After the massive, and much needed, change in design direction Samsung took with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in 2015, all rumours pointed to things staying pretty much the same for the Galaxy S7.
Well, it’s not like Apple, HTC or Sony make drastic changes to their industrial design every year.
And that’s exactly the case here. Place the Galaxy S7 next to the S6 and you’d be hard pushed to instantly pick which one is which. Frankly, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The S6 was already one of the best-looking phones around, and the Galaxy S7 follows suit.
Both the front and back are covered in Gorilla Glass 4, while a metal rim snakes in between. Two volume buttons sit on one side, with a lock/standby switch on the other. It’s a clean look, with the back free from any markings aside from a Samsung logo.
The camera lens now sits just about flush with the glass body too. This might seem a small change, but it makes a big difference. I can now tap out an email with the phone flat on my desk without it jumping and rocking from side to side.
There is one notable design change on the back – the sides now curve ever so slightly, just like they did on the larger Galaxy Note 5, and it makes a huge change to how the Galaxy S7 feels. While the S6 felt harsh and rigid, the Galaxy S7 slips softly into my palm. It’s so much more ergonomic and makes picking it up off a flat surface much easier.
And the way the sides almost melt into the glass just looks damn cool. Good job, Samsung.
It’s an absolute fingerprint magnet, though. After a few minutes of use, the entire back becomes a grubby mess that needs wiping down with a microfibre cloth.
Along the top is the Nano SIM tray, which now holds a microSD slot, plus a microphone. The bottom houses the headphone socket, another microphone, a speaker and a micro USB port for charging.
That speaker is one of the few missteps on this phone. It’s downward-facing, gets easily blocked by my hands when playing a game and it sounds tinny and distorted at high volume. I guess front-facing speakers weren’t included so the screen surround could be kept minimal, but it’s still a disappointment when a speaker sounds this bad.
It had been suggested that Samsung would make a big switch to the new, reversible USB-C connector that’s already being used on the Nexus 6P, OnePlus 2 and LG G5, but it hasn’t.
To be honest, USB–C is more of a hindrance than a help at the minute. You can’t use any of the cables you’ve picked up over the years and it doesn’t necessarily mean faster charging. It does mean the S7 isn’t quite so future proof, though.
The front again has a clean look about it. The elongated home button still sits under the display, and it still juts out ever so slightly, rather than being concave like the iPhone’s. For me, this is a plus – it feels better pressing the Galaxy S7’s home button than the iPhone 6S’s – but a couple of the TrustedReviews team think otherwise. They’re wrong, of course, but it’s interesting how such a small design choice can split people.
Housed inside the home button is a really fast and accurate fingerprint sensor that matches the iPhone 6S’s for speed, but it’s marginally slower than the Nexus 6P’s. That difference is minimal, though, and something you would only notice if you had the two side by side.
It’s clear from the Galaxy S7 that Samsung is listening to customer feedback and bringing back favoured features from the Galaxy back catalogue. MicroSD expansion is one, and IP68 water resistance is another.
The latter is by no means a vital feature, yet it’s impressive that it’s been added without any forced changes to the design. There are no flaps, there’s no added thickness and no extra space between the display and glass.
What does an IP68 rating mean? Well, you’ll be able to dunk the Galaxy S7 into 1m of water for up to 30 minutes without damaging the phone. Or, if you’re like Lil’ Wayne, you can douse it in multiple bottles of champagne. Obviously.
It’s become a cliche that phones get thinner and thinner each year, but that isn’t the case with the S7. It’s marginally thicker than its predecessor and has a nice weight to it. It feels dense and expensive, though not as delicate as you’d expect from a phone with glass on the front and back. I dropped it about four foot onto a hard floor and it survived without any problems.
Samsung has stuck with the same 5.1-inch display, there’s the Galaxy S7 Edge if you want something bigger, and it’s refreshing to have a flagship phone that feels this compact and easy to hold. It’s roughly the same size as the iPhone 6S, which only has a 4.7-inch screen, and much smaller than top-end devices from LG, Huawei and Google.
Coming from using the S7 Edge, I was initially a little underwhelmed by the Galaxy S7. It didn’t quite have that wow factor its curvier sibling does. But after a while it became my favourite phone to use on a daily basis. It feels great, is the perfect size and doesn’t make any sacrifices – aside from maybe the speakers – to get there.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 – DISPLAY
Close to perfection. That’s the best way to describe the display on Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
Not much has really changed from the outgoing S6, but this still holds up as the best screen on a smartphone.
It’s still a 5.1-inch QHD panel with a 2560 x 1440 resolution, and just like every Galaxy flagship so far, it uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED tech, rather than the more common LCD.
AMOLED displays are a lot better at showing off blacks than LCDs. Instead of looking slightly grey and washed out, the blacks here are inky deep. Some say AMOLED screens produce colours that are too oversaturated, so reds will look way brighter than they should, but that isn’t much of an issue here. And if you really prefer things toned down, there’s a picture setting for that.
Having so many pixels jammed into a relatively small space means you can’t really spot one pixel from another, and that sharpness makes everything from gaming to watching YouTube an absolute pleasure. Play a round of Alto’s Adventure or Monument Valley on this display and you’ll instantly be drawn in by the crisp details and vivid colour reproduction.
I wouldn’t normally watch a film on a screen this size, but the panel here is so gorgeous that I can’t help getting lost in it.
The one thing that has changed this time around is the addition of a new ‘Always-on’ display.
Due to the way AMOLED screens work, they don’t need to light up the whole display all of the time. They can select individual pixels and just show them, keeping everything else off. So, when the Galaxy S7 is locked it can still show the time, date and a couple of bits of other information on the screen without eating through too much battery.
It’s a nice touch, and great for quickly checking the time when the phone is resting on your desk or a bedside table. But it’s a good software update or two short of being really useful.
First off, it’ll only show notifications from a few apps – it’s currently limited to Samsung’s own Messages, Email and Phone. If you, like me, regularly use WhatsApp, Gmail and Facebook Messenger, none of these will appear. That’s a shame, and makes the notification side of things a lot less useful.
I’d also like a lot more control over the mode. There’s no setting to alter the brightness, which causes some problems when you’re in a darker room, and aside from choosing whether or not you want a calendar showing, there’s no customisation allowed.
It uses extra battery too. About 1-2% per hour, so 15% or so per day. It’s just about worth it, but it could be so much better.
My only gripe with the display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is that, in sunny conditions, it can be quite hard to read – certainly more so than the LCD panel on the iPhone 6S. Even with the brightness jacked all the way up, you’ll have to tilt the screen or find some shade to stop yourself squinting at it.
Thankfully, unlike the Galaxy S7 Edge, it has great viewing angles and doesn’t suffer from white backgrounds getting tinged with blue.
There was a time when stock Android, the way Google intended it to be, was ugly. It was basic, lacked sheen and it paled in comparison to Apple’s iOS. Also, phone makers wanted to stamp their own identity on their handsets, rather than have them all appear alike, so they decided to spruce Android up a bit by adding their own ‘skins’. These are layers that sit over the operating system and change how it looks, along with adding some extra features.
The thing is, Android is no longer ugly. In fact, Android Marshmallow is the sleekest, most polished mobile operating system out there. But these skins are still commonplace.
Samsung’s version is called TouchWiz, and while it’s far less overbearing than Huawei’s EMUI or the skin used by LG, it still alters a lot of Android. Icons are different, there are multiple apps that do the same thing – there are two browsers, for example, and two music players – and Samsung’s exclusive features are pushed front and centre. It’s far from the mess it was a few years ago, but it can still look a bit childish and overly colourful.
One new feature I really do like is Game Launcher. This is a super-charged folder where all your games sit, with a few nifty extras. It’ll automatically organise all your titles, let you record your latest round of Clash of Clans and quickly save a screenshot of your latest high score.
There’s even a setting that ekes more battery life out of the phone when you’re gaming, by dialling down the performance.
Flipboard Briefing, a news app that sat to the left of your home screen on previous Galaxy phones, has been ditched in favour of Upday. It’s basically the same, but it’s curated so you can’t add in your own news sources, like a typical RSS reader.
Thankfully both Game Launcher and Upday can be disabled with the flick of a button, so you can ditch them if they aren’t going to get much use.
Samsung isn’t quite so kind about letting you delete other preinstalled apps, though. Microsoft’s complete Office suite comes preloaded and it can only be disabled, not actually removed from the phone, and the same goes for apps like S-Health, S-Planner and so on. This makes TouchWiz quite a heavy skin, taking up 7.14GB out of the 32GB internal storage. By comparison, stock Android on a Nexus 6P takes up 6.5GB out of the box.
Underneath TouchWiz is Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. This is the latest Android version currently available, but Google has now announced Android N which should see a release later this year. To be honest, the biggest ’N’ feature is split-screen multitasking and this is already available on the Galaxy S7, so there might not be such a clamouring to update this time around.
Marshmallow brought a new feature to Android that lets you combine the internal storage with that of a microSD card. It’s great, and lets you install all your apps to the expandable storage. It’s missing on the S7, though, with Samsung claiming it would stop users swapping the microSD at will. This is a shame, and makes the inclusion of expandable storage a little less exciting. You can still moves certain apps and your media to a card, but it’s nowhere near as seamless as it should be.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 – PERFORMANCE
After ditching Qualcomm and its Snapdragon line of CPUs for last year’s Galaxy S6, Samsung has decided to change its mind this time around. Well, sort of.
Snapdragon’s 2015 flagship chip, the 810, had a tough time with overheating, while the Exynos 7420, the Samsung-made silicon that powers the S6, soared to the top of our performance tables.
There are two versions of the Galaxy S7. In Europe, including the UK, it’s again powered by a Samsung Exynos chip. This time it’s the 8890, which consists of eight cores, with four running at 2.6GHz and the other four at 1.59GHz. It’s paired with a Mali T880 GPU.
In the US and a few other territories, it comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820. Both are seriously powerful chips, so don’t be concerned about which one you’re getting.
Both versions have 4GB of RAM – that’s 1GB up from last time – and it makes for super-smooth multitasking. Even putting two apps side by side doesn’t cause any issues.
The performance has been exactly what I’d expect from a 2016 flagship phone. It’s fast, with all that power barely put to the test when you’re browsing Chrome, sending the odd email or racking up a high score in Alto’s Adventure.
I have yet to find a game that lags even slightly. Hitman Sniper, Lara Croft Go and Asphalt all play without any dropped frames or slowdown.
But I’d be very disappointed in the Galaxy S7 if it struggled with any of these tasks, considering the sheer power that’s tucked away inside.
When reviewing the Galaxy S7 Edge, I found some slight bugs and performance issues with Samsung’s Android skin. On the S7, though, these haven’t been an issue.
In Trusted’s usual suite of benchmarking tests, the Galaxy S7 performed impressively. I’ll update this review once I’ve used more of this year’s Snapdragon 820 phones, as that will give a better comparison, but for the time being Samsung’s latest flagship is the one to beat.
It picks up a score of 6,307 in the Geekbench multi-core test, putting it ahead of its closest rival, the Huawei Mate 8. The difference is much bigger when compared to a Snapdragon 810 device like the Nexus 6P, which posted a score of 4,245. It also out performed the iPhone 6S Plus, which ran in with a 4,417 multi-core score.
There’s an even wider gulf when it comes to Antutu. Here the Galaxy S7 scores 129,468, which is a big improvement over its closest rival, again the Huawei Mate 8 with 92,746.
Thanks to a new ‘water-cooling’ element inside the phone, it barely ever seems to get hot. It does warm up slightly when installing a boat-load of apps or if it’s fast-charging, but aside from that it stays nice and cool.
Instead of offering multiple versions of the Galaxy S7, you can only pick it up in a 32GB size. This is down to the reintroduction of the microSD slot.
I found call quality to be excellent on Three’s UK network, and the microphones do a really good job at shutting out any pesky background noise.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 – CAMERA
I love the camera on the Galaxy S7, and not just because it takes stunning photos.
Let’s think for a minute – what do we use the cameras on our phones for? Printing out massive, poster-sized prints? No. Zooming in and cropping? Hardly.
They’re used for capturing the moment, sharing it and keeping it stored away. This is what the Galaxy S7 does well.
Yes, the megapixel count has dropped from 16-megapixel to 12-megapixel, but those pixels are now much larger – Samsung calls them Dual Pixels – and it helps the autofocus lock onto your target faster and more accurately than before. This is the best autofocus I’ve ever used on a phone. It’s lightning-fast and moving from one focus point to another doesn’t stump the sensor and cause jarring as it does on so many competing devices.
The Galaxy S7’s camera is one of the best around
You’ll really only notice the drop in megapixels if you zoom right in on a really detailed picture, but 99% of the time it won’t make a difference.
Samsung has also made big strides in making this camera capable of capturing some really good low-light shots, which is still something most phones really struggle with. The aperture has been widened to f/1.7, meaning more light is allowed into the lens, and the result is brighter nighttime shots without that grainy, murky glaze.
The pictures themselves look great. Daylight shots have that typically Samsung look – contrast, saturated and slightly sharper than they should be, but stunning. Colours pop, skins tones are accurate and there’s so much detail packed in.
Macro shots also look top-notch. You can easily focus on something right up close – the flower in the sample shots for example – and the background will blur out, giving a professional-looking photo with creamy bokeh.
Shots universally look great
But it’s the whole experience of using the camera here that makes it the best out there. The app is fast, can be opened with a ridiculously handy double-tap of the home-button and while it’s packed with features, these aren’t forced upon you.
The ‘Pro’ mode is great if you have a bit more time and want to try to get even better photos. You can play about with focus points, ISO, white balance and so on, while the ‘Live Broadcast’ option lets you beam videos straight to YouTube.
4K video recording is an option too, as is slow-mo at 720p, but the best footage comes from the 1080p 60fps setting. This gives you HDR (high dynamic range) shooting, video effects and tracking autofocus that makes a real difference for quick-moving footage.
On the front there’s a 5-megapixel sensor, just like the majority of the competition, but it has a wide-angle lens so you can cram more faces into your selfies. The picture quality is much more natural than the rear camera’s, with less pop in the colours.
Great pictures, a superb app, fast autofocus and impressive low-light performance make this the best camera you can currently get on a phone.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 – BATTERY LIFE
My biggest issue with the Galaxy S6 was the battery life. Some felt it was fine, but it would barely ever get me through a full day of use. That’s just not acceptable.
Thankfully, that isn’t an issue this time around. Samsung has upped the battery to 3,000mAh – from 2,600mAh on the S6 – and it makes a huge difference.
Now, don’t go thinking you’re going to get phablet-like stamina here. This is still certainly a charge-every-night device, but you won’t get to six o’clock in the evening and start having to frantically search around for the charger.
With high daily use the S7 tends to leave me with around 10-15% battery life at the end of the day. Like the S7 Edge, though, it drops suddenly during intensive tasks. Around 30 minutes of Hitman Sniper takes it down by 20%, and an hour of Spotify streaming over a 4G connection uses up 8%.
It has fantastic standby time, though, most likely down to the Doze feature built into Android Marshmallow, so leaving it unplugged overnight will only lose you 3-4%.
There are a few power-saving modes to choose from if you want to try and get more from the battery. The regular ‘Power saving mode’ adds an extra hour (give or take), while the ‘Ultra power saving mode’ doubles the time you can keep on going for. It does turn everything monochrome, though.
I’m impressed that Samsung has kept Qi/PMA wireless charging around here. It’s not a vital feature, but not a lot of phones have it and it’s still a cool talking point to drop your phone onto a wireless pad and see it charge up. There’s fast charging too, and the phone will fully juice up in just over an hour.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 – THE COMPETITION
There’s no doubt about it, the biggest competition facing the Samsung Galaxy S7 is Apple’s iPhone 6S. Both are around the same price, are compact, have stunning cameras and look great.
For me, the Galaxy S7 is a slightly more tempting product, unless you just can’t live without iOS and its tight ecosystem, but both are really great phones. Want Android and bags of power in a sleek form? The Galaxy S7 is for you.
Then there’s the LG G5, which matches a lot of the specs from the Galaxy S7 series and adds a nifty modular system for switching out components. It’s doesn’t have that slick finish of the Galaxy S7, but its camera has some clever tricks and it might just undercut the Samsung flagship when it comes to price.
Plus there’s the iPhone 7 hopefully landing in a few months. The HTC One M10 (or simply HTC 10) could also be a strong competitor, but there’s still little confirmed about it yet and the Taiwanese brand has struggled a lot recently.
SHOULD I BUY THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S7?
There isn’t a better Android phone out there right now. The Nexus 6P comes close, but it’s much larger, and the Galaxy S7 Edge is a lot more expensive. For the majority of people, I’d say the Galaxy S7 is the phone to pick.
It looks great, feels a lot better than the Galaxy S6 due to the curved back, and it performs like a champ.
It also has the best all-round camera on any phone, thanks to crisp images and a fuss-free app that’s fast to open, focus and shoot.
Samsung has taken the Galaxy S6, an already excellent phone, and fixed just about everything wrong with it.
Your move, Apple.
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Stunning. Samsung has just raised the bar for every other Android device. Simply put, if you want to buy a new phone right now, this is the one to pick.