The Good The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has attractive high-end design and equipment, and it captures great outdoor photos. Using a stylus has never felt better, and battery life is extraordinary.
The Bad With its removable battery and no external storage, the Note 5 has lost some of its features last year. This compares to the larger screens of competitors like the Motorola Moto X Pure.
The Bottom Line Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is great overall and the only phone you can buy if you want to write by hand. However, you will pay a huge premium for a modest upgrade from last year’s model, and less expensive competitors will satisfy many.
Fall ’16 update
In August, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7, its follow-up to the Galaxy Note 5, for favorable reviews. With its swivel design, precise stylus and glossy screen, it has eliminated several of the Note 5’s shortcomings and has been praised as Samsung’s top phone. Until the devices start to overheat and, in some cases, light up.
Following a lack of response and very negative publicity, Samsung discontinued production of the Galaxy Note 7. In September, the company had previously asked mobile carriers worldwide to suspend sales of the phone. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission went on to say, “Consumers should turn off the power and stop using all Galaxy Note 7s.”
Our tip: Don’t buy the Galaxy Note 7, even if you can still find it. And if you already have one, you should immediately turn it off and exchange it for a phone that is not a Note 7. All US mobile carriers and Best Buy (among others) will exchange your Note 7 for phones of the same value on the same network. Similar schemes apply in the UK and Australia.
However, the Galaxy Note 5, which Samsung still sells, remains a reliable and reliable phone. Although not all hardware or software enhancements this year, it comes with a great camera, a terrific stylus and a great battery life. And it’s safe to own and use.
In fact, there are no stunning alternatives. Apple has released its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which take great photos, provide long battery life and provide fast performance, though they lack some of the latest Galaxy Note 7 features, such as iris and wireless charging. Google recently released its Pixel phone. And there is Samsung’s own Galaxy S7 Edge, which is most similar to the Note 7, with no stylus only.
Editors’ note: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Original Review , first published in August 2015 and updated since then.
Premium phone, premium price
The Galaxy Note 5 comes in gold, silver, white and sapphire black (which looks blue in blue), though not every region has every color. Prices depend on retail and country; be sure to check your current stock before buying.
There’s no denying that the Note 5 costs a lot, though it varies depending on where you live and where you buy. Note that as of October 2015, the 64GB version costs about $ 800, and the 32GB model costs about $ 700, making the Note 5 more expensive than the 649 64GB iPhone 6 Plus and 749 64GB 6S Plus. Note 5 is cheaper than S6 Edge +; you will pay even more for this curved display.
Compared to other large screens, such as the 5.5-inch LG G4 or 5.7-inch Moto X Clearly, Note 5 is really expensive.
In the US, the Note 5 comes in black and white (but not gold or silver) for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon.
AT&T: Full retail: $740 (32GB) or $840 (64GB). Next 24 (30 monthly payments): $0 down plus $24.67 (32GB) or $28 (64GB). Next 18 (24 monthly payments): $0 plus $30.84 (32GB) or $35 (64GB). Next 12 (20 monthly payments): $37 (32GB) or $42 (64GB).
Sprint: Full retail: $720 (32GB) or $816 (64GB). Two-year service agreement: $250 (32GB) or $350 (64GB). Lease program (24 months): $0 down and $25 (32GB) or $30 (64GB) per month. Easy Pay (24 months): $0 down and $30 (32GB) or $34 (64GB) per month.
T-Mobile: Full retail: $700 (32GB) or $780 (64GB). 24 monthly payments: $0 down and $29.17 (32GB) or $99 down and $28.33 (64GB).
Verizon: Full retail: $696 (32GB) or $792 (64GB). 24 monthly payments: $29 (32GB) or $33 (64GB).
US Cellular: Full retail: $670 (32GB) or $770 (64GB). Two-year contract: $200 (32GB) or $300 (64GB). 20 monthly payments: $0 down and $33.45 (32GB) or $38.46 (64GB).
Design and build
- 5.7-inch display; 2,560×1,440 pixels (518 pixels per inch)
- Metal and glass structures
- 6 by 3 by 0.3 inches (153 by 76 by 7.6 mm)
- 6 oz (171 grams)
Like the Galaxy S6, the Note 5 has straight sides and a flat face, as well as Edge + front bends along the back. From what I can tell, keeping them close, the curves are the same. By checking its profile, these comfortable rear arches cause the Note 5’s top and bottom edges to flash thicker than its middle. It will still fill your hand – it’s a great device – but the overall feel is still slim, especially compared to the relatively voluminous Note 4.
Although the AMOLED display still has 5.7 inches, Samsung has downgraded the size of the Note 5, making the phone feel more sophisticated and slimmer than last year’s Note 4. This is good news for one-handed phone jockeys who get the same screen real estate in more streamlined package. The 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution (515 pixels per inch) has been stable since last year, providing many crisp details on the screen, perhaps even more than we strictly require.
At the bottom of the display are the usual two soft keys (recent programs and back) a sandwich – a physical home button that also performs fingerprint reading and Google Now calls (press and hold for Google Now, the search-and-answer giant for Apple Gray). You will find the power / lock button on the right and the volume rocker on the left. Below are standard Micro-USB chargers (unfortunately, not USB-C as we had hoped ), the headset sockets and the S Pen holster with the SIM card holder at the top.
On the back you will see a 16MP camera lens, flash reader and heart rate. A versatile device that doesn’t have a removable strap or battery and you won’t find a storage socket anywhere. Get ready for your blurry fingerprints to blossom all over that mirror surface and keep the microfiber cloth close.
One last inspiring thing I’ve noticed in all these years of testing: this power / lock button on the right likes to tuck itself into my wallet pocket of my wallet, quietly draining the battery. I hope Samsung fixes this, but so far no bones.
Brand new S Pen stylus
- Click-in holster
- Button slightly recessed
- A smoother S Note app (with automatic save!)
- Dimensions: 4.4 by 0.2 by 0.1 inches (111 by 5.3 by 3.6 mm)
The Note S Pen stylus, which is made of polycarbonate plastic, changes slightly every year. This time the stylus audibly clicks into place inside the Note 5 chute, like the crown of a sliding pen. It’s kind of fun, but the fit is so nice that you really have to tease it. The plastic handle has long flat planes so as not to roll away on the table top. Its only button protrudes a bit from the surface to reduce the compresses that I found common in previous S Pen projects.
Important tip: This handle can only be inserted into the end of the holder first. This is not intended for a non-business holster. If you try this, bad things will happen , as some users have reported when their S grips are stuck at the square end, possibly irrevocably, deep inside the phone.
S Pen continues to act as a writing tool, pointer and navigation partner. You can use it to bring up a menu dialog or hover over a preview of a photo or video. It also works with those touch menu buttons and the physical home button. Dragging and pulling text and grabbing a screen are two other tricks.
Samsung claims that its pen now writes much better, more fluid, and with reduced latency. I didn’t notice it, even writing the same pen and ink weights on Note 5 and Note 4 side by side. I have noticed that the S Pen in the 5’s feels lighter to the touch, which makes it a bit cleaner, easier to write than the slightly heavier Note 4. The handwriting is still barely legible for both.
The S Note application itself is much simplified and the additional features are featured in the More menu. You can also download many more tools like the Chart and Extension Assistant, which includes advanced tricks such as the Soul & Shape Toolbar, handwritten “conversion” and the ability to record thumbnails.
In the app itself, you can customize everything from color selection to how to save your favorite pen tip combinations and ink thickness. As with previous versions, the pen remains sensitive along the corners of the page, and the on-screen controls will disappear for an instant so you can continue to write and draw “under” them.
Compared to the Galaxy Note 4 in 2014, the new Note 5 has some additional tricks.
Redesigned label wheel: Called Air Command, this floating icon hangs on any screen and opens to open a circular menu of the most commonly used applications – say, the S Note app, the browser, or your photo gallery. It’s always on, but you can turn it off in Settings. You can also customize this by adding up to three programs of your choice.
Air Command responds faster these days, which means that if you accidentally hit the S Pen button, you can quickly press again to drop it without interrupting too much. The floating icon does not interfere much, because it interacts only by pressing or pressing S Pen, not by your finger.
Instant memo: Called “screen memo off” in settings, this feature allows you to create “reminder actions” (more like sticky notes), even when the screen is off. One caveat: it only works after pulling the handle S, but if the pen hasn’t been around for a while. I like this feature – it adds S Pen’s ability to really quickly record a note. You will need to dive into the settings to enable it.
PDF writing: Yes, you can now comment on PDFs manually by hand, just like in the screenshot.
Scrolling capture: Instead of taking multiple screenshots of a long snippet of text, Note 5 prompts you to capture the entire screen. Of course, you’ll also be able to see the comments right in the screenshot.
Android and apps
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Easy mode, Private mode
- Two energy saving modes
- The latest addition to S Health
Galaxy Note 5 works Android 5.1 Lollipop backed by Samsung’s own TouchWiz layer. This means that your phone will be able to connect to a wide range of Google services, such as Google Now, step-by-step navigation, and access to Google Drive files. But it can also use Samsung’s own software, which tweaks everything to the look of the display – like those shortcut switches in the notification shade and everything about the S Pen. A single-disk cloud storage application for Microsoft is also on board (more on that below).
Alas, while Android 6.0 Marshmallow it’s near now, its the date of the new Samsung phones is a guess. Except promised monthly security updates , more significant software updates are on notoriously slow boat .
In addition, Samsung applications include major notes such as S Note and S Health, although the company did return its pre-loaded applications. You will find corneas of extra apps tucked away in different places across the phone, such as Galaxy and Galaxy Essentials gifts.
A quick scroll through the settings menu displays a whole suite of advanced modes and options, such as a simplified home screen (Easy mode) and storage for photos and files that you do not want anyone to see (Private mode). There are also two levels of battery saving, a few gestures and several themes to freshen up the look. You will even find the user guide.
Also, drag down the notification shade for quick access settings, including the flashlight. You can change them to change the order. On the homepage, swipe right to open a Flipboard that you can use to read the headline news about your pet.
The situation with the camera
- 16MP camera
- 5 megapixel front camera
- Up to 4K video resolution
- Double-click the home button to start
- YouTube live stream
If you look at the megapixel number, the Note 5 has changed little. Samsung has adopted a wider aperture range (f1.9 instead of Note 4 in f2.2), the same one used in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Why is it “good”? A larger aperture allows you to get more light, and more light results in better photos, including low-light images. Of course, image processing capabilities also make a huge difference, but the bottom line is that the overall quality of the photo has to gradually improve over Note 4 and along with the quality of the S6 and S6 Edge.
What you get with the camera app
The phone also comes with a few more editing and shooting modes and directories – mostly little things, but they’re always fun to open.
Like the Galaxy S6, and many other phones, the Note 5 here has Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to help keep your hands from blurry shots and many modes and tools. There is an automatic HDRR on the screen (this helps to keep the photos looking real), panorama and selective focus as separate modes.
What’s new is a live broadcast feature that lets you record to YouTube. A deliberate delay of 30 seconds between the start of recording and when footage hits YouTube. It’s essentially Samsung and YouTube on the Periscope Twitter tool. (The live streaming feature first appears in the Note 5 and S6 Edge +, and is now exclusive to these phones – though how long it will take is anyone’s guess.)
What else is new? Tap to focus and an exposure control will appear that allows you to glide to brighten or darken the scene. Take a photo in Pro mode and you will be able to save it as an output file – one that the phone did not automatically process, say, in JPEG format. This option gives photographers much more control over processing. You can record a collage of four 6-second videos to which you can add background music and share (the file is saved as 720p MP4). If you want to get more modes (like a selfie shot from behind), it’s easy to download more from the camera application.
What’s New in the Editor Feature Set is a way to create an animated GIF that can be a fun way to use a series of shots, such as developing a surprise or action sequence. Note 5 also allows you to comment on photos by writing on them (not an option on Edge +).
So, how does the camera do? I wanted clearer, brighter low-light photos and night shots in addition to all those juicy, full-day images. This is mainly what I got, though the Note 5 was still struggling with an automated night mode that robbed the New York City skyline of its high-contrast drama and turned it into a low-contrast slurry compared to real life. Several other scenes in the room also came out a little bland, while the well-lit scenes remained crisp.
And now to the photos! Most were shot in auto mode (sometimes clicked on HDR or night mode) with the exception of the manual focus macro made in Pro mode (I skip the auto focus macros).
The good news for selfie lovers is the Note 5’s front-facing camera from 3.9MP to 5MP (like the S6 and S6 Edge). The default beauty mode that you see with the front camera becomes a little more aggressive about washing your face, being inspired by a bunch of on-screen tools. Scroll to the skin tone subset to turn it off or off. There is also a wide-angle selfie mode that you and your friends can squeeze into, and something called a snapshot.
Video capture is up to 4K Ultra HD, with a resolution of 3,840×2,160-pixels, although this is a complete overkill for anyone except fanatical 4K monitor resolution (and large file tolerances). That’s why Samsung installed the default full HD at a resolution of 1 920×1,080 pixels – the same resolution as your 1080p HDTV. You can change this in the settings. The video recording was excellent, with good audio picking up a few subjects in just a few feet. Your own voice will be the loudest in any exchange, but the voices of the subjects should not disappear.
Specifications and performance
- Samsung Exynos 7-Oct Processor
- 32GB / 64GB storage options; 4GB of RAM
- 3.000mAh battery (non-removable)
- No microSD expansion slot
- Microsoft OneDrive with 100GB of cloud storage
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac
The internal power of the Note 5 will change a bit this year, slightly worse.
Let’s start with the octa-core processor. Samsung adheres to its Exynos 7 S6 chipset, a 2.1GHz quad-core chip, and a second 1.5GHz quad-core chip for lower-power tasks. This is a departure from last year’s phone that Samsung uses the same processor on all global devices, compared to one for the US and another for non-US models that happened in the past. A longstanding partnership with Qualcomm puts the Snapdragon processor inside the Note 4, but no longer . 4GB of RAM (vs. 3GB of Note 4) helps you run smoothly.
Unfortunately, the storage situation is not easy, especially since Note 5 is positioned as a performance device. Without the physical expandable option, you’ll have to get either 32GB or 64GB of versions and hope you have enough cloud storage if you hit the ceiling. Oddly enough, Samsung teased the 128GB note and then said it was a mistake .
What Samsung doesn’t advertise is that a previous partnership with Microsoft has put 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage out of your reach; it’s free for two years. You will then have to pay to save the content online. Cloud-based data storage through Microsoft or any other service certainly helps, but it still doesn’t give Note 5 owners significant flexibility in how they store their data.
Also, keep in mind that the Note 4 started at 32GB and offered up to 128GB of extra storage via a microSD card slot, so you’re really shortening yourself if you chose the 32GB model over 64GB.
Certainly, memory expansion has never been an option on the iPhone. But its downside to this more expensive “pro” model in the Samsung lineup is more than its lack of in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which debuted earlier this year. The same is true of the lack of a changing battery (see below), which was also available in all previous Note models.
Anecdotally, performance was strong, with endless navigation and rich graphics. Using your phone made you feel smart and not sluggish. Hopefully, it will be delayed from time to time. Another good news: the phone starts in about 25 seconds from the off position, which is fast enough. In addition, the camera starts quickly, in a second, please double-tap the Home button or press the program.
Although the Note 5 and Edge + have the same set of chips as the S6 and S6 Edge, these new phones work better in our diagnostic testing tests. In real-world experience, these devices are some of the fastest in the world.
This is one of those times when numbers don’t mean as much as you think. You lose a bit of battery capacity – the Note 4 removable ticker 3200 mAh shrinks to a 3000 mAh built-in battery – but battery life has blown us up in three cycle video tests: 15 hours compared to the average of 12.9 Note Note 12 in the same test.
Many things may have happened to explain the improvement. Samsung may have stepped up its software to make the phone more efficient when connecting power. The CPU and larger RAM (4GB over 3GB Notes) can also have some effect. Just keep in mind that battery life will vary depending on how you use your device (current music and step-by-step navigation will suck your battery faster), and it will usually degrade over time. Still, this is a very promising result.
In addition to its long service life, the Note 5 includes two wireless charging standards (PMAs and WPCs to which the Qi standard applies) and has two stages of power-saving modes that can be found in settings, including a strict ultra-power-saving mode that essentially transforms your phone on a silent phone to keep it in emergency mode.
Call quality and data rate
- Globally compatible
- LTE Cat.6, 9 (country dependent)
First of all, there is no great way to test audio quality around the world at first, but I can test it where I live, and it’s in San Francisco (with T-Mobile). I had some lengthy conversations with CNET editor Brian Bennett on his landline at the CNET office in Louisville, Kentucky, at 2,300 miles. We both thought the call quality was a little bland.
For my part, I heard the whispering echoes of both the Note 5 and the S6 Edge +; to him, it sounded tinny with muffled scratching. Both defects persisted throughout the call, in the background. In other calls, Brian said the statistics had gone off and said that when we switched to the speaker, the distance seemed to improve the situation.
The problem with every Samsung phone I’ve tested over the last few years: the volume was low. I had to spin it to full volume so I could hear Brian comfortably – and it was in a quiet place. Samsung knows this too, so it includes on-screen controls for extra volume. A word of warning: it amplifies every sound, distorted or not.
From the data side, the speed was quite consistent with what I saw on other phones, so it seems to me that the Note 5 will work well for your carrier in your area.
With regard to data transfer speed, the Speedtest.net diagnostic application has recorded results that match T-Mobile in my area. In real tests, applications and websites opened quite quickly, although slow pockets existed.
In Sydney, we tested on the Telstra 4GX LTE network. Since the Galaxy S6 Edge + and Note 5 are LTE-enabled devices, and Telstra can support Cat 9, we were expecting impressive results and we were not disappointed.
Although the average download speed was 72 Mbps, only a few people experienced an outburst. For the most part, we saw a comfortable 45-55 Mbps. However, we also managed to reach a top speed of 208.49 (on Edge +) and several other 140+ results. As for the downloads, we got a reliable 20-30 Mbps.
They were consistent with our overall experience of use. Edge + pages were quickly downloaded and uploaded to social media image files. So, although the mid-range LTE is often less than 150 Mbps and above, you can definitely see the difference of a Category 9 phone.
Like the S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge +, the Note 5 supports Samsung Pay , the company’s new mobile payment system. Currently, this will only be available in the US and South Korea, and we have demonstrated beta service in both countries. Check ours South Korea’s experience here , and watch it on Note 5 of this video below.
Samsung Pay on Samsung’s latest phones, hands-on by Scott Stein00:39Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Samsung Pay on… AutoplayOnOff 00:00 00:39 Settings
With regard to synchronization and management, Samsung promises that it has expanded SideSync (version 4.0) to make sharing content from a PC, tablet or TV a little easier. She was not active during this review, but Samsung says soon.
One of the advantages is the automatic connection (after initial installation); the other is the ability to answer text and calls from your computer screen, similar to Apple’s Handoff feature. You can also drag and drop software between your desktop and your phone. The software you need works with computers, tablets and Windows computers.
Samsung has prepared stable add-ons for the Note 5, including several cases, a quick wireless charging washer and an energy brick that charges your phone wirelessly and other devices with cable. The most notable case is Keyboard Cover , clamps the QWERTY keyboard on the front of the screen to get the BlackBerry experience.
Punch up the Galaxy Note 5 with this keyboard case (photos)
Buy or miss?
Note 5 is an amazing device with strong stylus capabilities and flashy design. However, by rebuilding the battery and reducing storage options, Samsung has opened the door to competitors who can offer an expandable screen with expandable storage and / or removable battery for a lower price.
Note 5 seems a little better in all plans than Note 4, but for those who move on to Note 3 or join the Note family, Note 5 has a lot to offer.
My big question is if Samsung just shot it in the leg, releasing too many phones at the same time that do too many of the same things. 5.1-inch S6 – Everyman phone; S6 Edge is a specialized S6 with rounded sides; and the 5.7-inch Galaxy S6 Edge + – again a rounder thing, but even bigger – and more valuable. Where does this leave Note 5? Basically everything has to do with the stylus.
Fortunately for this phone, its lower price tag than the S6 Edge + makes it more affordable for two extremely large Samsung phones, and one that picks more people if they don’t specifically look for the exotic Edge + form.
I really like Note 5. I like to use the knob to relieve pressure by constantly pressing my fingers on the on-screen keyboard. I like the Air Command feature and writing handwriting notes when I want. I also think it’s a really good phone.
Those who do not think they will use the stylus and want to pay less, there are probably better options for you, especially if you do not live in a Samsung Pay area (you can use Google Wallet).
Compared to Samsung Galaxy Note Edge +
Sharing the same hardware and software, the Note 5 is the same as the Edge +, but minus the dual curved display (and the Edge shortcuts), as well as the stylus with all its writing capabilities. Because Edge + is a more valuable phone, people who don’t care about the rare curved screen look should stick to Note 5, even if they don’t plan to write much.
Compared to Samsung Galaxy S6
You pay for a larger Note 5 and S Pen display. They are almost identical inside (for example, there are differences in battery capacity and RAM). See Note 5 if you are interested in a larger screen or stylus.
Compared to Samsung Galaxy Note 4
If you already have this device, skip this Note 5 update, especially if you value your removable battery and accessories for storing your equipment. The cameras are a bit better and the stylus payoffs are nice to the touch, but minimal – the Note 4 still handles most of the tasks. Samsung Pay only benefits you in the US and South Korea.
Unlike all other extremely large Android phones
As far as I’m concerned, it’s still a premium big boy to beat, though midrange and large entry-level phones are better for budget. For the lower-cost model, the LG G4 Stylus (aka the LG G Stylo) comes with a stylus for handwriting and navigation. Other good, big variants (without the handle) are the 5.5-inch LG G4 and Google Nexus 6 (though I’ll also sit tight for the inevitable next year 2015, which will launch with Android 6.0 Marshmallow).
As I mentioned, the future is a 5.7-inch high-end Motorola Moto X Pure also looks promising and costs a lot less. Ditto the OnePlus 2, which also has a 5.5-inch screen, 4GB of RAM (64GB model), an eight-core processor, and a 13-megapixel camera for $ 390 (about £ 250 or $ 530).
Compared to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus
You can’t write handwriting on the iPhone 6 or 6S Plus, each of which is easier to compare with the S6 Edge +. Noting that the iPhone 6, which remains the gold standard for smartphones and costs less than the Note 5, is the best dollar-for-dollar price if you just can’t live without a stylus.