Earlier this morning, Samsung finally took the wraps off its heavily-rumored smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. With some killer new S Pen features, top-of-the-line specifications, an iris scanner and plenty of other enhancements, the Galaxy Note 7 might be one of the best flagship phones of the year. Join us as we go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7!

Design

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If you immediately get feelings of familiarity with the Note 7, you aren’t far off the mark – this is the design language that basically started with the Galaxy S6 and has been the case ever since. Now, with the Note 7, design mostly takes the lead of the S7 and S7 Edge, though there are some refinements that actually make a world of difference.

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Water resistance finally comes to the Note line, and it doesn’t just help the body stay kicking when taking a dip; the S Pen gets the same benefits. This means that you get to take notes underwater, but we honestly aren’t too sure when or why that might ever happen.

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The designers of the Note 7 focused on symmetry, and it shows

The same dual glass panels are held together with a metallic skeleton that actually changes in hue depending on which color you pick. This time around there are curves on both sides of the phone, which greatly help with the handling and feel. Symmetry was a big deal to the designers of the Note 7, and it is something that definitely has to be held to be believed. The Note 7 has smooth sides despite there being a slight metallic ridge. And of course, the other main benefit of the curves is a slightly narrower phone all around, as the Note 7 definitely feels more comfortable for one handed usage and is noticeably less bulky than the Note 5.

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Many of the other bits and pieces around the phone – the camera sensor, buttons, and ports – are all in the same places Samsung usually puts them. You’ll find the power/standby key on the right, the volume buttons on the left, and the bottom houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker grill, S Pen slot, and the USB Type-C port. The addition of a USB Type-C port would generally mean that Micro USB cords become immediately obsolete. That isn’t totally the case, however, as an adapter for existing Micro USB cables will come in the box.

Display

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Many of the specs and internals can be described as a simple combination between the Note 5 and the Galaxy S7/Edge. Samsung included a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with the same color saturation that we’ve come to expect and the flagship standard of Quad HD resolution. And just like the S7/Edge, the Note 7 gets the Always On Display treatment, which has further usefulness now compared to its smaller, S Pen-less brethren. More on that later, though.

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And yes, the curves on the screen mean that the Edge UX and its curvy features come on the Note 7. However, if you are familiar with how it worked on the S7 Edge, there are no changes to speak of in this new Note.

Hardware

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Under that surface, we get the same processing package that’s found in the S7, only now it will be powering a larger display with more capabilities. Depending on the region, the Note 7 will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or an octa-core Exynos 8 processor. It’s also backed by 4GB of RAM. This should still result in great performance, especially considering the new, streamlined version of TouchWiz in this version.

You get just one storage option with the Note 7

There are a couple of changes in the internals that may appeal to the power users. For starters, the Note 7 has 64GB of on-board storage. Full stop. No 32GB versions, no 128GB versions. There is microSD expansion up to 256GB though, in case you’re worried about running out of space.

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The Note 7 also gets a big bump up in battery capacity this time around. It comes with a non-removable 3,500mAh cell that’s pretty much in line with other larger devices. And as we mentioned before, USB Type-C will be the way to charge the Note 7. Samsung claims that the Note 7 can get a full charge in the time it takes the S7’s smaller 3,000mAh cell to charge, too, which is quite impressive. The Note 7 also supports both WPC and PMA wireless charging standards.

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So far, the Note 7's iris scanner is very impressive

Security takes on a new form in the Note 7 thanks to the new iris scanner. Though we have definitely seen iterations of eye scanning in the past, we were quite impressed with how well and how fast it worked on the Note 7. Glasses off, one can easily scan one set of irises to the phone. A disclaimer does mention that if glasses or contacts are on while unlocking, the iris scan can be disrupted.

Simply wake the device, swipe, and line up the eyes in the HUD-like elements that appear in the top third of the screen. Especially when lined up correctly, it takes close to no time at all for the lock screen to disappear. When done right, it might be faster than the fingerprint reader – and it does make some sense that when you’re already looking at your phone, it should unlock as easily as possible.

Camera

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We weren’t able to get any samples from the camera package, but the experience should be incredibly familiar. That’s because both cameras on the Note 7 are the same as what can be found on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. It comes with a 12MP rear camera with an f/1.7 aperture, along with dual pixel technology that should help with autofocus and low-light performance. 

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The front-facing camera is 5 megapixels at the same aperture with a wide-angle view. Samsung has also streamlined the camera app to make for better one-handed use. You can swipe left and right to switch between modes and filters, and swiping up and down will switch between the front and back cameras.

S Pen

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The Note 7’s S Pen looks and feels largely the same as before. It now measures 200mm in length, which is about the same size as a standard ball point pen. It also weighs 3 grams, making it very easy to use.

No, the S Pen can't be put in backwards

And before you ask, the S Pen cannot be put in backwards. Any attempts to do so will be stopped by the clicky top that keeps it from getting past the SA in SAMSUNG. There definitely won’t be any more broken S Pens due any such design oversight.

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The S Pen has also been given a few enhancements that make it a better writing companion than ever before. For starters, Screen Off Memo, the feature that allows you to take a quick note on the blank screen without unlocking the device, is getting a major enhancement. You’ll now be able to pin your Screen Off Memo to the Always On Display so you can see it even when your phone is in standby mode. 

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A few extra features also come to the already robust capabilities listed in the Air Command menu. Accompanying a quick shortcut to the Notes application and Smart Select, users can now use the S Pen to translate words from and to up to 71 languages. This can only be done on a word by word basis, but we were told that this functionality will expand over time.

Another nice, albeit rather simplistic, addition to the Air Command menu is Magnify. This new feature provides a small square of up to 300% magnification so that parts of the UI can be easier seen.

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Smart Select also gets a new Animation Capture feature with the Note 7 that we actually might use quite often. Essentially, this is a GIF creator that provides a frame of custom size for capturing any part of the screen for up to 15 seconds of motion. Any non-DRM content can be made into an shareable GIF, which leverages the same easy way of sharing that Smart Select already provided.

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And finally, speaking of the Notes app, it is now the de facto and consolidated home for a lot of functions that used to take up up to four spots in the app drawer – S Note, Action Memo, Scrapbook and Memo. The Notes app is now home to all of these capabilities and gives the user a ton of tools to type, write, paint, draw, and save notes that can be shared in Samsung’s own PEN.UP sharing network or through any other means one might desire.

Software

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Finally, as we alluded to before in talking about the camera app, the software experience in the Note 7 has been streamlined. For the most part, TouchWiz still looks and feels like it always has, but that is primarily true when looking at the home screens. A uniformity can be found throughout the menus and the settings, as much of TouchWiz has been given a lighter, almost white color throughout with text and icons providing the accent color.

We really like this newer, cleaner version of TouchWiz

The changes are, so far, noticeable enough to make TouchWiz feel fresh. After digging around in the settings, you’ll also find a device manager that can help keep the phone in clean and fast working condition, including a battery saver that can make the display output resolutions as low as 720p.

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Samsung’s TouchWiz is also getting some more security-focused features. A new addition to the software experience is something called Secure Folder, which lets you store away apps, files and even accounts for safekeeping. You can unlock and gain access to the Secure Folder by entering in a PIN, password, pattern, fingerprint or even your iris.

Specifications

 Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Display5.7-inch Dual-edge Super AMOLED display
2560 x 1440 resolution
518ppi
ProcessorQuad-core 64-bit (2.15GHz Dual + 1.6GHz Dual) Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or
Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8890
RAM4GB, LPDDR4
Storage64GB
MicroSDYes, up to 256GB
CamerasRear: Dual Pixel 12MP sensor with OIS, f/1.7 aperture
Front: 5MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture
Battery3,500mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA wireless charging
Water resistanceIP68 rating
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz)
MU-MIMO(2x2) 620Mbps
Bluetooth v 4.2 LE
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location (GPS, Glonass, Beidou)
SensorsBarometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, HR
Sensor, Iris Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
SoftwareAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
ColorsSilver, Gold Platinum, Blue Coral, Black Onyx
Dimensions and weight153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm
169g

Gallery

Pricing and thoughts at a glance

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Overall, the package of the Note 7 feels as robust as ever, which has always been the charm of the Note line. While it might be construed that the Note 7 is simply a stylus-toting version of the Galaxy S7 Edge, it’s hard to deny that some real thought has been put into how this phone could provide at least that little bit more to users who want the most advanced bleeding edge Samsung smartphone.

The Galaxy Note 7 will be available for pre-order on August 3, and will be made available for all on August 19. Users can choose from four different colors – Silver, Gold Platinum, Blue Coral, and Black Onyx – and a brand new Gear VR will also launch with it, complete with USB-C compatibility and an adapter to put Micro USB-clad Galaxy smartphones in its updated body.

We hope you liked our first look at the Galaxy Note 7! We still have the same feeling of excitement that we always get with new Note phones, and that’s because Samsung has done a great job at refining an already great smartphone, rather than creating a new one from the ground up. If this is truly the complete package, it just might be the shining example for the now unified ‘7’ series of Galaxy phones.