Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: A superbly refined smartphone
Samsung hasn’t reinvented the smartphone with the Galaxy S7, instead opting for refinements all round that add up to a superb device.
Samsung has been busy bringing the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to market. They were only announced at Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago prior to general pre-orders and availability from 11 March 2016.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge sit at the top of Samsung’s family of Android smartphones. Given the market tussles between Apple and Samsung, who between them command the lion’s share of mobile sales both internationally and in Australia, the Galaxy S7 has a lot to live up to.
If you're more interested in the curved screens of the Edge model, you can read our full Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review.
|Device||Samsung Galaxy S7||Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge|
|Processor||Octa or Quad Core (2.3Ghz Quad+1.6Ghz Quad or 2.15Ghz Quad + 1.6Ghz Dual)||Octa or Quad Core (2.3Ghz Quad+1.6Ghz Quad or 2.15Ghz Quad + 1.6Ghz Dual)|
|Resolution||2560 X 1440||2560 X 1440|
Samsung Galaxy S7 from Samsung
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Upsides: Why you’d want the Samsung Galaxy S7
- Refined design
There’s not a huge style difference between the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Samsung Galaxy S6, and it’s easy to see where the design DNA of the latter has bled through into the former. The slightly rounded back does make it easier to hold in the hand, which is a common issue for full metal body phones. The Samsung Galaxy S7 feels very solid in the hand, which is exactly what you’d want from a premium device.
- Excellent performance
The Samsung Galaxy S7’s octa-core processor should logically be a top-range contender, because that’s exactly what you’re paying for in a premium smartphone.
In straight testing, the S7 is extremely responsive, whether you’re using the fingerprint sensor to unlock, launching the camera app or running applications.
In benchmark terms, the Samsung Galaxy S7 performed exceptionally well. Here is how it stacked up against a number of current premium handsets:
Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 2169 6446 Samsung Galaxy S7 2156 6240 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626 Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597 Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569 Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391 Sony Xperia Z5 1358 4134 LG G4 1190 3313 Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198
The only device that compares with the Galaxy S7 in benchmark terms is its close sibling the Galaxy S7 Edge.
Samsung made considerable noise at launch about the S7’s graphics prowess, so we tested that using 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test. To give it some comparative weight, we ran the same version of the test across a number of other Android handsets.
Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result Samsung Galaxy S7 28903 Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 28402 Google Nexus 6P 24703 Sony Xperia Z5 19197 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus 17981
Again, benchmarks aren’t the be-all and end-all of phone performance, but the Galaxy S7 acquits itself well here and in actual usage.
- Exceptional battery life
Samsung upped the battery capacity on the Samsung Galaxy s7 to 3,000mAh from the S6’s 2,550mAh, so you’d naturally expect a bit of a performance bump when it comes to battery life.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 didn’t so much have a bump as a full-on pole vault over every premium phone we’ve tested to date. It was briefly the phone with the longest battery life we’d seen using Geekbench 3’s battery life test, right up until we tested its sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Still, with more than ten hours of battery life and a solid battery score, the Samsung Galaxy S7 does not disappoint.
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 11:55:00 7150 Samsung Galaxy S7 10:01:20 6013 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681 Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115 Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062 Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754 Sony Xperia Z5 5:41:30 3414 LG G4 5:27:50 3224 Huawei P8 Lite 4:39:40 2768 Apple iPhone 6s 3:52:10 2321 Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 5:42:00 2276
- Great camera options
For a long time, Samsung’s weak point for its premium phones was the quality of its camera. The Galaxy S6 dealt with much of that, and the shift to a lower megapixel but larger sensor size 12MP rear camera on the S7 simply improves matters. Low light performance is good, although predictably if you do push it too hard you can end with very noisy pictures. Focus tracking and video stabilisation likewise work well if used appropriately.
- Handy lock screen clock
This isn’t a unique trick -- the LG G5 also features an (optional) "always on" display screen for clock or calendar with a claimed low power draw. That was certainly our observation during testing. If you’re the type who consistently pulls their phone out of their pocket to check the time or date, this could be a godsend.
- Game Launcher (mostly) works well
Samsung didn’t go all out with additional apps for the Samsung Galaxy S7, and we reckon that’s a general plus; there are always plenty of apps on Android you might want to install, but pre-installing them is annoying. Game Launcher allows you to group your game apps, disable intruding functions (except for phone calls) and take screenshots or record video of your game efforts as you go. It works well, with our only minor complaints being that some of the apps it picked up as games weren’t actually games, and if you have only a few games it’ll "suggest" additional titles to install, which feels like nagging.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Samsung Galaxy S7
- Refinement, not reinvention
Samsung made big design changes for the Samsung Galaxy S range in 2015 with the Samsung Galaxy S6, but with the S7 it has fundamentally played it safe. If you wanted a phone that was a radical departure from the S6’s design, or some genuinely new form factor, this isn’t it.
- No removable battery
The Galaxy S7’s battery is a formidable creature, and the fast charging capability is excellent, but that doesn’t alter the fact that you can’t actually change the battery out. A couple of years down the track the chemistry of any battery means that it holds less charge, and that will be true for the Galaxy S7 as well.
- Dual SIM or expansion, but not both
It’s a common story for phones with a single SIM/MicroSD card slot. You can opt for Dual SIM (although not with 4G connections on both), or you can add storage via MicroSD. You can’t do both at once. The Australian official model opts for single SIM with microSD, but it's likely direct importers may offer the dual SIM variant at a later stage.
- The S7 is hot
The design is indeed smokin’, but then so is the phone if you push it too hard. Samsung has integrated water cooling in the S7 in the same way that Sony did with the Xperia Z5, but the results are also similar. Push the S7 heavily with gaming, VR or video, and you’ll feel it heat up in your hand. Not to scorching levels, but it is noticeable.
- You can’t use every photographic mode at once
Samsung’s camera app works well and offers a lot of features, but some features are exclusive to particular resolutions, or shooting modes, so for example if you want focus tracking, you have to do without video stabilisation. You can’t take burst shots in RAW mode, and you can’t use HDR in UHD, QHD or FHD (60fps) modes. With a patience and correct usage you can mostly overcome these to get the shots you want, but there’s a distinct learning curve here.
- It’s a fingerprint smudge magnet
This may have been a specific quirk of the silver Samsung Galaxy S7 we were sent for review, but it’s not one that we can ignore. After only a short period of time, the shiny silver back and front bezel of Samsung Galaxy S7 were utterly covered in very obvious fingerprints. A big draw for a premium phone is that it looks good, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 generally does, except when it’s covered in fingerprints.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is best suited for those who fancy a premium Android phone; it's an easy recommendation for those upgrading from older Samsung phones, including the Galaxy S6 simply because of the inclusion of waterproofing and microSD storage expansion.
Samsung prices the Samsung Galaxy S7 at a premium level, and that means that it has plenty of competition at its price point. In the Android space, you could consider the Google Nexus 6P, Sony Xperia Z5 Premium or the LG G5. If you were happy to switch operating system camps there’s always the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, which are only about halfway through their usual refresh cycles.
Where can I get it?
Samsung sells the Samsung Galaxy S7 through its online store directly for $1148.95 at the time of writing, with a pre-order bonus of a Samsung Gear VR headset.
You can also pick up the Samsung Galaxy S7 through a number of carriers; we’ve collected up all the carrier deals for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which you can check out here.