In 2016, Samsung made more of a refresh to its Galaxy S lineup than an overhaul. Actually, from the surface, consumers would be hard-pressed to tell anything has changed. But once you dive into the details, there’s quite a bit of worthy improvements.
This is especially true of the S7 Edge, which now boasts a phablet-sized display and a much larger battery. Is it now the perfect Android smartphone? Let’s find out in our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review.
Price: $792 on Verizon
Model: Galaxy S7 Edge
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Leading hardware components and unique curved glass design.
What We Liked:
- Bright and vibrant S-AMOLED curved display is a sight to behold
- Dual Pixel camera auto-focus is lightning fast and impressive even in low-light
- Samsung reintroduced microSD expansion and IP68 water/dust-proofing into the Galaxy S line
What We Didn’t:
- The glass construction makes the Galaxy S7 Edge one of the more fragile smartphones out there
- Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface still bogs down the software experience
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Specs
|Display||5.5" Super-AMOLED QHD (2560x1440)|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (quad-core, 2.15 GHz)|
|Memory||4GB of RAM|
|Storage||32GB/64GB internal and up to 200GB microSD expansion|
|Rear Camera||12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7 aperture, 1.4µm pixels|
|Front Camera||5MP, f/1.7 aperture|
|Battery||3,600 mAh (non-removeable)|
|Software||Android 6.0.1 with TouchWiz user interface|
|Colors||Black, White, Silver, Gold (depending the market)|
Samsung debuted its fancy dual-edge curved screen concept last year on the Galaxy S6 Edge, and it seems to have been a worthwhile investment, because this year we’re back with the familiar-looking S7 Edge. Design-wise, little has changed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Samsung’s combination of glass panels and a metal frame still makes for one of the sexiest smartphones out there.
However, this time, the Edge got a sizable display increase, to 5.5″ (compared to its predecessor’s 5.1″ screen). For some reason Samsung thought this move was fitting on the S7 Edge but not on its sibling, the non-curved Galaxy S7, which still remains at 5.1″.
Read: Samsung Galaxy S7 Review
The front and back panels are still Gorilla Glass 4 protected. Our unit is the Silver Titanium (new this year) and it has this mirror-like shine for some superb eye-candy.
That said, Samsung’s design still leaves fingerprints like no tomorrow. Also, you’ll have to be extra careful on the surface you set it down. Although Gorilla Glass 4 is scratch-resistant, they can still happen. The glass also makes the phone slippery in-hand (and you certainly don’t want to drop a device made from glass). The sloped edges don’t help this fact, as they decrease the grip on the sides. We strongly recommend to use this phone with a case.
Two subtle but notable design changes from last year are a curved back (on the sides, like on the Galaxy Note 5) and a more-flush camera module.
The gentle curves allow the phone to rest nicely in the hand, and the infamous camera hump is now a thing of the past. Physical button placement is unchanged. We still have metal volume buttons on the left and the power button on the right side. The size of the Home button on the front was slightly increased (for better fingerprint recognition and usability). Capacitive Back and Recent App buttons continue to light up around the Home button (and stay hidden while not in use).
The bottom of the phone is also unchanged. We still have a bottom, mono speaker and 3.5mm headphone jack. A notable mention is that Samsung forewent the newest USB Type-C standard for charging/data and keeps on with the tried and true microUSB port. The competition have moved on, so this may be a concern to those who like to be on the cutting edge.
The top is mostly bare, save for antenna lines, a microphone, and SIM tray. Thankfully, Samsung listened to customers and reintroduced microSD expansion (added as a slot on the SIM tray). Not only that, but water/dust resistance is also back (debuted on the Galaxy S5 but taken away on the S6). The entire phone is sealed up tightly with an IP68 rating (can theoretically survive up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes).
Simply said, the Galaxy S7 Edge is a powerhouse. Under the hood lies the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, the quad-core Snapdragon 820. This is paired with the boosted Adreno 530 graphics chip and 4GB of RAM. Suffice to say, the software is super responsive and always seems to ask for more.
App launching is snappy and user interface (UI) navigation is satisfyingly smooth. It’s not 100% fluid, though. Occasionally, a hiccup/stutter shows up, but it’s very minimal. And we would attribute that to Samsung’s heavy UI rather than the chipset.
Last year, the S6 Edge was available in up to 128GB of internal storage. However, this time you’ll only see U.S. carriers carry the lower memory 32GB variant (a 64GB version of the S7 Edge exists in other markets). But this is because you can now tack on up to a 200GB microSD card.
Samsung’s Super-AMOLED displays are a sight to behold. It can be said (arguably) that these panels substantially surpass competitor’s displays, and I believe it. The colors are vivid, images are sharp, and the panel can get super bright. I have no issue whatsoever with outdoor visibility.
The curved screen on the sides amplifies the screen’s eye-candy. It’s certainly subtle, and many should question if it’s worth it (the Edge variant runs about $100 more), but it does add an extra dimension to images. It looks like content falls off the edges, similar to an infinity pool.
However, this neat feature still bears the same ergonomic issue from last year. When handling the phone, your fingers get very close to touching the display, and many times does by accident.
A new feature this year is an Always-On display. Several phone manufacturers now offer this feature, so we’re glad that Samsung has joined the club. Always-On displays information on the screen while the phone is on standby (the time, date, battery level, missed calls/messages).
The S7 Edge’s camera is another standout feature. Samsung didn’t have to, but made substantial improvements (at a slight cost of megapixels, now at 12MP). The sensor is brand new, and is thinner, has larger pixels, and even faster auto-focus (AF). The lens’ aperture is larger, at f/1.7, and the pixel size is 1.4µm. This means that low-light performance is stellar. Additionally, Samsung introduced a focusing system dubbed Dual Pixel. In short, each of the sensor’s pixels are split in half and can assist in focusing. This makes AF lightning quick; you can barely see it happen.
Check out our camera samples:
Samsung’s camera interface remains largely unchanged. You’ll get Auto HDR, camera effects/filters, and a bunch of shooting modes. One change is that the native aspect ratio is now 4:3.
Battery life was a common complaint with the Galaxy S6 line last year. Because the S7 Edge is now larger, there’s more room for more capacity. But I don’t think anyone was expecting this much: 3,600mAh. This should be plenty for even hardcore users. I would call myself a moderate-to-heavy user and consistently get a day and half worth.
My usage consists of common apps, like Chrome, Maps, Camera, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Google Play Music, and Feedly, and panel brightness averaging about 75%. Idle battery drain is about what I’d expect, you’ll lose a few percentages overnight.
If you’re in a bind, Samsung includes two tiers of power saving modes. It’s also worth mentioning that the S7 Edge is wireless-charging capable. Many flagships have given this feature up (even Google’s Nexus 6P), because of the move to metal builds.
Samsung’s UI, TouchWiz, is aesthetically unchanged from last year. You’ll still see bubbly icons and colorful accents all throughout. But with a new phone of course comes the newest version of Android. In this case, it’s Android 6.0.1 (aka “Marshmallow”). This means that you’ll get some of Google’s latest features, like a new permissions system and Now on Tap.
You do get a sense of refinement to TouchWiz. UI navigation is fluid, and stuttering is very minimal compared to last year’s experience. Scrolling in the Recent Apps carousel or within an app is a touch smoother on the pure Android Nexus 6P, but the S7 Edge is not far off.
Read: Best Smartphone 2016
TouchWiz does offer several benefits to the Android experience. One glaring feature is Multi Window support – something stock Android has yet to incorporate. There is also a theming engine that gives the allow freedom to drastically alter the look of the UI.
Additionally, because this is an Edge variant, Samsung created a quick shortcut panel that you access from swiping on the edge. The options are more expansive than before. Aside from favorite apps/contacts, you can also include news, stocks, sports scores, calendar events, and weather information in the panel.
Galaxy S7 Edge Review Final Thoughts
At first glance, it may not seem like the S7 Edge is a worthy upgrade, but we found a different story in our experience. Small phone lovers may not like the size increase, but we feel it was a benefit. The phone’s handling is improved (more material to grip onto) and we now have a considerable battery. Put this together with a brillant S-AMOLED display and an amazingly fast, high quality camera, and you have yourself a winner.
Some may still not prefer the TouchWiz UI, and I can sympathize with that. But fortunately, it’s not as bad as before. Also, the curved edges and slippery glass back don’t make for the most ergonomic phone design. Our recommendation is to slap on a case and you’re set.