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Review: Samsung Galaxy Note7 for T-Mobile

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  12  

Aug 26, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's Galaxy Note7 is one of the best phones of the year. This pricey phablet is a powerhouse of mobile computing. If you can afford it, there are few Android phones as feature-rich as the Note7.

Editor's Note: Since this review was published, serious safety concerns have come to light. We cannot recommend this phone to anyone. (More detail in the Wrap-Up section at the end.)

Is It Your Type?

The Galaxy Note7 from Samsung is the company's premiere smartphone. This big-screened device defines which bells and whistles other phones might offer down the road. If you want the latest and greatest right now, and don't mind the high price tag, the Note7 is the top phone to get.


This year has been good to Samsung. The company revealed its best-ever phones in February with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and both were met with success. The Note7 is a bigger, better, and more capable machine than the S-branded devices.. Why is the Note7 so good? Years' worth of tech advancements and design iterations have collided in the near-perfect form.

The Note7's design is as clean, simple, and elegant as they come. Twin Gorilla Glass 5 panels form the front and rear surfaces. These panels are symmetrical and cling tightly to a metal frame. The overall shape is smooth; the curved glass flows seamlessly around the aluminum chassis. The side edges are rounded, making the phone comfortable to hold and use. There are no sharp edges. Samsung is sticking to mostly conservative coloring for the Note7. Our review unit is black, but the device also comes in silver and gold. The standout (in a good way or bad, depending on your tastes) is one in a light shade of blue with rose gold accents. The black variant may look like many other phones from a distance, but the others are a bit easier to spot

The Note7 has a larger screen than the iPhone 6s Plus, but a noticeably smaller footprint. Samsung made the Note7 as compact as possible, despite the huge 5.7-inch display. Note-series phones have always been two-handed devices, but the Note7 is the most compact yet. You can get away with using one hand without too much contorting. The phone still may be too big for some people, but that's the whole point of this device, compared to the S7. The Note7 makes no apologies for the fact that you buy it specifically for the big screen and, thus, big footprint.

I do wish it were lighter. At 6 ounces, it's rather heavy. We can thank the dense glass and metal chassis for the weight. I was able to fit the Note7 into my jeans pockets with no problem.

You simply can't ask for more polish. The Note7 relies on high-quality materials throughout. The Gorilla Glass 5 feels excellent under your thumb, and the aluminum chassis is silky and strong. The phone is put together tightly; nothing about this device is cheap. Owning this phone is a luxury.


The phone's face is nearly all screen. The side bezels are almost non-existent and Samsung minimized the bezels above and below the screen. Curved glass along the sides extends the display nearly edge-to-edge. I like that the grille for the earpiece matches the black surface (Samsung often colors the accents chrome, even on dark devices.) The Samsung logo is barely visible, but the sensors and selfie camera are rather easy to spot. A single physical button is placed below the display. It doubles as a fingerprint reader. I like the button's profile and action; it is easy to find and a pleasure to use. Capacitive controls are positioned on either side. The buttons light up to help you find them. They work as they should.

Solid aluminum wraps all the way around the outer edge. This frame is thicker at the top and bottom than it is along the sides, where the curved glass panels join it. The paint on our black review unit has a matte finish that I find works well. Separate buttons control the volume and they are placed high on the left side of the phone. The profile of the buttons means you'll always find them, and they offer pretty much perfect travel and feedback. The screen lock button is on the right edge, and it, too, has an excellent profile and perfect feedback. The quality of these buttons is top notch.

Samsung buried the SIM card and memory card tray in the top edge of the phone. The bottom edge is packed with stuff, including the headphone jack, USB Type-C port, speakerphone grille, and S Pen. I found the USB-C port worked, but it's worth pointing out that accessories for USB-C are still few and far between.

The S Pen functions mostly like last year's stylus. It tucks in tightly. You need to press the small, squarish top of the S Pen to pop it out. It slides in and out easily, and, unlike previous S Pens, cannot be inserted the wrong way. The stylus itself has a rectangular shape. The button is located in one of the wider sides. I find the button to be a bit far up the S Pen; it would make more sense to me if it were lower. I had to adjust my grip on the S Pen in order to use it. The action isn't all that great. The phone vibrates when you replace or retrieve the S Pen.

You cannot remove the glass panel that forms the rear surface, which means you cannot remove the battery, either. (Thankfully the battery is big and supports wireless charging.) The camera module has a rim that sits just a little bit above the surface of the rear panel.

Last, the device adds the water resistance found on the Note7 and Note7 Edge. It's rated to sit in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. I found it easily managed to do this. Keep in mind, the phone isn't meant to go for a swim. The waterproofing is more meant to prevent the Note7 from suffering a watery death thanks to an accidental drop in the pool than it is to join you on your water-logged summer adventures. Prudence is always wise.

The Note7 is a refined piece of hardware for the discerning phone buyer. It's the Mercedes S Class or BMW 7 Series sedans — the flagship that carries the brand forward with new technology, style, and performance. You can't find a better phablet in the market today.


The Super AMOLED display measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and includes 2560 by 1440 pixels for quad HD resolution. The screen is incredible. The size and resolution push the pixel density to over 500ppi, which is just crazy. Individual pixels are invisible; you can't see them anywhere. The screen's colors are good and the display is dazzlingly bright. I was able to use the phone outdoors under a sunny sky with no trouble. The high resolution also helps with virtual reality. I was pleased with the screen's performance when viewing some images via Google Cardboard. The Note7's display is luscious.


The Note7 did really well on T-Mobile's network in and around New York City. The device had no trouble connecting to the network and stayed on LTE 4G the majority of the time. I did see the device dip down to HSPA 3G a few times, but only for short periods. The phone connected all calls on the first dial and didn't drop or miss any calls. It was able to keep calls connected while at highway speeds. Data performance was quite impressive. I was pleased with how quickly the device downloaded apps via LTE, and I was easily able to watch high-definition video (after turning off T-Mobile's Binge On feature) and listen to high-bit-rate music without issue.


I was able to make HD voice calls over WiFi and standard voice calls over cellular. The HD calls on my home's WiFi network were superb. The quality was the best I've heard from a mobile phone. Standard calls over cellular were very good. I was pleased with the tone of voices, as well as clarity and volume. The earpiece produces plenty of volume for most spaces (home, work, etc.)

The speakerphone is also loud and clear, over HD voice and standard cellular calls. I had no trouble holding conversations via speakerphone while tailgating in a noisy parking lot over the weekend. That said, the quality isn't quite as good as the earpiece.

The ringers and alerts produce ear-popping amounts of noise, and the vibrate alert works well, too.

It's a shame that the Note7, for all it size and capabilities, doesn't have stereo speakers.


The Note7 stuffs a 3,500 mAh battery into its slim frame. The power cell is more than capable of providing a day's worth of mixed use. I generally found the phone had between 15% and 25% battery left at the end of the day. I neve r drained it entirely. I don't think anyone will have much trouble getting through a day, but don't expect it to do much more than that.

The Note7 includes the typical set of Samsung power management tools. Samsung's Power Saver mode and Ultra Power Saver mode each offer distinct benefits. The former tones down the screens, notifications, and the processor to drum up a bit more life from the battery. The latter puts the phone into ultra basics mode with a greyscale screen and severely limits apps to push through hours of basic communications.

The Note7 supports Quick Charge 3.0 and rapid wireless charging. When plugged into the included charger, I found the Note7 charged from 25% to 100% in about 80 minutes. Wireless charging took a bit longer at 3 hours.


Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

I was really pleased the Bluetooth radio. Not only did the device pair easily and quickly with a variety of other bits of gear, but phone calls were incredibly clear through mono headsets and my car. Few phones I've tested this year have sounded so good. The same goes for music, which sounded excellent when sent via Bluetooth to portable speakers.

The Note7's GPS performance was laudable, too. The GPS radio was accurate and quick. It was able to pinpoint me to within about 10 feet, and did so in a blink. Google Maps performed flawlessly on the Note7, which worked very well as a real-time navigation tool.

The NFC radio was helpful in pairing some Bluetooth accessories. It also supports Android Pay and Samsung Pay, both of which are preloaded.

The WiFi radio was very helpful when it came time to sync my Spotify playlists to the phone.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.


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Sep 8, 2016, 10:26 AM

Phonescoop, I may have lost the battle but.....

did I have to lose the war? It seems like ages ago that I lobbied you guys to start including real performance reviews with benchmarks and in-depth analysis of the hardware. You guys quickly shot me down and insisted that your reviews were intended to be along the lines of the practical experience users would get with normal usage. So, can I please get that?

I am soooooooo sick of Android (and especially Samsung) devices. After several years of use (including my Wife's phones this is my 6th Samsung device) I am noticing that my phone always aggravates me to no end... in real world use. But not a peep from you guys about these real world problems that EVERYONE complains about all over the internet?

When I get into my car and my Note 7 a...
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