Samsung Galaxy S7 Review
Samsung’s latest iteration in its flagship Galaxy line of smartphones is the S7 & S7 Edge. I’ll be reviewing the S7 in this post, but nearly all of the reviewed features apply to both phone save for the larger, curved glass screen and larger battery of the S7 Edge. In more of an evolution instead of revolution, Samsung has improved upon all of the shortcomings of the previous generation phone, the Galaxy S6. While almost nearly identical to the S6, the S7 now has a better camera, larger battery (albeit non-removable), and water resistance plus microSD card features that were, for some reason, removed after the S5 model line ended.
Design & Build
Simply put, if you are already a fan of the S6, you will love the S7. While a little heavier (+14g) and thicker (+1.1mm) than the S6, you won’t notice the difference in your hand. What you will notice is the increased battery life that the new 3000 mAh battery provides (a marked 17.6% increase over the S6’s 2550 mAh battery). The phone now has beautiful, ever-so-slightly curved Gorilla Glass 4 on both the front and the rear of the phone, making it much easier to hold and manage despite its thicker profile, a feature tough to explain, but one that can be understood better with the hands than with the eyes.
The added thickness of the phone now means that the camera lens doesn’t protrude nearly as far – it sits just about flush with the body of the phone; using it on a flat surface isn’t an issue anymore. There you will also find the heart rate monitor and camera flash.
Samsung hasn’t changed the location of the power and volume buttons on either size of the phone, and alongside the headphone jack and micro-USB port you’ll also find the single speaker, unfortunately located on the bottom of the device. This location means it can be easily blocked by your hand, especially when gaming or watching videos in landscape mode. You won’t find the new USB-C type connecter, with Samsung opting for backwards-compatibility by sticking with the tried and true micro-USB connector. This isn’t a glaring omission, as the thought of having to buy all new charging cords is frustrating to many consumers, and the advantages of USB-C just aren’t enough to justify such a major change.
Overall, Samsung did a fantastic job with the design of this phone. The curved glass that melts into the sides of the phone, clean lines, button placement, and overall solid feel of the phone make the S7 nothing but a pleasure to look at and hold.
The Galaxy S7 features a Super AMOLED display with 1,440 x 2,560 resolution which is actually the same as last year’s S6, but still holds up as the best screen in a smartphone. It’s still a 5.1-inch display, but an interesting note is that while it’s roughly the same size as the iPhone 6S, that phone only has a 4.7-inch screen. The side bezels on the S7 are practically non-existent (and actually disappear on the S7 Edge). The AMOLED display also means that when the S7 is locked it can still show the time, date and basic notifications on the always-on screen with little impact on battery life. Hopefully other, more detailed persistent lock-screen notifications will arrive down the road, but for now this feature is still very helpful.
The camera is one of the best cameras on a smartphone that I’ve used. Don’t be fooled by the lack of megapixels (down from 16 to 12), as the pixels that are used are much more sensitive than the previous on the S6. Auto-focus is lightning quick, and by dropping the aperture (Aperture is a measure of how wide a portal a lens opens to allow light onto the sensor) to f/1.7 from f/1.9, Samsung has created a phone that finally take great pictures in low-light conditions. This camera comes as close to replacing your DSLR as you can get, plus all the standard camera features (slow motion, hyperlapse, panorama, etc…) are included, with even more available for download though Samsung’s store.
Performance & Software
The S6 was already a solid performer on just about all fronts, and the S7 only further improves on its predecessor. With Verizon’s solid network connection, this phone is extremely fast, the fastest phone that’s been released to date actually. It’s Snapdragon 820 processor is cooled by a heat pipe, a first in any smartphone, which helps eliminate “hotspots” on the phone when under heavy load, thus preventing thermal throttling of the processor. During normal use the processor uses only two of its four cores to save battery life. I won’t go into benchmarks in this review, but it’s safe to say that the S7 is faster than any other phone on the market right now.
With software, Samsung chose to employ it’s oft-maligned “TouchWiz” interface on top of Google’s new Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system. While not as bloated as previous versions of TouchWiz, I would have personally preferred a more native Android interface. However, Samsung does allow you to customize the phone through various themes and launchers, so you can get pretty close to the native Android Marshmallow interface should you desire.
Anything would be an improvement from the S6 from a battery standpoint, where under normal usage you’d be hard-pressed to last the day without a recharge along the way. Not so with the S7. The larger battery combined with Android Marshmallow’s “Doze” feature means you will typically last the entire day and then some. Heavy users need not worry either, as it only takes 90 minutes of charge time from the included fast-charger to fully juice the battery. The inclusion of wireless charging makes things only easier, and Samsung sells fast wireless chargers that are able to charge the phone nearly as fast as when using a cable. The only drawback? The battery is non-removable. Though this seems to be the norm among flagship phones, especially those with water-resistant abilities such as the S7.
The main stand-out features of this phone have been heavily touted in Samsung’s advertising: water resistance, expandable storage (via microSD), and a great camera. The water resistance is a huge plus, and having tested it with my demo phone I can attest to the usefulness of this feature especially if you have children. I should emphasize here that the phone is water-resistant, not water-proof. The phone has a water-tight gasket that rims the innards of the phone, and while the USB and headphone jack ports are sealed, the speaker port simply employs a fine mesh grill that makes it tough for water to pass though (this mesh is also what may make the speaker sound a bit tinny). With enough water pressure (taking the phone below five feet underwater, for example) the water will find its way through the mesh and into the phone. So be cautious. Taking the phone into a pool to shoot videos is not what it is intended for (the touchscreen won’t work underwater anyway), so don’t think that you can use it in that manner.
By now you can tell that I’m a fan of this phone. The only cons I’ve found are minor, but here they are:
- TouchWiz is still too bloated for my taste – too many preloaded apps on the phone that you will likely never use, and shouldn’t for that matter, as carriers often use them to tout features that are pay-to-use after an initial trial.
- As beautiful as the fit and finish of this phone is, all those high-grade materials make the phone slippery and a finger-print magnet. You will likely end up putting a case on the phone or at least a protective skin to add a little more grip.
- Cost. It’s a flagship phone with a flagship price tag. You’ll want to consider carrier or 3rd party insurance unless you have it in a beefy case. One big plus is that you only have to worry about cracked screens now, not water damage.
- Poor speaker. Works fine for ringtones and notifications, but don’t expect to watch or listen to anything in high fidelity. Stick to headphones / speakers (which most people do anyway, so this isn’t a major con in my opinion.
- Only 32 GB of RAM built in. There are no other options. The inclusion of a microSD slot takes most of the sting out of this omission, as you can add as much as 200 GB to the phone in expandable storage.
Point-blank: it’s a great phone and thanks to Verizon for sending. The S7 is better than just about any phone you currently have in your hand, including iPhones. The design and build quality are outstanding, the camera and performance are hard to beat, battery life more than adequate, and on top of everything it’s water-resistant. No other phone has such a well-rounded feature set, and I highly recommend it. So much so that once my demo unit has to sadly go back, I’ll be in line to get one myself.