Every year, Samsung brings out a new updated version of their phablet being they introduced some five years ago. Back then, most of the tech community (including myself) doubted their success into the massive size. But now, look where we are. Times have changed and the Note has led the change since then. So now, we’re on the Galaxy Note 5 and it’s, by far, the best phone Samsung has ever made. But I don’t quite think it’s the best phone you can buy. This is my review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
While the past four iterations of the Note have been more successful than the one that proceeded it, this new Note 5 may be the most radical iteration. A lot of this is due to the new design, which had to let go some of the important key features many of its users were accustomed to for the past four years. Unlike the mostly squared off designs of the past, the Note 5 uses a design language similar to the Galaxy S6. It’s wrapped up in Gorilla Glass 4 on both front and back, has an aluminum edge, and what is new for the Galaxy Note 5 is the slight curve on the back side. This makes holding such a large phone a way more comfortable than before—much more comfortable than a Galaxy S6 edge +.
Overall, it’s a beautiful looking design. Its display is quite beautiful as well. It’s the same massive 5.7-inch QuadHD Super AMOLED display and it’s literally the best screen I’ve ever used. Simple as that. It’s beautiful on the inside as well. Packed with the same Exynos 7420 octa-core processor as found on the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, it’s one powerful phone. Plus it has 4GB of the faster variant DDR4 RAM, which makes it an even powerhouse especially in the area of multitasking.
What’s so not good-looking on the inside is the battery. 200mAh smaller than the Galaxy Note 4, its 3000mAh battery may be one of the biggest downsides for this new model. Also up there is the lack of a microSD card slot. All valid downsides of the Galaxy Note 5 especially after four years of Samsung actively supporting swappable batteries and expandable storage.
For the performance side, the Note 5 is a beast. It’s chopped everything I’ve thrown at it and some. There was no moment of hesitation throughout my usage and honestly, it’s been one of the best experiences of Android I’ve ever had. Even with its new version of TouchWiz, which actually brings up a good point about the software. With each iteration of a Samsung phone, Samsung has been gradually improving their software. And as you probably get by now, the software experience on the Note 5 is (by far) the best I’ve had from Samsung. Its TouchWiz skin, while still looks like TouchWiz, is just as responsive as your normal stock Android. And you still need those TouchWiz pieces due to the nature of the Note 5 and its key feature—which is this: the S Pen, once called a glorified stylus but now an extension of you or something majestic like that.
All joking aside, the new S Pen is actually pretty good. Mainly, it’s for this new clicking mechanism that’s now on the top of the S Pen, which is completely addictive yet irritating at the same time. For example, have you ever been in a class and that person right behind you constantly clicks their ballpoint pen? Well, this is exactly what will happen to you if you have a Galaxy Note 5. So if you know anyone that has a Note 5, make sure to sit on the other side of the classroom. But with the TouchWiz experience, the S Pen is even more usable this year. You still have your typical software features like Action Memo and such. But what is new is the ability to write on a locked display, which can really come in handy.
The next thing I want to mention is the camera. Samsung has been absolutely killing it with cameras. Its 16MP f1.9 camera rivals those of dedicated point and shoot cameras. The images that come off the Note 5 are absolutely stunning. They’re full of detail, color, and they lack those ugly artifacts that plague other mobile sensors. Its 4K UHD video is also quite good. Actually, it’s the best in the business; especially with OIS on board. It’s also nice to have the ability to set exposure and focus lock manually before shooting videos.
Now let’s talk about battery life. Its 3000mAh battery isn’t exactly the biggest around and it has to power quite a lot of things on top of that massive 5.7-inch panel. Overall, it’s decent but not great. Actually, it’s about the same as the Galaxy Note 4: around 4-4.5 hours of screen on-time or about a day’s worth of usage. My testing has been exclusively on the AT&T unit with pretty good reception. There’s a whole lot of factors that play into people’s experiences of battery life so it might be different for you.
But the biggest flaw is the ability to have a spare battery on hand or that’s what most of you guys like to point out. Personally, I don’t know too many people who walk around with spare batteries in their pockets or bags. Everyone that I know personally walks around with their chargers. That’s why the Galaxy Note 5 has this incredibly neat feature called fast charging. Even with say 15 minutes on the mains, you can increase your battery by 20-30% in that little amount of time.
So is the Galaxy Note 5 the absolute best you can get right now? Probably so. But is it my favorite phone this year? Not quite and we still have a couple more months to go in 2015. And even with its downfalls, Samsung has still delivered in almost every department, except expandable storage of course. That’s still a problem that needs to be solved. And with only 32 or 64GB models around, people may just need more storage than that. But that’s the story of the Galaxy Note 5.