Samsung Galaxy Note7 review: A pricey phablet made for power users

The Note line continues to shine with its sixth-generation installment, and it's the best it's ever been.

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TouchWiz receives a facelift

The Galaxy Note7 runs a modified version of Android 6.0.1. Marshmallow. There’s no word on when Android 7.0 Nougat will make it to Samsung devices, but the company has added in a few Nougat-like features that should help tide you over, like peek-a-boo Quick Settings and a nifty blue-light filter for nighttime use. There’s no word on whether Samsung will sell the Note7 unlocked just yet, so any future Android software updates are at the mercy of the carriers.

note7 ui
Samsung’s TouchWiz UI might look the same as always, but there’s a few new tricks up its sleeve.

Samsung tweaks its TouchWiz UI with every new smartphone release, but it’s clearly still figuring out what works. I like the Note7’s newly simplified aesthetic and I’m happy to see that the blue hue is mostly gone. But in order for the new interface to truly feel cohesive, Samsung has got to do something about the round, cartoon-y icons. It’s not a good look for Android, and TouchWiz would be better off if it stuck to the stock Android design in that regard.

note7 notificationshade
The Quick Settings have been overhauled to look like what Android 7.0 Nougat looks like now.

Unfortunately, carrier bloat is still a real concern, but at least this year’s Note 7 comes with an expansion slot to help you reclaim some of that storage space taken up by apps you can’t delete.

Should you buy it?

note7  11 Florence Ion

Who wants to go back to the Nexus 6P after using this for a week?

I’ll be perfectly honest: I don’t want to go back to my Nexus 6P after a week with the Galaxy Note7, and that’s with it running the latest version of the Android 7.0 Nougat preview. The Note7 is simply a better device with more to offer than Google’s stock smartphone, and even though I didn’t always reach for the S-Pen, I appreciated having it readily available for the few times I needed a more precise hand on the interface. You also can’t beat the camera performance coming out of Samsung’s devices this year, or the vibrant Super AMOLED display that makes even the trashiest of reality television shows appear polished and pristine.

Here’s the thing about the Galaxy Note series: It’s meant to be marketed as more than just another smartphone for your pocket. It’s supposed to be capable of doing almost everything a souped-up tablet or mid-range laptop could do so that you’re literally carrying around a tiny computer that you can work and play on. In some cases, the Note7 might be too much technology for the casual consumer—in which case, they should consider the just barely-smaller Galaxy S7 Edge—but for power users, it’s simply stellar.

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At a Glance
  • The Galaxy Note 7 is the ultimate productivity machine that fits in your pocket.


    • Dockable, pressure-sensitive S-Pen is useful if you need to get precise
    • 12-megapixel camera with f/1.7 aperture is one of the best on the market
    • Its water resistance makes it impervious to some of life's little accidents


    • The iris scanner is a neat feature, but often finicky
    • Android software updates are at the mercy of your carrier
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