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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 hands-on, first impressions

Samsung has just unveiled the Galaxy Note 5 here at the Lincoln Center in New York and showed the new direction with their flagship phablet. The Note 5 is perhaps the biggest and most radical move the company has ever done on the series since they introduced it over half a decade ago.

With a 5.7-inch display, the Galaxy Note 5 no longer looks and feels like an oversized smartphone. In fact, the very first time we saw it last week (during our preview session which was under NDA) it didn’t look like the Galaxy Note we were familiar with all these years.

Due to the thinner bezels and higher screen-to-body ratio, the Galaxy Note 5 is very comfortable to handle with one hand. It shares some similarities with the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy A7 only slightly bigger. The new form factor allows you to navigate the handset with one hand where you’d normally be using both hands with the previous Galaxy Note generations.

The Note 5 sheds off any remaining polycarbonate and faux-leather that we saw from the Note 4 and used an all-metal body with a Gorilla Glass 4 outer layer both at the front and back panel. Since the Galaxy S6, Samsung has moved to the more premium aluminum alloy and glass materials in their flagship devices and this is also evident in the Note 5.

While the unibody design allows for a thinner and lighter profile, it also means that Samsung has to do away with the removable back cover which have been traditionally one of the more practical advantages of the Galaxy Note family. Likewise, the battery capacity has been reduced compared to the Note 4. However, Samsung claims the actual battery performance should be equal or better than that of the previous generation as they moved on to the 14nm technology which is more power efficient as we’ve experienced in the Galaxy S6.

To make the profile more comfortable to the hands, the back panel has been redesigned to have a more curved or tapered edges allowing for a better grip. The stylus is also conspicuously hidden at the bottom end and pops out via a small mechanical spring from the inside.

Samsung has made a lot of refinements with the use of the S Pen especially with how it interfaces with the UI of the smartphone. These are actually small improvements that folks who are heavy users of the stylus will definitely notice and appreciate.

Majority of the internal hardware of the Galaxy Note 5 were inherited from the Galaxy S6, starting with the Exynos 7420 chipset to the quad HD Super AMOLED display and the use of Gorilla Glass on both the front and back panel. We expect the performance will be the same as the Galaxy S6.

The 16-megapixel camera of the Note 5 is exactly the same sensor they used in the Galaxy S6 (Samsung used two sensors in the Galaxy S6 – the Sony IMX sensor and its own ISOCELL sensor so we believe the Note 5 will most probably use the latter). Just like the S6, the camera barrel at the back slightly protrudes from the surface of the panel (Samsung uses a sapphire glass to prevent the camera lens from accidental scratch) that is paired with a dual-tone, dual LED flash. The Note 5 also comes with a built-in livestreaming feature in the camera app that connects directly to YouTube Livestream.

Memory has been bumped up to 4GB. There is no micro SD card support which means you are stuck with the storage capacity of either 32GB or 64GB. According to Samsung representatives, historical buying trends of the Galaxy S6 showed that a significant majority of consumers end up buying the 32GB or 64GB variants anyway. While Samsung admits some folks will initially complain about the non-expandable storage, they will ultimately get used to it in the long run (just as they did with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge).

Samsung has learned a lot from their relative success with the Galaxy S6 and is employing the same strategy when they redesigned the Galaxy Note 5. It is as if they went back to the drawing board with the schematics of the Galaxy S6, added more screen real estate (from 5.2 to 5.7 inches), bumped up the RAM (3GB to 4GB) and inserted the iconic S Pen stylus to come up with the Galaxy Note 5.

Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy Note 5 in the Philippines sometime in the end of August or first week of September with the dual-SIM (Duos) variant in 32GB and 64GB storage options with black and gold colors. No suggested retail price has been indicated (our guesstimate is in the vicinity of Php37K for the 32GB and Php42K for the 64GB).

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 specs:
5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display @ 2560×1440 pixels, 518ppi
Gorilla Glass 4 (front and back)
Samsung Exynos 7420 64-bit octa-core CPU
ARM Cortex A57 2.1GHz quad-core, ARM Cortex A53 1.5GHz quad-core
Mali T-760 GPU
32, 64 internal storage
Dual-SIM, 4G/LTE Cat. 6 and Cat 9.
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz & 5.0GHz, MiMo 2×2
Bluetooth 4.2, LE, ANT
16 megapixel rear camera, OIS, dual-LED flash, f1.9
5 megapixel front-facing camera, f1.9
Qi Wireless Charging
3,000mAh Li-Ion non-removable battery
Android 5.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6mm (dimensions)
171 grams (weight)

What we liked about it:
* Large, gorgeous display
* Impressive performance
* Great design and build quality
* Generous amount of RAM
* S Pen adds more features
* Dual-SIM, LTE capability

What we did not like:
* Lower battery capacity
* No micro-SD card for expandable storage
* Non-removable battery

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Avatar for Abe Olandres

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He is one of the pioneers of blogging in the country and considered by many as the Father of Tech Blogging in the Philippines. He is also a technology consultant, a tech columnist with several national publications, resource speaker and mentor/advisor to several start-up companies.

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