Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3 comparison: is it worth upgrading?

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 front 1
© NextPit

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is truly beautiful phone, but it’s replacing a real heavyweight: the five-star Galaxy Note 3. It’s dumped the fake leather and upped the specs of its predecessor, so is the Note 5 now the best phablet around? Let’s find out in our Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3 comparison.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 camera 5
The Galaxy Note 3 (front) and the Galaxy Note 5: how much has changed? / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: design and build quality

The Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t look significantly different to the Galaxy Note 3, but it has been to the gym. The Note 3 is 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm and weighs 168 g; the Note 5 is a little smaller and slimmer at 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm and 171 g. The new Note also dumps the fake leather back of the 3, which isn’t a bad thing.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 side 3
The Galaxy Note 5 (bottom) is undoubtedly the more attractive handset. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: display

The Galaxy Note 5 has a 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display that delivers 2,560 x 1,440 pixels at 515 ppi, and it’s absolutely superb: pin sharp with excellent color reproduction and good viewing angles. As with any AMOLED the display can be a little bright for some tastes, but that’s easy to adjust in each device’s Settings panel. The display is protected by the latest generation of Gorilla Glass, which comes with claims of 80 percent better durability than the glass on some lesser smartphones.

When the Note 3 went on sale its screen was one of the best around, but in this company the 5.7-inch AMOLED with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at 386 ppi has lost its crown. It’s still a really great screen, but the Note 5 has crammed more pixels into the same space.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 display 3
The Note 3 (right) has a great display, but it's not comparison for the Galaxy Note 5. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: processor and storage

The Note 5 comes packing an eight-core Exynos 7420 processor with 4 GB of RAM, and it’s backed up with either 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage but no microSD card slot. Samsung hasn’t announced clock speeds yet but the same processor in the Galaxy S6 has four cores at 2.1 GHz and four at 1.5 GHz.

The Note 3 came in two flavors: a quad-core Snapdragon 800 at 2.3 GHz, or an eight-core Exynos 5 Octa at 1.9 GHz. It has 3 GB of RAM and a choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, plus the option to extend via microSD cards, something many users will miss on the Note 5. 

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 power button 2
The Galaxy Note 5 has a beautiful metal and glass body, but no microSD card support. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: camera

The Note 5 has a 5 MP front-facing selfie snapper and a 16 MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation. It’s the same camera and sensor as the current Galaxy S6, and that means it’s really good.

The Note 3 camera isn’t bad, but with 13 MP on the rear and 2 MP on the front, the Note 5 has it beaten in the specs stakes, hands down.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 camera 4
The camera technology is worlds apart on the Note 5 and Note 3. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: software

The Note 5 runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Samsung’s recently slimmed down TouchWiz and will get Android M when the operating system is finished. The Note 3 originally shipped with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but the Android Lollipop update is rolling out to the Note 3 right now.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: battery

The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a 3,000 mAh battery, and the same power saving and power management features we saw in the Galaxy S6, so hopefully that means all-day battery life. The Note 5 also supports fast charging, which tops the battery up by around a third in 15 minutes. A full charge takes two hours using wireless charging or 90 minutes with a cabled charger.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 usb 1
Though the battery is smaller, the Note 5's battery features are more impressive. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Note 3 battery is bigger than the Note 5's – it’s 3,200 mAh – but doesn’t benefit from the newer Note’s more efficient processor and battery saving modes. Like its successor, the Note 3 supports fast charging.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 3: early verdict

When we reviewed the Galaxy Note 3 we gave it five stars: the display was – and still is – stunning, the S Pen is handy to have, the performance was excellent and the camera was pretty good too. All that was wrong, we felt, was the design – that fake leather in particular.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs galaxy note 3 front 1
The Note 5 is the more impressive version of an already impressive handset. / © ANDROIDPIT

So what’s changed? The leather has gone, the performance is better, the display is even more impressive and the S Pen is still handy to have. Samsung has looked at what made the Note 3 so good and found ways to make it even better. It’s a great device and a worthy successor to an already excellent device.

What do you think? Is this the Note you’ve been waiting for? Let us know in the comments.

Go to comment (88)
Gary Marshall

Gary Marshall
Freelance writer

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall has been writing about technology since Google was two guys in a garage. He's written for many fine magazines, newspapers and websites, written a range of how-to-books and a novel, co-written a BBC documentary series and dishes out weekly tech advice on BBC Radio Scotland.

View all articles
Liked this article? Share now!

Recommended articles

Readers' favorite comments

  • Manfred Elsing Aug 15, 2015

    Shure,the note5 is newer better but I will keep my loved Note3 with at the moment running Android 5.1.1.After for me 1.5 years an amazing device.
    I got 2 new high quality akkus and for 4 days they give me the power to work .
    Also the fast 64 GB sdcard with the internal ROM works quite well.
    So,why change such a brilliant device?For me no reason to do that .

  • Keith Wright Aug 15, 2015

    I really want to ask the team that decided to eliminate the sd card and removable battery, WHAT IN THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Angel Huertas Aug 15, 2015

    I was thinking of upgrading from my Note 3 to the 5 but no sd card and no removable battery has made me think twice! I'm going to wait to see how much the price is going to drop on the Note 4 edge. .and why is there no Note 5 Edge? Sunny is dropping the ball!

  • Mohamad Nazri Mohd. Noh (Nazrae) Aug 15, 2015

    Okay.. Basically you're listing on the specs which is irrelevant because it would be a similar comparison if you compare the Note 3 with a Note 4 or a Note 2 with a Note 3 or a Note 4 etc. It is so lame if you ask me! Of course the hardware would be better than it's predecessor that's why it's it's called the 'next' generation! It wouldn't be a 'next' generation the hardware specs is lesser! Forget about the fake leather textured plastic back cover of the Note 3! It's a back cover for God's sake! Try to peel off a glass if you wanna change the battery on the Note 5!

    I would expect the Note 5 would be better than the Note 4 and would be a worthy jump from a Note 3 to a Note 5 as with those who are still using Note 2 to jump to Note 4.. But after looking at the specs, I was like "Hmmm.. Ok. Nothing much changed from the previous release of the S6 or S6 Edge.".

    Now, if the screen is bigger (that's why they called it a Note) say 5.89in or 6in, a 4100mAH battery (non-removable battery, I can live with that), SD Card support (as the Dual SIM version of the Note 5 supports this) and inclusive of those other specs you listed! Then, it would be a worthy successor of the Note 3 and 4!

    Some may find it irrelevant of the SD Card support and use Cloud storage! Try downloading files when the signal is weak or none at all! Try downloading data until it reaches it's limits and bottlenecked! Backup can Restore can be stored to Cloud or Contacts saved to Google will be restored when signed in but what about other files? VCFs (Contact files), important downloaded email attachments, images, apk files etc. Mind you that the storage is not gonna be 32GB or 64GB, it will be lesser by 1.5 or 2GB with OS files! SD Card is a safeguard in case something went wrong with the phone and backup to the SD Card is practical.

    Samsung may have thought this through and ways to make things easier but for me as a Power User, the Note 5 is a let down! Why take away the things that makes it a Note and/ or doesn't stand in the way of its functions? The Note series stands out on it's own from S Series and other Samsung smartphones or from other brands! Now, the Note 5 looks like S6 Edge+ but inverted. The back cover of the S6 Edge+ is now the screen for the Note 5 and the front screen of the S6 Edge+ becomes the back cover of the Note 5! I'll be getting a Note 4 instead and still keeping me Note 3 as backup!

  • D.j. Klermund Aug 22, 2015

    F you Samsung! I can't believe that you've done this to me. I was really looking forward to upgrading to a note 5 from my note 3, but after I find out you have taken away my micro SD card slot and now do not allow me to remove the battery I will never swap. I may have to find a new company to provide my next phablet. You lost me Samsung, wow what a fumble!


Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing
Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing

  • Scotty Bot Nov 15, 2018 Link to comment

    3 years later I just found this article because Tmobile replaced my dieing Note 3 with a Note 5, and I absolutely HATE it. Some things this article completely failed to explain.

    Note 5 Downgrades:
    No replaceable battery
    No IR port for IR remote control
    No USB 3...

    My Note 3 lasted almost 5 years, and went through 3 different batteries, the most recent one 2x Capacity... My Note 5 will only last as long as it's batter does... Wich will not be 5 years I assure you.

    I could care less about the minor speed tweaks, slightly brighter harder to read screen, or smaller slippery design... I/we lost more features than the damned iPhone headphone jack, and they were not even briefly mentioned??? These losses are terrible, and my opinion of Samsung which was 100% is and now in the low 40's at best. I'm just glad I wasn't an idiot who paid full retail for this and instead got it under warranty (which I don't pay out of pocket or else it would be like $400).

    Stop taking away features from devices and integrating forced obsolescence!!!! People who buy Samsung products buy them to last, if we wanted expensive throw away devices we would choose Apple..

    • Scotty Bot Nov 15, 2018 Link to comment

      And yes, I used all of these features daily! Now my battery will be the end of the phone, I can't remote control my TV, AC, and Stereo system with the same device, and not only are transfer speeds slower, USB 2.0 does not support Display Link like 3.0 did/does... So everything OTG is fail now...

  • Trevor Buckton Aug 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Also usb 2 on note 5 vs usb 3 on note 3 means slower transfer speeds to my pc...another concern

  • Elida Aguilar Jul 5, 2016 Link to comment

    i like the sd card, and removable battery. lets me control some things, i like the pleather back too. my phone is paid for and i don't use the camera that much. its mainly my business device, to read documents, edit, and send out. i like the stylus pen. screen is great for me. I was thinking of upgrading to the newer phone, but think i will keep my tried and true note 3. i have had it for two years , not changing out .

  • Alicia Glasscock Jun 25, 2016 Link to comment

    I commented on here when I was trying to decide weather to update my note 3 to the note 5. I couldn't make up my mind what to do. I'm glad I decided to update cause I've had my note 5 for 7 months and I love it. I hate that I lost my remote control, which not many people talk about but I've still got my note 3 sitting in my bedroom for that. I bought the 64 gb version and was very worried cause I put a lot of my phone but I still have plenty of space. The reason they took the SD card out was to make it faster and more responsive and it worked. If it has to read the SD card it takes longer. This phone is so fast it never lags. The camera is great too. I updated and have not regretted it at all.

  • Lauren Wheeler Jan 16, 2016 Link to comment

    I can't believe Samsung let me down. I'm a Small Business Owner who runs ENTIRELY off of Samsung. I love that my phone is just as useful as my Tab2, Chromebook, Smart TV and Printer. I NEED that additional space.

    My Note 3 hasn't let me down. I have had the same device(no trades, upgrades, or troubleshooting) for the last 2+ years. I consider myself a HEAVY user of my Samsung devices. ESPECIALLY my phone. I Screen Mirror to my employees, chat on Gtalk(now called Hangouts), Use Google voice for "digital receptionists" through 4 different phones, email, text, surf the web, use multiple screens during Mirrioring, text to speech when I am driving, GPS going to meet different clients - my list is ENDLESS.

    Why on God's earth would you remove the option to pop in an additional battery OR additional memory?! THAT'S WHY WE CHOSE YOU OVER APPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE!! Ugh!! Personally, I get through the day on ONE charge. I'll plug my Samsung portable charger in while on the go. With my S2, I would switch batteries(so I can understand other angry user's complaints). I want to upgrade simply because, I always do when Samsung releases a new product(I'm a fan!). Given, it's usually an upgrade that's WORTH it. I've been waiting since the release of this phone, my NOTE 3...

    My Note 3 was and IS still the best phone out. I run a business. I need my files on me at all times. I pay monthly for my Google Drive to be larger - I'm already occupying about 80% of that. Can you imagine my phone's memory with the 64g HDSD?! I'm STILL packed. If you're going to FORCE us to not have removable storage-be BETTER than Apple. Give me more space. Make it worth my while!

    I'll hold off until Samsung gets it together.

    An ANGRY Samsung Fan/User

  • Viken Shirinian Dec 23, 2015 Link to comment

    I don't see the big deal about a removable battery specially when I can use a wireless charger. Would be nice to get a bigger screen with the note 6 but my note 3 has seen it's better days behind it. I am having some software issues and now the phone just shuts off when I try to answer a call. It is a great device but on with a newer one. Note 5, here I come.

  • John Mcguire Dec 15, 2015 Link to comment

    Why it it everyone hate on the plastic can buy a leather one.... A steel one....I've even seems some 24k gold one.....

    The plastic back allows easy access for guests what.... ? Replacing the battery and sd card BY Yourself.

    The back is not a flaw it allows you to access built in features.....

    The same dumb asses who critique the plastic back to not tell us how they would allow customers to change batteries and sd cards easily while maintaining the slimmest profile possible

  • Roy Testerman Dec 7, 2015 Link to comment

    I was in the same boat as all the note 3 users upset with the battery and sd being not available features. Then I thought about it... for the sd card, I have never used nearly 10g of my note 3 capacity and never had a sd in it. For the battery, I may have removed my battery once in 2 years and that was when I first got it. I put it into an otterbox day one. And only took it off a few times since. The battery is very reliable. It makes no sence to limit myself to no upgrades because of that, it's the future, cloud computing. .. may as well enjoy it now!

  • James N. Nov 18, 2015 Link to comment

    Stop complaining about the microSD card slot being removed people. It's not a terrible tragedy but it does require you to think just a little bit about how you can get around this. As one person mentioned, you can use cloud storage. My personal preference is to use a Monster Duo flash drive. It has a micro USB port on one end & a regular USB port on the other end. Simply plug the drive into the micro USB port on the phone & you're good to go. With OTG USB built in you don't need to download anything to make it work. There are other manufacturers of the "Duo" flash drives. Stick with one that is Class 10 or U1 for speed purposes. This really isn't that big of a deal breaker IMHO.

  • Julian Mitchell Nov 17, 2015 Link to comment

    I'm ready to upgrade my Note 3, but Samsung has missed the mark for me. No SD card slot, and no replaceable battery! I travel internationally, and need 30-40 hours of use....

    • James N. Nov 19, 2015 Link to comment

      Use the micro USB port with an OTG cable or a flash drive that has a micro USB port on it, like the Monster Digital Mobile Drive Mini 3.0. The lack of a microSD card slot sounds very bad at first but there are ways around everything. There is a big push being made by all of these tech companies to more or less force us to use the cloud. I would much rather use an OTG cable & secure the data myself. Is it that much of an inconvenience to carry a flash drive that's 1.5" L x .5" W x .25 H?

      • Marta M May 17, 2016 Link to comment

        Come on! I don't want to take everywhere with me additional drive!! No card it's like a foot shot. I'm doing a lot o photo and I keep many documents on card. I don't want to store it in internet. What happend it's my baterry will be weak? Now I can replace it. Without it I need to pay for costly repair. I have Note 3 and I don't change it for new one.

    • James N. Nov 19, 2015 Link to comment

      Use the micro USB port with an OTG cable or a flash drive that has a micro USB port on it, like the Monster Digital Mobile Drive Mini 3.0. The lack of a microSD card slot sounds very bad at first but there are ways around everything.

  • Rush Nov 15, 2015 Link to comment

    I currently have a Note 3, and came due for an upgrade around the launch of the Note 5. I was 99% sure I was upgrading and very excited to see what all Samsung would add to the latest note. But when they launched it was revealed they did away with the removable back. This is the 1% that made me change my mind about upgrading to the Note 5. I utilize the mircoSD card slot and I always carry a fully charged extra battery while hunting or doing anything when I'll be away from power for a while. It's so much better to pop in a 100% OEM battery than to plug in to a portable charger for hours. Anyways, I still want to upgrade because I have become unhappy with the note 3 camera. Everything else is still great. So now I'm having to spend countless hours researching LG, HTC, etc. to try and figure out what I will upgrade to. I will hate losing the few Samsung bloatware features I use, but I need my removable battery and expandable memory. Thanks a lot Samsung.

  • Danielle Dendy Nov 15, 2015 Link to comment

    I was really excited about the new Note 5, mainly the camera. But the HUGE deal breaker is the noSD slot. I can handle the non removable battery because I've had HTCs. I have way to many pictures and music to not have an external memory card. Why would they take out that option??

  • Alicia Glasscock Oct 20, 2015 Link to comment

    Just like everyone else I have a note 3, upgraded from the note 2 that I gave to my daughter after 2 years cause it was still a great phone, I've had my Note 3 for close to 2 years now and it's still a great phone. I cracked the screen after dropping it and now I have 2 tiny hairline cracks going across the screen. Also, after tmobile offered the upgrade to the new OS my phone had all kinds of problems. Apps that came with the phone were force closing without even being open, battery draining real fast, texts taking 20 minutes or longer to send so I would use Facebook messenger, and more. On November 20th I've been with tmobile for 3 years and they told me I can get a new phone for nothing down on the jump program instead of a high down payment since I made 2 payments late lol (over 500 dollars down) so I'm thinking about upgrading to the new note 5. I've got the 32gb version with a 64gb card. I've used almost 19gb on internal and that's just apps and the occasional file that I don't realize gets saved on internal storage. I use my phone a lot for watching movies, reading books, using apps, taking notes, and just about everything else so I'm trying to decide if the loss of an external SD card is a deal breaker for me. I've got an external 1 TB hard drive so I guess I can move to it when I full up but I like having everything with me. I don't like the non removable battery either, not cause I want to replace it cause I've never had to buy another battery but every once in a while the phone freezes and I have to take the battery out to free it. I won't be able to do that anymore and that makes me nervous. I like having the best smart phone out there and I've been a die hard Samsung fan since I got the note 2 and I've told every one about it and switched a lot of people from crappy apple's to Galaxy phones cause they're better but now they're trying to imitate apple and it's sad. I hate apples they suck they won't let you tweak your phone or do anything other then the basics and their app store sucks and don't get me started on their music and getting music on the phone. I've always made fun of apples saying damn that sucks you can't take your battery out or put an SD card in your phone and what is your screen made from glass. Now they will be saying that about me, except the glass part. I'm gonna have to pay another 100 to upgrade 32gb to the 64gb cause I know 32gb total will not be enough, instead of putting my 64gb card from my Note 3 to my Note 5 that I paid 50 bucks for. Can someone help me make up my mind. I just can't decide.

  • Chris Fratello Oct 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I've had my note 3 for a little over 2 years now. It's been dropped several times and still keeps working. I hate that it doesn't have flash capabilities. I was looking forward to upgrading to the note 5, but I went for 2 big reasons. First is the lack of removable battery. If that was the only flaw in the new design, I might be able to live with that, especially if the battery has a larger capacity. But no mSD slot is a HUGE deal breaker for me. Might just as well go to the dark side and get an Apple product. That is why I liked the android platform so much. Sorry Sammy, it's been real, but, it's time to look elsewhere I guess..

    • Brad Gill Oct 16, 2015 Link to comment

      Otc cable (from amazon) and a thumb drive you have extra storage.

  • Laila Taylor Oct 5, 2015 Link to comment

    I just bought a Note 3, have had it for about 2 weeks, and I'm loving it!

    I did not even consider the Note 5. The lack of an SD card slot and removable battery is a deal breaker. The one neat thing about the Note 5 is that you can write on the screen while the display is turned off. However, my Note 3 can now do the same with an app called Screen Off Memo (downloaded from XDA forums).

    Overall, the Note 3 is more than capable for my needs. I don't need it to be any faster (apps open within 1-3 seconds, smooth transitions, games run smoothly), and the screen is still beautiful by today's standards. The average person isn't going to go "wow what an old phone." My experience has been just the opposite with friends and relatives feeling impressed by it. In fact, my brother thought it was a Note 4 until I flipped it over to show him the back, lol.

Show all comments
Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing