Do we have a good one for you today – the venerable Nexus 6 designed and built by Motorola goes up against the new and powerful Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Both devices have a loyal, ‘cult-like’ following, although Samsung has irritated previous owners with some of the changes they made. Does the nearly year old monster Nexus 6 still have what it takes to beat out the recently released Galaxy Note 5? The devices do have a few things in common, which we will discuss here, after which we will look into each device in more detail.
Both devices are large, however, the Nexus is definitely larger overall and weighs in 13 grams heavier. They also both use the Quad HD (QHD) AMOLED technology for their displays – 5.96-inches on the Nexus 6 and 5.7-inches on the Galaxy Note 5. Both devices offer either 32GB or 64GB of internal memory and neither one have any means to expand that memory. They both have the usual suspects – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (4.1 on the Nexus and 4.2 on the Note 5), GPS, NFC capability, a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data transfer, Quick Charge on the Nexus 6 and Rapid Charge on the Note 5 and both have built-in wireless charging (Qi on the Nexus 6 and Qi/PMA on the Note5). Both have large, non-removable batteries.
Please take a deliberate look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another – click on the “View Full Comparison” link at the end of the chart to expand the details. After that, we will look at each individual device in greater detail and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.
Motorola Nexus 6
Google is in charge of their Nexus smartphones, to some extent – they certainly dictate what they are looking for in its design, but a lot of leeway is given to the manufacturer. The Nexus line was always known for its conservative and value-packed devices, but the Nexus 6 did away with all of that. When Google tapped Motorola, they knew it was going to have Moto X ‘tendencies,’ and indeed it does. The best way to describe the Nexus 6 is a Moto X on steroids…basically the same shape, only larger in every direction – too large for many Nexus users to use as a daily driver.
The Nexus 6 brought to the table a huge 5.96-inch QHD AMOLED display and 493 pixels-per-inch (PPI) and this compares quite nicely to the 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED and 518 PPI found on the Galaxy Note 5. Motorola used the best processor on the market, the 32-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor clocked at 2.7GHz. This goes up against Samsung’s own 64-bit Exynos 7420 octa-core processor clocked at 2.1GHz. The Nexus 6 has 3GB of RAM and goes against the Note 5’s 4GB of much faster DDR4 RAM. The Nexus 6 gives you 32GB or 64GB of internal storage versus the much faster 32GB or 64GB of UFS 2.0 flash memory – although neither device has a means to expand.
Cameras have never been a high priority with Motorola or even the Nexus devices – good, solid pictures, but not great pictures. With the Nexus 6, there was definitely a push for a better shooter – 13MP sensor with autofocus, dual-LED Flash ring that encompasses the lens and OIS. This goes up against one of the best 16MP smartphone cameras to date – it started with the Galaxy S6 and that great camera has worked its way to the Galaxy Note 5. The Nexus 6 does use a rather small 2MP front-facing camera (FFC) and the Note 5 packs a full 5MP FFC for great selfies and video chatting.
The Nexus 6 uses a huge non-removable 3220mAh battery that can use Motorola’s Turbo Charger (included) for quick charges and it also has a built-in Qi compatible wireless charger. The Galaxy Note 5 uses a slightly smaller 3000mAh battery with a rapid charge battery and also built-in Qi and PMA rapid charge wireless charger.
As far as extras go – the Nexus 6 does have a nano-coating for repelling water. It also has front-facing dual stereo speakers for great sound. Of course, one of the most important features of a Nexus smartphone is that you are running pure vanilla Android and Google guarantees that their Nexus devices will receive the fastest upgrades possible. It is available on all major US Carriers for $199 (down from $249) on a two-year contract or the newly reduced cost of $499 (32GB) and $549 (64GB) off-contract in the Google Play Store, with your color choices of Midnight Blue or Cloud White.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is a stretched out Galaxy S6 with an extra gigabyte of RAM and an S-Pen…and this means the Note 5 is the recipient of the beautiful metal and glass construction. The Note 5 has the same display resolution, same processor, and same camera area. It lost the IR Blaster and there is no 128GB memory option, only 32GB and 64GB. Many Galaxy Note users are upset there is not more to differentiate the Note 5 from its smaller Galaxy S6 sibling. Generally, in the past, Samsung would add a few megapixels or up the processor, but Samsung rushed the Note 5 out to beat the arrival of the iPhone 6s, before any new parts were available.
The Galaxy Note 5 is sporting a 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display with about 518 PPI that is ranked the best by DisplayMate Technologies. The Nexus 6 uses the same technology and comes in at 493 PPI. The Note 5 uses Samsung’s homegrown 64-bit 7420 octa-core processor – the first processor to use 14nm technology and comes with four cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four cores clocked at 2.1GHz. This goes up against the Nexus 6’s 32-bit Snapdragon quad-core processor clocked at 2.7GHz. The Note 5 uses 4GB of faster DDR4 RAM versus the 3GB DDR3 RAM in the Nexus 6. Both models offer 32GB or 64GB of internal memory with no means of expansion, although the Note 5 uses the much faster UFS 2.0 flash memory.
The Galaxy Note 5 uses the same sized 16MP sensor (the Note 5 is supposed to use only Samsung’s ISOCELL technology), quick camera app, quick focus, f/1.9 aperture, OIS, autofocus and LED flash. This also means that the Note 5 has one of the best cameras found in a smartphone today, as well as great software. The camera in the Nexus 6 is a 13MP and it takes some very good pictures, but not up to the Note 5’s standards. The Note 5 also has a large 5MP FFC with the f/1.9 aperture and wide-angle lens for terrific group selfies or video chats. The Note 5 has a non-removable 3000mAh battery, but it has a quick charge and quick wireless charging capabilities, while the Nexus 6 has a 3220mAh non-removable battery.
The Galaxy Note 5 has a fingerprint sensor, heart rate sensor, is Samsung Pay capable and PayPal certified, has its speaker on the bottom of the device, a much more sensitive S-Pen with added features giving it even more functionality. It has more flexibility with longer documents, can send live broadcastings of your videos and you have an optional slip-on physical, BlackBerry style keyboard. It is running Android Lollipop 5.1.1 and will cost you $300 on a two-year contract and about $700 outright.
…And The Winner Is…
I know that a lot of Nexus owners will not be happy, and if the price of the Nexus 6 was in the $350 range, then my decision would be different. But, the fact is that the Nexus will cost you $500. For $200 more, you can buy the most sophisticated smartphone currently on the market – better display, better processor, more memory, better cameras, fingerprint sensor, heart rate monitor and a smaller design that is easier to hold. And let’s not forget the S-Pen and all of its available features, not to mention Samsung Pay ready that will allow you to make purchases at most retailers with a credit card swiper.
The Nexus 6 is a terrific device that uses pure Android – none of this TouchWiz – and it receives the fastest software updates, but it does not have the latest technology to keep up with the more sophisticated Galaxy Note 5…which is understandable, given the Nexus 6’s age. It is lacking a fingerprint sensor that would work with Android Marshmallow or mobile payments…although it will work via its NFC chip. The new Galaxy Note 5 just has too much going for it, and all for only $200 more, therefore it wins this comparison.