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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Packed with cool features
  • Super-accurate S Pen
  • S7's camera tech

The Bad

  • Battery life could be better
  • Pricey
5

Update – 11/10/16: Samsung has halted global sales of the Galaxy Note 7 following the discovery of a hardware defect causing devices to catch fire. This review was written prior to the discovery of said defect and the opinions expressed, along with the score in this article do not take into account the subsequent danger this device now poses. We do not recommend that you purchase or use a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 until such time as Samsung is 100 per cent certain that it has rectified any defects within the device. No other Samsung phones are affected by this defect. Find out more here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Samsung’s shiny new 5.7-inch phablet bolsters the old (including several features pinched from the Galaxy S7) with the new (such as a funky iris scanner), and the result is quite brilliant. Here’s our full in-depth Galaxy Note 7 review.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note range has evolved a lot from the original 5.3-inch phablet which emerged back in 2011, and as you’d probably expect, the Note 7 is its best incarnation so far.

At heart the Note 7 is still the same premium handset, aimed at creative and on-the-go business users. The excellent S Pen stylus of course makes a welcome return, offering incredibly precise input for sketching, doodling and editing documents. But the Note 7 is far from a lazy update, boasting dozens of cool new features such as Samsung’s funky iris scanner.

With this premium tech comes a premium price, pushing the new 2016 Note well into iPhone 6s Plus territory. So is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 worth that mammoth monthly contract? Here’s our in-depth review after using the phone as our full-time handset.

Read next: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6s Plus, big phones face-off

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Design

Earlier this year, Samsung birthed one of the sexiest smartphones of 2016 in the Galaxy S7 Edge. Seemingly unwilling to screw about with a winning design, Samsung’s latest phone sports a very similar look and feel – and we’ve got no problem with that whatsoever.

The Note 7 might sport a pretty bloody big 5.7-inch display, but Samsung’s smart design work means the handset is less bulky than most rivals. That screen stretches edge to edge and the narrow build makes it comfortable to clutch. Likewise, the curvy finish isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. Those rounded edges give a pleasing fit to the palm.

That said, using the Note 7 with just one hand is still a tricky challenge, and the last thing you want to do is fumble and drop your shiny new £700 smartphone. It’s a surprisingly hardy beast and resistant to scratches, but probably best not to test it with an impromptu descent onto concrete as you attempt to type out an email.

Thankfully Samsung is all too aware of this usability issue and has combated it with some handy features for one-handed operation. Check out our Note 7 tips and tricks guide to learn more.

The Note 7 might be a tough wee bugger, but it’s also an absolute dust magnet. That glossy rear attracts grime and fingerprint marks like a Greggs shop attracts chubby chavs. It’s only really obvious in certain light and even then dependent on which colour you’ve sprung for, but you’ll want to buff it regularly to keep it looking sharp.

Or you could even dip it in the sink to clean it up, as the Note 7 is fully water resistant just like the S7.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Screen and media

Like the Galaxy S7 Edge before it, the Note 7 boasts a beautiful edge-to-edge screen that’s as vibrant as it is spacious.

You won’t find many phones packing a bigger panel, and that 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen is built for movies as well as creative apps. Support for HDR video playback and punchy colour reproduction makes for truly impressive visuals, boasting strong contrast levels and faultless viewing angles.

Brightness isn’t an issue either, while a new Blue Filter mode mimics Apple’s Night Shift mode for comfortable evening viewing.

The only (minor) beef I have with the Note 7’s screen is the odd responsiveness issue. The way that the panel wraps around the edges of the handset definitely looks great, but it means that the skin of your palm occasionally strays onto the surface. Thankfully it’s just a case of learning the best way to grip the phone.

As for audio, the Note 7 can belt out some impressive-sounding music on top volume. You get some decent and comfortable earphones bundled with the mobile too, which at the very least will do the job as a backup pair.

A mighty 64GB of storage space is packed inside the Note and you can expand with a microSD card too.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: S Pen

The Note 7 might be one hell of a media machine, but the main draw of this handset is undoubtedly that S Pen.

Samsung’s stylus is now pretty much perfect in every way. You pop it free with a quick push, which springs it out of the handy orifice, and doing so automatically pings the apps wheel up on screen. You can also bring up the wheel with a push of the stylus’ button, positioned where your thumb naturally lies – and the button doubles as a back button too, which comes in handy.

The S Pen’s slender, light design means it’s easy to grip and makes for comfortable handling, even over extended periods. It’s still stunningly responsive, accurately measuring the weight of your pen strokes, but even more impressive is how well the stylus works when the Note 7 is dripping wet. A damp screen doesn’t throw off the pen at all, so you can still sketch even in the middle of a rainstorm.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Features and security

If you have any kind of artistic talent or you need to scribble notes on documents on your travels, the S Pen will be your perfect accessory. However, the Note 7 is smarter than a simple doodle machine. The new Translate feature, for instance, can decipher pretty much any foreign word that you aim the Notes camera at. And you also get the same cool features that we enjoyed on the S7, such as the Game Launcher tool to record your gaming sessions and prevent disturbances.

Check out our tips and tricks guide for a run-down of some of the best features tucked away inside the Note 7.

We might have seen many of these features earlier in 2016, but the Note 7 has one other cool trick up its shiny sleeve – namely the iris scanner, a unique security measure that works very well indeed. I still found myself using the fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone nine times out of ten, but the iris scanner is ideal when your hands are wet, dirty or covered up. Check out our in-depth Note 7 iris scanner review for our full verdict and FAQs.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Performance and battery life

Of course, all of these great features wouldn’t be worth a fart in a Jacuzzi if the Note 7 ran like a one-legged tortoise. But thankfully Samsung has stuffed a powerful Snapdragon 820 or Exynos processor (delete according to your region) into the phone, along with 4GB of RAM.

As a result, the Galaxy Note 7 is just as capable as that other super-powered Android handset, the OnePlus 3, as well as the iPhone 6s Plus. Apps open in a flash and the latest games play with a perfect frame rate. The only time we saw any slowdown was when using two apps side-by-side, which occasionally causes a little stutter.

A mighty 3500mAh battery is also crammed into the Note 7’s sizable frame and battery life on the whole is respectable. When the phone isn’t in use, battery power barely drains at all. However, once you start streaming media and snapping away with the camera, the Note 7 will last just over a day before it needs a recharge.

While not as strong as rivals such as the P9 Plus, the Note 7 shouldn’t let you down when you’re out and about. Especially as Samsung has added plenty of bonus battery saving features – check out our guide to extending the Note 7’s life for our in-depth coverage.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Cameras

Another feature borrowed from the Galaxy S7 is its rather splendid camera tech.

So far in 2016 the Galaxy S7 has impressed us more than any other phone when it comes to snapping photos and shooting video, with that 12-megapixel camera excelling in almost any conditions. Low light performance is particularly strong compared with rivals. You can also shoot Full HD movies at 60 frames-per-second or Ultra HD 4K resolution video that looks fantastically sharp.

The good news is that the Note 7’s rear and front-facing cameras are just as brilliant. Check out our full Galaxy Note 7 camera review for photo and video samples and our in-depth analysis. We’ve also taken a look at some of the best and worst Note 7 camera features.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Verdict

The Note 7 is an ideal companion for on-the-move artists and business users, thanks to the brilliant S Pen, enhanced security and some solid, dependable performance. It’s also a great way to kick back and relax with a gorgeous screen that was made for movies, plus nifty features like the Game Launcher tool.

In fact, it pretty much excels in every area but battery life, but that steep asking price means it’s only suited to those who want the absolute best of the best. For everyone else who simply would like a good-sized mobile phone, check out our guide to the greatest 5.5-inch handsets.

You can watch the full Samsung Galaxy Note 7 below:

You can pre-order the Galaxy Note 7 from O2 right now.

Specification

Screen size5.7-inches
Screen resolution2560x1440
Weight169g
OSAndroid 6.0
Rear Camera12-megapixel
Front camera5-megapixel
ProcessorSnapdragon 820/Exynos
Memory4GB
Storage64GB + microSD
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresIris scanner, S Pen

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