The Galaxy Note line has long been one of Samsung’s greatest assets in the mobile market. While other Android OEMs have made phablets before, Samsung was pretty much the first OEM to ship a high-end device in this segment. Although other Android OEMs have made phablets in the time since, Samsung continues to have a strong hold on this market.

For Samsung, unlike previous iterations of the Note family, the Galaxy Note5/S6 edge+ represents a significant change in design compared to previous generations, integrating many of the design aspects of the Galaxy S6 across the whole family. In many ways, the Galaxy Note5 resembles the Galaxy S6 in a different size. Meanwhile the Note5's companion device, the Galaxy S6 edge+, is effectively a second take on the Galaxy Note5, aiming for a design closer to a large format phone than a phablet as originially envisioned by Samsung. In this case the Galaxy S6 edge+ uses many of the design accents of the Galaxy S6 edge such as the curved display, all the while getting rid of the stylus.

Probably the easiest way to start is by looking at the basic specs. In order to make this easier, the usual spec sheet is below.

 

Galaxy Note 4

Galaxy Note5

Galaxy S6 edge+

SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
4xKrait 450 @ 2.7 GHz
Samsung LSI Exynos 7420
4xA57 @ 2.1GHz
4xA53 @ 1.5GHz
GPU Adreno 420 @ 600 MHz Mali T760MP8 @ 772MHz
RAM 3GB LPDDR3 4GB LPDDR4
NAND 32/64GB eMMC 32/64/128GB UFS 2.0
Display 5.7-inch 2560x1440 SAMOLED 5.7-inch 2560x1440 SAMOLED 5.7-inch 2560x1440 SAMOLED
Dual edge display
Network 2G / 3G / 4G
UE Category 6 LTE
2G / 3G / 4G
UE Category 6/9 LTE
Dimensions 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.3 mm
176 grams
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
171 grams
154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm
153 grams
Camera 16MP rear camera,
1.12 µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size,
F/2.2 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 3220 mAh (12.397 Wh)
Removable
3000 mAh (11.55 Wh)
Non-removable
OS Android 4.4 with TouchWiz (At launch) Android 5.1 with TouchWiz (At launch)
Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM NanoSIM

The Galaxy Note5/S6 edge+ and Galaxy S6 are definitely different in size - coming in at 5.1" versus 5.7" - but there’s otherwise a great deal of similarity this time around. The Galaxy Note5 shares a number of major components with the Galaxy S6, so the big differences between the two lines this generation will primarily be due to the S-Pen and larger size, along with an extra gigabyte of RAM. However, there are still some notable differences that are worth going over, as Samsung has been able to integrate a few months of lessons learned from the Galaxy S6 into the Galaxy Note5.

Design

The first, and easiest place to start is the design of this phone. If you’re familiar with the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy Note5/S6 edge+ is pretty much identical from a functional perspective. The front face of the phone has the same earpiece, home button, front-facing camera, and various sensors. Flanking the home button will be the two capacitive buttons, which are multitasking and back from left to right. The usual Samsung logo is on top, where the display driver for the display is. The bezel retains the same texture that it does from the Galaxy S6, which causes some interesting reflection effects, especially in the sun. The display also has noticeably thinner side bezels than what we saw on the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 4, which is visually quite impressive but in the absence of palm rejection is pretty close to the limit of minimum bezel size.

Along the side of the phone, the buttons, headphone jack, USB port, and speaker are all placed in the same places as the Galaxy S6, which should help if anyone is transitioning to the Galaxy Note5/S6 edge+ from the Galaxy S6. This means that the USB port is centered on the bottom of the phone, with the 3.5mm headset jack on the left side, and the speaker on the right. The volume buttons are also on the left side and are still as clicky and impressive as they were with the Galaxy S6, with no creep or mush and a clean break when the switch triggers. The power button is similar in feel and placed on the right side of the phone, high enough that you won’t accidentally activate the button when you’re picking up the phone.

The top of the phone has the SIM slot for both variants this time around unlike the Galaxy S6, which had the SIM slot in a different position depending upon which variant you got. Unlike the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 4, neither variant has a port for an IR LED/receiver for remote functionality. The Galaxy Note5 also adds a port for the stylus next to the speaker.

Depending upon what phone you get, the major difference can end up being the shape of the back cover. While the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S6 both have glass for their back cover, the Galaxy Note5 has a 3D curved glass back cover much like the Xiaomi Mi Note line. This really improves the in-hand feel compared to the Galaxy S6, which felt a bit blocky. The Galaxy S6 edge+ retains the same flat back cover from the Galaxy S6, but feels a bit easier to grip than the Galaxy S6 edge which had an incredibly thin metal rail to hold on to. Both phablets will be fingerprint magnets on the back cover, but due to the use of glass it’s pretty easy to wipe off fingerprints unlike glossy plastic.

Relative to the Galaxy Note 4, the changes are definitely notable. The metal frame of the Galaxy Note 4 was a relatively angular design, with flat sides and chamfered edges. This design made the phablet feel much bigger relative to something like the Note5 or S6 edge+, thanks in part to Samsung further reducing their device thickness with this latest iteration. The back cover of the Note 4 is faux-leather plastic that peels off much like the Galaxy S2's back cover, with a removable battery and microSD slot. The display has the same buttons, but the bezel had a striped design for unknown reasons. Some people might prefer the design of the Note 4, but I suspect most people are going to prefer the design of the Galaxy Note5.

Overall, in the hand I’d still prefer the Galaxy Note5 to the Galaxy S6 edge+, but pretty much either phone has acceptable industrial and material design. I still wish Samsung would work on cleaning up the front of the phone to be a bit more cohesive, but for 2015 the design of the Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ is actually quite good. Samsung has sought to distance itself from their reputation of Hyperglaze, and with this phone it’s pretty fair to say that they’ve achieved just that. Both phablets have no real ergonomic issues and are generally well-designed, although aesthetically there are some symmetry issues.

Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • neoraiden - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    Samsung lost me the second they announced they weren't releasing the note 5 in Europe. I hope they get enough of a dent in their sales from annoyed customers that they release the note 6 here after. I have a feeling that's wishful thinking though. Reply
  • Lavkesh - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    Excellent review as always Joshua never mind the brand wars in the comments. I was always an iOS user and thought Galaxy Note 5 is a good enough device to jump the ship for the terms of a contract. While I am reasonably happy with the device, I still think Software is Samsung's biggest issue.

    I also noticed an issue with the S-Pen sensitivity where it does not work at all at the bottom left and right corners of the device. This means that if I need to take a screenshot which goes right until the bottom right or left corner I cannot do it because the sensitivity simply vanishes. Also attaching a video to exactly show what the issue is. Can you check if your device also exhibits the same behaviour.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN41nE1lWGI
    Reply
  • Tech_guy - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    Samsung relied too much on Exynos 7420 this year. The Note 5 is supposed to be a huge improvement and their better phone from the S6 which is already considered kinda old in the tech world. It's all the same tech just later in the year. Yawn. The iPhone 6s technology just obliterates this phone. Good luck Samsung, you're going to need it Reply
  • mercucu1111 - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    Exynos 8890 is on ready dude Reply
  • Tech_guy - Monday, October 5, 2015 - link

    Single core and most likely graphics performance won't match A9. I read a 45% increase in CPU performance that puts it under 2000 geekbench still. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    At first I was sad to see that neither of these included a microSD slot. That would be an awful omission on devices extremely well fitted to media consumption. That would rule them out of my consideration. But the photos made me wonder, so I looked further and found the slot mentioned in the middle of the review.

    Really... I know it is AT's sworn position that microSD is useless, irrelevant and obsolete... but how could you not even list it in the spec table? Just for those of us who continue to be deluded by our daily use of it. I never cease to wonder at the time and effort spent on describing case colors, and the blindness to important functional features.
    Reply
  • Dobson123 - Saturday, October 3, 2015 - link

    The S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ und Note 5 DO NOT have a microSD slot. Reply
  • Arbie - Saturday, October 3, 2015 - link

    Then these sentences are grammatically broken (wrong tense throughout): "The back cover is faux-leather plastic that peels off much like the Galaxy S2's back cover, with a removable battery and microSD slot. The display has the same buttons, but the bezel had a striped design for unknown reasons." As written this refers to the new devices, not the old ones!

    I won't even consider a device of this screen size without microSD. A read-only implementation would be fine (satisfying Android security needs).
    Reply
  • Devo2007 - Sunday, October 4, 2015 - link

    Those sentences shouldn't even be in this review. Definitely confusing Reply
  • Dobson123 - Sunday, October 4, 2015 - link

    They're about the Note 4. Reply

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