Iterative, Yet still one of the best Android smartphones around
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Review

Positives
  • Great Camera
  • Solid battery life
  • Improved style and ergonomics
  • Great performance
  • Beautiful Display
  • Waterproof
Negatives
  • Expensive
  • Edge Adaptive display occasionally has a green hue

The Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge are a stunning pair of phones that deserve their own reviews, but having had them both during the review process I couldn’t help but compare them as I was going along. By the end I figured out which one was the right one for me and if you’re deciding between the larger Galaxy S7 Edge and the more traditional Galaxy S7 I thought it was important to know where each stands and how they differ.

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Design Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge

It’s easy to dismiss the Galaxy S7 as iterative, unlike other galaxy’s, previous generations were pretty easy to tell apart. The S6 was a gorgeous smartphone, so the fact that they didn’t make a drastic departure isn’t something to look down on. Samsung has significantly changed the way their flagship smartphone feels in your hand.

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Elegant curves on the back make it easy to pick up off a table and it sits naturally in your hand the 2.5D glass on the front give it the same silky smooth feel when you spin it around. Everything looks and feels premium but this comes at a cost, the Galaxy S7 is slippery, you’ll want to cover up this beauty with a case because the Gorilla Glass 4 is not only on the front but on the back. This isn’t a fear that everyone has, the accident prone will want to be wary and at the same time be thankful that waterproofing is back with IP68 which means it can be submerged at 1.5m for 30 minutes.

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The Edge is the far more beautiful handset, it’s curved display is stunning and the front very much feels like the back, if you’re feeling the bottom of the handset you can’t tell the difference between the front and back. We’re in love with the edges and the overall profile of the S7 edge, design wise there is no competition that this device is leading the pack.

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The only thing we’re hesitant about is though it feels solid it does somehow feel delicate, having gorilla glass on the front and back means there are twice as many surfaces to break. Tempered glass screen protectors on both side are a must if this is going to survive in my bag for the year (admittedly I am rather clumsy).

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When comparing the S7 Edge to the S6 Edge+ the S7 has lost the sharp edge on the back of the making it easier to grip and the camera bump is smaller and more discrete which comes at cost of the devices overall thickness 7.7mm vs 6.8, but we’re ok with this since we’re given a bigger battery. Between this generation of S7’s to last years devices the biggest design differences are waterproofing, making the camera bump smaller and adding in a MicroSd card (u

Display – Simply Gorgeous

Samsung has always had one of the most stunning display’s on the market and the S7 is no exception.  A new feature we love is how it handles auto brightness, Personalized Automatic Brightness Control remembers your preferences at various levels of ambient light and then ties those settings to the current reading of the ambient light sensor.

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Always on display is a theme is the 2016 flagship devices but the display moves around as not to burn out any one pixel, LG has different display technology so they can do always on in the same spot. If you’re worried about battery drain, the S7 uses the light sensor to detect when it’s in your pocket and shuts off the always on. But

Samsung promises that this won’t take more than 1% of battery life per hour, thanks to being able to control every pixel of the Super AMOLED display – but that’s still around 15% of your phone’s juice gone per working day. The statistic they are throwing around to justify this is the average person checks their phone 150 times a day which consumes more than the always on display. I’d like to know how much more, but no number are being offered up.

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At 5.1 inch the Galaxy S7’s 1440 x 2560 Super AMOLED display is vibrant with very black blacks the 2.5D display adds to the over all appeal.  The viewing angles are great and the Quad HD display lives up to its reputation the level of clarity is amazing, it’s almost impossible to see the pixels.  In fact I’d argue that the S7 has a brighter more vibrant display overall when you’re really looking since the S7 Edge is larger at 5.5 inches.

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Display Mate’s analysis, one of the most in-depth on the web, has already been conducted on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and it found that it had not only has the screen’s maximum brightness been raised significantly above last year’s model, meaning it’ll be easier to see in bright light, but it’s got the best auto-brightness seen on any phone. The latter is particularly important, as it means the Galaxy S7 will be able to decide how to best manage your battery while still letting you see the screen as clearly as possible.

Hardware

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For all their physical differences, the S7 ($650 and up without contract) and S7 Edge ($750-plus) share many of the same internals. We reviewed the European version running the Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa Core processor with Quad-core 2.6 GHz Mongoose + quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 with 4GB of RAM., the US versions have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipsets, which matches a pair of 2.15GHz processor cores with two other 1.2GHz cores. The S7 and S7 Edge are IP68 rated water and dust resistant  and have a MicroSD card that can handle 200GB.  We have options for 32 and eventually 64GB of internal storage.

Samsung has implemented a water-cooling system in the S7, it’s a bit like a PC in that it has cooper tubing that contains a liquid that vaporizes at high temperature and condenses at low temperatures. We’ve been seeing this appear randomly in smartphones for years

Connectivity wise the Galaxy S7 is no slouch, 11ac dual-band WiFi with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, infrared port and Cat 9 LTE. The fingerprint sensor is in the home button and the heart rate monitor remains but we have no IR blaster, so no using your phone as a remote. This is a strange omission since Samsung is big on the connected living room.

No USB Type C, it’s a blessing in that it’s reversible since there is no more fumbling while trying to plug in, but I’ve been caught out on more than one occasion with no type c cable…early adopter issues. But data transfer and charge speeds are greatly increased. If you’re wondering why Samsung didn’t make the switch, blame the GearVR, the headset wouldn’t work if they made the switch.

The SD Card Debate, Did Samsung actually make the smarter move?

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On board storage of 32GB (64 is coming…but how much will that cost!) Samsung has decided not to use Google’s Adoptable storage feature which was added in Marshmallow. It allowed users to hard core microsd cards into the internal storage which means you can install massive apps on to them like it is the phones own native storage. Samsung apparently decided against it because they believe that users want to use MicroSD cards to physically move files between their device and laptops or tablets, especially photos and videos which they shoot with their phones. Adoptable storage is meant to be used in emerging markets where devices with 4 or 8GB of storage are common.

Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge – Best in Class Camera

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The Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge camera are full of next generation features it has an insanely fast f1.7 lens with OIS, this level of aperture is impressive for a camera let alone a smartphone. The 12 MP sensor has large 1.4micron pixels which gather even more light. The pixels are actually pairs of pixels which enable faster more accurate autofocus, just like a pair of eyes can judge distance better than one.

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In general lighting conditions the camera performs exceptionally, mid range Smartphone camera’s can take a great shot, so a flagship like the S7 or S7 Edge have to take really great photos in auto with out any effort .. and they do. Hardware wise the S7 & S7 Edge have identical camera’s so we’re going to start with the photos from the S7 Edge. We’re going to mix around the photos a little later on to show how the cameras handled themselves in various lighting conditions.

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S7 Edge

The fast auto focus is very fun to play with, the idea that every pixel is helping to create accurate and fast auto focus is apparent. However, when you spend time playing around with it the auto focus is only fast when the object moves to the center of the display. The auto focus is triggered by a closer object moving to the center of the display, if you hang out around the edge of the display you’ll need to select the focus. So if you’re looking to take advantage of the fast auto focus make sure that the object you’d like to quickly focus on is dead center otherwise it won’t reliably stay in focus.

We tested the track auto focus on Samuel the cat in low light and it didn’t have the best results non creating a sharp image, in bright well lit conditions our cat photos turned out quite well. If you check out our review video you’ll see a video with simultaneous photo taking that yielded decent shots as you can see above.

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Galaxy S7 vs Dog

Since taking photos of animals or fast moving children is a pretty common activity with your smartphone we decided to take the Galaxy S7 to task while walking past a local dog meet up. These fast moving pups didn’t always end up in focus, but when we did catch them we thought that the photos were very sharp for how fast these dogs were moving.

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Galaxy S7 1.5 second shutter speed – hand held

The Pro mode offers a high level of optimization with an ISO of 50, 80 all the way to 800 and the ability to slow the shutter speed right down to 10 seconds. It seems that a lot of people missed the fact that Samsung has offered an ISO of 50 on the S6 series since you need to slide slowly between ISO of 100 and auto in order to see them. Testing the Pro mode with shutter speed produced some great light trail shots, these are shot hand held leaning against a lamp post, so there is a small amount of shake which is why the background is slightly blurry. The night shots of the church were taken in manual as well.

When we move into clubbing territory the S7 didn’t fair as well as I would hope, the photos are often out of focus and club lighting is the most difficult to manage for any camera, smartphone or otherwise. As we have seen Pro Mode handles low light much better than Auto, but your knowledge of camera settings needs to be higher than mine to take decent photo with strobe lights thumping madly. Taking photos at night in auto takes an average night shot for a smartphone, but if you use Pro mode you can take an exceptional photo. Depth of field as well as hue and shadows are accurate and very well represented.

Taking panorama shots is much more interesting with Motion Panorama, it’s quite a cool feature allowing you to move around in the panorama and save it as a video. Check out our video review to see examples of this.

 

We are very happy with the quality of the photos, here are some general shots from the Samsung Galaxy S7.

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Software – TouchWiz Is Growing On Me!

TouchWiz on the Galaxy S7 is running Marshmallow and at first glance it looks largely unchanged from the 2015 build. Still feature rich, lighter and less bulky than version that came before the Galaxy S6 series. So what’s new?

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Always On display and it will be made available on older models that get the Android 6.0 upgrade, but you’ll need a device with an AMOLED display.

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When it comes to gaming there are a few really cool features onboard, first Samsung is offering better gaming support for the Vulkan API which means that users can reduce frame rate to save battery. When you download a few different games a new section appears called Game Launcher, you have the option to run the games at normal 60fps, save power and lower the resolution and the frame rate to 30fps or to run the game at an extremely low resolution and 30fps. We tested the it using a few different games and record gaming. Knox v2.6 for enterprises has also been improved.

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Microsoft apps come preinstalled and if you are a Office 365 user you’ll know just how much better the suite is on desk/laptop and having a cohesive experience onto mobile is great. Many people are just used to using Google services, but Office is a fantastic program and since I’ve started using it I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Google servies, pair that with the fact that OneDrive offers a more controlled sharing interface than Drive and Microsoft might be onto something with this pre-install. You also get 100GB of Free storage when you sign up a new device.

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There’s not a lot different from the S6 in reality, as the UI there was already much ‘flatter’ and closer to Google’s Material Design. However, the stock icons look cleaner once more, the notifications shade is starker (and white, rather neon green and grey) and the overall operation seems closer to Google’s stock experience.

There are still reams of Samsung styling throughout the Galaxy S7, meaning the settings menu has loads of options to mess around with and double tapping the home button will open up the camera in a flash – overall, everything is much faster when surfing around the phone. There is a very high level of snappiness whenever you’re trying to do anything. Annoyingly, the multi-tasking pane still takes a second longer than you’d like and if it is anything like the S6 this feature could slow down over time.

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If you’re looking for things that are specifically different UI wise than the S6, you have a toggle for the always on display in the newly designed quick launch area. The power down UI is also newly designed which isn’t a big deal but it is slightly more polished. We are seeing an increase in integration in apps from the previous generation of TouchWiz, the SmartManager which let’s you manage all your battery, RAM, storage & security is in the settings rather than just an app.

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The fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate the S6 had a good finger print sensor and I’ve been using the Huawei Mate 8 which has one of the snappiest readers on the market. It is on par with the Mate 8 in terms of having to remove excess moisture from your finger to register your print.

The Edge

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Beginning with the Apps Edge option, the name is really pretty self-explanatory. Users can setup and access their favorite and most commonly used apps from this panel. It is also possible to add your own custom apps by clicking on the + icons, until the tray is filled with the maximum of 10 apps. The little settings icon in the bottom left corner allows for adding and deleting of shortcuts.

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Swiping over again will move on to the next Edge screen, which in our case is the “Task Edge” panel. Here users can setup quick access to some of their favorite and most commonly used tasks, ranging from opening the camera app and snapping a selfie, to starting a new text message or opening up a conversation with your best buddy. Rather than opening up specific apps, think about this menu as starting up more specific app actions. Again, there are 10 spaces on the screen to customize to your liking and it can certainly be an efficient way to perform all your most common tasks, so long as you remember that the option is there.


People Edge will be a familiar feature to Galaxy S6 users, allowing for you to quickly call your contacts, but it has been updated with some slight changes. There are now name tags under each contact and the addition of the settings menu.

The final Edge panel type doesn’t have a specific name, but it essentially operates as an expanded Widget pane. You can add long vertical widgets to the edge of your screen, which is a nice way to avoid cluttering up your home screen while also providing additional detail over a smaller widget. Widget examples include Yahoo News, Stocks, Sports Scores, calendar reminders, the weather, and even a compass. You can even chose to have a widget that displays certain apps based on your current location, which could be handy for setting your phone up for work versus home and play.

Our favorite panel is the location based app panel, which is directly inspired by what HTC showed on the OneM9, you can customize specific apps based on Work, Home and Out. So for example you might want Maps or Four Square as apps you use when you’re out.

As we said at the beginning, there are a maximum of 9 panels available to use based on these four types, so users can rearrange, enable and even disable these pages as they see fit. Pages can also be renamed to whatever you prefer. The options menu also allows you to specify on which edge and position these panels will appear, allowing for some really optimized access to your favorite apps and tools.
Overall we find the panels very useful and something that we think Samsung has drastically improved upon pair this with the fact that now third party developers are able to create apps for the Edge and we have an interface that has the potential to change the way we interact with our handsets.

Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S7 Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S7 Battery Life

Samsung has fixed the battery life issues that plagued the S6, staying awake too long, apps talking to the network un necessarily and an over active accelerometer caused the S6 to fall into the low battery zone around 4pm. Over 8.5 hours on battery and 3.18 hours of screen on time where I spent 15min each on Instagram, Facebook & Messenger, 5 minutes of photo taking, 5 minutes of gaming (2.5 full frame, 2.5 battery saver), 2 TV series watched with audio playing through the speakers and 45 min of streaming cat videos wore the battery down to 69.1%. This was using a combination of 4G/WiFi and adaptive screen brightness on and set to 50%.

If you’re looking for a more standard benchmark to compare to, we ran AnTuTu’s Battery Tester and the S7 didn’t actually fair very well at all with a score of 6037.

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We found the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to be a battery life beast, with 4:06 of screen on time with 68% battery left we were satisfied with the 1 hour of native video playback, 1.5 hours of cat videos and lots of facebook, instagram, messenger and photo taking.  The

An interesting feature when it comes to charge is that the Galaxy S7 comes with a moisture sensor so it wont charge if it detects that thee is any dampness in to he port. A great features since the Galaxy S7 is waterproof.

Performance

Performance is buttery smooth and we never saw a hickup with the performance. Benchmarks for both devices are on par with each other and the Exynos 8890 is industry leading and competitive with the Snapdragon 820.

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Sound

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A single bottom facing speaker doesn’t have the best position if you’re gaming or hold the phone in landscape mode to share video. I’m constantly covering the speaker when playing Asphalt 8, but this is the case with any phones that places the speaker on the bottom or back. The audio itself is clear and loud, but we think it could be a little louder, however making it louder adds the risk of distortion of which there is currently none.

Notably missing is High end audio for your headphones, but Sony & LG boast quality coveted by audiophiles. Though Samsung has remained silent on including high end audio features the headphones that come included are very comfortable and sound amazing. They offer rich sound which however upped the game of the headphones they’ve included as they sound as if Samsung should have dedicated a slide to them during their press conference.

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Rating
Design / 9
Camera / 9
Sound / 7.5
Performance / 9
Battery Life / 8.5
Software / 8.5
Price / 8
Editor's Choice / 9
Hardware / 9
Display / 9
Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge

The Samsung Galaxy S7 isn't a huge departure from the S6 but it has benefited immensely from a year's worth of refinement. It's more powerful a slightly sharper camera and it feels better in hand. I'm just not sure if the better battery life and slightly better camera are going to be enough to get someone to upgrade from the Galaxy S6.

The Samsung Galaxy Edge is the most beautiful smartphone on the market, it feels amazing in hand, has a great camera and big battery life. If we were in the market for a new smarpthone this is at the top of our list.

8.7
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