The new Galaxy Note 7 is a venerable powerhouse of a smartphone. It may not look much like the Galaxy Note 5 before it, but that’s arguably for the best. In contrast to its exceptionally flat predecessor, it’s adopted the subtle curves of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 series. But the changes aren’t just surface level. The Note 7 sports Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon 820, the same chip found in such flagships as the LG G5, the HTC 10, the OnePlus 3. It’s got an abundance of memory, too — 4GB of RAM — and top-of-the-line cameras.
Related: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is the best phablet you can currently buy
The device’s undisputed showstopper, however, is its gorgeous display: a 5.7-inch quad HD Super AMOLED screen with its 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution and a slight curve on either edge. The Galaxy Note 7, you might say, is the stylus-touting smartphone that dreams are made of. But that top-of-the-line hardware carries an appropriately high price tag. The obvious question, then, is whether the Galaxy Note 7 is worth the extra cost when compared to its older brethren, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Both of which lack a stylus, of course, but are significantly cheaper as a result.
Need help deciding? We’ve pitted the three against one another in a smartphone fight to the finish.
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.
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.
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.
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.