Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: the best and worst of smartphones


This is the best Smartphone Samsung has built for 20 years, and at the same time, the most problematic. The chances of you owning this device, the latest of one of the most successful smartphone series on the market, is limited because Samsung recalled it after there were reports of the battery pack exploding. Nevertheless, I had a chance to test the 5.66-inch phablet and discovered that, critical battery flaw aside, the Note 7 is an incredible handset. Learn all about it in our Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review.

Update: After replacements were slow rolling out, and some of those even had problems, Sprint is allowing its customers to replace their Note 7s with any other device in the store. Head down to our ‘release date and price’ section for the details.

Good

  • Best camera on the market
  • Unmatched design
  • High display quality
  • USB Type-C
  • Large internal storage capacity
  • S-Pen
  • Game Tool software
  • IP68 certification

Bad

  • Its battery explodes
  • Performance
  • Mono audio

Best Offer

$899.99

Newegg.com

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 release date and price

The Galaxy Note 7 was officially presented by Samsung on August 22 and the first units went on sale soon after. The Note 7 would be sold in black, gold and silver for around US $849 (depending on the carrier) for 64 GB of internal storage space.

Galaxy Note 7 Total Recall

Due to problems with the device battery causing some units to explode when charged, Samsung started the biggest recall the company has seen for the past 20 years.

A new date for the Note 7 to hit stores has not been set

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In the Note 7 box: headphones, USB Type-C cable, microUSB 2.0 adapter, a USB connector and adapter for fast charging and, of course, the S-Pen stylus. / © AndroidPIT

The recall has been conducted to protect consumersSamsung was putting lives at risk and could have been on the verge of receiving a huge number of lawsuits. Below are the developments in the story.

October 7: Carriers are taking action to ensure their customers don’t blame them for Samsung’s problems with the Note 7. T-Mobile lets its customers replace their Note 7s within 14 days of purchase. Now Sprint is allowing customers to exchange their Note 7s for any other device in the store.

Recode spoke to a Sprint representative who claimed “If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note 7 has any concerns regarding their device, we will exchange it for any other device at any Sprint retail store during the investigation window”.

We don’t yet have any word on what the other major carriers will offer but we’ll let you know as soon as there’s more information.

September 26: South Korean owners have already started receiving their replacements for the phablet but complaints have marred the re-release. According to the Wall Street Journal, the replacement Note 7s have been overheating and even losing battery power when they’re being charged. A Samsung spokesperson claimed that the incidents are “isolated” and “completely unrelated to batteries”.

About half of the 500,000 US replacement phones have already been sent out. We’ll see if there are further complaints as American owners continue to receive their new, hopefully normal phones.

September 29: The Galaxy Note 7 nightmare continues for the South Korean smartphone giant. It’s well into the exchange program that is supposed to end in October but now there are several reports of replacement devices overheating in the United States.

Samsung is aware of these problems and released the following statement today:

“There have been a few reports about the battery charging levels and we would like to reassure everyone that the issue does not pose a safety concern”. The company added that “In normal conditions, all smartphones may experience temperature fluctuations.”

If owners have issues with their replacements, they can get a second Note 7 replacement. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 design and build quality

The Galaxy Note 7 design is inspired by the Galaxy S7 Edge with some small optimizations. The result is a symmetrical design and it’s undoubtedly one of the nicest smartphones I’ve ever had in my hands. 

The symmetry of Note 7 can be seen on the sides. The metal frame has been tuned perfectly, curved to reach the display and to roll around to the back. At a glance, it might seem like an insignificant difference, but the change is felt when you have the device in hand. When you hold the new Galaxy Note, compared to the S7 Edge, the impression is that this is not a 5.7-inch device. It’s easy to hold in one hand.

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The back of the Galaxy Note 7 features Gorilla Glass 5. / © AndroidPIT

When comparing this model to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 5, we see even more changes, notably the curved screen and the fact that the Note 7 has more angular corners than the Note 5.

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The Note 7 design is based on the S7 Edge. / © AndroidPIT

At the front of Note 7, we have the iris scanner at the top of the screen and the start button, which also acts a fingerprint scanner, at the bottom.

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On the left side of the Note 7 are the volume buttons. / © AndroidPIT

On the bottom of the device to is the 3.5 mm minijack, stylus holder and the USB Type-C battery connector. This handset is almost as thick as the Galaxy S7 edge. To give you an idea of its size compared to the competition, the dimensions of the new iPhone 7 Plus are 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm, with a 5.5-inch screen, the Note 7 dimensions are 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm.

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The Galaxy Note 7 offers the possibility of memory expansion via microSD card. / © AndroidPIT

IP68 certification

The Galaxy Note 7 also offers the IP68 certification for resistance to water and dust, which extends to the S Pen. Thus, there are no longer any worries about accidentally dropping the stylus in water. This feature is extremely good for when you want to use the device with wet hands.

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Wetting the S-Pen is not a problem. / © AndroidPIT

The S-Pen

The S-Pen has also undergone improvements. The tip of it is thinner than before, which makes the experience of writing and drawing more fluid. Further, pressing the button on its side for a few seconds turns it into an eraser, meaning you can edit notes you’ve created without needing to activate this function on the phone itself.

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The Note 7 design is elegant. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 display

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 display uses Super AMOLED technology and comes in QHD (2566 x 1440) resolution. What makes it unique compared to other models in the series is its dual-edge design. 

It has vivid colors, deep blacks and super sharp images, everything we should expect from a Super AMOLED display from Samsung. Among the main screen features of the Note 7 is support for HDR10, a blue light filter to reduce eye-strain and Gorilla Glass 5 protection.

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The Super AMOLED screen Note 7 is super bright. / © AndroidPIT

HDR10 Support

The main novelty of the Galaxy Note 7 screen is that it’s ready to play videos and games in HDR. In theory, this function allows the display to reproduce colors and contrast in a more realistic way. The HDR10 feature of the Note 7 screen offers, as the name implies, a wider range of color.

The chance to produce a greater range of color reduces the likelihood of images losing quality when being shown on the Note 7 display. Below you can see a sample image which reveals the more harmonious distribution of gray on a 10-bit display.

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The difference between 8-bit and 10-bit standard in a gray gradient. / © CreativeCloudUser

Blue filter

Night mode is something that Android users have wanted for some time and it’s here on the Galaxy Note 7. Manufacturers like Asus and Apple house this feature on their smartphones and Android 7.0 Nougat offers this feature natively. Considering that the Galaxy Note 7 is pitched as a productivity tool, Samsung puts the blue light filter front and center in its notifications.

When enabled, this feature reduces the blue light emitted by the display as the day goes on which can help you to sleep better (it’s the blue-light that keeps us awake).

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Note 7 with its blue filter activated. / © AndroidPIT

Gorilla Glass 5

Corning, the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass, claims that, based on its tests, this material is almost twice as resistant to falls as its predecessor: protected against 80 percent of drops from a height of up to 1.60 meters.

The Galaxy Note 7 I tested wasn’t subject to such a drop test, so I can’t attest to the durability of it, however, during the time I was with the unit, I did not notice any scratches and never used any protection. What’s more, the device was often loose in my backpack or in my pocket.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 special features

Iris scanner

One of the most exciting features of the Galaxy Note 7 is the iris scanner. This scans your eyes to unlock the phone and it’s fast but it’s not as functional as the fingerprint reader of this smartphone.

The great advantage of using the iris scanner is safety. Each person has a unique iris pattern which remains unchanged throughout a person’s life, making it a great way to identify someone.

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The iris scanner is one of the main novelties of Note 7. / © AndroidPIT

USB Type-C

The Galaxy Note 7 comes with support for USB 3.1 Type-C, which enables the unit to charge faster and transfer data quicker than its predecessors. This standard isn’t widespread, so remember to take the cable and adapter everywhere.

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Samsung changed the standard USB port of the Note 7 to Type-C. / © AndroidPIT

S-Pen stylus

The Air Command menu goes hand-in-hand with the S Pen. This is the central software hub where you will access S-Pen specific features. Firstly, there is now a magnifying glass to enlarge content and you can use the S Pen to translate words and phrases.

This feature also integrates with the Note 7 camera, meaning it can be used to translate signs, menus or instructions.

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The Air Command menu. / © AndroidPIT

The most entertaining feature, however, is the ability to create GIFs from your videos or YouTube. Just highlight a sequence with the S Pen to convert it into a GIF.

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Editing content with the S Pen has severely improved. / © AndroidPIT

If you removed the S Pen with the screen off, you can also quickly write notes during a meeting or jot down an idea. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 software

The Galaxy Note 7 interface has been adapted from TouchWiz and is called Grace UX. In a direct comparison with TouchWiz on the S7, I can say that Grace is more mature and subtle.

The device leaves the factory running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and, although Samsung has not yet officially confirmed when the device will receive the update to Android 7.0 Nougat, T-Mobile says that it will receive the newest version of Google’s operating system.

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Despite the changes in style, Grace UX has kept much of what we know about TouchWiz. / © AndroidPIT

With the change in Note 7’s UI, some features became hard to find. During my tests, the “Smart Lock” menu repeatedly evaded me – I had to locate it using the search icon in the settings. Quick tip: use Smart Lock in conjunction with the biometric sensors (fingerprint or iris scanner) of Galaxy Note 7 to make your experience even better; you can make it so that you don’t need to unlock the screen when at home or at work.

Secure Box

If you want to protect your files from prying eyes, Samsung implemented a feature called Secure Box on the Note 7 that you can take advantage of. In it, you can store everything you want to keep private and the access it only by using a biometric sensor.

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Use your fingerprint to access your private data. / © AndroidPIT

Game Launcher

Game Launcher, a software feature for games Samsung introduced on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, is also present on the Note 7. This feature automatically adds your games to a specific folder and creates a floating button called the ‘Game Tool’ which can be used within these games. 

Using the Game Tool, you can record footage and share this with other users and disable the capacitive keys during play.

Edge screen

The ‘Screen Edge’ feature from the S6 Edge and S7 Edge is present in the Galaxy Note 7, allowing users to swipe to the right or left of the screen to access a list of services. This feature offers the user a shortcut to up to five favorite contacts and favorite websites.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 performance

The Galaxy Note 7 was announced with two processor variants, one with Snapdragon 820, the other with the Exynos 8890. The unit we tested made use of the Exynos and comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage which can be expanded up to 256 GB via microSD card.

During my time with the Note 7, one thing was clear, the device does not deliver the performance you would expect from the tech specs mentioned. Samsung should have followed in the footsteps of OnePlus and added 6 GB of RAM to the new Galaxy Note.

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Benchmarks: On the left, the result of AnTuTu; right, the result of GeekBench. / © AndroidPIT

Don’t get me wrong, the performance of Galaxy Note 7 is satisfactory, but an update to the Grace UI could transform the experience with this device into something very impressive. During a game of Nova 3, the system choked sometimes, the opposite of what happened when I played the same game on the OnePlus 3. 

In the Note 7 benchmark tests, I noticed virtually the same scores achieved in S7 Galaxy Edge but many of the devices that have been tested here at AndroidPIT that come wth a Snapdragon 820 show equivalent or better performance than the Exynos 8890.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 audio

The Galaxy Note 7 isn’t the best smartphone in terms of sound quality. Like the Galaxy S7 Edge, using the Note 7 to play Spotify at home or indoors isn’t a problem at 75 volume, but above that, depending on the style of music, the audio loses clarity.

This can be frustrating, especially because Samsung invested a lot in this device for productivity and entertainment. An HDR display should have been supported by stereo speakers. Another problem is the position of the speaker, which can easily be covered by a hand. 

The feeling I have is that Samsung improved the gaming experience by offering the floating Game Tools button and then forgot that audio is one of the most relevant parts of a game.

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The speaker of the Galaxy Note 7 is almost the same as the Galaxy S7 Edge. / © AndroidPIT

However, when using the device with earphones, things change. Just like the Galaxy Note 5, Samsung brings a native software audio equalizer, which can be used to optimize the sound regardless of the app, Don’t expect miracles, the audio can be improved by using this feature, but the change isn’t really significant from one configuration to another.

The Galaxy Note 7 comes with headphones but you won’t be blown away by them.

Making calls

The device speaker for calls is really good and the microphone captures the voice while leaving ambient noise behind. The call reception is clear no matter which side of the conversation you’re on. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery

We have evaluated the Note 7 battery based on our experience with the original review unit i.e. the model that has now been recalled. We will update this analysis when we receive the new and improved Galaxy Note 7 sometime in the future.

The Galaxy Note 7 has a 3,500 mAh battery which means 100 mAh less than the Galaxy S7 Edge. However, it is a step forward for the series, as the Note 5 came with 3,000 mAh battery. During my tests, the device displayed battery life as you would expect for a smartphone with such power.

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In our tests, the Galaxy Note 7 battery was strong. / © AndroidPIT

The Galaxy Note 7 battery behaved very well. I used the device connected to Wi-Fi most of the time, watched videos and played at least two games per day. In addition, I used Chrome to access the internet and applications such as Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Spotify and use the screen with automatic brightness activated.

Power saving mode

The new Samsung device comes with two power-saving modes: Normal and Maximum. The first limits the use of mobile data in the background, reduces processor speed and decreases the screen resolution.

The second is much more aggressive and dramatically reduces what is possible with your phone. Furthermore, Samsung optimized energy consumption during games in order to save energy. When you start the Game Launcher app, for example, you have the option to save battery during games.

Fast Charging

The Galaxy Note 7 brings fast charging technology and also wireless charging technology. When I charged the device from 0 percent, it took only 80 minutes to reach 80 percent.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 technical specifications

    • Dimensions:
    • 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm
    • Display technology:
    • AMOLED
    • Screen:
    • 2560 x 1440 pixels (515 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 5 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 12 megapixels
    • Android version:
    • 6.0 – Marshmallow
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Samsung Exynos 8890
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2.3 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

Final verdict

The Galaxy Note 7 has a great design, display and camera. What’s more, the software is good and the battery can last all day. Despite the high price, the Galaxy Note 7 would be a complete package if it wasn’t for the battery problems.

The iPhone 7 Plus, announced last week, is a major competitor of the Note 7 and will in all likelihood be available before Samsung puts the Note 7 back on store shelves. Looking from this angle, the South Korean manufacturer will no doubt have to reduce the price of the new Note to quash further losses – and that’s good for consumers.

Design and build quality 10
Screen 10
Software 7
Performance 7
Camera 10
Battery (the ones that don’t explode) 8
Connectivity 10
Price 7

The Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best, if not the best, smartphone that I’ve ever tested and I’m considering it as my next phone. The exploding battery situation might be terrible for Samsung, but if it resolves the issue and drops the Note 7 price, it could make the Note 7 an even more attractive purchase option when it reappears.

What are your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Let us know in the comments. 

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