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

Regardless of how you use the S-Pen, however, you’ll find one if the best and easiest phablet pen experiences around, and in this at iteration of the Note smartphone, the pen really adds to the overall experience.

Samsung has even improved the way you get the pen out, with a push eject mech aims on the back of the pen that lets you get the S-Pen out with no effort whatsoever, which itself comes with a bonus improvement: the back of the pen now works with a clicking mechanism, sort of like with a ballpoint pen.

samsung-galaxy-note-5-review-2015-16

Feel free to irritate people with the sound of endless clicking during meetings and bus trips as you try to figure out what to write next. We sure will!

MWAHAHAHAHA! Meetings will be ruined by this!
MWAHAHAHAHA! Meetings will be ruined by this!

For an interesting fact, the S-Pen from the previous Galaxy Note phone will work on this one, allowing you an extra stylus if you end up losing the one from the Note 5. You shouldn’t, because if you keep it open too long and try to do something else, the phone alerts you to this issue to get you to put it back in the slot.

(You also shouldn’t try putting the pen in the wrong way in the Note 5, tip first, because as some have found out overseas, this can backfire remarkably and break the pen, but we digress.)

Still, the S-Pen 4 does work with this phone, but we wouldn’t try doing this again, and you shouldn’t try it, either.

The S-Pen from the Note 5 (top) isn't the same as the S-Pen from the Note 4 (bottom).
The S-Pen from the Note 5 (top) isn’t the same as the S-Pen from the Note 4 (bottom).

In one of those “don’t try this at home” sort of scenarios, our Note 5 picked up light scratches from the Note 4’s S-Pen, though we’re not sure why. Perhaps it’s because our model might have been preproduction (we don’t think so) or it’s something else altogether.

Whatever the reason, we tested this to see how the pens had changed and if they had changed due to pen design or screen design (mostly the former, it seems), but what we did find out was if you use an old S-Pen on the Note 5 screen, you do so at the risk of weird light almost chemical scratches, which can make you generally unhappy, especially if you didn’t use a screen protector (these usually don’t exist at the time we’re reviewing products).

A scratched Galaxy Note 5 is a sad Galaxy Note 5.
A scratched Galaxy Note 5 is a sad Galaxy Note 5.

But that’s not a real issue to complain of, or not a super important one. Rather, the real issue with the Galaxy Note 5 is its lack of storage.

Simply put, 32GB isn’t enough, and only making this phone in a 32GB model — which in turn only provides 24GB of space once you switch on the phone — makes you wonder what exactly Samsung was thinking when it decided to make a business-grade phone in such a small storage footprint.

We could handle the small amount when there was a microSD slot to back things up, but that’s missing this time around, and Samsung has only said that a 32GB Note 5 model will be appearing in Australia for the moment.

We’re not sure we agree with this, because while you can always back up your storage to a microUSB drive or a cloud storage solution like Dropbox or Google Drive, you shouldn’t have to, at least not very quickly, and after playing with the Note 5 for a week, we killed almost 5GB.

That’s 5GB in a week, and we weren’t even trying.

samsung-galaxy-note-5-review-2015-03

It needs to be put into perspective that photos out of the Note 5 camera range from 4 to 8MB, with videos tipping the scales at a more meaty size.

The Note 5 also supports high-resolution audio FLAC files, which can get quite sizeable too, and given that this is made with business in mind, we’re sure you could find your own ways to kill the storage size on this phone in a heartbeat, say maybe with some oversized PDFs and presentation files.

What this spells out is a storage amount that doesn’t match the handset it was spec’d for, and it’s more confusing when you take out the SIM card slot, because while the S6 Edge+ slot holder is sized to match the nanoSIM you’re dropping in, the Note 5’s SIM card slot feels like it has a little extra room, surprising us greatly that Samsung didn’t take the opportunity to provide the extra hardware needed and put that microSD slot in like other companies have.

Galaxy Note 5 tray on the left, Galaxy S6 Edge+ tray on the right.
Galaxy Note 5 tray on the left, Galaxy S6 Edge+ tray on the right.

Seriously, Samsung can suggest the S6 Edge and Edge+ are built in a way whereby memory expansions make things impossible — actually, Samsung has never suggested or claimed why the microSD slots have disappeared, but we suspect the official response (if it ever turns up) will be something to do with design — but the reality is a phone meant for business should have an option of more than 32GB.

In the case of the Note 5 and Australia, 32GB is all we get, while the equally-sized and sexy Galaxy S6 Edge+ grabs a 64GB variant, though with less use since the screen can’t pick up on pen interaction and just curves for the sake of curving.

This makes the Galaxy Note 5 confusing, because it is easily the best out of the two simply because of what the phone can do, but it has the least impressive use of storage, which is a genuine shame.

We can even live without the replaceable battery, a feature that drove phablet owners of the past few years. These days, it’s far easier to plug in a portable battery bank or battery-equipped case than switch out the battery altogether, so that’s not a deal breaker for us.

But a lack of storage? Come on, Samsung. Give us more credit, and give the Galaxy Note 5 more to work with. Your customers will thank you for it. They might even stick with the phone.

samsung-galaxy-note-5-review-2015-20

Conclusion

Even with the pointlessly low storage number, Samsung’s 2015 Note 5 phablet is easily the best phone the company has produced this year, as it just makes this long-running device perfect, except for that lack of space inside.

It’s probably the best phone Samsung has ever made. It’s definitely the best phablet you can buy today.

All we need now is for Samsung to increase the storage size to something more substantial and return that microSD slot, because then we’d have reached perfection, and not just something nearby.

Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
Feels fantastic in the hand; Beautifully built; One of the best and brightest screens ever; The pen feels better than ever, with a tip that feels more like you’re using a pen; S-Pen clicks at the back, allowing you to annoy people during a meeting (!); Excellent cameras; Blazingly fast mobile broadband performance;
Only 32GB of storage, and it isn’t expandable;
4.7