It sounds counter-intuitive to say this, but if you’ve been eyeing Samsung’s newest phablet, the Galaxy Note 7, you don’t even need to read to the end of the review. Close this page, troop on over to Samsung or the telco of your choice, and place your order. For people who still need convincing you can still continue reading to the end, though most of the things we’ll be saying only reinforce what we’ve come to believe handling the newest iteration of the original big screen phone for the past week or so – this is the best phablet Samsung has ever made.
Samsung Galaxy Note7
- 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 octa-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display, 2560 x 1440 resolution
- 64GB of storage (UFS 2.0), expandable via 256
- 12-megapixel rear camera, OIS, f/1.7 aperture, 4K video capture
- 5-megapixel front camera, f/1.7 aperture
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner, Iris scanner, USB Type C, IP68 Water resistance, S-Pen
- 3,500mAh battery, fast charging via USB Type-C
- Php 39,990
A big phone that feels small
We’re big fans of phablets – bigger screens means more real estate to watch movies on, play games in and read articles with. But big phones are unwieldy, hard to use for people with normal-sized hands and annoyingly difficult to wrestle one handed. You only have to read our review of Samsung’s 6-inch Galaxy A9 Pro to see just how awkward a phablet is to use, though people prefer them over phones with more manageable screens because in truth, the pros outweigh the cons.
None of that apply to the Galaxy Note 7. Once you pick it up, it becomes quickly apparent how easy it is to use. It’s still not a 5-inch phone, mind you – you still can’t reach the entirety of the display, but it doesn’t feel like it has a 5.7-inch display either. We gave Samsung flak for reusing many of the same design cues of the Galaxy S7 Edge in the Note 7, namely the curved back and edge-to-edge display, but in hindsight we should’ve cut them some slack.
The phone feels extremely easy to hold and use, and overall width is just 73.9mm or 2.9 inches. To put that in perspective, Samsung’s A9 Pro that has a screen that’s only .3-inches bigger has an overall width of 80.9mm or 3.2 inches. It’s amazing how a curved screen and good design can make a big phone feel small.
Samsung’s always seen as the gold standard for phones in terms of build quality and material design, and the Note 7 is no different. The phone sports a new aluminum glass frame that uses AL 7000 aluminum and is IP68 rated just like the S7 and S7 Edge. The volume rocker is on the left while the power buttom is on the right. The hybrid SIM slot/microSD tray is located on the top of the phone, while the 3.5mm jack, USB Type-C port, speaker grille and stylus holster are all on the bottom.
Since we’re on the stylus, Samsung’s made the writing implement on the Note 7 better than ever. It’s been slightly redesigned compared to last year’s model, and now has a smaller sized tip which now measures 0.7mm thick. The pressure sensitivity has been amped up as well, and overall latency has dropped to just 50ms making it easier to write and doodle. Also, you can’t put it in backwards anymore no matter how hard you try.
Flipping the phone over will reveal the 12-megapixel rear camera with OIS, f/1.7 aperture lens with 4K video capture capability, as well as the LED flash and the heartbeat sensor. If the specs of the rear camera on the Note 7 sound familiar, it’s because Samsung has chosen to reuse the same 12-megapixel DualPixel toting shooter that was on the S7 and S7 Edge. Samsung reps said that they tweaked the camera software on the Note 7, but overall the imaging capabilities of the Note 7 should be roughly equal to their earlier flagships.
Moving back to the front of the phone, you’ll notice the still gorgeous looking 5.7-inch QHD edge-to-edge display. Below that you’ll see the capacitive home button that pulls double duty as the fingerprint scanner as well as the two physical Android navigation keys beside it.
What’s really interesting on the front of the phone is located right above the display. You’ll see the earpiece, the front-facing 5-megapixel camera with f/1.7 aperture, an LED notification light, an LED that shoots near-infrared light and a second front facing camera that reads your iris.
That camera allows the phone to unlock by just reading your eyes. This is one of the highlight features of the Note 7, and while iris scanners have showed up on phones before, they’ve never been as easy to use as Samsung’s offering. Setting it up is quite literally faster than setting up the fingerprint scanner and takes all of two minutes from start to finish and it works reasonably well. The scanner works even in the dark, through glasses and contacts though it won’t work if you have sunglasses on. There are limitations though – you have to be a certain distance away from the camera (10 – 14 inches) and you have to look at the cameras for it to work properly. It feels a little odd to do it the first few times but after you get the hang of it, you’ll probably be unlocking your phone that way most of the time.
Is the iris scanner a gimmick? Yes and no – a fingerprint scanner is certainly a more convenient way to lock your phone though there have been instances where fingerprint readers have been spoofed. It’s probably overkill for most people, but for people who are paranoid and want to keep prying eyes away from the contents of their phone, then the tech is more than welcome.
Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels are the defacto benchmark for displays nowadays (at least in our opinion) and the one in the Note 7 doesn’t disappoint. Deep, rich blacks and vibrant colors are the norm, and the screen can get as bright (no worries about daylight legibility here) or as dark as you want without any issues.
Nothing new on the hardware front, but that’s not a bad thing
Samsung has chosen to resuse the same Exynos 8890 octa-core processor on the S7 and S7 Edge on the Galaxy Note 7. RAM is identical too at 4GB, though the Note 7 gets 64GB of storage plus a microSD expansion slot if the user needs more space. While we were a little bummed out to learn that the Note 7 still uses the same processor as Samsung’s current crop of flagships, it made sense, in a way – Exynos 8890 is still plenty fast, and really the 4GB of RAM is more than enough for most people. Sure we would have loved 6GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 821 chip in there, but that would probably just drive up the price in an already premium phone.
Overall the phone feels fast and extremely fluid, with zero lag whatsoever, which is what you’d expect from a top-tier device.
A Note isn’t a Note without the S-Pen, and to that end Samsung’s made several changes to how the pen works. You’re now able to take notes straight on the lockscreen and then pin it there for quick notes and to-do’s. Samsung’s taken away the multiple drawing apps for the pen and consolidated it into just one. There’s even a nifty GIF feature that allows you to make GIFs straight from the phone’s screen and upload them. Oh, and the pen works even if the display is wet, useful for…wet drawing parties, we guess?
The Note 7 runs on Android Marshmallow, layered with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. If you’ve been living under a rock for a past few months, you might not know that Samsung’s taken quite a bit of fat from TouchWiz, leaving a leaner UI that’s easier to live with. We’d love stock Android of course, but until Samsung outs a Google Play version of the Note 7 (not likely) then you’ll just have to live with TouchWiz. One nice feature with the Note 7 is the ability to use the Secure Folder – a place to store apps, files and other things you don’t want other people to see under virtual lock and key. To open it, you’ll have to use either your PIN, fingerprint or the iris scanner.
Moving on to the rest of the phone: the lone speaker is good and gets fairly loud though it suffers from a bit of distortion at higher volumes just like any other speaker its size. Call quality is excellent, with voices coming in clear and crisp. GPS and LTE performance is spot on.
The best camera in a phone today
Like we mentioned earlier, the Note 7 uses the same camera that’s on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. While that may sound disappointing for a brand-new flagship, it’s actually a good move, considering the camera on those two flagships is THE best we’ve ever seen in a mobile device.
Samsung’s tweaked the software for the camera, making it easier than ever to take photos. If you want the full low-down on the camera, you can check out our review on the S7 here.
All-day battery life
The Galaxy Note 7 might have a smaller battery compared to the slightly smaller S7 Edge but it can still go the distance in normal use. PCMark’s battery benchmark put it at 8 hours and 43 minutes, which translates to a whole day’s worth of battery if you manage it right.
Verdict: The best phablet Samsung’s ever made
Like we said at the beginning of the article, the Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best phones, if not the best phone, that’s available right now. Sammy has been refining the phablet concept ever since they launched the original note years ago, and the Note 7 is the result of that effort. While there’s certainly a lot more high-specc’d phones available in the market right now that’s cheaper, they don’t look or feel quite like the Galaxy Note 7.
The Galaxy Note 7 is priced at Php 39,990.