[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a bit of an awkward phone for Samsung. Nothing in reference to it’s actual shape or wizzy personality, but more in reference to the legacy the S6 left behind. Basically what I’m saying is, The S7 has some pretty big shoes to fill. The S6 was class leading, with an innovative curved screen design that had even Apple looking over their shoulder (albeit not so much, they are still selling a ton of iPhones). We weren’t expecting a mega evolution like the S6 again this year. But is the S7 more deserving of a 6.5 name upgrade rather than a full round up to 7? Well that’s what we’ll find out.
Samsung has refined a winning formula, improved on weaknesses and brought back old features that had people doing seal impressions at Mobile World Congress. It was a safe bet that whatever Samsung does with the S7, we weren’t going to hate it, the S6 impressed so much that Samsung stuck close to what works. This is evident with how the S7 range looks identical to the S6. Luckily for Samsung everyone still loves that curved screen, they can get away with being not original this time. I’m the same, I can’t get over how premium the S7 is, ever since Samsung went for a different direction with the S6; the Korean manufacturer has massively upped their game. The S6 was the first Android device to truly compare against Apple’s iPhone in terms of design quality.
Premium brings with it a premium price tag. You’re looking at £639.99 for the S7 Edge and £569.99 for the S7. This year Samsung has taken the Edge variant up to phablet territory, meaning both the S7 and S7 Edge won’t be competing directly with each other.
OS Android Marshmallow 6.0 (TouchWiz)
Processor Exynos 8890
Screen 5.5 inches
Resolution 1440 x 2560
Memory 4GB RAM
MicroSD compatible? Yes, up to 200GB
Rear camera 12-megapixels
Front camera 5-megapixels
Connectivity 3G, 4G
Dimensions 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
Battery 3600 mAh
[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]
Yes it’s almost the spitting image of the S6, S7 Edge and standard both look pretty much like their predecessors. Samsung are also using the same material seen on the S6 for the S7. We see that familiar glass back, metal chamfered frame, and symmetrical antenna bands on top and bottom. In the familiar materials we felt a difference with the glass panel, it’s gripper than the S6. It’s still quite slippery though; on occasions it has slipped out of my pocket on car journeys. The glass back is still a fingerprint magnet I really recommend onyx black to make it less noticeable.
We should focus on what Samsung has improved and included new this time around; the standout would be the water resistance. That’s right its water resistant not waterproof as previously rumoured. A mix of engineering and adhesive, the S7 has no dangly flaps required to keep water out for a shower selfie. It was quite nice being able to take a phone into the shower for some tunes without having to worry about condensation damage. It’s IP68 so it can survive 1.5 metres of watery depth (up to 30 minutes). Another returning feature from the S5 is the microSD slot. It’s upgradeable to 200GB of expandable memory, which makes it acceptable that the standard S7 only comes in 32GB.
Let’s talk about the expandable memory more. Yes it was wrong of Samsung to get rid of it on the S6, but the benefit of it was the increased performance speed. Now it’s back and yes, it does slow down the S7. Do not let this deter you, the drop in speed is negligible and through general use you won’t even notice it. Accessing Facebook was a millisecond slower with an SD card inserted. To ensure maximum performance with an SD card, grab a class 10 microSD card.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]
The camera piqued the most interest for me, as Samsung has downsized the megapixels but promised better quality. The S6 had 16 megapixels whereas this year’s S7 is rocking with 12 megapixels, Samsung boasts the new snapper is able to take the best low-light snaps out of any camera. How are Samsung doing this? The pixels are physically larger and so is the lens, going from f/1.7 to f/1.9. The result is excellent quality pictures, particularly at low-light settings. The S7 retains the ability to record at 4k with optical image stabilisation (OIS). I never hesitated to take a picture with the S7, it adapts and takes some glorious pictures and videos.
So what else is new about the camera? Samsung has incorporated DLSR technology into the 12-megapixel snapper; it’s called dual-pixel autofocus technology. Just like you’d assume it helps autofocus speeds, we saw its usefulness particularly with video recording, panning across the room required different focusing spots and results looked incredibly smooth. Selfie lovers are going to love the S7, why? Well if Ellen Degeneres was using the S7 instead of the S5, Jared Leto’s forehead would have been joined by the rest of his face. The wide selfie option is done by moving the S7 left and right to shoot a wider shot. It doesn’t compromise quality; selfies are crystal clear, more so than the iPhone 6s.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]
The S7 has that 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, QHD display just like the S6. It’s a mesmerizing display with excellent colour contrast and clarity fit for royalty. The S7 uses Super AMOLED, which contributes to colour saturation and popping bright colours. Blacks and dark colours are deep; you can particularly see this when locking the screen, to be welcomed by the always-on display.
The defining screen feature is the new always-on screen. At the moment it’s pretty basic with the time, date, battery level and some notifications (call and text) making use of it. It’s fantastic for it’s purpose and that is to stop you from unlocking your phone as much as you use to. According to Samsung we unlock our phones 150 times a day, which sounds about right. By not unlocking your phone so much you’re not waking up the CPU and not turning on that bright screen, saving you more battery in the long run. It justifies the always-on screen draining just about 1% of battery, every hour it’s on. My biggest complaint is how basic the always-on screen is. Third party apps need to support it, or I will be unlocking my phone close to 150 times a day.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]
There are two processors for the S7; Samsung’s very own octa-core Exynos 8890 and Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 820. Samsung are using the Snapdragon 820 in North America, as the Exnos 8890 cannot run certain networks. Being in Europe we got the Exynos 8890 S7 Edge to test.
The Exynos 8890 is accompanied by 4GB of RAM over the 3GB we had on the S6. I can honestly say the Samsung Galaxy S7 (and the Edge) is the fastest Android phone on the market at the moment. Notice how I said Android there, it’s quite interesting how the iPhone 6s can still beat the brand new S7 from Samsung. In our “victory lap of apps” test in which we opened 10 apps and took a photo at the end, the 6s beat the S7 by two seconds. Just like using a microSD card, the difference in speed is negligible. In Geekbench tests the S7 scored 2085 in single-core and 6359 in the multi-core category. The iPhone 6s wins in the single-core category with a score of 2490. Multi-core the S7 wins by a considerable margin, with a score of 4331. Making the S7 more suited for heavy loads of activity.
The S7 has also shown it can dig deep. A manipulation test with my Wi-Fi router was designed to test how great the Exynos 8890 is at downloading data. Every device in proximity of my router was unable to get a Wi-Fi signal, except for the S7. The download speed was capable of playing Netflix in full HD, colour me impressed.
TouchWiz has a really bad rep and a lot of people would not buy a Samsung device because of Samsung’s Android skin. Which is incredibly stupid if that’s the reason why you’re avoiding Samsung devices. With the specs the S7 is running TouchWiz feels just as smooth as a stock Android device.
TouchWiz is much smoother with icons flatten and a more mature feel to the UI. It’s a bit rubbish that TouchWiz still isn’t able to uninstall apps from the home screen, a lot of Android skins offer this so it’s very surprising to not see it included. TouchWiz replaced Flipboard on non-US versions of the S7; now to the left of your homescreen is Upday. Upday doesn’t feel like a big upgrade from Flipboard but it does the job in providing curated news. For those that hate the news intrusion on your homescreen, Upday can be switched off.
Edge screen was a bit basic on the S6, now Samsung have improved it to cut down on the number of taps to the touchscreen and make it easier to call your best friend. Edge shortcuts are now double the width with much more options and shortcuts for you to access. The S7 Edge may be 0.4 inches bigger than its predecessor, but it’s still easy to access Edge screen with a flick of the thumb. In short I now use it quite often, but more needs to be done to make Edge screen a defining software feature.
I’m in awe over how good the battery is. The S7 is 3,600 mAh and it lasts me a bloody age. At no point did I fear for the battery life during my time with the S7, it’s incredible how I can get to the end of the day with over 40% left in the tank on average. It’s a far cry from battery issues the S6 had, if you managed to get home with a slither of battery left, it was a good day.
From 100% charge and general use, the battery lasted just about 24 hours. Waking up next to it, still going strong really warmed my heart. Watching YouTube for an hour at 1080p drained a measly 10%, and intense 30-minute sessions of gaming drained only 18%. The paranoia of using your phone heavily is gone; Samsung has done what not many can do, and that’s provide a powerful phone, with a battery to keep up with it.
From 0% and switched off, the fast charging fully charges the device in 1 hour 34 minutes. With the S7 turned on 30 minutes of charging gives it 37%, which seems about right.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Conclusion[/highlight]
An iteration that is the definition of refinement, Samsung has released what is definitely the best smartphone at the moment. The LG G5 and its ‘Friends’ have a fight on their hands. It has one of the best cameras we’ve used and continues the Galaxy trend of having class leading specs. The battery was a major issue last year and now it’s bigger and better than ever. Water-resistance, an upgradeable microSD card slot, gorgeous design, there is so much to love about the S7. The price might deter some; but there is the cheaper standard S7, which is more practical with rounded edges. If you want a class leading phone with an eye-catching looks, by all means go for the S7 Edge, it’s worthy of that whole number upgrade.