It’s still a great flagship, but it’s beset by better competition
We all know about Samsung’s very public troubles with its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones last year. After a high-profile launch, manufacturing defects in its battery led several devices to explode, even after the company recalled and re-issued the new device. But with millions of unused parts of the phone just lying around waiting to be disposed, Samsung had to do something with the components that they’ve already paid millions for.
Enter the Galaxy Note FE or Fan Edition, which is a Galaxy Note 7 that has a smaller battery and that’s gone through Samsung’s new battery check program. It’s been on sale in the company’s home country since the middle of the year, and finally arrived in our country a few weeks ago. We’ve been using the phone for quite a bit now, and since it’s literally the same phone from last year with a battery swap, we highly recommend you reading our first review of the Note 7 before you go any further.
How does the Galaxy Note FE hold up a year after? Well, it’s still a pretty great flagship. We fell in love with the phone last year before it was taken off the shelves, and it’s still the same delightful experience a year later. Samsung’s Exynos 8890 processor still holds up pretty well despite being a year old. Samsung’s updated the OS of the Galaxy Note FE to Nougat and put in their Bixby AI effort into it to put it at par with their other flagships.
The phone feels nice to hold, and we can’t believe how much we’ve missed the physical home button/fingerprint scanner on Samsung flagships. The placement of the scanner on both the S8 and Note 8 is pretty terrible to be honest.
The biggest change in the FE is the battery. Samsung’s downgraded the 3500mAh of the original to just 3200mAh in the FE. Aside from being physically smaller, the battery has also been subjected to Samsung’s rigorous battery testing. And since the battery is smaller, the Note FE achieves lower overall run times in PCMark battery benchmark as well as with actual use. You’ll struggle to reach the end of the day with the battery if you’re a heavy user, but if you manage your use you’ll have a little left over at the end of the day.
The biggest question is: should you buy the Galaxy Note FE. If the phone existed in a vacuum, sure – it’s still a great device a year on, and the reduced battery doesn’t hamper its endurance that much. Unfortunately, the Note FE doesn’t exist in a vacuum – since the Galaxy Note 7 was yanked off the shelves, 18:9 displays and dual-cameras have become the rule rather than the exception. With phones like the Huawei Mate 10 sitting roughly at the same price point, it’s difficult to recommend a year-old flagship when faced with this kind of competition.