Samsung Galaxy Note5 vs Google Nexus 6
The 16-megapixel camera on the Note5 is great: fast to start and fast to focus, it captures detailed images with pleasing colors. The Nexus 6 camera is good but not great - it is slower, detail on it is smudged, and it tends to err with ghostly, cold-looking images.
The Samsung Galaxy Note5 comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera with support for optical image stabilization (OIS) and an LED flash, while up front, there is a 5-megapixel selfie shooter. The Nexus 6, on the other hand, sports a 13-megapixel cam on its back, and a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter. While there may be changes and improvements in software, it is likely that this is the same 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.
In terms of camera apps, the Galaxy Note5 has a clear advantage in speed with the ‘Quick Launch’ feature, a neat option that allows you to double click the home button to start the camera app from anywhere and even from a locked device. The camera interface is a bit more sophisticated on the Galaxy Note5, which has an auto and ‘Pro’ manual mode, along with other more exotic shooting modes, while the Nexus 6 features only the auto mode with very little manual options. We like the fact that the Note5 uses separate buttons for image and video recording (so you can quickly start shooting), and its auto mode has quick, one-tap access to essential controls like HDR. In the ‘Pro’ mode, you get a full-on manual ride with access to ISO and shutter speed, which is nice. The Nexus 6 lacks such capabilities in the stock camera app.
When it comes to actual image quality, the Galaxy Note5 lives up to the hype with one of the best cameras around: it captures very detailed and sharp-looking images in all conditions. The Nexus 6 is also not a bad camera, but it lacks the consistency of the Note5 and its images tend to look a bit oversharpened. Color rendition differs on the two: the Galaxy always picks a warmer, slightly more yellowish look, that appears particularly great in sunsets (but is maybe not completely realistic), while the Nexus 6 sometimes errs badly with bluish, cold-looking images. In addition to that, closer inspection reveals that it smudges detail and overall its images look much flatter, lacking in dynamics and liveliness.
In lower light, both devices do a very good job, as we’re able to capture sharp images from hand (but we noticed that the Galaxy Note5 tends to be able to shoot with faster shutter speeds). The color issues are less pronounced here, but overall the same trend of a bit-too-cold images on the Nexus 6 images is present. When you have to use the LED flash, the Note5 proves to be the better performer: its flash covers the image more uniformly and provides more adequate lighting, while the Nexus 6 flash was insufficient for some situations, and it also creates a bit of a spotlight rather than an evenly-lit image. Plus, we have some issues with the smudgy detail on the Nexus 6.
What about selfies? The 5-megapixel front camera on the Galaxy Note5 has a wide field of view and can fit in the whole ‘familia’, which we find to be quite the important advantage, while with the Nexus 6’s selfie cam you might find it hard to fit more than a couple of people in a picture. The level of detail and overall color reproduction is also very good on the Note5, while the Nexus 6 has much less detail and selfies with it had varied issues (you can notice the underexposed image we took in the street).
Turning over to video, one finds that both the Galaxy Note5 and Nexus 6 can record in the very detailed 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels), with some limits to recording times, as the feature uses a lot of system resources and the phones get hotter while recording. Videos look fine on both with the same peculiarities when it comes to color reproduction (preference for warmer colors on the Note5, and colder-looking ones on the Nexus 6). Auto-focusing is particularly fast on the Note5, and the same can be said about stability - videos appear very stable on the Samsung phablet thanks to the combination of optical stabilization and digital video stabilization magic.
When it comes to media, we look at three main apps and their performance: the video player, gallery, and music player. Since you should be familiar with the stock Android apps for those purposes, we won't spend too much time explaining those, and you can take a look to freshen up your minds about their looks in the screenshots on the right.
When it comes to the newcomer, the Galaxy Note5, it comes with a new version of TouchWiz, but the media apps have remained largely unchanged. The gallery app, for instance, is practically identical to the one on the Galaxy S6, allowing you to switch between a timeline of all of your images, as well as a per-album view, events view, and an automatically generated folders with different categories of images (the phone shows you all your selfies, pictures with other people, and scenery images, for instance). You can also do some basic edits via the gallery apps, and you have the neat search option allowing you to search images by time, categories, events, location, and people. We like the fact that one can use the S Pen to precisely crop and manipulate images.
The video app on the Note5 handles the overwhelming variety of modern codecs with ease, and we had no issues playing back videos in even the demanding Quad HD resolution.
Then, the music app that many people will spend a lot of time in, is now flatter with more densely packed text, and it comes with an equalizer that allows you to customize the sound to your liking.