The TL;DR version of Galaxy Note 5 design is that it's a bigger Galaxy S6 with an S Pen. Samsung has fully dispensed with the metallic-look plastic trim and fake leather backing and reproduced the stylish looks of the S6 at a larger scale. The Galaxy Note 5 has an aluminum frame and a Gorilla Glass 4 front and back (which is not removable).
However, the most striking design element of the Galaxy Note 5 is its rounded edges. Imagine a Galaxy S6 Edge facing the wrong way: that's how the back of the Galaxy Note 5 curves. The display itself is perfectly flat, so you get a nice sharp edge to grip as the edges curve around to the back panel. It's similar to the curved sides of the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro.
Another striking design element is the narrow bezels that surround the display. Other than the Galaxy A8, Samsung is not exactly known for producing phones with minimal bezels, but with the Galaxy Note 5, the company has done well.
The new materials and elegant design distract you from noticing that some of the usual Note features are missing. As expected, the Galaxy Note 5 lacks a microSD expansion slot, and the back is not removable, which also means there's no replaceable battery underneath.
These things alone will cause many fans to avoid the Note 5, but for others it will seem a natural progression to faster internal memory and cloud storage, as well as better battery management and turbo charging.
Samsung received a lot of flak for this reductive approach in the Galaxy S6, but the company is clearly committed to its strategy. We know Samsung's reasons for ditching these two elements and of course, the iPhone has always been sold without microSD or a removable battery. Whether this pans out to be the right decision for Samsung, we'll have to wait and see.
As with previous Note devices, the special feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is the S Pen stylus. As had been rumored, the S Pen has an automatic eject mechanism. Rather than pulling the stylus out, as with previous Notes, you simply press the end of the S Pen and it pops out of its housing.
Pressing the end of the stylus to eject it also opens up the revised Air Command menu. We didn't have much time to test the new features in our short hands-on time, but we can confirm the Note 5 has new Air Command features. You still have access to Action Memo, Smart Select, Screen Write and S Note, but there are also some customizable options in the new-look circular menu.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with QHD resolution. That's 2,560 x 1,440 pixels producing a pixel density of 518 pixels per inch. That's not as high as some smaller devices, but it's still a perfectly high enough number for great image clarity (for reference, iPhones continue to hover around the 300 ppi mark).
Considering the Galaxy Note 5 launched alongside an equally large Galaxy S6 Edge+ (without an S Pen) we can only assume there is no plan for a Galaxy Note 5 Edge. Does an S Pen on a device with a curved display even makes sense? That's up to you to decide. We also don't know if we will see a follow up to the original Galaxy Note Edge.
We will bring you further details on the Galaxy Note 5 display when we get a review unit, but the time we had with the phone, we couldn't see anything you wouldn't have come to expect from a Samsung AMOLED display. Everything is bright, saturated and sharp. Stay tuned for our full Galaxy Note 5 review for more.
The Galaxy Note 5 software is a slightly refined version of TouchWiz running on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, with an update to the Android M release rumored by the end of the year. We'll bring you more details on the Note 5 software features in our full review.
Besides the Air Command features mentioned above, the Note 5 also arrives with Samsung Pay on board, courtesy of MST (magnetic secure transmission). MST will work with existing credit card terminals in stores, whereas touchless payments via NFC will require a terminal upgrade on the behalf of the retailer.
If we ignore the S Pen and the lack of curved display, the Galaxy Note 5 is identical to the Galaxy S6 Edge+. The Note 5 is a little wider, thicker and heavier, but the internal specifications are the same. In fact, the Note 5 is not much different to the Galaxy S6, barring the additional RAM and a larger battery.
The Galaxy Note 5 specs include the same CPU – the Exynos 7420 – that was used in the Galaxy S6. It features eight cores, four clocked at 2.1 GHz and four at 1.5 GHz. However, the Note 5 has 4 GB of RAM for better multitasking. The Note 5 comes in two storage versions: 32 GB or 64 GB.
We didn't hear any mention of a possible dual-SIM Galaxy Note 5 with microSD card expansion, but we can't rule the possibility out (there have been unconfirmed rumors of this and most of the other leaks and rumors have panned out to be true). While some won't care about not having a microSD card slot, this could be a deal breaker for those looking to seamlessly upgrade from a Note 3 or Note 4 to a Note 5.
Performance-wise, the Galaxy Note 5 should perform just as well as the Galaxy S6. We didn't have time to run benchmarks or fully test it under various conditions during our short test time, but will do so in our full review. While the Note 5 has a larger screen than the S6, its resolution is the same.
The Galaxy Note 5 also has an additional gigabyte of RAM which will come in handy. Our short time with the phone showed it to be very fast but this is almost always the case at a hands-on event when there is nothing on the phone to slow it down. We'll bring you more info in our final Galaxy Note 5 review.
Samsung was evidently happy enough with the camera on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, because that is the camera that's on the Note 5 as well. The Galaxy Note 5 front camera shoots at 16 MP and offers optical image stabilization, while the front camera is a 5 MP number.
Some of you might have wanted a camera 'upgrade' but we're pretty sure this one will produce photos just as impressive as the Galaxy S6's. If you want an idea of just how good that camera is, take a look at our Galaxy S6 camera test and judge the results for yourself. We will bring you more camera information and a detailed test in our full Note 5 review.
The battery is another contentious subject where new Samsung phones are concerned. As mentioned above, the Galaxy Note 5 no longer features a removable battery. The back of the device is encased in Gorilla Glass 4 and is non-removable. The Note 5 has a 3,000 mAh battery which is, like the Galaxy S6, a small step down from its predecessor.
However, Samsung has introduced a new feature to make up for the lack of a replaceable battery. Samsung has come up with a new wireless charging technology that allows you to turbo charge your Note 5 wirelessly. It will only take 120 minutes to wirelessly charge your Galaxy Note 5 on a special Samsung wireless platter.
The Note 5 will also charge wirelessly on any other wireless charger, but it won't fast charge. The new wireless fast charging platter is not backwards compatible with the current Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge. With a cable, the Galaxy Note 5 battery will turbo charge in just 90 minutes.
We can't comment on battery life at this time, but the battery management options in Android Lollipop – and those sure to come in the Android M release – combined with Samsung's battery optimizations mean the battery life should be comparable to the relationship between the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S5 battery (ie it may not be quite as good as the Galaxy Note 4, but it shouldn't be much worse).
The Galaxy Note 5 is going to divide Samsung fans just like the Galaxy S6 did. It is a nice upgrade from the Galaxy Note 4 and has some good improvements to the S Pen and Air Command menu. But others will likely accuse Samsung of focusing on the appearance of the Note 5 at the expense of much-loved features like a removable battery and microSD card slot.
The problem facing those who don't like the Note 5 is that there are no other high-end stylus-equipped devices on the market for them to choose instead (unlike those disenamored with the S6, for example, who had other options). Heck, there isn't really any competition for the Note series at all. This means that Note fans are going to have to decide how important microSD and a removable battery are to them compared to the benefits that the S Pen brings, because you can't have both anymore.