Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review: A GREAT smartphone but it STILL hasn’t been released in the UK

Price when reviewed

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has a strange old history. Although we originally laid hands on it at the beginning of the summer of 2015, Samsung held back on launching it in the UK. Instead it gave us the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, leaving the Note 5 for the US and Asian markets. Lucky them.

Nearly a year later and, despite rumour after rumour of a UK release, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 steadfastly refuses to surface. That’s a shame, because if you gave me the choice between a Note 5 and an S6 Edge+, I’d choose the former – principally due to the Note 5’s superb pressure sensitive stylus. There’s no other smartphone like it on the market today.

Fear not, however: if you’re of the same mind, it is possible to get hold of a Note 5 if you really want one. You won’t find it on contract at any of the UK networks, so you’ll need to buy a SIM-free handset, but the price is quite reasonable these days. I’ve seen the 32GB version at various outlets for as little as £410, which is very tempting indeed. Amazon UK have it unlocked at £530, a little more (Amazon US meanwhile have it under $500).

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+: What’s the difference?

If you do decide to go down the SIM-free foute, you’ll be netting yourself an excellent smartphone. It’s still good, even though it’s nearly a year old.

Technically, the Galaxy Note 5 is the same phone as its fabulous sibling, the S6 Edge+. It has the same processor, RAM and storage options, the same size screen and screen tech, and a similar complement of capabilities.

But the Samsung Galaxy Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has slightly more to offer, and that all centres around the S Pen pressure sensitive stylus. This, as in previous Note devices, offers a handy way of capturing screenshots, jotting down ideas, and annotating anything that can be displayed on the screen.

This time around, Samsung has improved the S Pen docking mechanism. Push the stylus in and out it pops with a satisfying click; slide it back in and it snicks back into place securely. That’s nice, but the stylus itself is still disappointingly light and plasticky.

The pen-driven software integrations have been given a little polish, too, and now, when you hover the pen over the screen and click the button on its barrel, the whole screen blurs out, presenting you with a series of shortcuts in a semicircle on the right-hand side of the screen.

It looks very pretty, and there’s plenty you can do with the stylus once you’ve popped it out: you can annotate the screen or capture a portion of it, then share your image, or save it; you can launch Samsung’s Action Memo note taking app from this shortcut menu, too, and it’s also possible to add three of your own shortcuts here as well.

All very handy stuff, and it adds to the usual set of pen-driven functions: handwriting recognition via the Samsung keyboard; pressure-sensitive sketching via the free-to-download Autodesk SketchBook for Galaxy app; and generally more precise pointing and clicking.

You don’t get the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s edge-screen functions and shortcuts, but for me the stylus wins every time. It’s a solid practical benefit that you’re much more likely to put to serious use on a day-to-day basis.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review: Design and display

And although the Samsung Galaxy Note 5’s 5.7in QHD (2,560 x 1,440) screen isn’t curved like the S6 Edge+, there’s nothing flat about the design. It’s clad in gleaming, alluring Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back to help it resist scratches and shattering, and the edges curve gently up from the rear to meet the phone’s sleek aluminium frame.

In essence, the Note 5 looks like an S6 Edge+ reversed – and that’s no bad thing. In fact, I prefer the way the Note 5 fits in the hand, and despite the stylus slot there’s barely anything between the two phones when it comes to size. Measuring 76.1mm wide, 153mm tall and 7.6mm thick, the Note 5 is larger overall by a mere 0.2 cubic millimetres. The only notable difference is that the Note 5 is 18g heavier.

And that display is – as it is across the entire Galaxy range of smartphones – an absolute cracker. It’s super sharp, reaches an amazing level of brightness in auto mode, making it super easy to read in bright sunlight, and (as long as you pick the Basic colour profile in the settings), it’s incredibly colour accurate, too.


Samsung Galaxy Note 5 specifications


Octacore (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Samsung Exynos 7420 SoC



Screen size


Screen resolution

1,440 x 2560, 518ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)

Screen type


Front camera


Rear camera

16MP (f/1.9, phase detect autofocus, OIS)









Memory card slot (supplied)



802.11ac (2x2 MIMO)


Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, apt-X, UHQ, ANT+



Wireless data

4G, Cat9 and Cat6 (up to 450Mbits/sec download)

Size (WDH)

76.1 x 7.6 x 153.2mm



Operating system

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

Battery size


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