Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review: Feature-Packed And Refined [Updated]

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Galaxy Note7 Design, Build Quality And Iris Scanner

Handling the Galaxy Note7, you immediately get a feel for how refined and well-built the phone is. For a large 5.7 inch phone, it’s impressive how compact and comfortable it feels. Its glass front and rear faces are both slightly curved at the edges and feed into a smooth, polished aluminum frame. As Samsung puts it, the phone is built "with perfect symmetry" and we wouldn’t argue that point. Though the Note7 feels super polished and smooth, it surprisingly isn't very slippery because of its ergonomics that cradle well in the hand (at least for most people with average or larger-sized hands). However, our personal opinion is that Blue Coral looks fabulous and hides fingerprints much better than the Black Onyx version we're working with here, which is an absolute fingerprint magnet on its backside casing. 

Galaxy Note 7 Left Side

Galaxy Note 7 Right Side

The left and right edges make the display appear near bezel-less, and the top and bottom face of the phone are also very compact and efficient real estate-wise. This is clearly the best built Galaxy Note yet from Samsung and easily the best built true phone/tablet hybrid on the market currently. On the left edge are volume up and down buttons, which also double as high speed continuous shooting buttons for the camera, while on the right edge is the requisite power and screen lock button. 

Samsung Galaxy Note7 S Pen Bottom

On bottom you'll find the S-Pen slot, a speaker port, mic port, USB-C port and a dedicated headset jack is still there, thankfully. Also, Samsung redesigned the S-Pen so you can’t inadvertently put it in the wrong way and break the slot mechanism like you could with the previous gen Galaxy Note. Now, the pen just won’t go in the wrong way. Many scoffed at this design flaw of the Note 5 as something that should be dismissed, asserting that if you were too stupid to insert the S-Pen in the right way, then too bad for you. That said, as Apple has proven time and time again, if something is foolproof and just works, all the better. The new Galaxy Note7's S-Pen is indeed foolproof now and Steve Jobs would kick himself for being so dismissive of a stylus. It adds true utility and valuable features to the device, without question. 

Galaxy Note 7 Back

Galaxy Note 7 Camera

Galaxy Note7 Dual SIM Slot

On the top edge of the Galaxy Note7, there's a combo sim card and micro SD card slot, which offers storage expansion up to another 256 Gigabytes. Also on the back is the same excellent 12MP camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) found on the Galaxy S7 series, along with an LED flash. The performance of this array is impressive but we'll get to that shortly. Where some of the new magic happens, however, is on the front side of the device.

Galaxy Note 7 with S Pen

The Note7’s Super AMOLED display is simply 5.7 inches of the best smartphone panel you’ll find in any device -- and that's not overstating its quality or capability. It's a QHD display with a native resolution of 1440X2560 and, like Samsung’s AMOLED display in the Galaxy S7, colors are vibrant with gobs of saturation, great contrast, wide viewing angles, and deep blacks. It also handles relatively well in full sunlight. Samsung’s smartphone display technology is the small screen to beat these days, bar none. Motorola's Moto Z comes close but not quite, in our opinion. Though some of the color balance choices between the two can be left to user preference for sure. Samsung's displays tend to run cooler while the Moto displays are slightly warmer with less forgiving viewing angles. 

Galaxy Note7 Iris Scanner

Getting back to the small bit of magic that Samsung engineered into the Galaxy Note7; on the front top edge of the display, along with its 5MP front facing camera, is the Note7’s highlight feature -- an Iris scanner that actually works quite well. It might not be as quick as a fingerprint reader, but it is more secure, and once trained to scan both your eyeballs with its infrared emitter and camera, it does unlock the phone quickly and flawlessly. You can even customize the mask area of the scanner on your display, if it helps you line things up better.

However, the scanner works very quickly and there were very few, if any, false rejects. And before you ask, fooling the scanner with pictures of eyes and the like was not an option. It took our actual scanned and saved irises to unlock the device via iris scan -- unlike fingerprints, which have proven to be vulnerable. There's still time for spoofing irises though, we suppose. Incidentally, the iris scanner now comes with a bundled app called Secure Folder which securely stores private apps and their data (or other personal data and files) in a separate folder that can be locked via the iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, or via pin or pattern security as well. 

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