Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Hits All the Right Notes

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

Tech News
5 min read
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

Close on the heels of the S6 Edge+, comes the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung’s latest iteration of the Note series that has earned itself a loyal and fairly cult-like following over the past four years.

Yet, this is probably the biggest leap in the Note series since the first generation back in 2011. The Note 5 is a firm reminder that Samsung has truly turned a corner when it comes to design.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

Glass and metal are the order of the day. The sleek lines and the slim S6-inspired design means that the Note 5 loses some of its hallmark Note features.

So the question is whether the S-Pen toting Note 5 is not only worth the big bucks that Samsung is commanding for it, but also worthy of the hallowed Note title.

What’s Good?

No two ways about it – the Note 5 is seriously good looking and Samsung has really nailed the aesthetics with this baby.

With its combination of Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and rear as well as the aluminium edges, Samsung has left the plastic Note design in the past. While it may look like a gigantic S6, the rear curves around the sides fit better in the hand than previous Notes did.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

Beyond design, the Note 5 packs in much of the same internals as the Edge+, which means you get that gorgeous 5.7-inch quad-HD (2560x1440-pixel) screen. It may be a bit too punchy for some, especially if you’re used to the more natural iPhone tones. This display is all kinds of awesome and makes a lot of current phones look, frankly, like rubbish.

The Exynos 7420 octa-core processor with the 4GB of memory is beastly in terms of everyday performance. Samsung’s lighter Android 5.1.1 version of TouchWiz means there’s none of that occasional lag that plagued previous generation Samsung flagships.

Even so, Samsung manages to eke out a full day of battery life on regular use on its 3000 mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

Then there’s the stellar camera which we’ve seen on the S6 Edge+ and the S6, which takes simply phenomenal daylight photos and, thanks to optical image stabilization and a wide f/1.9 aperture, pretty great low-light stuff too.

Photos across the board are more colour accurate and brighter than any of the other non-Samsung flagships we’ve seen. It also turns out stunning ultra high def 4K video, but be warned that it crunches through that 32GB internal storage pretty fast.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

And like the Edge+, YouTube livestreaming is standard on the device, as is the ‘Virtual Shot’ mode which makes taking circular images (360-degree) a cinch.

But let’s not forget about the S-Pen, which not only serves up a metal finish to match the metal of the Note 5, but also pops out via a quick spring-loaded action.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

You can do the usual: Take screenshots and annotate the screen, quick launch your favourite apps and my favourite – start taking notes even when the screen is off/locked simply by pulling out the stylus (just like a pocket notepad).

It’s the most refined stylus experience I’ve seen on any Note yet, one that actually encourages you to use the S-Pen more and seems less like a needless gimmick. Oh, and you can click it like a ball-point pen. So, so good.

What’s Bad?

The biggest flaw of the Note series depends on whether you’re coming from a previous generation Note or switching from an iPhone – the lack of expandable storage or a removable battery.

Samsung has made this decision across all its flagships, but really, the Note was supposed to be the phone that was unapologetically for power users. But if you’re part of the Note-faithful who depended on either of these capabilities, you’re out of luck.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

To be fair, there’s fast charging and wireless charging built-in and Samsung’s used the blazing fast UFS 2.0 storage, but the storage limitation will pinch, more so since there isn’t a 128GB variant.

Of course, this is a Note, so you know you’re buying a big phone, but the glass back makes it just a wee bit slippery and unwieldy (not to mention, a fingerprint magnet).

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

On the flip side, you do get a phone that’s comfortable in its skin of being a big phone and rewards you with a ton of software tricks that fully leverage that screen size. But, oddly enough, the speaker is a bit underwhelming.

Why Buy it?

The Note 5 is the practical alternative to the S6 Edge+. Not only does it come out to be a bit cheaper, but it also offers the genuinely useful S-Pen capabilities as compared to the arguably gimmicky Edge+ dual-edge features.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (Photo: The Quint)

Without doubt, the Note 5 is a fantastic phone, but like all Notes before it, is priced exorbitantly, only this time around, at least the aesthetics match the price.

If you’re the sort who refuses to settle for anything less than the absolute best in terms of smartphone tech, this is the phone to buy. This truly is Android’s equivalent of the iPhone – but as with the iPhone, you’ll be shelling out the big bucks for the very best.

(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached on Twitter: @2shar.)


Key Specifications: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

  • Display: 5.7-inch Super AMOLED Quad HD with Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Processor: 2.1GHz + 1.5GHz Octa-core Exynos 7420 Chipset with Mali-T760 MP8 graphics
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Operating System: Android v5.1.1 (Lollipop) OS
  • Primary Camera: 16-megapixel
  • Front Camera: 5-megapixel
  • Battery: 3000mAh Li-ion
  • Dimensions: 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm, 171 grams
  • Price: Rs. 53,900 (32GB)/ Rs. 59,900 (64GB)

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