Interface and Functionality

Over the past 3 years, Samsung has done a great deal to fix the incoherent mess that was the TouchWiz interface — an Android re-skin that had buckets of features just poured into it with no rhyme or reason to how they were to be accessed, set-up, or how they interact with the rest of the operating system in general. The company's efforts to fix the clutter are definitely present on the Galaxy Note 5, but reach their absolute peak on the Galaxy S8+.

First things first, the new interface is now simply called "Samsung Experience" — cue your favorite Jimi Hendrix song here. It is very sleek-looking, with modern wireframe icons, new gesture controls that line up more with Nougat's new functions (in-app shortcuts, swipe up for app drawer), a very well tidied up Settings menu, and a very streamlined experience overall. Sammy has a lot to be proud of here, and giving the interface such a slightly pompous name does seem justified.

The new camera app with a few small-but-nice-to-have features such as the floating shutter button, which works as a zoom slider, is exclusive to the S8 siblings, at least for now. Bixby, the voice assistant, which Samsung is convinced will one day blow us away (but currently doesn't), is also only available on the new flagships. Of course, being an edge phone, the Galaxy S8+ also has Edge panels — an overlay, which the user brings out by sliding their finger over the phone's curved display, that houses favorite app and contact shortcuts, useful widgets, and other tools, such as the GIF capture frame, which was introduced with the Note 7.

But the Note 5 isn't lagging behind in the software department. The phablet was recently updated to Android 7 Nougat and received a lot of the features of the more modern Sammy phones. The blue light filter is now here, the GIF recording feature is available from the S Pen's action menu, and the organized settings menu has also made its way to this phone. Even more advanced features, such as the resolution picker and the new power-saving modes are present on the Note 5. Its homescreen and app drawer are stuck somewhere between the old looks and the new style that the company is going for, but the smart features that we like the new interface for (such as moving multiple app shortcuts in bulk) are still present.

Still, Sammy refuses to call the UI on the old S Pen-wielding phablet "Samsung Experience". We wouldn't say this really matters, though. It's a pleasure to use and we are glad that the company has kept the Note 5 up to date in terms of software (one has to wonder if it would've done so if the Note 7 didn't suffer an untimely death).

Basically, there are three major things you will be missing out on if you go with the Note 5 — the Always On screen, the Bixby assistant, and the new homescreen style with the wireframe icons and swipe-up app drawer. The last point is a bit canceled out by the fact that the Samsung Theme Store exists. What the Note 5 has going for it is the S Pen and the software suite surrounding it — avid note-takers and sketch-makers will certainly appreciate it.

Processor and Memory

A new smartphone is always going to overshadow an 18-month-old model when it comes to hardware. That's the way the cookie crumbles, but does it mean that the Note 5 is obsolete? Let's take a look.

The new Galaxy S8+ comes in two flavors, depending on which region you buy it from — either a Snapdragon 835 (US version) or Exynos 8895 (International). The former is a 2.45 GHz, octa-core demon of a SoC, built on a 10 nm process. In other words, it's capable of balancing high performance with lower energy consumption than the last generation of chips, which were built on the 14 nm process. The Exynos 8895 is pretty much the same (on paper), though, it's clocked just slightly higher, maxing out at 2.5 GHz.

The Galaxy Note 5 doesn't do the whole split personality thing — back in 2015, due to a certain Snapdragon 810 fiasco, Samsung was forced to only use its homegrown Exynos 7420 for its top-tier devices. It's an octa-core SoC, clocked at 2.1 GHz, and built on the 14 nm process.

Both phones have a generous 4 GB of RAM and both come with 64 GB of built-in storage, but the Note 5 does not have a microSD card slot for memory expansion — something that the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have.

So, how is the performance? Of course, the Galaxy S8+ will outdo the Note 5 in any performance benchmark under the sun — that should be no surprise. But when it comes to actual real-world use, both devices are on point. Yes, the Galaxy S8+ does seem snappier at times and it absolutely has that "future-proof" badge that usually comes with bleeding edge hardware. But, seeing what's out right now, and how well the Note 5 handles it, we have a hard time believing that the old phablet wouldn't be doing a stellar job at graphic-heavy tasks for the foreseeable future as well.

Or, in short, the Galaxy S8+ is what the hardware junkies out there will want to get, sure, but the Note 5's real world performance is nothing to wince at.

AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 173945
Samsung Galaxy Note5 67207
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 3223
Samsung Galaxy Note5 2532
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 6881
Samsung Galaxy Note5 5476
JetStream Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 60.931
Samsung Galaxy Note5 50.612
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 60
Samsung Galaxy Note5 37
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 41
Samsung Galaxy Note5 15
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 3256
Samsung Galaxy Note5 1765

Internet and Connectivity

As mentioned, the Galaxy S8+ wins in terms of Internet browsing due to the visual experience that it provides with its elongated display. However, when it comes to speed and efficiency, both phones are perfectly good Internet-browsing machines. They both support LTE and dual-band Wi-Fi over 802.11 a, b, g, n, and ac, and both have hardware that's powerful enough to push you through even the heaviest of webpages.

A plus for the Note 5 here is its S Pen and the way it can mimic a mouse cursor as you hover over the screen with it. It's certainly useful for those sites that don't play well with mobile and is definitely an experience enhancer.

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