Phone Reviews : Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Update: Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The Galaxy Note 7 has the same CPU and GPU as the six-month old Samsung Galaxy S7, but that's no bad thing. The 4GB LPDDR4 RAM and Exynos 8890 CPU is a potent combination that can handle intensive and day-to-day tasks with ease. During my synthetic benchmarks, the Note 7 scored a respectable 2,118 in the single-core Geekbench 3 test and 5,924 in the multi-core version. That’s pretty much on par with all the flagship phones I've reviewed this year. The Note's 129,729 score in Antutu 6 is also almost exactly the same as the Galaxy S7 Edge's. Its 2,139 3DMark Sling Shot score confirmed its solid graphics performance. Galaxy phones of old were packed with high-end components, but still lagged due to software issues. Luckily Samsung's fixed the problems on the Note 7. Apps open instantly on the Note 7 and there’s no slow animations or janky scrolling.
Best doesn’t come cheap. Like the pricey iPhone 6S Plus, the Note 7 is priced around $850 (price varies from vendor to vendor). That’s going to stop a lot of consumers in their tracks. You’re going to have to have a burning need for a big phone with pen input to spend that kind of money.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: DESIGN
Apple’s iPhone monopolized the talk about smartphone design for nearly a decade. But in the past year and a half, Samsung’s design department has made dramatic leaps and bounds, cranking out beautiful, functional designs and rapidly iterating on them. Where Apple has been content with a two-year hardware design cycle (and by all accounts, it appears to be moving to an even slower three-year cycle), Samsung has improved and updated its designs on a rapid-fire, six-month basis. Since last year’s Galaxy S6 design revitalization, Samsung has iterated three times on its formula and the Note 7 is the finest design Samsung has ever produced.
The Note 7’s combination of metal and glass, symmetrical sides, and rounded corners make it the nicest-looking phone I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s just a beautiful piece of gadgetry. But the design isn’t just for aesthetics: it’s all in service to that big screen and making sure that the compromises that come with a large display are minimized. The Note 7’s design is remarkably functional, giving the Note 7 a normal phone feel, even though it has a massive display.
Part of that is because the Note 7 is actually smaller than any other phone in this class. It’s 4.7mm shorter and 4mm narrower than the iPhone 6S Plus, 5.8mm shorter and 3.9mm narrower than the Nexus 6P, and 2.2mm narrower than last year’s already trim Note 5. The Note 7’s dimensions make it easier to handle, easier to slip into a pocket, and generally nicer to use than any other phone with a big screen.
The curved sides of the display don’t scream "look at me" quite as much as the S7 Edge’s dramatic bends. They have a subtle curve that provides flatter display area and distorts the image on the screen less, yet still manages to make the Note 7 narrower than if it had a fully flat display. The Note 7’s rear glass panel mirrors the front curves exactly, giving the phone its visual symmetry and comfortable feel.
These qualities of efficient design and premium materials are found on the S7 Edge too, but the Note 7 has been refined even further, with softer edges, cleaner lines, and a nicer feel in my hand. Just five months ago, I said that the S7 Edge was the most impressive smartphone hardware I’d ever held, and now Samsung has trumped itself with the Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: PERFORMANCE
The same sentiment can just barely be used with the processing power and overall performance experience, too. Users familiar with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge know what to expect here – the Snapdragon 820 with the Adreno 530 and 4GB of RAM. It is worthy of note that the Exynos 8890 edition of the phone will also be produced but it won’t be the version made readily available to users in the West.
It’s not hard to merit the Snapdragon 820, one of the most abundantly available SoC packages found today, because it has proven itself as a reliable and good performing processor. The same can be said for the Adreno 530, which has been able to render and play MOBIUS Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IX with the best of them.
Where we find a little bit of a fleeting desire is in the amount of RAM installed. 4GB of RAM will not make the majority of users feel like they are lacking, but some users have already lamented that the Galaxy simply does not have good RAM management.
Even if that were not the case, we’re dealing with one of the most feature-heavy devices on the market, the Note – this is a phone that takes on all of the already existing demands of smartphone users and adds a myriad of capabilities in the form of the S Pen and its software. While we don’t think that there is a huge hurting for higher RAM capacities like the nice 6GB found in the OnePlus 3, we also can’t help but think that perhaps an amount like that could have been the inch that feels like a mile.
We didn’t have these feelings often, as slowdowns were still rather far and few between. Still, that little bit of forward thinking could have made a huge difference. For the vast majority of the time, the Note 7 will perform just as well as any other Snapdragon 820 powered device, even with the laundry list of features that Samsung puts into their software – which we will explore soon.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: CAMERA
Camera performance on the Note 7 is identical to the S7 and S7 Edge. All three devices share the same optically stabilized 12-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It's the best camera phone experience you can get right now, capable of quickly taking sharp, well-exposed shots both indoors and out. Colors look rich and accurate, and there's little blur or noise in most photos. It also manages well in low-light settings, minimizing grain and capturing more detail than the iPhone 6s Plus. 4K video recording at 30 frames per second is clear and stable, as is 1080p recording at 60fps. The front camera is also solid, taking clear shots with accurate details and minimal noise.
There are some minor changes to the camera app. The settings and modes are more hidden, and some icons look a little different, but functionality remains the same. Swiping up now switches between the rear and front sensors. The Note 7 still includes the same modes you'll find on the S7 and S7 Edge, as well as manual (Pro) controls that let you tweak white balance, shutter speed, and autofocus.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7: BATTERY
- 3,500mAh battery capacity is 17% bigger vs Note 5
- Lasted a day-and-a-half with normal use
- The best battery life menu we've seen offers estimates, power saving tweaks
Samsung is really smart about the Galaxy Note 7 battery life, and that's good news because the capacity is actually smaller than that S7 Edge. Fitting that stylus into the phone cost it 100mAh.
But you won't really notice the difference between the new Note's 3,500mAh and S7 Edge's 3,600mAh. In fact, you're more than likely going to observe a big gain compared to the Note 5 and Note 4 if you're upgrading within the Note series. This one doesn't just go all day, it's more like a day and a half. Welcome to 2016 on most Androids.
During our real-life battery life tests, we found that the Note 7 went just shy of a day and a half with steady, normal usage (reading and sending messages, browsing the web, playing music and a few uses of the GPS for Google Maps). The S7 Edge mustered about two hours more. The always-on display was on because it's a great feature we don't want to live without, but be warned, our phone lost 8% of a 100% battery overnight. That adds up in a 24-hour span.
Tests proved that Samsung's 2016 smartphone batteries are about even in longevity. Running the same 90-minute video loop, the Note 7 lost 12% of a full battery, while the S7 and S7 Edge in the US dropped 14% and 16% respectively at launch in March (meaning when we had a fresh battery out of the box, not four months into a weaker battery).
Helping the Note 7 eke out a win are really deep battery life settings. The new battery menu gives you an bold estimate of how much time is left before you scramble for a charger and offers ways to length than time. There's a Power Saving mode that can be set to Off, Mid or Max, and, best of all, the menu reveals totals on how much extra time each mode will earn you. Tapping them also tells you the changes made to the phone (limiting the max brightness, changing the resolution to Full HD or HD).
The are a bunch of neat tricks that really make this battery life sustainable. Yes, the battery is nonremovable now, just like it was on the Note 5, but it's a significant change from when the S6 and S6 Edge debuted with non-removable batteries and were dead before the day was through. It's worth giving this one a chance if that's your one and only gripe.
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