Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review: A power-packed phablet

Samsung's latest oversize phone sports some useful enhancements to the Note family.

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Samsung’s big-screen Note devices have allowed it to effectively have two Android launches each year, with the Galaxy S series typically launching in the first part of the year while the Note “phablets” appear in the latter half. The Note 5 is the 2015 model, and maintains many of the expected Note features from previous generations, alongside some welcome improvements.

Here are the essential specifications for the Samsung Galaxy Note 5:

Galaxy Note 5

Screen Size5.7in
Display density529ppi
ProcessorOcta-Core 1.5/2.1GHz Exynos
Rear Camera16MP
Front Camera5MP

Upsides: Why you’d want the Samsung Note 5

  • Decent processor performance: The Note 5 doesn’t have the strongest benchmark figures amongst 2015 releases, but it’s plenty powerful enough and you’re unlikely to experience any sense of lag for day-to-day tasks. Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy S6 compares to a range of popular premium handsets on our standard benchmarks:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better)
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+14924893
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge13244626
    Google Nexus 6P12514597
    Samsung Galaxy Note 511113686
    Samsung Galaxy S613474569
    Apple iPhone 6S25404410
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus24914391
    Google Nexus 5X11883198
  • Top-notch display: While it’s the same size as its predecessor the Note 4, the display on the Note 5 is notably clearer and brighter, and easily viewed in a wide range of lighting conditions. That’s especially welcome when you’re dealing with a larger screen. The Note 5 is also slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor, making it more pleasant to hold.
  • Enhanced S-pen: The other key selling point for the Note is the integrated S-pen stylus. Enhancements for the Note 5 include the ability to customize the options for the Air Command menu which appears when you hover over the screen with the S-pen, and the option to scrawl memos using the stylus even when the phone is locked.
  • Exceptional battery life: The larger size for the Note range has always meant that it offers solid day-long battery performance, and that continues with the Note 5, which beats out most of the class of 2015 thanks to its 3000maH battery. It can also charge extremely quickly with the supplied fast charger. Here’s how it rated using Geekbench’s inbuilt battery test with the screen dimmed:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+8:24:105041
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus7:48:104681
    Samsung Galaxy Note 59:18:005580
    Samsung Galaxy S66:51:304115
    Google Nexus 5X7:14:204062
    Google Nexus 6P6:39:203754
    Apple iPhone 6s3:52:102321

Downsides: Why you might not want the Samsung Note 5

  • No removable battery: As with Samsung’s Galaxy S6, there’s no longer an option to swap out the battery (or simply remove it to force a reboot). The impressive battery performance means this won’t be a huge issue for many users, but if you’re a serious power hog it’s worth bearing in mind.
  • It’s a big device: Not everyone is keen on phablet-sized phones, but in the Galaxy universe, if you want the S-Pen, you’ll have to settle for the bigger screen.
  • No expandable storage: There’s no expandable storage option for the Galaxy Note 5.

Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

If you want a large screen Samsung device, your main choices are the Note 5 or the Galaxy S6 Edge+. The Note 5 has slightly better battery life and offers the integrated S-Pen; the Edge+ offers the unusual side-of-screen interface. Both are solid choices, but if you’re looking for a phone for productivity purposes, the Note 5 is a better fit.

Other larger-screened handsets you might consider include the Google Nexus 6P and the LG G4. In the iPhone world, you’re looking at the iPhone 6s Plus.

Where can I get it?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 can be purchased outright or on contract from a wide variety of carriers.

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