Samsung has done a superb job of tempting us with its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones this year, but it may have outdone itself even more with the Galaxy Note 7. The latter is a larger version of the S7 Edge, one that comes with a handy stylus tucked inside for those times you feel like scribbling something down with a pen. We’ve spent some time with the Galaxy Note 7 and we’re really impressed. If you’re almost ready to hand over your money for one, but are hesitant, we’ve got five reasons why you should take the plunge. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you do.
Remember the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus? It came out last year with the Note 5, and had a double-curved edge screen, just like the Galaxy Note 7. It was a beauty, but the sharp edges made it uncomfortable to hold, and it offered few benefits over the regular Galaxy S6 Edge. The Galaxy Note 7 has fixed all this and gone a step further to make the Note 7 one of the most comfortable we’ve ever cradled in our hands. The sharp edges are gone, and it’s even more comfortable to hold than the Galaxy S7 Edge, one of our favorite phones of the year.
The Galaxy Note 7’s 5.7-inch display is big, but Samsung has worked some special magic to make the phone feel surprisingly compact. In reality, it’s about 3-millimeters longer than the S7 Edge, and a millimeter or so wider. It’s also smaller than the 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus. Sounds almost impossible, right? It’s not, and you’re going to have a hard time convincing people of the Galaxy Note 7’s screen size.
The S Pen has been improved
If previous S Pens felt a bit clunky, like using a small branch dipped in ink to address an envelope, then you’ll be pleased with the improvements Samsung has made to the Note 7’s S Pen. Samsung shaved the tip down from 1.6 millimeters to 0.7 millimeters, which allows for more control, improved precision, and twice as much sensitivity. The S Pen can now even blend colors in the Notes app, which is pretty awesome for digital artists. These alterations are essential if you’re going to draw anything detailed with the S Pen, and writing notes on the display is noticeably more accurate and realistic.
There are some new features, too. The S Pen works on the Note 7’s lock screen, allowing you take down important information quickly. You can even pin notes to your Always-on screen for quick reference. All saved note pages and memos are now stored in a new app called Samsung Notes, so they’re easier to find, and the pen’s side button lets you quickly erase mistakes. Samsung added a Translate feature to the pen, too. When you hover the S Pen’s tip over text that’s written in a foreign language, you’ll see a word-by-word translation. It wasn’t perfect in our tests, but it performed better in some languages than others.
Waterproof, even the S Pen
Samsung made the right decision waterproofing the Galaxy Note 7 just like the S7 and S7 Edge. The device has an IP68 rating, which means it’s sealed against both water and dust, and will survive an extended, but not endless, dunk in the wet stuff. Samsung says this translates to about 30 minutes in up to 1.5 meters of water. Water resistance protects your phone from water-based accidents, and because the Note 7 is likely to be an investment, this is welcome news.
However, it’s not just the phone that’s IP68 rated. The S Pen is waterproof, too, and while you’ll probably never actually need to use this feature, you can use the S Pen on the Note 7’s screen underwater. How can we be sure? Samsung proved it at the launch event by playing a game on the display while it was submerged in a tank of water. We also wrote notes on the screen while it was submerged.
Samsung adds a clever new iris scanning camera lens
We don’t have many complaints about the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge’s camera, and the great news is Samsung has fitted the same f/1.7 lens and Dual Pixel sensor onto the Note 7. While some may be disappointed there haven’t been any changes, the S7’s camera takes such great pictures, so we find it very hard to complain.
However, what Samsung has done is add a pair of very special cameras on the front. In a first for a mainstream smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7 has an iris scanner for additional security, which goes along with the fingerprint scanner. It looks deeply into your eye with one lens, while the results are authenticated by the other. The setup takes a few moments, but it’s no more complicated than adding a fingerprint. Once it’s done, the iris scanner provides more security.
Never fear, my four-eyed friends. The iris scanner works with glasses — you just have to set it up without them first. We tried it out and the response speed was very impressive, but there is a learning curve regarding how far and at what level you need to hold the phone in order for it to work the first time.
Fast charging with wireless, and USB Type-C
Samsung has thrown out the old Micro-USB connector on the base of the Note series, preferring to use a USB Type-C instead. For those who don’t know, this is excellent news because you’ll never have that annoying problem of plugging the connector in the wrong way again. USB Type-C cords are reversible. The Note 7’s 3,500mAh battery is also 500mAh larger than the Note 5’s battery, and it supports Samsung’s latest fast charging system, either using the cable or a wireless system. Don’t worry if you want to use a Micro-USB cable either, because Samsung’s putting an adapter inside each Note 7 box, so you can still use older cables if you want.
The Galaxy Note 7’s optional extended battery pack, which has a 3,100mAh cell inside, also uses wireless charging. This means it doesn’t plug into the phone, it just clips to the back and starts charging. Why? It’s definitely more convenient for a start, and it’s waterproof. After all, if you drop both the phone and battery pack into the bath, then it’s best if both survive the experience rather than risking one frying the other.