Apple iPhone 6 Plus full review

If you can't beat them join them. Then beat them. That seems to be Apple's response to the proliferation of large-screen Android and Windows Phone handsets. After years of holding out as the only important phone manufacturer without a phablet, Apple has gone all in with a smartphone/tablet combination all of its own.

The iPhone 6 Plus is not just big, it is huge. Bringing a 5.5in display into the iOS world for the first time. It's an iPhone, so it is almost duty bound to be awesome. But it is entering a fiercely competitive world. (See also: iPhone 6 review.)

The iPhone 6 Plus was unveiled just a few days after Samsung announced its own new large-screen smartphone: the Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Note range is the undisputed king of the large-screen phablet world. So how does Apple's entry compare to the best of the rest?

We compared the Galaxy Note 4 with the iPhone 6 Plus. This iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4 comparison is based on in-depth reviews of both handsets. As this is Macworld UK, you should know that we are positive about Apple by default, although we try to be fair. We would be delighted to hear from you if you are an Android- or Samsung fan and you disagree with our findings, but pointless flame will be deleted. Anyway, on with the iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comparison. (Related articles you might like: iPhone 6 review | iPhone 6 release date | iPhone 6 Plus release date | iPhone reviews.)

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: UK price

The Galaxy Note 4 is a premium high-end smartphone so it's no surprise to see it with a price tag of around £550 inc VAT for the 32GB edition. The iPhone 6 Plus costs a bit more. There are three models which start at £619 for the 16GB model. This scales up to £699 for 64GB, and £789 for 128GB. You will pay a premium for the iPhone phablet just as you pay extra for any iPhone. We think that is a worthwhile expense, but the Galaxy Note 4 is a tremendous handset. So let's see what you get for the money with the iPhone 6 Plus.  

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Key specs and performance

With the Galaxy Note 4 you get a 2.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor or Exynos 5433 octa-core processor, and 3GB of RAM. We found it to be extremely smooth and snappy when launching and switching apps.

The iPhone 6 Plus comes with a new processor, known as the A8. This is a 20-nanometer 64-bit CPU with 2 billion transistors. It is a dual core chip with a frequency of 1.2 GHz. It's paired with 1GB RAM. The iPhone 6 Plus is consummately slick and zippy in use.

We have benchmarked both handsets and are happy to publish the results here. It is only fair to point out that synthetic benchmarks are only ever intended as a guide, and have wide margins of error. It is also true that some Android manufacturers - Samsung included - have been accused of gaming benchmarks. You should know that both of these handsets are super fast, responsive, and powerful.

So wexpected impressive results from both of these powerful smartphones, and for the most part we got them. As you can see in the table below, the Note 4 is a speedy device and the first to break the 3000 barrier in GeekBench 3. However, it couldn't outpace the iPhone 6 Plus in the graphics department and disappointed a little in the SunSpider web browsing test. The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, was exceptional in the graphics and Javascript tests, and merely very good for all-round performance.


GeekBench 3

GFXBench T-Rex

GFXBench Manhattan


Galaxy Note 4





iPhone 6 Plus





Given the price differential we would like to see the iPhone 6 Plus be noticably faster than the Galaxy Note 4, and in use that is not the case. If you are shopping on power and price alone, the Galaxy Note 4 is a better bet. But there is more to smartphone buying than that. (See also: iPhone 5s v Galaxy S5 comparison review.)

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Screen

The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is stunning. It's a 5.7in Quad-HD Super AMOLED display. That's a resolution of 2560 x 1440, which means a whopping 515ppi pixel density. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch Retina HD screen, which means in this case a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 401 ppi. So again lagging behind in terms of pure specs, but will you notice the difference? Apple says it offers wider viewing angles because of its dual-domain pixels, after all.

While using the Note 4, we found that the screen had an incredible sense of depth, and we can imagine that it'll be difficult to go back to full-HD once you've used a smartphone or tablet with a Quad HD screen like this one. Which is not to say the the iPhone 6 Plus display is in any way a bad screen, just that the Note 4's is quantifiably better.

With one caveat. The Galaxy Note 4's is an AMOLED display, which means it offers an extremely colourful and rich colour palette. Many people absolutely love this, others find it a little too much. Images can appear hyper real, for example. But credit where it is due: the Galaxy Note 4 is the screen queen. Read: iPhone 6 Plus rivals

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Design and build

When you buy a smartphone, we're sure that which colour you choose is an important decision – unless you always opt for black no matter what the device. For those who care about it, the Galaxy Note 4 a choice of black, white, gold and pink. The iPhone 6 Plus looks gorgeous. The design is roughly similar to that of the iPhone 5s, only on a grander scale, and with a generally more rounded chassis. As with all iPhones, build quality is excellent. Buttons and switches are uniformly firm and responsive, and the Ring/Silent switch produced a satisfying click.

The Galaxy Note 4 is 8.5 mm thick and weighs and 176 g. These are impressive specs but they can't compete with the only just 7.1mm thick iPhone 6 Plus, and just 172 g. Overall dimensions see the 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm Galaxy Note 4 largely match the profile of the taller but thinner 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm iPhone 6 Plus.

One small concern about the iPhone is the rear-facing camera, which sticks out a little bit and marginally spoils the integrity of the iPhone 6 Plus's profile. Laying the iPhone 6 Plus down on its back on a hard, flat surface may cause it to sit unevenly.

The key thing here is that both are big handsets, but Apple claims its is usable with one hand, the Note 4 comes with the S Pen stylus and is designed for two-handed use. It's also worth considering the fact that the iPhone may well require a case, but the Galaxy Note 4 will live without.

Overall, however, we'd say that design and build is a win for the iPhone. As was ever the case.

iPhone 6 Plus

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Storage

The 32GB Galaxy Note 4 comes with a microSD card slot which can take up to 128GB cards. The iPhone 6 Plus comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB flavours, but has no expandable storage. Onboard storage is always better for performance, but it is reflected in the price. None the less, with the exception of the next to useless 16GB model, we prefer the iPhone's storage options. Onboard is always better.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Software

Android vs iOS is a conundrum. Android isn't like it used to be: if you are new to the smartphone game there's no obvious winner. These are the two most popular and best mobile operating systems around so it's about picking which one is right for you.

In essence, if you are a long-term iOS user you are probably best off sticking with what you know. You have after all almost certainly spent a lot of cash on apps that you'll have to spend again in Android. But it is worth considering that your iTunes music files will work in Android, and Android offers the opportunity of shopping around for music, movies, books and TV shows.

Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Cameras

The iPhone 6 Plus has the same top-line megapixel numbers as the iPhone 5s: 8Mp on the rear, and 1.2Mp on the front. But some things are more important than megapixel count. Apple assures us that the new iSight camera is better than its predecessor in many ways: optical image stabilisation, is an impressive addition; as is continuous-autofocus when shooting video. We like the option of 240fps slo-mo video as well as 120fps. Improved panorama shots, face detection and low-light performance, round out Apple's claimed improvements. And burst mode has been added to the front-facing camera as well the rear one.

Samsung has improved the camera in the Galaxy Note 4, and we found the results to be quite impressive. The rear-facing camera is 16 Mp, with auto focus and Smart OIS (optical image stabilisation). HDR on the Galaxy Note 4 offers a live preview, so you can see exactly what your image will look like before you capture it which is a neat trick. As you would expect, it can still record 4K video like its predecessor.

Rather than bombarding you with camera modes, this time around the Note 4 has just a few pre-installed and even fewer selected to display. If you want more you can select them from the 'manage modes' section or download more from the internet.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review camera

On the front is a decent 3.7Mp camera with an aperture of f1.9. Samsung has introduced a fun Wide Selfie mode with the Note 4, so you can capture more of the environment around you when taking those all-important and extremely popular selfies with the front-facing camera.

One thing we did find is that the size of the Note 4 means taking photographs is not an exceptionally easy task. It can get a bit clumsy, particularly if you are trying to take a photo with one hand. There's no dedicated camera/shutter button which is something we'd appreciate having. Below is our test photo and video.

This brings us neatly to the photos and videos taken by the iPhone 6 Plus. The 6 Plus has the best rear camera of any iPhone, including the iPhone 6. It may still have an 8Mp sensor but as anyone who knows anything about digital photography will tell you: more pixels does not equal better quality photos (or video).

The 6 Plus has a couple of features which elevate it above earlier iPhones. One is optical image stabilisation, which even the iPhone 6 lacks. This helps counteract camera shake by physically moving the camera, and leads to sharper images in low light, which is the only time the system is active.

iPhone 6 Plus camera

In most situations, the iPhone 6 Plus takes fantastic photos. It's in its element in good light: details are sharp, colours accurate and exposure spot on. In some photos, quality is noticeably better than the iPhone 5s; in others, there's not that much to separate them. In low light, the 6 Plus wins out, but you're not guaranteed a great shot.

In the shots that aren't blurry, the new camera and processor team up well to eliminate unsightly noise as well as retaining detail. On the face of it we prefer the Galaxy Note's more impressive spec, but in use both of these phones have excellent cameras, and it is nigh-on impossible to pick a winner. See also: Just another opinion about Apple's new iPhones.

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