Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is really the only choice for a 2015 flagship with a stylus. Notwithstanding the stylus advantage, the Galaxy Note 5 (and it’s fellow launch model the S6 Edge Plus) has been a joy to use. And that’s because of it’s performance, camera quality, and battery life.

Design and Specs

The Galaxy Note series used to be known for its large screen size, but the Galaxy Note 5 retains the same 5.7″ AMOLED screen as per the Note 4, but succeeds in in trimming a few mm off the compact Galaxy Note 4, and measures 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm at 171g. In 2015, large screen phones are the new normal. Just look at the demand of the 6S Plus vs the 6S. In fact, the Note 5 is smaller than the iPhone 6S Plus (158.2 mm x 77.9 mm x 7.3 mm).

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The Galaxy Note 5 comes in a glossy metal and glass finish that looks rather premium. However, it is so similar to the Galaxy S6 that you might had a hard time telling them apart other than its size, and the S Pen tucked in the bottom right corner. Personally, I am not a fan of the Samsung look, with the rounded edge home button and flanking capacitive buttons on the side.

The Note 5 upgrades the RAM to 4GB, but it is otherwise similar to the Galaxy S6, using the same octacore Samsung Exynos processor, which excels in performance. Having tested the other manufacturers flagship which use the Snapdragon 810, the Note 5 stood out in terms of thermal performance. I didn’t encountered any problems with games but more strikingly, the Note 5 remained cool and I didn’t feel it overheating. Something which was unfortunately rather common on the Snapdragon 810. The better thermal performance also leads to good battery life, which despite a slightly smaller 3,000mAH battery, the Galaxy Note 5 on a single charge can last for a day and a half. For the heavier users, there’s also support for quick charge (fast charger included) and also fast wireless charging. This will hopefully appease fans who lost the ability to switch out the batter.

Besides the loss of the removable battery, fans will also mourn the removal of the expansion card slot. The Note 5 comes in 2 variants, 32GB and a larger 64GB, as well as free 100GB of Microsoft OneDrive.

Pen with Click-y Top

Tucked away in the bottom right corner is the S Pen, which ejects with a click. Too bad the click doesn’t have any other associated features though – would have been cool if it could trigger features on the phone. But trust me, the click is addictive. There was a slight hooha earlier if you insert the S Pen backwards, which can basically break the pen detection feature. The S Pen offers the similar S Pen menu when you whip out the pen with new features this year, such as the ability to note take immediately, called screen off memo by ejecting the S Pen, an improved Air Command with customisable short cuts, and greater pressure differentiation on the S pen.

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Samsung stylus implementation is top notch, and the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t disappoint. Writing experience and annotating documents is a pleasant and easy experience.

Great Camera

DXOMark rates the Galaxy S6 as the best camera phone shooter up to 1st October (it just got overtaken by the Xperia Z5 – which was very impressive at the launch), and the Note 5 can’t go wrong, since it use the same f1.9 16 megapixel camera with OIS. In fact, there are some new improvements with the ability to shoot RAW photos. I was quite happy to leave the phone in auto mode for most of the time and the resultant quality was still great. The camera was fast, and the images captured were sharp and crisp.

Colour balance and contrast fared well on auto settings and low light indoor photos also turned out well. At times, the ISO might be ramped up a little too aggressively, with noise introduced to the photos but that wasn’t common. At most times, the image processing software was able to pick the right setting.

Verdict

If you were a fan of the Galaxy Note series, the Note 5 is a worthy upgrade and offers an even better S Pen experience, that is unrivaled.

Even if you don’t plan to use the stylus that much, there’s still much to like. Great camera. Excellent performance. Fast charging, even wirelessly, means that it’s easy to top up your battery before you head out. The trade offs? It sports a classy but otherwise boring look that’s a little too similar to the Galaxy S6. May not necessarily be a bad thing. The lack of a memory card and a fixed battery are sore points on an otherwise almost excellent phone.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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