Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: The new Note is king of smartphones


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 – at least in name. 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.

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 now from Amazon

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What was once the Note’s unique sell – its size – is now far more commonplace, but it’s still a huge phone. Impressively, with dimensions of 154 x 74 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 since it ditched plastic and removable batteries a year and a half ago, and the Note 7 carries on the good work. Barely any space on the front of the handset is wasted, with the curved Gorilla Glass 5 screen wrapping around the front of the phone and the edges of the glossy rear panel also curving up to meet the phone’s slender aluminium frame. You’ll have a choice of two colours: Black Onyx and Blue Coral. Whichever finish you opt for, the phablet is extremely sleek and guaranteed to catch the eye of your fellow commuters/travellers/mates down the pub (delete as appropriate).

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: S Penny for your thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s other key strength – and one not matched by many other smartphones today – is its 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’ve used every Note since the brand was born, 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 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.

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 now from Amazon

It’s not just the feel of the S Pen that’s improved. It’s more sensitive than the previous model, with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity instead of 2,048, and Samsung has added a few more party tricks, too. The most impressive of these is that the Note 7’s software now comes with Google Translate built in, meaning you can get an instant translation just by hovering over a word. More impressively, this even works with photos, so intimidating foreign menus needn’t traumatise you anymore – unless they use a silly font, of course.

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 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 can give your phablet a bath in 1.5m of water for half an hour.

Indeed, Samsung was 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. Nonetheless, it does have practical benefits: it means it’ll survive an accidental trip into the washing up bowl, and also that you can still use Google maps or send text messages in the rain. That’s an important consideration for us Brits.

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 now from Amazon

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