Samsung's Galaxy Note series has come a long way since its debut in 2011. The Galaxy Note 5 appears to be the best iteration yet, thanks to a renewed focus on industrial design and stylus functionality.
Over the last couple of years, Samsung has made strides towards a more premium user experience and worked hard to shake off its reputation as a manufacturer of cheap, plastic phones. The Galaxy Note 5 is anything but cheap and plastic; everything about it screams "premium". It has the same chassis that we fell in love with on the Galaxy S6 Edge, from the alloy metal band around the sides, to the curved Gorilla Glass 4 back that makes it easier to use with one hand.
Samsung has focused particularly on maximising screen real estate without increasing overall device size, and you can see the results in the Galaxy Note 5. It manages to shave 0.3mm off its length and 2.5mm off the width despite maintaining the same 5.7-inch screen size on the Galaxy Note 4. It also feels noticeably lighter. The overall design is more ergnomic and a solid visual improvement over the faux leather on its predecessor, even if it is prone to fingerprints.
The stunning 5.7-inch 2560x1440 Quad HD Super AMOLED display is essentially the same as the one on the Galaxy Note 4, but colour reproduction appears to have improved substantially based on an unscientific side-by-side comparison. If you have a two-year-old phone like me, the screen on the Galaxy Note 5 will more than likely be a substantial upgrade, especially if you read a lot on your phone. I was practically drooling over the 518ppi display.
The Galaxy Note 5 comes with Samsung's homebrew Exynos octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM. It loses expandable memory slots, but services like Google Photos and Dropbox make that less likely to be a dealbreaker these days. Samsung is also softening the blow with the offer of 100GB of free storage on Microsoft OneDrive.
The all-important S-Pen has been redesigned and improved for multitasking on the Galaxy Note 5. It's more precise and more sensitive than before, although there is a learning curve if you're not used to a stylus, especially if you're left-handed. I found it tricky trying to write without the outside edge of my hand accidentally touching another part of the screen.
The Galaxy Note 5 also brings new customisation options to the Air Command menu for enhanced productivity. You can add three new shortcuts to whatever apps you choose, and they can be third-party apps, not just Samsung apps.
Another new feature is the screen-off memo, which allows you to write and save notes without turning on the screen or unlocking your phone. Being able to make notes on the fly without first having to open an app or go into S-Pen mode makes a lot of sense if you like to write down thoughts as they pop into your head.
Samsung also introduces Scroll Capture in the Galaxy Note 5, its own new way of screen-capturing long web pages or anything on the screen that requires scrolling. You access the Air Command menu using the S-Pen, tap on "Screen write" and then tap on "Scroll capture". The phone will take a screenshot and then automatically page down and prompt you to "Capture more" up to 22 times. Once you're done, you can access your perfectly seamed image in the Gallery. It's not quite a one-click solution, but it's a built-in tool that would be useful for screencapping long web comics, map directions or web pages.
Australian pricing and release dates have not yet been announced, but you can expect them on shelves by the end of the month.
Elly Hart travelled to the Unpacked event in New York City as a guest of Samsung.