Samsung Galaxy Note 7 - specs review
Not giving up hope on its Note line, Samsung has returned with the ambition of introducing a new king to crown the phablet kingdom. Skipping an entire generation number, the Galaxy Note 7 has to be the most refined large-screen smartphone ever produced by the Korean giant. Sporting improvements across the board, no stone has been left unturned in the race to improve the Galaxy Note 5's compelling foundation as much as possible over the course of a year.
In this specs review, we'll go through the design, display, hardware, security, camera, and stylus highlights of this impressive new smartphone. As you are be able to tell from the very first paragraph, Samsung has been quite busy improving these key aspects over the past 12 months!
The front and back panel feature the same Gorilla Glass glass panels on both sides, while the top, bottom, and sides have been made symmetrical - complete with ports and buttons. Due to this, the handset measures 2.2mm narrower in width than the Galaxy Note 5, which contributes to a different, better-proportioned feel in the hand.
The Note 7 will be sold in four color options, which include Blue Coral, Black Onyx, Silver Titanium, and Gold Platinum. Most markets will get just three of these, though – the United States will get to choose between blue, black, and silver.
In addition, both the new Note and its S-Pen stylus are thoroughly waterproof, to the extent of enabling underwater writing – defying the laws of physics to enable humans take notes in the shower! Speaking of which, the Note can also withstand dust. Moreover, the handset has been upgraded with an USB Type-C port.
As mentioned, the Galaxy Note 7 abandons the flat display altogether in favor of a 5.7-inch, dual-curved-edge Super AMOLED quad-HD resolution screen. Taking advantage of the curved edges, Samsung ported the Edge UX interface to the Note 7 as a solution to improve one-handed usage. What's more, the familiar Always-on display feature returns in a glorified form, letting users scribble messages with the screen turned off.
It looks like Samsung deemed Qualcomm's current Snapdragon 820 SoC sufficient for the Galaxy Note 7's processing needs. This may come off as a surprise, considering an improved Snapdragon 821 (or 823) was in the talks prior to the smartphone's release. But still, the Snapdragon 820 has proven itself excellent all-around with its quad-core (2 x 2.15GHz cores + 2 x 1.6GHz cores) processor and fast Adreno 530 GPU.
Typical for Samsung hi-enders, some markets will receive a variant of the Note 7 powered by the home-grown Exynos 8890 SoC, which we know from the Galaxy S7. It achieves performance parity with the Snapdragon 820, so having that instead of Qualcomm silicon is no downside or advantage – for the overwhelming majority of users, it's essentially the same.
Processor dichotomies aside, all variants of the Note 7 will ship with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of fast UFS 2.0 storage as standard. The latter is expandable via microSD card. The mains are ran off a 3500mAh capacity battery with fast wireless battery charging and fast wired charging.
A feature highlight of the Galaxy Note 7 is the presence of an iris scanner for biometric authentication. The contraption uses an IR illuminator which enables work in the dark, along with a dedicated front-facing camera. The system is supposed to be smart enough to reject high-resolution images of users' eyes. It also works through most glasses, and is able to recognize a single eye as well as a pair of eyes – which means pirates can successfully use it, too.
The iris scanner is available next to familiar fingerprint and PIN/password authentication systems, but the consumer version of the Galaxy Note 7 won't let users combine unlocking methods – for example, using both fingerprint and iris recognition. The enterprise version, however, will.
Samsung equipped the Galaxy Note 7 with the same 12MP rear/5MP front camera setup it's using for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The 1/2-inch 12MP camera sensor's individual pixels are bigger than the 1.12 micron dots on 20MP and 1.2 micron dots on 16MP sensors. This, paired with a wider aperture, lets them soak in more light – up to 56%, according to Samsung's estimates.
Moreover, the camera is equipped with dual-PD (dual photodiode) technology for quicker auto-focus. Instead of each pixel site comprising a single photodiode for image capture, the Dual Pixel CMOS sensor allocates two for every single pixel site. This makes focus quicker and more accurate, both for photos and video recording.
Samsung also introduced a new Camera app, which presents a swipe-driven UI that lets one access shooting modes, visual effects, and swap between main and selfie cams all by dashing their fingers across the screen. It's a quicker and visually cleaner solution to operating a smartphone camera.
Making refinements across the board, Samsung didn't spare the iconic S-Pen stylus, a mainstay of the Galaxy Note series. The one bundled with the Note 6 has a narrower tip to mimic a ball-point pen, and it's pressure sensitivity reaches 4096 levels, up from 2048 levels. As mentioned, the S-Pen has become waterproof as well, and can be used for writing underwater.
On the software side, the pen's Air Command functionality has been extended with new Magnify and Translate options. Magnify lets users hover over content and maximize it up to 300%, while Translate lets them hover over text (both raw text and photos of it), translating between multiple languages.
Additionally, the Smart Select feature now lets users generate animated GIFs from any on-screen video that's not DRM-protected. They highlight the screen region, then record and use the the built-in editing tools to correct individual frames prior to sharing. The GIFs can last for 15 seconds.
Up for pre-order tomorrow, August 3, the Galaxy Note 7 will hit the streets August 19. The launch promo will bundle the handset with a free Gear Fit 2 or 256GB microSD card in order to entice users. Even without these gifts, the Note 7 sure makes for an attractive proposition with its sleek design, hardware power, and feature-packed user experience. Even if interest in stylus-equipped handsets isn't what it used to be, we expect the Note 7 to command a strong presence on the large screen smartphone market. There's simply no competing device that offers the same modern design and comprehensive feature set.