At long last, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has broken cover following months of leaky, leaky, leakage. Surprise, surprise, most of the details sourced by tipsters turned out to be more or less spot on, with a few notable exceptions. Rest assured folks, the head honcho in the phablet space, the firm which started the big-phone craze, is back! As is often the case with new Sammy devices, it comes at a point in time where its main challengers are devices which are starting to age, and a new generation of true competitors is just around the corner. For example, the iPhone 6s Plus and Nexus 6P, are both coming up to a year old now, with replacement models expected imminently in the next couple of months. Those will be the real test of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, but in the meantime, these devices do have to enter the ring against a brand spanking new contender...should they be worried? Let's see...
Software: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (Android 7.0 Nougat Coming August 2016)
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Google Nexus 6P: Design
It was always going to be the case that Samsung made efforts to ensure the Galaxy Note 7 would fit stylistically and thematically with the Galaxy S7 series; the firm has a tradition of this setup where the design (and to some extent the features) of the Galaxy Note series piggyback off their contemporary Galaxy S flagship counterparts for the given year. So with that said, yes, the Galaxy Note 7 looks a lot like an enlarged Galaxy S7 EDGE. Note that we said EDGE there, because yes, despite not having the EDGE moniker in its own title, the Galaxy Note 7 does feature the dual-curved-edge display we've seen on two generations of flagship now. The Galaxy Note 7 is slightly squarer in shape than the Galaxy S7 EDGE but does keep the same design with a metal frame, glass front and back panels, and a flat back to contrast the curvy front. For me, the repetition of design is welcome, as the glass and metal combo is one of the best aesthetics (and best quality to handle) that Samsung has ever produced in my view and not one that should be replaced any time soon. In addition to retaining the sharp looks, Samsung has also added the Galaxy S7's IP68 water and dust proofing certification to the Galaxy Note 7 - a first for the phablet series ensuring you can handle your phone near a sink, bath, pond, or pool without stressing so much.
The Nexus 6P is the first Nexus handset where Google really turned things up a notch in terms of design, we're told the "P" stands for "Premium" and, unlike previous Nexus devices the Nexus 6P features a metal bodyshell. It is, undoubtedly, the best looking Nexus phone to date and sits comfortably alongside the likes of the iPhone 6s Plus and Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 7 as a stylish, quality-feeling handset. It's a slightly different design, and whether you prefer the Galaxy Note 7 or this is going to come down to personal taste.
However, the Nexus 6P does fall behind from a practical feature perspective, it lacks the Galaxy Note 7's S-Pen stylus capabilities, doesn't have a microSD card slot, and a water protection rating is completely absent.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Google Nexus 6P: Display
The Nexus 6P's display is an AMOLED setup with a decently high QHD resolution on a 5.7in diagonal resulting in 518ppi - it's nice and sharp, with good contrast and brightness. But, it must be said, this is most assuredly Samsung's stomping grounds; the firm produced the BEST display of the year so far with the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 EDGE, and to put that into some kind of perspective that was in February! No-one has managed to top it since in terms of brightness, sharpness, contrast, colour gamut, or reflective-ness and readability in ambient light, it has performed consistently better in every measurable category. And yes, that's the same tech that's at work here on the Galaxy Note 7, just at a bigger 5.7in scale with the same QHD resolution and pixel density as the Nexus 6P, but with the added bonus of Samsung having drafted in an HDR feature from its TV division to ramp up colour and contrast even more. There is a good reason why many OEMs including Apple are scrambling to OLED suppliers for their handsets coming in the next year or two, and Samsung is one of those suppliers allegedly in high demand.
Samsung has also added its Always On display tech to the Note 7, meaning the time and date, as well as a few notifications, will be shown when the phone is in a sleep state. Additionally, the Always On screen allows you to scribble notes onto it with the S-Pen for later use.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Google Nexus 6P: Hardware
The Nexus line isn't known for having particularly flashy or innovative feature sets, it's better known for just doing the basics VERY well. That said, the Nexus 6 and Nexus 6P seem to be a sub-set of Google's portfolio designed with slightly more expensive components and higher performance in mind. The Nexus 6P uses Qualcomm's somewhat controversial Snapdragon 810 processor; this chip was notorious for alleged overheating issues when it hit the market but that doesn't seem to be something that has affected the Nexus 6P much as it adopted the SoC later in its life cycle and after Qualcomm had done some fettling with it. Although this processor is now a generation old, it's still got quite a bit of fight in it, and not only that it works quite well aboard the Nexus due to Google's finely tailored and optimised stock Android software experience.
The Galaxy Note 7 is packing a bit more clout with the latest current-gen processor tech; as per Samsung's usual trick the CPU you get inside is region-dependent, and while such things are usually unclear (deliberately, we reckon) on launch, at time of writing the impression we get is that the US is getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 setup while everyone else gets Samsung's own Exynos 8890 chip. Either way you slice it that's some grade A, ass-kicking hardware right there, though with 4GB of RAM rather than the rumoured 6GB, still, it's a whole 1GB more than the Nexus, for what it's worth.
The Nexus 6P comes in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage flavours but annoyingly lacks any microSD support for expansion via cards. Samsung only offers a 64GB option, but it does support microSD up to 256GB, however, Samsung's new UFS microSD type is not supported, which kind of sucks as you can't get the super-fast read/write speeds. Both phones have comparable battery sizes, the Nexus 6P offers impressive battery life on its 3,450mAh cell, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 7's 3,500mAh setup is yet to be tested. We're expecting good things, however, as the Galaxy S7's smaller cell produced some capable results thanks to Samsung's optimisations and tweaks. Neither battery is removable. Both handsets have a fingerprint scanner and the new USB Type-C connector, but the Galaxy Note 7 adds to the mix with a front-facing iris scanner, offering an alternative type of biometric certification if you're that way inclined.
Of course, what distinguishes the Galaxy Note series from its competitors is the S-Pen stylus and multitasking capabilites, which have all made a return on the Galaxy Note 7. The S-Pen has some new functionality for translating text, magnifying screen elements, and more, plus it can write on the display even underwater!
We'll be updating this comparison with more details soon...