Samsung’s best phone yet: the Galaxy Note 5 reviewed

First things first, you need to look at the body, because this is something Samsung has changed over time.

We’ve gone from plastic and glass to metal, plastic, and glass, and now we’re finally on something that makes more sense for a flagship phone to have, for a premium device that Samsung markets this as, which it is: metal and glass, and only metal and glass.

Forget the plastic back from the previous body with its fake leather texturing because that is gone, replaced with the smooth soft glass on the front and back, and a metal frame, not just metal-coloured plastic, which is something Samsung has thrown out in the past.

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That makes the Note 5 feel stronger and more durable, and in many ways is reminiscent of the more expensive Galaxy S6 Edge+, which is hardly a surprise since the two are practical carbon copies of each other, except for one subtle difference: they curve in different places.

On the Galaxy S6 Edge+, you still get a 5.7 inch display, but this is curved along each edge, almost appearing to bend the edges of the display, while the back of the phone is totally flat.

The backs of the new Galaxy phones: on the left is the Galaxy Note 5, on the right is the Galaxy Edge S6+.
The backs of the new Galaxy phones: on the left is the Galaxy Note 5, on the right is the Galaxy Edge S6+.

But on the Note 5, Samsung reverses things, providing a totally flat front screen, and yet a curved glass back.

Similar, sure, but not the same, and it is in these differences that we think Samsung has nailed the design better in the Galaxy Note 5 for one basic reason: they make more sense.

Don’t get us wrong, the Edge has a lovely and elegant look to it, like a model walking down a fashion runway in a dress that makes all the heads turn, even though no one is quite sure how they’ll wear it in real life. In comparison, the Note 5 is the same beautiful model, but wearing something elegant and yet practical, where we all figure out what day or night we could wear that garment because hey, it actually makes sense.

That’s the Note 5: it makes more sense.

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The back of the Note 5 presents this logic in top form, with curved edges that gently curve into the sides of your hand, complete with a slick glass material that feels substantial enough that you won’t want to drop it. Make sure to hold tight, mind you, as glass can be slippery, and the Note 5 is that plus a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but the curve makes more sense to us on the back where it can conform to your hand.

Then we have the front screen which is totally flat, and again, this is much more useful in this design.

Granted, the Edge screen is nothing if not interesting from a design point of view, but getting much use out of it with the curved edges isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Instead, the flat screen on the Note 5 is sharp, clear, and suitably high end.

Front differences on the Galaxy Note 5 (left) and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ (right).
Front differences on the Galaxy Note 5 (left) and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ (right).

In fact, it is without doubt the most impressive smartphone display we’ve ever set our eyes on, with the same razor sharp text and imagery, and brilliant brightness and colour, but flatter and easier to use because, again, there is no curved edge.

You might love that curved edge in the S6 Edge and S6 Edge+, but give us the extraordinary flat one in the Note 5 any day of the week. It’s not just eye catching and sexy, but useful altogether.

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It’s even useful out there in the Australian sun, a place where smartphones need not venture out towards, where the light is usually so harsh that you can’t see a thing, and so the average Joe is often relegated to taking cover in shade, at the bus stop, or the nearest cafe if they want to read that email or SMS they just received.

Not so with the Note 5 display which can pump out enough brightness to let you see what you’re doing even in broad daylight.

Seriously, you’d be hard pressed finding a better screen out there, and this is helped by the 2560×1440 resolution and pixel clarity of 515 pixels per inch, a set of numbers that turns the Galaxy Note 5 display into one of those things your eye will love you for. It even manages to trounce Apple’s “Retina” resolution, which kicks in at around 326 pixels per inch.

Technically, the Note 5 offers an identical screen res and pixel clarity to the previous Note, the Note 4, but the screen still seems like it performs better here regardless, and this is one display you won’t want to take your eyes off.

The Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Note 5 (right) share similar screens and form-factors, but other than that, they are different.
The Galaxy Note 4 (left) and Note 5 (right) share similar screens and form-factors, but other than that, they are different.