The Galaxy S6 marked a turning point for Samsung. It was the company’s first flagship smartphone to feature its new super premium design language. Though Samsung ultimately left out a few notable features from the device, it’s hard denying that the S6 is an attractive device. The company ended up bringing over that same design language to the Galaxy Note 5, which turned out to be one of our favorite Android handsets of last year.
Now that the Galaxy S7 is official and Samsung has made some improvements, we thought it seemed fitting to pit these two handsets against one another. Without anymore delay, let’s take a quick look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 vs the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
Aside from the larger chassis of the Note 5, both of these handsets look quite similar. They both feature an aluminum frame with glass front and back panels, and they both feel extremely nice in the hand. This is thanks in part to the curved edges on the back panels of both phones, which Samsung first employed on the Note 5. We were big fans of this subtle design tweak last year, so we’re happy the change made its way to the Galaxy S line.
The buttons on the S7 and Note 5 are for the most part in the same place as well. The power button sits on the right edge, the volume keys are on the left, and the bottom side holds the 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker grill and Micro USB port. This is one similarity we wish Samsung would have changed this time around. While most other manufacturers are making the switch to USB Type-C, Samsung is lagging behind in this area for some reason. Of course, for many who aren’t ready to make the switch to a new port – and buy all the needed cables for this change – this might not be considered a downside.
And in traditional Note style, the Galaxy Note 5 also comes with an embedded stylus that can be stowed away to the right of the speaker grill.
Up front, the S7 sports a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display, while the Note 5 packs a 5.5-inch screen of the same type. Both are really bright, clear and provide punchy colors, just like we’re used to seeing on a Samsung flagship. In this case it’s not really worth trying to decide which one is necessarily “better” in quality, rather which size is right for you. If you’re using the device for lots of multimedia consumption and aren’t worried about the bulkiness of the device, you might want to choose the Note 5. Alternatively, the S7 provides a similar display experience while remaining compact enough for the majority of users out there.
Under the displays of both phones sit physical home buttons with embedded fingerprint sensors. Both home buttons look very similar to one another, but the one on the S7 is much more flush with the body of the phone, while the Note 5’s home button sticks out a bit more.
Samsung brought back two big features to the S7 that it removed from its previous flagship, and the first of those features is dust and water resistance. The Galaxy S7 is rated IP68 for dust and water resistance, meaning it can survive a small splash or tumble without being rendered useless. The Galaxy Note 5 has no dust or water resistance rating, so you’ll need to do your best keep the phablet away from any type of liquid.
The other big feature Samsung brought back this time around is expandable storage! The Galaxy S7 comes with 32GB of on-board storage. If you need more than that, luckily you can now insert a microSD card up to 200GB for more room. Now, the Galaxy Note 5 may not have room for a microSD card, but it does come in 32, 64 and 128GB storage variants (however, the largest size is a Korean exclusive).
Under the hood, the S7 will sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor if you live in the U.S., and most other variants will likely come with a Samsung Exynos 8 Octa processor. Regardless of the variant, the device will be backed by 4GB of RAM. The Galaxy Note 5 is powered by the Exynos 7420 processor and also backed by 4GB of RAM. Both devices are plenty snappy, but this part of the comparison will be much more clear to us after we spend some more time with the Galaxy S7.
Around back the Galaxy S7 sports a 12MP rear camera with an f/1.7 aperture lens. It also comes with larger 1.4µm pixels, which should allow the camera to take in much more light (approximately 25% more, according to Samsung) than the S6’s camera. The Note 5 has a 16MP shooter with f/1.9 aperture. While you may think more megapixels means a better camera, this isn’t really the case here. The larger pixel size with the S7’s camera will greatly help out image quality, both indoors and out. Both smartphones are capable of taking fine shots, but again, we’re going to wait until our full S7 review to comment on camera performance.
Lastly we have software. The Galaxy S7 is running a heavily customized build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Samsung’s Touchwiz overlay on top. The company has made a few visual tweaks to the UI this time around, but ultimately it’s the same interface we’re all familiar with. Samsung just recently released Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the Note 5, and so far it’s been pretty smooth. One of the biggest differences between the two is that you have the option to remove the application drawer on the S7, giving it a more OS-like feel. LG also removed the app drawer altogether with its G5 flagship, but this change is optional on the S7.
No matter which way you look at it, both of these smartphones have their positives and negatives. The Note 5 provides a great multitasking experience with a big display, while the S7 provides a more compact, sleek and refined all-around experience. We’re looking forward to reviewing the S7 and revisiting this comparison when we’ve spent more time with the device.
What are your thoughts? Which would you choose if given the chance? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!