Most of you reading already know of last year’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 episode. After Samsung discontinued its 2016 flagship, they revealed that a Galaxy Note Fan Edition would release in select markets. This phone would be a refurbished product made from the recalled Note 7 inventory.
Should you consider buying the Galaxy Note Fan Edition? If not, what are some alternatives instead?
What Is the Galaxy Note Fan Edition?
Made almost entirely out of Galaxy Note 7 parts, the Galaxy Note Fan Edition (or Galaxy Note FE) is very similar to its predecessor. The biggest difference is a smaller 3,200 mAh battery instead of the 3,500 mAh unit on the Galaxy Note 7. In an attempt to compete with the iPhone 7, Samsung admitted to pushing the envelope too far last year with the Note 7, which contributed to the exploding batteries. The Galaxy Note FE’s smaller battery incorporates multiple safeguards and has undergone a rigorous 8-point safety test. This year’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also underwent the same safety test, and there haven’t been any major issues reported about the phones to date. It’s probably safe to assume that the Note FE also won’t combust like the Note 7 did.
Other than the smaller battery, there are a few other tiny changes. For one, Samsung’s Bixby virtual assistant (Bixby versus Google Assistant) will come built into the new phone (although there’s no dedicated physical button like the Galaxy S8 series to activate it). Eagle-eyed consumers will also notice the missing Samsung logo from underneath the earpiece, as Samsung seems to be doing away with any branding on the front of their new phones.
Apart from this, the Galaxy Note FE retains the 5.7-inch Quad HD display, the Exynos 8890 chip, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, and a 12 MP f/1.7 aperture rear camera. It’s also water and dust resistant and supports fast wireless charging. Last but not the least, being a Note series device, it comes with a stylus coupled with Samsung’s suite of apps and software customizations for its efficient use.
First launched in South Korea, the Galaxy Note Fan Edition is apparently flying off the shelves and may be launched in other markets soon. In Samsung’s homeland, it’s sold for around $610 unlocked. That is nearly $240 less than the Galaxy Note 7 launch price last year.
Is the Galaxy Note FE a Good Deal?
Well, let’s put it this way: if you’re keen on buying a phone with a stylus, then the Note FE is the best bargain you’ll get today. That’s because the upcoming Galaxy Note 8 will be no less than $850 at launch, according to estimates. For around $600, you’ll get a phone with software optimized for stylus usage. For instance, you can pull out the stylus and jot down notes — without turning the phone on. The stylus supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity for a realistic writing experience. The stylus is also used to operate the screen magnifier and a GIF creation tool.
At that price point, the Note FE is one of the few phones to have an HDR display that delivers superior video quality when watching HDR-ready content. Water resistance and wireless charging are also good-to-have features. The rear camera on the Note FE is the same as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, which means it will not disappoint in that department as well. Last, 64 GB of onboard storage should be ample enough for most users.
There’s no doubt that the Note FE is a good package. But your 600 dollars may be better spent elsewhere if the stylus is not your priority. Here are five similarly-priced alternatives that have some other benefits that the Note FE doesn’t.
1. LG G6
The LG G6 was the South Korean company’s earnest attempt at making a no-nonsense smartphone. Unfortunately, customers didn’t respond to it as well and the selling price has tumbled to under $500 today. The LG G6 sports a glass body with metal sides — like Samsung’s offering. It packs a big 5.7-inch display in a slightly smaller body than the Note FE, that’s said to be easier to use single-handedly. The display is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip powering this phone may not be the newest Snapdragon 835 found on recent flagships, but it’s plenty powerful for most people.
The G6 is not only water and dust resistant like the Note FE, but takes it a step further as it has passed several MIL-810G endurance tests. This means it is better equipped against accidental drops or rough environmental conditions. There are two camera lenses at the back, with the secondary lens used for capturing wide-angle shots. Instead of physically moving backward to capture more in the frame, switching to the wide-angle lens does the trick. This enables some capture shots that wouldn’t have been possible with just the standard aperture lens.
Lastly, the 3,300 mAh battery is sufficiently large to make this phone last a working day with typical use.
2. OnePlus 5
If you want to save some money, the OnePlus 5 is the best bang for your buck (it starts at $479). To start with, it’s got the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip paired with either 6 GB or a whopping 8 GB RAM (although 6 GB ought to be enough). Although the display has a lower 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, it supports DCI-P3 wide color gamut and also has a reading mode that mimics an e-paper screen experience.
The two cameras at the back have a similar setup to the iPhone 7 Plus. The second telephoto lens enables 2x zooming and blurred background portrait photo capture. OnePlus’s signature Dash Charging is also available, which charges the phone really quick, at the same rate even when it’s in use, and without heating up the phone like other fast charging systems. The 3,300 mAh battery should also hold up well for everyday use. Oxygen OS doesn’t deviate too much from Android’s default appearance while adding helpful tweaks along the way. The OnePlus 5 is a dual SIM phone, meaning you can use two SIM cards at once — great when traveling abroad or if you have separate numbers for work and personal use.
We conclude that the only big missing feature in the OnePlus 5 is the lack of water and dust resistance, that some phones on this list have.
3. Moto Z2 Play
The Moto Z2 Play is an update to the Moto Z Play, that won many hearts for it’s epic battery life. Unfortunately, in a bid to make the phone not as chunky as the first one, the Moto Z2 Play has a relatively smaller 3,000 mAh battery. But it still lasts longer than phones like the LG G6 or the Galaxy S8, as per CNET’s review. That figure is possible because of the mid-range hardware that isn’t too taxing. For example, it’s got the Snapdragon 626 chip and a modest 1080p AMOLED display.
Being a Motorola phone, it’s packed with all the useful gestures like a double-chop to flick on the flashlight, or a double-twist to turn on the camera. Moto Display lets you see notifications with just one tap and Moto Voice responds to your voice commands even when the phone’s on standby. The fingerprint scanner can also be used to jump to multitasking or to go back with a swipe to the right or left respectively. Motorola also doesn’t fiddle with the stock Android appearance much (but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll get faster software updates).
Lastly, the Moto Z2 Play also supports Moto Mods: accessories like power packs, speakers, projectors, 360-degree cameras, and other things that magnetically latch on to the back of the phone. At the time of writing, the company was seen giving away the speaker mod free with every Z2 Play purchase. The phone currently sells for $499 unlocked.
A relatively lesser-known smartphone brand in the States, Huawei is a giant networking and telecommunications company in China. The Huawei Mate 9 has a couple of things going for it, starting with a big 4,000 mAh battery. The big battery is complemented by power-saving software features that eke out every drop of juice left. The Mate 9 also has Huawei’s homegrown fast charging mechanism that promises to juice up the phone quickly. Camera-maker Leica makes the dual rear-camera system in partnership with Huawei. Unlike the LG G6’s secondary wide-angle lens or the OnePlus 5’s telephoto zoom lens, the second sensor on the Mate 9 is a monochrome one. It works in tandem with the primary sensor to produce better image quality, and can be used to capture nice-looking black-and-white images.
The Mate 9’s software also features machine learning algorithms that learn the user’s habits and accordingly prioritises CPU, RAM, and storage for a better experience. The only criticism this phone has received is in the appearance and behavior of the customised Android interface.
Instead of buying the Note Fan Edition, you could just as well buy last year’s Galaxy S7 Edge, if the stylus is not a priority. It’s slightly smaller than the former, yet has a bigger 3,600 mAh battery that delivers a rather satisfying battery life. Other than that, the two phones are very similar. We could’ve even recommended this year’s Galaxy S8 (our Galaxy S8 review) which looks nicer thanks to the near bezel-less Infinity display. But that awkward fingerprint scanner position next to the camera lens prevents us from recommending this one.
We hope this article answered whether you’re better off buying the Samsung Galaxy Fan Edition or another phone. Which of these would you buy? Let us know in the comments below.