Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in-depth review - Bold and the beautiful

Ten thousand people signed a petition for the Note 5 to come to the UK. A year later we have the shiny new Galaxy Note 7, available from all networks with countless tantalising deals. In hand, it looks even more premium, beautiful and gorgeous than the Galaxy S7 edge, something that I didn't think was possible until now. Even though it walks the talk, does it talk the talk? Let's find out...

 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review - Bold and the beautiful
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/17/2016 10:09:55 AM

9

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

9

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

IP68 rated (fresh water-proof upto 1.5 meters) | Stylus works a dream | expandable memory | Brilliant display

Cons:

Very expensive

-By Sunetra Chakravarti 

 So the Note is finally here.

And with the level of success that the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have enjoyed, we knew Samsung had the aesthetics of the phones on point but didn't realise exactly to what degree until I held the Note 7 in my hands. It is easy to focus on the stylus more than any of the other features because of the novelty of it but there is more than meets the eye with the Note 7.

Do the Note 7 and the Galaxy S7 edge look similar?

The Note 7 is slightly bigger than the S7 edge, but both are metal and glass numbers. However, the metal on my review sample of the Note is a slightly darker version, making the fusion of both glass and metal so homogenised that when it is on the desk, it is easy to think it is all one material.

The Note 7 is a sharper-edged phone with flatter sides and more conventional looks. Even though it has the edges that makes the Galaxy S7 edge unique, the corners aren't as gently rounded and the phone feels almost more officious in the hand than the S7 edge.

The first Note device with a dual-curved screen, and because of the almost non-existent bezels, you get edge-to-edge screen real estate to go crazy with the S-Pen. The bezel situation also helps makes watching movies a really amazing experience, but more on that later. Similar to the Galaxy S7 at first look, the 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm dimensions mean that although it is a fairly large phone, the almost straight sides make it more grippable and ergonomic to use. Weight-wise at 169g, it is at par with most other phablets out there, and personally I like phones with a slight weight to them- helps with not swinging arms around and hence negating the likelihood of smashing a phone on a wall.

Samsung have added quite a few tricks to the Note 7: tilt the phone to wake the screen, swipe down to access the quick settings area and swipe up from the right corner to open up the camera.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: Display

Samsung are the boss when it comes to phone displays…

Until I used the Note 7, I was in awe of the display on the S7 edge but I now have a new favourite. The 2K display has a ppi of 518 and even though the human eye cannot discern the difference between anything above 300ppi, I am convinced I can make out the difference.

This is a media streaming device beyond par. 1440 x 2560 pixels result in very bright and almost too clear an image and if that isn't enough, the Note 7 gives you two different screen mode options to adjust the colours. Choose between AMOLED Cinema or Basic screen depending on what you are using your phone for most- writing emails or media streaming. Some might suggest that AMOLED displays run a touch bright, a touch too saturated and a touch too flushed. But like everything else, use it for a few days and you will grow accustomed to it.

Furthermore, the Note 7 is the only phone in the world capable of showing HDR video. For the uninitiated, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and captures and displays images that are brighter but not burnt or washed out. Think 4K with more depth- but with a completely different tool kit. Currently Amazon Prime Video has some shows you can catch on the Note 7 in HDR but Netflix is due to launch shows in HDR soon, so until then, it is just Mozart in the Jungle for you, apart from high-octane games. If this isn't a ringing complement about the superiority of the display panel, nothing else can be.

Always On display makes an appearance here and is an actual feature that you can shout about. Unlike on other phones, the Always on display works in conjunction with the S Pen and so it converts into a notepad as soon as you pop the pen out of its place. Just like that. And for me, that is a great innovation. The edge on the Note 7 has been redefined as well and is optimised for better usability.

So apart from the usual Apps edge, you also get a Tasks area to remind you of appointments, errands, a Music area so you can configure your music collection the phone as well as the My Places app which is a collection of important apps that you might need when you are away from work/home.

Is it easier to use than the S7 edge?

Because of the non-slippery, slide-y edges, it is a lot easier to hold and use the Note 7 in one hand. The squarer profile does it justice and makes it a more work-friendly phone than any others you would have encountered and this includes the Blackberry Priv with its slide-out physical keyboard. Obviously, the S-Pen gives it that edge.   

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Performance

Samsung never say on the tin whether it is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or their home-grown octa-core Exynos 8890 CPU on any particular handset, but irrespective of what you get, together with the 4GB RAM, this is an incredibly powerful phone.

A very high score on AnTuTu places the Note 7 at the top of the pile and although it isn't Android N that you get on there, the super-light Touch Wiz skin on top is barely there. Samsung have done well to make the skin lighter with each generation of their premium phones and the Note 7 gets a sweet deal as a result of that.

Samsung promise that their GPU is now 58% more ‘capable’ and the CPU 31% more powerful and after using the Note 7 for three weeks, I don't think they are fibbing. There is 64GB onboard and you are able to expand memory on the phone up to 256GB via microSD card but you will only be able to use secondary storage for photos and videos but not apps and games.

Although Android Marshmallow allows the feature, Samsung don’t. Battery-wise you get a 3500mAH one onboard and together with the battery optimising features of Android M, it does pretty well. USB-C type charging means there is fast charge onboard and Samsung have been pushing wireless charging for a long time now and there are a host of wireless chargers available, including one where you can use the phone as a bedside clock.

Overall, this is one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful phone available in the market right now.

 Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Camera

There is a 12-MP Dual Pixel Sensor onboard with a f1.7 aperture promising some of the best low-light shots you can ever get on a smartphone.

And the good news is that the camera lens bump at the back is thinner than before.  

Pro mode allows you to adjust not just the ISO and colour tone but also shutter speed, exposure and white balance. There is a mode called Selective Focus that lets you adjust focus after a picture has been taken. The auto mode is fantastic as well and together with the fabulous display, you are able to see all your photos in the best possible clarity available.

Video-wise, there is 4K recording capability on here as well and although you will need an expensive 4K TV or monitor to watch them back, the ability is there.

Samsung have their camera tech spot-on and we saw that with the Galaxy S7 edge and so the best of the lot has ended up on the Note 7.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: S Pen

It seems weird to talk about the stylus the last but it is easy to lose focus and fixate on this fantastic accessory that elevates the Note 7 to the position it deserves.

The stylus just brings several seemingly small changes to the workability of the phablet and makes the Note 7 sparkle in return. From making GIFs to using the stylus for writing quick notes on the Always On display to painting- there is very little, functionality-wise, that is left unattained.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Additional features

That the Note 7 is water-resistant goes beyond saying. Also that irrespective of whether the S Pen is cocooned in its slot or not, the water resistance stays.

There is a fantastic iris scanner that unlocks the phone at a glance, using IR so that it doesn't matter if you are in an area of low-light or not, it works faster than the fingerprint sensor that’s built into the Home button. And if you are a traditionalist, the usual PIN, password and pattern options are there as well.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

There are impulse buys and then there are investment buys. A throwaway pair of headphones do the job but when listening to your favourite numbers, you will go for a comfortable pair of cans that not just look good but pick out the nuances too.

The Galaxy Note 7 is an investment phone.

This is the best phone in the market right now. This is the best phone Samsung have ever made and this is the one Apple should be looking to emulate with their subsequent flagships.

Rich in features, ergonomic and beautifully designed, it is a joy to hold and use. 

Intuitive to the core, it packs a superb display, great battery life and has all the features you would need to forego a tablet for work. Yes, it is brilliantly expensive with pay monthly deals for 4 GB data starting at £38 (Three), but the gorgeous screen, the fantastic stylus, IPX68 rating and expandable memory make this a piece worth investing in.

Also consider

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Similar to

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Killer app

Note 7 is the only phone in the world capable of showing HDR video. For the uninitiated, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and captures and displays images that are brighter but not burnt or washed out

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 specifications

Website: samsung.com/uk

Price: From £699.99

Operating System: Android 6.0.1

Dimensions:153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9m

Weight: 169 g

Resolution: Super AMOLED, 2560 x 1440 (518ppi)

Display: 5.7” Quad HD Dual edge

Processor: Octa core (2.3GHz Quad + 1.6GHz Quad), 64 bit; 4GB RAM

Camera: Rear: Dual Pixel 12MP OIS (F1.7), Front: 5MP (F1.7); HDR video streaming capabilities

Memory: 4GB RAM (LPDDR4), 64GB (UFS 2.0); expandable storage up to 256GB

Battery: 3,500 mAH

Fingerprint sensor: Yes; Iris Sensor

Misc: Fast Charging on wired and wireless; NFC; A water resistant body and S Pen (IP68); Samsung Pay