New Samsung products

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 4G+ looks good and feels good

Despite its price and lack of a microSD card slot and removable battery, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is still the best phablet now.
Despite its price and lack of a microSD card slot and removable battery, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is still the best phablet now. PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Samsung's latest pair of 5.7-inch smartphones share the same processor, screen size and most of the hardware features.

They also share an interesting symmetry in their designs.

The rear of the Galaxy Note 5 is curved on both sides, mirroring the dual-edge curve on the front of the Galaxy S6 edge+.

  • TECH SPECS


  • PRICE:
    $1,088 (32GB), $1,188 (64GB)

    PROCESSOR: 64 bit Octa core Exynos 7 14nm (2.1GHz quad core + 1.5GHz quad core)

    DISPLAY: 5.7-inch QHD Super Amoled display 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 518 PPI (pixels per inch)

    Operating System: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

    MEMORY: 32GB/64GB, 4GB RAM

    CAMERA: (Rear) 16MP OIS, f1.9, (Front) 5MP, f1.9

    BATTERY: 3,000 mAh with fast and wireless charging


    RATING

    DESIGN 1 2 3 4 5

    PERFORMANCE 1 2 3 4 5

    FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5

    VALUE FOR MONEY 1 2 3 4 5

    BATTERY LIFE 1 2 3 4 5

    OVERALL 1 2 3 4 5

In other words, the back profile of the S6 edge+ matches the front profile of the Note 5, creating a mirror-like image when both devices are placed on top of each other.

This subtle design language is not something the Korean tech giant has been known for, but it shows how much the company has progressed since its days of churning out boring-looking phones, which was not too long ago.

The curved rear fits the natural arch of the palm. The thin frame of the phone makes for a nice grip. Holding it with my left hand, my thumb moves over both volume buttons on the left edge of the unit, while my middle finger easily cradles the power button on the right.

Given its size, this is still a device more suited for two-handed use, especially if you intend to use the touch fingerprint sensor. The pill-shaped Home button, which incorporates the fingerprint sensor, is positioned below the screen. However, it felt clumsy trying to grip the phone when using the fingerprint sensor.

Samsung seems to have dropped Qualcomm as the main chip supplier for its leading series of devices. While I had some misgivings about its Exynos processors in the past, my S6 Edge has not failed me these past few months. So outfitting the Note 5 with the new Exynos 7 processors does not seem like a bad move.

The 16MP camera did not receive a hardware upgrade, only a software one. Images seem sharper, with more details and better colour balance compared with the Note 4. I also got brighter-looking images, especially in low-light conditions.

I also saw more details in objects in the foreground, though it came with more blurring of the details in the background.

An interesting new feature is the Live Broadcast mode for the video camera. It lets users start a public feed, or invite up to 20 users to view the phone's live video capture.

Apps such as Meerkat and Periscope already offer this, but Samsung's version makes use of a viewer's existing YouTube account and YouTube app.

The first round of invites can be sent only via mobile numbers, but more viewers can be added later. The guest receives an SMS with a URL of the YouTube feed, and anyone with access can view the feed.

Set-up for the live broadcast takes about 10 seconds. There is a five- to 10-second delay in the feed appearing on your friend's phone.

The video quality is sharp and, when both the broadcast and receiving devices were connected to Wi-Fi, there was no lag in transmission. I am not sure how YouTube and Samsung will handle the issues surrounding a live broadcast of, say, a concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, but this feature is great for parents who want to broadcast their children's school performances or for social gatherings.

The continued lack of a microSD card with this phone means you cannot expand the onboard storage. This and the lack of a removable battery are cited as reasons many consumers have not taken to the Galaxy S6 range of devices.

The lack of a removable battery is not that big an issue for me. I prefer using portable battery packs than having to deal with shutting down my phone to swap batteries.

But I fill up devices easily with both 32GB internal storage and a 32GB microSD card, so I am more concerned by the storage crunch. It is disappointing that instead of catering to consumers who want more storage, Samsung has done the opposite and removed the expandable storage option for its largest phone.

Samsung could have addressed this by launching a 128GB model, for consumers who value storage. Instead, it has gone with releasing only 32GB and 64GB versions.

I am not sure why the company has decided to shrink the device's capacity but I suspect this will be a cause of complaints with fans of the Note series.

For fans of the fast-charging feature, this has been enhanced with a wireless charging option. Previously, fast charging was limited to direct wall charging. But note that this requires the use of a special fast-charging wireless charger as existing wireless chargers are not compatible with wireless fast charging on the Note 5.

VERDICT

Yes, it is expensive but the Note 5 is the best phablet now. The lack of a microSD card slot and removable battery could be an issue with some, and the features of the S Pen, though impressive, might not make up for that.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Galaxy Note 5 4G+ looks good and feels good'. Print Edition | Subscribe