Samsung Galaxy S7 review










Samsung Galaxy S7Samsung

VERDICT

Samsung has tweaked the winning design from the S6, righted the wrongs of its previous flagships, and made a phone you don't want to put down. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is iterative perfection.

PROS:

  • Improved, waterproof design
  • Fantastic screen and power
  • Superb camera

CONS:

  • High price
  • Only 32GB internal space
  • Fingerprint magnet
The Samsung Galaxy S7 finds itself in a slightly tricky situation. Samsung needed a big win from the Galaxy S6 in 2015, which it got after reinventing the design of its flagship smartphone, but you're not going to get the same degree of evolution again just a year later.
This means the Galaxy S7 falls firmly into the iterative camp, building on the solid foundations laid by its predecessor without fiddling with the winning formula too much.
Some will argue this phone should be called the Galaxy S6S, but are they right? I've put the Samsung Galaxy S7 through its paces to see if it's a worthy seventh-generation flagship, or a just cheeky six-point-five instalment.
There's initial good news in the fact that the S7 isn't competing as closely with the Galaxy S7 Edge as the S6 was with the S6 Edge last year, with the curved display variant getting a bump in screen size this time round, taking it more into phablet territory.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy S7 video review:

If you're going to be doing a lot of web browsing from your phone, the Galaxy S7 isn't a bad choice - it's just the HTC 10 may be a slightly better fit.
If you know you're going to be away from a charger for an extended period, the Galaxy S7 has two options to help you make the battery last longer.
First up is the standard power-saving mode, which limits performance, vibrations and background data without cutting off any functionality. This can give you a few precious extra hours as your stumble home from a heavy night.
If you're really up against it, then Samsung's ultra-power-saving mode takes battery conservation to the extreme. This strips out all the fancy features of the Galaxy S7 and gives you a stripped down, black and white interface with access to only a handful of functions including calls, texts and a web browser.
Just how much extra time these modes give you will depend on individual usage, but with just 5% left in the tank the S7 was telling me that the standard power saver would only give me an additional two minutes over the 45 minutes it predicted the phone to last.
The ultra mode, however, claimed it could keep my phone going for 1 hour 45 minutes, which could be a real life-saver. Obviously, the more you have left in the tank when you enable these modes, the longer they'll be able to keep you going.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has taken a positive step forward when it comes to battery life. It's not the best performer out there, and you'll want to plug in every night to be sure of a full day's use when you wake - but you won't find yourself dashing for the charger come mid-afternoon.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a flagship device, so it comes as no surprise to find that it takes movies, TV shows, music and gaming in its stride.
While the S7 doesn't offer the 64GB or 128GB internal storage options that were available with the S6, you do get a microSD slot to compliment the 32GB of built-in storage.
That slot supports cards up to 200GB in size, which is handy seeing as 7.51GB of the internal space in the S7 is taken up by the system memory and pre-installed applications.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review

Gaming

With a vibrant 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display and a whole heap of power under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is an excellent gaming-on-the-go device.
Games load quickly, run smoothly and look great, with no hint of slowdown. The Galaxy S7 has no trouble running the graphically-intensive Real Racing 3, and the new curved design means the phone is easier to hold for extended periods.
The big talking point here though is Game Launcher, a brand new feature from Samsung which is debuting on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
This puts more power in the hands of gamers, and whenever you download a game the S7 will automatically add it to the Game Launcher folder on the home screen; and it will add any game - even fantasy football apps, which aren't necessarily traditional games.
You can remove any app from the folder that you don't deem fit, plus you can add games which the S7 may have missed.
So what does the Game Launcher actually do? Well, when you fire up a game you'll notice a small red dot to the side of the screen - tap this at any point during your game and you'll bring up the menu.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
From here you can take a screenshot, record live footage of your gameplay, and minimize gameplay so that you can quickly jump into another app before getting straight back to the action.
The two most useful functions, though, are the ones which probably sound the least interesting.
First up, you can disable notifications during gameplay, so you're not disturbed by panels dropping down in front of the action. It's something I found really handy, and it keeps you engaged with your game for longer - which for some parents may not be a good thing.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Second, the launcher gives you the ability to lock the navigation keys (back, home and multi-tasking), which prevents you from accidently exiting the app during a crucial showdown.
I can't tell you how many times I've done that in the past, so I was delighted to have this function available on the Galaxy S7. It's simple yet effective.

Movies and TV

There's no dedicated video player app on the Samsung Galaxy S7, so you'll have to make do with the Gallery app to access any movie files you put on the handset, or Google's Play Movies & TV if you want to access your purchased content, or rent or buy something new.
Playback looks great on the Samsung Galaxy S7, and its brighter display makes watching the latest movie or TV show an enjoyable experience.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Samsung's handy Pop-up feature lets you minimise your video to a small floating window, enabling you to use other applications on the Galaxy S7 without missing any of the action.
The 5.1-inch screen can get a little cramped in this mode - it works better on the larger S7 Edge - but it's useful if you need to fire off a quick email, or ping an emoji to a WhatsApp group.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
The only negative point here is the placement of the speaker at the base of the handset. When held in landscape mode I found my hand muffled audio on several occasions, obliging me to adjust my grip to something less comfortable.
This can be overcome by plugging in a pair of headphones (or connecting to a pair via Bluetooth), but it's a niggling issue when you want to share a video with friends and family.

Music

The only music player on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is Google's Play Music app, and that's really all you need.
Google offers its own subscription music-streaming service through the app, as well as enabling you to buy and download tracks from its store, and control your own music loaded onto the phone separately.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Audio quality is also impressive when using headphones, although playback falls down in the same way as video when it comes to the placement of the internal speaker.
I'd have loved to have seen Samsung adopt HTC's and Sony's use of dual front-facing speakers, but alas I'm stuck with a single, downwards-firing solution again.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Like the look of the Galaxy S7 but fancy a bigger, curved display? Then you'll want the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Apart from the size and shape of their screens, these two handsets are identical.
The S7 Edge will set you back a bit more, but you get more screen real estate to play with, slightly better battery life, a futuristic look and Samsung's Edge screen interface, which now has more going for it than the S6 Edge's slightly lackluster implementation.
It's worth bearing in mind, though, that as well as being cheaper, the Galaxy S7 is also easier to use one handed.
The decision really comes down to personal preference, and whichever handset you pick you won't be disappointed.

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S
Samsung's biggest rival is Apple, and the iPhone the Galaxy S7 finds itself squaring up to is the iPhone 6S. The iPhone 7 will arrive later this year to provide a fresh challenge for the S7, but that's still months away, so if you're trying to decide between the best of iPhone and Android, these are the two handsets you'll want to be considering.
The 6S has a smaller 4.7-inch display which is isn't even full HD, and its flat back means it doesn't sit quite as snugly in the palm. Its iOS 9 interface, though, is fluid, and while it may not have as much power on paper as the S7, the 6S delivers smooth performance.
Battery life isn't as strong on the iPhone 6S, but Apple's interface is arguably more intuitive than Samsung's TouchWiz - although that's very much a matter of opinion.
The likelihood is you already know if you sit on the iOS or Android side of the fence - but if you're genuinely not sure which way to go, the Galaxy S7 is the superior handset.

HTC 10

HTC 10 review
HTC is always a brand that's in the same arena as Samsung, no matter what happens. With a similar spec list - QHD, cutting edge processor and loads of RAM to play with.
It's also one of the few top-end phones to feature adoptable storage, meaning you can plop in a memory card and use it as internal memory - which is a big help when you're worried about running low.
And once again there's the premium HTC design on show - the chamfered edges are 'sculpted by light' so when you put it face down on a table it catches random gleams to get the best out of the visuals.
And the headline feature has to be the audio performance - it's insanely good over headphones, and recording 4K video at a gig is almost professional grade. A sterling performer.

LG G5

LG G5
The LG G5 offers up a more revolutionary flagship experience than its rivals, including the Galaxy S7.
While many comparisons can be drawn between the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 6S, the G5 offers a modular design and a removable battery, increasing the functionality of the device.
Its 5.3-inch display means it's bigger than the S7, but its all-metal body feels more premium in the hand, and on the back it boasts two cameras. These work independently of one another, with one offering 16MP snaps and the other sporting a wide-angle 8MP lens.
The G5 may not ship in as high volumes as the Galaxy S7, and the battery life isn't as good, but its unique appeal still makes it a head-turner.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
At the end of the day the Samsung Galaxy S7 is essentially just an iteration of the Galaxy S6 - it just happens to be a very good iteration.
The Galaxy S6 has now dropped in price, and while you don't get a waterproof body or microSD slot, there's still a top-notch camera, dazzling display and more power than you can shake a stick at.
The thing is, you'll know in the back of your mind that there's a better option out there. The Galaxy S7 addresses the issues with the S6 to make an even better smartphone - and that thought may eat away at you.The best way to describe the Samsung Galaxy S7? Iterative perfection.
It takes the best bits from the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6, and blends them together into a quite brilliant smartphone.
Samsung hasn't reinvented the wheel, but it has listened to feedback. It's righted the wrongs of the S6, reinstated key features and created a stand-out device.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review

We liked

The design may not look all that different, but I love how the Galaxy S7 sits in the palm. It's comfortable to hold, and the curved edges and reduced width means it's easier to use one-handed.
Samsung has refined the design from the S6 in all the right ways, including making the Galaxy S7 waterproof. This is a phone you won't want to put down.
Then there's the display, which still sports an eye-popping resolution and Super AMOLED technology, but is somehow brighter and more enchanting.
Samsung has freshened up TouchWiz, crammed the S7 full of power, and pulled off yet another supremely impressive smartphone camera - the low light performance of the 12MP snapper is something to behold.
I liked the always-on display way more than I thought I would - it's simple yet highly convenient - while Game Launcher is another nice touch, and improves the mobile gaming experience on the S7.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review

We disliked

Very little, if I'm honest. The cost is high, but that's to be expected. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a top smartphone, and its price tag reflects the going rate for such a device in the current market.
There are Chinese manufacturers making phones with flagship specs at half the price, so when Samsung asks for double it raises the question of whether we're being taken for a ride. We're not. You are getting a much more accomplished package with the Galaxy S7.
Battery life has improved over the S6, but the Galaxy S7 still needs a nightly charge. Fast charging is useful, but it won't help you if you're away from a plug socket for an extended period of time - and unlike the LG G5's, the S7's battery isn't removable.
The return of microSD support is welcome, but I'd like to see more than 32GB of internal space - especially when you consider that 7.51GB of that is already in use when you take the S7 out of its box.
Oh, and the fact that the S7 is a total fingerprint magnet is just plain annoying.

Verdict

Samsung has tweaked the winning design from the S6, righted the wrongs of its previous flagships, and made a phone you don't want to put down.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a worthy recipient of a five-star techradar review. That's no easy feat - only a handful of phones have ever hit the top mark - but the Galaxy S7 has earned its place in our hall of fame.
The differences between the two variants (global vs North America) may frustrate mentally, but you won't see any differences day to day, so don't fret.
Is it worth the upgrade? If you're coming out of a two-year contract and you're looking for a flagship smartphone, then absolutely - the Galaxy S7 will blow your two-year-old handset out of the water. As long as you're comfortable with the price - and it really is worth it - then you won't look back.
For those considering trading in their Galaxy S6 (or other 2015 flagship), the case isn't quite as strong. The S6 still has a great screen, dazzling camera and plenty of power, so the step up may not feel big enough.
That said, the Galaxy S7 improves on pretty much every aspect of the S6, making it the best phone in the world right now, alongside the larger Galaxy S7 Edge. If money isn't an issue, the Galaxy S7 will justify the outlay - but the more cash-conscious may want to hold out for the Galaxy S8.

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