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Galaxy Note 7 hands-on: Samsung's productivity phone takes baby steps forward

Florence Ion | Aug. 3, 2016
The Note 7 is a polished productivity machine, but sticks to a familiar formula that's always served Samsung's Note line well.

Don’t be confused that Samsung is calling its latest productivity phone the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung skipped the name Note 6 entirely because it wanted this latest phablet to directly align with its newest Galaxy flagships—the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge—which bear many of the same components inside.

But is Samsung’s sixth-generation productivity phone really such a bold leap forward that it deserves to skip a generation, if in name only? Probably not. It still delivers all the productivity and creativity features that make Note phones so great, but the Note 7 doesn’t feel like a revolutionary overhaul of the Note 5.

In the Note 7, Samsung delivers a higher-capacity battery, a better rear-facing camera, and an improved S-Pen. And that iris-scanning technology for unlocking the phone by gazing at the screen? It’s actually pretty impressive. So if you want to get things done and fuel your creative mind, you have to put the Note 7 on your short list. Just don’t expect any big surprises that reinvent the Note promise.

Here’s what I discovered during a brief hands-on...

An evolutionary, water-resistant design 

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The Note 7 is a stunning smartphone.

It’s hard not to sound hyperbolic when writing about a Samsung device, but the Galaxy Note 7 is an absolute beauty. Like the Note 5, this year’s phablet features a metal and glass unibody design that’s styled in the familiar aesthetic of the Galaxy smartphone family. It’s also notably curvy with a display that extends down the sides, so you may confuse the Note 7 with one of Samsung’s Edge variants. 

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Thin is in, and the Note 7 is definitely on trend.

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Need an expansion slot? It’s on the top of the device, along with the nano SIM slot.

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Samsung finally adopted USB Type-C for the Note 7, though it’s not compatible with Quick Charge 3.0.

The Galaxy Note 7’s wider width and smooth chassis makes it one of the most comfortable phones I’ve held in a while—even more so than the half-an-inch smaller Galaxy S7. Samsung said it shaved off about 2mm of chassis while designing the Note 7, making the phablet no thicker than the Nexus 6P.

That said, because of its large 5.7-inch screen size, the Note 7 may not be the right fit for everyone. Samsung offers a few software features that make it easier to use the interface and keyboard, but this isn’t an easy phone to use one-handed if you’ve got smaller hands. But, hey, at least it’s IP68 certified, so if it happens to slip out of your tiny fingers and into a giant pool, the Note 7 will be fine as long as you immediately retrieve it.


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