Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Google Nexus 6P: Wondering which phablet is best? We pit Samsung’s latest against Google’s finest.
Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy Note 7 is an undeniable beast when it comes to specs. The high-end phablet is packed with the latest tech, making it almost worth that eye-watering starting price of around £750.
But last year we were similarly impressed by Google’s Nexus 6P phablet, awarding the device a perfect five stars.
And although many months have passed since its release, the Nexus handset still stands up as one of the best Android devices you can buy.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how it stacks up against the formidable Galaxy Note 7 in this Android phablet face-off.
If you’ve ever used one of Samsung’s Edge models, the Note 7 will be familiar to you. With a dual-curved-edge screen, metal rim and glass back, the device looks like a large version of this year’s equally stellar Galaxy S7 Edge. Though it’s worth pointing out that the curves on the Note 7 are less pronounced than on the Edge. All told, it’s really only the more substantial 5.7-inch screen which sets the Note apart from the other Galaxy offerings.
The Note 7 is a masterfully designed handset that manages to remain sleek despite the bulkier dimensions. You might want to be careful with that glass back, however, as our Galaxy S7 Edge easily cracked in the top corner after we were silly enough to drop it.
Considering Google’s device came out almost a year ago, it should seem a touch outdated, but an all-metal design, heavily chamfered edges and a Gorilla Glass 4-coated display keep it from looking old-hat. The ‘P’ in the name apparently stands for ‘premium’ – a label its Chinese designer and manufacturer, Huawei, managed to live up to.
While the Note 7 comes with the new Gorilla Glass 5, offering a higher level of protection, both these handsets are beautifully crafted.
Huawei, for its part, also managed to cleverly hide the 6P’s antenna bands, and added a curve to the rear of the phablet, making it a pleasure to hold. Also on the back is a fingerprint scanner, which works very well. Samsung, on the other hand, has stuck its fingerprint reader below the home button.
Staying with backs of these phones, the Nexus 6P’s glass-covered hump, which runs the length of the top of the device, houses the camera, flash and a load of sensors. Opinion is split on whether this glass strip adds to, or detracts from, the design, but we quite like it. The Note 7, on the other hand, keeps things simple, with the camera lens, flash and a Samsung logo adorning its rear.
But what about colours? Well, the Note 7 is available in either Blue Coral or Black Onyx (which roughly translates as light blue or black), while the 6P can be picked up in the more reasonably named Aluminium, Graphite, Frost or Matte Gold.
So, which one looks best? We’re going to have to give this one to Samsung. The Note 7 continues the sumptuous design choices seen on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and can’t be faulted when it comes to aesthetics. Huawei by no means dropped the ball with the 6P, but there’s a clear winner in this department.
Both Samsung and Google/Huawei opted for a 5.7-inch screen on their respective devices, and the similarities don’t stop there. The 6P and Note 7 both feature a quad-HD 1,440 x 2,560 resolution, making for a 518ppi density.
You’re going to get super-sharp images on both handsets, and you won’t be noticing individual pixels. In fact, quad-HD resolutions are somewhat unnecessary on screens of this size, but as the Nexus and the Note are both high-end devices, you’d expect the very best.
So what are the differences between these two phones’ displays? Well, at first glance there doesn’t seem to be any. Both use OLED technology, whereby individual pixels emit their own light, eliminating the need for a backlight (used in LED LCD panels), and making for darker blacks and more vibrant colours. OLED tech is also more energy efficient.
Both phones have a Gorilla Glass coating on their screens, although the Note 7 comes with the more robust Gorilla Glass 5, and both are capable of reproducing 16 million colours. Viewing angles on the Note 7 and 6P are fantastic, and overall these are two of the best phone screens you’re likely to see. That’s impressive as far as Google is concerned, as its handset is, again, almost a year older than the Note 7.
The real difference here isn’t immediately apparent, but may be significant. Samsung has loaded its device with Mobile HDR tech – a riff on the high-dynamic-range feature being introduced into high-end televisions. In short, it should make for increased contrast and brightness, more natural colours, and more detail preservation.
It appears to be essentially an alternative display setting, rather than relying on specially produced HDR video content like the full-fat HDR tech in TVs does, so we’re still on the fence about the impact this feature will have. Our full review will have all the details when it arrives.
As it stands, the two phones are fairly evenly matched when it comes to the displays, but the Note 7 just has the edge.
Two high-end handsets are obviously going to come with some of the best hardware available, and the Note 7 and 6P are certainly no slouches when it comes to the spec sheets.
But the Note 7 might just clinch this one. Of course, Samsung’s device has the benefit of an extra year’s worth of progress in the smartphone industry, so it will naturally have better hardware, or at least more recent hardware. While the Nexus packs in a Snapdragon 810 chip and 3GB of RAM then, the Note comes with a more recent Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890, depending on which region you’re in. There’s also 4GB of RAM in the Note.
When it comes to storage, the Note 7 has 64GB, with the option to use a microSD card to expand the memory, while the Nexus 6P comes with either 32, 64 or 128GB of internal storage. There’s no microSD slot on the latter, so once again the Note comes out on top.
Samsung’s handset packs in a few more features that the Nexus doesn’t have, too. First is the iris scanner, which lets you unlock the phone just by staring at it. The array of sensors on the front of the device allow for this functionality, which isn’t anything close to a deal breaker when it comes to the Nexus comparison. In fact, we see it as somewhat of a gimmick that won’t be replacing the fingerprint scanner any time soon.
The second Note-only feature is slightly more substantial. The Note series is known for being the Samsung range with stylus functionality, and the latest offering is no different. Samsung’s S Pen still sits in the bottom of the phone, popping out when needed, but it’s been improved this time around. It’s now water resistant, and has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, making it a fantastically precise stylus offering.
Unfortunately, the Nexus simply can’t compete in this respect, as it has no comparable stylus capabilities, outside of being able to support generic phone styluses that can be used with any handset.
Once again, the Nexus is a year older, so it’s at a serious disadvantage here. But it’s worth mentioning that Google’s device matches the Note in terms of its USB Type-C port. Unfortunately, it can’t quite do the same in terms of waterproofing, as the Note comes with an IP68 rating, whereas you’d do well to keep the 6P away from water.
Taking into account the superior hardware then, the Note 7 certainly outdoes the Nexus 6P in this department – especially when you consider the extra stylus functionality and iris scanner, gimmicky as it may be. In reality, these things are both going to offer top-end performance, and you can expect a speedy experience when using either the Note 7 or Nexus 6P.
Samsung’s device runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but it should be receiving an update to Android 7.0 Nougat within two or three months, if a recent report from the Korea Times is to be believed. The Nexus 6P is also running on Android 6.0.1, but should also receive an update this month.
So, ostensibly, these two phones run the same software. But the big difference to be aware of is that, what with the 6P being a Google device, you’ll be getting a clean, untouched version of the Android OS. That means no irritating bloatware and no attempts to redesign the interface with a proprietary skin. Just smooth Android goodness.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Note 7. While it runs Android, it also comes with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. The company has done quite a lot to try and make the skin less intrusive, but it’s still unnecessary and means you won’t get the same pure Android experience that you will with the 6P. That said, Samsung has toned the bright colours down, and the icons are less childlike, so it’s a step up from previous Galaxy devices.
The Note also comes with Samsung’s Knox security software, which backs up a neat new feature called Secure Folder. This acts almost as a separate OS, allowing you to place apps in it and get a clean install so you can set up completely new accounts on whichever programs you need.
All told, then, there’s not much in it when it comes to software, but the Nexus’s untouched Android offering clinches it for us.
If you’ve used the camera on the S7 or S7 Edge, you won’t find anything new on the Note 7. It comes with the same 12-megapixel setup, with an f/1.7 aperture for the rear-facing camera, and a 5MP selfie camera. This is the best smartphone camera available, so you can expect top performance from the Note 7 – especially in low-light environments, thanks to the enlarged pixels and wider aperture.
Super-fast to open, simple to operate, and with optical image stabilisation, the Note 7’s camera will give you the best experience available.
The S7 camera in action – colours are bright and accurate
All of which seems like a lot to compete with for the Nexus, especially since the range has historically suffered from poor camera performance. Thankfully, the 6P manages to drastically improve things in this department. It’s not going to give you Note 7-style performance as, again, this phone is almost a year old now, but it actually manages to get pretty close.
The rear camera has a 12.3-megapixel sensor and laser autofocus. It doesn’t come with optical image stabilisation, however, which the Note does. But the 1.55µm pixels are larger than the 1.4µm pixels on Samsung’s device, which means the Nexus should let in more light than its rival, ostensibly allowing for better low-light shots. However, the f/2.0 aperture isn’t quite as wide as the f/1.7 offering on the Note, so it’s certainly a close call when it comes to how well these things perform in low light.
Similarly stellar performance from the Nexus 6P
What we can say for sure is the Note 7 has the better camera – the best around, in fact. But the Nexus isn’t as far behind as you may think, and actually takes some pretty stunning shots.
So how long will these phablet beasts last you on a typical day? First off, the Note 7 comes with a non-removable Li-Po 3,500mAh battery, while the 6P packs a similarly non-removable Li-Po 3,450mAh cell. Not much in it there.
What does this mean in practice? Well, when it comes to the 6P, the phone is easily going to last you all day and well into the next with general use. Marshmallow’s Doze feature helps, of course, but the handset is generally quite good when it comes to battery life. In our tests, the phone lost 40% of its charge between 7am and 6pm with general use.
It also handles video well, too. The 6P lost 7% of its charge during an hour spent streaming Fargo on Netflix, which is very respectable, while half an hour’s 3D gaming took the battery from 34% to 27%. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a thin device with a high-res display.
The Note 7 didn’t quite manage to match the 6P when it came time for streaming, losing 9% of its charge during an hour. However, we did have the Video Enhancer mode on, and once we turned it off, that figure fell to 8%. Half an hour of 3D gaming caused the phone to lose 10%. We’ll have to wait until our full review is in to fully measure how the battery performs, but on the whole, these two phones are fairly evenly matched when it comes to retaining their charge.
Both the Note and 6P use USB Type-C for charging, which adds an element of future-proofing to the two devices. Plus they both support fast charging if you use the included charger and plug. That means you can juice the 6P up in just under an hour, or get to 60% charge in about 30 minutes. The Note 7 supports Quick Charge 2.0 so, as long as you use the Fast Charging mains adapter provided, you’ll also be able to fill the battery up in 75 minutes – a big improvement over the 123 minutes it takes to fully charge using a regular charging method.
One difference worth noting, however, is that the Note 7 supports fast wireless charging, so you can drop it on a charging pad and expect a fairly speedy charge time – 98 minutes for a full charge. Regular wireless charging, in contrast, takes 300 minutes. You’ll need a specific charger from Samsung or one of a handful of other companies, though. The Nexus doesn’t have any wireless charging capabilities.
Let’s put this as plainly as possible: the Note 7 is the better phone. But it’s also really expensive. The thing will cost you £749 outright, which just seems insane when you consider how many phones pack in decent hardware at a fraction of the price these days. Unless you absolutely have to get your hands on the S Pen, we’d recommend at least considering the Nexus 6P.
Google’s device costs around £440, and will provide speedy performance, a great screen, and an untouched version of Android. It’s also got a great camera that manages to give the Note 7, with its top-end camera specs, a run for its money.
With all that in mind it’s a tough one to call. If you don’t want to break the bank, the Nexus is the clear winner. If you have the cash, give the Note 7 a go.