Samsung Galaxy Note 7 First Impressions: Great Smartphone, But Not A Great Upgrade

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was announced on Tuesday, and the response to it has been mixed. CNET had the most favorable early review.

“What do you get when you take the curved-screen Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and add a stylus? The Galaxy Note 7, which Samsung unveiled today in New York. Even with its differences, the Note 7’s wraparound screens, 12-megapixel camera, expandable storage and water-resistant coating bring it closer to the S7 series than to last year’s Note 5 (that’s right, there’s no Note 6). And that’s a good thing.”

It may be a good thing if you don’t already have a recent Samsung Galaxy device. Ten minutes of use with the Galaxy Note 7 on Wednesday revealed that the Note 7 really is great, but it is also — for the most part — just a Galaxy S7 Edge with a stylus. You won’t need to upgrade if you have the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge. You also won’t need to upgrade if you have the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, or have a Note 5 (Samsung skipped the number 6 for their latest model).

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The best thing about the Note 7 is the build quality. Even though it is curved, the device has a smooth, milky feeling to it. You’ll have a difficult time putting a sleeve protector on (though you certainly should) since the phone feels so great to hold in its bare form.

Then, there is the S-Pen, which has a smaller tip and writes as smoothly as ever. This time, writing on the Note really feels like writing on a piece of paper. There are new features such as Magnification and GIF-Making. However, there are still even many Note users who don’t even use the S-Pen and prefer to leave the note-taking to devices such as the iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4.

The 3,500mAh battery allows for excellent battery life. In 10 minutes of heavy use, the battery only depleted four percent. However, one can get the same exact battery life on any of the S7 devices. It’s another feature on the Note 7 that is great, but not groundbreaking.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Perhaps the biggest disappointment on the Note 7 is the screen. Yeah, it’s the best screen available on a smartphone, but it’s still the same exact screen that is on the Note 5 (except for the curves) or the Galaxy S7 Edge. This is the third year that Samsung’s Note has offered a Quad HD display, and a regular smartphone certainly doesn’t need a crisper resolution.

However, when you consider that the Note 7 series will be used with yet another new Gear VR, this is disappointing; a Quad HD display still offers a pixelated screen with a screen door effect when used as a virtual reality display. Many Gear VR virtual reality users were hoping Samsung would increase the Note 7 screen to at least a 3K resolution, if not a 4K one. Then again, a 3K or 4K screen would eat up a lot more battery life.

The Galaxy Note 7 is certainly a great device for those who need to be productive with a large and powerful phone. However, Samsung is known for innovation, and usually, a new Note device brings that innovation. The Note 7 barely brings anything new or innovative. Instead, using the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 just serves as a reminder of how good the Galaxy S7 Edge really is. Perhaps Samsung is waiting to unveil a truly groundbreaking device with the Note 8 next year.

[Photo via Daryl Deino]