UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
As always, the latest Galaxy Note is bigger than the latest Galaxy S. In this case, the Note 5 comes out 7 percent taller and 7 percent wider than the GS6.
The Galaxy S6 is also the thinner phone, by 11 percent.
Both handsets feel pleasantly light for their respective sizes, with the smaller GS6 weighing 19 percent less.
Designs are nearly identical, both rocking solid aluminum frames.
They also both have the same Gorilla Glass 4 back, though the Note's slopes off on either side, making it feel more comfortable in hand than it otherwise would.
Right now US carriers are only selling the Note in black and white color options, but there will be two more (including the gold version pictured in this comparison) coming somewhere, at some point.
Both handsets have ultra-sharp Quad HD resolution. That technically makes the smaller GS6 the more pixel-dense phone, but the Note 5's display looks awesome. We don't have a single complaint about either gorgeous screen.
Being Samsung, and being high-end flagships, we're looking at Super AMOLED panels on both phones. Again, these are probably the two best displays in the business right now (a list that also includes the Edge variants of both phones).
Samsung is the only smartphone maker putting significant resources into a stylus-based handset, but we're glad somebody is. The Galaxy Note's S Pen not only gives you some handy note-taking features, but it also has a precision and control that stubby fingers can't quite replicate.
The new S Pen has a new click-out mechanism that makes it easier to pull out of the phone, along with a feature that lets you jot notes on the screen without waking up or unlocking the phone.
Samsung's 2014 fingerprint sensors were swipe-based, but this year the company matched Apple with excellent touch-based sensors. The only disadvantage compared to Touch ID is that Samsung's doesn't work with as many third-party apps or browser app extensions.
In terms of retailer availability, Samsung's mobile payments service will destroy other options, including Apple Pay, from Day One – as Samsung Pay will work with most standard credit card machines, no NFC equipment required.
We'll have more on the Note's battery life in our upcoming review, but in our benchmark (streaming video over Wi-Fi with brightness at 75 percent) the GS6 dropped 11 percent per hour, a good score.
Both handsets have wireless charging capabilities baked right in, but only the Note has fast wireless charging – supposedly going from 0 to 100 percent in about two hours. The only drawback is that you'll need to buy a special Samsung charger that costs US$70.
Fast charging (wired)
When using the included microUSB cable, both handsets have fast charging capabilities.
We won't dwell too much on camera specs, as both phones have the same shooters on front and back – also including ƒ/1.9 aperture, Optical Image Stabilization and home button double-tap shortcut. Both are outstanding.
Both are speed demons, with their 64-bit octa core processors. We don't experience a bit of lag when using either handset.
The phones' internals are largely the same, but the Note does have an extra GB of RAM.
No 128 GB option for Note 5 buyers, but at least Samsung skipped the 16 GB base tier on both handsets.
In exchange for its new premium focus, it looks like Samsung has ditched microSD slots in its flagships.
Stay tuned on this front, as we'd be shocked if the Note 5 didn't work with the upcoming "full consumer" version of the Gear VR virtual reality headset (which could be announced at IFA in early September). At the time of publication, though, only the GS6 ticks this box.
Both phones run the excellent Android Lollipop at their core, with Samsung's TouchWiz UI on top.
One detail that's easy to miss in Samsung's 2015 flagships is their Theme Store. If you don't like the look of TouchWiz, just pay $1.50 for a Material design theme that mimics the look of stock Android (among many other choices).
Both handsets are available now.
Starting price (full retail)
Average pricing (this varies a bit from carrier to carrier) has the Note 5 coming out around $100 more expensive.View gallery - 25 images