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Samsung Galaxy Note7 review: An S7 Edge on steroids

By James Lu - 20 Aug 2016
Launch SRP: S$1168

Overview, Design, Display & Audio

Note: This article was first published on August 16, 2016.

Overview 

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is the latest addition to Samsung's productivity-aimed Note line. Samsung opted to skip the Note 6 and jumped right from the Note 5 to the Note7 (and removed the space in the process), to better align the Note series with the S series. As such, the Note7 offers many of the same specs and features as the S7 and S7 Edge: IP68 dust and water resistance, an always-on QHD Super AMOLED display, an Exynos 8890 octa-core processor with 4GB RAM, expandable storage, and the same 12-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front camera modules.

As always, what sets the Note7 apart is its S Pen stylus. Like the phone itself, this year's S Pen is also rated IP68, and has a number of improvements, both in terms of functionality and design. And finally, the Note7 is the first Samsung device with an iris sensor.

The Note7 will be available on 20th August for S$1,168. As of now, only the Titanium Gold, Platinum Silver and Onyx Black colors will be available locally. The gorgeous Coral Blue color is expected to launch at a later date.

  Samsung Galaxy Note7
  Samsung Galaxy Note7
Operating system
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Processor
  • Samsung Exynos 8890 octa-core (quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex- M1 & quad-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A53), 14nm process
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM
Display
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) / Super AMOLED
  • Always-On Display
  • Edge Screen
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture and smart OIS
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 4.1, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 256GB (MicroSD)
Battery
  • 3,500mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
Dimensions
  • 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm
Weight
  • 169g

 

Design

To hijack a term from Pokémon Go, the Note7 feels like the final evolution of a design path Samsung has been traveling down for the past two years. It all started with the Note Edge back in 2014, with its single curved display. Then last year, Samsung gave the Note 5 a curved glass rear. Earlier this year, the S7 Edge had a dual-curved display and a curved glass rear, but the front was more curved than the back, resulting in a slightly asymmetrical design. The Note7, on the other hand, has perfect symmetry. Both the front and rear use the same curved Gorilla Glass 5, resulting in a beautiful design where the curves converge right in the middle onto a now much-smaller metal bezel. 

The more pronounced curvature of the Note7 also makes it more comfortable to hold than the flatter S7 Edge, and even at 5.7-inches, it feels secure and ergonomic in hand.

The Note7 is the first Note device with a dual-curved display (the Note Edge only curved on one side). This isn't just an aesthetic choice; the Note7 has the same Edge software and all the features and functionality that you'll find on the S7 Edge, although the two displays do differ slightly. On top of being 0.2-inch larger, the Note7's display tapers less and the curves are closer to the edge. Samsung did this to keep more of the screen flat for your S Pen writing. 

The dual curved display also helps to make the Note7 smaller and more compact than all previous Note models. The Note7 is actually 2.7mm narrower than the Note 5. While that doesn't sound like much, it's quite substantial. The rest of its dimensions are very similar to the Note 5: 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.99mm and 169g.

Below the display, the oblong Home button once again doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. It's the same one you'll find on the S7 and S7 Edge, and it's lightning fast and super accurate. Of course, the Note7 also has an iris scanner (more on that on page 2).

Like the S7 and S7 Edge, the power button can be found on the right side, while the two volume buttons can be found on the left. They're well-positioned and easy to hit, even with the relatively large size of the phone.

On the bottom edge of the Note7, you'll find a reversible USB Type-C charging port - the first Samsung device to sport one. To ease the transition to the new port, the Note7 is also supplied with a micro-USB to USB Type-C adapter in the box, so you can still use any micro-USB charging cables or accessories you have lying around. Next to the charging port is the headphone jack, a single speaker and the S Pen stylus.

You'll find the nano-SIM card slot on the top of the phone. The Note7 is a dual-SIM phone, with the second SIM slot doubling up as a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 256GB. Internally, you also get 64GB storage.

As mentioned above, the Note7 is IP68 dust and water resistant. That means it can withstand being submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. Like the S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung has done a great job sealing the phone internally, so there's no fiddly flaps or ports to deal with. You don't even have to worry about water getting into the S Pen stylus silo.

 

Display

The Note7 has a Super AMOLED 2,560 x 1,440-pixel display (518ppi), and just like the S7 and S7 Edge, it's got always on functionality, so even when the screen is off, it will constantly display the time, battery charge level and any unread notifications. Samsung's display panels are the best around and the Note7's is no exception. The screen is super bright (800 nits) with plenty of contrast, deep blacks and vivid but not overly saturated colors.

The Note7 is also the first smartphone armed with a Mobile High Dynamic Range compatible display, which, when paired with Mobile HDR content, aims to provide users with a more cinema-like experience with brighter colors and deeper blacks.

Unfortunately, right now, Mobile HDR content is pretty limited and you can't just play HDR content made for TVs on the Note7 either. For now, your only option is Amazon's Video app (which is only available on the US Google Play store), which gives Amazon Prime members access to Amazon’s pretty limited selection of Mobile HDR content. Officially, there's no Mobile HDR content available locally, although Samsung says it's currently working towards making Mobile HDR content available in Singapore. 

 

Audio

Samsung doesn't spend much time talking about the audio on its smartphones and I have no idea why. Okay, the solitary speaker on the bottom of the phone isn't very exciting - it has a reasonable amount of volume, but it lacks depth and clarity, and the one-sided audio when you're watching content in landscape mode is bad, but who uses the speaker on their smartphone anyway, right? 

What's more interesting is the sound you get when you plug in some decent-quality headphones. First of all, the Note7 supports high-end FLAC files. Second of all, it has a dedicated DAC (it's the Lucky CS47L91 also found inside the S7 that was co-developed with Wolfson). Finally, delve deep into the audio settings and you'll find some really nice audio tweaks: UHQ audio upscaling, equalizer settings, and a surprisingly decent tube amp simulator. Sound quality with a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50's was excellent with rich, full audio, a wide soundstage and plenty of volume. I will say that the HTC 10's headphone audio is probably slightly better (its dedicated DAC is hard to beat), but the Note7 isn't far behind. 

Finally, a nice feature that's often overlooked on Samsung phones is Adapt Sound. It's an interesting tool that plays a series of beeps through your headphones to work out where your perceptible hearing range is, then customizes a sound profile for you. Give it a try, it really does work.

9.0
  • Design 9
  • Features 9.5
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8
The Good
Gorgeous symmetrical design
IP68 dust and water resistant
Fast and accurate iris scanner
Powerful productivity and creativity features with the S Pen
Excellent benchmark and imaging performance
Great battery life
The Bad
Pretty expensive
Most people will be fine with the S7 Edge
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