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Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Note 5 - are we missing out?

Katharine Byrne
17 Mar 2016
Samsung Galaxy S7 close up camera
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We put Samsung's latest smartphone up against last year's Note 5 to see which phone deserves a place in your pocket

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 never came out in the UK last year, as Samsung decided to release its extra-large Galaxy S6 Edge+ instead. The Note 5 hasn't been completely forgotten, however, as it bears more than a passing resemblance to Samsung's brand-new Galaxy S7.

Now that we've reviewed each smartphone in full, we decided to put them head to head to see which phone is best and whether we're really missing out on something special. In this article, we'll be comparing each phone's design, screen, performance, battery life and camera with full benchmark scores and picture comparisons to see just how the S7 stacks up against its jumbo relative.

Design

Materials: From the back, both phones look incredibly similar. They each have a rear glass panel that curves inwards round the side of its metal frame, and the camera and flash are both located in the same top-centre position. The Galaxy S7 obviously doesn't have a stylus tucked away in the bottom of the handset like its big brother, but its button placement is nigh on identical, with two volume keys on the top left side of the handset and a power button almost halfway down the right hand side. 

The S7 has also slightly more rounded corners than the slightly boxy Note 5, as Samsung has smoothed out the curves on its new handset to help it sit more comfortably in your hand. There's not much in it, though, and slightly more angular edges are arguably more important on larger phones as they give you more to hold on to. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 camera

^ The Note 5 (above) looks almost identical to the S7 (below) from the rear, save the small camera bump

Samsung galaxy S7 camera

However, while their outward design might have a lot in common, inside is where things really start to get interesting. The Galaxy S7, for instance, has IP68 certification, which means it's water-resistant up to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes and is completely dust proof - and it does so without the need for tacky plastic flaps and rubber covers as well. The Note 5 doesn't have any of this, making the S7 a better bet if you get caught in a rain shower or accidentally drop your phone down the loo.

Dimensions: The Note 5 is obviously much bigger than the Galaxy S7, measuring a whopping 153x76x7.6mm and weighing 171g. The S7, on the other hand, only has a footprint of 142x70x7.9mm and a weight of 152g.

The S7 also has a significantly reduced camera bump compared to the Note 5, as this now sticks out by just 0.46mm – making the whole device look slimmer and less bulky. It also means it's more stable to use on a flat surface, as the sides don't rock against the table nearly as much as they do on the Note 5.

Conclusion: When both phones share so many similarities, this one's a tie. The Note 5's size obviously won't be for everyone, but its slightly more angular sides do make it easy to hold. The S7, meanwhile, feels a little slippery at times, but its overall reduction in width makes up for it.

Display

Screen size and resolution: As one of Samsung's phablet devices, the Note 5 has a large 5.7in, 2,560x1,440 Super AMOLED display. The Galaxy S7, on the other hand, has a smaller 5.1in display, but uses the same resolution and panel technology.

If screen size is important to you, then the Note 5 is clearly the phone that's most suitable, but it does mean it has a lower overall pixel density than the S7. The S7, for instance, has a pixel density of 576ppi, but the Note 5 only clocks in at 515ppi. In reality, though, the difference is barely noticeable. Text and images look equally sharp on both handsets, and image quality is also be neck-and-neck, as Samsung's Super AMOLED panels have always delivered very consistent results in the past. 

Both phones, for instance, cover a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and each one can produce perfect 0.00cd/m2 black levels. Contrast is equally high as well. The only area where the Note 5 pulls ahead slightly is screen brightness, but even this lead is relatively small. While the S7 can only reach a peak brightness of 353.74cd/m2, the Note 5 can hit 406.85cd/m2. At least it can on manual brightness, as switching the S7 to auto and shining a bright torch on it (simulating bright sunshine) will kick its adaptive light sensor into action, pumping up the brightness to a much more impressive 469.88cd/m2 so it's more legible outdoors.

Samsung galaxy S7 always on

^ The S7's always on display can show handy information at a glance even when the main screen is turned off

There's also the S7's new always-on display to consider. This can display useful information such as the time, date, battery status and basic calendar information when the screen is turned off, which is handy if all you want to do is glance at the clock. It's not a huge drain on the battery either, as the screen's Super AMOLED technology only illuminates the current pixels in use rather than the entire screen.

Conclusion: You could say this one is a draw, too, but the S7's adaptive light sensor and always-on display just give it the edge in this case, making it more practical during everyday use.

Specs and performance

Processor: The UK version of the S7 uses a Samsung-made Exynos 8890 chipset, which has eight cores running at speeds up to 2.3.GHz. Samsung claims this is 30% faster than the octa-core 2.1GHz Exynos 7420 processor that powers the Galaxy S6 family and the Note 5, and our benchmark results certainly bore this out.

In Geekbench 3, the S7 scored 2,115 in the single core test and 6,437 in the multicore test, putting it way out in front of the Note 5 which only scored 1,469 and 5,096 respectively.

The S7 is also better at playing games, as it managed to complete GFX Bench GL's offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in 2,336 frames (38fps). The Note 5, on the other hand, finished in just 1,528 frames or 25fps. This is still an excellent score, but the S7 will be able to play games at higher detail levels and at smoother frame rates.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 S-Pen

^ The Note 5 has Samsung's S Pen, which is great for jotting down notes on its big screen

Battery life: Despite the Note 5 being so much bigger than the S7, they both have the same-sized 3,000mAh battery. As a result, the S7 hung on for a lot longer in our continuous video playback test when we set the screen brightness to 170cd/m2, as its smaller screen is less of a power drain. For instance, the S7 lasted an incredible 17h 48m, while the Note 5 lasted just 12h 43m. Both should easily last you a day, but the S7's more likely you to carry into the next day than the Note 5.

Storage: Both handsets are available in 32GB and 64GB configurations, but the S7 has an all-important microSD slot at its disposal. This allows you to expand the phone's storage with microSD cards up to 200GB, making it much more flexible than the fixed amounts of storage that come with the Note 5.

Conclusion: The S7 is the clear winner here, as it's not only faster and longer-lasting, but its storage options also provide users with a lot more choice than the jumbo Note 5.

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