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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Battle of the Android phablets

OnePlus 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5: They’re both hard to get, but is the Note 5 worth the extra cash?

The last month has been particularly exciting for the tech world. At the end of July, we saw the announcement of the super cheap OnePlus 2, and then, a few weeks later, Korean tech heavyweight Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 5. But how do they compare, and are they worthy of your attention?

First of all, it’s worth noting that both handsets are somewhat exclusive. For starters, you need an invite to bag yourself a OnePlus 2, although the Chinese mobile firm supposedly has a larger stock available than the handset’s predecessor.

And the Note 5 won’t be coming to Europe – for now, at least. Bizarre, right? We totally agree. Instead, Samsung diehards will either have to make-do with the S6 Edge+ or choose something completely different, which sort-of gives OnePlus an edge (ignore that terrible pun) because you can actually register for an invite.

The Note 5 might not be available in the UK, but the S6 Edge+ is. Here’s our hands-on video:

Also, the OnePlus 2 starts at just £229, with the Note 5 costing hundreds more – at around $720 in the U.S. Let’s find out if being the cheaper option is such a bad thing and if Samsung has something to worry about. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Design

OnePlus 2: 9.9mm thick, 175g, magnesium alloy, Sandstone Black
Galaxy Note 5: 7.6mm thick, 171g, aluminum frame, non-removable glass back, Black Sapphire and White Pearl

Looking at the OnePlus 2, it’s easy to say it’s not the most spectacular smartphones when it comes to design out there. But then again, this is a different type of smartphone: it’s one that’s trying to compete with the big boys on the market, but in terms of spec more than anything.

What you have is a handset that’s modest and functional. That said, though, put it next to its predecessor, the OnePlus One, and you’ll notice that it’s moved away from a mostly plastic body, which has been replaced with magnesium alloy. It feels just like aluminum and is a pleasing tweak – especially at such a cheap price.

Related: OnePlus 2 vs Samsung Galaxy S6
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The Note 5, on the other hand, is premium in all meanings of the word – in terms of price point as well as build. It sports an aluminum frame and a non-removable glass back, while the Note 4 had a leather-effect back you could remove. It’s a change that’ll no doubt raise some eyebrows, but what the Korean tech giant is clearly doing is trying to compete with similarly placed offerings like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – which isn’t such a bad thing.

Also refreshing are the Note 5’s curves that meet the edges at the back, which bode for a firm, comfortable hold. The OnePlus 2 has some curves as well, though they’re far more subtle and less apparent. Also subtle is the difference of weight of both handsets. The Note 5 is slightly lighter than the OnePlus 2, at 171g compared to 175g. Clearly, the other main design and functional difference is that the Note 5 has a stylus and the OnePlus 2 doesn’t.

The thinnest of the two also happens to the Note 5, at 7.6mm thick, with the OnePlus 2 at 9.9mm. So if you’re after a super thin phone to show off to all your friends, you’re better off going with the Note 5 or finding something different altogether.

Galaxy Note 5

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Screen

OnePlus 2: 5.5-inch, 1080 x 1920 LTPS LCD, 401 ppi
Galaxy Note 5: 5.7-inch, 1440 x 2560 Super AMOLED, 518 ppi

It seems Samsung’s always going to receive top marks for its screens, and the Note 5’s 5.7-inch Super AMOLED offering is as good as ever. Just like the Note 4, the 5 comes with a QHD resolution and 518 pixels per inch, though colours have more kick this time around.

The OnePlus 2 has an LCD, IPS, LTPS screen, which is lower in resolution than the Note 5, but this tech line-up isn’t a bad thing for any phone. Basically, LCD means you shouldn’t expect quite a black level or contrast from OLED handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S6, but you needn’t worry, because you won’t notice any diminished blacks in normal conditions.

And with IPS, you get some great viewing angles and don’t experience a large loss of brightness. Colours are pleasant, too, and you’ll be happy with that statement when, yet again, taking the price of the handset into account.

Related: OnePlus 2 vs OnePlus One – What’s changed?
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In terms of screen size, the OnePlus 2 and Note 5 aren’t that different. The Note 5, which is technically classed as a phablet, comes in at 5.7-inches, with the OnePlus 2 at 5.5-inches. Obviously, if you want a bigger phone, the Note 5 narrowly wins. But in all honesty, they aren’t far apart and will both suit diehard internet browsers and movie watchers.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Power and storage

OnePlus 2: Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810, 3/4GB RAM
Galaxy Note 5: Samsung Exynos 7420, Mali-T760MP8, 4GB RAM

The OnePlus 2 is powered by a Snapdragon 810 chipset, which is currently Qualcomm’s top mobile processor and is used by high-end players such as the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3+.

It’s comprised of an octa-core CPU sporting four 1.8GHz Cortex-A57 ‘power’ cores and four Cortex-A53 cores, as well as an Adreno 430 GPU, boding for a smooth, nippy performance. The only potential issue here is that the Snapdragon 810 has caused overheating issues for numerous handsets, including the Z3+ and One M9.

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Samsung, yet again this year, has opted to stay away from Qualcomm and has packed the Note 5 with its new, super fast Exynos 7420 chipset – which has been used in the rest of 2015’s high-end Galaxy smartphones – consisting of a quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57.

While the Note 4’s Snapdragon 805 processor was certainly not slow, the Note 5 is much faster and will perform much better in benchmarks. Also, it’s worth noting that the handset should be more energy efficient thanks to a 14nm manufacturing process. This essentially means Samsung has been able to fit more transistors into a smaller space and, at the same time, has been able to reduce heat and power consumption.

As for storage, the OnePlus 2 comes in 16/64GB, with the Note 5 available in 32GB/64GB. Interestingly, the Note 5 offers 4GB RAM flat out, 1GB more than the Note 4. The 16GB version of the OnePlus 2 has 3GB RAM, while the 64GB model jumps up to 4GB.

Related: How much RAM does your phone really need?
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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Camera

OnePlus 2: 13-megapixel camera, 5-megapixel front camera, dual-LED flash
Galaxy Note 5: 16-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, LED flash

Camera-wise, the OnePlus 2 is on-the-ball with a 13-megapixel rear sensor and a 5-megapixel front one. While you can’t always judge camera performance by megapixel size, the OnePlus 2 is pretty decent.

Unlike most phones we look at, which sport sensors made by Sony, OnePlus has gone with the lesser-known Omnivision instead. The latter has worked with numerous other Chinese phone makers, including Oppo.

The OnePlus 2’s sensor measures 1 /2/6-inch, and it has 1.3-micron sensor pixels – with the top-end standard typically being 1.1 microns. Generally, larger sensor pixels result in better dynamic range, which is refreshing to see with such a cheap handset. Other features include laser-assisted focusing, a dual LED flash and optical image stabilisation.

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The Note 5 has a larger 16-megapixel rear camera, but its front-facer is also at 5 megapixels. The camera tech used here is exactly the same as the Galaxy S6, which launched earlier this year. This disappoints us because we thought we’d have an even better offering again.

Still, photos taken on the phone look great, and colours stand out no problem. Samsung has, however, made some improvements to the software. It’s uprated its VDIS, meaning videos are more stable, and has also added some new movie-editing options and real-time video sharing – which is great if you’re into video production.

Features with the Note 5 include dual shot, simultaneous HD video/image recording, face/smile detection, touch focus, panorama, HDR and geo-tagging. Oh, and there’s also an LED flash, but it’s not dual like the OnePlus 2.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Software

OnePlus 2: Android 5.1 Lollipop with Oxygen UI
Galaxy Note 5: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz UI

The OnePlus 2 runs with Android 5.1.1. Lollipop straight out of the box and comes with OnePlus’s very own Oxygen UI on top. Even though the latter is a custom user interface, it’s different from the likes of Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense in that it aims to keep the look and feel of standard Android – but while adding some extra features.

A great example is Shelf, which is an extra homescreen you can use to hold your favourite app shortcuts, favourite contacts and any widgets you’d rather keep from the main homepage. Amazingly, you can choose to disable this when you boot up the phone for the first time.

We’re also a fan of the customisations available. For example, you can switch the menu system from white to black, and so on. To find out more, definitely check out our OnePlus 2 tips and tricks article.

Related: OnePlus 2 review
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The Note 5 also runs on the latest version of Android – 5.1.1. Lollipop – but it’s been overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. It’s still flying the flag for Samsung Galaxy handsets but is a little tamer than previous versions.

Just like before, all the shortcuts Note phone users should be used to by now are there. They let you access key settings and apps in a quick and efficient manner, and the S Pen is faster than ever displaying menus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs OnePlus 2: Battery life

OnePlus 2: 3300 mAh battery
Galaxy Note 5: 3000 mAh battery

The OnePlus 2 has a large 3300mAh battery. The results are great. When we got to test the phone recently, it managed 11.5 hours of 720p, and with moderate-intensive use, it lasted a full day.

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If you use it lightly, you’ll get a day and a half between charges, which we find to be similar to the Samsung Galaxy S6 with general use. That said, the S6 appears to be better at holding charge when it’s used intermittently.

The Note 5, despite being more expensive, actually has a smaller battery than the OnePlus 2 – by 300 mAh, to be exact – with it at 3000 mAh. Want to know what else we find surprising? It’s actually 220 mAh smaller than the Note 4. Still, the battery is larger than the Galaxy S6’s, which can last a day.

Early verdict

There’s no doubt that the OnePlus 2 is an impressive phone, even when you consider its price. It may not be the most trendy of handsets out there, but you get a great package in terms of spec: a decent display, nippy processor, plenty of storage, a stellar camera, a powerful operating system and a battery that’ll get you through the day.

Quite clearly, it’s a tough contender for the Note 5, Samsung’s new flagship phablet. That said, overall, the new Note is a great offering. The spec is definitely there; it just depends whether or not you’d prefer to shell out more money on it, when you could grab yourself a bargain with the OnePlus 2.

But, and there is a but: Will you actually be able to get your hands on the handsets? Really, making the OnePlus 2 mainstream would likely have a detrimental effect on company margins, and Samsung is still yet to officially announce a European release date. But if the rumours are right, that’s certainly the plan – in time.

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