News by Luke Jones on Thursday August 13, 2015.
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So, Samsung raised the curtain on its Galaxy Note 5 flagship and we have been getting up close and personal with the device to bring you the lowdown. Samsung has decided to explore an evolutionary approach with this handset instead of going for a huge leap, and as a result there are certainly disappointments here, but those gripes are not the be all and end all of what is an amazing product. The Galaxy Note 5 is Samsung's best smartphone ever, with some caveats.Samsung has unveiled its flagship phablet early this year, whether that's because of Apple or not doesn't really matter and the Korean giant would never confirm that anyway. Either way, we are seeing the Galaxy Note 5 in August and actually the device matches up to the countless leaks and rumors we have seen in coming weeks. Design The Galaxy Note ranges has differentiated itself from Samsung's flagship Galaxy S range with some features, but mainly it's the size and design that have separated the handsets. The Note has always been the better looking and frankly more premium feeling of the two, but Samsung is not reserving premium for one handset these days. The Galaxy S6 arrived with a metal and glass construction that oozes class earlier in the year, it is one of the best looking smartphones on the market. Even Samsung mid-range handsets (Galaxy A series) are premium these days, so I was expecting the Galaxy Note 5 to push it another level. However, these are admittedly not many places to go and there is no doubt that the new phablet looks and feels fantastic. It is sadly an oversized Galaxy S6 though, really many people would struggle to tell the difference in aesthetics. I am sure some will hate that, especially those who have appreciated the more professional looking Note series in the past. It's a minor gripe (albeit one that will divide opinion) and what's left after any issues is a very nice smartphone that is just well made and has a high build quality. Once again there is a metal frame sandwiched between glass, and the effect is dazzling and high end, even beautiful. It?s also worth mentioning that for a phablet, the Note 5?s 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6mm dimensions and 171g weight are impressive. Specs Starting with the screen, Samsung has once again employed Super AMOLED technology and once again there is a 5.7-inch panel. The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a Quad HD panel (1440 x 2560) with a pixel density of 518ppi, below the 577ppi which of course has the advantage of a more compact screen. The result is a screen that is instantly vying to be considered the best on the market, with pixels simply not visible on this crisp panel. Samsung decided earlier in the year that it would not be employing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, a chipset dealing with overheating problems. Luckily for the company it has its own successful processor business, and the Galaxy Note 5 comes with its Exynos 7420. This is a 64-bit octa-core chipset with four Cortex A57 cores running at up to 2.1GHz, and four more power-efficient A53 cores clocked at up to 1.5GHz. Coupled with the Exynos 7420 is 4GB of fast LPDDR4 RAM, and this will probably result in blazing day to day performance; early benchmark results certainly point to that. In terms of storage, the device comes with 32GB of storage, a limit that is starting to become standard, at least for flagship smartphones. As with the Galaxy S6, Samsung has cut a micro SD card port from the Galaxy Note 5, something that I think is almost a deal breaker considering this range is pegged as an entertainment and business giant. Another thing Samsung seems committed to omitting from now on is a removable battery, another thing I imagine will be a deal breaker for some. The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a 3000 mAh juicer, which is actually smaller than the 3250 mAh battery found in the Galaxy Note 4. It is a worry maybe and a smaller pack has allowed the Note 5 to be thinner than its predecessor, but hopefully improved screen technology, smoother software, and improved processing may mean battery life is not impacted too much. In terms of camera, Samsung has gone for a 16 megapixel rear primary lens and a 5-megapixel front facing lens. This is for all intents and purposes the same configuration found on the Galaxy S6 and that rear shooter comes with OIS and a wide, f/1.9 lens Software Aside from design, arguably the biggest difference between the Galaxy Note 5 and last year?s Galaxy Note 4 is in terms of software. Samsung's new lighter TouchWiz Android UI replaces the boggy and frustrating older build. There is not a huge aesthetic difference with the UI, but it certainly performs better than before. Not perfect though, and while I cannot speak for the Note 5, the Galaxy S6 has this new TouchWiz and still lags. Not as much for sure, but still enough to make one puzzled that a phone with amazing specs still stutters in general navigation... oh well, hopefully the Note 5 is different. A big part of the Galaxy Note series has been the S Pen, and it makes a return here and is shaping up to be better than ever. The stylus that is not a stylus (its better) arrives with a host of new features on the Galaxy Note 5, including the ability to now take notes from the lock screen without unlocking the device. Samsung has also worked on general S Pen functionality, with input lag and accuracy improved. As expected, Samsung also rolled out Samsung Pay, a mobile payment system that is not too far away from what we have seen from rivals, chiefly Apple Pay. The system works via Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) or Near-Field Communications (NFC), while Samsung's KNOX system will be used to keep the service secure. Samsung Pay will be making its debut in the United States during September. I imagine there will be two camps for this handset, those who are disappointed by its closeness to the Galaxy S6, the mere incremental improvement from last year?s model, and even the feeling that the Galaxy Note 4 is just as good. On the other hand, the opposite camp will love this handset, will appreciate the super-premium design, rich and unique feature set, and market leading specs that will lead to blazing performance. While an incremental release may be enough, there has always been a feeling that Samsung uses its phablet flagship to make big leaps. With that in mind, it is a viable argument to suggest that many users already packing the Galaxy Note 4 from last year may not see much need to update to the fifth iteration of the series. I am a long-time fan of the Note series, indeed the yearly Galaxy Note handset has been the only Samsung smartphone I have liked. So which camp am I in? Well, I am toeing the line between both as I think the Galaxy Note 5 is easily the best device Samsung has made, but I cannot deny that I had hoped for more. Despite that, this is the Android smartphone to beat.
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.