Samsung launched its next-generation Note series smartphone for the year, the Galaxy Note 5, last week, and we were there at the launch event. Samsung was kind enough to hand over a review unit to us right after the launch, and I have been using the device since past one week as my primary device. Here’s my hands-on experience with the device as well as my first impression on the Galaxy Note 5. You can click on the images of the device to see them in the full-screen mode or you can even zoom the images, which I advise you to.
Packaging & Box Contents
The box packaging of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes with the device itself, a Fast Charge wall charger, a microUSB v2.0 cable, wired stereo headphones, a SIM remover tool, and a tool to replace the S Pen tip along with multiple spare S Pen tips. It also comes with a quick start guide that helps you in setting up a device and explain you general hardware and software controls. The Galaxy Note 5 (SM-N920G) unit that I received for the review is a 32GB inbuilt storage variant and was running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with firmware version N920GUBU1AOH6. Samsung might update the firmware by the time it hits the offline and online retail shelves on September 20.
Design & Build Quality
The design of the Galaxy Note 5 clearly resembles to that of the high-end smartphones from Samsung that were released this year, be it the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 edge or the Galaxy S6 edge+ that was launched last month. The device is made up of glass and metal body that not only looks like a piece of art or jewellery, but also feels strong at the same time. The bezels around the display is very minimal, and Samsung has done a very good job of fitting a 5.7-inch display inside a fairly portable device for its screen size. Moreover, the curved back helps ergonomics quite a lot, and you feel like holding a device that is smaller than the Note 5’s actual size.
The frontal part of the device mostly comprises of a large 5.7-inch display with the home button below it. The home button also doubles up as a touch-based fingerprint sensor that is used to authenticate the user while unlocking devices and apps. The earpiece, the front-facing camera, the ambient-light sensor, and the proximity sensor are situated above the display. The power button is placed on the right, while the volume rockers are placed on the left.
A 3.5 mm headphone jack, a microUSB v2.0 port, a loudspeaker, a microphone, and the S Pen slot are all situated at the bottom of the device. The top part of the device is home to a Nano-SIM card slot and a secondary microphone. The back, which is covered using Corning Gorilla Glass 4, is curved on both the sides. It is home to the company’s logo, the camera module, a single-LED flash, and a heart-rate sensor.
The Mighty S Pen
As we all know, Samsung was one of the first big-name smartphone brand that popularised the use of capacitive styli after Android smartphones started becoming a norm. The company named it S Pen, and many laughed it off, but the truth is, no brand has been able to match Samsung’s S Pen offering in smartphones. Well, Microsoft and Apple embraced the technology with their professional tablet offerings, the Surface and the iPad Pro, but they came in a couple of years too late.
The capacitive S Pen stylus that comes with the Galaxy Note 5 has a special click button on the side and a click button at its end. When the S Pen is inside its slot, you have to click its visible bottom inside to extract it from its slot. As soon as you remove it, you can feel a little vibration, and the you are greeted with the Air Command menu that shows you a bunch of options that you can do using the S Pen. As the S Pen can measure dozens of pressure levels, you can use it as an actual pen or pencil or five other types of tools. You can even change colours and width of the strokes.
You can do the following things using the Air Command menu;
- Action Memo: Write something and convert it into actionable things.
- Smart Select: Select an area on the screen and save it in the scrapbook.
- Screen Write mode: Take a screenshot and write or scribble on it.
- S Note: Start writing or scribbling from scratch.
Things That Are Yet To Be Reviewed
There are multiple things that need to be used for a couple of weeks more to find out how satisfying they actually work. The 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display that is used in the Galaxy Note 5 is almost similar to the one used in the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 edge in terms of brightness, contrast, colours, and several other things. It is undoubtedly one of the best displays in the smartphone market as of now. However, I couldn’t test how the display shows content when under bright sunlight directly, so I can’t completely comment on the display quality yet.
Samsung has used its homegrown Exynos 7420 chipset inside the Galaxy Note 5 along with 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAM. The processing chipset is definitely the fastest SoC in the smartphone market right now, faster and more stable than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, thanks to 14nm FinFET technology and better architectural and manufacturing design, but Samsung is known to use the best hardware and still fall behind others in terms of overall experience, at least till the last year. I will use the device extensively over the next few days, and know that I am one of the most heaviest smartphone users. If I say that a phone satisfies my needs, it will definitely satisfy a majority of users out there.
The Galaxy Note 5 uses a critically acclaimed combination of cameras – a 16-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel secondary camera – that was also used in the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S6 edge, and the Galaxy S6 edge+. The primary camera uses a 1/2.6-inch BSI CMOS sensor with 16:9 aspect ratio, a wide-angle autofocus and optically stabilised lens, ƒ/1.9 aperture, and 4K video recording. The front-facing camera has a wide-angle lens, ƒ/1.9 aperture, and QHD video recording. Moreover, it comes with additional options such as an ability to change shutter speed and an ability to save images in RAW format when used in Pro Mode.
I will also track the charging times and battery life closely over the next few days. Right now, the device is lasting me a complete day without a need to charge, but I am getting a screen-on time of just 3 hours, which is average. However, it is often seen that a device needs 1-2 weeks for its battery life to get stabilised. I will also closely notice if the software performance is being consistent over the course of time or if it degrades. Right now, the Galaxy Note 5 is one of fastest and smoothest smartphones, and I have not faced any software related problems. If you’ve read my OnePlus 2 full review that was published last week, you would have realised that I review devices quite extensively, so please stay tuned for my extensive review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
Computer science engineer turned technology blogger. Following consumer electronics industry closely from 2006, he can now predict pretty much where the market is heading. He has a dream to own Android, Windows Phone and iOS smartphones all at the same time.