Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review: the same but an awful lot better

Take Note - we love this phone

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For

  • Nice design
  • Good S Pen use

Against

  • Only as powerful as S6
  • Battery life lower

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is a phone (well, a phablet) that's much more iterative than we were expecting. It's the same phone as last year, in many ways, but with a new design that keeps it more in line with the all-conquering Galaxy S6 range from earlier in the year.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is a phone (well, a phablet) that's much more iterative than we were expecting. It's the same phone as last year, in many ways, but with a new design that keeps it more in line with the all-conquering Galaxy S6 range from earlier in the year.

Spec-wise we're not seeing a huge jump - and internally it's very similar too. Apart from 4GB of RAM and the two size options (32GB or 64GB) there's not a lot different in terms of raw power than we saw on the Samsung Galaxy S6.

The screen is obviously larger at 5.7 inches, helping keep the Note 5 firmly in phablet territory, and of course the S Pen is still present and correct.

Unlike in previous years Samsung hasn't imbued the Note 5 with new stylus-based powers, with the same line-up of Air View, Screen Write and more available when you hover the nib over the screen.

One awesome change is the way you get the S Pen out of its housing in the chassis of the Note 5: a little push will see the stylus (yes, Samsung, that's what it is, no matter what you say) click out in a really satisfying way.

Design

While it sounds like I was unimpressed by the lack of changes bar the design, that's not really the case. Firstly, the design is really rather nice, curving away on the back at the edges to help the Note 5 sit more nicely in the hand.

Given this is a large phone already, little tweaks like this to make it more ergonomic really do help when trying to cradle your new phablet.

The metallic rim, the same style used on the S6 and S6 Edge pairing, is improved to used series 7000 aluminium, making it lighter and more durable.

The screen, while 'still' QHD resolution, is pin sharp as ever, with the Super AMOLED technology making everything look colourful and vivid. Watching movies on the Note 5 - let's not forget this thing has more pixels than most 50-inch TVs - is a simply brilliant experience.

Some will still dislike the fact TouchWiz is onboard, with the Note 5 not looking a lot different to the predecessor apart from the new flatter interface.

Specs

However, the speed under the finger is more than good enough, and once you get settled with what goes where in Samsung's UI, there's very little that causes consternation.

The camera, once again, is improved to include things like RAW support for the snapping fiends, and you can also start a live-streamed YouTube video that you can share privately to friends.

A simple text message will get them into your portal, so you can recreate Wayne's World to your heart's content.

The battery life on the Note 5, often one of the selling points for Samsung's range of phablets, looks to be pretty solid again. The dual wireless charging is present and correct, but the smaller 3000mAh battery (down from 3220mAh power pack from last year) is a bit of a worry. Samsung seems to have placed design over battery life again, which is a worrying trend we hope it drops soon.

In fact, Samsung has even added in the ability to charge the Note 5 faster than ever before, so you won't need to worry about being tethered to a charger for long.

Early verdict

The Note 5, while not bringing a huge amount new to the table, is still an excellent device and one that 'power users' will be undoubtedly lusting over, should they be able to get their hands on one.