Samsung Galaxy Note5 vs Google Nexus 6
The new TouchWiz is cleaner and more refined as Samsung continues on its way to improvement. Stock Android on the Nexus 6 is still subjectively superior in terms of looks, and objectively better thanks to its faster updates.
The Samsung 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, it is a fairly big change for the TouchWiz skin. The Google Nexus 6, in contrast, runs on the latest 5.1 version of Android Lollipop in its pure, stock form. This also happens to be the biggest advantage of any Nexus device - having a pure stock build and the blessing of Google, Nexus phones are always the first to get Android updates with new features and security patches. Samsung has promised to push security updates in a more timely manner, but when it comes to other Android changes, they are likely to come later to the Galaxy series than to Nexus phones.
As to the current state of TouchWiz, the skin now features a slightly changed set of icons - now all icons have rounded corners and non-transparent backgrounds, plus the style is a bit evolved. At the same time, the typical contrasty colors and cartoonish vibe remains. Samsung has now also added 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. TouchWiz has lots of various options hidden in menus that you can explore, but they no longer feel forcefully and excessively pushed on users. Stock Android 5.1, on the other hand, is a well known platform with the signature flat Material Design and speedy performance.
The big highlight feature of the Note5 is the S Pen stylus on the bottom, which allows you to interact with your phone in ways not possible on the Nexus 6. Right after you take out the pen, you get a pop up with the Air Command menu showing you shortcuts to different actions that you can do with the pen. You can now quickly open apps from here (you select which apps), and that’s a neat shortcut. We also love the fact that you can just pop out the pen while your device is locked and start writing on the screen without starting any app beforehand. Neat!
Processor and Memory
The Exynos 7420 system chip is a champ: it brings improvement in single-core and multi-core performance, as well as graphics. Yes, it’s also faster than the Nexus 6 in all of those aspects. Yet, stock Android still feels zippier than TouchWiz in daily tasks.
Samsung was the first in the smartphone chip race to get to 14nm manufacturing and it used this advantage fully with its Samsung Galaxy S6, a device that ditched Qualcomm chips used before by Samsung in favor of the new Exynos 7420 system chip. The same chip powers the Galaxy Note5, and it’s an octa-core 64-bit solution that runs at up to 2.1GHz and relies on a big.LITTLE configuration of four high-performance Cortex A57 cores and four power-efficient Cortex A53s. The Google Nexus 6, in comparison, sports the Snapdragon 805, a quad-core 32-bit chip that features four Krait 450 CPU cores running at up to 2.7GHz.
Those are the specs, but what’s the perceived real-life performance? The Galaxy Note5 is an improvement over earlier Samsungs that had noticeable issues with micro lag (hello, Note4!), but at the same time, we still find the Nexus 6 running a bit zippier and stutter-free.
The big highlight of Samsung’s Note5 design is the inclusion of 4GB of LPDRR4 RAM that theoretically should make multitasking easier and more efficient.
Looking at benchmarks, one notices some significant improvements with the Exynos 7420 on the Note5 over the Snapdragon 805 on the Nexus 6: the single-core performance test on GeekBench shows a nearly 40% improvement, and an even higher boost in multi-core scores.
Gamers will be happy to see some improvement in gaming performance on the Note5 with its Mali T760 GPU that outdoes the Adreno 420 in the Nexus 6.
When it comes to internal storage, we’re happy to see that both phones come with 32GB of internal storage in the base model. At the same time, we’re also sad to see that there are no microSD card expansion options on the two - you’re stuck with the internal storage you have. And while that’s been this way for a few years in the Nexus family, the lack of microSD card is a recent downgrade for the Galaxy lineup. At the same time, we should say that the massive move to streaming music and cloud services for photos and videos, should alleviate a lot of the burden put on the internal storage before.
Internet and Connectivity
The large screen on both phones helps a lot with browsing, and surfing is speedy and without any major issues on both. Of course, you have 4G LTE connectivity.
Having a large screen such as the 5.7” one on the Note5 and the 6-inch one on the Nexus 6 definitely works out great for browsing. The vast screen estate allows for pages to load in their entirety and require less scrolling around. Both phones come with Google's mobile Chrome for browsing, but while that's the only pre-installed option on the Nexus 6, the Galaxy Note5 defaults to a custom browser solution that offers a full screen view, and a few other perks. We found no troubles with surfing speeds – everything was moving quickly, pages rendered fast, and zooming in and out of pages happened without a stutter, just as you'd expect.
The S Pen makes it easier to annotate web pages and highlight sections of a page to save it or quickly send it to a friend or colleague. You also have a new S Pen feature that allows you to 'scroll capture' a page, meaning that you can take a screenshot spanning across the whole length of a webpage (usually, you'd need to manually scroll and stitch multiple screenshots to achieve this).
When it comes to connectivity, both phones are equipped with 4G LTE with a variety of bands, depending on the market. Since both phones are officially sold in the United States and Europe, you should not worry about any inconveniences with unsupported bands – LTE works fine on both phones on the common in the Western world bands.
In addition, you have the typical dual-channel Wi-Fi modem, MIMO (2x2) antennas for better reception, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.2, as well as GPS.