Software and Camera

The Galaxy Note 5 comes pre-loaded with Android 5.1.1 out of the box, and of course we’re getting a custom skin as well. Aside from the S Pen features I described on the previous page, and some new icons for included apps, the Note 5 uses essentially the same software as the Galaxy S6, including the same features and same visual style.

Over the past few years Samsung has done a pretty good job of cleaning up their skin, making it more responsive and removing a lot of the unnecessary clutter that plagued previous iterations. I still prefer the visual style of stock Android, as I’m sure many other people do, but Samsung’s skin blends in a lot better with other Android apps than past versions, which makes the device feel at lot more cohesive as you move from app to app.

I appreciate many of the Note 5’s software features, including the easy access to settings in a small section of the notification screen, and full theming functionality. Other features, such as split-screen app support and Quick Connect, I can see being handy for some users even if I didn’t use them very often myself. Live streaming to YouTube directly from the phone is also a handy feature, exclusive to the Note 5, though again I didn’t find myself using it very often.

On the other hand, and this has been the case with Samsung devices for some time, some aspects of the software still require polish, especially concerning the out of the box experience. Having auto-correct disabled by default in the keyboard is a cardinal sin, and the loud, annoying touch sounds should be muted from the get go. There’s also some bloatware to contend with, including ‘apps’ that are actually just shortcuts to install something, and the pointless Galaxy Apps store.

Generally speaking, though, the software experience from the Note 5 is perfectly acceptable, and certainly less intrusive and annoying than previous versions, including what you get on the Note 4.

As for the camera, Samsung has taken the very same hardware from the Galaxy S6 and slapped it in the Note 5. We’re looking at a Sony IMX240 rear 1/2.6” 16-megapixel sensor with 1.12 micron pixels paired with an f/1.9 lens and optical image stabilization. On the front is a five-megapixel sensor also with an f/1.9 lens.

I won’t spend a ton of time on the Galaxy Note 5’s camera as you can read more about the results in my review of the Galaxy S6. However what I will say is that this camera is excellent, and its ability to capture superb images in auto mode whether you’re indoors or out is one of its many strengths. The f/1.9 lens lets in plenty of light, and also delivers surprisingly good bokeh for close up shots. Post processing and metering is also excellent, helping the phone to capture accurate yet vibrant images.

Samsung’s camera application is very good, especially the automatic HDR mode that really enhances the detail in shadows and highlights where appropriate. The Pro mode lets you control a decent amount of settings to further enhance your shots, while there’s a large range of video features including 4K capture and 120 FPS slow motion.