Do we have a good one for you today – the almost year-old Samsung Galaxy Note 5 takes on the new ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra. We have the reigning king of phablets take on the new 6.8-inch 'ultra' phablet, or is it Ultra only in terms of size? The Galaxy Note 5 is a beautiful full-metal chassis with Gorilla Glass 4 taking up residence in the front and the back of the device – a fingerprint magnet to be sure, but a solid build and premium look. The new ZenFone 3 Ultra has taken on a new Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy body that hides the antenna in the edges of the device, which eliminates those antenna lines we see on so many metal smartphones. Does the ZenFone 3 Ultra have what it takes to take on the powerhouse Galaxy Note 5, or is it mostly all show and no go? Let's look at some of the similarities of these two devices before we look at each one individually.
The Galaxy Note 5 and ZenFone 3 Ultra are so different, let us see if we can find some common ground with these two devices. As we said earlier, they are made from different materials and the Ultra is much larger in physical size as well as display. The displays use different technologies and different resolutions. The processors and GPUs are miles apart – different brands and different specs. They both use 4GB of RAM, but different types and they both offer a 32GB or 64GB storage variant. Camera areas differ greatly, but they both have Hi-Res audio built-in. Both models offer a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device – only the Note 5 has NFC to allow for authorizing mobile payments. The Note 5 and ZenFone 3 Ultra have non-removable batteries with fast charging capabilities. Some of the usual suspects are here – WiFi, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, and a USB port (v2.0 on the Note 5 and Type-C on the Ultra) for charging and data transfer.
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.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
When Samsung redesigned the Galaxy S6 series last year, it came as no surprise that the Galaxy Note 5 would follow with its own metal and glass design. Possibly a plus in some people's books, but everybody frowned on losing the expandable storage and removable battery. Sales of the Galaxy Note 5 have been solid – it is the premier phablet smartphone, complete with its own S-Pen stylus. Bigger, newer phablets come along every year to try and take the spotlight off of the Note series – can the new ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra with its massive 6.8-inch display pull it off…let's take a look.
The Galaxy Note 5 sports the same size 5.7-inch display as the past two years, although Samsung continues to make improvements to the display every year. It uses Samsung's Super AMOLED QHD display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels and 518 pixels-per-inch (PPI.) The Note 5 uses Samsung's 64-bit Exynos 7420 octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 1.5GHz and the other four cores clocked at 2.1GHz with the newest 14nm technology. The Note 5 packs 4GB of faster DDR4 RAM and the Note 5 has a 32GB or 64GB option of much faster UFS 2.0 Flash memory, but no room for expansion.
The primary camera on the Galaxy Note 5 uses a 16MP Samsung ISOCELL sensor with fast startup, fast focus, large aperture at f/1.9 for better low-light photos, Live HDR and great software. The Note 5 uses a 5MP front-facing camera (FFC) with the f/1.9 aperture and wide-angle and Live HDR for selfies and video chat. The Note 5 has a non-removable 3000mAh battery, but it features a quick charge feature as well as quick wireless charging capabilities.
The Galaxy Note 5 has a fingerprint sensor that is Samsung Pay and PayPal certified with heart rate and oxygen saturation sensors and built-in wireless quick charge. It comes with a much improved and more sensitive S-Pen with added features giving it even more functionality. The Note 5 can handle longer documents, and you can send live broadcasts of your videos. It has been updated to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and it will cost you about $700 outright for a 32GB model and $790 for a 64GB model.
ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra
ASUS' new line of ZenFone 3 smartphones are a beautiful design of all metal with the antenna lines hidden from view in the edges of the device. While the 'Deluxe' model is the flagship of the three – the 'Ultra,' is named because of its mammoth 6.8-inch display. The ZenFone 3 Ultra is the model we will compare to the Galaxy Note 5. ASUS made many changes from last year's ZenFone 2 design – new processor, more RAM, the new UFS 2.0 memory, and better camera. Let's take a closer look at Ultra model and see how it stacks up against the Galaxy Note 5.
The ZenFone 3 Ultra falls into the true definition of a phablet – in this case, almost to the tablet area with its massive 6.8-inch IPS LCD display and Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and 324 PPI. Because of its large size and FHD display, the PPI is less than we are used to seeing on a modern day smartphone. ASUS picked the midrange 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor with a quad-core clocked at 1.4GHz and a quad-core clocked at 1.8GHz and the packed in an Adreno 510 GPU to handle the graphics. It boasts 4GB of slower DDR3 RAM (a restriction of the processor) and 64GB of faster UFS 2.0 memory – like that used on the Note 5 – but is expandable to 200GB via a microSD card.
ASUS vastly improved the camera on their new models – the primary camera uses a large 23MP Sony IMX318 (sensor) with a f/2.0 aperture, 6-element Largan lens, and 0.03-second TriTech Autofocus – it uses both Laser and Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF.) ASUS even went with a 4-axis OIS for more stability and then added a dual-tone flash. The ZenFone 3 Ultra gives you an 8MP FFC with a f/2.0 aperture and 85-degree wide-angle lens for selfies and video chatting. A large, non-removable, 4600mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 powers the device.
The ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra has a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device and dual bottom-mounted stereo speakers. ASUS did not include NFC in the Ultra model so there will be no mobile payments. The Ultra arrives running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the newest ZenUI 3.0 running over the top. The Ultra measures 186.4 x 93.9 x 6.8mm and weighs in at 233 grams. It is available in Glacier Silver, Titanium Gray, or Metallic Pink and it will cost you about $479 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of memory.
…And The Winner Is…
The Final Word
There is no argument here – even after almost a year, the Galaxy Note 5 certainly out-powers and out-specs the ZenFone 3 Ultra. The ONLY place the Ultra wins is in screen size – 5.7-inches versus 6.8-inches – if you call that winning. The Note 5 has a QHD Super AMOLED display, a better processor, faster RAM, NFC for mobile payments, wireless charging, an excellent camera, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, an S-Pen and all of the available software that goes with it.
If you are in the market for a large display with mid-range specs for under $500, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra might be exactly the device for you. The camera specs are there, the all-metal body, dual speakers, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and the same fast UFS 2.0 memory that is expandable in the Ultra. It is definitely an entertainment device for video watching.
So you make your choice – the powerhouse, productivity Galaxy Note 5 or the cheaper ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra with its large display for your viewing pleasure. For pure specs and features, the Galaxy Note 5 still wins this comparison.