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Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: all major carriers in US
Manufacturer: Samsung
Editor's Choice award

What's Hot: Beautiful redesign. Easier to hold. One of the best phone displays on the market.

What's Not: Gone are the removable battery, microSD card slot and IR blaster. Expensive.


Reviewed August 22, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Samsung Galaxy NOte 5

The Samsung Galaxy Note series started with a controversy: that "phablet" debate, and the Note prevailed. Now there's a hint of controversy in the air thanks to a major redesign that matches the Samsung Galaxy S6. Yes, it's perhaps the first gorgeous Note Android smartphone, but as with the S6, that beauty comes at a price. In return for a stunning and compact design executed in Gorilla Glass 4 and metal, you'll give up the removable battery and microSD card slot. For power users, that might seem like heresy, and Note folks tend to be power users. Why? The Galaxy Note is more pocket computer than phone thanks to its huge 5.7" QHD display, S Pen and fast CPU. But once you see the Note 5 in photos and in person, I think you'll want one.

Samsung's updated fingerprint scanner is here, and it works just as well as the iPhone 6's scanner. You'll rest your finger on the mechanical home button to use it (no need to swipe your finger as with the Note 4). Samsung Pay is coming soon, the company's Apple Pay competitor that uses magnetic secure transmission rather than NFC for mobile point of sale payments. Gone are the IR blaster and AV remote control, but the heart rate scanner under the LED flash and S Health are here.

Design and Ergonomics

The Galaxy Note 5 looks like a larger version of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge mixed together. The front face looks like the standard S6 while the back sides are curved, mirroring the Edge's front face. Samsung reduced the side bezels to make the Note 5 narrower--it's easier to hold and the curves feel good in the hand. That said, the ultra-thin bezels invite accidental screen input, at least if your hands are large enough to wrap around the sides. The phone's look is stunning and the S6 design transfers nicely to the bigger chassis. The phone is available in black or white glass (gold is an option overseas) with an aluminum frame on the sides. The metal isn't slippery but glass is, so beware dropping it, particularly when pushing on the new spring-loaded S Pen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The standard micro USB port, 3.5mm audio jack and speaker are on the bottom edge, and this is the loudest and fullest Note speaker we've heard yet. It can't compete with HTC BoomSound stereo speakers, but volume is more than adequate. Volume controls are on the left and the power button is on the upper right. There's a nano SIM card slot up top but no SD card slot. The unibody design means there's no removable back cover and thus no removable battery. The phone supports Qi wireless charging out of the box--there's no need to buy a special back, though you will need a wireless charger to use that feature.

Horsepower and Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop with Samsung's TouchWiz software on the same Exynos 7420 2.1 GHz octa-core 64 bit CPU as the Galaxy S6 family. That's fine with us since the Note 5, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+ are some of the fastest smartphones on the market. Unsurprisingly, the Note 5 benchmarks similarly to those phones, and even better it doesn't feel the least bit laggy. That's high praise since Samsung's TouchWiz overlay, lightened though it is, still adds quite a bit of overhead.

The phone is available with 32 or 64 gigs of fast UFS 2.0 flash storage and as mentioned there's no SD card slot. I know some of you would like to see a 128 gig version since you can't use a microSD card, and I'd have loved that too (I'd love an SD card slot even more!). Given the high retail price of the 64 gig model (~$800), I suspect Samsung thought a 128 gig would be more expensive than the market would bear.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and Note 5.


  Quadrant 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test (lower is better)
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 34,631 24,463 63,086 351 (Webkit)/688 (Chrome)
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 24,327 19,667 46,912 425
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ 34,422 24,397 64,059 349 (Webkit)/692 (Chrome)
Samsung Galaxy S6 33,355 21,160 61,873 420 (webkit)/1025 (Chrome)
HTC One M9 33,733 22,168 53,582 852
LG G4 23,730 18,655 46,043 760
LG G Flex 2 26,390 22,644 49,344 730
LG G3 24,385 18,708 36,525 425
Nexus 6 13,595 23,520 49,961 795
Motorola Droid Turbo 22,709 20,735 48,332 795
Moto X Pure Edition 2015 24,771 19,703 48,700 N/A
HTC One M8 24,527 20,896 36,087 776
Sony Xperia Z3 21589 16,135 35,008 837
Nexus 5 8808 17,828 27,017 718
LG G2 19,762 9803 (extreme) 32,990 823
Samsung Galaxy S4 12,276 11,601 24,776 826

Geekbench 3: 1403/4713



Fantastic! The 5.7" QHD 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display is one of the best if not the best currently available on the market. It vastly surpasses the sRGB color gamut and is the brightest Note display yet. This is the first Note where I can see the display easily outdoors in the bright Texas summer sun. As per usual for Samsung's higher end Galaxy models, you can choose from several color presets. The default is adaptive display mode that alters various colors' saturation, brightness and contrast to suit the content being displayed. There's a %100 sRGB mode for those who don't like those Super AMOLED intense colors that are pretty but unnatural. The display has relatively low reflectance (as glossy touch screens go), so glare isn't maddening. Of course, if you don't mind carrying a large phone, your reward is a huge screen for watching movies, viewing photos and it acts as an immense viewfinder for the camera.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Calling and Data

Samsung's high end Galaxy models often have superb voice quality. We have AT&T and Verizon Wireless models in for review, and the AT&T model's voice quality is impeccable while the Verizon version sounded good but not great. We'll chalk that up to differences in coverage here in the Dallas metroplex where AT&T and T-Mobile have the strongest coverage. The phone's earpiece is quite loud and there's an "extra volume" on-screen button when in call that really boosts earpiece volume.

The phone has 4G LTE and it uses a Shannon wireless modem (geek trivia). Data speeds are excellent and honestly we rarely see significant variance between coeval phones marketed by a given carrier on that carrier's network. The Note 5 supports HD Voice and WiFi calling (WiFi calling is a carrier-dependent feature).


Samsung uses the same excellent 16MP rear and 5MP wide angle front cameras as on the Galaxy S6 models. They've tweaked it a bit, and the result is one of the best camera phones on the market. The extremely large and colorful viewfinder is a treat, and photos look that much better when you view them in Gallery or Photos. The camera uses Samsung's usual UI that we actually like: there are a plethora of features, manual settings and effects but somehow the interface isn't cluttered or confusing. You can direct record video to YouTube, use auto HDR, take photos while also recording video and there's a 4K video mode. The camera has OIS (optical image stabilization) to ameliorate the shaky hand dilemma, though it won't help with jumpy or fidgety subjects (the camera is stabilized, not the world around it). The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge + give the LG G4 serious competition and surpass the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for photo and video quality.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The front camera is relatively sharp and colorful with little of the usual front camera blocky noise when using video chat. Given the popularity of selfies, I'm sure no one minds having higher quality 5MP stills of themselves and surrounding friends.

Deals and Shopping:


Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Video Review


Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ Comparison Video


iPhone 6s Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Comparison


S Pen

The S Pen is back, and this time it lives in a spring-loaded silo. Push in to release it and push in again to lock it in place. The pen is similar in size to the last gen model's pen and it's still plastic though it looks like metal. Inside it's using Wacom technology with pressure sensitivity and palm rejection so you can rest your hand on the glass as you write or draw. Air Command, Multi-Window (with resizable floating app windows) and other Samsung staples are here. When you pull the pen out of the silo, the phone launches a handy palette of customizable pen-related app shortcuts, including a screen capture and annotate feature, quick note and S Note. In fact, you can even write a note when the phone is sleeping. Just pull the pen out of the silo and start writing on the black screen (in white ink). You can save that file for use later. This feature works even if you've PIN or fingerprint locked the phone.

As ever, S Pen is a treat if you're an avid "note to self" type or an artist craving a digital art pad. It's also handy for drawing diagrams, quick maps and equations. Oddly, Samsung decided to "clean up" S Note, and the handwriting to text conversion and equation recognition are now free optional downloads. You'll have to go to the S Note main screen (you can't be in a note) and use the menu to select optional add-ons if you want those features.

Battery Life

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has a 3,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside (I know, I know, some of you hate this change). It supports quick charging as well as wireless charging and a quick charger is included in the box. Battery life is good, but not groundbreaking. We've averaged 4.8 hours of actual screen on time with auto-brightness enabled, and for moderate use that translates into a full day to 1.5 days. Some older Note models actually managed 1.5 to 2 days, but recent generations' battery runtimes have shortened as screens get bigger, brighter and higher resolution while processor speeds also move upward. Then there's LTE 4G, a power hungry technology.

As a consolation for the loss of a removable battery, the phone's quick charge feature is extremely fast, and as with the iPhone and other sealed smartphones, you can use one of the many portable USB battery packs on the market to top up the battery on the go.


The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is the trimmest and best Note phone yet. The screen is as ever large but the phone's dimensions have become more manageable with each iteration. It's clearly the best looking Note phone; and I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't think it looks stunning. The question is whether you're willing to compromise for those good looks and reduced weight and size. For some of you, the lack of a removable battery and microSD card slot will be deal breakers. Hey Samsung, HTC and Sony can fit a microSD card slot in their slim unibody phones, why can't you? But I have a feeling that the new model will win many hearts and it might even steal a few iPhone 6 Plus customers away.

Price: varies by carrier, on average started at ~$700 for 32 gig and $780 for 64 gig.


Related Reviews:

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review

Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge Review

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ Comparison

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge Review

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Review

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Review

Nexus 6P Review

Moto X Pure Edition 2015 Review

iPhone 6s Plus Review

HTC 10 Review

LG G5 Review

LG V10 Review

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Review


Samsung Galaxy Note 5


Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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Display: 5.7" Super AMOLED display. Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (518 PPI). Gorilla Glass 4. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 3,000 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 2.1 GHz Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core CPU with Mali T-760 graphics. 4 gigs LPDDR4 RAM. 32 or 64 gigs UFS 2.0 internal storage.

Size: 6.03 x 3.00 x 0.30 inches. Weight: 6.03 ounces.

Phone: AT&T and T-Mobile: GSM quad band world phone with EDGE 2G, 3G and 4G LTE. Sprint and Verizon: CDMA dual band digital with 3G EV-DO Rev. a and 4G LTE.

Camera: 5MP front camera with wide angle f/1.9 lens and rear 16MP camera with f/1.9 lens, LED flash OIS and 4K video recording.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE and NFC.

Software: Android OS 5.1 Lollipop with Samsung TouchWiz software. S Note, Action Memo, Multi-Window and various other Samsung apps.

Storage Expansion: none.


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