Aug 14th, 2015

Samsung has finally made it official, announcing the long-awaited Galaxy Note 5 and brand spankin’ new Galaxy S6 Edge Plus at their Unpacked 2015 event. I had the opportunity to go hands-on with each device, with enough time to formulate some early opinions. Here are my first impressions on Samsung’s most recent flagship phones.

2 Phones, 1 Beautiful Frame

Phandroid-Note-vs-EdgePlus-USB3

Their names indicate they come from separate lineage, but the S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 are much more similar than they are different- separated by one flip and a stylus.

They look beyond remarkably similar. They look nearly identical. And that’s not a bad thing. When we first saw the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge at Mobile World Congress we instantly named them the most beautiful mobile phones ever made. These two devices don’t fall far from the tree, crafted with a combination of sleek, sexy, and elegant that nears aesthetic perfection.

But sometimes looks can be deceiving…

Ergonomics

Phandroid-Samsung-Note-5-S6-Edge-Plus-Curves-Compared-Bester

When it comes to comfortably holding either of these phones in your hand, I’d vouch for both. Some may consider the screen huge, but it’s packed in a slim frame with favorable dimensions that make thumb reaches effortless. Once you’ve got the phone in your hand, it feels great. But what about the process of pulling it out of your pocket?

I’ve owned the smaller S6 Edge since the day it launched. For the first two weeks I found myself pulling it out of my pocket upside down, with the screen facing my palm. I repeatedly made this mistake because I expected the curvature of the phone to match the curvature of my hand, which is exactly why phones from the since-extinct Palm Pre to the newly praised Motorola Moto G 2015 have opted for curved rears. The S6 Edge and Edge Plus offer the exact inverse: the curved edge points away from your palm.

I eventually got used to the Edge, but alas I ended up deciding that had I the choice again, I’d buy the regular S6 and spend the extra $100 on internal storage. After my short time with the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus I’ve come to a similar conclusion: I’d personally opt for the Galaxy Note 5.

Why? Because whereas the S6 neutralized the ergonomics of the S6 Edge, the Note 5 actually makes that rear curve an advantage, literally flipping a negative into a positive by flipping the orientation of the device itself.

Phandroid-Note-5-Ergonamic

The Galaxy Note 5 feels absolutely wonderful in your hand. As for the Note 5 features vs Edge features, I’m partial to the S Pen’s capabilities, but that’ll be a personal preference that effects each person’s decision differently.

New Features

If you’re a Galaxy Note fan then you’ve likely seen our extensive articles/videos such as our list of Galaxy Note Tips & Tricks and starter guide explaining 13 Things every Galaxy Note owner should do. Many of those tips and tricks will carry over to the Galaxy Note 5, but three specific features stood out as especially awesome.

Take a note with the screen off. Simply pull out your S-Pen, jot a note on the black screen, put your S-Pen back, and it will save your doodle as a new S-Note. Simple as that.

Screen capture a long page. A new feature called “Scroll Capture” lets you easily capture a long webpage as one big image by stitching multiple screen captures together through a super simple process. You just open Air Command, select the familiar “Screen Write”, select “Scroll Capture” and you’re basically done.

Click to eject. The S- Pen stylus is now easier than ever to remove and replace. Instead of needing to dig for a corner to pull, you now simply click the bottom as you would a pen or mechanical pencil and it easily ejects. There is one potential pitfall here: outrageously irritating Note 5 users clicking away while they think/text/tinder at a table next to you in Starbucks.

Edge features. the Edge features are mostly identical to what’s currently available on the smaller Galaxy S6 Edge, with a couple bells and whistles. We’re expecting new Edge features soon, but Samsung hasn’t made any announcements. Here’s a quick look at the S6 Edge Plus at the Unpacked event.

I have to admit, though… that Edge screen is drop dead goh-jus!

Wireless Fast Charging

I absolutely love Samsung’s Fast Charging technology. Sometimes I feel the on-device calculations of charge/drainage seem a bit off, but there is no doubt that the fast chargers leave regular chargers in the dust. Convenient on a daily basis and a life saver when you’re in a bind.

Fast charging was formerly limited to wired connections, but with the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus, you can fast charge from via wireless charger, too. Samsung claims you can go from 0% to 100% in 2 hours. An impressive statistic and one we fully plan to test in our reviews.

Phandroid-Event-120-Min-Fast-Charge

Side note: the charger itself isn’t wire-free, a common misconception to which some detractors point, and a criticism that is both parts crazy and valid. Crazy because how else do you expect the charger to get power? Valid because there may be a solution right around the corner.

Companies like IKEA are already building furniture with Wireless chargers built-in and it might not be long before places like Starbucks, McDonalds, libraries, schools, and airports have an abundant amount of charging devices strategically placed. Samsung claims they want to see a world where wireless charging is as prevalent as Wi-Fi. Yes, please.

Wireless fast charging on the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus is cool, but where that lily pad may help us leap in the near future is even cooler.

The Specs

We don’t like to judge books by their cover, but in this case, if we did, we would find that what you see is what you get. The insides (Galaxy Note 5 Specs, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Specs) match their outsides: almost identical and beautifully so. Here are some key specs with my editorial input:

On the 5.7” Quad HD Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 Pixel resolution:

Hands down the best screen in the business

On the 4GB RAM (LPDDR4):

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to feature 3GB RAM and at the time it seemed like delightful overkill. These days I feel like the more RAM the better… and 4GB in a mobile device is cray-cray.

On the Octa core processor (2.1GHz Quad + 1.5GHz Quad, 64 bit, 14 nm process):

Zip a dee doo dah, Galaxy yay- this thing is faster than ever. Will that ring true with a full roster of apps/games downloaded and running in the background? We’ll see.

On the 16MP/5MP camera combo (F1.9):

Already one of the best in the biz, l can’t wait to take it for a spin. The optical image stabilization for videos could be the biggest improvement here.

On the 3,000mAh battery:

Samsung actually lowered the size of the battery (from the Note 4), shaving it from 3,200 mAh to 3,000 mAh, presumably to help fit inside the tiny shell where it resides. Power hungry phones with huge displays require a delicate balance between body dimensions and battery size and this has me a bit nervous. Thankfully, Samsung’s improvements in Fast Charging and Wireless Fast Charging could makeup for the difference.

On the Fingerprint sensor:

Once you use it, you won’t want to settle for another clumsy lock screen ever again.

On Android 5.1 (Lollipop):

Samsung has relaxed its overpursuit of customizing Android and it seems they’ve continued this latest trend with the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus. Carriers will inevitably pile on their own crapware, but Samsung continues to improve their customized version of Android and that holds true here.

On the dimensions (153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6mm, 171g):

Good things come in small packages. It’s just hard to believe the good is so big and the package is so small. This phone looks and feels great.

There is one area of the spec sheet that deserves its own discussion…

What’s not to like?

At first glance the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge both appear to be amazing. After using them briefly, our suspicions were confirmed. So what’s not to like about these devices? Loyalists to the Note series would likely point out three things:

  • No MicroSD
  • No removeable battery
  • No weather proofing

This comes as a huge disappointment to some Galaxy Note loyalists, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise: Samsung opted for form over function when leaping from the Galaxy S5 to Galaxy S6 and these two devices essentially amount to extensions of that brand. I wouldn’t personally consider it a deal breaker, but you’d be surprised how many people are taking issue with the omission.

Weather proofing, on the other hand, is something nobody expected in the first place. The Galaxy S5 was the only Samsung flagship to feature water resistance and it’s never been a feature of the Note series. This feature has largely been reserved for Samsung’s “Active” line of phones.

One more thing left out: TV watchers will be sad to see that the infrared blaster for controlling your TV is gone, too.

If any of those features are deal breakers, consider the deal broken. But if they’re not… it seems very likely that phablet seekers have found their next phone.

Which to buy: Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge Plus?

Phandroid-Samsung-Note-5-S6-Edge-Plus-Laying-On-Table

My initial conclusion is to suggest the Galaxy Note 5 over the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus for three simple reasons:

  • It’s $100 cheaper
  • It feels better
  • It does more

This is coming from someone who personally owned the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 4, and currently owns the Galaxy S6 Edge, so you can trust that I’m speaking from a position of experience.

That being said, if you’re primarily seeking the most beautiful smartphone on the market, you’ll likely want the S6 Edge instead. Needless to say, if you can stomach the price, chances are you can’t go wrong with either of these. Or maybe you’ve got a slightly question:

Shimmering Colors

Phandroid-Note-5-Colors2

There are 4 colors from which to choose, all of which can appear deceivingly plain (see above):

  • White Pearl
  • Black Sapphire
  • Gold Platinum
  • Silver Titanium

They appear simple and attractive, but when they catch light at the right angle, they truly shine. If you’re buying online and want a color that wows and pops, I’d definitely recommend Gold or Silver- they especially shimmer. The Black Sapphire appears navy blue under similar circumstances.

Phandroid-Note-5-Colors-Front-Metallic

What’s yet to see?

Samsung announced an awful lot and some of the new features require more in-depth exploration. For example this crazy Keyboard Case that at first glance makes us think Samsung hired a Blackberry double-agent executive who got drunk and authorized some of their own bad ideas.

Considering today’s precision of touch screens, the number of great keyboard apps for Android, and ever growing library of Android voice commands, we’d say this thing won’t fare well. But we’ll give it a shot.

We’ve been hearing about mobile payments for years now and how it will revolutionize the shopping experience. This has been true for some people buying a spiced pumpkin latte at Starbucks, but we’re still waiting for a game changer. Will it be the up-and-coming launch of Samsung Pay on the Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus?

phandroid-samsung-pay-bank-of-america

We can’t wait to try out SideSync, which let’s you control your phone from your computer, especially considering it now supports Apple’s Mac OS.

phandroid-samsung-sidesync

And we obviously need to see some camera samples, right?

Phandroid-Note-5-Rear

And the list goes on… but that’s why this is a first impression and not a full review, right? In the meantime, here is some eye candy to hold you over.

Conclusion

Woah, woah, woah… easy there. I offered up a lot of preliminary insight and opinions, but we’re not ready to draw any conclusions on just a couple hours of use.

We’re fully expecting to get a review unit, explore until our fingers fall off, and report back with all the nitty gritty details, opinions, tips, and insight we can possibly conjure up. In the meantime, helps us help you.

What do you want to know about these devices? Let us know in the comments or head on over to the Galaxy Note 5 Forum and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Forum and exercise your first amendment rights.