Display & S Pen

The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a larger version of the Galaxy S6’s display. It’s a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, resulting in a pixel density of 518 ppi. And just like the Galaxy S6’s display, the Note 5’s display is very impressive.

Samsung has squeezed the 5.7-inch display into the Note 5’s body in such a way that there are tiny bezels on the left and right sides, allowing the display to occupy 77% of the handset’s profile. This allows the phone to both look great when the display is on, and be reasonably ergonomic when the phone is in your hand due to a smaller body width.

The quality of this display is excellent. Color depth and contrast are superb thanks to the strengths of AMOLED technology, including the deepest blacks possible and vivid color output. At times the Note 5’s display can look a bit oversaturated, but there’s no doubting that photos and videos look superb on such a large, beautiful panel. The temperature of the display also appears to be quite good, falling near the ideal 6500K range.

The size of this display is ideal for several uses. You can read books, documents, and web pages on the Note 5 quite comfortably, and its 1440p resolution helps make text look unbelievably crisp. For the content consumers out there, the Note 5 is also a great choice, as more screen real estate is always good when watching movies or playing mobile games. And considering the Note 5 is still a quite usable phone despite its largeness, Samsung has managed to find a great balance between screen size and body size.

I was also impressed with the Note 5 display’s brightness, which was bright enough to make the phone reasonably easy to see in direct sunlight. Auto brightness was quick and accurate, and sometimes when stepping outside you get that extra boost of brightness that makes text easier to read at the expense of color accuracy. Viewing angles were also excellent as you’d expect from an AMOLED panel with nearly no gap between the light-emitting diodes and air.

The S Pen was once again a very impressive stylus that integrates with the device extremely well. The fast polling rate and multiple pressure levels (240 Hz polling with 2,048 pressure levels) makes the on-screen writing experience feel responsive and as close to writing on paper as possible. I didn’t use the stylus all the time, but when I wanted to annotate something I couldn’t have asked for a better writing experience.

Samsung has improved Air Command, which is a toolbar of S Pen-related actions that opens whenever you remove the stylus or press the button on the stylus while hovering the pen above the display, in the Note 5. It’s now much easier to ascertain what each action does thanks to the inclusion of visible labels for each, and you can add extra shortcuts to the panel if you so choose.

All four of the default Air Command actions are useful: Action Memo opens a quick note window that you can scribble in, minimize to a floating icon, and save directly into S Note; Smart Select allows you to draw around an item on the display and capture the highlighted area as an image; Screen Write takes a screenshot you can easily annotate on; and S Note takes you directly to the app in question.

Previous Air Command iterations included more features and different tools, but Samsung has streamlined the toolbar on the Note 5 to include the tasks users actually want to perform. Having the tools so easily accessible is fantastic and makes the experience of annotating and note-taking as fast and streamlined as possible.

S Note is still the center of the Note 5’s note-taking experience. The app has been streamlined significantly over the past few iterations, now including less clutter through a simplified interface. It’s a very solid app for taking and aggregating notes, including all the features a regular user would want such as text and pen support, voice recording, and image insertion.

Power users can add in a whole collection of extra features, such as shape recognition and handwriting transformation, through a free downloadable content pack accessible via a shortcut in the app. By splitting out some features in this way, users who want more tools can add them in without adding bloat to the app that casual users wouldn’t need.

Perhaps the biggest and most useful new feature, though, is the inclusion of “screen off memo.” When this feature is enabled (it’s disabled by default) and the screen is off, you can simply remove the stylus and immediately start writing on the display. The feature is designed to mimic the experience of writing on a physical notepad, where you can get out a pen and start writing without having to power anything on.

With screen off memo at your disposal, the Note 5 becomes a much more powerful note-taking tool, especially in those times where you need to quickly jot something down. I would highly recommend turning the feature on in the S Pen settings as, if you’re a frequent stylus user, you’ll find it very handy.