Samsung Galaxy Note7: Probably the best phablet now

Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone. PHOTO: SAMSUNG
Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

The first Samsung Galaxy Note, launched in 2011, probably started the phablet genre. Now, we have the new Note7 - successor to the Note 5.

To streamline its flagship products with Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, Samsung has skipped one version and jumped to Note7. The Note7 also does not have spacing between word and number, similar to how its S7 siblings are named.

PROCESSOR

Armed with Samsung's Exynos 8890 octa-core processor and 4GB of system memory, the phone will have no trouble playing the latest mobile games or Pokemon Go.

It scored 2,146 (single-core) and 6,297 (multi-core) in the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, compared to Note 5's scores of 1,452 and 4,673.

DESIGN

The Note7 comes in only one version with a 64GB storage capacity. But it supports up to 256GB extra memory via a microSD card slot.

While it retains Note 5's 5.7-inch QHD display, it features a sleek symmetrical dual-edge curved glass design on its front and back.

As a result, it is 2.7mm narrower than the Note 5. This seemingly minor reduction makes a major difference. It allows a much better grasp of the smooth-as-silk phone. It also makes one-hand operation much easier than the Note5 or Apple iPhone 6s Plus.

But having a glass front and rear means you better don't drop the phone. Glass cracks. Also, it attracts fingerprints and smudges.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: : $1,168, available on August 20

    PROCESSOR: Samsung 64-bit Exynos 8890 Octa-core (2.3GHz quad-core + 1.6GHz quad-core)

    DISPLAY: 5.7-inch QHD Dual Edge Super Amoled 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 518 PPI (pixels per inch)

    Operating System: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

    MEMORY: 64GB, 4GB RAM

    CAMERA: (Rear) 12MP OIS, f1.7, (Front) 5MP, f1.7

    BATTERY: 3,500 mAh with fast and wireless charging

    WEIGHT: 169g

  • RATING

    DESIGN 5/5

    PERFORMANCE 4/5

    FEATURES 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5

    OVERALL 4/5 [ST Digital's Editor Choice]

IRIS SCANNING

The Note7 can scan your eyes to unlock the phone, as well as authenticate Samsung Pay and access the Secure Folder (more on this later).

To do so, the Note7 has a separate front-facing iris camera for scanning your eyes with the help of an infra-red (IR) LED light. During setup, you need to remove your glasses for more accurate reading of your irises. Thereafter, you can keep the glasses on during scanning.

The iris scanning is really cool and impressive. But it is still a second or two slower than fingerprint authentication, especially when it comes to unlocking the phone.

I found the eye scanner not able to read my eyes in bright sunlight and very dark conditions. In addition, fingerprints and smudges on the iris camera can hinder the iris scanning.

SECURE FOLDER

However, iris scanning does add an extra layer of security when you want to access the Secure Folder. This folder is a security enclave for your classified documents and other important apps

It is like having a separate phone within the Note7. For example, you can have the Samsung Notes app in Secure Folder to hold your passwords, log-ins and other confidential information. The normal Samsung Notes outside of Secure Folder will not have access to such sensitive information.

DUST AND WATER RESISTANT

The Note7 (both phone and S Pen stylus) is rated at IP68 - meaning it is resistant to dust and water down to a depth of 1.5m for 30min.

The phone and stylus survived a 20min gentle breaststroke swim in a 1.2m-deep pool, in which I swam with my hand holding the phone.

S PEN STYLUS

The Note7's S Pen has a tip that's half the size of that of the Note 5's stylus. Yet, sensitivity has doubled. So writing and drawing are even more precise now.

You can now write down a memo on the Note7's Always-On Display with the S Pen even when the phone is wet or partially in water.

There are also more S Pen features, like the new Translate and Magnify. When you select the Translate function, tapping the S Pen on a word will immediately translate the word.

The Magnify feature will magnify any part of the screen by 250 per cent (default) when you hover the S Pen over the display.

CAMERA

I was hoping that the Note7 uses a rear dual-lens camera like those found in Huawei P9 and LG G5. But it retains the front and rear cameras of its S7 siblings.

The Note7's camera software is slightly different from S7s. You can swipe on the virtual viewfinder to your right to get to the shooting modes, and swipe left for photo effects. More handy.

The Note7 produce fantastic images with great details and high dynamic range. Colours are vivid and punchy, especially with the blues and reds. Shots taken in low-lighting conditions do not exhibit execessive noise artefacts. However, I do find the images to be slightly over-sharpened.

USB-C

It is inevitable that phone makers will be switching to the USB-C port, and Samsung has made the leap with the Note7. Thankfully, a micro-USB to USB-C adapter is included, so you can still use your micro-USB cable.

Verdict: Samsung has taken the successful S7 edge, polished its back, added a stylus and iris scanning to come up with a winner. The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is undoubtedly the best phablet that money can buy now.