Turns out the Galaxy S6 edge+ has aged really well. Nevertheless, the march of smartphone progress continues, and twelve months on it's about to be replaced by the Note 7.
The Galaxy Note 7 is the successor to not only the Note 5, but also the S6 edge+. There's no Galaxy S7 edge+ this year, as the Note line incorporates the best of both 2015 models. So if you're rocking Samsung's last edgy phablet, is this new one worth the upgrade? Read on for our first impressions.
|Category||Galaxy S6 edge+||Galaxy Note 7|
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1||Android 6.0.1|
|CPU||Exynos 7420||Exynos 8890 (global)
Snapdragon 820 (U.S.)
|Display||5.7-inch Quad HD SuperAMOLED||5.7-inch Quad HD SuperAMOLED|
|Storage||32GB/64GB||64GB + microSD|
|Camera||16MP OIS, 1.12µm pixels, f/1.9 lens||12MP OIS, 1.44µm pixels, f/1.7 lens|
|Front Camera||5MP, f/1.9 lens||5MP, f/1.7 lens|
Wireless charring (Qi/PMA)
Wireless charring (Qi/PMA)
|Biometric Security||Fingerprint||Fingerprint, Iris Scanner|
On paper, we're looking at a generational leap in internal hardware, with standout differences being a yearly bump in CPU, the fancy new 12MP low-light camera that we've already used in the Galaxy S7, and the addition of IP68-rated water and dust resistance. Both phones stick to a 5.7-inch screen size — the norm for Notes going all the way back to 2013 — with Quad HD resolution. The Note 7's is probably a superior panel, but the S6 edge+'s was already exceptionally good — both in daylight and darker conditions — and beyond a certain point it's really hard to tell. We'll have more to say on the Note 7's display when we've used it out in the wild.
The Note 7's battery also gets a welcome bump up to 3,500mAh — even discounting for a second that the Note 7 probably has more efficient internals, that's a decent bump in battery life. (Less than the S7 edge's 3,600mAh, but within striking distance.) Water resistance is also a huge deal, not so much because you're going to be taking the Note 7 scuba diving with you, but more for the peace of mind if it's dropped in the sink or caught in a rainstorm.
Water resistance, a welcome battery bump and all the great camera stuff we remember from the GS7.
And of course it's a Note, so unlike the S6 edge+ you've got the S Pen stylus, contained in a silo on the right edge of the phone. If you're out of the loop on stylus input (and since Samsung didn't sell the Note 5 at all in some countries, you may well be), the S Pen may not be something you use every day, but it does allow for more precise text selection, a bunch of fun creative possibilities. This time around the S Pen enables new software tricks like the ability to turn any area of the screen, be it a video or an app, into a GIF.
Externally, the Galaxy Note 7's design heritage is clear. As much as it's a Note, with the blockier, more angular aesthetic that usually entails, it's also a close relative of the Galaxy S7 edge, which gives it soft curves and a thoroughly organic feel. That's in stark contrast to the S6 edge+, with its sharper corners, more pronounced metal accents and entirely flat back. And although it is more boxy than the S7 edge, you can still see glass blending into metal and back into glass as you turn the Note 7 in your hand. It's a more coherent look and feel, though just a tad more slippery in the hand.
Spec sheets aside, there's little noticeable difference in weight between the two, though you benefit from significantly trimmed down bezels this time around. The black Note 7 in particular gives the illusion of almost nonexistent horizontal borders, in contrast to the slightly thicker bezels of last year's phone.
In terms of cameras, it's a re-run of the old GS6 versus GS7 battle, with the S6 edge+ using a standard 16-megapixel sensor with OIS, behind an f/1.9 lens, while the Note 7 uses a 12-megapixel sensor — lower resolution, but with larger pixels for better low-light shots — behind a brighter f/1.7 lens. It's literally the same camera hardware as the S7 series, so the comparison is pretty obvious by now.
Again, as we discussed in our full reviews, there are certain semi-rare situations, in daylight or in HDR mode, where the GS6 will produce a better-looking shot than its successor. You'll have to take side-by-side comparison shots to tell, but it can happen.
With this caveat out the way, the high-level summary is this: Both phones have excellent cameras, but the GS7 pushes ahead with a substantial improvement in low-light photography, especially in really dark scenes. The new f/1.7 lens can also produce some absolutely gorgeous macro shots, though the GS6 was highly skilled in this area too.
The biggest difference we've noticed between the two is in HDR mode. Whereas the GS6 tended towards almost over-lightening areas in HDR shots, photos in HDR mode from the GS7 appeared darker and less appealing overall, though arguably more true to life.
Bottom line: The S6 series' camera is still great by the standards of late 2016 — and occasionally gets a better photo in daylight — but Samsung's latest shooter is more versatile in darker conditions.
Samsung has long included biometric security in its phones, and the Note 7 is no different, including the same single-touch fingerprint scanner from the S7 line. This time it's augmented by iris scanning technology, in the form of a second camera (and IR LED) around the front. In our limited time testing the feature, it seems to work pretty well. As for whether it's any more convenient than using your fingerprint on the phone you're holding in your hand — well, probably not. But it's a handy alternative.
On the software side, Samsung's taken the opportunity to freshen up its TouchWiz UI, while remaining on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (we're on the brink of 7.0 Nougat at the time of writing, but that's yet to officially launch). Major changes include refreshed icons, a re-tooled notification shortcut area, and a lighter, brighter settings area with more intelligent groupings. Samsung also brings new S Pen features into the mix, the coolest of which lets you turn videos or other content into GIFs through the magic of WACOM-powered drawing. Neat!
So that's that. A generational leap takes you from a great phone to a really great phone. It's worth underscoring how well the S6 edge+ has stood the test of time, and if Samsung keeps up its pace with software updates, it'll be a solid bet for the coming year too. And while not a huge upgrade for regular buyers, tech enthusiasts will see plenty to look forward to when jumping from last year's edgy phablet to its successor.
Galaxy S6 edge+ owners, will you upgrade to the Note 7 this year? Shout out in the comments!