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

The camera has been one area where Samsung is definitely playing to win, and we’re seeing the same excellent camera from the S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge+ pop up here, providing a 16 megapixel camera on the camera with flash, while a 5 megapixel shooter sits up front.

That rear camera is very, very capable, with excellent colours and exposure control, now with a light adjustment in a controller similar to what the iPhone relies on.

Image sample from the Galaxy Note 5 camera
Image sample from the Galaxy Note 5 camera

In daylight, you’ll find clear colours with a fair amount of clarity, just as you will up close with macro images, while night photos work well, too, just make sure you’re not moving too much when you’re capturing them.

Image sample from the Galaxy Note 5 camera
Image sample from the Galaxy Note 5 camera

On the front camera, you’ll find decent images are possible too, complete with the heart-rate sensor next to the camera being used for something useful, allowing you to fire off a selfie when your finger is lifted from this section.


Samsung’s front camera does arrive with some interesting software, though, enhancing the already common “beautification” modes that soften skin and allowing you to slim your head and enlarge your eyes, often to almost alien-like results.

It won’t be for everyone, and you can easily switch it off, but it’s just another example of how Samsung is working hard on making the camera more than just another “me-too” bit of the phone.


Samsung’s attention is evident in the stylus, too, and this is without doubt the best implementation of the S-Pen yet.

For the past four years as Samsung has pushed the phablet category, it has taken its stylus along for the ride, allowing people to replace the good old fashioned pen and paper that they might decide to keep with them, and coupling it into a phone.

And it worked, for the most part, providing a place to jot down notes and scribble down thoughts when they needed them in a hurry.

But the pen was always a little flaky, feeling at times like the cheapest and weakest pen you could find while standing in line at the bank or post office.


This year, that’s where Samsung has spent its time honing and improving things, taking last year’s S-Pen and tightening the design ever so slightly, allowing it to feel more natural on the 5.7 inch Note 5 display, with the overall feeling coming off more like a too thin ballpoint pen.

That at least caters for a more natural handhold even if the thickness of the stylus still leaves something to be desired.

Samsung has also been adding to what the pen can do, with a magnet in the barrel triggering actions on the phone when it is both on standby and in use.


Now you may have to set these up in settings, but you’ll find that removing the pen when the phone is on and in use kicks on the “Air Command” controller, providing a small pen-specific shortcut dock of apps to let you get your pen and scribbling on, while removing it while on standby brings you into a quick black notepad making it possible to take a note without thinking and generally letting you leave that ageing notepad at home from here on in.

Both of these are super handy, and we really love being able to jot down notes and ideas quickly, but Air Command is interesting for two other reasons:

One is that you can modify this short list of apps very easily, adding apps that may or may not be useful with the pen.


The other reason is that it can’t be touched by your fingers, so it exists as a tiny shortcut dock for a small set of apps only you know about. If you can hide apps from the main app menu, this would even be great for anyone who doesn’t want someone to go snooping through their phone.

The S-Pen works with this extra pen activated dock.
The S-Pen works with this extra pen activated dock.
Using your finger does not.
Using your finger does not.