Samsung Galaxy Note7 review: Time-saver edition

Time-saver edition

GSMArena team, 24 August 2016.

Introduction

It's once again that time of the year when the world goes all Note and eager to try the new S Pen. It's the iconic stylus that gives the Samsung Galaxy Note7 and its predecessors their unique identity and writing on the screen with the new S Pen feels the most natural yet. With this generation, you can even scribble notes where the screen is off and it would happily venture where most electronics would not dare - underwater.

The Galaxy Note7 also represents the first major design change in the flagship Galaxy line since the S6 (the S7 was just a thicker version of that). The symmetrical dual-curved design makes the beautiful screen appear borderless while making a big phone feel smaller than it is.

Key specifications


  • 5.7"1440x2560 pixels

  • 12MP 2160p

  • 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 Octa

  • 4GB RAM 64 GB memory

  • 3500mAhLi-Po

The new Galaxy Note7 will be available everywhere in the world, unlike its Note5 predecessor, so many people will finally be able to upgrade to the new generation. And there is a lot to look forward to - waterproofing is a first in the Note series while the HDR capable display, USB Type-C port, and the iris scanner premiere to the Galaxy lineup.

Design and build quality

The Galaxy Note7 is gorgeously symmetrical - its left and right sides are identically curved on the front and back. And it's one of the best-looking pieces of hardware we have handled. It measures 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, that's a bit taller and thicker than the Note5.


Weight: 169g What's this?

Thickness: 7.9 mm What's this?

The screen curves aren't as pronounced as those on the S7 edge (yay!) - they have a smaller radius. Some people were worried that the curves would interfere with the S Pen, but you naturally leave margins as you write, so Note7's curved screen edges aren't an issue.

These curves are still enough to make the phone feel narrower than the Note5, it even feels as pocketable as the S7 edge despite the 0.2" of extra screen estate. Even if we wouldn't call it compact, the new Galaxy Note7 will win over many people who may have been on the fence about larger phones.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review

The latest Gorilla Glass 5 covers both the front and back, a metal frame being sandwiched between the two panes. On the sides, the frame is very thin, but it gets thicker around the top and bottom to accommodate ports, slots, and other hardware features. The dual-glass design is known to reduce the grip as it gets slippery, but the metal frame helps to balance this.

The controls are laid out as usual. The iris scanner is the only new thing you may notice at the front, but the good news is you can't insert the S-Pen backwards.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review
Samsung Galaxy Note7

The Galaxy Note7 is IP68-certified, officially it can last for up to 30 minutes underwater. Another first is the USB Type-C port which is left uncovered, but don't worry - the phone will warn you if it detects moisture in the port and will refuse to charge until it's dry.

Everything got better with the Note7 and both the Note5 and the S7 fans have a few features to be jealous of.

Design and build quality score

4.5

Display

This year, the Note7 is getting special treatment and it now comes with a dual curved screen. The Super AMOLED screen still measures 5.7" in diagonal and uses the same 1440p resolution, but its left and right sides are curled down. The diamond pentile matrix is present, too.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is one of the first mobile devices to support HDR video. It's not HDR like in the camera. This one has 10-bit color instead of 8-bit, that's four times the number of shades. This prevents color banding and enables detailed scenes that feature both very bright and very dark areas.


Resolution: 1440x2560px What's this?

Size: 5.7" What's this?

The Note7 brings another picture-enhancing toggle - Video Enhancer. This one works in all video apps (even third-party ones) and brightens the image and makes colors more vivid (it simulates HDR video). Note that this option also enhances audio.

There is also a Blue Light Filter, which reduces the blue light as the day progresses to match your body's internal clock. The filter can be toggled manually, but it's best scheduled to turn on in the evening and turn off at dawn.

Display score

5.0

Battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 has a sealed 3,500mAh battery. That's a 500mAh upgrade over the old Note5, but 100mAh short of the Galaxy S7 edge. Samsung has designed a new Power saving system, which is powerful and flexible. There are also the dedicated Game Tools with separate power-saving options for gaming.

We are interested in the raw power of the Note7 and the phablet aced our battery test. We measured 90h Endurance for the Exynos 8890 version and 81h for the Snapdragon 820 one (the two S7 edge models showed similar scores). The Always On screen cuts off about 30% of the total Endurance time on both versions, which is expected.


Capacity: 3500mAh What's this?

Endurance rating: 90h What's this?

The Exynos model proved more efficient, beating the Snapdragon model (sold in North America) by about an hour and a half in the Web and Video tests and by three hours in the Talk time test.

We measured the charging speed of the Galaxy Note7 using the provided Adaptive Fast charger (9V x 1.67A = 15W). Starting with a flat battery, the Note7 had 38% charge after half an hour (the phone was on but idling, Always On screen enabled). It took a total of 1 hour and 35 minutes to reach 100% charge, fast indeed.

Battery life score

4.5

Audio

Unsurprisingly, given Samsung’s track record in the area, the Galaxy Note7 delivered seriously impressive audio output. The phablet aced the first part of our test mixing very loud output with impeccable quality – nothing to frown at really.

Plugging in a pair of headphones caused next to no distortion – even the hike in stereo crosstalk was hard to notice without dedicated equipment. The volume didn’t drop at all here, for a flawless overall showing.

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 scored a Good mark on our loudspeaker test, beating its predecessor (Average) and matching the Galaxy S7 edge. The single speaker produces clean sound even at full volume and performs evenly across different types of audio - music, hands-free calls, ringtones.

Audio score

4.5

Photo camera

The camera features a 12MP camera sensor (4:3 aspect ratio) with the impressive Dual Pixel autofocus tech. It's faster and more accurate than any other system that came before it. It also packs Optical Image Stabilization for better low-light performance (helped by the bright f/1.7 aperture) and reducing handshake in videos.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review

The camera app features an entirely new interface which has been streamlined. The Mode and Effect buttons are gone, replaced by swipe right for shooting modes and left for photo effects. Swipes up/down flip between the main and the selfie cameras.

The shooting modes are the same as before, including the Pro mode. It gives you manual control over the camera's settings. You can also shoot in RAW so you can manually process photos later. Motion photo is available in the settings menu; it captures a 3-second video, which starts recording from the moment before you've even pressed the shutter (it's a separate MP4 file, which is easy to share).

The photos from the Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera are very detailed with little to no noise. The dynamic range has been widened thanks to a new processing algorithm, which brightness the shadows when needed without blowing the highlights. The colors have been toned down a bit since the S7 edge, so they look more natural.

There are times when the Note7 make the images way too punchy though - contrast, color saturation, and sharpening sometimes come all too strong to our taste. Sure, this makes the images pop even on regular screens (ones that are not Super AMOLED), but we would have liked an option to tone the processing a notch down. The amount of sharpening applied, especially, makes the images look overprocessed when you zoom down to pixel level.

All things considered, the Note7 camera is currently among the best smartphone snappers on the market and gets a proper picture in any scenario thanks to its wide aperture and optical stabilization.

The selfies are far from impressive, but the 5MP selfie camera was also granted a wide aperture which helps in low-light scenes.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera samples - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera samples - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera samples - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera samples - Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review
Samsung Galaxy Note7 camera samples

Photo camera score

4.5

Video camera

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 can shoot 2160p @ 30fps videos, of course, but it also does 1080p @ 60fps. The extra framerate makes motion appear smoother, an effect visible even in the viewfinder. If you really want to slow down fast motion, though, the 240fps mode is the right pick (it shoots at 720p resolution).

Videos shot at the top 4K resolution are rich in detail and offer the same image processing as the still camera - lots of detail, impressive dynamic range, accurate colors, high contrast, and a bit oversharpened. It's highly unlikely you'll zoom to notice the latter though.

Video camera score

5.0

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 runs a TouchWiz-skinned Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. An update to v7.0 Nougat is already planned, but it should take a few months.

The fingerprint reader used on the Note7 is the same as the one on the Galaxy S7. It recognizes a finger in under a second - very fast, though not the fastest we've seen. Then there's the iris scanner too, when you get used to it, it can be as fast as the fingerprint reader.

The Galaxy Note7 brings some changes to the TouchWiz interface, but it's a collection of minor tweaks rather than a major redesign. The Notification area has a revamped layout. The screen brightness slider is no longer visible on the first swipe. Instead, it has been moved next to the quick toggles. Also here is a new search field. This isn't Google Now's search, instead, it searches for local files and apps as well as nearby devices for wireless connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review

Split-screen multitasking is supported on the Note7, and the 5.7" screen was born to do it. Even at half a screen, apps get plenty of room (Material design likes a lot of padding though). As always, only supported apps can work in split-screen (you'll recognize them by a button in the app switcher, next to the X). Also, Samsung's implementation is the most widely supported.

Floating app windows are supported for some apps, too. The precision allowed by the S Pen's tip (compared to your finger) makers using apps even in this downscaled state a breeze. Some hover features are a great help too, like hovering near the edge of an app scrolls its window in that direction (great for using a minimized web browser).

The S Pen has been updated to feel more natural. The tip is much thinner to simulate a ballpoint pen. The button has been moved up to prevent accidental presses, and The stylus is more accurate than before. With each iteration, Samsung adds new features but we think this is the best update yet.

The most eye-catching trick is that you can write underwater. Not that you'd ever need to, but it's a cool demo and you have the certainty that a wet screen will not interfere with what you're doing. The most useful trick, however, is the Screen-off memo. Just pull out the S Pen while the phone is locked and start writing. Tap Save and it goes into your Samsung Memo app. The process is so natural, soon you'll use the Note7 just like a regular notepad. You can also pin a note to the Always on screen so it's visible without having to unlock the phone (again, like a regular notepad!).

Speaking of the Always on screen - the Note7 adds some new functionality. Now you get to choose from 13 clock styles, two calendar styles or four images that can be shown on the screen, while it's off. Even better, third-party apps notifications show up on the AOD with the app's icon and double tapping it would take you directly to the app.

Naturally, all Edge features are available, if those are your thing, various organizing apps and a full blown office suite, plus the extensive security features allowed by Knox and its enhanced biometric security.

Software score

5.0

Benchmark performance

Samsung is building two versions of the Galaxy Note7 - the international one with an Exynos 8890 chipset and one for North America and China with Snapdragon 820. Both come with 4GB of RAM. That's right, it's the same hardware that powers the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.


Basemark OS II: 2676 What's this?

Basemark X: 32648 What's this?

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is one of the fastest phones on the market, sticking close to the top of all benchmark charts. There is plenty of competition with Snapdragon 820 out there, however, so this year the Galaxy Note doesn't completely dominate the field.

We don't think there's a big difference if you get a Snapdragon or Exynos powered Note7. Yes, the Snapdragon puts out a few frames per second more in some games, but in others, the Exynos is better. Don't fret it.

Benchmark performance score

5.0

Wrap-up

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is the facelift you've been waiting for - it's a Galaxy S7, but with the rough edges sanded down, new ideas implemented. Not just that, it's the premium version too, adding features that the Galaxy S line will not see until the S8 comes along (the iris scanner and USB Type-C).

But even that is a limited way of looking at the Note7 - the S Pen is key to the overall user experience, and it has no alternative in the phone market. You have to look at a Microsoft Surface Pro or an Apple iPad Pro to get a similar stylus experience.

Samsung initially used an asymmetric design - a flat screen with a curved back or a curved screen with a flat back. With the Galaxy Note7, symmetry rules and we are happy with the result - the phone both looks and feels better.

Samsung Galaxy Note7
Pros Cons
    • Stunning symmetrical build
    • Water-proof
    • Amazing 5.7-inch sAMOLED HDR screen
    • Class-leading 12MP shooter
    • Powerful hardware, benchmark topper
    • Excellent battery life, fast charging
    • Unmatched stylus skills
    • Non removable battery
    • Glass design accumulates fingerprints, fragile

Also consider

  • OnePlus 3

    OnePlus 3

    OnePlus 3is one of the cheapest phones on this list, yet it a worthy flagship. 5.5" 1080p AMOLED (by Samsung) - check. 16MP camera with OIS - check. Snapdragon 820 chipset - check. It doesn't have a microSD slot (and the only storage option is 64GB), but it runs a mostly pure Android version and it has 6GB of RAM - more than most.

  • Motorola Moto Z

    Motorola Moto Z

    The Moto Z has a beautiful AMOLED screen - 5.5" QHD - and we can live with it being flat. It's metal build is super thin (5.2mm!) and you get proper Snapdragon 820 performance. The 13MP camera features OIS and f/1.8 aperture; the 5MP front camera comes with big pixels. The battery is kind of small, though, 2,600mAh.

  • Huawei P9 Plus

    Huawei P9 Plus

    Huawei has the P9 Plus - an upscaled version of the P9 with a 5.5" Super AMOLED screen (1080p) and Kirin 955. The Plus model has the trademark dual 12MP camera setup - one in full color and one in Black & White (with Leica branding and camera software). It has a 3,400mAh battery in its 7mm thick body (for comparison, the Note7 is 7.9mm thick).

  • ZTE Axon 7

    ZTE Axon 7

    The ZTE Axon 7 also has a flat 5.5" AMOLED screen with QHD resolution. It measures up quite well to the Note7 - Snapdragon 820 chipset, 20MP camera with OIS and f/1.8 lens, 3,250mAh battery, stereo speakers too.

The reality, however, is that neither of these phones has proper waterproofing (the Moto Z is water resistant but not proof) or things like an iris scanner or a stylus, or even fast wireless charging. There's just no single phone that combines all the features that the Samsung's flagship has managed to pile up.

So we have no doubt that Samsung has a winner on its hands with the Galaxy Note7. Few devices manage to combine business and pleasure as completely as the Samsung Galaxy Note7 does. We do wonder, though, will it be gamers or business users that end up buying the most Note7s.

Samsung Galaxy Note7

Total GSMArena score

4.8 / 5
Design and build quality
4.5
Display
5.0
Battery life
4.5
Audio
4.5
Photo camera
4.5
Video camera
5.0
Software
5.0
Benchmark performance
5.0
Coolness
5.0

Reader comments

This is an amazing phone. Please leave it under your pillow at night when charging so others can't steal it from you. At the same time you are doing civilization a favor.

  • R.J

Samsung should focus on quality rather than on variety and quantity.Between two stools one looses ground.Flagship phones should look and feel different from midrange and other phones.R J Lko. India

  • Anonymous

4.8/5 for design and build quality. Hilarious.