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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.

Samsung also (finally) provided U.S. release date details (sort of) for its much-anticipated mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, and you will be able to use the Note5 to make contactless mobile payments at the majority of U.S. retail locations, using magnetic secure transmission (MST) or NFC, if the retailers have compatible contactless point-of-sale terminals. (Samsung should have a distinct advantage over Apple Pay, thanks to the MST support.) The new mobile payment service will be officially released in the United States in September, according to Samsung.

The Note5 has a more powerful, Exynos 7420, 64-bit octa-core (2.1GHz quad + 1.5Ghz quad) processor than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805, 2.7Ghz quad core processor in the U.S. version of the Note 4. And it also has 4GB of RAM, 1GB more than the last Note phablet.

A new Ultra High Quality Audio (UHQA) "upscaler" can be used to convert poor or average quality audio to higher bit rates. More specifically, Samsung says "any audio" MP3 files, or files from a CD, can be upscaled to a maximum of 24bit/192kHz, though not all audio players will be able to take advantage of the increase.

And finally, Samsung showed off a new case for the Note that consists of a protective shell and an add-on "physical" QWERTY keyboard, not unlike the keyboards found on traditional BlackBerry smartphones. The case snaps on and off, and when it's in use, the Note5 display adapts and shifts all of your apps into place above the keys. It's tough to say how well it will work in real-world scenarios, but I typed a few sentences and was impressed. Unfortunately, the company didn't share any price or availability details for the case. 

These are the features and functionality that impressed during my hands-on time with the Galaxy Note5, but a number of the phablet's unfortunate shortcomings also caught my eye.

What you might not like about the Galaxy S6 edge+ 

I'm going to come right out and admit it: I don't like phablets. They're just too damn big. Of course, that's a matter of preference, and clearly lots of people love their gigantic phones. Obviously, if you're a fan of large phones, the Note5's size isn't a concern.

The new Note5's design is similar to the GS6. It's made entirely of metal and glass, and, frankly, it's a looker. In fact, I think the Note5's glass rear panel looks much better than the faux leather battery cover on the Note 4.

However, as soon as you grab the Note5 and hold it in your hand for a few minutes, something feels ... off -- it feels less durable than the GS6 and even the GS6 edge. It's almost a bit flimsy. I tried to determine the cause, and as far as I can tell, it's because the metal bezel that surrounds the phone doesn't run along the top of the phone's side, as it does with the GSG edge and GS6 edge+. The glass on the rear panel curves upward to the top edges, and your hand feels the curved, slick glass instead of the sturdy stainless steel when you hold it. This could be a nonissue, and a case would address the problem. But the device definitely feels odd in hand. 


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