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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review

Michael Sawh

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Sleek, glass design
  • Speedy overall performance
  • Great camera
  • Slimmer design makes it easier to hold in one hand

Cons

  • S Pen experience not radically improved
  • Smaller battery
  • No micro SD card support or removable battery

Key Features

  • 5.7-inch 1440x2560 QHD screen
  • 16-megapixel main camera
  • 4GB RAM
  • Exynos 7420 octa-core processor
  • 3,000mAh battery
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 4K video recording at 30fps
  • Wireless charging
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £450.00

Update 21/04/2016: Even though the Galaxy Note 5 has been on shevles for over 6-months now, us UK dwellers have still yet to see an official release. We'd say the time has been and gone for the Sammy's latest 5.7-inch device ever hitting these shores, but fear not. We're already starting to hear rumours about the upcoming Note 6 and it sounds rather special. Early internet talk speaks of a 4K display, 6GB RAM and 256GB storage, with a release day of 'mid-May'.

If you can't wait that long, you're not out of luck. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge boasts a 5.5-inch quad-HD display, though it feels much smaller, and packs a nicer overall build than the Note 5. You don't get the S-Pen, though.

What is the Samsung Galaxy Note 5?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is the 5.7-inch smartphone successor to the Note 4, arguably one of the standout phones of 2014. So it’s somewhat surprising that Samsung has taken the decision not to bring its new phablet to the UK.

Instead, it’s hoping the S6 Edge Plus, along with the S6 and S6 Edge will fly the flag and battle against the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. But it still seems like a strange decision considering how well received last year’s Note was.

Was it the wrong decision? I’m not so sure. Having lived with the new Note and the Note 4 before it, I can see why Samsung may have decided to leave its latest phablet on the sidelines in the UK, as there are a few design changes that may alienate diehard fans of the series. But, even with these issues the Note 5 remains one of the best phablets on the market.

Watch our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 hands-on video

Tempted by the S6 Edge+? Here's our hands-on video:

Check out the latest Samsung Galaxy Note 6 news

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – Design

I didn't think there was a great deal wrong with the Note 4's look, but as is custom with Samsung, it does like to make some improvements where it can. In the case of the Note 5, it's quite a dramatic design overhaul. It's basically a Samsung Galaxy S6 blown up. There's glass on the front and back, the cool silver anodised aluminium metal trim and a rear camera sensor that protrudes even more than it does on the Note 4. It also takes the curved edges on the S6 Edge and Edge Plus and puts them on the back. In my opinion, it makes more sense ergonomically than having them up front and as a result makes it a much more comfortable to hold.

The most noticeable difference when you get it in your hand is that it's not as wide as last year's phone. Samsung were more successful than most at making its big phone easier to use in one hand, and it's more of the same with the Note 5. In fact it's better. The screen bezel has been reduced significantly down the sides of the 5.7-inch screen and it's better-looking phone as a result.

Samsung has waved goodbye to the textured plastic back and replaced it with a glass panel, similar to that seen on the Galaxy S6. The bad news is the back is no longer removable. That means no micro SD card support or removable battery. Personally, I'm not disheartened by the fact Samsung has taken this option to follow Apple's approach, but I can see why micro SD card support would be beneficial to loyal Note users who don't want to rely on cloud services.

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Note 4 next to the Note 5

The headphone jack has moved to the bottom of the phone alongside the micro USB charging port and single speaker. In its place is the Nano-SIM card slot, which will mean a change for Note 4 users. There's now even more sensors above the screen and both multitasking and back buttons are more prominent alongside a smaller home button with the improved built-in fingerprint sensor. It’s the same one as the S6, so you can tap instead of swipe to unlock your phone. It’ll also support Samsung Pay when it launches outside of the US. IR blaster fans will be disappointed to find out that this is missing in action, so you’lll have to look elsewhere for a backup remote control.

The standby buttons and volume rocker are in an identical place and I've not forgotten about the S Pen. It's still tucked away at the bottom of the phone but you no longer have to dig your finger into the gap behind it to remove it. Now you simply press the top of the stylus in and it'll pop out thanks to the spring loaded mechanism. Apart from a change in colour and finish, it's not a dramatically new experience holding it. It does now have a ball point-style button up top that doesn't have any function apart from making it feel more like a pen. The grippy texture on the Note 4's one is now replaced with a flat light grey surface and there’s just a single button on the side. Samsung still packs a set of additional nibs in the box along with a tool to easily remove them. The nibs let you choose between two pressure sensitivities.

Using it day to day, the Note 5 manages to retain that great big screen in a smaller body that's easier to stretch your fingers across. It's noticeably heavier than the S6 Edge Plus, but less so than the Note 4 (there's a 6g difference). Having a big glass back worries me especially having dropped the S6 and seen the back crack. But I can't question that the Note 5 looks the part and the changes on the whole are welcome ones.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – Screen

The Note 5 has the same 5.7-inch screen with Gorilla Glass 4 as its predecessor, which means you get all the benefits of the 1440x2560 QHD resolution display. It also has the same Wacom digitized layer to help sense the pressure when you pop out the S Pen from its little compartment.

The display has the same punchy colours and exceptional black levels as the Note 4's. Get up close though and the slight increase in PPI pixel density pays off. It looks sharper and you can notice it especially on the home screen where app icons look cleaner and clearer.

The Note's Super AMOLED screen is built for watching videos and that's inevitably where the Note 5 excels. You still get those deep blacks and the bump in PPI and brightness helps things feel all that more vivid. Brightness has been cranked up notch, not that things were dull on the Note 4, but it’s a notable improvement.

If there’s one criticism it’s that out of the box screen colours look a little oversaturated. Samsung does still offer screen mode options to turn things down a notch. Opt for the basic mode and it doesn't feel as bad. But I'm nitpicking here.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Bugblatter

August 13, 2015, 8:42 pm

Ok, so the Note is no more and the thing they're erroneously calling a Note isn't coming here anyway. I'll stick with my Note 4 until another manufacturer comes out with something better.

Maybe they decided having two flagships didn't work for them.

iFrank

August 14, 2015, 1:13 am

They've succeeded in making their previous Note iterations seem even more attractive, not diverted love to the S6 Edge+.

There's a saying about not changing horses in midstream.
This is Samsung's take on it, again!

I'll probably keep my Note 3 for a fair bit longer.

Dead Words

August 14, 2015, 2:45 am

In my eyes, this is a significant step down from any previous Note phones. The design doesn't really beat the Note 4 in any way except sheer size, and gives up microSD and access to the battery. If I had a choice, I'd go for the Note 4.
Heck, if Samsung had just gone SCREW IT! and put the new Exynos inside the Note 4 with an updated screen and camera, I wouldn't hesitate.
The Note 5, however, is a joke. This isn't an enterprise phone. This isn't a phone for the power-user. This is a consumer phone, that tries to look like business with a stylus.
I like the screen, camera, and performance upgrades.
But it's not worth the step back everywhere else. Design isn't a step forward, lack of microSD is a serious mishap, the lack of a removable battery is disappointing, the stylus doesn't have any real improvements or innovation on board, and it brings nothing to the table that would persuade any power user or enterprise user.

R6ex

August 14, 2015, 1:36 pm

Same here. Keeping my Note 3 till a 6 inch Note 5+ or Note 6 arrives. Better still, a 6 inch Microsoft Windows 10 phone with Continuum and digitizer.

Hal P.

August 14, 2015, 4:13 pm

There is NO 128GB option. Only 32/64GB

Kutyjoe

August 14, 2015, 6:46 pm

The original spirit is gone. Like a band that goes pop and disappoints it's former core audience who forever laments how their favorite band became a sellout. The music will never be the same again. But the band did not make enough money until they went pop. Sometimes going pop works, but sometimes it doesn't. The original audience will have to seek their pure music elsewhere, but in this case, there is no elsewhere. We will dig in the crates and dust off our Note 4's and Note 3's and just keep rockin em. That was kind of poetic actually. Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap....LOL

Kutyjoe

August 14, 2015, 6:49 pm

It would be really interesting if some OEM would make a device just like the Note and promote the removeable battery and sd card. Microsoft of course would seem to be the obvious OEM to do it, but Microsoft's mobile division is just not very healthy right now. They are unlikely to make something other than a mainstream device. I'm not really a fan of Windows Phone, but a Surface Pro type phone would really get my attention. Especially now that the Note 5 is "forked".

Crossed

August 14, 2015, 7:22 pm

LG G4 Pro might be our new favorite...

Kutyjoe

August 14, 2015, 7:31 pm

I still need the stylus so I'm going to either stick with the Note 3, or grab a Note 4 of Ebay at some point.

Basem kerd

August 14, 2015, 7:58 pm

My problem with the Note 5 is not only losing the micro SD or the removable battery but the storage choices samsung decided for this phone where 64gb is the highest. ..are you out of your mind

GOAT78

August 14, 2015, 7:59 pm

Maybe Samsung is hurting more than they are reporting. There was nothing really net-new here. The Note 5 is a bigger S6 with a pen and an extra gig or ram. There is nothing innovative with the Note 5 so no money had to go into R&D. The S6 sales were lower than expected. Did they scrap a few million S6 phones and recycle the parts? An extra gig of ram probably cost them $10. In Europe, they're pushing the more expensive S6e+. Oh well. I can save $800 and my Note just increased in value. win-win for me.

Gamod

August 14, 2015, 10:16 pm

in fact, they are making a favor to every European out there... note 4is probably the better option. Note 5 sucks...

R6ex

August 14, 2015, 10:21 pm

Wow! A Surface Pro phone would surely sell. Surface is really doing well in sales. I'm hoping to get the 14 inch SP4 year-end. A Surface Pro phone and watch would be a great combo!

magiclin

August 15, 2015, 2:45 am

Note 5 release is to push sale of note4, very unconventional marketing.

Bijdehans

August 15, 2015, 10:14 pm

Samsung is making mistakes that will cost them fans. The Note 5 may not be what every one hoped for but in Europe we can't even decide not to buy it. I'm quite relunctant to buy any more Samsung consumer products in the near future

ukTechGuru

August 15, 2015, 10:37 pm

There's a mistake in the article which says that the Note 5 has an IR blaster - it doesn't!! Amongst the loss of removable battery and expandable storage, they've cut on of the unique features of previous Samsung phones. I use it a lot and would miss this feature. My Note 4's 32gb internal storage would have been maxed out if I didn't have a microSD card! I store a lot of music and all my photos are saved onto the microSD card.

You guys could well be right about Samsung struggling more than they're letting on - a blown up S6 with S Pen isn't innovative. Yeah sure Samsung Pay is round the corner but it's not backward compatible with previous Samsung phones. This is where Android Pay will step in ... I hope! Wireless charging can be added by using a wireless charging coil. Works great - I have one and it doesn't add any bulk.

Samsung has ostracised the whole of Europe by dictating what they think we want. I'd be interested to see what the sale figures were for the Note 4. Apparently this is one of the reasons why they opted to release in North America and Asia. I can't see many going for the S6 Edge+ if they've already got the Note 4 - that would be a step back in my opinion.

I think I'm likely to skip Samsung this year. I'll see what Huawei do for the next Nexus phone. And I agree, a Surface Pro phone would be an instant hit with Windows 10 and the companion app in the PC operating system. Samsung have missed the mark this year. Probably time for loyal Samsung fans to look elsewhere.

cibersatan

August 16, 2015, 1:18 am

until they bring back the microSD slot, I won't be going any further than my Note 4

GOAT78

August 16, 2015, 3:00 am

This article states there is a 128GB Note 5. Yeah, that was a mistake on Samsung's site. All colors are not available in the U.S either. Way to go Sammy.

Sanity

August 16, 2015, 6:04 am

Who cares USB-C. I have lots of micro USB cables around, better off without it. But no micro SD support and removable battery is a big deal.

Tommy Madison

August 16, 2015, 6:53 am

Very disappointed that neither have a microSD card slot or replaceable battery, usually standard and always expected by Samsung fans. So now I can spend $200 extra for the 128gb version instead of $50 for a 128gb micro SD card, wow thanks Samsung. I can also buy a new phone in a year once my battery goes instead of paying $10 for a replacement battery, sweet, way to have my back Samsung, way to give me exactly what I was asking for........why not just include a new all glass front and back so that it cracks when dropped a foot off the ground, call yourselves Apple and call it a day! Ohh ya did that too? Awesome, great choices there bud.
Please give us back the features we've come to expect or this is the beginning of the end for Samsung. I choose to NOT replace my galaxy S5 active now with these new garbage models, this will be the first time in 6 years that I will not be going with Samsung. I've been with you since the Galaxy S. I hate to break up with you. : (
Sorry but I think we should start seeing other phones, it's not you its me. Oh wait nevermind it is YOU!

Bonnie Bao

August 16, 2015, 8:51 am

Which one will you buy? Apple iphone 6s vs. Samsung galaxy note 5. lol...

Bestfit

August 16, 2015, 9:18 am

Lol, you obviously do not own a Note. Note owners are highly unlikely to ever consider iPhones serious options for obvious reasons.
And you haven't read the complaints: no removable battery and no external storage slot. Don't tell me Apple is going to offer that ?

Robert Downy

August 16, 2015, 2:17 pm

SORRY Samsung...You won't be getting my money this time. The omission of the Sd expansion slot was an Apple-esque d#ck move, with the sole purpose of sucking your wallets dry. So angry that I literally preached to my office mates to AVOID this phone...
There's NO way I can live with a 32GB (even a 64GBfor that matter)...My 128GB Sd card has served me well (along with the 32GB native)...They could've easily stuffed a Dual sim/ Nano micro SD in there, but it looks like I'll stay with my Note 3 for quite a while.....I was ready to sell my kidney with the Note 5, but alas, No Micro SD..DEAL BREAKER....shame on you! You are supposed to redeem you reputation with the Note 5, but you missed it BIG TIME....BACKLASH awaits

kahiri78

August 16, 2015, 3:32 pm

Great! Now i can get note 4 at a lower price!

Shashank

August 16, 2015, 5:00 pm

Please don't call this phone a Note, it hurts. It may be more beautiful, but Note 4 was handsome...Note it.
Why are we so disappointed on release of such a beautiful phone, which is better in performance, more refined and with better camera? This is certainly a question to ask. I thought about it and it turns out that there are many things but the summary is that Sum did remove the signature of Note series from Note 5. I have no problem calling it "S6 Pen" or anything like that, but this definitely does not line up with rest of the Notes.
If we remember, none of the previous Note was beautiful phone of market, there always were better looking phones in market (eg. HTC one, iphone). Still, people chose Note phone because it offered what no other phone did, A pen, Higher RAM for multitasking, Removable Battery, micro SD card support and An IR blaster. And unlike all other Sam phones, it stood differently in the crowed, people knew that...its a Note. But now it F*** looks like a copy of iphone or/and just a big galaxy S6...what the hell were you thinking Sam...crazy Sam. Sam failed to realize that Note buyers belonged to a different category of consumers.
"A Note Buyer Would Have Never Bought Any iPhone/Xiomi (cheap they are, still great)/ LG ot HTC Just Because There Was No Other Phone Of This Class. Sam Just Killed That Class Of Note Series".

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