Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Note 5: Should you upgrade?

Does the new phablet have enough to make you sit up and take Note-ice?

It's been just one year since we met the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which was one of the best phablets around way back then.

However, if you're looking for reasons to splash the cash on an early upgrade to the Note 5, or are trying to justify it instead of some other competing phablet, here you go.

It’s literally a shiny new phone

Yes, the Note 4 is hardly what anyone would call tacky (unlike, say, the Note 3), but it was also hardly a device that could make your heart go pitter-pat. The faux leather back didn't sit well with quite a few people either.

The Note 5, though, takes the design fight straight to Cupertino with acres of gorgeous glass and metal. Of particular note are the rounded edges on the rear of the phone, making it look (and feel) like the S6 edge backwards. The Note 5 is also both thinner and lighter, and dare we say, much flashier with the same glossy finish as the Galaxy S6. 

However, it does bring the trade-off of not having a microSD card slot and removable battery, though you might not miss those as much if you're not a power user. 

It (also) has a gorgeous screen

On paper, it’s the same story as the Note 4, with the Note 5 packing a quad HD Super AMOLED display, and it’s even the same size too, at 5.7-inches, with other subtle improvements including a barely-there bezel.

However, the real story is in how the Note 5’s display seems to be more vibrant. If you like seeing images that really pop on screen, you'll love the Note 5's display, because it's got subtle improvements over its predecessor.

It has better cameras

Rejoice, ye multitudes. Samsung has heard your cries for a better selfie camera and in its great magnanimity, has decided to bestow upon the Note 5 a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, which is far better than the rather lacking 3.7-megapixel one found on the Note 4. Yes, the selfies you take at that pitch-dark rave party will still look grainy, but in most other situations, the Note 5’s snazzy new snapper will deliver the goods.

As far as the rear camera goes, it's essentially the same one as the one found on the Samsung Galaxy S6, which was found to be one of, if not the, best smartphone camera around. The camera app itself has also been improved with various video features, as well as a Pro Mode that lets you shoot in the RAW format, making it very attractive indeed if you like to process your images. 

It has more memory... and also less

While the Note 5 has fewer storage options than the Galaxy S6 without a 128GB version, it's a step up over the Note 4, which only came in 32GB. However, there's that issue of not having a microSD card slot, robbing the Note 5 of potentially another 128GB. Depending on your usage scenario, this could be a deal breaker. 

It’s stronger and faster

As with the S6 and S6 Edge, the Note 5 is packing some serious processing power, in the form of an Exynos octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM. That's a marked improvement over the Note 4, and it really shows while in operation.

Coupled with the (thankfully) lightened TouchWiz interface that ships with Android Lollipop, the Note 5’s computing brawn is highly apparent. What this means is it’ll laugh in the face of multiple open windows and the most power-hungry games.

It has a smaller battery

With just 3000mAh vs the Note 4's 3220mAh, the Note 5 has a smaller battery in terms of raw capacity. However, even though both come with Samsung's Ultra Fast Charging technology, the Note 5's version is said to be faster, letting you juice up to maximum in less time than the Note 4. The Note 5 also has built-in wireless charging, which is something to consider as well.

It has a new S Pen

Hands up all you Note owners who have never used your device’s S Pen before? Aside from you at the back, we’re willing to bet the answer is “not many”, since it's the phone's signature feature. However, Samsung intends to convert the remaining few with the upgraded S Pen on the Note 5.

While the stylus itself doesn’t feel all that much different from the one found in the Note 4 (aside from its gorgeous new looks, of course), Samsung has made it a lot more useful. For instance, it's now pressure sensitive, with improved latency so writing and drawing is more natural. 

You no longer have to fire up the phone to jot down memos - writing on the Note 5 with the screen off sends your new memo straight to the S Note app. Air Command has also been enhanced to be more intuitive, with other S Pen features coming in the way of being able to write directly on PDFs and being able to capture multi-page screenshots in one simple step. Three cheers for convenience! 

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is still a great phone in its own right, with many of Samsung's improvements on the newer phone registering mostly as handy instead of must-haves.

That said, the Note 5 is undoubtedly a fabber phablet with enough all-round tweaks to warrant an upgrade, but that's only provided you don't have to break your existing 2-year plan or pay an early recontract fee.