Theis the pinnacle Samsung phone in an already banner year that saw the , an Editor's Choice winner, and the , CNET's first five-star phone. But competition is as fierce as always, and buyers have choices. How well does the Note 7 stack up against its closest rivals? Is the S Pen stylus good enough to change how you use the phone? How about the cost -- is the Note 7 worth its sky-high price? Here I compare the Note 7 against some of its strongest rivals, including a chart where you can see specs head-to-head. (Scroll to the end for that.)
Update, August 16: This story was originally published August 3 and has been updated with the findings from our Note 7 review.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
These two phones are insanely similar, but the Note 7's stylus makes it Samsung's most expensive -- and most powerful -- phone. Because the Note 7 builds on top of the S7 Edge, it starts with everything that the Edge already has. That includes those curved screens and the extra Edge software you can use to launch any number of shortcuts for apps, people, news and tools.
Both phones share 12- and 5-megapixel cameras and the Snapdragon 820 processor (or Samsung-made Exynos chipset, in some regions). That means the Note 7's performance is pretty terrific. Strangely, the Qualcomm version of the Note scored slightly lower in our diagnostic benchmark tests than the S7 Edge. It also came in two hours under the Edge in our looping video battery drain test: 17 hours, 40 minutes rather than 19 hours, 40 minutes.
In real life, you won't notice much difference. Battery life will last a full day if you aren't stressing your phone to the max (like streaming video while also navigating on GPS with the screen set to 10-minute timeout). But I did notice that the Note 7 lagged a bit when I used the pen tools heavily. This happened more when I switched tools than when I wrote and drew.
The Note 7's slightly larger screen (5.7 inches versus 5.5) gives you a scosh more display to play with and also a slightly lower resolution -- so small, your eyes likely won't know the difference. The Edge also doubles the built-in storage space: 64GB versus 32GB.
Basically, if theis the phone for the masses and the curve-screen S7 Edge is the phone for design enthusiasts, then the Note 7 with its S Pen and wraparound sides is the phone for power users who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of using a digital pen to draw, write and navigate.
Note 7 vs. Motorola Moto Z
is all about the magnetic modules, or "Mods," that clack into place on the back of the phone. (Right now your choices are a case, charging case, audio speaker or quirky projector.) If you don't want the Mods, don't get the Moto Z. (And if you don't want the S Pen, don't get the Note 7.) Still, it's worth comparing these two high-priced handsets, which line up fairly evenly on paper.
In practice, the Note 7's larger battery gave it a 5-hour boost in our final assessment, but the Moto Z's snap-on accessories are a more mainstream customization option than the S Pen, which is there for expression and for helping keep the phone fingerprint-free.
The Moto Z's fingerprint reader confusingly looks like a home button, which is bad, and its camera just isn't the best -- another area where the Note 7 pulls ahead. The Note is the better phone, but you should still choose the Moto Z if you're happy with a good (not superlative) handset and want to explore those mods.
Note 7 vs. Apple iPhone 6S or 6S Plus
If you're going to talk about top phones, you're going to talk about the iPhone. But with theexpected next month, comparing the Note 7 with the and -- essentially last year's phones -- is purely academic. Rumors suggest that the iPhone 7 will, like the Note 7, be a water-resistant device with wireless charging and a big camera update -- but no headphone jack.
We'll know much more when Apple officially launches its new iPhone for 2016 in September, but the two should compete neck-and-neck.
Note 7 vs. OnePlus 3
It has a smaller battery and none of the Note 7's stylus and iris-scanning tricks, but on paper, theholds its own against the Note 7's hardware, and for half the price. Yes, half.
Top-of-the-line phones are usually worth the investment if you plan to hold onto them for two years or more. But, if you like to switch up your phone every 365, then buying a solid midprice handset like the OnePlus 3 each year makes a really compelling case for saving you money while satisfying your craving for a fresh new phone.
If you're not too fussed about that S Pen, the OnePlus 3 reliably gives you all the photos and Android basics you need. It won't feel as premium or privileged a device as the Note 7, so if you're looking for luxe, the Note still presents the best experience.
The handy comparison chart
|Samsung Galaxy Note 7||Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge||Motorola Moto Z||Apple iPhone 6S||OnePlus 3|
|Display size, resolution||5.7-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||4.7-inch; 1,334x750 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||518 ppi||534 ppi||535 ppi||326 ppi||401 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6x2.9x0.3 in||5.9x2.9x0.3 in||6.1x3x0.2 in||5.4x2.6x0.28 in||6.01x2.94x0.29 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||153.5x73.9x7.9 mm||150.9x72.6x7.7 mm||155.3x75.3x5.2 mm||138x67x7.1 mm||152.7x74.7x7.35 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6 oz; 169 g||5.5 oz; 157 g||4.8 oz; 136g||5 oz; 143 g||5.57 oz; 158 g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Apple iOS 9||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow|
|Processor||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 processor (or Exynos, depending on region)||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor||Up to 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||Apple A9 chip (64-bit)||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820|
|Storage||64GB||32GB, 64GB (varies by region)||32GB, 64GB||16GB, 64GB, 128GB||64GB|
|Expandable storage||200GB||200GB||up to 2TB||None||None|
|Battery||3,500 mAh (nonremovable)||3,600 mAh (nonremovable)||2,600 mAh (nonremovable)||1,715 mAh (nonremovable)||3,000 mAh (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Home button||Home button||Below screen||Home button||Home button|
|Special features||S Pen stylus, water-resistant, wireless charging||Water-resistant, wireless charging||Moto Mod snap-on accessories||N/A||Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||AT&T: $880; T-Mobile: $849; US Cellular: $834||AT&T: $795, Sprint: $750, T-Mobile: $780, Verizon: $792, US Cellular: $780||NA||$649 (16GB); $749 (64GB); $849 (128GB)||$400|
|Price (GBP)||£700||£639||TBA||£539 (16GB); £619 (64GB); £699 (128GB)||£329|
|Price (AUD)||AU$1,349||AU$1,249||TBA||AU$1,079 (16GB); AU$1,229 (64GB); AU$1,379 (128GB)||Converts to AU$530|