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
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)
3000 mAh (11.55 Wh)
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+


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.


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.


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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  • FozzyofAus - Saturday, August 15, 2015 - link

    If your use case for a smartphone is to take high resolution videos of on site issues, the ability to pop out a MicroSD card and plug that directly into your PC for editing can make file transfer much faster (especially as they canned the USB3 port moving from the Note3 to Note4).

    If you record a lot of video, being able to swap in another battery every few hours is a BRILLIANT feature.

    It really comes down to how much utility do you get from your "SmartPhone". For enough users in this niche the MicroSD and/or removable battery have become ESSENTIAL FEATURES IN THEIR BUYING DECISION.
  • lilmoe - Saturday, August 15, 2015 - link

    Again, I wholeheartedly agree. My main camera during my honeymoon was my smartphone and 2 64GB SD cards. I made better footage that those with dedicated cameras (call me crazy, I even took my laptop with me). I'm NOT happy with Samsung's design decisions.

    That said, people like you and me are niche customers at best. Samsung is a business, they cant cater a mainstream device that sells tens of millions for niche uses. They're going to make compromises, and ditch what MOST of their current and potential customers don't care fore when buying a PREMIUM device.

    I value practicality and function over form to an extent. People like me don't buy a phone ever 6 months or a year. Most of the others like me won't even go near a $700 phone. But the customers that do buy $600-800 smartphones value brand, looks, "the latest and greatest", and a device that works. IE: they want a device that looks and feels expensive, yet sports the latest tech. They DON'T consider SD Cards and removable batteries the "latest tech" for most people. THESE are the customers Samsung, as a business, value, and I surely don't blame them. If I owned a business I'd do the same.

    You know the old saying; money talks...
  • FozzyofAus - Sunday, August 16, 2015 - link

    What I find interesting is that Samsung sells so many different models into the market.

    Given their general trend to sell as many models into as many market niches as possible, having no high end phones with MicroSD and/or a removable battery seems an odd choice to me.

    Time will tell if "people like you and me" are a significant enough niche to target.
    One positive of the Note5 is they'll now have a really good chance to find out how important these features actually are by looking at actual sales figures.
  • lilmoe - Monday, August 17, 2015 - link

    You have a valid point. But don't forget that their sales were already falling. Falling sales are harder to improve. Saying that "sales weren't as good as expected" might not be more accurate than saying "sales could have been much worse if we didn't they didn't go that route"...

    The declining sales had lots of reasons. It's a fact that Samsung's Galaxy S and Note series have been very reliable and expandable devices. Practical users weren't as inclined to upgrade. It's also a fact that the design was as attractive to lots of other users. Again, Samsung, as a business, is fixing both these issues for better or worse. Their not going to make their devices expandable so that the former type of users are more inclined to upgrade, and their fixing their design so that the second type are more likely to hop in.

    Competition in the Android space is also a huge factor. 3 years ago, Samsung didn't have that much competition. But that's changed now and it's contributing to their declining sales. Which isn't Samsung's fault.

    The funny (and sad) truth is, lots of the "reviewers" criticizing the omission of the SD card, non removable battery and the lower battery life of the GS6 and S6 Edge are all now using these device as their daily drivers. All or most of them. If these reviewers can put up with the "decreased" battery life and "lost functionality" for the looks, I'm sure most consumers would do the same.
  • lilmoe - Monday, August 17, 2015 - link

    Anandtech really needs an edit button (they can at least make it time limited)...

    First paragraph:"sales could have been worse if *they didn't go that route".
    Second paragraph: It's also a fact that their design *wasn't as attractive to many.
  • FozzyofAus - Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - link

    This sums it up nicely:

    The only reason I bought the Note4 instead of the Note3 to replace my 2 year old Note2 with a cracked screen was the VR support.

    I wonder what happens next:

    John Carmack suggests waiting until the Oculus Connect 2 Sept 23-25 for more details:
  • wintexan - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Having owned all 5 Notes and the Note Edge, I can tell have lost me. If I wanted no SD, no replaceable batt and limited 64gb memory, I would have bought an iphone long ago. Well, here I come Apple, because this is NOT what buyers of the Note want. Goodbye Samsung.
  • lilo777 - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    You are acting as if SD card and replaceable battery were the only things where Note phones outplay iPhone. How about 4x RAM, 2x screen resolution, better camera, 4K video, real NFC etc.? If these two things are really important to you, you'd be much better off by buying Android phone with iPhone specs for half the price.
  • olde94 - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    the pen god damnit! :O!
  • ibeenazz - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    samsung need to learn a lesson
    Following apple will backfire themselves. Removing SD slot and lowering battery cap over copy cat design wont bring benefit to samsung nor buyers.

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