Everyone who wanted the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 to be a "more premium" device that leaves behind its plastic origins finally has the device they've been asking for. But, it does leave behind some Note series staples.
The sacrifices Samsung felt it needed to make to get to that premium Note 5 design have turned off some longtime users. Thankfully, there's a lot more to like about this phone upgrade than dislike.
The Galaxy Note 5 combines productivity and polish for the first time for anyone who wants to wield and S Pen and a giant, glass-backed smartphone simultaneously. It has a large 5.7-inch display, yet feels less slippery than the iPhone 6S Plus. This phablet also outpaces Apple with a record-breaking processor and 4GB of RAM, which make it the fastest phone in our tests.
Speaking of performance, the camera produced similar results in side-by-side photo comparisons. It's the best phone with an S Pen and, frankly, one of the best without it, too.
You're going to pay top dollar for this category-leading phablet. And yet, at no price will you be able to simply pop in a microSD card for extra storage or pony up for the 128GB version. There is none. The same goes for changing out the battery, like you could with the Note 4. To some users, this is going to be a major downgrade, with the better alternative being the LG G5.
Yes, the Note 5 has an S Pen in a world where phones that comes with a stylus are rare, but a majority of consumers will love its features for a week, and then tire of its novelty. I'm also still wary about Samsung thinning out the left and right bezel so much that my hands begin to mistype words on the otherwise excellent display.
The Galaxy Note series has never been inexpensive at launch. And now its aesthetics match the price, thanks to a glass back that feels excellent in two hands. Be careful of what you wish for, though. There's no microSD card slot or removable battery anymore. Power users can blame everyone who complained about the company's plastic-clad phones.
As long as you can live without those two features, the Note 5 is still worth the upgrade. It has top-of-the-line specs that set new records in 2015, a 5.7-inch display that's rightfully considered the best – even outdoors – and a camera takes the best photos compared to other large phones I've tested. This S Pen-compatible phablet is mightier than the newer Google Nexus 6P and iPhone 6S Plus in too many ways to overlook. It's only 5.7-inch competition, to be honest, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.