First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The Next Big Thing, Or Is It?
I have been an ardent supporter of the Samsung Galaxy Note since its introduction in 2011. At that time, most smartphones had a sub 5-inch screen, so the original Galaxy Note was a departure from the norm. It was not the first giant screened phone, but it was the device that popularized the segment and gave it the “Phablet” moniker. Many of Samsung’s competitors as well as technology bloggers ridiculed the size of the device. And year after year, Samsung kept refreshing the Note, each year making it faster and more capable than the previous version. Oh, and they increased the screen size each year, to the current 5.7-inch Quad-HD screen size. I have friends who ridiculed the device, comparing it to a wall clock or a dinner plate. Today, they all use phablets. This is my first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
The phone feels great. This is the best looking Galaxy Note device to date. The build quality has been dramatically improved over the Note 4. Previous generation Notes had this faux leather rear with a fake chrome chassis. The Note 5 features a metal and glass body design, with the glass on the back curving at the edges. This makes the Note 5 easier to hold and use with one hand. Samsung also reduced the phone’s footprint without reducing the screen-size. As a result, the Note 5 is smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus. My T-Mobile branded phone is colored Black Sapphire, which resembles Samsung's lovely Ativ Book laptops. The Note is also available in Gold Platinum, Silver Titan and White Pearl depending on your carrier.
Not all Samsung Note fans are going to be happy with the Note 5. Much like the Galaxy S 6, the Note 5 has a non-removable 3,000 mAh battery which is a bit smaller than the 3,220 mAh battery that was in the Note 4. It also omits the Micro-SD slot for storage expansion. This may anger the typical Note power user, and being one myself, I can understand why. That said, the better build quality and more RAM largely make up for it. Throw in faster charging, even when using the wireless charger, and the lack of a replaceable battery becomes less of an issue. The Note however retains the S-Pen, a signature Note feature. And about glass back, although it makes for a very premium feeling device, it also makes it quite slippery in the hand. Hours after I took mine out of the box, it slipped out of my hand and fell between the car seats, cracking in the process. If you do not want to end up like me, I would definitely recommend that you get a case for your Note 5.
The Note 5 is powered by an octa-core Exynos 7420 64-bit processor, combined with 4GB of RAM. This is laptop-grade hardware. 4GB is the most RAM Samsung has ever shipped on a smartphone and quite possibly, the most RAM available on any smartphone. For comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus has only 1GB of RAM. The Note 5 comes loaded with Lollipop 5.1.1 with Touch Wiz. Historically, Android skins like Touch Wiz (especially Touch Wiz) have hindered performance on Android, but Samsung seems to have slimmed down and optimized Touch Wiz. Either that or its the insane power of the Note 5 countering all the bloat of Touch Wiz, because the phone was fast and zippy, blazing through apps and games without even breaking a sweat.
Today the camera is the biggest deciding feature on a smartphone, with the front camera fast becoming just as important as the back, since everyone likes to take selfies. The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a 16 megapixels rear and a 5 megapixel front shooter, these are fast, high quality and honestly the best among other smartphones. Among the camera options are a new pro mode, video collage, fast/slow motion capture and you also now have the option to broadcast live directly to YouTube.
Samsung makes great (TV) screens, and that expertise shows with the Note 5’s screen. It is a gorgeous 5.7" 2,560 x 1,440 QHD Super AMOLED screen with a pixel density of 518 PPI. Whatever improvements Samsung made are very pleasing to the eyes, as the screen can be viewed from almost any angle and I had no problems viewing content on a bright 90 degree New York City day.
I am pleased with the relocation of the speaker to the bottom. I always found myself propping my Note 4 on something or cupping my hand to hear the back mounted speaker. The new speaker location on the bottom allows for clearer audio when the phone is placed on its back and you get a natural cupping in your hand when holding the phone in landscape mode.
The S Pen helps you do things precisely. Jot down a quick note or phone number, even without waking up the Galaxy Note5. You can even edit and mark up a PDF file. And with the always-available Air Command menu, S Pen features are easy to find and use, from your screen or your app. Side note, pay attention when placing the S Pen back in its slot as this has now become quite problematic for a few who now have broken sensors as a result. #Pengate.
In closing do I give this a buy or skip? This is a definite buy in my opinion. Although we lost the expandable storage, removable battery and ir blaster. I say grab the 64 GB version and you should be good to go. I loved the Note 2 and 3, but I’m giving the Galaxy Note 5 a slightly higher score because it’s absolutely everything you want out of a smartphone: a great camera, a productivity device, a sketchbook, a digital scrapbook, a boom box, and a portable gaming console. If you’re going to spend mega dollars on a high end smartphone, it’s got to be completely worth your while, and the Galaxy Note 5 is totally worth it.