Buy stores with a Samsung kiosk should also offer both models. After using the Galaxy S5 for a week I prefer the size and variety of features to the Galaxy Note 3, but with performance, size and features this close it’s all going to come down to personal preference.
If I used the S Pen more, the choice would be simple as the Note 3 is much better for taking handwritten notes than the Galaxy S5 is thanks to the S Pen. Same goes for users that need the biggest screen possible on a flagship Android device.