Samsung Galaxy Note7
Samsung’s range of Galaxy Note phones has a reputation for being stylish, well built and containing the latest technology. The Note7 is the latest addition to the line-up.
As you can see from our photos, the Note7 retains the look of other models of Note smartphone but adds the style of the Galaxy S7. In particular, the S7 edge, which also has a dual-edge curved screen.
What we are particularly impressed with is that despite the screen size remaining at 5.7in, the Note7 doesn’t feel like a phablet. Indeed, despite being slightly bigger than the S7 edge, we found it more manageable to use.
This slab of metal and glass looks and feels great, although be wary of the rear cover. We found that the glass meant the Note7 slid out of our pockets when sitting down.
Build quality is up to Samsung’s usual high standards. The phone is available in a range of colours including Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium, Black Onyx and Blue Coral. The latter is an eye-catching combination of blue and gold as you can see here.
The Note7 is the first in the range to be waterproof, matching up to the S7 in more than just looks. According to Samsung, it can be submerged in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes thanks to its IP68 rating. There’s no need to fiddle with port covers or even make sure the S Pen (which is also water resistant) is in the slot either. This is even more impressive considering the stylus is stored inside the phone.
We do, however, have one minor issue with the design – a small groove between the glass and metal at the top of the screen collects dust and dirt. This is not a big deal, though.
Optional accessories include a lens cover, waterproof battery cover and a new GearVR headset, which we’ll be looking at in a future issue.
Display Sticking to tradition, the Galaxy Note7 has a 5.7in screen, so users of previous Note phones will feel right at home. Despite rumours of a 4- or even 6K resolution, Samsung has sensibly stuck to QuadHD (2560x1440, 518ppi), which can also be found on its S7 handsets.
It’s a gorgeous display, using the firm’s favoured SuperAMOLED technology, with the bonus of the dual edge. It works in the same way as the S7 edge, so there’s a subtle curve on either side.
This can be used, for example, to quickly access your favourite contacts or apps – we’ll talk more about it in the software section. Samsung has also brought over its ‘always on’ screen feature (which is optional). This means even when you turn the display off, it will show you some information, such as the time and some notifications.
The Note7 is also ‘mobile HDR-compatible’, so like recent televisions, it offers better contrast and detail. You won’t be able to use this will all content, but in our tests watching Amazon Prime Video, we couldn’t see any difference. Images still looks great, though.
Performance Bringing the Note range up to speed, quite literally, the Note7 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 chip, which the company also uses in the Galaxy S7. The phone also has 4GB of RAM.
While benchmark results are high, see opposite, the phone isn’t as good when it comes to real-world use. During our testing we found
The Galaxy Note7 has a gorgeous display, using the firm’s favoured SuperAMOLED technology, with the bonus of the dual edge
that it occasionally exhibited small amounts of lag and jerkiness in general use. This would be when we, for example, opened an app or switched between apps. It’s by no means a huge problem – it’s silky smooth the vast majority of the time – but at this price, you expect flawless performance.
Storage The Note7 comes with 64GB as standard and retains the microSD card slot for adding up to 256GB more. We think this is a good move on Samsung’s part as users complained about their omission from the Note5 and Galaxy S6. Connectivity and sensors Samsung has decided to finally employ USB-C (see below). The Note7 also has fast wireless charging (WMA and PMC), 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, a heartrate sensor, fingerprint scanner and the rumoured iris scanner, which we look at later. The only thing missing, which Samsung has dropped after using it in its other phones, is an infrared port. This allows a handset to be used as a remote control, though its omission isn’t a big deal.
USB-C and battery life It was something of a shock that Samsung didn’t make the switch to USB-C on its Galaxy S7 phones, but it has now done so with the Note7. The port is reversible, making it easier to plug in, but it also offers faster charging and, in theory, data transfer rates faster than USB 3.0.
In our charging test, using the supplied ‘Adaptive Fast Charging’ adaptor, we the Note7 took one hour 15 minutes to go from 0- to 100 percent. That’s not bad considering the large 3500mAh capacity.
In our real-world test, the Note7’s battery life is reasonable, though not as impressive as we would have desired from a 3500mAh battery. With a ‘normal’ and varied usage, we found that after 24 hours, the Note7 has less than 15 percent juice left.
The only downside for some is the fact that it’s non-removable, so don’t throw away that power bank if you have one.
Iris scanner One feature that’s new to the Note7 is the iris scanner, which uses both the front camera and an LED sensor to check whether your eyes are in fact yours. It works in a similar way to Windows Hello, which we’ve seen on Lumia 950 phones. It’s easy to set up, but not so much when it comes to actually using it.
During testing we had two main issues with the iris scanner. The first is that you have to wake the screen and swipe on the lockscreen to activate it, which is too many steps considering how easy it is to touch the fingerprint scanner instead.
The other is that it’s quite flaky. When setting it up, you’re presented with a huge list of warnings and caveats about not using it too close to your face, wearing glasses, lighting conditions and the like. During testing, we found that it struggled both indoors and outside in strong sunlight.
When it works it’s fast, but the Note7, more often than not, tells you to, for example, hold the phone higher or open your eyes fully – you end up pulling faces at the device while looking like you’re hunting for cellular signal.
S Pen stylus The Note7 wouldn’t be a Galaxy Note phone without the S Pen stylus which, as usual, slots into the phone on the bottom. It works in the same way as previously and can be used to both replace your finger as an
In our real-world test, the Note7’s battery life is reasonable, though not as impressive as we would have desired from a 3500mAh battery
input device for navigation but also note taking, and so on. It has a new 0.7mm tip, the previously mentioned water resistance and the Air Command menu now has a new additions, which we’ll talk about in the software section opposite. It’s also waterproof, so you can use it when the screen is wet
The Note7 follows in the footsteps of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 phones, with a 12Mp camera (down from 16Mp but that doesn’t mean it’s worse). It’s a Dual Pixel camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), a very impressive f/1.7 aperture and 1.4μm pixels.
Like its S7 brothers, the camera will shoot in auto-mode by default with a 4:3 aspect ratio. You’ll need to drop to 9.1Mp in order to get 16:9 and there are lots of different modes to play with including Pro, Selective focus and Virtual shot.
You can launch the camera quickly with a double-tap of the home button (even when the screen is off), which is handy, and the Note7 is able to focus and take multiple photos quickly – after all, no one wants to wait around before being able to take a second shot.
Don’t worry if the Pro mode is unsettling because you’ll get fantastic photos from the Note7 without changing a thing. Like the S7, it offers excellent levels of detail and colour. It can cope well with a wide range of situations and weather conditions.
The video mode shoots in Full HD if you don’t head into the settings and change it, but it’s capable of recording in up to UHD 4K (3840x2560), which is worth trying out, although that will fill your storage up much quicker. You also get modes such as Slow motion (720p), Hyperlapse (1080p), Video collage and Live broadcast.
The front camera remains the same at 5Mp, with features such as an f/1.7 aperture, wide-angle 22mm lens and the ability to record 1440p video. As with the S7, it’s a great choice for selfies, offering good quality, easily fitting a few people into the frame and the ability to use the heart-rate monitor as a trigger.
It comes as no surprise that the Galaxy Note7 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow preinstalled, though it’s not Samsung’s own TouchWiz user interface. Instead, it’s a new skin called Grace UX, a redesigned version of TouchWiz. We assume that it will get an upgrade to the upcoming Android 7.0 Nougat, but at the time of writing we haven’t received official confirmation.
Long gone are the days when TouchWiz was crude, complicated and generally over the top. Nowadays, the user interface is much cleaner and closer to stock Android, though with useful additions presented in an easier way to handle. Grace UX has subtle differences such as softer colours in the icons all add up.
Some elements look very different, such as the drop-down menu (including quick actions) and the settings menu. We’re not so keen on the latter as you can’t scroll horizontally through the icons – instead you have five and can then
pull down to reveal more. You can organise it to you liking, though it’s more awkward than before.
Other parts of the interface remain the same, such as the upday news feed (swipe right from the main home screen) and the recent apps menu.
As you would expect, you get all the features found on the Galaxy S7, including Multi-Window, the ability to run two apps side-by-side, Pop-up view, which lets you run some apps in a smaller window, plus other options such as smart capture, direct call and smart stay.
The larger screen works particularly well for features such as Multi-Window and some users may find themselves reaching for a tablet a lot less because of the Note7. As we’ve touched upon before, we’re also impressed with the dual edge display, which can be used, for example, to quickly access favourite contacts, apps and tools with different panels. You can also use feeds to get information such as your step count and notifications – these scroll along the side – and lighting means you know who’s calling when the phone is face down.
The Air Command menu gives you plenty of options, but bear in mind that you can use the S Pen to navigate if you prefer. It’s great when you need to be precise (spreadsheets and the like) or you don’t want to get the screen grubby with your fingerprints. New features include the ability to create gifs and translate language.
The phone comes with the Game Launcher that was introduced on the S7. Preinstalled apps include Samsung’s own as well as Microsoft offerings of Word and Skype.
The Galaxy Note7 is an impressive smartphone from Samsung, bringing the design and curved screen from the S7 edge and adding features such as waterproofing and improvements to the S Pen stylus. It’s not all rosy though, as the price is sky high, the iris scanner isn’t very usable and the performance isn’t as smooth as we’d hoped. Look to the S7 edge if you’re not fussed about the S Pen.