Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Review

01
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Introduction

Samsung Galaxy S7 (right) and S7 edge (left). Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

With the launch of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, Samsung solved the two biggest problems everyone had with its flagship smartphones — design and build quality. Samsung’s premier devices had always packed top-of-the-line hardware, but their design and build quality had never been spectacular — it was good, but not great — despite their hefty price tag. The company acknowledged these problems when its competition started launching smartphones with superior looks and in-hand feel, and consumers started to jump ship.

With that being said, the rectification of the issues came at the cost of functionality. The new design language forced the Korean giant to sacrifice expandable storage (via a MicroSD card) and a user-replaceable battery — two unique selling points of a Galaxy smartphone. And the slaughtering didn’t just stop there, it also had to kill the IP67 rating; the Galaxy S6 wasn’t water-resistant or dust-proof, unlike its predecessor. What’s more, compared to the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, they were equipped with relatively smaller batteries — and, as a result, the devices suffered from awful battery life.

So, as expected, some Samsung loyalists went on a rage, while others welcomed the new changes with open arms. I, for one, didn’t really care about not having a removable battery nor a microSD card slot, as I had never invested in extra batteries and, right before the Galaxy S6 launch, had just started using various cloud services for my pictures and videos. I did, however, missed not having a water-resistant smartphone, mainly because of the piece of mind that particular characteristic brings alongside itself. Now, I wouldn't take my smartphone near a pool, but I do live in London where it rains almost every other day.

Then there were the performance issues. At the launch event, Samsung emphasised that its software engineers had optimised its user interface so heavily that the infamous TouchWiz lag was gone, once and for all. And they weren’t lying. They had actually managed to get rid of the lag which was plaguing Samsung devices for years. But it only took around 4 weeks — that’s a solid 3 week improvement — for the lag to come back again and make Galaxy S6 users’ lives miserable.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones are supposed to fix shortcomings of their predecessors. Let’s see if they fulfil the duty they were assigned upon their inception, or not.

02
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Design and build quality

Samsung Galaxy S7 (in Black Onyx) and S7 Edge (in Gold Platinum). Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

Samsung designed the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge from scratch. It introduced a brand new design language which solely comprised of metal and glass — something unheard of in the world of Samsung, and something which was desperately needed for the company to keep its smartphones relevant in the industry. In my opinion, the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge were beautifully designed smartphones, and Samsung didn’t really have to up its design game once again for their successors — so it didn’t.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge feature the same design language — a metal frame with a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and the back — as their forerunners. The company has clearly gone with a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach, and that’s not a bad thing. Even though you’re bound to confuse the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge to their respective predecessors, the design isn’t exactly identical; Samsung has made some minor, but very important tweaks and enhancements to its design. And I think that refining and iterating a winning formula is most certainly a move in the right direction for the company.

With every iteration of a smartphone, you expect the new one to be a bit lighter and thinner than the one before it, but that’s not the case with the Korean firm’s latest flagships. The Galaxy S7 is a tad heavier (S7: 152 grams — S6: 138 grams), a millimetre thicker (S7: 7.9mm — S6: 6.8mm), and sports curved edges on the back — very much like the Galaxy Note 5.

Thanks to a slightly thicker profile, the camera sensor and the home button don’t protrude as much as they did on the Galaxy S6. This change notably helped reduce accidental home button presses, and the device now sits almost flat on a table. The company has decreased the size of the bezels around the display, making the device a bit narrower than before, which, combined with the rounded back, makes the Galaxy S7 one of the most ergonomic smartphones ever.

The Galaxy S7 edge, on the other hand, has received a much more significant upgrade. It now comes with a 5.5-inch display, instead of a 5.1-inch one, a remarkably bigger battery, and its rear glass panel, too, features curved edges — but they aren’t as pronounced as they are on its smaller brother. There was this design flaw with the Galaxy S6 edge where the device was pretty difficult to pick up from a level surface, but, by having curved edges on the back, I didn’t face this particular problem with the Galaxy S7 edge.

Samsung has also made some alterations to the front glass panel; the curved edges are now somewhat tighter, therefore increasing the area of the primary, flat part of the display. With that being said, I did encounter issues with the company’s palm rejection software, especially when typing something using both of my hands or trying to press something on the opposite side of the display. It’s much better than it was on the Galaxy S6 edge, but still a lot of work is required to make it perfect.

The Galaxy S7 edge is thicker and heavier than its predecessor (S7e: 157 grams, 7.7mm — S6e: 132 grams, 7mm), too, yet it’s thinner and lighter than the Galaxy S7 (S7e: 157 grams, 7.7mm — S7: 152 grams, 7.9mm), despite boasting a bigger display. That’s science for you, kids. The rounded back and tighter front curves really help decrease the device’s footprint; Samsung has managed to pack a 5.5-inch display into an enclosure built for a 5.3-inch display.

The Korean giant knew that it had nailed the design with the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, therefore it focused on the feel of the devices with their successors — and it nailed that, too. Even though both devices have received a modest increase in thickness and weight, the difference isn’t that tangible in real life. Actually, the added heft makes the devices feel more premium and high-end.

Additionally, most manufacturers are producing smartphones with a unibody metal casing, which makes Samsung’s handsets different and refreshing to some extent. But having glass on both, the front and the back does make the Galaxy S7 series a scratch- and fingerprint-magnet. I have been using both devices for almost two months, and I have quite a lot of scratches on the back of my Galaxies — I don’t like to put my smartphones inside a case, but I would advise you to get one for yours. The metal frames themselves are in pristine condition, even after accidentally dropping the Galaxy S7 on a tiled floor twice, with no dents or nicks whatsoever.

Both devices are now IP68 — dust-proof and water-resistant — certified. Which means you can submerge them under water to a depth of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes — I have tested this feature extensively, and I’m glad to report that it works as advertised. And the best part is that Samsung managed to seal the devices from the inside, rather than from the outside. That being so, there isn’t a flap covering the microUSB port, unlike the Galaxy S5. Visually, there’s no way you can tell that these handsets are dust-proof and water-resistant, and that’s just brilliant — huge props to Samsung’s design and engineering team.

And I have to give a shoutout to whoever designed the power and volume buttons on the Galaxy S7 series, because they feel amazing — they require just the right amount of force to be pressed and, when pressed, the haptic feedback received is on point — and they are made out of metal. Speaking of buttons, the home button is made out of plastic and gets scratched really, really easily — I hope Samsung switches to a sapphire home button with the Galaxy S8 — and it houses a mediocre fingerprint sensor. I mean, it’s not that bad, but I have tested better (for example: LG G5, Huawei P9, iPhone 6S/7).

Then there’s the average speaker. Both devices feature a mono speaker, which is located at the bottom, right next to the microUSB port. Samsung devices have never had impressive acoustics, but, after making the devices water-resistant, the speaker has gotten even worse — it doesn’t sound that great, nor is it loud enough. I think it’s time Samsung started experimenting with stereo speakers, because a mono speaker just won’t cut it in its next year’s flagship.

03
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Display

Stock weather app on the Galaxy S7. Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

Like I mentioned earlier, the Galaxy S7 sports a 5.1-inch display, while the Galaxy S7 edge comes with a 5.5-inch display. Both displays are of Super AMOLED variety with a Quad HD (2560x1440) resolution. However, due to the devices featuring different screen sizes, each panel packs a different pixel density — S7: 577ppi, S7e: 534ppi — but the difference is indistinguishable by the human eye (unless you possess supernatural powers).

I could write a lot of adjectives to describe the Galaxy S7 series’ display panels, but that would be a waste of time. Basically, just like Samsung’s previous flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge feature the best displays on the market right now — and don’t expect anyone else, except Samsung, to release a better panel. They have an excellent contrast ratio, deep blacks, bright whites, and they reproduce jaw-dropping colours. Plus, if you aren’t a big fan of Samsung’s signature over-saturated colours, you can adjust the screen mode from under the display settings, and can choose from four different modes: Adaptive Display, AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo, and Basic.

Both panels have the ability to get extremely bright and dim, therefore I had zero issues viewing them either at night or daytime — even direct sunlight couldn’t outshine them. The only issue I encountered was with the viewing angles, at extreme angles they suffer from minor colour shifting, especially with the Galaxy S7 edge, due to its display being curved from the edges.

Just like LG’s G5, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge boast an Always-on Display — it’s a software feature which allows the user to exhibit a clock, calendar or an image, when the screen is not in use. And there are a variety of clock and calendar styles to choose from. But I like LG’s implementation more, as Samsung’s Always-on Display can’t show notifications from 3rd party apps, and I don’t prefer its stock applications. The feature uses around 1% of battery per hour, which is pretty efficient.

In a software update, the manufacturer enabled display scaling, which allows the user to view the screen in a condensed manner, by decreasing the size of the icons and text. It’s one of my favourite features, and I think it should be made standard on all smartphones rocking a display with a Quad HD resolution.

04
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Camera

GS7 series features a heart-rate sensor and an LED flash, next to its camera. Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

The Galaxy S6 had an outstanding camera, but there was still room for improvement — and the Galaxy S7 fills that gap. With the Galaxy S7 series, Samsung has opted for a 12-megapixel sensor with support for 4K video at 30 FPS and OIS (optical-image-stabilisation), which sits behind a lens with an aperture of f/1.7 — just for comparison, my Sony RX100 Mark III has an aperture of f/1.8.

Yes, the OEM has reduced the megapixel count from 16 to 12, but at the same time has increased each pixel’s size by 56% (1.4um). Which means you’ll be capturing a slightly smaller picture — 12 megapixels are still a lot of pixels — and more light will get into each pixel, enabling you to take impressive images under low-light situations.

The best attribute about the Galaxy S7’s camera system is the Duel-Pixel Autofocus technology, which allows all 12 million pixels to be used as agents for Phase-Detection Autofocus. Resulting in an AF system which is insanely fast, no matter what condition you’re shooting in, and has no competition in the smartphone space. What’s more, it works in both, photo and video modes. The Dual-Pixel Autofocus technology was developed by Canon for its 70D in 2013, yet the Galaxy S7’s AF system outperforms the 70D in focusing — I’m not sure if Samsung has licensed the technology from Canon, or it has created its own based on the same concept. 

With Samsung’s Quick Launch (opening the camera app by double-pressing the home button) and Dual-Pixel Autofocus technology, there’s nothing stopping you from capturing all the memorable moments in your life.

The actual pictures out of the Galaxy S7 are sharp and vibrant, with a great amount of dynamic range and saturation. But the devices do have a tendency of over-sharpening in post-processing and overexposing in daylight conditions. And those are the only two complains I have regarding the Galaxy S7’s imaging system — yes, only two complains.

As for Samsung’s stock camera app, it hasn’t changed much, and it didn’t need to. You have support for Auto HDR, Grid Lines, Motion Photo (Samsung’s take on Apple’s Live Photos), Shape Correction, Location Tags, filters, and 10 different shooting modes including Pro Mode (more can be downloaded from the Galaxy App Store).

For all those selfie takers out there, there’s a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, which is accompanied by a wide-angle lens with an aperture of f/1.7. It can shoot video in QHD (2560x1440) at 30FPS, which makes it perfect for vlogging purposes. The image quality is pretty solid as well, ample better than what most of the competition is offering with a higher megapixel count sensor. Despite that, I would like the company to optically-stabilise its front-facing camera sensor in the future, because it’s all about Snapchat and Instagram Stories these days.

Click here to check out camera samples.

05
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Software

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge ship with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and Samsung’s TouchWiz UX, out of the box. Samsung hasn’t made a ton of changes to its software, mainly because it overhauled the entire thing with the Galaxy S6. Check out my Galaxy S6’s software review, for an in-depth overview of the new, improved TouchWiz UX.

Samsung did, however, made a small number of changes to adapt TouchWiz for the Galaxy S7 series, which include the use of lighter colours throughout the operating system, instead of Samsung’s signature blue colour, addition of Game Launcher, and support for Vulkan API.

The Game Launcher arranges all the games in a single folder, and as you install new games, they get added to that folder automatically. It also enables the user to reduce battery consumption by decreasing the resolution and frame rate of the game. Furthermore, it comes with a set of tools which allow the user to disable alerts during gameplay, lock recents and back capacitive keys (yes, finally!), minimise game into a floating app icon, take a screenshot, and even record their gameplay.

To enhance the experience of the Galaxy S6 edge, and to make better use of the curved display, Samsung added these edge panels to its device. But, initially, the device only came with a single panel, called People Edge. People Edge allowed the user to set up to 5 favourite contacts, which could be accessed from the home screen by swiping the Edge Panel Handle. A single edge panel wasn’t adding much value, nor the overall experience was that great, and Samsung knew it. Hence, it kept on adding new panels and functionality through software updates.

With the Galaxy S7 edge, the Edge UX has received a noteworthy upgrade. The device comes with a plethora of pre-loaded panels including People Edge, Apps Edge, Tasks Edge, Weather, S Planner, Internet, Quick Tools, CNN, My places, and more can be downloaded from the Galaxy Apps store. And the panels themselves are now double in size, which means developers can fit in more functionality in a panel then they could before.

Samsung has put in a fair amount of working in improving the Edge UX, yet I didn’t see myself using it much. And I don’t think anyone buying the Edge variant of the Galaxy S7 will solely buy it because of the exclusive Edge UX functionality. On top of that, if you own an S6 edge or S6 edge+, you already have the new Edge UX anyway, as Samsung gifted you that with the Marshmallow upgrade.

Now, I have the unlocked, European variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, therefore my units are bloatware-free. But, if you buy them from your network provider, your devices will definitely come with some kind of bloatware. And that’s not acceptable, not at all. Look, Samsung — you’re in a position where you can tell the network provider to not install bloatware on your devices, because you’re a very major player in the industry. And they will happily obey your request, because they can’t afford not to have your smartphones on their network — simple as that.

06
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Performance and hardware

S7 Series' port setup (left), SIM-Tray (Top right), and Power Button (Bottom Right). Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

When I reviewed the Galaxy S6, I bragged about its outstanding performance and that Samsung had finally managed to fix the TouchWiz lag, which had been present in its devices since the first ever Galaxy S. Nevertheless, after 4 weeks of using the device as my daily driver, the TouchWiz lag made a return, and it was dreadful — I was literally rebooting my Galaxy S6 every other week to make it more responsive (which is something no customer should have to do). Then there was also the issue with memory management, where the device failed to keep a respectable amount of apps running in the background and used to terminate them instead.

Having said that, I have been testing the Galaxy S7 series for just over two months and I’m thrilled to report that, this time around, Samsung has definitely managed to get rid of the TouchWiz lag. And memory management has outstandingly been improved as well. But do keep in mind that I tested the European variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, which come equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 processor — North American variants come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC configuration, and some reviewers have reported those are inclined to lag once in awhile.

Samsung, for the love of god, please stop shipping your smartphones with two different processor configurations, because the user experience is just not consistent, and that’s not a good thing for the consumer. Thank you.

The devices are also packing 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB of UFS 2.0 internal storage, which is user-expandable via a MicroSD card. Yes, the MicroSD card support is back from the dead — Samsung really wants to please everyone with its Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The OEM has created a special hybrid SIM card tray in which you can insert both, a SIM card and a MicroSD card. And in some countries, where the company is selling dual-SIM variants of the Galaxy S7 series, consumers can insert a second SIM card in place of the MircoSD card.

Performance-wise, I really don’t have any issues with the new smartphones, they perform tremendously well in all conditions — wether it be scrolling through my Twitter feed, checking emails, web browsing, or even hard-core gaming. Moreover, both devices have a built-in liquid cooling system, which prevents the CPU from throttling — one of the reasons they don’t lag — and does a magnificent job of keeping the devices nice and cool.

Both devices have support for dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, ANT+, NFC, GPS, and LTE Category 9. For syncing and charging purposes, the company is still using a MicroUSB port, and I, along with many, believe that’s because it didn’t wanted to break compatibility with the Gear VR. Like the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Note 5, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge don’t have an IR blaster, so you can no longer use them as your TV remote. If you can’t live without your IR blaster, I would recommend you to check out the LG G5 — but only do that if you really, really want that IR blaster.

07
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Battery life

Black Onyx Galaxy S7 leaning on a brick wall and looking gorgeous. Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

The Galaxy S6 series had pathetic battery life. There was not a single working day where I wasn’t looking for a charger by 7PM. And that was mainly because of them packing relatively small batteries (S6: 2,500mAh — S6e: 2,550mAh), due to design constraints, obviously.  Samsung has managed to equip the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge with much larger, 3,000mAh and 3,600mAh lithium-ion batteries, respectively — one of the benefits of slightly increasing the thickness of the smartphones.

The Galaxy S7 was easily lasting me a full working day, while I was managed to get a day and a half out of the Galaxy S7 edge. You might be able to get even more out of these bad boys, if your usage isn’t that high, or you keep power saving mode enabled all the time. Both devices support Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which means it takes the battery to charge around 50% in 30 minutes, and 100% in under 90 minutes — it’s super convenient.

Just like their forerunners, Samsung’s latest devices feature wireless charging, but it’s not your average wireless charging, it’s on steroids. So, when Samsung announced the Galaxy S6 will have built-in wireless charging support, I ordered Samsung’s official wireless charging pad before actually pre-ordering the smartphone itself. And I wirelessly charged the GS6 for a few weeks but then got frustrated over the charging speeds; it was extraordinarily slow. The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, however, are boasting Fast Wireless Charging, which is much, much faster, and I love using it.

08
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Verdict

Galaxy S7 edge and S7 home screens. Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

Samsung figured out a way of bringing the oomph factor back into the company's Galaxy line, with the help of a brand new design language and the dual-edge display of the S6 edge and S6 edge+.

Then why the bad year, you may ask? Well, the new design language forced the Korean giant to remove some prominent features out of its products, which caused a backlash from its enormous loyal user base.And the company didn't know how the market would react to the dual-edge display of the S6 edge, therefore it had underestimated its demand, and it ended up being sold-out almost everywhere.

Moreover, it never received the marketing push it deserved, the standard Galaxy S6 was being touted as the premier handset. Plus, both variants were technically identical, with the only differences being the 50mAh larger battery, the dual-curved display and the exclusive Edge UX of the S6 edge. They were also targeted towards the same group of consumers, which made the buying decision somewhat difficult.

With the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, Samsung has managed to fix almost all of the shortcomings of their predecessors and has strategically simplified its flagship product line. Also, by giving the Galaxy S7 edge a bigger display and a significantly larger battery, it's now targeting two different sets of consumers.

Besides, this time around, it's emphasising more on the design aspect of the S7 edge, instead of the Edge UX. The dual-curved display has enabled the manufacturer to pack a 5.5-inch display into a much smaller footprint, so it's a lot more easier to use with one hand, which is nothing short of an engineering marvel.

No matter which variant you choose to go with, you're bound to get dazzled by all its capabilities. I, myself, prefer the Galaxy S7 edge; I like the bigger display, the battery lasts longer, and I find it more alluring than the standard Galaxy S7. Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are undoubtedly two of 2016's best smartphones, period.

How can Samsung further improve upon its winning formula, and what do I want from the Galaxy S8? A single AP configuration for all SKUs, dual-edge displays on both variants, stereo speakers, USB-C for syncing and charging, a home button made out of sapphire crystal, a higher megapixel count for both camera sensors (maybe even a dual-camera arrangement at the back), OIS for front-facing camera, and TouchWiz without the carrier bloatware.

Buy Galaxy S7 from Amazon | Buy Galaxy S7 edge from Amazon

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