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Galaxy Note 5 Review: Samsung’s Stylus Smartphone Reborn, Part 2: Retreats

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is a stellar smartphone, and consumers who pick one up will enjoy the experience. There are some compromises, though, and we here at Yologadget cover them to pay fair attention to both strengths and weaknesses of each smartphone. Covering only the good of a smartphone, while abandoning the criticisms, may encourage sales – but it wouldn’t maintain the integrity we like to have toward all gadget reviews. In all honesty, each smartphone’s “retreats,” or drawbacks, must be covered to consider the smartphone in all of its beauty and warts.

So, onward we march with the Galaxy Note 5. With a gorgeous display, stellar software, smartphone cameras that bring the life-likeness of reality, and an S Pen that knows no bounds in productivity, what could be missing? What could go wrong?

The Galaxy Note 5 and the Pengate Scandal


Galaxy Note 5 Review

If you’ve been around the tech world for some small length of time, you’ll know that, whenever some tech defect or flaw arises in a product, it is referred to as “x – gate.” Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus bending fiasco last year was referred to in social media and the tech press as “Bendgate.” There’s been “camera gate,” “antenna gate,” “hair gate,” and other tech disasters, outside of “Watergate” (not a tech scandal, by the way).

As is the case with all marvelous smartphones, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 has been given a “-gate” of its own: Pengate. The issue with Pengate surrounds the Galaxy Note 5 S Pen. According to some tech reviewer who decided to try something unique with his S Pen, sticking the S Pen inside its slot upside-down and pushing it all the way in will cause the Galaxy Note 5 to lock down the S Pen, get it stuck in the slot, and disable the S Pen detection permanently. In the end, you’ll have to work hard to remove the S Pen from the slot (some have said you can remove the stylus with a piece of plastic), and, even if you do remove it, you won’t be able to use S Pen detection any longer. Your Note 5 will permanently disable your S Pen detection altogether.

The tech reviewer made a mountain out of a mole hill, metaphorically speaking, but Samsung already foresaw the tech reviewer’s objection to the supposed Pengate scandal and made mention of it in the Galaxy Note 5 user manual. If you take the manual out of the box and read through it (instead of trashing it as most are wont to do), then you’ll find Samsung warns against this. As a general rule of thumb, place the top clicky portion of the phone on the outside, with the writing tip going inside the stylus slot. The clicky portion enables the push-to-eject feature, so it must go on the outside. Follow this general trend, and you’ll be fine.

You may also receive a new warning about this on the plastic screen protector that your phone comes in. I didn’t have this warning on my Verizon Galaxy Note 5, but AT&T and T-Mobile Note 5 customers may receive the warning on the device’s default screen protector. Should you buy an unlocked Galaxy Note 5 from Samsung, you’ll see it when removing the device from the box.

The Galaxy Note 5 lacks the MicroSD Card Slot

As with the Galaxy S6 edge Plus, the Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t have a microSD card slot – making it the first Note device to lack the feature. Samsung’s implementation of a microSD card slot in the Galaxy Note 4 has moved some to question why Samsung would deny the same honor for the Galaxy Note 5.

There are a few reasons as to why the Galaxy Note 5 lacks a microSD card slot: 1) With the advances in cloud technology, Google’s free unlimited photo cloud storage, Samsung’s own PhotoBucket cloud storage app, and the needs of most consumers, 32GB is more than enough storage for most consumers. Cloud storage is there to cover the rest. 2) MicroSD cards work for photos, videos, movies, and TV shows, but few apps can be stored on the microSD card slot. Android Marshmallow has native SD card storage, but the Galaxy Note 5 comes pre-loaded with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop and thus, lacks the native SD card storage. Even if you wanted native storage, Android Lollipop lacks the capability to provide it.

3) UFS, or Universal Flash Storage, as opposed to the old memory that provided microSD card slots (formally known as embedded multimedia chip, or eMMC), consumes 10% less energy and is 35% more power-efficient in daily use, and is 3 times faster in data read speeds as compared to the old eMMC memory that was microSD-compatible. Samsung gives a succinct answer at its own blog, Samsung Tomorrow, that the UFS 2.0 data storage in the Galaxy Note 5 improves data input and output response, improves multitasking by up to three times, and provides three times better file copy than before. Average customers will benefit because they’ll be able to download data, upload data, watch high-resolution movies, TV shows, and videos, and do a combination of both – without any slowing down or interruption in the data transfer process. We’d expect no less of the Galaxy Note 5 as a premium device.

The Galaxy Note 5 lacks a Removable Battery

If you love the Galaxy Note 5, and can survive the microSD card discussion, the next obstacle you’ll face in discussions with diehard Galaxy Note 4 fans who dislike the Galaxy Note 5 is that the device no longer, as with Notes past, has a removable battery. The convenience argument says that the removable battery allows you to take out the dead one, pop in a new one, and have 100% additional battery within seconds. This criticism is meant to shake confidence in the Galaxy Note 5 as a device that can handle your battery needs.

And yet, there are problems with removable batteries. First, they are only effective on the go if they’re charged. Secondly, you have to remember to carry the spare batteries with you (if you don’t, they’re as useful as having a dead battery). Next, batteries burn out, and you’ll have to replace them to maintain the “convenience” you had before. On the other hand, using the Galaxy Note 5’s 3,000mAh battery housed within the device provides more than sufficient battery life. The Galaxy Note 5 provides day-long battery life and, depending on how you use it, 10 hours or more in on-screen time. In other words, it holds its own with the best flagships out there considering its Quad HD display.

In short, you can use the Galaxy Note 5 as a daily work horse and not worry about battery life. Is it convenient to carry around 2 or 3 additional batteries when the Note 5’s housed battery is more than sufficient for your needs? Why remember to carry around batteries when the one you have in the device is excellent? There is a convenience to having removable batteries, but, as with sealed ones, there are inconveniences, too. I like the convenience of not having to charge additional batteries after charging the in-device one. Of course, some customers will see removable batteries like they see spare tires for their vehicles (and nothing we say here will change that), but it’s worth pointing out that removable batteries are not 100% convenient. In fact, they have their share of problems, just like sealed batteries have their share. Finally, there are battery cases and battery packs, not to mention Samsung’s own Fast Charging feature built into the micro-USB cable (and fast wireless charging for the charging pad) that should more than help you top off your battery when you get the chance.

We should also mention here that some complain about the reduced battery size along with the removal of the removable battery, saying that Samsung could’ve at least increased the battery size to compensate for its terrible mistake. Yes, the Galaxy Note 5’s battery size is 3,000mAh, as compared to the 3,220mAh battery of the Note 4, but the Note 5’s battery life is better than that of the Note 4.


Galaxy Note 5

The Galaxy Note 5 is a device that performs well, so well that the criticisms don’t “dent” the smartphone’s reputation all that much. We’ve covered the major criticisms thrown at Samsung’s latest here, but keep in mind that these criticisms themselves are subjective – that is, while they have their appeal, arguments can be made that counteract these criticisms.

When it comes to the purchase, however, you must purchase the device because of its appeal for you. To Galaxy Note 4 users who feel that these criticisms damage the reputation of the latest Note device, I challenge you to take off your comfortable lenses and experience something different. Do not let the Note 4 blind you to the beauty and strong performance of the Galaxy Note 5. It is the best Samsung device on the market and is top-tier when it comes to data storage, speed, and performance, cameras, display resolution and color reproduction, and battery life and performance, among other things.

The Galaxy Note 4 is a stellar device, but it is last year’s device. Technology progresses miles within 12 months, and you’ll never know what’s new unless you experience it. Perhaps it may be the case that, should you let go of the Note 4 and embrace a more “risky” Galaxy Note 5, you’ll find that the best devices embrace risks rather than run from them.

Go here to see Part 1 of our Galaxy Note 5 review.

About Deidre Richardson

Deidre is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who discovered her interest for tech a little later in life. Since meeting the Samsung Galaxy S3, however, her life has been changed -- and tech's become such a big part of it. She currently owns four Samsung phones (GS3, GS4 Active, Note 3, GS5), and has owned the Galaxy Gear and Gear S smartwatches. In addition to Yologadget, Deidre writes for SamMobile.com, the largest Samsung fan site on the Web, as well as Smartwatch.me, and general tech site Aptgadget.com.