Earlier this month, Samsung announced its latest Galaxy Note, dubbed the Galaxy Note 7. Like previous Galaxy Note flagships from Samsung, the latest Galaxy Note offers impressive hardware specifications and includes a number of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd. However, this year Samsung has also introduced quite a few new features that we have never seen on a previous Note or even S series Galaxy smartphone. Do these numerous “firsts” make the Galaxy Note 7 a significant upgrade over the Galaxy Note 5 from last year? That is exactly what we aim to find out today in our Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5 specs battle.

The Galaxy Note 5 may be outdated now, but it still is a highly capable phablet and thanks to the lower prices, offers great value for money as well. Thanks to its superior hardware, the Galaxy Note 5 proved to be a great success last year and has remained one of the most popular Android phablets on the market ever since it went on sale last year.

Just like our previous versus comparisons, we will be comparing the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 against the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 across ten categories – Dimensions, Display, Connectivity, Memory, Processor, Camera, Operating System, Price, Design, and Battery Life. The winner in each category will be awarded one point for the win, so the device that manages to bag the highest number of points by the end of our specs battle will be declared the winner. While the Galaxy Note 7 does bring quite a few new features to the table, the Galaxy Note 5 still remains a fantastic phablet, so we don’t think it will be an easy win for the Galaxy Note 7. Let’s get started and find out if the Galaxy Note 7 is a worthy upgrade from the Galaxy Note 5.

Display

Since the past few years, Samsung has set a new benchmark in terms of display quality with its Galaxy Note devices each year. According to DisplayMate testing, the Galaxy Note 7 has the best smartphone display on the market right now. Is that really the case?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 comes with a 5.7-inch dual-curved edge Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 518 pixels per inch. It retains the same 1440 x 2560 Quad HD resolution of its predecessor, so there is no upgrade in terms of the resolution or size. What is new however, is Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection on top. The Note 7 is actually the first device on the market to come with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. It also happens to be the very first Galaxy Note phablet to feature a dual-curved edge display, which has so far been exclusive to the Galaxy S series line. Thanks to the great success achieved by the Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung decided to do away with the flat Galaxy Note 7 variant this year and has only launched a dual-curved model. Thanks to the curved screen, users can now access the Edge panel for one-tap access to their favorite apps, news, and various other functions. In addition to that, Galaxy Note 7 gets the Always On Display feature from the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. This feature lets you get important info at a glance without having to wake up the device. You can also choose to set a custom signature or pin a Screen-Off memo to the Always On Display. As with the Galaxy S7 duo, you can choose different themes as well and the graphics are moved around randomly to ensure that there is no screen burn-in. Another major highlight of the Galaxy Note 7 display is support for mobile HDR. The Galaxy Note 7 is the first smartphone to offer mobile HDR support, which will allow users to enjoy HDR streaming content from Amazon Video. Similar to HDR on 4K TVs, mobile HDR brings out the true light and contrast of the images. You basically get whiter whites, deeper blacks, and significantly higher detail. A unique feature that the Galaxy Note 7 display offers is the ability to lower the resolution all the way down to 720p, which should help extend battery life at the cost of sharpness. Thanks to the higher peak brightness, the Galaxy Note 7 display boasts of improved sunlight legibility when compared to previous Galaxy flagship devices. However, in terms of color and greyscale accuracy, no major improvements have been made. This isn’t disappointing though as the previous Galaxy flagships had already achieved a level of accuracy that is much higher than most other smartphones on the market. So if you’re coming from a Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, or a Galaxy S7 Edge, you aren’t likely to notice any difference in terms of image quality.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 features a flat 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 Quad HD resolution and a pixel density of 518 pixels per inch. The display is protected by a layer of 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on top. When it first came out last year, the Galaxy Note 5 set a new benchmark for smartphone displays with fantastic color accuracy and high peak brightness that delivered excellent sunlight legibility. Its display still remains among the best on the market and is more or less on par with the Galaxy Note 7 display in most areas, except for peak brightness. Both smartphones come with a choice of different color modes under Display Settings – Basic, AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo, and Adaptive Display. The most accurate mode is Basic, which is tuned for the sRGB color gamut. If you like punchier color reproduction, you can leave the display in the default Adaptive Display mode or pick AMOLED Photo for a punchy yet slightly accurate colors.

Overall, the Galaxy Note 7 display does offer a few advantages such as support for mobile HDR, Always On Display, and dual-curved edges. However, for the most part, the two displays are on par with each other. Still, we are going to give this to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Dimensions

Samsung flagship smartphones have always been quite impressive with the screen-to-body ratio, so going by the company’s past track record, the Galaxy Note 7 should enjoy an easy victory here.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 measures 153.5mm tall, 73.9mm wide, and 7.9mm thin. In terms of weight, the phablet tips the scales at 169 grams. Its predecessor on the other hand is 153.2mm tall, 76.1mm wide, and 7.6mm thin. The Galaxy Note 5 is fairly similar in terms of weight, tipping the scales at a slightly higher 171 grams.

As you can tell from the numbers above, the Galaxy Note 7 is less wide than its predecessor, which makes it more comfortable to hold in the hand. Thanks to a higher screen-to-body ratio, the dimensions round goes to the Galaxy Note 7.

Connectivity

Since it is the newer device, the Galaxy Note 7 is expected to have the upper hand in the connectivity department. So, will it be an easy victory for the Galaxy Note 7 in this category?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy, GPS with GLONASS, USB Type-C connector, NFC, ANT+, DLNA, and 4G LTE connectivity (Cat.9/Cat.10/Cat.11 depending on the market). The older Galaxy Note 5 on the other hand offers you Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy, NFC, ANT+, DLNA, GPS with GLONASS, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, Micro USB 2.0, and LTE Cat.6 network support (maximum download speeds of up to 300 Mbps). Both phablets also offer a fingerprint scanner on the front, but the Galaxy Note 7 additionally comes with an iris scanner as well for biometric authentication.

With an iris scanner, faster LTE speeds, and a USB Type-C port, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the clear winner of this round.

Processor

Just like the previous round, this is yet another category where the newer Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has a serious advantage over its predecessor.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is identical to the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge as far as the chipset goes. While the international variant happens to be powered by Samsung’s in-house Exynos 8890 octa-core chipset, the US variant is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 820 quad-core SoC. The Snapdragon 820 is now Qualcomm’s second most powerful SoC, as the newer Snapdragon 821 is now the most powerful mobile SoC Qualcomm produces. Still, the Snapdragon 820 chipset is still a beast in terms of performance with four custom Kryo cores. With a dual-cluster configuration, the two performance-oriented cores are clocked at 2.15 GHz while the two efficiency-oriented cores are clocked at 1.6 GHz. The chipset integrates the Adreno 530 GPU, which happens to being significant performance improvements over the Adreno 430 GPU from last year. In most graphics benchmarks, the Adreno 530 is the fastest GPU on the market currently, at least among Android smartphones. The new Snapdragon 820 chipset also boasts of improved efficiency, thanks to it being manufactured on a second generation 14nm Low Power Plus node by Samsung. The chipset also offers integrated X12 LTE modem, advanced new Hexagon 680 DSP, and the new Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging standard. However, just like the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge, the Snapdragon 820-powered variant of the Galaxy Note 7 does not support the Quick Charge 3.0 standard. The international Galaxy Note 7 variants are powered by the Exynos 8890 octa-core SoC, which too is manufactured by Samsung on a similar 14nm second generation Low Power Plus process. However, despite both the chips being manufactured on the same process node, tests have revealed that the Exynos 8890 is slightly more efficient than the Snapdragon 820 chipset, resulting in improved battery life. The Exynos 8890 features Samsung’s first custom M1 cores, which are clocked at 2.3 GHz for performance. Lighter tasks are handled by the four ARM Cortex-A53 cores that are clocked at 1.6 GHz. Graphics are taken care of by the ARM Mali-T880MP12 GPU, which is clocked at 650 MHz. As far as benchmarks go, the Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890 variants are pretty much on par in most tests, but as we mentioned above, the Snapdragon 820 does have a slight advantage in graphics benchmarks.

The Galaxy Note 5 is powered by the Exynos 7420 octa-core 64-bit chipset with four ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four ARM Cortex-A53 cores. The ARM Cortex-A57 cores are aimed at performance and are thus clocked at a high 2.1 GHz frequency, while the ARM Cortex-A53 cores are clocked at 1.5 GHz to take care of light tasks. Graphics are handled by the ARM Mali-T768MP8 GPU, which is fairly capable and is more than capable of handling the phablet’s Quad HD resolution. Just like the newer Exynos 8890, the Exynos 7420 is quite efficient too, thanks to being manufactured on a 14nm FinFET process. While the Exynos 7420 was among the most powerful mobile SoCs in 2015, it doesn’t have enough power to compete against the newer Exynos 8890 and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipsets.

The newer Galaxy Note 7 is the clear winner here, which is not surprising at all.

Battery Life

With the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung managed to impress us with improved battery life. Is it the same story with the Galaxy Note 7?

Well, the answer isn’t exactly a big yes. While the Galaxy Note 7 does pack a larger battery than the Galaxy Note 5, it is still smaller than the one inside the Galaxy S7 Edge. While the Galaxy S7 Edge is equipped with a 3600mAh battery inside, the new Galaxy Note 7 only comes with a 3500mAh capacity battery. Samsung claims that it has optimized the battery to perform pretty much on par with the Galaxy S7 Edge, but tests have revealed that the Galaxy Note 7 isn’t as good in terms of battery life. It is still not disappointing though, and is in fact a pretty decent upgrade over the Galaxy Note 5. The smartphone also supports fast charging and wireless charging. Wireless Fast Charging is supported as well, as was the case with its predecessor.

The Galaxy Note 5 on the other hand sports a 3000mAh capacity battery, which naturally isn’t capable of delivering the same battery stamina as its successor. In fact, battery life is one area where the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t impress at all. However, you do get Power Saving and Ultra Power Saving Modes to help you extend battery life when you’re close to running out of juice completely. Like the Galaxy Note 7, the Note 5 too offers fast charging and wireless fast charging. It was in fact the first smartphone on the market to offer wireless fast charging (along with the Galaxy S6 Edge+).

Thanks to its superior battery life, this round goes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Memory

Along with battery life, memory is another department where Samsung has made some serious progress this year, at least in some ways.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 comes with 64GB of UFS 2.0 internal memory. That’s right, Samsung is not offering multiple storage options this time. While we do think that Samsung should have offered more choices, we don’t think that this is a serious disappointment as the company has included a microSD card slot this time. Since microSD cards are getting cheaper by the day and high-capacity cards are now easily available, most users shouldn’t have any reasons to complain. The Galaxy Note 7 supports microSD cards up to 2TB, but currently microSD cards with up to 1TB have only been announced so far. As for RAM, the Galaxy Note 7 includes the same 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM as the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. With several Chinese Android OEMs now offering 6GB of RAM with their flagship smartphones, it is slightly disappointing to see the Note 7 offer “only” 4GB of RAM. However, the Galaxy Note 7 is still a capable device when it comes to multitasking performance, although it isn’t the best out there as Samsung’s memory management is still a bit aggressive when it comes to closing apps running in the background.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on the other hand comes with either 32 or 64GB of UFS 2.0 internal storage. A 128GB variant of the phablet was released as well, although only in South Korea. While the phablet does offer fast performance thanks to the UFS 2.0 memory, the lack of a microSD card slot could be an issue for some users. The phablet comes with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, but it doesn’t offer the best multitasking experience thanks to poor memory management. So if you are a power user who loves to multitask and cannot live with a limited amount of storage, Galaxy Note 5 is definitely not the right choice for you.

We will have to give this round to the Galaxy Note 7 as well, thanks to expandable storage and better memory management.

Camera

Samsung flagship smartphones have always impressed in the camera department. These two Galaxy devices are no exception, with both of them being more than capable of shooting fantastic stills as well as videos.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 features the same excellent 12MP camera sensor at the back as the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. The large sensor boasts of 1.4 micron sized pixels and integrates the innovative Dual Pixel technology for faster auto focus speeds than any other smartphone on the market currently. There is also a new brighter f/1.7 aperture lens being used, which makes sure you get brilliant shots not just in daylight but also at night or under dull lighting conditions. The 1/2.5” sensor is sourced from Sony as well as Samsung’s own LSI division, but the two sensors are actually almost identical in terms of quality. Sadly though, the new 12MP sensor doesn’t allow you to take full resolution photos in the 16:9 aspect ratio, instead giving you a 4:3 aspect ratio. The rest of the camera features are similar to previous Samsung flagships. You get a power single-LED flash, optical image stabilization (or Smart OIS as Samsung likes to call it), 4K video recording, panorama photos, Auto HDR, face detection, manual controls, RAW photo capture, ability to adjust the focus after taking the shot with Selective Focus mode, slow-motion videos, and more. The front-facing camera on the other hand is a 5MP unit, which has been paired with a 22mm f/1.7 aperture lens for great performance even in low-light. Like other recent flagship smartphones from Samsung, the Galaxy Note 7 front-facing camera can capture videos at up to 1440p resolution. It also supports Auto HDR, Panorama Shots, Wide Selfie Mode, Beauty Modes, and a “Selfie Flash” that lets you take selfies in almost complete darkness by using the screen as flash.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on the other hand features a 16MP primary camera at the back, which is paired to a bright f/1.9 aperture lens. While the resolution of the Galaxy Note 5 rear camera is higher than the one on the Galaxy Note 7, it is a smaller sensor at 1/2.6”, which means that it has smaller pixels. The smaller pixels as well as the less bright f/1.9 aperture means that the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t fare as well as its successor when it comes to low-light performance. It also trails the Galaxy Note 7 when it comes to focus speeds, as the camera utilizes phase detection autofocus, which isn’t as fast as the newer Dual Pixel tech. However, in most other areas, the Galaxy Note 5 holds up quite well against its successor. Its higher resolution means that you can get more detail when shooting outdoors and the ability to shoot 16MP stills in 16:9 aspect ratio is also a significant advantage. Other camera highlights include optical image stabilization (Smart OIS), Panorama shots, a single-LED flash, 4K video recording, VDIS stabilization for videos, manual controls, RAW image capture, Auto HDR, and more. The front-facing camera is a 5MP unit that has been paired with an f/1.9 aperture lens. It can shoot videos at up to 1440p resolution and comes with features like Auto HDR, Beauty Modes, Wide Selfie Mode, Virtual Shot, and more.

As we mentioned above, both the smartphones are more or less on par when it comes to daylight photography, but the newer Galaxy Note 7 does have an advantage when it comes to low-light performance. That means the camera round ends up in the Galaxy Note 7’s favor, but the difference here isn’t very significant.

Design

As we discussed in the display round, one of the most striking changes that the Galaxy Note 7 offers is a dual-curved edge display on the front. In terms of build, the phablet continues to use a glass + metal combo with a Series 7000 aluminum frame in the middle and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 glass on the front as well as the back of the phablet. However, unlike its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 7 comes with IP68 certification, making it water and dust resistant. The high IP rating means you won’t have to worry about using your Galaxy Note 7 even under heavy downpour or even when you’re swimming in the pool. You also get the new Black Onyx and Blue Coral color options that look absolutely gorgeous in our opinion. It is also available in the Silver Titanium color option. The S-Pen too comes in the same color option as the handset, which is a neat touch.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is quite similar to the Galaxy Note 7 in terms of build, featuring a strong Series 7000 aluminum frame in the middle and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back. For improved ergonomics, the back of the phablet is curved, although the slippery nature of the materials doesn’t really make the phablet a very comfortable device to hold in the hand. The phablet comes in four color options – Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium, and White Pearl.

Both the phablets are very attractive in terms of design and offer a premium build quality that buyers expect from a flagship smartphone. Since Samsung hasn’t made any dramatic changes on the design front with the Galaxy Note 7, we’re going to call this round a tie.

Operating System

The Galaxy Note 7 comes with the new “Grace” TouchWiz UI that brings a few new features not found on previous Samsung Galaxy flagship smartphones, including the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. It is still based on the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system though, and not the latest Android 7.0 Nougat. Some of the key highlights of the new “Grace” UI include the ability to search for local files and games, redesigned notification area, new gestures, and an updated S-Pen software suite that lets you use the hardware more effectively. The phablet is expected to be updated to Android 7.0 Nougat before the end of the year, although an official confirmation has not arrived yet.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 too currently runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system, but without the latest TouchWiz features that you get on the Galaxy Note 7. But as we mentioned above, the changes aren’t very significant. However, the new S-Pen software will be rolled out to the Galaxy Note 5 users soon, so you are not going to miss out on the new S-Pen related features. Similarly, the Android 7.0 Nougat update will also be available for the phablet in the near future, although we do think that Samsung could roll out the update to the Galaxy Note 5 only after it is pushed out to the newer Galaxy Note 7 and the Galaxy S7 duo.

Since there are no major differences on the software front, we’re calling this round a tie.

Price

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is currently on sale only from Verizon Wireless and Sprint, but starting 28th AT&T and T-Mobile are also expected to resume sales of the phablet. On Verizon, you can purchase the Galaxy Note 7 outright for $864 or for $0 down and $36 monthly on a 2-year plan. Sprint on the other hand is selling the phablet outright for $849.99 or $349.99 on a 24-month contract. Alternatively, you can also choose to get the Galaxy Note 7 from Sprint by paying $35.42 monthly for a period of 24 months.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 can be purchased from pretty much any carrier in the US, thanks to it being on the market for close to a year now. The base 32GB variant can be bought for $99.99 on a 2-year contract, while the 64GB variant can be purchased at $199.99. If you wish to purchase one outright, you will need to pay around $700 for the 32GB version and $800 for the 64GB version.
Being an older device, the Galaxy Note 5 can be purchased for a lower price than the newer Galaxy Note 7. That means the price round goes to the Galaxy Note 5.

Conclusion

We have now reached the end of our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 7 specs battle. Time now to do a quick recap of our findings above. Out of the 10 categories that we compared these two phablets against each other in, the Galaxy Note 7 managed to grab the victory in 7 categories. Its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 5, managed to grab only a single win, in the Price round. The Design and Operating System rounds ended in a tie.

Quite clearly, Samsung has done a great job with the Galaxy Note 7 and it proves to be a fantastic upgrade over the Galaxy Note 5 in most areas. That said, the Galaxy Note 5 still remains a great device in its own right, and the reduced prices make it more desirable than ever.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Galaxy Note 7 is a good upgrade over the Galaxy Note 5? Tell us in the comments section below.

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