Samsung's choice: Blingy Galaxy S6 Edge+ or fatally flawed Note 5

The phablet follow-ups to the high-quality Galaxy S6 lineup fall short where they shouldn't

samsung galaxy s6 edge note 5
At a Glance
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Last year, Apple took away Samsung's key size advantage with the bigger, better-quality iPhone 6 lineup. This winter, Samsung struck back with the top-notch Galaxy S6 lineup. Now, a couple weeks before Apple's follow-up iPhones are due to be announced, Samsung has released its new phablets meant to ride the Galaxy S6 lineup's quality edge: the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5.

Instead, Samsung offers two devices that make a classic Samsung mistake: confusing form with function. In the case of the new Note 5, a stupid design flaw makes it way too easy to ruin your $800 device.

It's a real shame because both devices could have been great large-screen versions of the revitalized, capable, classy Galaxy S6 lineup, serving as high-style competitors to Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as to the new iPhone models due this fall.

The new Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Note 5 phablets are so close to being perfect Android smartphones, it hurts. 

Galaxy Note 5: One mistake can ruin it

The Note 5 would be my first choice in an Android phablet except for its fatal flaw: I found that it's very easy to insert its pen end-first, which damages the device internally and can render the smartphone's internal pen circuitry inoperable. In fact, you get no indication anything is wrong until you've fully inserted the pen, and by then, it's too late.

That flaw shows a lack of basic quality assurance in Samsung's design process. Worse, Samsung was aware of the issue and notes in its PDF user manual that inserting the pen backward can damage the smartphone. Gee, thanks for nothing. At a price of about $800 or $900 to replace a damaged Note 5, depending on storage capacity, the pen-insertion design flaw invites an easy mistake that users can't afford to make.

if it weren't for that flaw, I'd strongly recommend the Note 5, whose fit and finish are much better than those of the Note 4, with all the same advantages as the Galaxy S6. But that flaw means I cannot recommend it.

Galaxy S6 Edge+: A blingy look, with an edge you'll love or hate

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ has the same large 5.7-inch screen as the Note 5 but no pen. That means it's not susceptible to the damage that can easily befall the Note 5. Instead, it has the curved side screens that I found to be gimmicky and not very useful in the Galaxy S6 Edge. They're no more useful in the S6 Edge+, but they feel uncomfortably sharp in my hands, more so than in the S6 Edge, due to the new smartphone's larger size.

Aesthetically, I view the shiny back case on the S6 Edge+ as cheap and tartish, appealing to boorish bling predilections. Three finishes are available: classic black and glossy white fronts, both with way too shiny chrome backs, plus a less shiny but still blingy "gold platinum" finish front and back. (You could hide that garish chrome in a case, I suppose, but that could interfere with the side edges' display.)

The Note 5, by contrast, has a much classier look in the same front finishes, thanks to the glass backs. Samsung should have stuck with the same finish options for the S6 Edge+ as for the S6 Plus or Note 5.

The Galaxy S6 Edge has a strong following of users, who are unbothered by the sharper edges of its curved sides, so many people will in fact see the S6 Edge+ as a great product. If you like the feel of the S6 Edge but want a phablet, then by all means get the Galaxy S6 Edge+. 

The new Galaxy phablets: Oh, so close

If you want a new Samsung phablet, your choice boils down to the stylish but fatally flawed Note 5 or the uncomfortable, tacky S6 Edge+. Or you can wait until the rumored Active models of these devices come out later this fall to see if they fix the design flaw of the Note 5 or the aesthetic flaw of the S6 Edge+. That would be my choice.

In both cases, the hardware is otherwise top-notch, and the Android 5 Lollipop implementation is quite nice -- the same as in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

Prices for the two Samsung phablets vary based on carrier and your purchase method. The 32GB models cost between $765 and $830 with no carrier subsidy in my survey of the major U.S. providers. Models with 64GB of internal storage cost $100 more.

Please note that, as with the S6 lineup, there's no removable storage in the S6 Edge+ or Note 5. That fact argues for getting a 64GB model if you have lots of apps and music on your Android smartphone.

A fix to the pen on the Note 5 and a classier back case finish on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ would make both phablets real winners. Let's hope Samsung works on those adjustments. 

InfoWorld Scorecard
Apps and Web (20%)
Platform services (20%)
Security and management (20%)
Usability (20%)
Hardware (20%)
Overall Score
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8 7 8 8 9 8.0
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 8 7 8 8 3 6.8
At a Glance
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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