After about 5 days of real world use of my new shiny Galaxy Note 5, here’s my honest review of this new flagship phone.
The design of the phone is nice. I really did admire the Galaxy S6 design as much as it did look more like an iPhone. The rounded edges with metal was really nice to me. The thing I did NOT like was how the backing was glass.
The reason why I didn’t like it is because of how it’s a fingerprint magnet. Seriously… no matter what you do, you will get some kind of smudge on it and it makes it look really weird when the light catches it just the right way. Makes the phone (or particularly the user) look dirty. I found myself wiping the phone several times a day with a microfiber cloth to keep the nice shiny look rather than my grimy prints on it.
People also seemed to have the concern that the new design made the Note 5 more slippery. At first, I thought, no, it doesn’t. The curves actually make it easier to hold in your hand than the Note 4. But if your hands are super dry or if you don’t firmly grab the phone, then it can just slip through your hands. And that’s when you have to hope and pray it lands the right way so that you don’t end up with a shattered panel. I nearly dropped mine a couple of times trying to get it out of my pocket quickly. After each time though, you’re a lot more conscious of the phone and are more careful.
S-View Flip Case
Because of the potential of dropping the phone, I ordered myself a S-View Flip Case for the Note 5. These cases are the ones that allow you to see part of the screen of the Note 5 and even interact with it with the case closed.
The S-View Flip Case for Note 5 comes in Silver, Black and Gold. The black is more of a dray blue-gray which kinda matches the glimmer that the black version of the Note 5 gives off (since it’s not totally black). Would have been neat to see a little darker version but it’s good none the less.
The cover for the Note 5 behaves similar to how the one for the Note 4 did. The way you mount it though, is different. Since there is no removable back panel anymore, you mount it buy just attaching it to the back panel. It’s actually amazingly secure in that it doesn’t fall out when you hold it by the edges upside down, and it does take some effort to get the phone to release from the case. Though, I can see if you remove the case frequently, the clips that hold the phone in place will eventually stretch and be less grippy.
As far as functionality, the window screen allows you to answer calls by swiping on the screen. You can also make calls to frequent contacts if that is set up. Camera operations are also easy, but keep in mind that your images will be a square image instead of a rectangle… but if you’re taking Instagram pictures, it won’t matter 🙂
The case has some other nice features. Since the camera lens actually does stick out a bit from the back, not having a case exposed that part to drag across the surface you put it in. With the flip case on, the lens is recessed a little below the outer hole for the lens. Thus it’s the case touching the surface, not the lens. The interior of the case also has a microfiber/felt feel which I guess you could use to give your screen a quick smudge wipe by rubbing the cover against the screen.
The case itself isn’t very heavy since now there’s no chip in it and is mostly plastic. It does add a little more bulk to the phone but that’s fine since it gives you some added protection from accidental falls or bumps. Also since now one side is covered by the case you actually have some additional grip rather than the metallic side.
Ok so here’s where the review goes a little downhill. The battery life for the Note 5 is about the same if not a little less than the Note 4. Now granted, since the phone is new, I can barely keep my hands off of it. Also since there are updates and apps that needed installing, the phone was pretty busy doing that as well.
So apparently an all day battery to Samsung means about 10-11 hours. If that’s the case, it works out fine. Granted once you get to 5% in ultra-power save mode you can barely see anything on the screen. Though, this would be good if you really were waiting for a call and didn’t have much battery left.
In order to make sure I had enough charge, I would just end up plugging in my phone when I could during the day so that it would always be near full charge. I mean I need it charged while going to work so I have stuff to listen to. Same for at the end of the day when I’m going home. During the day it needs to be able to function for appointments and any lookups that may be needed.
I know this might actually make the life of the battery in the Note 5 go down a bit but it’s better than not having any juice to do anything on the phone. I might actually have to make use of battery packs that I bought for emergency situations to charge my phone during the day where I don’t have access to a power plug or computer.
Will probably have to see if it gets better or worse over the next few weeks when my obsession with playing with the phone goes down.
The screen on the Note 5, while the same size as the Note 4, seems a bit smaller. But it’s not… no really it’s not, it’s just an optical illusion because of how the phone is designed. The bezel for the Note 5 is very small now, probably about half of the Note 4. And since the Note 5 is narrower the Note 4, it makes the screen look smaller because the actual width of the phone is smaller.
But that being the case, the screen itself is awesome. It seems clearer, brighter and crisper than the Note 4. While this could just be because the Note 5 is new and my eyes have grown tired of the Note 4, I really think there are some improvements to the screen that make the images and videos seems to pop more. Text is very clear and video details are sharp. While I am colorblind, the colors that I can perceive come through very sharp and vividly.
Overall functionality of the Note 5 is a bit better than the Note 4. The camera popup function is nice and fast. It’s pretty much where I can take a picture instantly and there were only a few times when the auto-focus had a hiccup.
Pictures taken with the back camera are awesome, much like how it was with the Note 4. For some pictures though it seems to come through much clearly even with in-door or lower light, probably thanks to the better aperture lens. The camera modes that came with the Note 4 aren’t installed by default on the Note 5, but you can download them from the Samsung store and seem to work pretty much the same. The front facing selfie camera also seems improved and photos there seem sharper.
I haven’t had a reason to use the livestream function yet, but when I do, I would expect it just streams whatever video taken by the camera and posts it on YouTube. Video recording on the Note 5 is pretty much the same as the Note 4, but the new stabilization features make for less nausea inducing videos.
The S-Pen… the whole reason why I have the Note 5… and its predecessors. While writing seems so last century, for certain things it’s so much easier to write it out or doodle it, than it is to try to type it out… and this is coming from a person that types way faster than I write.
The biggest new functionality is where you can take notes on the screen without having the interface ready. It pretty much gives you a blank black canvas to write your note on then it saves it to S Note when done. Granted, you can only do this on the first time you eject the pen from the holder. To do it again, you would have to reload the pen, then undock it.
The note taking aspects are also nice. You can mark up web pages and other screens on your phone and bring them up in S Note. There’s also a mode where you can take a screen cap of a multi-screen website all in one picture, rather than having to take multiple screen shots by scrolling down the page.
Overall, I am happy with the Note 5. While the battery life might be subpar or average at best, I can make due by charging throughout the day (either plugging in or with a portable battery pack).
Also since now there is no expandable storage SD card option, the 64GB hasn’t proven to be a problem yet. I still have over 40GB of space remaining. But if I needed to put more onto the phone, I could actually use a micro-USB flash drive to offload things. The flash storage on the phone is very fast compared to SD-card access, so I guess there’s a plus there.
I have a 64GB version of the SanDisk MicroUSB to USB flash drive and that should be enough in most cases… if not I could carry around multiple of those as needed (or hope they come out with a 256GB version one day).
So despite some of the shortcomings for this “improved” version of the Note 5, there are some ways of getting around them to get the design, speed, and performance of the Note 5, with the functionality, expand-ability and flexibility of the Note 4 and previous models.
Maybe Samsung will take a hint and merge design and function together in the Note 6. But then we’ll have to wait for next year for that.