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  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 head to head review

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 head to head review

What's the difference? And which one's best? We take a proper look.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs S7 hero

  • One of the best cameras around
  • Amazing screen is vibrant and bright
  • Has a stylus for easy note-taking
  • Too many apps we could have done without
  • It's expensive. If you want it free, expect to pay from £41 per month
  • At 5.7-inches, it'll be too big for some users

  • Same best-in-class camera as the Note 7
  • High quality construction
  • Also features a fantastic screen
  • Always-on display has fewer useful features than the Note 7
  • Glossy finish is a magnet for fingerprints
  • Not a huge leap forward from the Galaxy S6

First Impressions

Note 7 Slider Galaxy S7 Slider

The Note brand has traditionally been reserved for 'phablets', which are a category of handset with larger dimensions that mean they're somewhere between a phone and a tablet.

But in a sign of how almost all phones have got bigger in recent years, there's actually not a great deal of difference between the Note 7 and S7 when it comes to size.

The standard S7 has a 5.1-inch screen, while the S7 Edge variant has a 5.5-inch screen. So they're really only marginally smaller than the Note 7's 5.7-inch display.

Both the S7 and Note 7 have pretty narrow bezels (that's the plastic rim around the screen) and are very slim, so neither feels too oversized in the hand. Unless you're upgrading from a 3.5-inch phone like the iPhone 4S, in which case both will feel like you're holding a monster phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at a glance

  • Both stylus and phone are water-resistant
  • Has an iris scanner that lets you unlock the Note 7 just by looking at it
  • Rugged 'industrial' design

Samsung Galaxy S7 at a glance

  • Solid metal construction
  • Liquid cooling system to prevent overheating
  • Has expandable storage, which was missing from the Galaxy S6


Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy S7 curve hero

These handsets are bursting with new technology. But on the outside, very little has changed from their predecessors.

Both phones are solidly built and feel like they'll last. But the Note 7 just edges it for us. Its symmetrical design and rounded corners make it a joy to hold in the hand.

Galaxy Note 7 at a glance

  • The Note 7 and stylus are water-resistant for 30 minutes in up to 1.5m of water.

  • The two work in conjunction underwater, so you can jot down notes while in the pool.

  • Unlike other water-resistant phones, the Note 7 doesn't have any unsightly rubber flaps covering its ports.

  • That means you don't have to peel back a flap whenever you plug something in, and you won't risk breaking your phone because you forgot to close a flap before submerging it under water.

  • In a first for the Note range, the Note 7 features a symmetrical design. The back is curved just like the front of the phone.

  • No sharp edges. Instead the front flows over the side into the back. Overall, the handset is as smooth as a pebble.

Galaxy S7 at a glance

  • Same IP68 water-resistance rating as the Note 7, so can survive a 30-minute/1.5m dunk in water without coming to any harm. And just like the Note 7, there's no rubber flaps.

  • Like the Note 7, the S7 has a home button below the screen that you press to wake the phone or return to the home screen. This doubles as a fingerprint reader, so you can just touch it with your thumb or finger to unlock the phone.

  • There's no Note 7-style iris scanner. That means you can't unlock the handset just by looking at it. But as we'll see in a minute, that's no great loss.


Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs S7

Both phones' screens have a QHD (Quad HD, i.e. a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels) resolution, which is among the highest around.

The term 'resolution' refers to the number of pixels, which are points of colour that make up an image on-screen. The more pixels you pack into a display, the sharper the image quality.

Theoretically, given the smaller size, the S7's screen should look slightly sharper than the Note 7's. But in reality, you can't see any difference.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at a glance

  • Both edges of the screen curve over the sides of the phone, making it seem as if whatever's on-screen is cascading over the side of the handset. It's a nice effect.

  • The secondary screen this curved section provides also houses handy shortcuts to apps and websites. Just swipe in the only-just-visible tab from the edge of the screen and fill it with whatever you like.

  • The screen is always on, so even when your phone is asleep, it shows the time, date and notifications.

  • The S7 has this feature too, but only shows notifications from certain Samsung apps, whereas the Note 7 shows them from third-party apps too, such as Google Hangouts and Inbox.

  • The Note 7 is the first phone to support HDR video playback. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and is a method of adding greater brightness and luminosity to an image, so that the dark parts look darker, and the light parts lighter.

  • This adds more depth to an image, which makes videos more engrossing. It's a niche technology at the moment – not many videos use it – but its presence means the Note 7 is future-proofed.

  • Iris recognition technology means you just look at the correct part of the screen to unlock it. It works quickly, but requires you to press a button first and then swipe the screen before being activated. So it's actually a lot slower than unlocking it with your fingerprint.

Samsung Galaxy S7 at a glance

  • Always-on screen is just as handy as the Note 7's for optimising battery life. But is of limited use, as it only supports certain Samsung apps. Hopefully Samsung will improve this soon with a software update.

  • QHD resolution is impressive, but it's the same technology as seen in the S6 a year before. So it doesn't feel quite as cutting-edge as it once did.

  • The screen also tends to give off a bit of glare when faced with overhead lights.

Samsung Note 7 Samsung Galaxy S7
Build Glass and metal Glass and metal
Dimensions 153.4x73.9x7.8mm 142.4x69.6x7.9mm
Weight 169g 152g


Sample Image Note 7 Sample Image S7 Edge

Both phones feature a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Photos are clear and sharp, and the colours are bright without looking artificial.

The Note 7 and S7 also feature the same neat shortcut that lets you jump straight to the camera by double-pressing the home button. This even works when the phone is asleep, as long as you have not activated a security lock or turned on fingerprint recognition.

Optical image stabilisation – which keeps the image steady while you're snapping a photo or recording video – also comes as standard on both phones.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at a glance

  • Performs especially well in low light, thanks to its large aperture that lets in more light.

  • The Note 7's bigger screen is also better suited to framing your shots because it gives you a clearer view of what you're shooting.

  • Beware of the selfie mode. It has a lots of touching up tools that could leave you looking completely airbrushed.

Samsung Galaxy S7 at a glance

  • The camera hardware and software in the Note 7 and S7 are exactly the same. The only difference is in the handsets themselves.

  • Focussing is super-fast on both handsets thanks to the dual pixel sensor. This means every pixel (or point of light) is optimised for phase-detection autofocus, and so the camera can focus on an object wherever it is on the screen. The result? Much quicker focussing times.

  • We'd take the Note 7 over the S7 though, purely because of the bigger screen and slightly more tactile design.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Samsung Galaxy S7
Camera resolution 12MP 12MP
OIS Yes Yes
Unique features None None

Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs S7 cosy

When it comes to battery life, there's not much to choose between the Note 7 and S7. Both lasted more than a day, which is pretty standard for today's smartphones.

Both phones also feature Samsung's own TouchWiz user interface over the top of the Marshmallow version of Google's Android software.

This is less intrusive than previous versions, but it does mean it'll delay when you can update your phone to the latest version of Android. Which is irritating, especially when you're paying top whack for a new handset.

The Note 7 boasts a powerful 2.3GHz quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM. These combine to ensure that even the most resource-sapping games and videos run without a hitch and apps open in a snap.

But the S7 is no slouch. It too has a 2.3GHz chip and 4GB of RAM, meaning its performance is on a par with the Note 7. But using both phones day to day, there are some noticeable differences between them.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at a glance

  • The Note 7 features a bigger battery, though it does have a bigger screen to power.

  • Only comes in a 64GB model, whereas the S7 is also available with 32GB of storage. (Both phones have expandable storage via microSD card.) If you don't need the extra space, go for the smaller S7 model and save yourself some money.

Samsung Galaxy S7 at a glance

  • The S7 and S6 might look almost identical, but the S6 doesn't feature expandable storage. Which is worth bearing in mind if you're thinking of trying to save a few pennies by opting for the older phone.

  • The S7 has a smaller battery than the Note 7, but the S7 Edge's one is actually bigger than the Note 7's – 3,600mAh to the Note's 3,500mAh. Again, this doesn't make much difference, with both phones turning in great battery performance.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Samsung Galaxy S7
Battery 3,500mAh 3,000mAh
Storage 64GB (plus microSD) 32/64 (plus microSD)
OS and version Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Value for money

The Note 7 costs a penny shy of £700 SIM free, while the equivalent 64GB storage model of S7 will set you back £509.99. However, you can pick up the 32GB model of S7 for under £500 if you shop around.

At the time of writing, the Note 7 is available free on contracts starting at £41 per month. The S7 is free from £27 per month.

So neither phone is cheap. But then they are two of the most cutting-edge smartphones around.


  • Premium design and materials on both handsets
  • Both have the same excellent cameras
  • The Note 7's S Pen stylus technology has come on leaps and bounds
  • Note 7 has the better always-on screen
  • Iris recognition tech on the Note 7 isn't all it might be
  • Both have expandable storage and the same speedy performance
  • The S7 is the more affordable phone
  • But the Note 7 is the bigger of the two

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs S7 screen waterproof

Samsung has been on a roll of late. At the moment, only Apple can rival it when it comes to high-end smartphones.

Improvements it has made across its range include boosting camera quality and making the camera app easier to use. And just as crucially, making its own preloaded apps less annoying.

The S7 was one of the most impressive phones of the year, and can still hold its own against a lot of newer handsets. But next to the Note 7, it suddenly looks a little behind-the-curve.

With a better always-on screen, improved stylus functionality and new – if dubious – iris recognition tech, the Note 7 is our choice of the two.

It won't be to everyone's taste, but if a powerhouse of a mobile with a big screen and stylus is your cup of tea, you can't go wrong. *

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