Today, Samsung is announcing the next generation of their Galaxy-brand phablets, the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 edge+. Samsung’s phablets have been one of their greatest smartphone success stories, finding traction in a market when many thought there wouldn’t be a place for such a large phone. And while you will never see some competitors directly admit to it, products like the Note series have legitimized the phablet form factor and required that the competition catch up as well, making the phablet form factor as much of a home court for Samsung as there can be.

Starting with their 2014 models, Samsung introduced two different phablets, the Galaxy Note 4 and the simply titled Galaxy Note Edge. This year Samsung is retaining the dual phablet approach, however in the case of the Edge product Samsung has shifted gears on what they want to do. For 2015 Samsung seems to be going after a new audience in the form of the Galaxy S6 edge+, which is a more distinct derivative of the Note 5 platform with some greater feature changes than just a curved screen. To try and explain what I mean, I’ve included the specs below.

 

Galaxy S6 edge+

Galaxy Note 5

SoC Samsung LSI Exynos 7420
4xA57 @ 2.1GHz
4xA53 @ 1.5GHz
Samsung LSI Exynos 7420
4xA57 @ 2.1GHz
4xA53 @ 1.5GHz
GPU Mali T760MP8 @ 772MHz Mali T760MP8 @ 772MHz
RAM 4GB LPDDR4 4GB LPDDR4
NAND 32/64GB UFS 2.0 32/64/128GB UFS 2.0
Display 5.7-inch 2560x1440 SAMOLED
Dual edge display
5.7-inch 2560x1440 SAMOLED
Network 2G / 3G / 4G
UE Category 6/9 LTE
2G / 3G / 4G
UE Category 6/9 LTE
Dimensions 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm
153 grams
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
171 grams
Camera 16MP rear camera,
1.12 µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size,
F/1.9. OIS

5MP F/1.9 FFC
16MP rear camera,
1.12µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size
F/1.9, OIS

5MP F/1.9 FFC
Battery 3000 mAh (11.55 Wh)
non-removable
3000 mAh (11.55 Wh)
non-removable
OS Android 5.1 with TouchWiz (At launch) Android 5.1 with TouchWiz (At launch)
Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
SIM Size NanoSIM NanoSIM

As one can see, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ share a lot in common. They have the same SoC, same amount of DRAM, almost identical displays, the same cameras, fingerprint scanners, and the same battery. Ultimately what differs between the two devices is not the underlying hardware, but the functionality and form factor of the devices.

There are really two important differences between the two, namely the removal of the S-Pen and addition of the curved display to the Galaxy S6 edge+. The result is that while the Galaxy Note 5 is a traditional Note phablet, the Galaxy S6 edge+ is closer to a very large Galaxy S6 edge, and this is why these two closely related devices are placed in very different product lines. In some ways, I suspect that this will be a litmus test for the S-Pen functionality in general, as sales may prove Note functionality has a relatively small effect on the desirability of a phablet.


Galaxy Note 5


Galaxy S6 edge+

Design

Moving past the distinction between the two models, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ share very similar industrial and material design. The bezel surrounding the display and the back cover both continue to use the highly reflective patterning that we first saw with the Galaxy S6, and in the case of the Galaxy Note 5 the bezel surrounding the display has become even thinner than before. Like the Galaxy S6 edge, the plus variant has bezels that are effectively equivalent to the Galaxy Note 5 as the angle reduces the effective size of the technically larger bezel.

With the Galaxy S6, there was a noticeable distinction between the normal version and the edge variant when it came to in-hand feel as the standard version was significantly thicker on the left and right sides of the phone. With the Galaxy Note 5, this difference is lessened, but the difference in in-hand comfort definitely remains. The big driver for this is the use of 3D glass on the back cover of the Galaxy Note 5, which allows for a more ergonomic design in the hand. I can’t help but compare this to the first phablet that I’ve seen with a 3D glass back cover, namely the Xiaomi Mi Note line, which feels remarkably similar. At any rate, the Note 5 seems to remain more ergonomic than the edge variant, which has a flat back but a curved display.

S-Pen

One of the major updates changes to the Galaxy Note 5 is improvements on the S-Pen, which has a number of new changes to the design and software functionality. On the hardware side, the pen itself now has a changed mechanism that has a push button top that allows the pen to be completely flush inside the phone when not in use, but easily ejected by pushing on the top of the pen to make it protrude. The digitizer also has dramatically reduced latency. In my experience, this helps a lot with making writing more natural on the Note 5 as I don’t hesitate as much while waiting for the input to catch up.

On the software side, Samsung has added a host of notable additions to extend the functionality of the S-Pen, namely PDF annotation, an Air command floating button, customizable shortcuts, and scroll capture. PDF annotation sounds exactly like what you might expect, which is the ability to write directly on a PDF and save the results. This has obvious utility in cases like signing documents, as the user experience involved in digitally signing a document is horrific and usually goes something like printing out a PDF, signing the PDF, and scanning the signed document. In the case of the Note 5, signing a document is pretty much as easy as opening the PDF with the right application, writing a signature with the S-Pen, and saving the changes.

Meanwhile the Air command floating button and customizable shortcuts are somewhat more mundane. The floating button just allows for one-tap access to what was previously hidden behind the button press of the pen, and customizable shortcuts in the Air command menu is useful but not exactly life-changing.

Scroll capture is also arguably a “minor” feature, but I would argue that its value is significant when it comes to improving the user experience of the phone. In short, this screenshot mode makes it possible to screenshot a long list in an entire screenshot, so something like Google Maps directions can be taken as a single scrollable screenshot rather than 2-20 screenshots that might have overlapping information and potentially missing information from the ListView. However, as far as I can tell this capture mode is strangely hidden behind S-Pen functionality when it really should be integrated into the existing screenshot capture gestures that programmatically determines whether to present this scroll capture mode.

Camera

Although the camera configuration is unchanged from the Galaxy S6 with an IMX240 or S5K2P2 camera sensor, f/1.9 optics and a 5MP FFC, there are some new and interesting features present in the camera application. One notable additional is improved pro mode, with extended ISO range down to 50 ISO and the addition of a shutter speed toggle for long exposures. However, manual white balance remains unchanged as far as I can tell with only a few presets rather than fine-grained color temperature adjustments. I was unable to get a RAW sample from the device, but it will be interesting to see if Samsung has properly implemented sensor and lens corrections into the RAW files.

Software, Samsung Pay, and Accessories
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  • The0ne - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Hate to say it but you're just wrong on so many fronts. First and foremost people have the want/need for things that they may or may not use. This goes for everything. You do this, I do this, especially with tech. Now, specifically with storage I sure as hell want more space than I would want just in case I do need them. Sure I may not use them all the time but they are there and available when I need them. This is the key point. I care more about spending the hundreds of hours to manage and organize my music, movies, photos and so on, a ritual I do every single freaking year.

    In a perfect world where you are as organized as you imply then yes maybe that will work. Implying that people don't use their phones to watch videos and other stuff is ludicrous. The market is huge. I like having a SD slot to be able to carry more. It doesn't hurt that I don't use it all but it sure as hell does when I need the space and I have none. Why do you think PC enthusiasts buffer on their purchases? Why are we all on Anandtech?

    And yes don't dictate to others what you think they should have or be doing. Keep it your opinion and don't make it sound as though those of us that do are nothing but lazy, messy aholes who don't know what the hell they're doing. I had an IT guy once brag about his IT job and his responsibilities in a meeting. To put this person in their place I answered him by saying I'm an Engineer, design engineer; I can design and program what you think you know. IT guys, most think they know it all. Bunch of idiot kids is what I think personally.

    The problem with you line of thinking, and I really have no beef with it other than most people aren't so organize, is that you believe you are what you state. As much as there is no God I say 99.9999% say that you're no different from the average person. Humans have the urges, the wants, the needs. Yours may not be storage but when you lust after something and want a little bit more than you're part of it. There is no shame to this, it's human nature to want things, hence driving innovation as well. You may want to consider Australia since innovation is almost dead there. They like it organized and neat.
    Reply
  • tenoutoften - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    OK fella, whatever you say. I'm voicing an opinion, it just happens to not be the same as yours - that's what happens in the real world, not everyone agrees with each other - I bet you make a great engineer, listening to no-one else's opinions other than your own. Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    You are voicing your opinion that you find no need for the SD card slot and as such nobody else should.

    My most recent phone didn't have an SD slot, I routinely fill its internal storage with pics and videos of my kids and family that I would much rather not have to wipe every month or two. My baby girl adores looking at videos of family and friends and to have to wipe it so often is incredibly frustrating.

    Filling it with video and images also means that I cannot store much music at all on it so if I go for a jog or to the gym I often have to stick to just a couple of albums worth of music or change it up all the time.

    It is a major inconvenience to not have it. Some users may not want it, they are free to get a phone without one, those that do want an SD slot do want one. How can you argue against that?

    My wife has a fairly low to mid range phone that is cheap as chips, she then puts an SD card that is reusable in her next phone and all of a sudden she also can take lots of photos and videos. She has more storage in her phone than mine and it cost her about half of what mine does.

    My next phone will have SD support, it is that simple.

    Some people want it, you can voice your opinion that you do not need it but when you live in an area where relying on your cellphone signal for even phone calls is hard enough using the cloud is just not something that is even remotely an option.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Sunday, August 16, 2015 - link

    Lol. I have no issue with you voicing your opinion but to tell everyone else that it is unnecessary because you seem to think you don't need it is ridiculous and arrogant. It is fine if you like it that way but don't assume others do. And then you got upset and tell me that I don't listen to others? Where did you even get that interpretation from. My argument is as general as it can be...we're humans, we have wants and needs. How this translate to I don't give a fck about anyone else is beyond me. You have a serious problem. Good day. Reply
  • sonny73n - Saturday, August 15, 2015 - link

    Good job correcting that jerk. Two thumbs up!
    However, I don't think he can realize how narrow-minded he is.
    Reply
  • Devo2007 - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Having my entire music collection with me allows me the freedom to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want. I don't always know what I want to listen to before I head out.

    Just because you don't feel the need to do this does not mean it's pointless to everyone!
    Reply
  • tenoutoften - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Taking the entire contents of my fridge with me to work gives me the freedom to make what I want for lunch because I don't always know what I want to eat midday before I leave.

    I'm not saying it's pointless, it's just an expensive way of doing it and in my opinion there are other, better options.
    Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    I didn't realise Devo2007 was having to lug around a huge suitcase full of LPs to listen to his music collection. Oh that's right, we are in 2015 and we can have the convenience of carrying the media we want so we can listen to what we want without having to rely on potentially crappy signal.

    Stop assuming your use case is the only one that matters. Local storage is far cheaper and much more convenient than cloud storage, if you can have there is no reason not to have it.
    Reply
  • tenoutoften - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    I wasn't assuming my case was the only one that matters, you need to learn how to read instead of attempting to sound smart, which you clearly aren't - hop back on your horse white knight and jump on another band wagon somewhere else. Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    I read the countless comments on every phone review where lots of people are saying they regularly make full use of the sd card support in their phones.

    You yourself said in your opinion 90% of people could be using alternatives so even in your first world experience there is 10% that could make use of sd card support. Step outside the city and that increases. Get into a town like mine where you barely get cell phone signal and the cloud is not an option in the majority of places you go.

    Start adding ask this III and there are a lot of people that could make use of SD support. Add in even more that have a basic phone and the cheapest contact going and the case for SD support gets even stronger.

    There are countless use cases for SD card support. I am not white knighting for anything, your opinion that SD card support is pointless, outdated or whatever your argument is is just wrong, lots of people want it for a very good reason.
    Reply

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