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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. S7 Edge: Is scribbling worth the extra scrilla?

galaxy note  vs s edge samsung
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

Sadly, the gorgeous Galaxy Note 7 has been the focus of a massive recall. Now, replacement units have been catching fire and that’s forced Samsung to temporarily halt production. Samsung officially declared an end to the Note 7 in early October.

“For the benefit of consumers’ safety, we stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to stop production,” Samsung told Digital Trends in a statement.

Related: Hot potato! How to ditch your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 before it explodes

If you have a Galaxy Note 7, please return it immediately to the place where you purchased it. You are entitled to a full refund or an exchange for a replacement device of equal value, as per the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall. Please see our full guide on how to return your Note 7 here. The guide also includes recommendations of which device to buy instead.

Below is our original comparison piece for the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, and Note 7.

Galaxy S7

samsung-galaxy-s7-640x640-220x220

Galaxy S7 Edge

samsung-galaxy-s7-edge

Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 thumb

Size 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 in) 149 x 72 x 7.62 mm (5.85 x 2.85 x 0.30 in) 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm (6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 in)
Weight 5.36 ounces 5.54 ounces 5.96 ounces
Screen 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED Dual-edge, 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED Dual-edge, 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,560 x 1,440 pixels 2,560×1,440 pixels 2,560×1,440 pixels
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Storage 32/64GB 32/64GB 64GB
SD Card Slot Yes Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
RAM 4GB 4GB 4GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 12MP Front 5MP, Rear 12MP Front 5MP, Rear 12MP
Video 2,160p 4K UHD 2,160p 4K UHD 2,160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistant Yes Yes Yes
Battery 3,000mAh 3,600mAh 3,500mAh
Charger Micro USB Micro USB USB Type-C
Quick Charging Yes Yes Yes
Wireless Charging Yes, Qi and PMA Yes, Qi and PMA Yes, Qi and PMA
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, white, gold, silver Black, white, gold, silver Black, white, gold, silver
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
DT Review 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars Review pending

Specs

The Note 7, internally speaking, doesn’t diverge too far from the formula established by the S7 series. It’s got the same Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor and the same 4GB of RAM. And if you really want to delve into the technical weeds, even the processing clock speed is the same. The two cores are clocked at 2.15GHz, and a pair of power-efficient ones run at 1.6GHz, which is the same as both the S7 and S7 Edge.

The Note 7 isn’t a complete clone, however. Its headlining hardware is an iris scanner, which captures your eye’s unique color and shape for authentication purposes. Think of it as a fingerprint replacement: you can use your iris to unlock the Note 7 when it’s secured by a PIN or a password, or lock apps within password-protected folders. The scanner responded almost instantaneously in our tests, but isn’t without a fair number of limitations. It might not recognize your iris if you’re wearing glasses or contacts, for example, or if you’ve had surgery. One major advantage, though? It’s much easier to use one-handed. It’s also supposedly more secure, although that claim has yet to be put to the test.

Related: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 packs the legendary S Pen, an iris scanner, and USB Type-C

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention what’s arguably the Note 7’s biggest differentiator: the S Pen stylus. The new and improved pointer is smaller than the previous model and features “improved pressure sensitivity,” for what that’s worth. The S7 and S7 Edge ship with no such stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

If you noticed something different about the Note 7’s primary connector, that’s because Samsung traded the Micro USB on the S7 and S7 Edge for USB Type-C, the multipurpose port that’s becoming ubiquitous on mobile devices. One advantage of the tech is a reversible design — there’s no “right way up,” so to speak — and another is bidirectional power and data transfer. That’s a fancy way of saying you can use the Note 7 to charge other devices, or transfer videos and data relatively seamlessly. It’s capable of carrying high-definition audio, too, which, if Samsung’s software ever supports it, could allow a listening companion to plug in an extra pair of earbuds.

Another difference between the Note 7 and Samsung’s S7 handsets worth noting? The Note 7 packs a robust 64GB of space, which is double the amount of internal memory as the baseline S7 and S7 Edge. If that’s not enough to fit your entire Stones collection, though, the Note 7 — like the S7 and S7 edge — has a MicroSD card slot that can accommodate cards up to 256GB in size.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review

The Note 7’s battery is a mixed bag. It’s 3,500mAh in capacity, making it slightly larger than the S7’s 3,000mAh cell, but a tad smaller than the S7 Edge’s 3,600mAh pack. Functionally speaking, though, it’s the same as both, and supports multiple wireless charging standards and rapid recharging. That being the case, there’s no clear winner here. The Note 7 is  the clear battery victor compared to the S7, but the advantage isn’t so clear cut with the S7 Edge. We don’t predict a blowout, though, as 100mAh is insignificant.

The rest of the Note 7’s components mirror those of the S7 series. The Note 7, like the S7 phones, has a fingerprint sensor, along with the same gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor, compass, barometer, and oxygen saturation modules that can be found on the S7 and S7 Edge. The Note 7’s wireless connectivity isn’t any different, either. The handset has dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 and is compatible with all major carriers in the United States.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

In summary, if an iris-scanning sensor, a stylus, a USB Type-C connector, 64GB of storage, and a battery of a decent size whet your whistle, the Note 7’s probably worth the premium fee. But if none of that really appeals to you, then consider the S7 and S7 Edge first.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Design

The Galaxy Note 7, at first glance, could be mistaken for an S7 Edge. That’s probably because it shares the same materials — glass and aluminum, largely — and slick design. But on closer examination, the differences start to come into focus. The curve in the Note 7’s display isn’t nearly as severe as the S7 Edge’s display, and it slopes much more gradually toward the handset’s bezels. The rear panel has been remodeled slightly, which Samsung said should make one-handed operation a bit easier.

It’s very much a refinement, if not an evolution, of the S7 series. But the changes are more than skin-deep.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

The Note 7, on paper, is a bit more resistant to bumps, scratches, and accidental drops than the S7 and S7 Edge. It features Corning’s latest generation of shatter-resistant protection, Gorilla Glass 5, which the manufacturer claims is twice as “tough” and twice as likely to survive drops onto uneven surfaces than the version of Gorilla Glass that preceded it, and that the S7 and S7 Edge sport (Gorilla Glass 4). We’ll have to put the Note 7 through its paces to test said claims, but assuming they’re true, that puts the Note 7 at a significant advantage when it comes to durability.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 review

The Note 7 is water- and dust-resistant, too, although no more so than the S7 and S7 Edge. It’s IP68-certified, which means you can submerge it in up to a meter of water for more than 30 minutes. This means you can also sketch underwater. That’s no joke — the S Pen works “even when wet.”

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Display

Curved displays remain a point of controversy, and some longtime fans of Samsung’s Note series will no doubt be disappointed that Samsung has decided against offering a flat-screened option alongside the sloping Note 7. It’s ultimately a matter of personal preference, but we think the Galaxy Note 7 screen’s curve is both slight enough not to impede either S Pen or thumbs, and, quite frankly, a beauty to behold. In terms of specs, it’s largely the same panel — albeit o.2 inches larger — as that on the S7 Edge. This means the 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED remains both bright and colorful.

Crucially, though, Note 7’s screen is a tad bigger than the S7’s 5.1-inch display, and resultingly exhibits lower pixel density — 518 pixels per inch (PPI) versus the S7’s 577 ppi. But that’s largely a superficial comparison. We were hard pressed to discern the individual pixels in the Note 7’s screen, and, short of comparing it and the S7’s panel under a microscope, predict most people will have a tough time telling the difference.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Camera

The Note 7’s cameras are the same as those on the S7 and S7 Edge — and that’s not hyperbole. Samsung describes the twin shooters as “[cameras] introduced on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge,” and as such, they have the same megapixel count — 12MP on the back and 5MP on the front — and the same f/1.7 aperture and 1.4 µm pixel size.

The rear sensor on the S7, S7 Edge, and Note 7 have a few more goodies that the front lacks, namely optical image stabilization. It’s got a LED flash, too, plus the same Dual Pixel autofocus technology Samsung first touted earlier this year during the S7 series’ debut.

Samsung-Galaxy-s7-Edge-back-camera
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

Given the sensors haven’t changed, it’s probably safe to call image quality a draw. But software works in mysterious ways, so we’ll have to wait until we’ve spent some time with the note to say for certain.

Winner: Tie

Software

The Note 7’s new features aren’t just restricted to hardware.

New to the Note is a bevy of S Pen tools. Not all are novel, necessarily. Screen off Memo, a feature which lets you sketch and write memos without switching on the Note 7’s display, debuted with the Note 5, as did the GIF-generating Smart Select feature. But others, such as Air Command and Magnify, are brand new. Air Command provides a list of shortcuts to apps and actions whenever the S Pen’s removed from its slot. Translate, as you might expect, translates any word over which the S Pen’s tip is hovering. Mangify essentially turns the S Pen into a digital magnifying glass, enlarging the text and images around its tip. And Glance gives you a preview of an app’s screen when you move over its thumbnail.

Related: Whip out that S Pen! 6 apps to use with the Galaxy Note

The iris scanner’s software is a bit less robust. There’s Secure Folder, a feature which locks apps and other data within an iris-protected folder. And Samsung said iris authentication will come to Samsung Pay and “other software” in the future.

For now, iris scanning is a bit shorter on delivery than promise, but the S7 and S7 Edge don’t feature anything comparable.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Pricing and Availability

If the Note 7 is one thing, it’s expensive. Samsung’s latest starts at $850, though some carriers like T-Mobile are offering it on a payment plan that requires you to place $70 down and pay $32.50 for 24 months. It’s available for pre-order from Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. In regards top brick-and-mortar retailers, it’ll go on sale at Best Buy, Amazon, Car Toys, Sam’s Club, Target, and certain Walmart retailers when it begins shipping on August 28. Samsung’s throwing in a few bonuses for those who pre-order the device, too. If you buy a Note 7 or the Galaxy S7 Edge, you’ll get a free Gear Fit 2 or 256GB memory card.

The Galaxy S7 Edge, by contrast, is significantly cheaper. It technically retails for $780, but sales are abundant, with online retailers such as Newegg and Amazon offering the phone for as little as $570.

It’s the same story with the S7. The MSRP price is $670, but  the smarphone goes for $580 on Amazon and eBay.

The takeaway? You’ll pay a significant premium for the Note 7, and the S7 is by far the most economical option.

Winner: Galaxy S7

Conclusion

The Note 7 is evidence that Samsung is in its prime. It also represents the confluence of cutting-edge technologies — such as iris scanners, USB Type-C, and curved screens — and a refinement of the Korean company’s contemporary glass-and-metal design language. But what it’s not is a reinvention, or even re-imagining, of the modern smartphone. Sure, the iris scanner is a neat new addition, but it’s been done before. And so, too, has a curved screen — by Samsung, not coincidentally.

The dilemma for potential buyers, then, is deciding whether the myriad of refinements on the Note 7 justify the added cost. The phablet’s design is a tad more ergonomic than the S7 and S7 Edge, and the display’s glass is a bit more resilient. The Note 7 also works with USB Type-C devices, whereas the S7 and S7 Edge never will. It’s even got a bit more storage that the S7 phones, a sizeable battery, and a fantastic display. But the S7 and S7 edge aren’t exactly slumming it.

Ultimately, if you’re dead set on a stylus, an iris scanner, and a USB Type-C port, none but the Note 7 will probably do. If you’re willing to bend on that criteria, though, you might want to entertain the idea of the S7 Edge. But if price is your foremost concern, you won’t be too disappointed with an S7. Apparently, there’s a Galaxy for everyone.

The Galaxy Note 7 represents the best of Samsung’s phones, and it’s the one to buy if you’ve got the extra cash.