Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge (REVIEW)

written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

Another year means more new smartphones, and with the recently released Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge the South Korean electronics company made considerable “under the hood” upgrades while keeping the overall form factor more or less unchanged.

Both devices retain the unibody form factor of the S6 & S6 Edge from last year, the most notable difference is this year’s S7 Edge sports a larger form factor than its S6 predecessor. Last year’s Galaxy S6/Edge both sported 5.1” displays with nearly identical dimensions. When the Note 5 dropped in the Fall, Samsung released a Galaxy S6 Edge+ which was basically a larger S6 Edge. The S7 Edge is quite a bit larger than the standard S7, sporting a 5.5” display… slightly smaller than the S6 Edge+ at its 5.7” screen. The standard Galaxy S7 is nearly identical to the S6… unibody design, 5.1” display. My guess is that when the Note 6 inevitably releases this coming Fall, there won’t be a Galaxy S7+ coming with it.

I don’t know about you, but personally I love that Samsung has moved to a unibody design, it just feels sleeker and more luxurious than a plastic back-plated phone; but many argue that they miss the ability to swap batteries. Even when I had the Note 4 (arguably a damn near perfect phone) I rarely found myself lacking a charge. I picked up an extra battery for it, but there were only a few times I found myself really needing to swap. The S7 and S7 Edge sport an impressive battery that last practically all day on a single charge. As long as you aren’t spending most of your workday sneaking Netflix marathons, you will rarely find yourself in a pinch for power. The standard S7 sports a 3,000 mAh battery with the larger S7 Edge fueled by an impressive 3,600 mAh battery. Comparing this to their biggest competition the iPhone 6S and 6S+, which sported a 1715 mAh and 2750 mAh battery respectively, the Galaxy S7/Edge will definitely outlast the iPhone on a single charge… even last year’s S6 ran circles around iPhone’s battery.

Having a device that keeps going is a bloody godsend; with much of my personal and work life linked to this little device in my pocket, my daily productivity (and who are we kidding… consumption of memes) rely heavily on having a device that keeps on ticking.

Daily use is consistently snappy with both variants of the S7 sporting 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (just like last year’s model). I rarely noticed any considerable slowdown whether using simple social media apps like Facebook and Twitter, or playing games in between all those times I need to pretend to be working. Launching with Android 6.0 “Marshmallow,” the S7 continues to be a landmark for this year’s generation of smart phones, being the one to beat when it comes to competition among the Android space.

One thing that had people complaining about 2015’s Galaxy line was the decision to nix expandable storage. I can understand the need to nix the swappable battery in favor of a unibody form-factor… but not the ability to expand my phone’s storage. Thankfully, the S7 and S7 Edge launch with the ability to expand your device’s storage up to 200GB (via a dual microSD/SIM tray) giving fans of the Galaxy line a feature they have clamored for since last year.

Since switching over to Android from iPhone (originally I had the HTC One M8, the Note 4, the Galaxy S6 Edge, then to the Galaxy Note 5) one feature I missed from my days with the “Big A” for was a good camera. Without a doubt, iPhones tout some impressive software in their cameras giving the casual smartphone shutterbug the ability to produce professional quality photos at the touch of a button. Looks like Samsung finally got on board with improving their camera because the Galaxy S7 sports a powerful rear camera that can focus on a subject faster and perform better in lowlight than the iPhone 6S. Galaxy phones have always had a camera that protruded slightly from the phone’s body, the S7 packs it in tightly with its camera almost flush to the back of the device. I personally never paid any mind to the protruding camera much but after handling this device for a week, going back to my Note 5 made the camera protrusion that much more noticeable.

Bundled in are some powerful tools which in effect give you the ability to shoot in manual mode or shoot with selective focus. I can honestly say (at least until the iPhone 7 launches) that the Galaxy S7 has a superior camera to the iPhone… giving the Instagram fame chaser in you more tools to better show off what you had for lunch.

A few more of what makes the S7 shiny and new, you’ll notice that your home key is a more like a rounded rectangle rather than the pill shape of previous devices. This makes unlocking your device with the fingerprint sensor more accurate and in a sense giving you meatier button to push. Both variants feature water resistance, which can help save your device from accidental drops in the sink, but be warned that this doesn’t mean you should go scuba diving with your S7. SquareTrade dunked the S7, which touts an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, for 30 minutes and found that after surviving its swim it sounded “soggy” after a while. I am in no rush to test it myself, so personally I am taking SquareTrade’s word for it and decidedly not taking bubble bath selfies.

The Edge screen from last year’s device returns with more functionality. No longer a glorified news ticker and alternate way to view notifications, you can now pin some of your more frequently used apps or actions to the Edge screen while also downloading apps that you may find useful for it. With such a niche market, personally I don’t see many app developers jumping of creating screen edge apps until other smartphone manufacturers jump on the bandwagon.

Both devices feature an always on display option which can be toggled and customized to your liking. This leaves a screen up while your phone is locked, showing you the time or a calendar all the while barely sipping on the battery. Purportedly it uses only 1% of the battery while the always on display is shown. It may feel like a gimmicky feature at first, but for the many who use their phone like a Grumpy Cat delivering timepiece, it’s nice to not have to activate my screen just to see the time or date.

So far, much of the S7 (aside from the Edge’s larger form-factor) is unchanged from last year’s S6… still rocking the 4GB of RAM, still stunning in a beautiful unibody design, and still impressing with it’s 1440p AMOLED display. The new improvements do make this a worthwhile jump, and unlike the iPhones which seem to only give a slight incremental upgrade each year, the S7 packed enough of the “new” to ensure for me that this was a worthwhile pickup. An improved camera, water resistance, the reintroduction of expandable memory, and even the new always on display make this a considerable upgrade from last year’s impressive S6.

Whether you are upgrading from the Galaxy S6, or you’ve been holding on to your S5 because they nixed expandable memory/removable battery, the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge is a worthwhile pick up… now all you have to decide is which one you want… oh and the color, personally I opted for gold… I love gold.