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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 alternatives. What is out there?

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With the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 truly finished, what other devices are out there to replace this device? First of all let's look at what made Galaxy Note 7 great - it had a great camera, screen, performance, build and battery life. 

Our choices for these alternatives are based in the following categories, Camera, Screen, Performance, Build and Battery. We didn't just look at the latest Android options but also the best option that Apple has to offer. The alternative phones picked were the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Google Pixel XL and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. 

GooglePixelXL.pngiPhone7Plus.pngS7Edge.png

We rounded up these devices because you can buy them now. Also these are the closest devices to the Galaxy Note 7 we can find, that tick almost all the features the Galaxy Note 7 packed, be its size and features. We understand that some of these devices have different size options, whenever this occurs we have chosen the larger device, because that is the one closest to the Galaxy Note 7, Phablet size.

Camera

One of the greatest things about the Galaxy Note 7 was the camera. It was the same camera found in the previous Samsung flagship Galaxy S7/ S7 Edge, which interestingly is one of the reasons the phone is in our list.

The Galaxy Note 7 came packed with a 12MP F1.7 aperture sensor with OIS, making this an ideal point and shoot - like the device before it packing the same sensor - for low light photography and quick pictures. Using the double press on the home button to open the camera app, it made capturing the moment easy and quick, and in the majority of situations it took great pictures and videos. All three phones are packing a 12MP sensor with an aperture of F1.7-2.0, however each has brought something different to the table. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge packs the same sensor as the Galaxy Note 7, so you can expect the same performance from it.

The Google Pixel XL on the other hand is packing a smaller aperture at F2.0 and no OIS, however because it uses a bigger sensor than any other device in the list at 1.55µm pixel size and with Google's engineering know how they have done an amazing job to address those shortcomings - utilising the Gyro sensors in the device and with software magic* - they are able to mostly mitigate the need for OIS. For early impressions of this device have a look at Paul's article.

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus this year brings a dual 12MP F1.8 - F2.8 camera setup - one wide lens and another zoom lens, allowing for 2x optical zoom - offering OIS on the wider lens,  ensuring that every picture you take is blur free. The camera app has been improved to allow for zoom and a later update will add software bokeh combining input from both lenses.

If you are using one of these devices you have the latest and greatest device in camera photography. The above phones provide the best image quality you can get out of a mobile phone and I would add replace the need for point and shoot cameras.

Screen

I’m just going to say it, Samsung have one of the best looking screens in the market and Galaxy Note 7 was the best, offering a curved 5.7” QHD Super AMOLED display with HDR hitting 1000 nits - it was a beautiful screen to look at. Yes, it was a Super AMOLED display and it made all the colours pop, but if you didn’t like it you could change this in the settings to a different profile.

From all the devices we have discussed only the Galaxy S7 Edge comes close to the Galaxy Note 7. It was the obvious inspiration for the design choice for Samsung, to take their best selling device design and implement it on the Galaxy Note 7. 

The display on the Galaxy S7 Edge is a bright colourful 5.5” QHD Super AMOLED display and curves that give it a nice edge (pun intended) over the competition. Some would question the practicality of the Edge, however it allows the form factor to feel smaller than any other device with the same screen size.

The Google Pixel XL brings with it a 5.5” QHD AMOLED display, which promises to deliver a bright display also, although I’ll reserve my full comments until I’m able to handle one for more than a few days.

This leaves the iPhone 7 Plus display falling behind if you look at the specs on paper, offering only a 5.5” 1080P IPS LCD display, however you will be surprised by the actual quality of the display when in use. It has a very accurate display reproducing very good accurate colours. They do not pop like the AMOLED based displays do, but are closer to real life colours.  As for the smaller resolution it is very subjective to the person viewing the device, if there is any big difference between the resolutions.

Performance

The Galaxy Note 7 packed one of the best chipsets available in 2016, the Exynos 8890 chipset introduced this year on the Galaxy S7 range, providing great performance for graphics intense applications while also being very battery friendly. If you live in the North America, Samsung in their wisdom went with the Qualcomm SD820 chipset, however performance between the two models is very similar, with some negligible difference on battery and GPU performance.

Exynos8.png

With the introduction of the Google Pixel XL, Google decided to go with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, best described as a factory overclocked Snapdragon 820, so you know it will be snappy. Considering this is the first phone made by Google - where they control hardware and software - the experience of this device makes it a very smooth device indeed, with no lag and great for multitasking, the performance is on par if not better than the Galaxy Note 7. This offers a true Google experience with no additional bloat that Samsung often adds to their devices.

SD_8.png

I’ll be honest - I’m an android user through and through, however I’m not a die hard fan of Android in that I cannot appreciate other devices, even Apple made ones. The iPhone 7 Plus is one of those devices that not only offers hardware but software optimisations that make its performance never leaving you wanting. This the also the first time that Apple has matched specs on paper to other manufacturers, offering a Quad core CPU and 3GB of RAM, not that it ever needed a lot of RAM in the first place. The A10 Fusion chipset really packs a punch, it is fast and the apps are quick to open, when playing games on this device there is rarely any slowdown - actually I’m still yet to see one - because in the iOS ecosystem app developers in general really optimise the apps for these devices. Considering the the Android ecosystem has hundreds of different devices, you can perhaps understand why.

FUSION10.png

Battery

Battery is one of those subjective topics that is is hard for one user to be able to replicate the performance of another user, this is due to mobile network signal, user usage etc. There are many factors to take into account to be able to provide a benchmark that could be reproduced by every user.

We know however that the biggest drain of battery of a phone is the screen on time and playing games with the device. Obviously having a bigger battery will help with any device, the previous Note models had removable batteries allowing a user to go from 0 to 100% battery in a matter of seconds just by swapping their battery.

On the Galaxy Note 5, Samsung introduced a non removable battery and also a smaller battery with only 3000mah - Samsung received a lot of complaints regarding these choices. With the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung took on board the user feedback and increased the battery capacity to 3500mah - still smaller than the Galaxy S7 Edge with its 3600mah - but with their new Exynos chipset allowing the Galaxy Note 7 to have great battery life, people reported SOT of 5+ hours.

The Galaxy S7 Edge with its 3600mah has one of the best battery performances we have seen in a flagship device this year, generally lasting more than 1 day usage consisting of browsing, watching YouTube, messaging and calls. And thanks to its Qualcomm QC 2.0 feature you are able to charge the phone very quickly indeed.

We have yet to formulate a conclusion for the Google Pixel battery performance, but from early impressions of this phone, we can report that it’s 3450mah battery delivers above than average battery performance, though we will reserve judgment for our forthcoming review of this device. Don't forget Google touts fast charging with these devices saying 15 minutes of charging will give you 7 hours of usage.

If you are an Apple user then you know that if you want the best battery life experience, you pick the iPhone Plus, because they use a bigger battery than the normal iPhone. Also having a 1080P display helps with battery consumption with less pixels being pushed by the GPU. With the iPhone 7 Plus the battery performance really doesn’t disappoint. However don’t expect quick charging on this device so if you need a quick top up you are out of luck.

Build

The build of the Galaxy Note 7 was superb minus the exploding battery (Hey, that is the reason why you are reading this article!), it felt nice in the hand with its glass back, and the design made it feel smaller than most devices of its class.

If you want the exact same build feeling the Galaxy S7 Edge offers you almost exactly the same experience in the hand and you don’t have to worry about those pesky exploding batteries.

The Google Pixel form factor and its build quality are great, very reminiscent of the HTC 10 design, enclosed in an anodised aluminium body with Corning Gorilla 4 glass protecting its screen, it definitely feels premium. it is arguably a slightly a bland design choice by Google, the Nexus 6P at least had a unique design.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus again offers a recycled look, with the only stand out difference from its previous iteration being its dual camera setup. You could say removal of the antenna lines distinguishes it from its previous iterations but it is barely noticeable.

All the devices except the Google Pixel XL offer water resistance, so if you were to dunk it in the toilet or a pool of water, they would survive, not so for the Google Pixel XL. With this being a standard feature for for every flagship device in 2016 you have to wonder why Google opted not to add this feature to it’s Pixel range.

Conclusion

As you can see you are able to find great alternatives to the Galaxy Note 7, and it maybe that this is why it feels like Samsung rushed this device to market, allowing for defects to pass through their QA process. However this is great for other manufacturers as they are able to swoop in and offer good alternatives such that you won’t feel that you are missing out by not having the Galaxy Note 7. 

A few features that neither of our alternative phones offer are a Stylus S Pen and a MicroSD slot. We would question how much use users really get out of a S Pen. However should you feel that this is one of the killer features which you must have in your phone, then look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, it has a great 5.7” QHD Super AMOLED display, great battery performance, the chipset can still punch above some of the 2016 release phones and it comes with a stylus. Oh and the screen is flat, I never understood why Samsung chose to combine a curved display with a stylus.Try and sign something on the edge of the display, I dare you!

As for external storage I feel that with all these device offering various storage solutions, the only negative of this is the cost, which may seem high, but you are getting fast storage and some devices offer a 256GB option.

We would like to give worthy mention to two other devices, which even though they are not in the same class as the Galaxy Note 7, are still options if you don’t mind sacrificing the latest and greatest hardware there is. They come in at a considerably lower price than the Galaxy Note 7 and the alternatives.

Before Google introduced the Google Pixel recently, it had the Nexus brand, and the Nexus 6P still has one of the best cameras in the market - it takes amazing pictures and with the HDR+ feature from Google it can really show how capable the camera is.  It also offers a 5.7" QHD AMOLED display, with 32GB and 64GB storage options. This phone can be had for really silly prices right now.

The other device is the Honor 8 with its dual 12MP camera setup - introduced earlier on their Huawei P9 flagship model - offering a RGB sensor and a monochrome sensor. It comes with a 5.2" 1080P LTPS display, plenty of storage and external storage for almost half the price of a Galaxy Note 7.

So what phones do you think could fill the Galaxy Note 7 boots? Do you agreed with our choices? Would you change to Apple or have you because of this? Let us know in the comments below.


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