Today’s Samsung’s Unpacked event in New York City brought two new large-screen smartphones — the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+. There’s plenty to like here, along with a few questionable things that will get to below.
First, let’s hit the good stuff: The Galaxy Note 5 keeps the stunning 5.7-inch quad HD (1440p) Super AMOLED display it had before, but surrounds it with a thinner bezel and a curved back to help with one-handed use. For the first time, the Galaxy Note 5 lets you write on the screen even when it’s off by using the included stylus, and you can annotate PDFs or download an entire webpage with Scroll Capture. An improved Air Command hovers an icon for instant access to S Pen tools.
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ also trims down a bit compared with the current-gen Edge, and has the same-size 5.7-inch display as the Note 5; it’s more than half an ounce lighter, and lacks the built-in stylus. You can do a few things with the edge portion of the screen, but it’s mainly a gimmick here.
Both phones sport 2.1GHz Exynos 7420 octa-core processors — a significant bump for the Galaxy Note 5 that brings it on par with the S6 — and 4GB of RAM. Both run Android 5.1 Lollipop, contain 3,000mAh (sadly, non-removable) batteries with fast-charging and wireless charging capabilities, 16-megapixel f/1.9 rear cameras, and 5-megapixel front-facing sensors.
While I always appreciate top-notch audio, two snake-oil-like things stand out here. There’s now support for 24-bit, 192kHz audio files, even though the difference over uncompressed 16-bit and 44.1kHz is virtually inaudible for mastered music. 24-bit certainly helps when recording and mixing, but not with the final product in any real sense. And there’s a fake upscaling feature called Ultra High Quality Audio that can’t possibly work, because you can’t re-add the missing musical information to compressed music files once it’s already gone. I would tread lightly with those, and just hope that the two new phones still have high quality DACs and headphone amps (recent models like the Galaxy S6 certainly do).
You can get either phone with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, but there are no more micro SD card slots, so keep that in mind when choosing up front. The S6 Edge+ comes in black or gold, while the Note 5 comes in black or white.