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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  • digiguy - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    No that was a mistake. There is no 128GB version.
  • digiguy - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    Unfortunately not, no 128GB (the page has been removed and see the article I linked below)
  • - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I'll! Unbelievable for a flagship phone/phablet like this to be crippled with only a 3000 mAh battery. Was going to buy it but passing on it. Hate having to keep charging the phone. Yes, wireless charging, but only at home or work, not on the go and do they think I'm hauling that around?! With poor sales, hopefully they'll get the message people want and expect more, not less!
  • bertbert - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    - What do Samsung think that they are doing?
    If a person wants a HEAVY METAL, NON-BATTERY SWAPPABLE, NON-MEMORY ADDABLE BRICK, they can always go over and buy a useless IPHONE....
    My Note 3 is LIGHTER than the "new"
    My Note 3 has MUCH MORE MEMORY (160GB) than the "new"
    My Note 3 can swap to my spare batteries anytime for indefinite power-life, unlike the DEAD-BATTERY "new"....
  • theduckofdeath - Sunday, August 16, 2015 - link

    Your Note 3 has UFS storage with SSD performance... Oh wait, it doesn't. eMMC SD cards would cripple the performance of a phone like this. You wouldn't buy a high performance PC and cram a mechanical disk in it just to save money after, would you?
  • FozzyofAus - Sunday, August 16, 2015 - link

    My old 16GB Note2 ran out of storage just from apps, not a single video and precious few photos.
    My 32GB Note3 has under 1GB free again mainly from apps. The video, photos, music, VR apps etc. are all on the MicroSD card. I'm already using over 64GB of storage.

    The only time I found the storage on my Note2 to be too slow is when it was nearly full, that destroys performance.

    I have a high end SSD in my PC. When I next upgrade I may even upgrade to a PCIe flash for the OS. I also have many TBs of HDDs. I don't need all my storage to be super fast even in my PC.

    Why would I want to pay $200 extra to get an extra 96GB of super fast storage in a smartphone?
    That's Apple customer crazy.
  • theduckofdeath - Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - link

    I have a Note 4. I have ditched the SD card in it because it just drains the battery even when I'm not using the phone. I've got half a day extra battery simply by removing that card. And you know what, I have no congestion issues. Sure, I'm subscribing to Tidal to be able to stream HiFi quality music, Plex for my videos and I'm smart enough to use OneDrive to store all of my data.

    On your desktop, the performance and power usage hit literally is a non-issue, as you have an endless stream of power coming into it. You don't drag a long extension cord around with you for your mobile, do you? :D

    Why would you pay more to get the best performing storage on your phone? For the exact same reason you buy SSD's for you r PC to improve its performance or battery life. It's really not that complicated. Yes, I agree the manufacturers are too greedy for the storage size upgrade prices, but they all do that. Even Google.
  • FozzyofAus - Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - link

    Thanks for the info on battery life differences using a MicroSD. I've never checked that.

    My point is I don't want to pay 1000's to upgrade all my TBs of storage when for the majority of the content there will be no difference to the end user experience. Reading or writing a single 60Gb computer backup file doesn't require SSD throughput.

    I have around 2GB of music on my phone, not that big a deal. But the 20+Gb of VR content is a problem for smartphones with smaller capacity, and that can't practically be stored in the cloud as a single 5 minute video is 1Gb and monthly data limits in Australia on mobile are quite low, and ADSL2+ can be quite slow (Max 3.5Mbps at my Dad's place).
  • The0ne - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Here's hoping that the rumor of Samsung bring a variant of the Note 5 with microSD support is true.
  • richough3 - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    I generally like having a MicroSD card because with the small amount of available space that are on the regular phones themselves and the fact that apps are getting larger, when the main phone's space fills up, it affects overall performance of the phone. With having a MicroSD card, I can keep all my files on it, so I don't encounter those performance problems if I should fill up my MicroSD card. And on a limited data plan, cloud storage wouldn't be worth it to me. As a consumer, I like having the options, even if I never use it.

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