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Galaxy S6 vs. S6 Edge vs. Edge+ vs. Note 5: Which new Samsung smartphone should you buy?

Four superphones with four similar styles and specs. We'll help break down the pros, cons, and how much extra you pay to upgrade from the S6 to the S6 Edge to the Note 5 to the Edge+. Whew!

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are more alike than they are different. Josh Miller/CNET

S6, Edge, Note 5, Edge+.

If you're hemming and hawing over which of Samsung's four new and newish Galaxy superphones to order, let me help break down the major differences so you can decide which one (if any) is right for your pocket.

First things first. I reviewed both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in April, and they're both terrific. Then came the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ , which share similar designs and core features but are larger, and in the case of the Note 5, comes with a specialized stylus, which Samsung calls the S Pen.

(I have a personal preference between the S6 and Edge, but more on that in my video below.)

Editors' note: This story originally published April 2, 2015 to compare the S6 and S6 Edge. It was updated on August 28 to add the Note 5 and S6 Edge+.

What's the same

Let's make it easy. In terms of hardware and construction, everything the Galaxy S6 has, the Galaxy S6 Edge has, too. (OK, so there are a few really minor hardware differences, like the S6 Edge's battery that's a skosh larger than the S6's -- 2,600mAh versus 2,550mAh.) The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ share nearly the same internals, like the processor and camera sensor, though battery size and RAM do vary.

To make it easy, we've put together this specs comparison chart. We've also thrown in the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G4 for good measure.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge vs. other flagships

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge Apple iPhone 6 Plus LG G4
Display 5.7 inches with 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution 5.1 inches with 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution 5.5 inches with 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution 5.5 inches with 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution
Pixel density 518ppi 557ppi 401ppi 534ppi
Dimensions (imperial) Galaxy Note 5: 6.03x2.99x0.29 inches; Galaxy S6 Edge+: 6.08x2.98x0.27 inches Galaxy S6: 5.65x2.78x0.27 inches; Galaxy S6 Edge: 5.59x2.76x0.28 inches 6.22x3.06x0.28 inches 5.87x2.96x0.35 inches
Dimensions (metric) Galaxy Note 5: 153.2x76.1x7.6mm; Galaxy S6 Edge+: 154.4x75.8x6.9mm Galaxy S6:143.4x70.5x6.8mm; Galaxy S6 Edge: 142x70.1x70mm 158.1x77.8x 7.1mm 149.1x75.3x8.9mm
Weight Galaxy Note 5: 6.03 ounces (171g); Galaxy S6 Edge+: 5.39 ounces (153g) Galaxy S6: 4.8 ounces (138g); Galaxy S6 Edge: 4.66 ounces (132g) 6.07 ounces (172g) 5.4 ounces (152g)
Mobile operating system Android 5.1 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop Apple iOS 8 Android 5.1 Lollipop
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Camera, video 16 megapixels 16 megapixels 8 megapixels 16 megapixels
Front-facing camera 5 megapixels 5 megapixels 1.2 megapixels 8 megapixels
Processor Exynos 7420 Exynos 7420 A8 chip 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
Storage 32GB and 64GB 32GB, 64GB and 128GB 16GB, 64GB and 128GB 32GB
RAM 4GB 3GB 1GB 3GB
Expandable storage No No No Up to 2TB
Battery 3,000mAh Galaxy S6: 2,550mAh; Galaxy S6 Edge: 2,660mAh 2,915mAh 3,000mAh
Price on-contract (US dollars) Galaxy Note 5: $200-$250 (32GB), $350 (64GB); Galaxy S6 Edge+: $300-350 (32GB), $450 (64GB) Galaxy S6: $150-$200 (16GB), $250-$300 (64GB), $350-$400 (128GB); Galaxy S6 Edge: $200-$300 (32GB), $300-$400 (64GB), $400-$500 (128GB) $300 (16GB), $400 (64GB), $500 (128GB) $200
Price off-contract (US dollars) Galaxy Note 5: $670-$740 (32GB), $770-$840 (64GB); Galaxy S6 Edge+: $720-$792 (32GB), $815-$888 (64GB) Galaxy S6: $552-$685 (32GB), $672-$785 (64GB), $768-$885 (128GB); Galaxy S6 Edge: $672-$780 (32GB), $768-$860 (64GB), $885-$960 (128GB) $750 (16GB), $850 (64GB), $950 (128GB) $552-$630
Price off-contract (UK pounds) No Note 5 currently sold. Galaxy S6 Edge+: £750 (32GB), £830 (64GB) Galaxy S6: £560 (32GB), £640 (64GB), £719 (128GB); Galaxy S6 Edge: £670 (32GB), £750 (64GB), £830 (128GB) £619 (16GB), £699 (64GB), £789 (128GB) £390
Price off-contract (Australian dollars) Galaxy Note 5: AU$1,099; S6 Edge+: AU$1,199 (32GB); AU$1,299 (64GB) Galaxy S6: AU$1,000 (32GB), AU$1,149 (64GB), AU$1,300 (128GB); Galaxy S6 Edge: AU$1,149 (32GB), AU$1,300 (64GB), AU$1,449 (128GB) AU$1,149 (16GB), AU$1,299 (64GB), AU$1,449 (128GB) AU$929


* Chart by Lynn La/CNET

What's different

There are a few important physical differences between the phones: the size, the shape, the software, and, for the Note 5, the S Pen.

Size: The S6 and Edge measure up with 5.1-inch screens, while the Note 5 and Edge+ have 5.7-inch screens. Size makes a difference when it comes to how much you can view, and how awkward the phones are to hold. The Note's and Edge+'s slim natures do make them more maneuverable than other, thicker large-screen devices, but at the end of the day, larger phones take up more space -- and offer more screen for viewing movies and photos, and reading articles and social networks.

Shape: Basically, the glass-and-metal phones all look and feel really nice, though the Edge's and Edge+'s two curving-down sides make them feel every bit like the elite model, even more so than the S6 and Note 5, which both hold their own in this department as well.

The S6's and Edge+'s curved design comes across as both sharper and more petite, with an air of fragility that will likely make most S6 Edge owners dash to buy a case. (In all earnestness, everyone should buy a case and glass screen protector if they want to safeguard their investment.)

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge: What's the difference?
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Software: Then there's the additional software for the Edge phones and Note. On the Edge, these include ways to quickly reach top contacts, as well as tidbits like a night mode that dimly displays the date and time after lights-out. On the Edge+, you also get shortcuts to top apps, and the ability to reach the shortcut display from any screen. It isn't clear if the regular S6 Edge will get this software, too. All of these are nice extras, but they hardly catapult you to the next level of smartphone existence.

On the Note, the S Note app is the marquee program for taking advantage of the S Pen, plus some other memo and app-shortcut tools as well. S Note has a lot of flexibility for creating charts, drawings and notes of all sorts. The app is streamlined by default so as not to overwhelm beginners, but an extension pack expands features for power users.

S Pen: A "pen" you can pull out from the Note 5 is a major differentiator between that device and all the rest. You'd use it for writing and drawing, navigation and even to help type if you'd like to give your fingers a break or keep the screen a little cleaner (finger smudges from typing layer up fast).

So, yeah. that fancy double-tapered screen doesn't do all that much. But in a world where all smartphones are flat slabs of glass, this is one of the first ones in years that really sets itself apart from a design perspective. It's a looker.

Price comparison

That leads us to the other big difference between the phones: price.

Carriers and retailers will set their own prices in your country and currency, and the chart above outlines what we know about pricing so far.

The 32GB Galaxy S6 will cost the least of the four, with the 64GB Edge+ costing the most. The Note 5's S Pen makes it a more powerful phone than the other phones in terms of features and capability, but -- if you're leaning toward one of the larger phones -- it's also less pricey than the Edge+.

The decision: Size versus design versus stylus

Remember, there are three basic physical differences: the screen size; the curved or flat screen; and the stylus or not.

Buy the Galaxy S6 if: You want an all-around top phone from Samsung, without any more cost, decoration or software than already comes built into the phone.

Buy the S6 Edge if: You love the curved-side style and extra shortcut software, but prefer a regular-size "big" phone rather than an extralarge device (5.1-inch screen over 5.7-inch screen).

Can you tell which phone is which? Josh Miller/CNET

Buy the Note 5 if: You like a large-screen phone with a standard square design (though there are subtle curves on the back), and/or you want to use the S Pen for extra handwriting features. This is the least expensive of Samsung's two large-screen phones.

Buy the S6 Edge+ if: You want a large-screen device and a curved display with that shortcut software along the right or left side (your choice).

Why you might want to wait a couple of weeks: Motorola's Moto X Pure is coming out in a few weeks, Apple is unveiling its new iPhones on September 9, and the annual Berlin-based electronics show, IFA, promises at least a couple of headliner phones to consider (most IFA news will hit the first week of September).

Why the S6 is still CNET's Editors' choice: The Samsung Galaxy S6 isn't quite as sexy as the Edge or Edge+ and not as powerful as the Note 5. It still lacks a removable battery and the microSD card that longtime Samsung fans have come to love.

Yet the omission in the Note 5 seems more damaging -- after all, this is the sixth iteration of Samsung's power-user's phone, and, unlike the S6, there's no 128GB option. So, in a nutshell, the standard S6 remains our CNET Editors' Choice because it's the most approachable to casual users, the more prudent buy, and the better value overall.

Still, whichever one you pick -- the S6, Note 5 or either of the S6 Edges -- is truly an equally smart buy. If you're into design aesthetics, choose the Edge or Edge+. If you're not, stick with the comparatively smaller S6 or larger Note 5.

And if you're still unsure, get yourself into your nearest retailer for a little hands-on time of your own. Bar none, it's the best way to determine which of these four is the phone for you.