Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review: still a big deal
Samsung has made some bold decisions with the Galaxy Note 5, having completely redesigned its flagship phablet. In our Galaxy Note 5 review, we analyse this new direction and find out whether you should buy one. Samsung is also now manufacturing a model that avoids the damage caused by inserting the S Pen the wrong way; see the Special features section for more.
- Great display brightness
- Extremely fast, quality camera
- Integrated stylus pen
- Ingenious handwriting recognition
- Lousy multi-tasking
- Poor sound quality
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 release date and price
The Galaxy Note 5 is currently only available in the US and Canada. It launched on August 21 in the US on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. It isn’t coming to Europe (including the UK) at this stage, although that could change, and we have heard that the Note 5 can be found unofficially in Europe, but you’ll need to search for it.
A "trusted Samsung source" of Gadgette.com brought the news in early December that the Galaxy Note 5 would finally see a European release in 2016. The move comes with dubious timing, given that the device has been available for nigh on six months in the US, and the next line of Galaxy devices is due to be unveiled shortly, but consumers will surely be gladdened by the news, nonetheless.
The Galaxy Note 5 is reportedly going on sale in the UK first, in late January.
The Galaxy Note 5 price is reasonable considering its premium build, but you’re still going to fork out quite a bit for it. In the US, it’ll set you back US$250 on a two-year contract and US$696 off-contract with Verizon.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 where to buy
These are the current best offers and deals for the Galaxy Note 5. All prices are correct at the time of writing.
AT&T, US$70 p/m (plus US$45 one-off activation fee and US$249 for the handset) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 2 GB data, on a two-year contract
U.S. Cellular, US$70 p/m (plus US$40 one-off activation charge and a US$199.99 upfront fee) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 1 GB data, on a two-year contract
You can also buy an unlocked international version of the Galaxy Note 5 with 32 GB of internal storage on Amazon for around US$762.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 design and build quality
Samsung has applied the design language it used with the Galaxy S6 to the Note 5. Gone are the days of tacky fake leather and plastic for the Galaxy Note series: the Note 5 shines with an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back.
The most striking thing about the Note 5’s design is its rounded rear edges. Imagine the curved front edges of the Galaxy S6 Edge+, transplanted to the back of the Note 5. The bezels surrounding the display are extremely narrow, particularly next to those curved edges, and they look great. Samsung has taken a real leap forward here in terms of design quality.
The Galaxy Note 5 is certainly beautiful. Its design and the materials used means it feels like a more premium device than its predecessors in the series, but it has lost a few typical Note features. There is no microSD card slot, for example, which will disappoint many fans of the series, and the battery is not replaceable.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 display
The Galaxy Note 5 display is a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED unit with QHD resolution. There is no display quite like it – not even the dual edge display of the Galaxy S6 Edge (with or without a plus) looks quite as good.
The Galaxy Note 5 display is actually more comparable with that of the Galaxy S6. Both have a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, but because the Note 5 display is bigger (5.7 inches compared with 5.1 inches), the pixel density is lower. It still amounts to 518 ppi though,which we don’t imagine would be a cause for complaint for anyone.
DisplayMate test results
To get a broader set of results for our testing, we’ve used turned to experts in the field of smartphone and tablet displays. Every year, DisplayMate tests displays using complex procedures to identify color fidelity, color space, brightness, sharpness, reflections, viewing angle stability and so on. Samsung gets top honors virtually every year.
The Note 5 display is much brighter than the Note 4's. It can be seen much better in bright ambient light, and it is also significantly more power-efficient. According to DisplayMate, it provides the best color reproduction of all mobile displays. The Note 5 also set a new record on display brightness.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 special features
The special feature of the Note series is the S Pen. A novel feature of the Galaxy Note 5’s S Pen is that it now has an ejecting mechanism. By pressing the thruster on the end, the stylus pops out from its housing and can be pulled out.
You can use the pen in two modes. Pulling it out while the phone is in standby mode starts the minimalistic launcher.
When the phone is unlocked, removing the Note 5 stylus launches Air Command. This shows a list of S Pen-specific apps that you can access quickly.
To use the S Pen for typing, you need to change the keyboard to pen input. You can find this on the Samsung keyboard to the left of the spacebar.
Following the Note 5's release, many users reported a design flaw. They claimed it was easy to insert the S Pen into the slot the wrong way round, and that doing so made it difficult to remove the pen, and caused the pen removal detection to stop working.
Now, Samsung has quietly corrected this flaw. New models feature a small internal tab that allows for damage-free ejection of the stylus when it is inserted incorrectly. The discovery was made by a user over at Phandroid and was later confirmed by Samsung, who had previously included warning labels on the packaging, which evidently proved insufficient.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 software
The Note 5 has already had numerous software updates. The T-Mobile Edition we used came immediately with performance updates based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. An update to Android Marshmallow was already deployed and now all Note 5 devices are getting Android Nougat.
Our review unit came with some bloatware apps installed, but not an excessive number; just the S Pen apps in addition to the usual Facebook and Microsoft apps. Samsung still runs its TouchWiz UI over the top of its Galaxy series.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 performance
The Galaxy Note 5 packs the powerful Exynos 7420 processor, which has eight cores and a clock speed of more than 2.1 GHz. It has 4 GB of RAM. As with the Galaxy S6 Edge+, there is only the choice between 32 GB and 64 GB versions.
In processor speed and and memory performance benchmarks, the Note 5 performance sits somewhere between the S6 Edge+ and the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact.
4 GB of memory should get you great multi-tasking performance. Unfortunately, the Note 5 seems to be a bit of a letdown. According to both PhoneBuff and Android Police tests, its load times fall behind those of the LG G4 and Nexus 6, even though these have weaker hardware.
The relaunching of apps is very often accompanied by a lagginess we’d expect of devices with significantly less RAM. It seems that Samsung went with 4 GB of RAM for marketing purposes rather than performance. Perhaps it’s dealing with aggressive power-saving, but, if it is, this comes at the expense of decent multi-tasking.
Once you open four or more different apps, the first is closed in the background. If you then call it up, it needs to be completely reloaded. With 4 GB of RAM, this should happen only after the 10th app is loaded.
But we’re sure that Samsung can resolve this issue with a software update. The Nexus 6’s update to Android 5.1 resulted in a measurable improvement to multi-tasking. The secret there was optimized processor control.
Much had been speculated about a microSD card slot ahead of the Galaxy Note 5 release. As it turned out, it doesn't have one. From my perspective, this is not that big a deal, because I’m using cloud services more and more. But even if you're not a fan of cloud storage, a lack of microSD card support is not the worst thing in the world, seeing as the largest variant of the Note 5 has 64 GB of internal memory.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 audio
Galaxy Note 5 audio is good, but not overwhelming. The phone has a mono speaker at the bottom-right but you'll need to play with the equalizer settings to get a decent sound.
One of the key features of the Note 4 was its fantastic voice recorder. It had three integrated microphones, making it possible to distinguish up to eight participants in a meeting. The Note 5 does not have this feature, unfortunately, and its voice recorder is totally average.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 camera
"The camera of the Note 5 is fantastic," says our cameraman Tony. The Note 5 camera can satisfy professionals, even when in an elevator, the subway or under office lighting. The ability to change exposure and focus is fantastic, and there's an 'AF/AE lock' feature that lets you lock the camera’s focus when filming or photographing subjects that are sitting or standing.
The camera of the Note 5 is at the top of what is technically possible with a mobile device. Details are super sharp, even when you shoot freehand in automatic mode. The colors are a little artificial (typical of Samsung) and perhaps in need of some editing, but light and dark areas show a level of detail that many other smartphone cameras would display as simply black and white.
When you look closely at the above crop-to-fit shot, you can see a little blurring, but that would, with more light and less movement, likely disappear. The Note 5 camera is works remarkably well in poor lighting conditions. If a good camera is on your list of buying criteria, you should definitely shortlist the Note 5.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 battery
The Galaxy Note 5 is missing one other feature that's traditional in the Note series: a removable battery. The battery is smaller than the Note 4's too – 3,000 mAh compared with 3,220 mAh. This may look bad on paper, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate worse battery life.
To evaluate the Galaxy Note 5's battery performance we ran two Antutu Benchmarks, a PCMark test, and two of our own real world / heavy usage tests.
A benchmark will automatically put a device through a number of tests to determine how battery life holds up under a number of different scenarios. While these are good for giving an idea of performance, they are still only simulations of real-life use.
We conducted two tests with the Antutu app, which monitored the device while it consumed 20 percent of its battery life, and did the same with the PCMark app, which monitored the device while it consumed 80 percent of its battery life. The higher the score, the better the device has performed during these tests.
Antutu yielded a score of 8,122 on the first test and 8,663 on the second (note that benchmark scores can be influenced by many things and rarely will the same result appear twice on the same device). This is at the top end of our recent benchmarks, alongside the likes of the Xperia Z3, which received a score of 8,401, and is known for having strong battery performance.
The PCMark test yielded a 'work performance' score of 5,532 (which is based on how the battery holds up during web browsing, video playback, writing, and photo editing), which produced a 'work battery life' score of 7 hour 4 minutes.
The Note 5 currently holds the number 67 position in Futuremark's benchmark list for Android battery performance. This list is compiled using data from PCMark tests conducted over the past 30 days. It’s worth noting that there are very few flagship Android phones placed higher than the Note 5 – the Galaxy S6 Active comes in at 33, the Moto X Play at 32, but most of the devices that score more highly are minor Android smartphones or tablets from the last few years.
Real world (heavy usage) test
For my own test, I set the Note 5's screen brightness at the maximum with a two-minute timeout. Over the course of the day I used the Note 5 for emails, gaming, watching videos, taking photos and recording videos, as well as for many of the Note 5 -specific software features, such as those found in the Air Command menu.
In addition, I enabled vibrating feedback (haptic feedback) and vibrating alerts and made use of NFC and Location-related tasks. I started my test when the device was at 100 percent battery life.
This type of usage far exceeds how I much would normally interact with a device, but this test was designed to determine how our phones will perform in a worst case scenario.
In our first test, in which I did a little more gaming, the Galaxy Note 5 lasted for around 28 hours before it ran out of juice. In the second test the device had 10 percent battery left after 28 hours.
This is little more than one day of battery life – and I did sleep for some of that time – but it’s an impressive figure given how much I used the Note 5. Powering what might be the most detailed display on the platform at full brightness must take a serious toll on the battery life, and few users will permanently set the brightness to the maximum as I did. The Note 5 could have lasted for 30 hours in the second test and for the average user it would last longer still.
The Galaxy Note 5 is unlikely to ever reach the two-day battery life sweetspot that many manufacturers aim for – I can't imagine getting another 20 hours of standby time even with more realistic usage habits – but it's still at the higher end of the battery life spectrum, and will hopefully be even further improved once the Note 5 receives the Marshmallow update.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 technical specifications
The Galaxy Note 5 is a great device, both visually and physically. The reason it doesn't score a full five marks is because it seems that design was a higher priority than useful features like a microSD card slot, replaceable battery or the conferencing microphone that the Note 4 had.
The Galaxy Note 4 is a more standout device in every way. And unless Samsung addresses its new phablet’s performance, the Note 5 can’t be considered a proper upgrade over its predecessor.
Samsung Smartphones are durable and used by everyone.
Many manufacturers are moving from SD card slots and removable batteries. The war between the design and the functionality is fierce. But you can add power case or SD card extender like me. The S pen is irreplaceable for me. I got the equipment needed and now I plan to swap it with a modular case, that solves the two problems with one blow. It is a great invention from I-blades.
World class Smart Phone.
New Samsung Galaxy Note 7 cost 30,000rupee
Latest Apple iPhone SE 20,000rupee & Samsung Galaxy S7 EDGE 33,000rupee
Serious buyer should contant us.
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Previously an "Early Adopter" (Note 1, 2, 3 and 4) I am for the first time buying the SAME model of phone again - the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with its REMOVEABLE BATTERY, expandable storage and S-pen. I just timed it. My Note 4 takes 14 seconds to RECHARGE to FULL (because I have 3 batteries and 2 external chargers so just swap the battery) . My phone NEVER has to be on a charging pad or plugged in EVER - it roams FREE!! Until new Galaxy Note's take less than 14 seconds to recharge, the Note 4 is the best Note. If I compare the number of times my phone has got wet compared to how many times the phone's battery depletes, removeable batteries are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than waterproofing. If I wanted an Apple I would have bought one. Such a STUPID decision by Samsung to not allow batteries to be swapped on the Note series. A soon as a competitor comes up with something equivalent to a Note 5 or 6 but with a REMOVEABLE battery and EXPANDABLE STORAGE and an S-Pen, I will swap.
Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and more is now on sale only at NewSmartphoneDeals:com
Ir blaster, removable battery, and expandable storage. Plz bring them all back. I luv the fact I never needed to find my remote lol. Those things are the reason I choose Android over Apple.
I have been using this phone for a month and I can honestly say I'm in love with this phone. After watching so many excellent reviews of Samsung S6, I decided to buy it and it performed well beyond my expectations. It runs so smooth even while playing games. There are no lack and no heating at the back and feels classic in the hand. It is available on affordable price with the number of functionality in it. Amazing experience!!
Probably one of the two non nexus phones I'd buy. My 1st Android was the note 1 & giant screens have been my thing ever since. I'd fancy a gold or silver note 5, but its now 2016 & with that said. Might as well get the next greatest and latest note 6 . the missing sd card and replaceable battery isn't a big deal to me as my nexus phones have not had any of the 2 aforementioned.... I'd just wanna see a bigger battery, better speakers and a smoother TOUCHWIZ, or might as well root it and put stock in it. It's just damn expensive... 650$ is expensive but when ur talking 700$ & beyond its like...... This better be EFFIN awesome to not change it up after a year
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 requires two hands and a pile of cash, but it's the best Android phone with a large screen, a stylus and an accurate camera.
+Slick glass-backed design
+Stunning camera quality
+Handy S Pen stylus
-No microSD card slot
-No removable battery
-Limited to a few countries
Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 is excellent overall, and the only phone to buy if you want to write by hand. However, you'll pay a huge premium for a modest upgrade from last year's model, and less pricey competitors will satisfy many.
I found out very quickly how poorly the new stylus for the Note 5 was designed. By incorporating the "ejection" feature at the end with an internal spring as opposed to a single piece stylus Samsung created a very weak point in the stylus. It took me about a week before I broke mine. And it was so easy, I don't even know how it happened. All it has to do is crack and that is enough for the spring end to come off.
Samsung's response..... If the stylus is broken it voids the warranty. Seriously, I copied the chat text.
Checked to see how much a replacement one costs...... Over $30.
I really wonder what y'all keep whining bout the note 5. It is a beautiful device, Truth is you cant have it all.
Maybe comparing it to a note 4 it seems not worth it but there are ways around it. I won two otg flash drives, small enough to fit in my wallet and I have no trouble whipping it out when I need expandable memory on my phone. I have been using the Samsung tab 3 sm-t311 for two years. No expandable storage (16gb) no removable battery and I still wouldn't trade it for the ugly lgG4 or the annoying iphone.
I simply got a n anker e5 when the battery started to wear out plus if it gets too bad Id just walk into a samsung centre and get my battery swapped for a new one.
People asking for waterproof phones like why the help is that even so important? How do you wake up to low battery??? That's totally absurd and untrue. Or maybe you got a faulty device.
I dunno mehn but the note 5 is a beautiful device. Could be better but i like it enough to find alternatives for battery and storage
I almost upgraded from my Note 4, which is the best phone I've ever owned until I went to check the new Note 5 out. It's essentially the same phone as the Note 4, only with less features. Samsung used to have a market hold for those who didn't want to be controlled by "big business". Now, they are taking on Apple's business model, and charging for internal incremental upgrades on memory. The battery is not as big of a deal for me, but the lack of SD card slot was a deal breaker. It's too bad that executives get greedy and ruin a market-leading product. The bloatware ads and Samsung pre-installed apps are terrible, you cannot delete them without rooting the phone, and they slow everything down and suck battery life. Good thing there are many other, now better, choices out there (LG, Asus, HTC, Honor) who haven't jumped on the Apple bandwagon. I'll be headed their direction!
I wish I would have done a bit more research and been more patient when I upgraded because i jumped from the note 3 to the note 5 and it was like jumping down a hole. I have had so many problems with the note 5 and usually you can't do anything about it because Samsung decided to make it just like an IPhone. I had one problem with my note 3 in the two years i had it and in the 6 months I've had my note 5 I've had at least 10 major problems, they just keep stacking up. If you want a good phone either stick with the note 4 or upgrade to it because that is in my opinion the newest in the note series, not this garbage that they threw at us and expected us to like. Save yourself a lot of trouble and don't by the note 5.
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yet another piece of expensive Samsung junk hyped up to sound very good when it isn't
No MicroSD, No Deal! Shame on you Samsung.
Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and more is now on sale only on BestAndroidPhoneDeals .com
I am samsung bad fan but this Note5 was quite disappointing. It losses the edge that the earlier note had... eg: the left soft button for Option key, now is used for switching between app (the function of long press middle button on older Note). So on some of the App, I can't access to any of the extra options. Ebooks I have to turn page by page for 2000+ pages just to get to the page I want. The middle button now bcome for google search... but I DON'T use that feature as much as switching between App and Access extra feature of an App! The button totally left USELESS. Sad.
The screen capture function also needed extra steps instead of click and hold. No need to drag out the pen options (because I am already using the pen scrolling thru pages so to call for option, need to pull pen options manually), select Smart Select and then select. The Select to Text conversion was a brilliant idea but it doesn't always work. In some situation the 'T' won't appear and you have to treat it as photo save to gallery. so... now for me to capture a text from one page and copy to S Note that I was halfway writing, instead of the old way of screen capture, select what I need, press Copy and paste in Note, now I need to pull pen-option, select what I need, save to gallery, goto S Note, press Attach Media, find where the screen capture went, select the image, paste in S Note, goto Gallery, delete the earlier screen capture so that I can free up space for a storage that CAN'T Be Expanded. Really sad.
4K video capture... great feature... but for 4K video recording, it eat storage very fast! No SD card to store... only 64GB internal memory that that already occupied by part of the android OS, basic apps etc... is this really making sense? Storing to cloud? When you travel, you want to take great video & pic. Sending to cloud on data... that's a lot of data charges and slooooow.
I don't like iphone because I do not have fast access to features that I want to use fast. Only one button have to go through many steps to get what I need. I think iphone used to think iphone is for dummy (in the sense they want simple access, don't mind running through many steps just to get thing simple). That's why I am a strong fan of Samsung. I am using 3 samsung tablets now (10.1, 8 and 3), together with 3 samsung note phones (note2, note3 and now note5). I use them depending on what i need to do (weekend relax, working, etc). But the new Note 5 seems like the design team forgot what make them special compare to iphone. While Iphone now trying to be like samsung, samsung turned around trying to be another iphone. Really dissapointing.