Samsung Galaxy Note 7 hands-on: meet the curved-screen, waterproof new phablet

Samsung's Galaxy S phones may be the spotlight-grabbing, market-dominating wunderphones Android fans have come to know and love – and with good reason. But then there's a different kind of Samsung user who sits patiently by every spring, waiting for the latest Galaxy S flagship hype to pass, content in knowing that they're just a few more months away from the manufacturer's latest big-screen hardware monster, the latest incarnation of the Galaxy Note.

That patience is about to pay off, with Samsung today announcing the Galaxy Note 7, ahead of availability later this month. It's a phablet that in many ways is the obvious extension of previous Samsung flagships, both from the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S families, while still staying true to its roots as a platform for technological innovation, delivering some really interesting new features along the way. We recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with the new Note, checking out just what Samsung's come up with to make this sixth-generation phablet worth picking up.

Meet the Galaxy Note 7. Don't let that name fool you, as Samsung's decided to skip the Note 6 and create some brand unity across its flagship lineups, making sure the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7 arrive in the same calendar year instead of the old staggered-number pairings.

The Note 7 sticks with the 5.7-inch screen size that's been popular for the last few generations, while still implementing a big change: gone are the days of the flat-screened Note, and the Note 7 picks up the same dual-curved-edge arrangement as the Galaxy S7 edge. The screen's another quad HD 1440 x 2560 AMOLED panel.

Hardware specs are one thing, but what's it like to actually use this model? Well, for one it feels a bit different than any Note to date, largely thanks to that new direction for the phone's screen. More than just giving the phone a curved front, the handset's back matches with an identical set of lines, granting the phablet a symmetrical layout. That results in a smooth edge that doesn't really feel like your typical Samsung model.

Those curves may dominate the left and right side of the phone, but there's new stuff going on up top and down below, too. The top SIM tray picks up room for a microSD card (a welcome return), and down below we see the overdue emergence of a USB Type-C port on a Samsung flagship.

One of the other improvements to the feel of the Note 7 has to do with the phablet's S Pen stylus, which sees a series of initially subtle tweaks. The pen's side button slides up its body a little, but the more important change concerns the stylus tip, which now at 0.7mm wide is designed to more accurately emulate the feel of a regular pen. A boost of pressure sensitivity to 4096 levels also helps with more natural-looking pen input.

Both the S Pen and the Note 7 itself are IP68 rated to withstand water, and the combination of the two means that you can use the stylus to interact with the phone even when both are fully submerged – a feature you may not use too often, but a seriously neat one, all the same.

Samsung continues to try and add valuable functionality to the S Pen, and this year's Air Command menu picks up a couple worthy additions: a magnify mode that lets you point to areas of the screen and blow them up for closer inspection, as well as a translation feature that gives you a quick way to make sense out of foreign words in text and images.

Galaxy users are well accustomed to biometric authentication thanks to Samsung's support for fingerprint scanners, but the Note 7 pushes things one step further with the introduction of an iris scanner. It uses a dedicated infrared front-facing camera to analyze your eyes and match what it sees to your saved scan – and if everything checks outs, your phone's unlocked in under a second.

New software features are arriving to take advantage of that iris recognition, like a secure folder that lets you lock pics, video, or even entire apps where friends using your phone can't get to them, all protected behind another layer of authentication.

Beyond the new Note itself, Samsung's also got a fresh lineup of accessories: keyboard cases, pop-on lenses, and even a new S View cover with convertible stand for easy media playback. This year Samsung's using some fresh materials in its cases to help out with improved grip.

The Galaxy Note 7 is launching in four colors: Blue Coral, Black Onyx, Silver Titanium, and Gold Platinum. In the US, shoppers will have their pick of blue, black and silver – no gold. Pre-orders open tomorrow, August 3, and the handset finally hits retail on August 19.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 7
  • Display 5.7" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 64GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh



1. adecvat

Posts: 664; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

First samsung unpacked with NOTHING new.

3. mawi2013

Posts: 67; Member since: Oct 18, 2014


21. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Iris scanner? Water-proofing the Note series for the first time? USB Type C? S-Pen with 4096 points of pressure? Return of sdcard?64Gb minimum storage? Those are new. Did we watch the same event? Wait, did you even watch the event?

24. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Iris scanner is just a half-baked feature, not one in a million would employ. If you need to unlock your phone while driving or in a similar condition an Iris scanner is more of a hassle. The rest of your banter isn't something new. Type C, memory card and storage space were already there, just not in Samsung. Waterproofing is late by two generations already. People expected the Note 4 to be water resistant since S5 already was. I hope the S-Pen however has been strengthened since last time around it had a tendency of breaking, and it is an improvement nonetheless.

2. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1866; Member since: Apr 22, 2014

I knew you guy's already had this all along!!

4. jesus_sheep

Posts: 279; Member since: Apr 18, 2015

This will be a flop. Modern consumers are not Dumb to buy note5 for the whole price a year later.

7. Yoloswagins

Posts: 25; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

Yep, the sales will be trash as usual.

9. Kumar123 unregistered

LOL, Samsung fanboys will still buy.

11. tedkord

Posts: 17513; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Why wouldn't they? The Note 5 was/is the best large phone available, a year after launch. That means you probably can't go wrong with this one.

13. Kumar123 unregistered

Read comment #4 carefully. He explains it nicely.

17. willard12 unregistered

So which phone out today or coming in the next few weeks is better, and why? We can at least say that the phone is good enough for you to read all of the articles on it and drop about 25 comments in a 2 hour span. Its control over you has to be worth something.

14. phillip.phillip

Posts: 50; Member since: Dec 09, 2015

Yea, it even seemed like a better performer than the iPhone until I tried to play GTA on it and it crapped it's pants. Not really a good phone at all in the hardware sense (At least compared to the iPhone 6S+)

15. Jason2k13

Posts: 1478; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

So when an app is not working right, you only blame the phones hardware...?

23. phillip.phillip

Posts: 50; Member since: Dec 09, 2015

It doesn't matter if it's hardware or software, it just doesn't work as good as an iPhone does. It still isn't good after a year. A shame really for an $800 phone.

5. lsneddeff13

Posts: 10; Member since: Jun 14, 2016

The curved screen ruined it for me. I understand a lot of people like the curved screen, but there's a lot of people that don't like it either. They should have made a flat version and curved version.

12. tedkord

Posts: 17513; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I'll agree with that. It seems like a better idea to offer a choice.

6. Yoloswagins

Posts: 25; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

Overpriced and boring. Exynos is underpowered and it throttles like crazy. 850 euros for lack of improvements. They've spent 5 years developing iris scanner? What for? 90% will turn that garbage off the first moment they get their hands on the phone.

8. Jason2k13

Posts: 1478; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Then to you, no phone is an improvement this year.

10. Yoloswagins

Posts: 25; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

S7 was quite an improvement actually, but exynos still sux. I have so many friends with s6 and s7s and they all have experience slowdowns while gaming on it. Snapdragon doesn't have the same problem.

16. Jason2k13

Posts: 1478; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

I cant talk about the S7, but I do have the S6 and all the games I have played on it runs fine, when there's a problem then it's usually because it just needed an update.

22. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You actually notice slowdown on mobile games using the Exynos? Which ones? I've never noticed any difference.

18. RocKO03

Posts: 11; Member since: Apr 18, 2014

Moto Z is the best announcement & worth upgrade this year.

19. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

Second best. This year's best will be the announcements of the new nexus phones, as usual. And maybe if Motorola makes a smartphone at the end of the year with the updated SD821. The LG V20 should also be pretty cool.

20. Veteater

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 04, 2015

I know the Z is $624, but since I have been a Verizon customer for a long time (albeit a little unfortunately) I can get certain promotion deals they have on the Moto Z, and they currently have 40% off on Mods.

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