Galaxy Note5 specs review: Samsung's best phone to the mark
Not only did we get a breathtaking redesign with the Galaxy Note5, but the company stepped away from its signature plastic phone paradigm in the process, again taking a big risk to alienate those fans who flocked to its handsets for the swappable batteries and expandable storage. Is this risk justified, considering all the brains and beauty that the Note5 has to offer instead? Let's preview Samsung's best phone to date, and find out.
The Note5 comes with the same bold and fresh redesign that the Galaxy S6 introduced a few months ago, but in a larger format, of course. The steel-and-glass frame is a beauty to hold and look at, and Samsung even managed to keep the chassis thin and light, despite that the typical plastic construction has been replaced by premium materials. In fact, the Note5 is almost an exact copy of the pretty S6 design, down to the slightly protruding camera unit, but housed in a larger footprint, and with curved back towards the sides that makes for a more ergonomic grip on the largish phablet.
Radically new design coat and unmatched specs make Note5 one superior phablet to rule them allSamsung is rather proud of the manufacturing process it used to arrive at the metal-and-glass unibody of the Note 5, and with a good reason. It has employed a nano-thin multi-coating process to achieve the elegant finish and uniform coloring of the various hues that the Note 5 will be available in. Moreover, just like with the S6, the Note5 likely employs a grade 6013 aluminum alloy, while most other smartphones, including the iPhone 6, make do with derivatives of the inferior 6063 grade. While 6013 is not the highest end 7075, it is in-between, and is still used to make things that need to be light and durable, like plane fuselage, cars, yachts, mountain bikes, and so on, so you the Note5 would be harder to bend or scratch.
Samsung's aluminum alloy CNC machining and glass color nanocoating process
All in all, the new Note5 design is a complete departure from what we are use to see with the Note line, and in the right direction, wrapping glass fronts and rear with a premium metal frame all-around. If we are going to pay that much money for a Note from Samsung, it'd better by exquisitely designed, and the Note5 really delivers on that front.
The new S Pen comes with a spring-ejector mechanism and lets you jot while the screen is turned off
There is one pretty significant design difference between the Note5 and the S6, or the S6 edge+, though, and it is the S Pen stylus silo. Tucked in the lower right corner, the S Pen is now ejected by pushing it slightly inwards, at which point the stylus is popped out by a spring mechanism, letting you whip it out quickly, instead of fumbling around with tiny slits and cut fingernails like before.
That's not all, though, as Samsung has also laden the new metallic S Pen stylus with even more features than before. Perhaps the most welcome new thing is that you can now jot on the screen while it is turned off, for the ultimate in fast and furious grocery shopping list creation.
Furthermore, the Note franchise has had a direct screen write function since inception, but it didn't encompass PDF files, as you had to first take a picture of them (or use a screenshot for the ones already in), and then unleash your doodling might on the unsuspecting PDF file. The new S Pen feature allows to edit, annotate and save PDF documents, images and files directly, and is aptly called "Write on PDF".
The best part about the Note5, apart from the new premium chassis, is its breathtaking 5.7" Super AMOLED display. Flat and high-res, it might not seem like an upgrade from the Quad HD 5.7-incher on the Note 4, but there's simply nowhere else to go in terms of real added value when it comes to 500+ ppi display that will likely be one of the brightest and most color-credible in the phone market. A 4K screen? Sure, it will sound good for bragging rights, but the perceived value won't be that much different than what we now have on the Note 5.
Processor and memory
Samsung's Exynos 7420 needs no introduction, as it had already proven to be the best mobile chipset around this side of Apple's A8 endeavor, blistering through benchmarks, and providing snappy performance no matter what you throw at it. It is built with Samsung's exclusive 14nm production process, and sports four Cortex-A57 cores, plus four humbler Cortex-A53 ones, humming along at more reasonable 1.5 GHz speeds. Given that neither Samsung, nor TSMC are planning smaller production nodes, like 10/12nm, before late into next year, the Exynos 7420 will keep the Note5 futureproof at least until the next generation lands. Moreover, in the Note5 it is set at the theoretical 2.1 GHz maximums for the chipset, while the Galaxy S6 version of this Exynos is clocked at 1.9 GHz.
The real kicker with the Note5 is in the RAM amount, though. Samsung is the first of the big brand names to introduce a handset with 4 GB of the sweet stuff, and with this memory being a DDR4 endeavor, you can rest assured that this phablet will burn through tasks and keep an enormous amount of running apps ready to be resurrected where you left at at any given time without a hitch. When it comes to NAND flash internal storage memory, Samsung introduced two model version of the Note5 - a basic one with 32 GB, and a 64 GB unit, which will come at a higher price. The storage memory is again of the novel UFS 2.0 standard, like on the Galaxy S6, which will ensure record fast read-write performance speeds, compared to other handsets.
Last but not least, the connectivity wrapped in the Note5 is the best you can currently get. The phone has a Qualcomm Gobi 4G LTE modem inside, supporting LTE Cat. 9 download speeds up to 620 Mbps. It also comes with all radios under the sun, including the latest Bluetooth 4.2 standard, letting you stream Ultra High Quality Audio (UHQA) over Bluetooth on Samsung’s next generation wireless audio accessories, including the Level On Wireless Pro.
With the same 16 MP optically-stabilized module as on the Galaxy S6, the Note5 is well-positioned to take the cake in our camera comparisons come review time. The camera boasts 1/2.6" sensor size with 1.1 micron pixels, but offers top-shelf F/1.9 aperture, yawning wide to soak in much more light than your average phone camera. This, together with the OIS system, would ensure plenty of great low-light shots, as the S6 has already proven, so the Note5 could turn out to be one of the greatest take-anywhere cameras that the mobile industry can currently offer. The shooter is capable of 4K video footage at 30fps, too, and 120fps slow-mo for added effects.
The added value that Samsung threw in to differentiate the shooter from the S6 module is extra manual controls like shutter speed, for instance, going all the way up to 10 seconds. In addition, the software image stabilization while filming video has been greatly improved, and, concurrent with the OIS module, should make for rock-steady footage. That's exactly what Samsung calls the new recording mode - Steady Video - and it brings digital image stabilization on both the front and rear cameras. In addition, you will get a Video Collage Mode, which lets owners record and edit short clips, applying various frames and effects. Last but not least, the “Live Broadcast” mode in the camera app lets you stream Full HD footage to select contacts or the public via YouTube Live, just like on Sony's latest Xperia phones.
Fast wired and wireless charging come standard on the Note5
Sadly, the rumors about a 4100 mAh juicer in the Note5 didn't materialize, but the 3000 mAh unit is promising 21 hours of talk time, which is more than what the Galaxy S6 offers, and that one already proved lasting in our own battery tests, so the Note 5 should get you through the proverbial day with ease, and even extend that till noon on the next with normal usage. The Note5 is the first phone to offer both fast wired and wireless charging. In fact, the phablet can be topped up wirelessly in about two hours, instead of the three or so needed until now.
The Galaxy Note5 is undoubtedly the best phone that Samsung has produced to date, and the best phablet there is, period. Not only is it laden with the most potent mobile chipset at the moment, one of the best cameras, and a unique S Pen stylus for added convenience to your grocery shopping, but all that jazz is finally wrapped in a slim and stylish unibody, crafted with exquisite materials. We are certain that Samsung will keep the Note5 in line with its premium pricing policy, but this latest representative of the venerable phablet line of the world's largest phone maker has the beach body to show for it this time, so it might earn a place in the heart of wider audience than the usual specs-centric geeky crowd, too.