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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 goes luxe (photos)

That leather-like backing is long gone. This year's supersize stylus phone takes up gleaming new hardware in the sexiest Note design yet.

Jessica Dolcourt
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Jessica Dolcourt
Nic Healey
1 of 38 Josh Miller/CNET

Bring on the shine

This is a Note like you've never seen it. Made of a glass back and metal trim, the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 5 brings on the bling.

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Stylus action

The stylus, which Samsung calls the S-Pen, is the one piece of equipment that differentiates the Note series from any other Samsung phone.

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One of the best new features, you can now jot a memo even with the screen turned off.

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It just clicks

The S-Pen physically clicks into place in the built-in holster.

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Stylus redesign

A flatter S-Pen won't roll away (we think).

6 of 38 Sarah Tew/CNET

Stylish stylus

Not only is it supposed to work like a pen, it also looks like one.

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Note versus Note

The glossy glass Note 5, left, leaves the Note 4's folio look far behind.

8 of 38 Sarah Tew/CNET

Mightier than swords

Side-by-side you can see the evolution of the S-Pen from the previous generation of Note.

9 of 38 Juan Garzon/CNET

Locked in power

The other big different from previous Notes is, of course, Samsung's new policy of non-removable batteries.

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A faux farwell

The Note 5 swaps the faux leather finish of the 5 for the glass 'n' class we saw on the S6 and S6 Edge earlier in the year.

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Fingerprint magnet

While some people didn't like the fake grain finish, it's worth noting that the Note 5 gets grubby very quickly.

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Family resemblence

It's kind of the evolution of man, but with Notes. In order from L-R on the top line is the Note, Note 2 and Note 3. Underneath is the Note 4, Note Edge and the brand new Note 5.

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Trim it

While the Note 5 (left) and 4 share identical screen sizes, the Note 5 shaves down its footprint.

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It's not just the phones that have evolved over the years. The S Pen has seen more than a few iterations. Again, from L-R there's the Note, through to the Note 5.

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Back to Back

Spot the odd one out? On the far  right you'll see the Note 5, the first in the range to have neither a removable cover, nor battery.

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Customized shortcuts

The S-Pen calls up shortcuts from this wheel of items, to which you can add your own most-used apps.

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Add your apps

You can choose up to three for the shortcuts wheel, called Air Command.

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Camera app

Samsung styles the camera app just like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, but adds something else, too: the ability to broadcast live video to YouTube.

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The Note 5, while slightly shaved down from last year's model, is still a hearty phone.

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Side view

This slim silhouette doesn't come easy...

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No and no

Space-saving costs you the removable battery and expandable microSD card storage of previous Notes.

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Two 5.7-inch titans

The Note 5 isn't alone in its status as an extra-large phone. Samsung also released its fraternal twin, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+.

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Round versus square

You can tell the Edge+ (top) from its rounded sides, while the Note 5 remains more square.

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Gold gleam

In addition to gold, Samsung makes both Note 5 and S6 Edge+ in white, silver and black -- though not every color will sell in every country.

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Of course, stalwart Note features remain, like screen-splitting, which lets you open (and resize) two apps on a screen.

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A Note above?

There's so much more to know about the Note 5's features and specs. Check out the full Samsung Galaxy Note 5 weigh-in for all the details.

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App dock

Don't forget that you can move the Air Command floating app dock around if you don't like where it sits on the screen.

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Super screen

The AMOLED Quad HD screen isn't just big, it's also bright and easy to see, even in daylight.

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One handed

While not small, the stylus actually helps for using the Note one handed.

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Get arty

The drawing apps for the S Pen return in the Note 5.

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Take seat

Although we'd recommend sitting down first.

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Screen brightness

And popping on some cool shades.

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Massive rear camera

The 16 megapixel rear camera comes with some solid photo software.

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Manual control

There's also the option to adjust photo setting manually for people who understand what an ISO is.

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Simple option

There's also the standard run of features such as panorama modes and you can always download more as needed.

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Rear camera

The rear camera also has optical image stabilisation if you're feeling a little shaky.

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Take Note

The Note 5 is going on sale in most major territories -- check out our full review.

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