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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review (hands-on): Pre-orders open for the new Note

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Samsung has officially opened pre-orders for the Galaxy Note 7 and… as you might expect, it ain’t cheap. The official Samsung site is already marking both the black and blue versions as out of stock, but the Carphone Warehouse has a few options available, starting at £42 per month with a £59 upfront cost. That’s pretty steep, but do bear in mind that pre-orders come with a Samsung Gear VR headset, which wipes out the upfront cost… if it’s something you’re interested in, that is.

Prices will drop over time, but we’ll be on hand soon to let you know whether the handset justifies its pricetag. In the meantime, here’s our hands on review to give you a taste of what to expect.

Back in 2011, Samsung looked at the mobile phone landscape, and decided everything was too damned fiddly for our massive hands. The result was the Samsung Galaxy Note: a handset that almost single-handedly started the phablet boom, and ensured that today it’s pretty hard to find a top handset that’s smaller than 5in.

The Note 2 followed in 2012, and then predictably the Note 3 in 2013. You can guess when the Note 4 was released, if you’ve been paying attention, but that’s where the guessing game gets more tedious. The Note 5 never launched in the UK, and the Note 6 – like Windows 9 – never existed. Good news if you bought a contract Note 4 right at the start: you’ll be due an upgrade right on time.

So we’ve jumped straight to 7, bringing the Note parallel with the S series. That makes sense: the Note 7 is every bit the handset the S7 is – in fact, in the literal sense, it’s a fair bit more.

What was once the Note’s USP – its size – is now far more commonplace, but it’s still a huge phone. But impressively, with dimensions of 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, it’s actually smaller overall than the iPhone 6s Plus – a good result when it manages to pack in a larger 5.7in, 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED screen.

And it looks nice. Really nice. Samsung has learned a thing or two about how to make an attractive handset, and the Note 7 definitely matches that brief. Barely any space on the front of the handset is wasted, with the curved screen wrapping around the front of the phone. You’ll have a choice of three colours: Black Onyx, Blue Coral and Silver Titanium. Whichever finish you opt for, the phablet is extremely sleek, and guaranteed to catch intrigued glances.

S Penny for your thoughts

Of course, part of this intrigue is down to the stylus – sorry, “S Pen”. The stylus has gone out of fashion since PDAs stopped being a thing, but the S Pen makes an extremely compelling case for them being given a second chance. I owned a Note 2 back in 2012, and given this is the fourth iteration of the pen since then, it’s no surprise that it’s more of a pleasure to use than ever before. It has a 0.7mm tip (down from 1.6mm in the previous model), and it now feels less like you’re dragging plastic across glass, and more like you’re actually writing on a page. Even something as typically fiddly as annotating screenshots is a doddle:

It’s not just the feel of the S Pen that’s improved – Samsung has added a few more party tricks to it, too. The most impressive of these is that the Note 7’s software now comes with Google Translate built in, meaning that you can get an instant translation just by hovering over a word. Even more impressively, this even works with photos, so intimidating foreign menus needn’t traumatise you any more – unless they use a silly font.

Bringing the Note series in line with the S7 means the phablet also gains some of the established features of its flagship stablemate. Most eye-catchingly, this means that the Note 7 is more rugged than older versions, despite having to include a hole to keep the S Pen in. The Note 7 gets an IP68 rating, meaning that if you really must, you could give your phablet a bath in 1.5m of water for half an hour.

Samsung felt so confident of this at the launch event that they’d installed a handful of devices with a game that involved catching virtual fish by physically dunking your the Note 7 in a large container of cold water. I asked, and no, that was just for us and won’t be on the finished phone – sensible move. Nonetheless, you can feel comfortable answering a phone call in the pouring rain if you absolutely must.

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