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Hands on with the new Samsung Galaxy Note5

Al Sacco | Aug. 14, 2015
Samsung today showed the world its latest two "phablet" devices -- the Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S6 (GS6) edge+ -- at a press event in New York City.

Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Samsung today showed the world its latest two "phablet" devices -- the Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S6 (GS6) edge+ -- at a press event in New York City. The stylus-, nay, S-Pen-equipped Note5 is the newest member of the popular Note family of phablets, and it follows the Note 4, which first hit the U.S. market last October. The curvy, sleek GS6 edge+ is an upsized evolution of the company's GS6 edge, which was released in the United States last April.

The timing of Samsung's announcement not so coincidentally comes about a month before Apple's expected new iPhone unveil -- which should take place on or around Sept. 9 -- and the Korean electronics king is clearly hoping to draw attention away from Apple.

Last week, I spent some time with both of the new Galaxy devices during a media event at New York's Soho Grand hotel. Though I didn't put the two phablets through all the paces, I had enough hands-on time to form some solid first impressions. A number of things -- both positive and negative -- stood out to me about the new Note5.

What you'll like about the Galaxy Note5

In 2011, Samsung pioneered the modern phablet craze with the first Galaxy Note smartphone. Like the large siblings that came before it, the Note5's defining features are its massive, 5.7-inch screen and the S Pen stylus. While the Note5 didn't receive any significant screen enhancements over the Note 4, the S Pen sure did.

Samsung says it dramatically improved the on-screen writing experience with the Note5, and though I didn't spend much time scribbling on its display, it did seem more responsive in my tests. It's also much easier to remove the S Pen from the device than in earlier versions. You no longer have to wedge a fingernail beneath the S Pen to yank it out; instead, you just push it inward, and a spring mechanism pops the pen out. The top of new S Pen also clicks in and out like a traditional ballpoint pen when it's removed, and though the feature doesn't do anything, it makes the stylus feel more like a real pen, which is a nice touch. 

The S pen itself is constructed of higher-end materials than past versions, and it feels better in hand -- again, more like an actual pen. And with the Note5, you can "write" directly on PDF files, a valuable new feature that could eliminate the need to print, sign and scan documents that need signatures.

The Note5 features a new notebook function that lets you quickly jot notes on the screen as soon as you remove the S Pen -- the screen automatically turns black when you eject the pen while the device is locked or asleep, and you can immediately start taking notes. (You can disable this feature if you'd rather not use it.) 


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