Hands on with the new Samsung Galaxy Note5

Samsung’s new Galaxy Note5 is packed with top-of-the-line productivity features and is much better-looking than the last Note smartphone. However, it's not perfect and our first look at the 'phablet 'reveals a number shortcomings.

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What you might not like about the Galaxy S6 edge+ 

I'm going to come right out and admit it: I don't like phablets. They're just too damn big. Of course, that's a matter of preference, and clearly lots of people love their gigantic phones. Obviously, if you're a fan of large phones, the Note5’s size isn’t a concern.

The new Note5's design is similar to the GS6. It's made entirely of metal and glass, and, frankly, it's a looker. In fact, I think the Note5's glass rear panel looks much better than the faux leather battery cover on the Note 4.

However, as soon as you grab the Note5 and hold it in your hand for a few minutes, something feels … off — it feels less durable than the GS6 and even the GS6 edge. It’s almost a bit flimsy. I tried to determine the cause, and as far as I can tell, it's because the metal bezel that surrounds the phone doesn't run along the top of the phone's side, as it does with the GSG edge and GS6 edge+. The rear panel curves upward to the top edges, and your hand feels the curved, slick surface instead of the sturdy stainless steel when you hold it. This could be a nonissue, and a case would address the problem. But the device definitely feels odd in hand. 

The GS6 phones marked a notable new focus on design from Samsung, and they are available in a variety of vivid colors, including a memorable and unique emerald green. Unfortunately, the Note5 comes in only two, boring colors in the United States: black and white.

09 samsung galaxy s6 edge colors Al Sacco

Galaxy S6 edge phones in an array of vivid colors. The Note5 is only available in two color options.

Like the Galaxy S6, GS6 edge and now the GS6 edge+, the Note5 does not have a removable battery or an expandable memory card slot. That's par for the course these days, but it is the first Note device without these features. And that's a shame. You can never have too much battery life, and the option of swapping out a dead battery for a full one is always better than scrambling to find a power outlet in an unfamiliar environment.

On the subject of batteries, the Note5's 3,000 mAh battery is 7 percent smaller than the 3,220 mAh pack in the Note 4, which might not bode well for the possibility of longer battery life.

The absence of a memory card slot is all the more notable because Samsung chose to offer the Note5 with only two storage options: 32GB and 64GB. The Note 4 only came with 32GB of storage, so the new Note actually has an additional storage configuration. But it still lacks the large, 128GB option that's common today. 

Finally, the Note5 does not have an infrared (IR) blaster. For many folks, this won't be a deal breaker. In fact, I bet most people have never even used the IR blasters on their favorite mobile devices. However, if you've come to rely on a specific app that uses the feature (a remote control app for your Apple TV or other streaming box, for example) you may be disappointed to learn that it won't work on the new GS6 edge+.

To be clear, this isn't meant to be a Note5 review. It's impossible to accurately evaluate a new device after only an hour or two of hands-on time. Instead, I tried to spotlight the features, or lack thereof, that will stand out to people familiar with Samsung's current smartphone lineup. 

The Note5 is expected to be released by all four major U.S. wireless carriers on August 21. You can learn more about the new Galaxy Note on Samsung's website.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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