Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5

CIO | Aug 13, 2015

Samsung’s back with its fifth-generation phone-tablet hybrid.

Samsung’s responsible for helping turn bigger phones into not jusy a fad, but the norm. That iPhone 6 Plus your friend’s holding? You can thank Samsung for that.

Samsung’s next big phone is the Galaxy Note 5. This phone-tablet hybrid has been completely reimagined. It’s thinner, sleeker, and even nicer to look at than all its predecessors. If you’re looking for a giant, premium Android phone, this’ll cover it. But if you were looking for something that doesn’t resemble the rest of the Samsung Galaxy family, you’re most definitely out of luck.

Let’s get to some of the specs: Inside, the Galaxy Note 5 runs on a 2.1GHz octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM. Its 5.7-inch Super AMOLED QuadHD display is big, beautiful, and easy to read. It’s also got a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with a few new tricks, like a live broadcasting mode which links up to YouTube. I’m a big fan of the excellent camera on the Galaxy S6, so I’m glad to see Samsung brought it to this phone, too.

Despite all that, I am concerned about the Note 5’s 3,000mAh battery pack. Will it be capable of fueling all that hefty hardware? I’ll be studying that during review time.

The Note 5’s biggest selling point is its ubiquitous S-Pen. It’s tucked away in the bottom-right corner of the phone and it offers a few new features, too. You can start writing on the screen just by popping out the pen, without even firing up an app or unlocking the phone, and you can add extra application shortcuts to the Air Command screen. The stylus also makes a really cute swishy sound when you’re writing, like the sound of pen on paper—but don’t worry, you can turn it off if you’re not into it.

There are some caveats that come with choosing the Note 5 as your daily driver. For one, it’s metal and glass, which scares me a bit—one little drop will scratch it up. Also, Samsung seems to be dunzo with expansion slots on its flagship devices. Like the Galaxy S6, the Note 5 does not take MicroSD. If you want lots of space, you’ll have to pay for the 64GB version and pray you never fill it up.

The Galaxy Note 5 is, essentially, a blown-up, slightly souped-up version of the Galaxy S6. That’s fine, because that seems to be the point of Samsung’s smartphone lineup this year: there’s a phone in every size and any flavor, no matter your preference. The choice is nice, but I’m worried about whether that will resonate with Android users the same way the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus did.