Samsung Galaxy Note5 vs Galaxy S6: first look


The Galaxy Note5 is the upcoming fifth generation phablet by Samsung, the company that conceived the phablet market way back in 2011 with the 5.3-inch original Galaxy Note. And while the original Note was a shockingly huge device for the times, the new Galaxy Note5 comes with an even larger 5.7-inch display.

In the context of today’s market, Samsung has two hard-hitting phones: the Galaxy S6, a 5.1-inch phone that caters to lovers of regularly sized devices, and then it has the Galaxy Note5, which looks much like a blown up Galaxy S6.

There is indeed a striking similarity in terms of the look and feel of the two Samsung phones (much like Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that share the same design approach), and the two phones also come with very similar hardware: a 14nm Exynos 7420 octa-core system chip, latest-gen AMOLED display with great power efficiency and color reproduction, as well as a 16-megapixel main cameras with optical stabilization.

Both are also a part of a new era for Samsung: an era of no expandable storage (neither supports microSD card expansion) and no removable batteries.

How do they differ and how are the similar? Let’s find out.

Design


If you didn’t know the difference in size between the 5.1” Galaxy S6 and 5.7” Galaxy Note5, you’d be forgiven to think they one and the same phone. The new Samsung Galaxy Note5 features virtually the same design as the S6: it comes with a sturdy metal frame, sandwiched between two Gorilla Glass 4 panels at the rear and the front. The surface of the phone is not slippery and is also nice to the touch, and also not as cold as phones with a body of pure magnet, but in exchange for that, the glass is also quite reflective and an absolute fingerprint magnet. Just like the Galaxy S6, the back of the Note5 can get messy with fingerprints quite fast.

As we’ve already mentioned, there is no microSD card slot and no removable battery here - just like on the Galaxy S6, and you only have a SIM tray on the side of both. In terms of buttons, both phones have the same layout: up front there are the signature Samsung physical home key (with integrated touch-type fingerprint reader) with two capacitive keys, and then you have a power/lock key on the right and two volume buttons on the left hand side.

The main camera also protrudes slightly out the back on both phones, and the two come with a heart-rate sensor, and a LED flash.

This being a Note series device, it comes with a new and improved stylus (something that is not present in the Galaxy S6). In terms of pure mechanics, you can now gently press the slightly protruding tip of the stylus and it automatically pops up thanks to a new, built-in spring mechanism. A neat little touch!

Display


Samsung has been improving its AMOLED displays at an amazing pace, and while just a year and a half ago there were severe issues with color quality, these days AMOLED screen on top Samsung phones look much, much better.

The Galaxy Note5 is no exception with its 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with Quad HD resolution (1440 x 2560 pixels). The Galaxy S6, in comparison, also comes with a Quad HD resolution, but - thanks to the smaller size of the display - it ends up being sharper with pixel density of the amazing 577ppi in comparison with its 518ppi. In reality, this difference is quite hard to notice as both appear perfectly sharp at regular viewing distances. The one area, where resolution still matters is virtual reality, as with amplifying VR lenses, every pixel gets blown up, and this difference might be noticed.

On the Note5, you have the same color calibration profiles as on the S6: ‘Adaptive’ being the default mode, but for most accurate color reproduction the ‘Basic’ mode remains the most appropriate choice.

Interface and Stylus functionality


The Galaxy Note5 runs on the latest Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with the newest version of TouchWiz on top of it, and this time around, the change in TouchWiz is quite evident. The Note5 features a different set of icons - many of them redrawn and now coming with rounded corners, but still retaining their slight cartoonish vibe.

The other visible change is that now there is captions for everything, and we mean everything: even the toggles have ‘On/Off’ captions in order to ensure that users are not confused by menus.

We have an S Pen stylus on the bottom, which allows you to interact with your Note5 in a way that the iPhone 6 Plus doesn't from the get-go. The Air Command menu, which is the feature hub that unlocks the true potential of the S Pen, is revamped as well. On top of it all, the stock iconography has also seen some changes - Samsung has decided to adorn the UI with icons that have slightly more curved edges.

Then, you have the unique functionality that comes with the S Pen, and - naturally - Samsung has added some improvements here as well. The most important one is the option to pull out the S Pen and draw right on the lock screen (yes, you draw in white on a black background) - quick and very useful.

Processor and Memory


Samsung surprised the industry by being the first in smartphone chip race to arrive at 14nm manufacturing with its Samsung Galaxy S6 that was launched with the Exynos 7420 system chip. The Galaxy Note5 launches with the same Exynos octa-core 7420, an octa-core chip with four high-performance Cortex A57s running at up to 2.1GHz and four power-efficient A53s running at up to 1.5GHz

Samsung highlights something else, though: 4GB of RAM. The Galaxy Note5 is indeed the first phone by Samsung (and one of the first phones ever in fact) to feature so much RAM, which should facilitate multitasking, and it's the latest LPDDR4 RAM at that.

The base model of the Note5 comes with 32GB of internal storage - just like the Galaxy S5 - and it’s fast-speed eMMC type of storage. The big disappointment for many Samsung loyalists is that the Note5 (again, like the Galaxy S6) does not have a microSD card slot and you can’t expand the existing memory. At the same time, we’re seeing a massive move to streaming music and cloud services for photos and videos, which should alleviate a lot of the burden put on the internal storage in earlier years.

Camera


The new Samsung Galaxy Note5 features a 16-megapixel main (rear-facing) camera with support for optical image stabilization (OIS) and an LED flash, while up front, the phone features a 5-megapixel selfie shooter. While there may be changes and improvements in software, it is likely that this is the same or similar setup as the one used in the Galaxy S6, which uses the 16-megapixel Sony IMX240 1/2.6” sensor with 1.2 micron pixels and 16:9 native aspect ratio.

The technological specs, however, don’t tell all that much about image quality, which is hugely dependent on speed of capture, auto-focusing capabilities, and naturally the way the image is rendered.

We are yet to draw more detailed conclusions about the Galaxy Note5’s camera performance, but the initial impressions are for a snappy camera that captures great images. We also noticed that the double-click quick activation shortcut is present here as well, and Samsung has added the option to control shutter speed in the Pro camera mode. Videos can be captured at up to 4K at 30 frames per second.

Battery life


The battery on the Galaxy Note5 is a 3000mAh one, a reasonable size that allows the phablet to be thinner than last year's Note 4. It’s hard to make any definitive conclusions about battery life at such an early stage, but given Samsung’s rapid pace of display innovation, we can make some assumptions.

The new generation of AMOLED screens consume minimal amounts of power - and with the switch to the more power-efficient 14nm system chip, we expect the Galaxy Note5 battery life to be on par or higher than last year’s Note 4. As to the Galaxy S6, we do expect the Note5 to outperform it by a slight margin.

Just like the S6, the Note5 supports wireless charging right out the box, and that’s a great feature to have. You have to separately buy a wireless charger in order for this to work.

Conclusion


The Samsung Galaxy Note5 brings the modern and stylish design of the Galaxy S6 in a larger, phablet-sized body, and it ups the performance a notch, while adding the neat functionality of the S Pen. It’s an absolute monster in terms of specs as well: with the latest Exynos 7420 chip, 4GB of RAM, this phone is future proof.

As to our direct comparison with the Galaxy S6, it is the size that will be the determining factor here: the much easier manageable S6 is also pocket-friendly, while the Note5 features the larger display which is great for heavy media (ab)users.

If you’re wondering whether the bump in specs alone is worth upgrading, the answer is most likely a ‘no’: after all, the Galaxy S6 features a similar silicon heart.

Related phones

Galaxy Note5
  • Display 5.7 inches 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP (Single camera) 5 MP front
  • Hardware Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3000 mAh
  • OS Android 7.0 Nougat Samsung TouchWiz UI
Galaxy S6
  • Display 5.1 inches 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP (Single camera) 5 MP front
  • Hardware Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 3GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2550 mAh
  • OS Android 7.0 Nougat Samsung TouchWiz UI

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