Should I upgrade from the Galaxy S5 to the Note 5?

Each time a new phone comes out, there's bound to be some amount of draw to upgrading your phone to the latest and greatest. In the world of Samsung phones that happens twice a year with the latest Galaxy S and Galaxy Note, meaning every six months you'll question whether the phone in your pocket is still worth keeping.

Right now the hottest phone is the Galaxy Note 5. And if you still have a trusty Galaxy S5 that means you've resisted the call of the Note 4 and Galaxy S6 already — so does that mean it's finally time to upgrade with a Note 5? We're here to answer that question.

We're here to help you make that decision.

Read now: Should I upgrade from the Galaxy S5 to the Note 5?

Lose the plastic, bump the specs

Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S5

The Galaxy S5 looks quite clearly from a previous generation of Samsung design when you set it alongside a Note 5. The shiny plastic edges and thinner home button haven't been used since the Galaxy S5 was released, and it's hard to argue that the newer design on show with the Note 5 isn't a better one overall.

The Galaxy S5 has an advantage in sheer grip thanks to its softer back and smaller size, but the glass and metal on the Note 5 are much nicer overall — both in looks and feel. Both phones have the same basic shape, but it's all about the details here in what makes the Note 5 the leader in the hardware department. Naturally there's no more removable battery and storage on the Note 5, so there isn't much to talk about — you either feel you need it, or in the past 18 months with your GS5 you've decided you don't.

You lose some grip, but get overall better hardware and a big jump in specs.

At the same time, there's a predictable improvement in specs when looking at phones released 18 months apart. Samsung's latest octa-core Exynos processor in the Note 5 is extremely quick, and the RAM has doubled from 2 to 4GB. The Galaxy S5's screen looks just fine on its own, but the older AMOLED display at 1080p just doesn't stand up to the brilliant newer AMOLED at QHD resolution on the newer phone. The fingerprint scanner, which was introduced first on the Galaxy S5, has improved dramatically to a one-touch variant on the Note 5 as well.

Of course a big loss here is waterproofing, which was a big deal for the Galaxy S5 but hasn't appeared in any of Samsung's top-end phones since then. Of course it had a trade-off of a very annoying flap covering the USB port, as well as minimal extra thickness in the back for water-tight gaskets, but having complete waterproofing without any extra case is definitely a plus. For whatever reason Samsung hasn't deemed it to be important on the same level as Sony and Motorola.

Aside from waterproofing and the removable battery and storage, the Note 5 has a lot going for it in the hardware department. It looks and feels nicer, has a better display, a faster fingerprint sensor, and upgraded internals all around.

Similar software, with a few new features

Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S5

For as much as the hardware improved between these two phones, the software hasn't changed all that much. Assuming your Galaxy S5 has the latest update to Lollipop you're not far off from what's pre-loaded on the Note 5, save for a few subtle changes to the layout of the settings and how the launcher looks. TouchWiz is still TouchWiz, and if you're happy with your GS5's software — perhaps with a new launcher and keyboard installed — you'll feel the same on the latest Note.

You won't make this upgrade just for software improvements.

Of course the Note 5 has the S Pen and that necessitates some specific software there, but beyond that Samsung has also improved the camera interface (more on this later) and added YouTube Live streaming to the mix, if that's your sort of thing. There's still a solid bundle of pre-installed apps from both Samsung and partners (the number of which will depend on where you bought the phone), and while the system as a whole is a bit more slimmed down it's nothing revolutionary.

One thing you can say about the software is that it feels a little less heavy-handed overall, with animations and icons that are just a little simpler. Your eyes won't be assaulted by as many neon colors, but don't expect the Note 5 to be some big revelation in software if you upgrade.

Everything is faster, with better ways to charge

Galaxy Note 5 and S5

Through a combination of both hardware boosts and software to take advantage of it, the Note 5 does offer a serious bump in performance over the Galaxy S5. It was bound to happen when you bump up the internals, but the day-to-day performance of the Note 5 is notably better than the previous-generation GS5. Whether it's side-by-side comparisons or just anecdotal evidence, everything on the Note 5 is just a bit faster. Opening apps, switching through apps with the multitasking button, running multiple apps at once and particularly launching the camera are all quicker on the new hardware — as they should be.

Everything is faster, with the same battery life and more ways to charge.

Another part of performance is battery life, where the Note 5 will have to assure potential Galaxy S5 buyers that it's up to speed considering you can no longer remove the battery. The Galaxy S5 was never really known for having wonderful battery life, but it is definitely adequate for getting through a day. The same can be said for the Galaxy Note 5, with its 3000 mAh battery providing enough juice to get through a normal day with quite a bit left, or just get by on a heavier bit of use. Of course the Note 5 has the distinct advantage now of including fast charging for quick top-ups, as well as integrated wireless charging. While you get a pretty quick charge on the GS5 it's notably faster on the Note, and wireless charging could only be added to the GS5 with a clunky third-party insert.

Getting much better performance, as well as the aforementioned better screen, with the same battery life and better ways to charge really feels like an overall upgrade. There's enough here to likely make you forget about having a removable battery.

A big jump in camera quality

Galaxy Note 5 and S5

Both of these phones have 16MP camera sensors, but that's about where the similarities end. Samsung made a pretty big step up in camera quality just a handful of months after the Galaxy S5 with the launch of the Note 4, and since then has taken yet another step forward. While the GS5 is a pretty capable camera in daylight and simple situations, it's an absolute trainwreck in anything less than perfect lighting. The lack of OIS is troublesome, but the software and image processing isn't doing it any favors either.

The Note 5's camera is miles ahead of the GS5, particularly in low light situations.

The Note 5, by comparison, is a joy in both light and darker situations, giving a nice bit of pop in the daytime without going overboard, and keeping things clear and smooth when the lights are lower as well. The interface is easy to use and manipulate, and full manual controls in the "Pro" camera mode give you even more tweaks if you want it. It's been said since the Galaxy S6 launched with the same camera setup, but the Note 5 is really an industry-leading phone camera right now.

The cherry on top is the quick-launch camera feature, which lets you open up the Note 5's camera with two presses of the home button at any time. Being able to launch the camera and be snapping great pictures in a matter of three seconds is absolutely impressive, and you can't undervalue it if you're one to take a lot of pictures with your phone.

Bottom line: This is an upgrade to make

Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S5

There's a lot awaiting you if you decide to make the jump from your Galaxy S5 up to the Galaxy Note 5, and it doesn't come with too many losses. You give up waterproofing and a removable battery, but you get overall improved hardware inside and out, a better screen, smoother and quicker software, and a new camera that's miles ahead of the old phone.

If this was a free upgrade for you it'd be a no-brainer, but unfortunately the Note 5 is rather expensive. You'll pay $700 or more out the door for a new Note 5 from your favorite carrier, while there's a solid chance you're still paying off (or riding out a contract for) the Galaxy S5 you're using now. Even if you bought it outright you probably won't recoup much more than $200 for your GS5, leaving a large chunk of money to make up to get the latest and greatest from Samsung.

But if you can make the move and justify the price bump, you won't be disappointed — the Galaxy Note 5 is a really solid improvement over the Galaxy S5.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

158 Comments
  • If you don't mind the bigger size, no question. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Do you really need to ask that question. If you can afford it hell yes . Trust me it's night and day difference Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's absolutely worth it, my brother has note 5 he loves it and I encourage a co worker get a note 5 and he crazy about it, they both had GS5 before upgrate but I am sticking with GS5 not that I don't have money I can write a check for 100 phones in cash the only reason I am hesitate because my fav feature "photo face tag" no longer available on GS6 and Note 5
  • I won't touch the Note 5... My Note 4 and the S5 are way better phones! That's my opinion, if you don't like it too bad! Posted via the Android Central App
  • yes note 4 awesome phone. but due to the fact that the S5 is waterproof wow no brainer
  • I have tested the not 4
    And the apple 6+
    And I think the apple is better than Samsung
    Y
    The note 4 camera dose not focus fast to many out of focus shots Were the apple is dead on every time
    You try you will see what I mean And the loud speak on the Apple much better
    Samsung photo software is crap
    I have note 4 And friend has apple Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sorry Dxomark.com disagree with you as with many other independent blind test comparing Note 4 camera (score 83) beats iphone 6+ camera (score 82). Check out the results of blind camera test on phoneareana.com where Note 4 crushes iphone 6+ camera.
  • Most people don't realize GS5 still a very very good phone, only 2/10 of a second slower the S6 and 15% less brightness as long as you don't DL bunches of crappy app your phone will work just fine and don't forget to turn off your auto-update allowing auto-update on your phone it's only do more harm than good. ( Playstore / setting /check Do not auto-update apps)
  • yes
  • After reading all the comments, it makes me wonder where all the hate over ditching the removable battery and SD card went. I guess people just love jumping on the bandwagon
  • I think a lot of those were just Apple paid shills to thwart sales of the GS6,Edge, Edge+, and Note 5. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hope you're joking. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So so I Awesome AC.
  • Actually that happens all the time folks do a lot of complaining cause they don't like change are just not willing to give change a chance. There's many on these very forum's that where all over the gs6 an now n5 . But then once they actually got more information out they were willing to try it . And giving from the post to a man they all retracted everything that they thought was wrong about the n5 and plus. Now must love the phone . Hey the n5 is not for everyone but . There's no doubt it's a beast Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's the fact that I use my phone to store my music library. Without a SD card slot good luck. Removable battery was more a piece of mind because I have had batteries crap out on me and spaghetti forbid that should happen in a Note 5. I'll stick to my S5 and see what LG comes out with for now. But till then I have no use for an N5
  • It was piling on without a doubt. +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • That is a great signature lol. Is the change because of the guy that accused you of being a slammer? Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think people have just come to grip with reality. My Mom shocked the hell out of me and walked home a few weeks ago with the Note 5, after trading in her iPhone. She liked the pen and just wanted something different. I can't say I was overly critical and i wasn't part of the camp that complained about the plastic, but I did voice my frustration over the sealed battery. The SD slot doesn't bother me in the least. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've changed my mind after using her phone for a solid 4-5 hours. The phone is flipping amazing, and sealed batteries are something we just need to adapt to. Is have a major problem if it didn't get good battery life, like the S6, but the Note is a beast.
  • Many still feel that way; said so at the time and decided to wait for something else. I don't update often, so I still use a Note 3 (my second Samsung.
    If I did update now I would get an LG G4 or wait for Q1 2016 to end, just in case. Awesome AC.
  • It's right here, lol no bandwagon, I still crap all over the note 5. Samsung shouldn't have moved on to ufs2.0 until they had a working controller for the sd, plain and simple. Glad to see everyone got the isamsungphone they wanted. Glad to see that you love being told what you can and can't do. Have fun paying and sending your phone in when it needs another battery.
  • Another battery you mean maybe 4 years from now . I doubt I'll worry about that . I'll been have moved on to the note 10 by then but thanks for being so concerned. ....note 5 the beast Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nope, I'm still here. No SD card, no removable battery, no IP67 compliance. What's the point? My Galaxy S5 serves me fine. And like Dom1n1cus below (above?), I keep a ton of music and photos on my SD card. I won't go into my bad experiences with devices (mobile and otherwise) where the need to remove power was either the saving grace or the reason to take a sledgehammer to it.
  • We're still here loving the pre-applized Galaxy line. But we read the Moto and Sony threads now and skip over the Samsung fluff topics. If I liked the S6, I'd have joined the iPhone camp when the I4 came out. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ehh.. It boils down to what you prefer. I'll be all over the Note 5 if it has a MicroSD card slot. I heard it has great audio quality. It also sucks that there's no 128GB version of the phone and another killer, the 64GB version isn't available in my country and we're stuck with 32GB.
  • Best comment ever.
  • Should I upgrade from the Moto G LTE 1st gen to anything current? Nah...
  • Lol... Yes +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • Abso-freakin-lutely.
  • "Lose the plastic, bump the specs". Although everyone knows this and it's been said many times before. It's amazing how many people complained about the plastic on the previous Samsung phones, and now it has glass, people complain about certain things on that. Yet the mass majority of people put these bad boys in a phone case, making each argument basically moot. This sidenote was brought to you by the GS6 Active. A phone that doesn't need a case, but I got one anyways because it just looks stinkin cool! (Black SUPCASE Beetle with transparent back and a camo decal that I got off eBay that is just awesome seen through the case) OK back to whether or not you should upgrade. Yes. Yes you should. Posted via the GS6 Active, aka GS6 M.E. (Manly Edition)
  • Do you want a phablet or not? That's really the only question. Otherwise stick with the S5 or S6 if you really want to spend some money for some reason.
  • Or just wait for the s7. I think a lot of people don't jump from the s series to the note series but stay on a two year s cycle. It has a lot to do with contracts and payment plans but still.. +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • This is what I was thinking as well. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Or just wait for the s7." Only if it has a removable battery and a MicroSD slot like my S5. They are the reasons I opted for the S5 instead of the S6.
  • Same reasons I'm still carrying an S4.
    I'd have a Note 4, if root was available AND my pockets were bigger. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It would be considered one if it was 2010, not 2015. Posted.
  • Well Congrats to all of you who love the removeable battery, and SD card. I'll stick with my amazing resolution, my increased specs, and lag less experience that I've had with my edge plus. Without a doubt the best phone I've ever owned, on and also the best looking one :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • But the point you are trying to make is the one Samsung don't. And that point was that the S5 also has great specs!
    People keep parroting battery, SD card, and water proofing like it's a bad thing. When actually those are great bases to build a phone not to take away. I would even add the plastic body which has the strength of Kevlar, if you have seen GS2 and GS3 real world testing. They are like ice cream favors...yours has the ice cream, sprinkles, nuts, etc, but no cone. Mine has just plain ice cream, with a spoon, options of a cup, cone, or waffles. We actually do get toppings be you only notice them once you start eating.
  • Agree, timsomor. Also, I find it funny when they tout how good the performance is over the last generation, e.g. S5 was laggy and was built poorly compared to S6, yet I would bet these are the same people that would have defended to death what an awesome phone it was at the time whenever anyone said anything negative about it compared to different phone of same generation.
    As the comment above yours says this current crop of Samsung phones is lag free then what about all the phones previous? We were just buying crap the whole time and should have bought Windows phones for the smoothness of its UI?
  • All I am saying is you don't know what u have until you use it. However, no phone is problem free. As long as we have different carriers with different software and firmware there will always be some incompatibility that causes something....I have the S5 international unlocked phone....I defend it because it has saved my a** more times than I can count....I once sent a 30 page fax from my phone. But I have also owned international S2's and S3's. Both were lag free...in my real world use of both phones. Also, fact of the matter is a lot of phone makers use the public as R&D!
    This is true.
  • I was talking about epicness4G defending his "lag less" edge plus and was agreeing with your comment. Sorry if my comment did not convey that properly. When I see comments like his then I wonder what did that make the S5 and its predecessors when people like epicness4G probably defended them at the time they were the new shiny on the block. All of the sudden the S5 is crap because the S6 is available for purchase(i.e. since Edge plus is lag less the S5 must of had lag)? SD card and removable batteries have been trash features this entire time and we just didn't know it until the S6 was released? I'm just pointing out the absurdity of the comments and articles such as these that highlight such behavior is all.
  • My bad....sorry for misinterpreting you..I agree 100% with this post....I actually went back and read in the thread that someone said we are going to uave to learn to live with the fact SD cards are going away...can you believe that? I have a 5k music collection I carry with me on a 128GB Evo...micro SD. People are just acepting the new lower storage with smiles on their faces just because they have a bigger screen with colors the human eye can't really tell the difference in. Only thing then know is the image seem more lively. Some of the comments make no sense.. again my bad.
  • Yes indeed, they are all jackasses. Samsung messed up by not having a memory controller for the sd before move on the ufs 2.0. Oh I have 2 apps,4 pics and 20 songs I downloaded cause I heard them on the radio and is just the greatest music...... Same people who have now watch me whip crap and think it's great. There are actually people who use their phone for a lot more than Twitter Snapchat and Facebook........ everyone enjoy your spoon fed crap that you swallow with a smile.
  • Lol, wtf are you going on about?
  • What's the use of "great build" if you have to hide it in a case to prevent glass cracking? All smart phones need case, including GS5 or Note 4, as they hit the glass front on drop. Build doesn't matter, functionality, features and performance does.
  • If I spent all that money on a phone I'd sure as hell say good things about it too! IMO,the Edge is a gimmick that only works with a limited number of apps. Now if only Samsung could put iOS on the Note 5 and Edge+ they'd be in 7th heaven. Next Samsungs will be Tizen
  • Yes s5 software is shit I had one on Verizon. Lollipop killed it dead. Posted From my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface pro 3
  • Interesting. My T-Mobile GS5 has held up quite well with Lollipop.
  • My son is still thrilled with his S5 on Sprint. And he's really picky.
  • I just upgraded from a Sprint S5 to a Sprint Note5. It's night and day better on the Note5. The S5 was ruined with the Lollipop update on many carriers. Not sure how/why they still have not fixed that, but I was tired of waiting. Glad I stopped waiting.
  • Well, of course the Note 5 is better. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the S5. I was happy with my S3 until I got the Note 4.
  • The s5 in my house is humming along on sprint as well... +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • Well the Verizon version has something up with it. Posted From my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface pro 3
  • Ya, It's called 5.0 combined with lagwiz
  • My S5 on Verizon runs fine with lollipop. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agree. My 2nd line on Tmo is a s5 and the damn things a workhorse. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It also has 5.1.1. All of Samsung's 5.0.1 updates have been terrible.
  • They're not Samsung's updates.
  • They sure as hell are Samsung's updates after they mod the hell out of it with their prop