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Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Not bigger but noticeably better all round

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Samsung has created a market for productivity phablets with its Galaxy Note series. With more players cashing in on the big screen phablet game, Samsung has to stay ahead beyond just having a bigger screen and better specs. The last Galaxy Note 4 was a great device but it faced stiffer competition with the likes of the iPhone 6 Plus.

With an early announcement for 2015, the Galaxy Note 5 aims to secure its spot as the new king of the hill for the remainder of 2015. Read on for our hands-on experience to find out about this 5th generation productivity phablet.

Hardware

Before that let’s talk more about the device. The overall build quality has been improved and you get the same premium look and feel as the Galaxy S6. Gone is the faux leather back that made its debut on the Galaxy Note 3 and it now gets a stylish looking curve glass at the back, that’s similar to the Mi Note. This design somewhat makes the device to better to hold as compared to the Galaxy S6 edge which has little area to grip with its thin metal frame.

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The screen size of 5.7″ has been retained but Samsung has managed to make the Galaxy Note 5 thinner (7.6mm) and lighter (171g) than its predecessor. On-board the Galaxy Note 5 gets a choice of either 32GB and 64GB storage options. Like the Galaxy S6, there’s no expandable microSD card memory and you would need to rely on cloud storage for further expansion.

S-Pen and productivity

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The front Super AMOLED display still retains its Quad HD resolution of 2560×1440 and it pushes a pixel density of 518 ppi, which is still among the sharpest in its class. Powering the internals is a familiar 14nm process Exynos Octa-Core processor that’s mated with 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAM. The decision of using the same processor as the Galaxy S6 isn’t a bad thing considering it performed well and it is still the best performing processors out there at the moment. From our brief experience, the processor and the generous 4GB RAM combo combined promises a buttery smooth experience for the hardcore multi-taskers.

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The S-Pen has been completely redesigned. Gone are the days where you need to pry the end with your fingernails as the Note 5 features an eject mechanism, popping up the end of the S-Pen with a light push. In the last Note 4, the S-Pen has doubled its pressure sensitivity to 2048 levels. On the new Note 5, Samsung claims to have improved the experience, making it as close to writing on paper.

Taking down notes is even faster on the Note 5 as you can start scribbling on the front display even while the screen is off. This saves time unlocking the device and finding the app to jot your notes down. The Air Command has been improved with more customisation and it allows you to add shortcuts to your favourite apps.

As we move towards a digital office, there are some things that still require analog input. With the Note 5’s enhanced handwriting feature, you can now digitally sign PDF documents and have it sent out by email instantly. So you save time printing and re-scanning documents. Another neat feature is taking screenshots with its scroll capture. This allows you to capture a whole web page or a long chat message in a single action.

For those that still prefer to type on a tactile keyboard, Samsung has also released a Keyboard Cover which lets you type on a full QWERTY keyboard. The case is surprisingly thin and it lays over the touch screen covering the bottom portion of the device. There’s no batteries or bluetooth pairing required and it connects directly on the touch screen display. When not in use, you can move the keyboard towards its back cover.

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Cameras

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The Galaxy Note 5 gets a 16MP f/1.9 main camera that’s assisted with optical image stabilisation and it is capable of shooting 4K videos. The front camera gets a 5MP f/1.9 unit, that’s also similar with the Galaxy S6. To launch the camera at any time, it is also triggered by double pressing on the home button. For great shots anytime, it has Auto HDR for both front and back cameras.

In terms of features, it gets better stabilisation for video and now there’s also an option to broadcast your moments live on YouTube. This isn’t new for a flagship smart phone but nevertheless it is a good option to have especially when you need to share an important moment in real time. Just make sure you’re in a location with fast upload speeds on 4G.

Connectivity and Charging

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For high speed downloads, the Note 5 supports 4G LTE up to Cat 9 speeds, where available. It also gets 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC. Surprisingly Samsung has dropped its Infrared blaster, which has always being a standard feature on its previous flagships.

Health still remains one of Samsung’s key focus and it still retains a heart rate sensor module that also houses its camera’s LED flash. For the very first time in Malaysia, the Galaxy Note 5 will come with Dual-SIM slots, which is good news for globetrotters and mobile warriors that want to separate both personal and work lines.

Keeping the lights on is a 3,000mAh capacity battery that supports both fast charging by cable as well as wireless charging. Using compatible adaptive fast charge, it takes 90 minutes for a full charge. The Galaxy Note 5 has also improved its wireless charging speeds, with 0-100% being accomplished in 2 hours. Like the S6, it supports both wPC and PMA wireless charging standards.

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Availability

The Galaxy Note 5 comes in four colours – White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum and Silver Titanium. US and Canada will be among the first in the world to get it starting next week 21st August, with the rest of the world to follow shortly after.

Conclusion

Some might argue that the Galaxy Note 5 is just an incremental upgrade from the Galaxy S6 but the winning formula is more than just better specs and a larger screen. For those who have gotten hooked to the S-Pen, the Galaxy Note 5 is a direct upgrade path with the top notch specs crafted in a premium package.

Want to get more things done with a bigger screen? The Galaxy Note 5 still offers one of the best multi-tasking features that have been perfected over the years. Granted that the previous TouchWiz were pretty bloaty, the new iteration is much lighter and certainly there’s still room for Samsung to improve. For those who are not convinced with the S-Pen in the previous model, you certainly should give this version a try.

Galaxy Note 5 Photo Gallery
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Alexander Wong