The new Samsung Note 5 really got me thinking about what I really want in a smartphone, is it software, a new design or a brighter screen and what is worth an investment of over $1,000.
For power users and all those people who want top end functionality but don’t’ want to join the Apple brigade, who love being dominated by simple Apple proprietary technology the Samsung Note 5 is a perfect option.
Why? One word Harmony.
What Samsung has done with this phablet is to go back to basics, gone is the irritating sidebar menu that delivered icons but little functionality also gone is the Air Command that popped up every time you pulled out the S Pen, now you can nominate when you want access to the Air Command.
What you get with the new Note 5 is harmony with the design and functions delivering a refreshing new smartphone that is still very much a Galaxy smartphone.
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Let’s take the new S pen, instead of having to power on the device to write a note you now, simply pull out the pen and write on the black screen and when finished hit save.
With the old Galaxy Note 4 the Air Command window automatically launched, providing shortcuts to Action Memo, Smart Select, Image Clip and Screen Write.
The S Pen stylus has also been significantly improved, it slides out of the silo after clicking the ballpoint pen-style top.
Nowadays there are enough third-party apps that support the pen to do a lot with the technology built into the S Pen which sets the Note 5 ahead of the iPhone 6 Plus and any other large devices that are desperately trying to copy Samsung’s offering.
If you pull the stylus out when the screen is off, you can immediately sketch a note down on the locked screen. The little wave of shortcut buttons you get on the screen when the S Pen is out can be customized, too. The phone will alert you if you forget the stylus at your desk. And you can (finally) annotate PDFs directly.
You can also grab screenshots of entire web pages – or anything else that might scroll off the screen. You can capture a bunch and it launches you directly into an annotation screen where you can mark it up and then save it or send it off.
For Samsung the big issue was where to go with the Note 5, the iPhone 6 was a copy the Note 4 and the rest of the world was either copying or catching up with the Galaxy Note.
What Samsung has delivered is a harmonious smartphone that is a beautifully designed object that feels like it belongs to the same family as the other Galaxy phone because of its lovely combination of glass and metal.
The Note 5 has a huge 5.7-inch screen, the Korean Company has also reduced the bezels on all four sides compared to the last Note which delivers a better feel in the hand that the prior plastic back Note 4.
What Samsung has also proved with this device is that they are very much a design powerhouse who are well and truly capable of setting the next design standard for smartphones while also delivering a significantly improved user experience based on research of what a power user actually wants.
The first thing you notice is that the Note 5 is thinner and lighter than the Note 4. It’s a product that has evolved and the glass-and-metal shell fully seals the internals eliminating any add on SD card capability or being able to replace the battery.
The Note 5 is available in 32GB, 64GB and a 128GB versions.
Despite having a stunning 2560 x 1440 display screen, the battery life was excellent, especially as the new devices has power charging that allows one to rapid charge the device in minutes which is ideal after a busy day and you get home and have to go out again.
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A quick 15 minute charge and your Note 5 is back to 100% charge.
The battery is 3,000mAh, which is actually smaller than what was in the Note 4. Despite this you still get a good 8 hours of constant use out of this battery before you have to attach the fast charge, charger.
Samsung clearly has done some optimization to get the most out of the battery, and the impressive fast charging is seriously super quick, it’s even charges faster than other devices on a wireless charger, which are usually quite slow.
When you first turn on this device you instantly notice that the display screen is unsurprisingly gorgeous, the colours rich and sharp. This is due to the Super AMOLED screen which finite balances colours, there is also a minimal air gap between the glass and pixels which contribute to the improved quality.
Then there is the massive 4GB of RAM which instantly delivers content to the screen, this is one area where Samsung excels for the simple reason that they manufacture their own RAM unlike Apple who resort to using Samsung RAM, processors and hard drives.
By adding additional RAM Android operates significantly better when it’s not struggling to keep apps loaded, it’s also good when you are multitasking.
Pro users of the Note 5 are going to have a ball with the new camera.
Whether you are an architect on a building site or an industrial designer wanting a virtual shot of a product this camera delivers for both the pro and the happy shot shooter.
The 16-megapixel camera is, full-featured, and uses the same sensor as the Galaxy 6 Edge to deliver excellent images and video.
A quick trip to the MODE delivers users an abundance of options which when coupled with the software upgrades that Samsung has built into this camera delivers a vast range of capabilities such as manual controls, RAW output, and use o OIS in video.
The overall interface, however, is just as simple as before, and I’m glad that Samsung decided not to mess with what really worked in the S6 and Note 4.
Colours in daylight or even medium lighting are vivid, and everything is crisp and sharp.
Like the S6, the Note 5 is slightly over-aggressive in trying to brighten up low-light photos, which can make them a little too yellow and occasionally blurry – but those are extreme cases where even the iPhone 6 Plus struggled and usually put something out that was too dim anyway.
Live streaming to YouTube is a feature that still needs a lot of work, it is difficult to set up and is only fully functional when one has access to a really fast broadband connection.
There is also the real risk that you will burn through data on a mobile plan.
The Note 5 is running on Android 5.1 with Samsung’s suite of software – essentially unchanged from the S6.
The big difference is that several key elements have been pulled together to work seamlessly.
I personally like S Voice especially when I am driving and I want to pull up information in a hurry. I also think Samsung have done a good job simplifying the S Planner and contacts along with the message screens without compromising functionality or the delivery of clean easy to read fonts.
What is really refreshing is that Samsung has moved away from flashy designs and gimmicks to significantly improving functionality in a big smartphone that does not necessarily feel big in the hand.
The screen delivers everything you need a good display to do, just watch Netflix to see how good this screen really is.
The fast charging is a real benefit and Instead of tacking on endless features Samsung has created a harmonious device where software works better than in previous models.
The Note 5 is probably the most consumer-friendly feature rich smartphones out there. One minute it is a Pro device ideal for business and power users the next a seriously fun device for personal use.
The Verge said of this device “The Note used to be something like a computer mainframe in your pocket; now it’s just a really great phone”, I agree with this sentiment to the point that if Samsung keeps marrying technology development with what consumers really want in a smartphone over trying to deliver the next gimmick they will be in a position to give Apple a serious run for their money.
So is this device worth a $1,000+ Investment?, the answer in my humble opinion is yes, for the simple reason that it incorporates tools that deliver business functionality and ease of use while also delivering a rich suite of applications and entertainment functionality.
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