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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  • olde94 - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I do know this was about the two "phablets" from samsung, but i just keep wondering, if the "sub 5" market" is dead? i have owned all from 3.2" to 4.2" to 4.7" and now (1+1) 5.5"... but know i just want to crawl back, but i can't find any flagships below 5" (except iPhone 6, and i find 4.7 to be my upper screen limit)...
    When will i ever see a phone i can use on my back in my bed? :( Is this market just all dead for flagships? :( I know you can get "mini's" but wow are they crap :(
    I only ask... WHEN! :(
  • kaisersoser - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    As a previous owner of the S2, S3, S4, Note 3, Note 4 and Note Edge, all I can say to Samsung is to give them a royal finger for taking away the 2 main features that made me choose them over an IPhone. I see your FU Samsung, and I raise you with a mighty GFY.

    Moving forward, I will be looking at what LG, Nexus, HTC has to offer. Hell, I might even go for a Windows phone next.

  • Diver - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    God! All my nightmares since the S6 came out have come true!

    How did Samsung forget virtually everything that made the Note series unique?!

    Oh sure, it still has the S Pen... BIG FREAKING DEAL!!!!

    It's got "power" but virtually NO storage!

    It's "powerful" but no way to change the battery so you're screwed if it goes dead and you're not near a plug!

    Samsung took away every feature except the S Pen that made it worth NOT having a stupid iPhone!

    I bought the Note more for the changeable battery and the expandable storage than I did for the S Pen!!!!

    How in Gods name could Samsung not realize that about the people who bought the Note??!!

    If I would've wanted an "iPhone wannabe"..... I would have bought THE REAL THINK TO START WITH!!!!!

    They didn't even upgrade the Note 5 from the S6!

    The same processor, memory, screen size, storage, resolution, camera as the S6 plus!

    If I had wanted an S6 an wannabe, just without the S Pen, I WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A FREAKING S6!!!!!

    AND... they top it off with a SMALLER BATTERY?!?!?!

    What in the HECK is Samsung smoking, drinking, or shooting up?!?!

    So... Now I have three choices...

    1) stick with my Note 3, which has 32gb PLUS a 128gb card in it

    2) go with the Note 4, and pray Samsung gets their collective heads out of their collective rear end and comes out with another REAL Note again

    3) look for the best alternative to Samsung that still offer expandable storage and a changeable battery.
  • FozzyofAus - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I vote for Option 2. I have the Note4 and it's an excellent SmartPhone. The screen colour and resolution on the 5.7" OLED display is great, fast processor, and pen is super handy for taking quick notes.

    Have a play with the Gear VR headset as well, everyone who's tried mine has said it's better than they expected. I would sell the Note5 or Note5 Edge immediately on eBay without opening the box if someone gave me one.
  • FozzyofAus - Saturday, August 15, 2015 - link

    Xiaomi may have something for you next year with their Note 2 Prime or whatever it's successor is:
  • sonny73n - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    It always intrigues me that somehow they can make the phone as big as 6.6 inches but can't add a couple of millimeters in thickness so camera doesn't protrude and give the device much more battery life. What's going thru these retarded mind? (Yea I'm looking at you, Samsung engineers).

    Why am I so against protruding camera? Even a kid knows that pressure becomes greater as the area of contact gets smaller. Picture it every time you put down your phone face up on a hard surface like a counter top, how much strain that certain part of the phone get? Let alone protruding camera can cause wobbling when use on flat surfaces like tables. Try Bejeweled or calculator with one of these phones on a table and you'll see.

    OK now you maybe telling me to get a case. Really? What's the point of designing a thin phone? But wait, 10 mm isn't thin? It has to be 7 mm to be called thin right?

    Until they fix this retarded design flaw and even tho I'm in need of a phone now, I won't be buying any device with protruding camera or has less than a day of battery usage.
  • R. Hunt - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    Pretty sure the engineers were not the ones driving those decisions.
  • y2kbugger - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    the Note 5 goes 32/64/128GB

    You fricking scared me.....
  • FozzyofAus - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I currently have the 32GB Note4 with a 128Gb MicroSD.
    The 128Gb would be the minimum size I'd consider, but I won't be buying a Note5 anyway mostly due to the resolution not increasing, but the loss of removable battery and MicroSD card seals the decision not to buy. Hoping the sales are dismal to encourage a return to the Note4 form factor with an impressively large battery.
  • PixyMisa - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Thanks. 128GB is enough for me not to care about the missing SD card.

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