Last year Apple had introduced the iPhone 6 Plus and their very first phablet was selling like hotcake. Conversely, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was not as popular among consumers, even though it was well-received among tech journalists. Given that Samsung’s Note series is one which started the phablet category, the Korean giant certainly won’t be too happy about it. So this year they decided to launch their flagship phablets before the new iPhone is announced.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
There are a lot of changes made on the Note 5 if you are comparing it with its predecessor. The faux leather back is replaced by the glossy glass back while the metal frame is remained. Whether this is an improvement will be highly dependent on your taste, but I guess not many people will argue that the new Note 5 isn’t a looker. The curved glass back reminded me of Xiaomi’s Mi Note but the metal frame is carried over from the S6.
The Note 5 still has the 5.7” Super AMOLED Quad HD display with pixel density of 518 ppi, just like the Note 4. While the display size is kept the same, the physical footprint has been cut down in every dimension. Combining that with the curved back which fits nicely into your hands, I think more people will find the new phone easier to handle.
However, the new design did come with some sacrifices. First of all, the battery is smaller, 3,000mAh as opposed to Note 4’s 3220mAh, and it is non-removable. Micro SD card is no longer supported too. These changes will not be welcomed by most of the people and I do think that you should consider about these compromises before you pull the trigger. Since the storage is not expandable, you have to choose between the 32 GB or 64GB variant. Strangely the 128GB option is absent from Samsung’s announcement.
Both phones are powered by Samsung’s home brew Exynos 7420 octa-core processor which is also embedded in S6 and S6 Edge. There are 4 Cortex A57 cores clocked at 2.1GHz while the other 4 Cortex A53 cores are running at 1.5GHz. Combined that with 4GB of RAM, great performance is expected and I doubt that anyone will be disappointed. The performance will be helped by a toned-down version of TouchWiz, the Samsung’s custom interface running on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop.
A Note isn’t a Note without the marketing leadingsmart stylus. S Pen is still present on the Note 5 and this time around you don’t have to use your fingernails to pull it out from its place. Samsung implements a spring-loaded mechanism and you just have to press on the tip of the S Pen to eject it. Samsung also granted the S Pen new tricks. You can just jot down your notes with the S Pen without unlocking your phone. Gone are the days where you have to stop people so that you can unlock your phone and search for the note app before scribbling down important points. You also can use the S Pen to sign PDF documents and the Air Command will be one tap away when the S Pen is out of its holster.
The camera is basically the same shooter found on the S6 and S6 Edge. Given that the 16MP camera with f/1.9 aperture excels in image quality, I don’t think Samsung is doing a mistake by including it in the new Note. Other changes include faster wireless charging, which is absent on the Note 4, category 9 LTE connection speed and a touch-based fingerprint sensor instead of the older swipe-based sensor.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge +
There was another phablet, namely the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge + announced along with the Note 5 too. As the name suggest, it is the “plus” version of the S6 Edge. It shares most of the internal hardware with the Note 5, but they are perfectly distinguishable if you look at their form factors.
While the Note 5 has a curved back, the S6 Edge + has a curved front. Like the smaller S6 Edge, the S6 Edge + has a display with curved edges on the left and the right-hand sides, which grant them the name “Edge”. The display size is 5.7” and the resolution is 2560×1440 too, like the Note 5. While both of the phones shares a lot of the same specifications, the S6 Edge + does not have the S Pen like the Note 5.
Samsung did not forget to add some features on the Edge Screen. On top of the People Edge where you have fast access to your favourite contacts, Samsung added the App Edge for you to reach your favourite apps faster. However, since you can place your apps on the home screen, I am not convinced by this new addition. It seems that Samsung just want to add something to justify the presence of the Edge screen and I think they fail miserably.
If you have been following Samsung’s phablets, you will notice that there is no sequel to last year’s Galaxy Note Edge. The display on the Note Edge only curved to its right. Although the curved portion of the screen is larger, it also provide next to nothing in terms of practical functionality. Sales weren’t great and it wasn’t a surprise to me that there will be no successor to that experimental phone. If you are holding your breath for the sequel, the S6 Edge + is the closest thing you can get.
S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ or Note 5 ?
These four phones are the best phone you can get from Samsung in 2015 and they share a lot of things in common. Their chipset, camera, display resolution, fingerprint sensor and many more are exactly the same. So you can see it this way: S6 Edge is the standard S6 with dual curved edges on its display. The S6 Edge + is the larger S6 Edge with additional 1GB of RAM. Flipping the S6 Edge + over, place the flat screen on the other side and add in the S Pen will give you the Note 5. The differences lay in smaller things like wireless charging speed and connectivity options. Since they are not so different, your choice is to choose the form factor you like.
S6 Edge + or Note 5?
If you are searching for the best phablet of 2015, these two phones must come under your consideration and decide between them couldn’t be easier. You just have to choose between S Pen or the curved edges as the rest of the specification is identical. While the Edge Screen is really special (I am still impressed every time I see the S6 Edge), there will be a time when the novelty of the dual-curved screen will wear off. In my opinion, the Edge screen is an addition to aesthetics value rather than any practical uses.
The S Pen, on the other hand, will be useful from day one until the day you give up on the phone. S Pen will offer a more efficient way for you to jot down notes, to create snapshots and to select multiple things. Moreover, it is estimated that the S6 Edge + will be more expensive than the Note 5. Therefore, the Note 5 will be my recommendation any day.
I think Samsung has done fine the new phones. The Note 5 is still the phablet to beat in the market. The refined design, the better camera and faster processor are merely icing on the cake for me. The software to make full use of the big screen and the useful S Pen are what define the Note series and Samsung is leading its competitors by a large margin in these sections.
While I think that the Note 5 is a fine step forward, albeit a very cautious one, I cannot disagree with people feeling the opposite, pretty much due to the features that didn’t make into the final cut. Removable battery, micro SD card expansion and infrared blaster are features found on the previous Notes and Samsung has dropped them in the loud noise of disagreement from the fans and the tech media. While I still can live without removable battery and infrared blaster, I think that the exclusion of micro SD card support is Samsung’s strategy to push consumers to purchase phones with larger storage since the profit margin is larger that way. Even though Samsung is not the only suspected culprit in the market, I have to say I am unhappy to see another big manufacturer following that path.
Nevertheless, I still opine that these two phablets are two of the best, even though there is not much advancement compared to its predecessors. It has been years but no other manufacturers seem to be interested in giving Samsung a good fight in multitasking and the stylus they offer. There are a lot of good phablets with a lower price like the OnePlus 2 and ASUS ZenFone 2 which is perfectly fine for the price you are paying. However, if you want the best phablet, Samsung seems to be the way to go again even though the advancement has gone stagnant.