I never thought I’d ever want to play with a phablet.  The word itself just makes me shudder.

Phone-tablets are meant for a certain type of person I do not see myself as.

There is no way I will be one of those people.

It’s just a device, dude, surely you can’t be serious?

I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.

Low and behold after spending a bit of time with it, I might actually appreciate the all-in-one device.

This is the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review.


Note 5 side

The last Samsung device I played with was a Galaxy S5.  Some of you may know it as the golf ball phone or the band-aid device due to the design of its back cover.

It’s been awhile and I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Note 5.  I knew it looked pretty from afar, but never truly understood how nice the device is in person.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 design is incredibly premium.  It really is breathtaking.

If I had to pick one word to describe the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, it would be “refined”

Samsung took its trademark look and literally smoothed out the edges.  It’s what we’ve always wanted to see from a Galaxy and it looks great.

I think what really did it for me was the metal band around the outside edge along with the glass back.  These features added a bit of weight to the Note 5 which made it feel like you were holding a quality piece of engineering…which it is.

Speaking of holding the device, it’s easier to do than I had previously thought.  The rounded corners are anything but sharp and don’t poke into your hand thanks again to that smooth metal band.

Let it be noted that this phablet, yes phablet, is a two-hander.  You simply cannot use it with one hand like most smartphones.  If you do it becomes incredibly impractical.  With the Note 5 you caress it with one hand and navigate with the other.

Note 5 bottom

Another design aspect that I just want to get out-of-the-way is the bottom of the Note 5.  Yes, it looks like an iPhone, but no it isn’t a 100% match and if anything it brings more to the table than Apple due to the slot for the S-Pen.

There, moving on.

I’ve been all over the radar when it comes to capacitive vs on-screen buttons and at this point I have no real opinion one way or the other.  If a company is going to have a physical home button like Samsung does with their Galaxy lineup, then I think capacitive buttons are necessary.

Coming from my Sony Z3v it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I got used to it rather quickly and enjoyed the experience.

The only thing marginally unpleasant about the Galaxy Note 5 is that it is an absolute fingerprint magnet.  No, I’m not talking about the fingerprint scanner.  I’m talking about the back of the phone.

Galaxy Note 5 back

I guess it’s the trade-off for having a premium materials.  You can slap a case on it, but you’d have an even bigger device which could be troublesome.  I’d suggest getting it in white so that you don’t see the fingerprints as easily even though I think the Galaxy Blue color is gorgeous.

Overall I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 for its design.  I can’t knock the size because some people want an all-in-one device and not having a tablet and a phone and that is exactly what the Note 5 is.


Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review

The S-Pen is the reason you buy the Note 5.  Like I just said, the Note 5 is the all-in-one device and it’s because of this built-in stylus.

Initially I thought that the S-Pen was going to be a gimmick.

I was wrong.

I found myself using it almost every day for completely different reasons.

The first day with the Note 5 I pretty much used it nonstop.  It made navigating so much quicker and easier because I could see more of the screen without my hand blocking my view.

Then by day two the cool-factor started to wear off and I used the device much like a normal phone.

Flash forward to day four and I was back to using S-Pen like a madman.

The stylus makes using swipe keyboard much more practical because the size of the Note 5 hinders your ability to use it with your thumb.  A stylus is actually the fastest way to swipe type from what I’ve gathered.  My thumb feels slow now on my Sony compared to the power of the pen on the Note 5.

If you’re a person who needs productivity in your life, the S-Pen has a ton of features to help you get the job done.

It had a really neat feature where you can highlight a chunk of text and you can choose to email it or save it as personal details for a contact.  If you are someone who is out and about meeting new clients you should pick up the Note 5.

Note 5 writing

Writing with the Note 5 is incredibly fun

When writing with the S-Pen, if you apply more force the “ink” will be thicker just like a real pen.  I didn’t personally draw anything, but if you’re a graphic designer here is another use-case for the Note 5.  I can see someone like this drawing a mockup of an idea on the Note 5 and then sending it to their computer.

My favorite use for the S-Pen was marking up screenshots.  There is an option where you can quickly take a screenshot in the pen’s mini menu and then draw on it immediately.  After marking it up you can send it or save to the gallery.

I frequently took screenshots of my fantasy football team, edited them, and then sent them to my friends.  It was incredibly easy and quick to do.

Overall I have to highly recommend the Galaxy Note 5 for the S-Pen due to its plethora of features and ability to really help business-oriented people get work done.


On the first day of battery testing I kept the power saving options turned off and put the display brightness to 50%.

Under what I consider “normal” conditions for myself, and most likely 90% of other smartphone users, the day consisted of texting a few times an hour, using a messaging app (kik), checking Facebook, checking Twitter, browsing the internet, and taking a few photos.

I was able to get about 15 hours on the battery with 4 hours of screen-on-time.  The Note 5 will definitely get you through the day.

The next two days of battery testing I turned power saving on and put the screen brightness to auto.  I tried to load the CPU a bit harder and yet the Note 5 handled it with ease.  One reason is that the Power Saving mode actually limits the performance of the device so instead of guzzling, it just sips.  I honestly never even noticed a difference.

Day two achieved about 15 hours on the battery and was still at 54% when I went to bed.  Now it did only have about 2 hours of screen-on-time though which is kind of interesting.  If I hadn’t pushed it as hard by running benchmarks, it probably would have doubled.

Day three resulted with 1 day and 14 hours on battery.  This was going off of the same charge from the previous day.  I can’t say what the screen-on-time was, but it had to be more than 2 hours that particular day which means that the total time the screen was on was greater than 4 hours.

Again, the Note 5 should definitely get you through an entire day of use.  If you are playing games or doing CPU/GPU intensive tasks all day it might not last.


Note 5 camera

Oh the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 camera.  It’s a good one.

I didn’t think anything could compare to the LG G4 camera, but I was wrong.

It’s 16 megapixel camera takes incredibly detailed photos and takes them fast.  It is very easy to use, much like the G4.  Point and tap.

There are several modes to choose from such as Auto, Panorama, and Professional.  While I enjoyed playing with the “Pro” settings to show the differences, I felt there really wasn’t any need to even use it for everyday use.

If photography is a hobby of yours though, you will really enjoy this mode.

This should have been darker maroon, but the detail is fantastic

This should have been a darker maroon, but the detail is fantastic

A few times the Note 5 got the coloring off in Auto mode, but it didn’t ruin the overall image.  The picture was of a thorn-bush that is actually a deep maroon color.  The Note 5 decided to represent its berries as a bright red.  Other than this instance, the camera pretty much nailed every other picture.

My favorite use of the camera was changing the focal length to macro in Pro mode.  I couldn’t believe how well it focused in on such a close object.

For whatever the reason I didn’t quite get the same happy feeling of using this camera that I did with the LG G4.

Note 5 camera

I loved manually setting the focal point

Overall the camera is great.  It’s going to take great pictures 90% of the time.

Click here to check out the RAW images taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 on Flickr with all of the EXIF data.


Note 5 software

These are words I thought I’d never say: Samsung’s TouchWiz android skin is not that bad.  There.  Let the debates begin.

I’m serious, TouchWiz has come an incredibly long way and I found it quite refreshing to use.

I think if someone was switching to Android for the first time, Samsung would be one that I’d recommend.  Samsung has done a great job of scaling it back.

Now I can’t say if it is optimized or not.  The Note 5 has beastly specs so it could be running Android through raw horsepower instead of having a streamlined skin.

The app drawer is very well-organized and the settings menu was easy to navigate.

Samsung’s Note 5 is currently running Lollipop 5.1.1, but will be getting Marshmallow eventually.

I liked the notification tab with the quick settings.  It didn’t seem as cluttered as it used to be.  My only gripe was that in Power Saving mode, the Note 5 constantly reminded you of it every time you pulled down the tab.  Why?  Why have that?

Another quirky thing was that the weather widget has a clock on it, but if you touch the clock part it still opens the weather.  You have to use a different clock widget to open the clock.  Makes zero sense to me because I actually like the weather widget.

Let’s add another funky thing.  The “Briefing” screen.  It is very useful and I kind of prefer it to HTC Blinkfeed.  The Briefing newsfeed is powered by Flipboard and this is where the funkiness comes in.  Within the Briefing settings is an option to download Flipboard…I’m not quite sure why.

The last oddity was that Samsung doesn’t include live wallpapers.  Now I may be one of the unique people who still uses them, but why completely take them out?  I’d really like the option.

small screen Note 5

Phablets can be used one-handed!

Ending on a positive, my favorite software feature is when you triple click the home button.  It shrinks the size of the display like on iPhone’s so you can use the device one-handed.  However, it trumps Apple by allowing you to continue to use the screen at that size instead of bumping itself back up.

Overall, I feel like I have to recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 because of its mainstream-focused user interface.


Octa-core processor: Will it be able to handle gaming and most day-to-day tasks?  Yes.

4GB of RAM: Will it be able to multitask and handle intensive gaming?  Boy does it ever!  I did not notice any stutters.  It ran everything buttery smooth.  It is a powerhouse.

32/64 GB of storage:  The storage is adequate.  Most phones should have 32GB standard and it has exactly this.  64GB is even better, but you have to pay a bit extra.  I really wish that it had an SD card slot.  You will have to make due with using cloud services.

3000mAh battery:  Will it get me through the day?  If you are among the group of “average” users, most likely yes.  If you are a power user, maybe not.  Might want to pick up a quick charger or a different device.

Gorilla Glass 4:  Is the screen durable?  In most use-cases, yes.

5.7 inch LCD:  It’s a bit of a big boy.  Like really big.  The AMOLED display is 1440p resolution which means it is incredibly sharp and really vibrant.  Not for people who want to use a phone one-handed.

Fingerprint scanner:  The scanner reads your fingerprint very fast.  A few times it didn’t read it correctly, but 95% of the time it was fine.  I really enjoyed using it.

My least favorite thing about the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is…

…that it lacks an SD card slot.  I can deal with a non-removable battery, but I never want to be limited with my storage, especially when 128GB cards are getting very affordable now.  I also want to be able to just pop my SD card out for when the phone breaks or has water damage.

My favorite thing about the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is…

…that it is an all-in-one device.  I can totally see myself ditching a tablet and a smaller smartphone to grab a phablet like the Note 5.  It’s got a big screen like a tablet, but is also quite compact like a phone.  I could easily slide it in my jeans without any problem.  Its battery is good, the camera is great, the S-PEN is very useful, and the design is incredibly premium.  I can’t think of any reason NOT to get the Note 5.

It’s November 27th, would you buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 5?

Unboxing Note 5

Yes.  I totally would.  It’s one of the best Android devices on the market.

It does everything well. The Note 5 is a triple treat.

There are a TON of accessories for it.  Just walk into Best Buy or Walmart and you’ll see the Samsung specific areas.

It’ll definitely stay updated.

No other phone really can compare in its category.  The iPhone 6s Plus doesn’t come with a built-in stylus.  It’s not productivity focused, it’s just a bigger iPhone.  The Note 5 has specific software to help make the most of the S-Pen.

The Note 5 is definitely recommended this holiday season.

Recent Penn State grad who loves all things mobile. Has a knack for teaching and enjoys a bit of alliteration.

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