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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: The best phone you can buy?
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: The best phone you can buy?
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Glorious screen
  • Best camera on any phone
  • S-Pen is fun
  • Water-resistant
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Software still a bit ugly
  • Pointless iris scanner

Key Features

  • 5.7-inch quad-HD Super AMOLED display
  • Octa-core CPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage + microSD slot
  • S Pen stylus
  • Android 6.0.1
  • Fingerprint and Iris scanner
  • USB-C
  • Fast and wireless charging
  • 3,500mAh battery
  • IP68 water resistance
  • 12MP camera, f1.7 aperture
  • 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, 169g
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £749.00

Update, 06/10/16: It's gone from worse, to even worse for Samsung and it's Galaxy Note 7. After a drawn out process that saw even recalled units turning to smoke, the South Korean brand has finally taken the Note 7 off sale. You'll no longer be able to buy the device, and Samsung is asking everyone that has one to power it down and return it.

So, this looks to be the end of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. It was a great phone, as you can probably tell from the below review, but it's met a sorry ending.

Read our Galaxy Note 7 recall FAQ for more.

What is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

Big phones weren’t big until the original Samsung Galaxy Note came along. Its radical resizing of the smartphone was bonkers to some, but a revelation to others.

The phablet was born, people criticised it, but now every manufacturer makes one – even Apple with its iPhone 6S Plus and upcoming iPhone 7 Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 proves that Samsung still makes big phones properly, rather than just stretching a smaller phone to a bigger size.

It’s got stiff competition from the HTC 10, incoming Nexus devices and the Galaxy S7 Edge, but the Note 7 is the one to beat – even if its price can only be described as eye-watering.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Design and Build

While the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 might look like a minor tweaking of the design formula started with the Galaxy Note 5 and improved with the Galaxy S7 earlier in 2016, it’s actually a big signal of intent.

For the first time, Samsung has released a phone with only the option of a dual-curved-edge screen. This isn’t like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, nor the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. Samsung is giving you one curvaceous option and saying that the curved-edge ‘experiment’ is now complete. This is the path the Korean company wants to take.

Related: Best Android phones

s-pen 7

I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s Samsung Galaxy S8 takes a similar approach and ditches the flat version, going curvy all the way.

The Galaxy Note 7 is the pinnacle of Samsung’s design and is the culmination of everything the company's learned since ditching faux-leather and plastic disguised as metal.

The curved display is the headline trait, but even that’s come a long way since it was first used on the ill-fated Galaxy Note Edge. It’s even been improved over the one on the Galaxy S7 Edge, as the curve is less obvious and, well, less curvy. It juts down at a steeper angle and takes less screen real estate away, but it’s just as eye-catching as ever.

Following the curve on the front is a similar roundedness to the back, which was a small design alteration introduced on the Galaxy Note 5. The biggest achievement here is just how comfortable the phone feels, considering it has a 5.7-inch screen. It’s smaller in every dimension than both the iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei Nexus 6P, making it easier to hold and use than both of those phones.

This is huge, because finally you get all the benefits of the big screen without worrying about juggling it in your hands.

The Note series has always been marketed as more of a ‘business’ device, and while this is just marketing speak that isn’t really relevant, it feeds into the design. The Note 7 is more straight and boxy than the rounded Galaxy S7 brothers, which are a little more fun to look at.

Related: Best phablets to buy right now

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It’s still completely formed from metal and glass, and stands out as being the best-looking phone you can buy right now. It’s more ergonomic than the HTC 10, less boring than the iPhone 6S and not as sharp as the Nexus 6P. It's also water-resistant enough to be dunked in the bath for about 30 minutes.

Another ‘first’ for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is Gorilla Glass 5. This glass not only covers the front, but the back too, and it should protect the phone if you happen to drop it – which no doubt you will at some point. I’ve been vocal in the past about how my biggest annoyance with these flagship phones is their delicate nature.

Buy Now: Galaxy Note 7 at Amazon.com from $903

I’ve dropped my Galaxy S7 Edge from about 2ft onto a wooden floor and it caused a snaking crack down the back, while a colleague dropped one from a similar height onto concrete and destroyed the whole front.

Thankfully, and I’m sure the Samsung PR folk will be happy to hear this, I haven’t dropped the Note 7. Yet. So I can’t really say if Gorilla Glass 5 is a whole heap better than 4, but I’ll definitely update this review once I've used it for a few months (and probably dropped it).

note

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Display

Its size was once the story with the Note series. Its size set it apart. It was huge, unmanageable, basically a tablet. How big was the display on the original Note? It was 5.3 inches. That’s now considered small.

And while the Note’s display has grown to 5.7 inches, it’s no longer the differentiator. Other phones, such as the Nexus 6P, are the same size, and while the iPhone 6S Plus has a smaller display, it has a bigger footprint.

But even though it may not stand out for its size, the Note 7 does so because of its quality – something arguably much more important.

Like all of Samsung’s flagships, and even some of its cheaper phones like the Galaxy J3, the starting point is the Super AMOLED panel. It might not have the viewing angles you get with an IPS LCD, but the oomph and joyous colours more than make up for that. Samsung’s honed this display technology over time and it’s now the best it's ever been.

Colours are strong and vibrant, blacks are dark and there’s no muddiness in the whites. It’s a joy to look at, and its brightness means it’s perfectly viewable even in direct sunlight. This is the brightest phone screen I've ever used, and it’s mightily impressive. There are some minor reflections if you look very closely near the edge of the display, but it doesn’t affect use.

Related: Note 7 vs Nexus 6P

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Instead of upping the resolution to 4K – something that was heavily rumoured – Samsung has kept it at quad-HD. With a pixel density of 518ppi, individual pixels are impossible to spot, even if you get really close.

While it hasn’t added 4K, it has added HDR (high dynamic range). Well, Samsung calls it 'Mobile HDR', but it works in a similar way to how it functions on an HDR-compatible television. It’s a display tech that improves contrast while retaining extra detail in the brightest and darkest areas of the picture. Many in the TrustedReviews office will tell you that HDR is more important than 4K. It’s a big deal.

Most HDR content comes from a service, such as Amazon Video or Netflix, piped through a dedicated box or supported television. The new Xbox One S, for example, can play both HDR content and games if you’ve got the right television to display them

It works a bit differently on the Note 7, though. Along with streaming actual HDR content, there’s a mode that bursts into life when a supported app is opened. Start up Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime or the dedicated video app and a ‘Video enhancer mode’ will kick in. This simulates the idea of HDR, boosting the brightness and fiddling about with the contrast settings.

It does make a very visible difference, but at times It can be a little jarring. The move from a typical phone screen to one that feels like it’s trying to sear your retinas is odd, but the results are great.

I do feel this would work better on a tablet, as that’s meant to be used for media, whereas I rarely sit back and watch anything other than YouTube on my phone. Still, it's typical of the Note series to deliver something we haven’t seen before, perhaps as some sort of trial. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this tech trickle down to the Galaxy S8, and hopefully the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S2.

Related: What is HDR?

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Just like the Galaxy S7, the Note 7 has an ‘Always-on display’. Even when the phone is locked, a clock and a row of notification icons glow on the screen. The bonus with AMOLED tech is that it only needs to light up individual pixels, so there’s not a huge drain on battery from this feature. My biggest issue with the original way the AOD worked has been resolved, as it’ll now display icons from every app rather than just Samsung’s own.

It’s a nice, if unessential, feature that can be both annoying and useful. But at least you can turn it off.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Billman

August 3, 2016, 2:24 pm

Whats so impressive about the Note 7? They added an iris scanner which is really an expensive gimmick and you can get it wet. The SD card slot is the best upgrade and it's not really an upgrade since it should never have been taken away in the first place. There are several upcoming phones coming out in the next 2 months that will blow the Note completely out of the water. Samsung got lazy and made the S7 a little bigger, decreased the battery and added an S pen.

Last year I purchased the S6 Edge + 64GB for $800. The trade in value is $200 at best. which is a 400% decrease in value over 1 year. I challenge anyone to compare the specs of the S6 Edge + 64gb to the Note 7 and let me know how the Note 7 is a huge upgrade. How can the Note 7 be worth $850 when the Zenphone 3 Ultra and the Lenovo Tango will be less than $500.

k k

August 3, 2016, 3:05 pm

ha ha ! loser wants to sell s6 edge to buy the note 7 but cant , ha ha !

Billman

August 3, 2016, 4:13 pm

Sorry KK but your wrong. I lease my phone yearly. If you need I can write my comment in a way you can understand it. I'll try not to use words with too many letters. R do u udrstd slang only?

Billman

August 3, 2016, 4:15 pm

I bet you could really play Pokemon on the Note 7. The maps would be so big and beautiful. Now go play Pokemon and leave the tech stuff to the adults!

Andrés

August 3, 2016, 4:23 pm

Note 7 is a huge disappointment. For 850 euros, it must be perfect, but it is not at all:

curved edge screen, a usability issue;
non-removable battery (forced planned obsolence)
just 4GB of memory, not 6GB
enormous 850 EUR price.

I strongly believe that to pay 850 EUR for a smartphone - ANY smartphone (especially with fragile glass back, and disposable, but non-removable battery) is insane.

In my previous samsung phones (S3 LTE and Note4) batteries are massively failing just after 11 months, first degrading quickly, and then causing reboots and unexpected shutdowns. If you have root, samsung denies warranty (although it is illegal in europe). I had to pay 23 euros each to replace batteries in 2 Note 4 in my family (that were theoretically under warranty). with non-removable battery, not only they will charge you for the battery, but also for disasembling and asembling your device (which will be way more expensive than the battery itself). And batteries still swell! which can destroy the device completely, as now you cannot see battery state.

The absolute show stopper for me personally, is the curved screen. When was the last time you saw a notebook, piece of stationary/paper or an art canvas that you are meant to write/draw on that was CURVED?

Edge screen just feels all wrong, in every possible way. Curved screen:
More glare
Very difficult to get a good case protector
the stylus may slip in the corner
Visual ‘anomalies’ (not just glare) with ‘bending’ keyboards and what have you...

there are great phones like ZTE Axon 7, with QHD Amoled screen and similar hardware config (even with stereo dolby speakers), which costs 450 EUR...

bkm

August 4, 2016, 9:00 am

Samsung have lost their way after the Note4.
The Note has always been a business-oriented device and as such it should have lots of grunt and innovation.
They should take advantage of their knowhow and create a removable back and battery of 4200mah, 6.0 inch flat-minimal bezeled 1440p standard-RBG screen with an upgraded Exynos eg.8900 processor and 8 gigs of ram and UFS compliant SD card slot.

AK

August 4, 2016, 11:02 am

Effort wasted on features like Iris scanners which is certainly going to be abandoned by users (inaccuracy, slow, etc).

It's basically an S7 Edge with a smaller battery, larger screen and a pen.

Why add features but reduce battery capacity? Surely that can only mean less battery life?

At a price of £749, this is not value for money.

John Smith

August 4, 2016, 12:13 pm

The Note 7 isn't as wide as the Note 5, 2.2 mm less in width, yet only 0.3 mm deeper, so it's something that they managed to raise it from 3000 mAh to 3500 mAh. The S pen takes up quite a bit of space, so they would have needed to make it thicker to increase the battery size, which would make it slightly less comfortable to hold.
From the reviews I've seen the iris scanner is impressively quick. There's no evidence that it will be abandoned by users, but it is seen as a secondary option anyway.
The price is too high though, and I think they made a mistake in not improving the cameras. 6 GB of RAM is not needed, so I agree with that decision, even if it doesn't give them bragging rights.

Colin

August 4, 2016, 1:30 pm

I think if you said that about an iPhone it would have more truth. The modern Touchwiz is really good and especially good on the Note were it has many unique and productive features that match the larger screened form factor. Again comparing to the iPhone the Note looks positively cheap. Far more features, superior specs and all in a far more beautiful, compact and lighter package. It is expensive, for that there is no doubt. Generally though you have to pay for the best and this along with the S7 Edge are the best smartphones money can but at the present time.

Rashad1050

August 4, 2016, 5:15 pm

...Apple made a phablet without a stylus so whatever... but seriously, I agree with you about Samsung being rather childish because of the gimmicks but if Samsung puts more work into it's features, then it can become a lot more useful. I like Samsung better than Blackberry but I gotta admit that the Priv is ALOT more innovative than the Edge. They literally added a keyboard to a touchscreen phone then included some powerful security.... I kinda want one now.

Rashad1050

August 5, 2016, 1:03 am

Multi-window is useful. (I unfortunately, cannot live without it) Samsung needs to find a way to differentiate the Note 7 from the s7 Edge... well besides the gimmicky pen and the size. The Note 7 to me is an s7 edge+ with a smaller battery and a stylus. I will be upgrading to it because my s6 is getting kinda old but meh. I also agree how people can't look past marketing but that's just how it is. Not too many people research things for themselves even though the resources are literally there.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:22 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.

The Note is better than the larger iPhone in almost every way. Condicive keyboard? Most people do want or need this. stupid comment fullstop.

Fisher-Price is used to describe iPhones or the Apple Watch its sad to see you turn that one on some of the most beautiful and productive phones there are.

As for Blackberry what % of the market do they sell to less than 1%? Yet another stupid comment the world disagrees with you.

Why pity me, my Samung phones work really well, far better than any iPhone I have ever tried, far more robust and reliable, better looking, better design, more functional and flexible, better in every way. I hated blackberries never owned one and history proved me right.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:23 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.
The Note is better than the larger iPhone in almost every way. Condicive keyboard? Most people do want or need this. stupid comment fullstop.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:27 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

The Note is better than the larger iPhone in almost every way. Condicive keyboard? Most people do want or need this. stupid comment fullstop.

Fisher-Price is used to describe iPhones or the Apple Watch its sad to see you turn that one on some of the most beautiful and productive phones there are.

As for Blackberry what % of the market do they sell to less than 1%? Yet another stupid comment the world disagrees with you.
Why pity me, my Samung phones work really well, far better than any iPhone I have ever tried, far more robust and reliable, better looking, better design, more functional and flexible, better in every way. I hated blackberries never owned one and history proved me right.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:28 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.

As for Blackberry what % of the market do they sell to less than 1%? Yet another stupid comment the world disagrees with you.
Why pity me, my Samung phones work really well, far better than any iPhone I have ever tried, far more robust and reliable, better looking, better design, more functional and flexible, better in every way. I hated blackberries never owned one and history proved me right.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:28 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.

The Note is better than the larger iPhone in almost every way. Condicive keyboard? Most people do want or need this. stupid comment fullstop.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:31 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!

IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:32 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!
IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.

Fisher-Price is used to describe iPhones or the Apple Watch its sad to see you turn that one on some of the most beautiful and productive phones there are.
As for Blackberry what % of the market do they sell to less than 1%? Yet another stupid comment the world disagrees with you.
Why pity me, my Samung phones work really well, far better than any iPhone I have ever tried, far more robust and reliable, better looking, better design, more functional and flexible, better in every way. I hated blackberries never owned one and history proved me right.
Colin

Colin

August 5, 2016, 1:33 am

First of all The Note and S Series are not iPhone rip-offs. The Note defined and lead (and still leads) the larger screen smartphone market and as such if anything the iPhone 6 and 6S are rip-off devices and pale imitations with both the Samsung series being regarded as better phones than the equivalent Apple models. Second as for disappointing they are regarded as the top models in their class and some if not the most beautiful phones money can buy!
IOS since version 7 has been trying to copy Android and Android app features. Touch-Wiz whether you like it or not has improved massively and brings features that make the most of the larger screen and stylus, something Apple has failed miserably at.
The Note is better than the larger iPhone in almost every way.
FP is used to describe iPhones or the Apple Watch its sad to see you turn that one on some of the most beautiful and productive phones there are.
As for BB what % of the market do they sell to less than 1%? Yet another stupid comment the world disagrees with you.
Why pity me, my Samung phones work really well, far better than any iPhone I have ever tried, far more robust and reliable, better looking, better design, more functional and flexible, better in every way. I hated BBs never owned one and history proved me right.

Jimmy Dean

August 5, 2016, 3:43 am

The note 7 is one year old at launch.

Jimmy Dean

August 5, 2016, 3:44 am

The Note 7 is one year old at launch.

Jimmy Dean

August 5, 2016, 3:44 am

But you can make 15 second long GIFs. Does that mean NOTHING to you?

I mean it does to me....

Colin

August 5, 2016, 4:23 am

How do you work that out? Its redesigned, has many new features including Iris scanner, USB C, IP68 rating and latest Gorilla Glass. It is not the same as the S7 Edge and is a worthy successor to the Note 5. It along side the S7 iEdge is the best larger screened phone available at the present time. Nothing looks like coming close until the S8 is released next year.

Rashad1050

August 5, 2016, 5:25 pm

That's one of the reasons I'll be getting the note 7 and to try out the iris scanner. I like the idea of locking apps with my eyes

Artov

August 6, 2016, 6:38 am

Considering the iPhone stole a march on the other phone manufacturers by having the most child like front end to woo all the non technical end users it is a bit rich to call the android phones childish.

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