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Samsung Galaxy Note7 review

 Review: September 2016  
 

Last updated October 2016

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is built on the same platform as the S7 Edge, sharing its stunning curved-glass design, with a huge AMOLED Quad HD screen, 8-core processor, outstanding camera, and a huge amount of memory. In addition it adds S-pen functionality, making it a superb productivity tool. But the sky-high price and serious problems with the battery can't be over-looked.



 

Design & looks

Samsung's original Galaxy Note first pioneered the big-screen "phablet" format that others have copied, but we've been waiting for some time for an update. Now that it's here, the Note7 at first sight seems to be just a Galaxy S7 Edge with an S-Pen added.

You'd certainly be forgiven for mistaking the Note7 for an S7 Edge. They have the same design, with the distinctive dual-curved screen that still looks so sexy. The Note7 is a millimetre wider, with a marginally bigger screen that you may not notice unless you hold the two phones next to each other. It's 10g heavier than the S7 Edge, and has a glass-and-metal mirror effect finish. The edge of the Note7 is fully curved front and back, making it easy to pick up and handle.

We praised the design of the S7 Edge when it was launched, and we haven't grown bored of the look yet. We can't say that the Note7 improves on the design in any way, but there's no denying that it's a gorgeous phone with premium styling. It's so much nicer-looking than the Note 4. It's built to be water- and dust-resistant too, and we love the fact that you get a screen that's bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus in a phone body that's smaller and noticeably lighter than the Apple.

That 5.7 inch screen is surely one of the highlights of the Note7. With Samsung's superb AMOLED screen technology and a Quad HD resolution with an incredible 518ppi pixel density, it's simply stunning. The Note7 also introduces mobile HDR, taking HDR videos to the next level.

The phone supports one-touch fingerprint recognition, and also introduces iris scanning as a means of securing your phone. Iris scanning is much more secure than fingerprint scanning, as it is virtually impossible to mimic.

The phone is available in a choice of Black, Blue, Silver or Gold.

S-Pen functionality

If there's one thing that sets the Note series apart from the rest of the Galaxy range, it's the S-Pen and its associated functionality. The S-Pen design has been refined yet again, with a finer tip than before. It's even possible to use it in the rain, and without unlocking the phone.

In use, the S-Pen enables handwriting of notes, fine control over the user interface, sketching and drawing, and annotation of images. And the notes that you save can easily be transferred to other devices.

The screen on the Note7 is always-on, and you can control what appears on the lock screen. A tilt of the phone brings the screen to life. The edge also has functionality, and is customisable for contacts, favourite apps, music and more.

Exynos processor & memory

The Note7 uses the same super-fast Exynos 8890 processor that debuted in the Galaxy S7. It's an 8-core processor consisting of four cores running at 2.3GHz and four at 1.6GHz. With an enormous 4GB of RAM at its disposable, the Note7 is one of the fastest devices currently available.

The onboard memory has been pushed up to 64GB, plus you can add a microSD card to give an extraordinary 256GB of additional memory - ideal for a power device like this.

Camera

The Note7 shares the same camera as the S7 and S7 Edge, and that makes it a candidate for best camera in any current phone. And yes, it's as good as the iPhone 7+ and the Sony Xperia XZ.

The main camera is rated at 12 megapixels and it uses extra-large pixels and a huge f/1.7 aperture to capture every last photon of light. Optical image stabilisation and HDR mode also help to deliver sharp, bright images even in poor lighting or after dark. The dual-pixel sensor enables very fast autofocus.

The main camera is also capable of capturing 4K video.

The front camera is rated at 5 megapixels and is good for selfies and video chat.

Connectivity

The Note7 supports a wide range of LTE bands, plus 3G and GSM as fallback. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0 Type-C, NFC and a headphone jack are all present, as well as DLNA support.

Battery troubles

The Note7 ships with a heavy-duty 3,500mAh battery, giving it enough power to last a day even with hard use. It can be charged quickly too and is compatible with wireless chargers.

However, that battery has caused a lot of trouble in early shipments of the Note7, leading to a product recall that is still ongoing. With major over-heating problems in the first batch, and some replacement units suffering from over-heating and rapid battery drain, this is a major problem for would-be Note7 buyers. Is it safe to buy one of these devices or not? At the time of this review, that's still an open question.

Conclusion - brilliant but flawed

The Note7 is built on an impressive architecture - that of the Galaxy S7 Edge - and combines it with the S-Pen functionality of the Note series. That ought to make it first choice for demanding business users. The screen is without equal; the raw power of the device outstanding; and the S-Pen productivity unique.

The phone draws obvious comparisons with the iPhone 7+, but the Note7 has the advantage of being sleeker and lighter than its Apple counterpart.

Both Note7 and iPhone 7+ are priced outrageously, and are perhaps only suitable if your employer is paying the bill.

But that battery issue could be a killer. Buying a Note7 right now is a risky proposition. Samsung may eventually fix the problem, but how long will it take, and how long will you be without a phone while you wait?

Update (13 October 2016): After weeks of delays and botched recalls, Samsung has now announced that manufacture of the Note7 will cease.


Samsung Galaxy Note7 features include:

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