Should you upgrade? Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. Galaxy Note 5 vs. Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Sadly, the gorgeous Galaxy Note 7 has been the focus of a massive recall. Now, replacement units have been catching fire and that’s forced Samsung to temporarily halt production. Samsung officially declared an end to the Note 7 in early October.

“For the benefit of consumers’ safety, we stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to stop production,” Samsung told Digital Trends in a statement.

If you have a Galaxy Note 7, please return it immediately to the place where you purchased it. You are entitled to a full refund or an exchange for a replacement device of equal value, as per the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall. Please see our full guide on how to return your Note 7 here. The guide also includes recommendations of which device to buy instead.

Below is our original comparison between the S6 Edge Plus, Note 5, and Note 7.

Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Thumber

Galaxy Note 5

Note 5 Thumber

Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 THumber

Size 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm (6.1 x 2.98 x 0.27 in) 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm (6.03 x 3.00 x 0.30 in) 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm (6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 in)
Weight 153 g (5.40 oz) 171 g (6.03 oz)  169 g (5.96 oz)
Screen Dual-edge, 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED Dual-edge, 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,560 × 1,440 pixels 2,560 × 1,440 pixels 2,560 × 1,440 pixels
OS Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, upgradeable to 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, upgradeable to 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Storage 32GB, 64GB 32GB, 64GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot No No Yes, up to 256GB
NFC support Yes Yes Yes
Processor Exynos 7 Octa 7420 Exynos 7 Octa 7420 Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
RAM 4GB 4GB 4GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, GSM, 4G LTE, HSPA Wi-Fi, GSM, LTE, HSPA Wi-Fi, GSM, 4G LTE, HSPA
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 16MP Front 5MP, Rear 16MP Front 5MP, Rear 12MP
Video 2160p 4K UHD 2160p 4K UHD 2,160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Yes
Iris scanner No No Yes
Water resistant No No Yes
Battery Non-removable Li-Po 3,000mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 3,000mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 3,500mAh battery
Charger MicroUSB MicroUSB USB Type-C
Quick charging Yes Yes Yes
Wireless charging Yes, Qi and PMA Yes, Qi and PMA Yes, Qi and PMA
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, gold, silver, white, pink Black, gold, silver, white Black, white, gold, silver
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
DT review 3 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Specs

It’s a little odd comparing old tech to what’s a little more current — there’s no doubt the Galaxy Note 7 will beat out its predecessor and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 820, which placed above any other chips when it was first released. Samsung even has a newer Exynos 8890 chip that will be powering the international variant of the Galaxy Note 7, compared to the default chip found in the other two smartphones. That’s not to say that the 7420 Exynos chip is poor — it’s still a high-performing chip, but both the 8890 and 820 are a step above it.

All three devices have 4GB of RAM, which should be plenty enough for multi-tasking. They all also have the same 2,560 x 1440p Super AMOLED Quad HD 5.7-inch screen and a fingerprint sensor.  Hardware-wise, the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus is the lightest, but the Note 7 comes in second. In terms of internal storage, the Note 7 wins thanks to its support for a MicroSD card. The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 have 32GB and 64GB options — the Note 7 only has one 64GB option, but the added slot lets you bump that number up to 320GB if you get a 256GB MicroSD card.

But of course, the most chalked up feature of the Note 7 is its iris scanner — it lets you unlock your phone just with your eyes. In our initial tests, it was fast, though it did have trouble unlocking the device in certain lighting conditions. You can also use it to unlock apps and folders, and while it’s a little more than a gimmick — the S6 Edge Plus and Note 5 don’t have one.

The battery for the Note 7 also has gotten a 500mAh boost, and the addition of USB Type-C is certainly a plus thanks to its fast-charging capabilities. All three devices support wireless charging and quick charging.

Even the S Pen is better all around on the Note 7, compared to the Note 5. Spec-wise, the stylus has a smaller tip and improved pressure — that allows writing with it to feel a little more natural. The S6 Edge Plus doesn’t come with a stylus.

Overall in terms of internals and the S Pen, it’s clear that the Galaxy Note 7 is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Design, display, and durability

We all know design is purely subjective, but what’s not subjective is that all three of these devices look incredibly similar. Samsung hasn’t changed the design theme much — save for the fact that the Note 7 has the same dual-edge display as the S6 Edge and S7 Edge. In that regard, the Note 5 is the odd one out as it still retains the normal flat display. The Galaxy Note 7 offers the most comfort with the dual-edge panel thanks to new improvements, and it’s the most refined iteration of the Edge devices to date. It’s also much more comfortable than the S6 Edge Plus, which dug into your palms. If you’re thinking about a non-edge display device, there’s always the Galaxy S7 variant if you want something more contemporary and not the year-old Note 5.

The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, Note 5, and Note 7 all have the same resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, as well as the same pixel density at 518 pixels-per-inch. They also carry the same Super AMOLED screen size at 5.7-inches — Samsung has some of the best OLED panels in the market, and you won’t go wrong with any of the displays on these three smartphones.

But what allows the Note 7 to take the cake is its durability. It’s IP68-rated, meaning it’s dust-and water-resistant — you can hold it under a meter of water up to 30 minutes. You can’t do that with either the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus or the Note 5. The Note 7 may be wrapped in glass, but it’s also one of the first smartphones to come shipped with Gorilla Glass 5 — its glass is tougher and more scratch-resistant than ever before. The latter devices are stuck on Gorilla Glass 4.

The Note 7’s design allows it to be held more comfortably than the S6 Edge Plus, and it certainly beats its predecessors through durability thanks to an IP68 rating and Gorilla Glass 5.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Camera

You may think the Note 7 suffers in camera quality because it has a 12-megapixel rear camera instead of the 16-megapixel camera on the S6 Edge Plus and the Note 5, but you’d be wrong. Samsung increased the pixel size to allow the Note 7 to capture more light for low-light settings. So yes, the cameras are indeed better on the Note 7 than the other two devices.

You won’t find much of a difference with the front camera, though, as all three have one that’s packed with 5-megapixels.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Software

You would think this category would see a draw, but no — the Galaxy Note 7 reigns here as well. While the Note 7 is layered with Samsung’s TouchWiz like the other two devices, the company has significantly improved the Android skin’s aesthetic and simplicity. The Note 7 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but you can upgrade the other two to the same version. Where the Note 7 beats out the competition again is that it will be the first of the three to receive Google’s upcoming Android version — 7.0 Nougat.

The Note 7 also has a few new S Pen features, such as the ability to create GIFs, and also Magnify. You can also write a note on the always-on display, when the smartphone is in standby mode.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Pricing and availability

Of course, pricing and availability play an important factor in your decision. Being a new smartphone, it’s obvious the Note 7 will be priced higher than its predecessors — though you can’t get it anymore because of its recall. At launch, the Galaxy Note 7 started at $850 for the only 64GB variant. Unfortunately, none of the phones are available through any of the major carriers right now.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Conclusion

Of the three devices, the Galaxy Note 7 is hands down the best device — but none of the three are available at any major carrier. We don’t recommend trying to find a Galaxy Note 7, and you really can’t go wrong with either of the other two devices. They feature almost identical specs, and the real deciding factor is whether or note you want the edge display or the larger display.

Product Review

Samsung’s vibrant Galaxy A9 hits the mark with quad camera, misses on the price

Samsung’s new 2018 Galaxy S9 smartphone is a contender in the midrange smartphone world, due to a very special quad-cam setup on the back. It’s made for Instagram fans who want Galaxy S-style features and design, without the big price…
Mobile

Samsung CEO says its foldable phone will double as a tablet

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years now and a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

How many? The Samsung Galaxy A9 has 4 camera lenses on the back

Samsung's new Galaxy A9 phone, fresh for 2018, has four camera lenses on the back. It's no gimmick either, as each performs a unique function, making the phone a versatile camera to have in your pocket.
Mobile

Razer Phone 2 vs. Galaxy Note 9: They’re closer than you think

While the Razer Phone wasn't a bad phone, it failed to set the market on fire. Razer's back though, with the much improved Razer Phone 2. But can it beat one of the big boys -- the Galaxy Note 9? We found out.
Mobile

Montblanc’s $995 Summit 2 watch stays on your wrist for longer between charges

Montblanc has taken the wraps off of the new Montblanc Summit 2 -- the first watch to feature the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. The watch features a premium design and Google's Wear OS.
Mobile

Preapproval for iPhone Upgrade Program now available for iPhone XR

Apple took the wraps off of its new set of iPhones, including the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the new iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is being offered as the "affordable" iPhone, and it's a little different than the more expensive models.
Product Review

The Huawei Watch GT’s battery life gets a tick, but the software may not tock

Huawei’s track record with smartwatches is strong, having releases two models and several spin-offs to general acclaim. This is the Watch GT, and it moves away from Google’s Wear OS to focus on fitness, yet stays ahead of the…
Cars

Double your charging speed with Nomad’s Tesla Model 3 wireless charger

Nomad's wireless charger for the Tesla Model 3 fits the EV's charging dock exactly. If you plug both of the Nomad's into the Model 3's two front USB ports you can charge two smartphones quickly or one phone twice as fast.
Mobile

Google Pixel 3 vs. Apple iPhone XS: Does Google’s A.I. take down Apple?

The Google Pixel 3 is here, boasting top-tier specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, and some of the world's best artificial intelligence features on a phone. But can it take out the Apple iPhone XS?
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Mobile

Which Verizon plan is best for you? We check out family, individual, and prepaid

Verizon offers lots of plans for individuals, your family, and folks who want prepaid service. Here is everything you need to know about Verizon's plans, from data packages and smartphones to Big Red's prepaid plans.
Product Review

If Huawei sells the Mate 20 Pro in the U.S., Samsung needs to watch its back

Huawei knocked it out of the park with the P20 Pro earlier this year, and it’s looking to do the same again with the Mate 20 Pro. The Mate series has traditionally been sold in the U.S., so will Americans finally be able to get a taste?
Product Review

You’d be crazy to dismiss the Huawei Mate 20 as an amateur

Traditionally, Huawei’s Mate series of phones has been a little staid. That started to change with the Mate 10 Pro, and now both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro have come along to turn our heads. Here’s a look at the standard Mate 20.
Mobile

Mate 20 range now includes new 20 X model with huge 7.2-inch display

Huawei has released the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and Mate 20 X. With all new Kirin processors, advanced A.I. brains, and an amazing triple camera, here's absolutely everything you need to know about the new Mate 20 series.