Galaxy Note 5: Top Features

Truth be told, Samsung’s newly unveiled Galaxy Note 5 has a lot in common with last year’s model, from a sharp display to an impressive rear camera. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this new device as a rehash of last year’s phablet. The Note 5 offers plenty of new features and enhancements that we’ll be excited to put to the test once the phablet arrives on August 21. Here are the Galaxy Note 5 features that will grab your attention.

Improved S Pen

The S Pen that accompanies the Galaxy Note has learned a few new tricks, most significantly the ability to start jotting down notes without even unlocking the Note 5. Samsung calls this feature the Screen-Off Memo mode; all you have to do is eject the stylus by pressing its top, and you can start writing out notes that are automatically added to the S Note app when you save them. Screen-Off Memo is certainly the highlight of the S Pen, which has been designed to feel more like an actual pen, but it’s not the only new capability. Other features include the ability to immediately sign PDFs and easier access to the Galaxy Note’s Air Command menu.

More Compact Design

The display of the Note 5 hasn’t changed from the 5.7-inch quad HD Super AMOLED display on the Note 5 — and that’s a good thing. But Samsung managed to shrink the rest of its phablet, making the Note 5 a little more than a tenth of an inch less wide and slightly less thick (0.29 inches versus 0.33 inches) than its predecessor. At 6 ounces, the Note 5 has also shed a little bit of weight from the 6.2 ounce Note 4. In essence, Samsung sacrificed size without having to compromise on the Galaxy Note’s screen.

Better Front Camera

The 16-megapixel camera that adorns the Galaxy Note 4 remains on this successor. Instead, in a selfie-obsessed world, Samsung put its efforts into bolstering the camera on the front of the phone. It’s now a 5MP camera, an improvement over the Note 4’s 3.7MP camera. The improved resolution means those self-portraits you take with the Note 5 should look just a little bit sharper than they did with the previous model.

Live Streaming YouTube Videos

Who needs Periscope and Meerkat when you can take your live streams directly to YouTube? The Note 5 follows the lead of the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus by adding a dedicated mode to the Camera app allowing you to beam everything captured by your phone’s camera straight to Google’s video-streaming service. (You’ll will need to sign into your Google account to enable YouTube live streaming.) There’s a 30-second delay between when you start capturing video and when it appears on YouTube, giving you ample time to use the included Share button to notify all your followers that you’re coming to them very nearly live.

Beefier Performance

The Snapdragon 805 processor that powered the Note 4 has gotten an upgrade in Samsung’s new Note, replaced by the octa-core Exynos chip you’d find in the Galaxy S6. In addition, the Note 5 features 4GB of RAM and UFS 2.0 flash storage. We won’t be able to say what this means in terms of practical performance until we have a chance to put the Note 5 through a battery of tests, but we expect to see an improvement over the mixed results the Note 4 turned in when we tested it last year.

Improved Sound

In a welcome bit of news for audiophiles, the Note 5 features support Ultra High-Quality Audio (UHQA), a 24-bit, 192kHz technology that aims to restore audio details that can be lost during compression. That figures to improve the sound of both the songs you have stored on your Note 5 and the ones you stream from such services as Pandora and YouTube, which will be among the first to support UHQA.

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Samsung Pay Support

Like other recent additions to the Galaxy family, the Note 5 will support Samsung Pay when the mobile payment service debuts this September. That’s good news if you frequent stores, restaurants or businesses that use a mag-stripe reader for payments, since Samsung Pay supports magnetic secure transmission (MST) in addition to near-field communication payments. Apple Pay may be easier to use, but Samsung Pay figures to be more widely accepted thanks to that MST support.

SideSync Support

The Note 5 should integrate easily into your workflow with the addition of SideSync 4.0 support. Samsung says the feature lets the Note 5 connect wirelessly and automatically to a PC, allowing you to move files from your phone to your computer and back. You can also respond to text messages and field phone calls from your computer. What's more SideSync will support Macs as well as Windows machines, Samsung says.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.