The Galaxy Note 5 might be the most impressive business phone yet, if you can handle its palm-stretching dimensions. Like previous smartphones in the Note line, this stylus-equipped device packs a massive, 5.7-inch display that's perfect for screen-intensive productivity tasks. But the improved S Pen stylus is the real star of the show, letting you take handwritten notes at the drop of a hat, right on your smartphone's screen.
The Note 5 is set to hit stores Aug. 21. While we wait to get our hands on the device for a full review, here's a quick rundown of the features that might make this our favorite overall smartphone for work.
The stylus that shipped with last year's Galaxy Note 4 was already a great note-taking tool, with the ability to detect how hard you're pressing down, which makes for a natural writing experience. But the Note 5's S Pen is even better, with improved pressure sensitivity and a spring-loaded design that makes it easier to pop the pen out of its slot, which is on the bottom of the device.
Plus, Samsung is adding some nice software features to make the S Pen even more useful. For example, you can now immediately start taking notes even when the display is off. This means you can jot something down at a moment's notice, then save it to the cloud with one button-press. Other perks include a PDF annotation tool and Scroll Capture, which lets you screen-capture longer Web pages and documents, then annotate and share them.
A big screen is a nice feature on a business phone, since it gives you more space to work. Like the Note 3 and Note 4 before it, the Galaxy Note 5 sports a big, 5.7-inch display that's good for tasks like viewing documents and editing spreadsheets on the go.
Of course, that big display is what makes the Galaxy Note 5 so physically large, and potentially unwieldy for users with small hands. Fortunately, Samsung managed to slim down the phone's dimensions, without changing the screen size. Measuring 6 x 2.9 x 0.29 inches, the Note 5 has both a smaller footprint and a thinner profile than the Note 4 (6 x 3.09 x 0.33 inches). The 6-ounce Note 5 is also a bit lighter than the 6.2-ounce Note 4.
In the above photo, you can see that the Galaxy Note 5 (left) has thinner bezels than the Galaxy Note 4 (right).
Samsung's Galaxy S6 is currently the single fastest smartphone on the market, powered by Samsung's Exynos octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM. It crushes the competition in performance benchmark tests, easily beating the iPhone 6 and the HTC One M9.
When the Note 5 launches, it might be even quicker than the S6. It runs on the same Exynos processor, but comes with 4GB of RAM. That means faster, smoother multitasking and even better performance for processor-intensive apps like the new Android version of Microsoft Excel.
That extra horsepower might also make Samsung's multi-window mode, which lets you run multiple apps at once in a split-screen view, even smoother. I like using the feature to perform a Web search or reference my calendar while simultaneously composing an email, for example. Multi-window mode is available on all Galaxy smartphones, but it's most useful on a big-screen phablet like the Note 5.
First, the bad news: The Note 5's 3,000-mAh battery is smaller than the Note 4's 3,200-mAh cell. And unlike last year's model, which had a removable, replaceable battery, the Note 5's battery is sealed in. That allowed Samsung to craft a slimmer, sleeker smartphone, but it also means you can't replace the battery when the original starts to wear out.
Still, battery size isn't everything. We'll have to see how Samsung's new processor handles the Note 5's big, power-hungry display. Samsung says that users can still expect about a day's worth of battery life from the device. Even better, the Note 5 offers quick-charging capabilities that will give you several hours of extra juice with just a 15-minute charge. That could be a lifesaver if you need to top off your smartphone on a short business flight layover.
Improved fingerprint scanner
The Galaxy Note 4 was the first Galaxy smartphone with a fingerprint scanner, which provided a really nice security boost for business users — at least in theory. In practice, the Note 4's scanner was too unreliable, forcing you to swipe your finger slowly and deliberately in order to be recognized. For most users, it was more trouble than it was worth.
Thankfully, Samsung's fingerprint tech has seen a complete overhaul. The new scanner, first introduced this spring on the Galaxy S6, is one of the best on the market, rivaling the iPhone's Touch ID for ease of use and reliability. Instead of swiping your finger over the Note 5's scanner, you just press your finger to the phone's home button to unlock your phone in a hurry. You'll also be able to use your finger to access secure folders for storing sensitive work files, just like on the Galaxy S6.
Optional keyboard cover
Samsung is throwing a bone to BlackBerry fans with a snap-on keyboard accessory that provides a full set of physical keys for more-accurate typing. The Note 5's active screen even shrinks to fit when you attach the keyboard. In addition to the classic QWERTY layout, the accessory features Back, Home and Recent Apps buttons at the bottom. No word yet on how much it will cost, though.