Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: New Wine in an Old, Slightly Modified Bottle

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Samsung’s Galaxy S series of smartphones have always set the benchmark for Android phones, year after year. Toting new and powerful processors, high-end cameras, and everything but the kitchen sink, Samsung’s strategy for its flagship range of smartphones has mostly been successful. However, Samsung’s critics have always lambasted the designs of its flagship smartphones. Until the Samsung Galaxy S5, which was released in 2014, the Korean tech major has been criticised for manufacturing flagship smartphones that are either too plastic-ky or have an uninspired design.


All that changed with the Samsung Galaxy S6 launched last year; the phone’s body infused glass and metal, thereby making it more premium. Finally, Samsung had got the design right. Although, the omission of an SD card slot, and a non-removable battery cover invited the ire of the Samsung Galaxy purists.

This year, Samsung launched the Galaxy S7 on the sidelines of MWC in Barcelona. With the Galaxy S7, Samsung seems to have adopted the ‘why fix something if it ain’t broken?’ strategy with respect to the design. Apart from making minor refinements, the look of the Samsung Galaxy S7 remains largely unchanged. But this time around, Samsung has re-introduced the memory card slot, and added the water and dust resistance feature as well. That said, the unibody design still remains, which means that there is no removable rear cover.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 might look like only a minor refinement on the outside, but before we make any judgements, let’s find out what these refinements would actually mean for the end user. Let’s dive right in, into the review.

Design
With its metal railing and glass body, the Samsung Galaxy S7 sure does look premium and snazzy. However, apart from the curved glass on the rear, there is little that separates it from the plethora of other Samsung devices that  look pretty similar. While Samsung seems to be following a uniform design language for all its devices, its flagship smartphone suffers a little from this uniformity since it doesn’t have a unique characteristic that sets it apart. But, this is totally a matter of individual preference and there is no taking away from the fact that the Galaxy S7 is indeed a premium looking device. As far as our opinion is concerned, we like the design of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Compared to its previous iteration, the edges of the Galaxy S7 are slightly curved at the left and right sides on the rear. This makes it easier to grip the phone, but it  still feels pretty slippery. During our time with the phone, we had a few scares as we were about to drop the phone once or twice. Moreover, the all glass body means that the phone attracts fingerprints like Justin Bieber attracts teenage girls. The phone has dimensions of 142.4×69.6×7.9mm, which makes it comfortable to hold with one hand. At 152g, the Galaxy S7 is far from being a light flagship smartphone, but honestly we prefer the added heft because it gives us reassurance while holding it.

The front of the Galaxy S7 is mostly taken up by a large 5.1-inch display and the screen-to-body ratio is around 72.1 percent. The bezels to the left and the right edges of the phone are pretty narrow. In comparison to the iPhone 6s, the Galaxy S7 is only slightly wider and taller. Samsung has utilised the available real estate really well. Right above the display, one can find the Samsung logo, earpiece, front camera, and sensors for ambient light and proximity. Below the display is Samsung’s trademark rectangular home button (which also incorporates the fingerprint sensor), and two capacitive buttons flanked  on its either sides.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Design

The bottom edge of the phone has the Micro-USB port, and the 3.5mm audio port whereas the top has the SIM card tray, and a microphone. The right edge houses the power button and the volume buttons are placed on the left edge. All the buttons have great travel and superb tactile feedback. On the rear, the camera module sticks out a little from the top centre and beside it is a vertical strip that holds the flash module and the heart rate monitor.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Design

The phone is IP68-certified, which means that it can resist dust and water. What’s great about this is that Samsung has managed to do this without blocking any of the ports with unwanted flaps, thereby keeping the design clean and recognisable.

Display
Before we get to describing the display of the Samsung Galaxy S7, let’s just put one thing out there – this phone has the best display on any phone ever. Period.

The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S7 is teeming with colours. Since it is an AMOLED panel, the blacks are really deep and additionally there is no tonal inaccuracy either; the display has been calibrated so well that it is pretty neutral, and doesn’t veer towards the warmer or the cooler side. That said, Samsung provides a Screen Mode in the Settings menu using which you can change the tone of the display.

Samsung Galaxy S7 display

Moreover, the high resolution of 1440x2560p ensures that text and images look crisp at all times. In fact, we set a wallpaper which had a resolution of 1920x1080p and we could immediately notice that it wasn’t crisp; that’s how good the display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is. The display of the Galaxy S7 can also get really bright, which means that the sunlight legibility is great. Similarly, the viewing angles are pretty good too; we didn’t notice any discolouration even at extreme angles.

The newest innovation on the Galaxy S7, however, is the inclusion of an Always-On display. With this mode switched on, the display never shuts down, as the name suggests. You can choose to  show either the Calendar, Clock, or an Image. Frankly, after the initial excitement of having an Always-On screen wore off, we got bored and stopped using it. This helped save some precious battery life.

Hardware
As is commonplace with all of Samsung’s Galaxy S range of flagships from the past, the Galaxy S7 is also packed to its gills with high-end specifications galore. Like every year, even the Galaxy S7 comes in two variants – one with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC, and the other running on Samsung’s very own Exynos chip. The Galaxy S7 sold in India comes with the new Exynos 8890 SoC instead of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820.

The new octa-core Exynos 8890 SoC has a quad-core 2.3 GHz Mongoose clubbed with a quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53. The Mongoose processor is Samsung’s very first in-house processor and is a step forward for the company. This SoC includes Mali-T880 MP12 GPU for graphic- intensive tasks. The Galaxy S7 comes with 4GB of RAM. It also comes in two storage options – 32GB and 64GB. Thankfully, this time around Samsung has given  the option of using a microSD card to increase storage space (up to 200GB) if needed.

Samsung Galaxy S7 hardware

The phone has two cameras – a new 12-megapixel shooter on the front with an F1.7 aperture, and a 5-megapixel front camera for selfies and videos. The Indian variant of the phone accepts two SIM cards and the second slot also doubles up as the memory card slot. The phone is compatible with all 4G networks in India. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2 with low-energy and apt-X support, GPS. A-GPS, GLONASS, and NFC. Weirdly enough, there is no radio.

The phone also includes a host of sensors such as fingerprint, accelerometer, gyrometer, proximity, compass, barometer, and heart rate. Samsung has included a larger 3,000mAh battery in the Galaxy S7 and it has also included Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, which claims to charge the battery up to 60 percent in under 30 minutes.

Software and apps
Samsung’s proprietary UI called TouchWiz has gone through an overhaul of sorts in the Galaxy S7, so much so that the company is not calling it TouchWiz anymore. The new UI sits on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is the latest version of Android. While the new UI layer is not as intrusive as the earlier versions of TouchWiz, it still feels pretty bloated thanks to the presence of a smorgasbord of third-party apps. From Samsung apps like S Health and S Voice, to Microsoft’s Office productivity apps, the phone has it all. The worst part is that these apps cannot be uninstalled, but only disabled. Also, Samsung’s default keyboard is not as responsive and easy to use as Google’s default keyboard.

The first screen continues to be Samsung’s Briefing, which is essentially a list of news stories across various topics curated by Flipboard – a popular news app. You can choose to disable this if you please. The new UI  looks cleaner  as the homescreen doesn’t include unnecessary widgets by default. Also, the app drawer now has a transparent background. Interestingly, you can also remove the app drawer entirely and place all the apps on the home screen, like a lot of UIs on Chinese smartphones. But to do this, you will have to go through a convoluted process which involves going to settings and activating Galaxy Labs.

Software Screenshot

Now, Samsung also allows users to choose their own themes from the new Theme Store to  customise the look and feel of the UI according to their preference. There are other nifty features baked into the software, such asSmart Manager, which shows a detailed view of the battery life, storage space, RAM, and security options. There is also a split screen mode that can be activated by long pressing the Recents key when any app is open. As far as our experience goes, most of the apps were compatible with this mode. Therefore, now you can watch a video and type a long E-mail, all at the same time. Another new addition is Game Tools, a button that floats at the   top of any game that you are playing, which allows you to record a gameplay session, lock the Recents and the Back key lest you hit it accidentally, capture a screenshot, and ensure that there are no notifications during gameplay. We tried this, and frankly found the button itself to be quite intrusive.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Screenshot

Overall, Samsung’s new UI has been refined and polished to an extent that it feels much better than the older version of TouchWiz. Yet, the UI is still a little clunky and we feel that a phone of Galaxy S7’s calibre could have benefited with a minimalistic UI that is less intrusive.

Camera
Despite the downgrade in the number of megapixels, from 16-megapixels on the Samsung Galaxy S6 to 12-megapixels on the latest Samsung flagship, the new rear camera captures fantastic-looking photographs that can rival any smartphone in the market today, and maybe even beat it in terms of image fidelity. Additionally, this camera is by far the fastest we’ve ever used on an Android smartphone. Note that Samsung uses two different camera sensors, one that is made by Sony and the other made by Samsung in-house, on different batches of Galaxy S7 smartphones. However, this is not very important, since for all practical purposes both the cameras capture similar-looking pictures. In any case, our review unit came with the Sony IMX260 sensor and therefore our assessment is for that camera sensor.

Camera Sample

Thanks to the large F1.7 aperture size, the camera on the Galaxy S7 captures some really good depth, especially if the subject and the background are clearly defined. Such great depth-of-field is also useful in the Selective Focus mode, in which the camera captures three images with different depths – Near focus, Far focus, and Pan focus. We loved playing around with this mode because it gives three different perspectives of the same image.

Camera Sample

Talking about modes, the camera app has other modes such asPro, Panorama, Video Collage, Live Broadcast, Slow Motion, Virtual Shot, Food, and Hyperlapse. All these modes work as advertised and are really fun to use. The app also offers different Instagram-style effects, but they are not as good. Samsung has also picked up the iPhone’s Live Photos feature; if you choose to, the camera can capture a short video just before taking the image.

The camera app can be opened by double clicking the home button, and it takes a second or so for the camera to focus, thanks to its uber fast dual pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and get ready to capture an image. This means that you can actually capture an image within three seconds, even when the screen is off; exactly the reason why we think this is the fastest camera on a smartphone. That said, while the Autofocus works really well most of the times, it does take some effort at times to focus on the right subject. We ended up with out-of-focus shots on quite a few occasions.

Samsung Galaxy S7 camera sample

Coming back to the image quality, our daylight samples were nicely saturated and crisp with details. Even the dynamic range in the default mode, without using HDR, was really good. Moreover, we didn’t notice any barrel distortion even in the wide angle shots. However, the large F1.7 aperture means that the lens can let in more light for the night shots. Our shots in low-light conditions were testimony to the fact that this is a really smart idea. The camera managed to latch on to any source of light to capture great low-light shots; albeit with a very evident yellow tinge. Thankfully, the software is not tuned to reduce noise and therefore the details are present, and so is the noise.

Samsung Galaxy S7

The front-facing camera can take really wide shots even in default mode. The app also has a really cool feature where you can capture a panorama-style shot – essentially stitching images together to create a wide-angle selfie. Another addition is the beautify mode that is lifted straight from the camera UI of phones sold by Chinese brands.

The camera can also shoot 4K videos and slow motion videos, both of which it does with fair aplomb. Moreover, the footage also looks crisp. Thanks to the presence of OIS, capturing shake-free videos is also a breeze.

Audio and Video
The mono speakers on the Galaxy S7 don’t sound very good and are not of the same quality as on some other Android flagships (for example, the Nexus 6P and Moto X Style) that we’ve used in the recent past. This is mainly because Samsung has used a thin waterproof membrane for the speaker, which thereby muffes the sound. That said, the earphones bundled inside the box are of good quality and you really won’t require a replacement. We also tested the sound quality with our reference headphones and it sounded great too. The default music player is Play Music.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Audio Port

The default video player can play all formats of video content without any hiccups; it managed to play our 4K video test files without stuttering or skipping frames.

Performance
Samsung has improved the software interface and therefore performance of the Galaxy S7 feels generally smooth. However, we had moments where the phone would respond to touch response a tad too late, stutter at times in general scrolling performance, and an app would occasionally crash. Now, please note that these are minor niggles and do not necessarily disrupt the experience of using the phone drastically. Furthermore, we think that these issues could be specific to our review unit, but we can’t sure about it. All said and done, the performance on the Galaxy S7 is great, if not mind blowing.

Samsung Galaxy S7

For those who care about numbers, the Samsung Galaxy S7 scored 1,25,485 points in the AnTuTu benchmark test, and 28,639 in our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test. These numbers are, undoubtedly, superb. The one area in whichthe Galaxy S7 excels in, is  its gaming performance. We tested graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5, which  had absolutely no lags or drops in frame rate. In fact, we think that the GPU inside the Galaxy S7 is capable of  handling even more powerful games, but Android as a platform is devoid of such titles at the moment.

The call quality and network performance was also exemplary. We didn’t face a single call drop or lose network even in areas of high congestion. The fingerprint scanner’s quality has improved from Samsung’s previous flagship, but it is still not as good as the implementation on the Apple iPhone or even the Nexus 6P, for that matter. On multiple occasions the scanner failed to recognise our input.

Battery
The battery life on the Galaxy S7 has improved considerably from the Galaxy S6, thanks to the presence of a larger 3000mAh battery. We got a screen-on time ranging from three hours to six hours, which is pretty good. Essentially, on moderate usage, the phone managed to last us for around 20 hours before we had to charge it.

Talking about charging, the phone supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, and Qi or Powermat wireless charging technology. While the phone charges really fast using the Quick Charge 2.0 technology, it does really heat up the phone. and you will not be able to use the phone while charging. We couldn’t test the wireless charging feature, though.

Conclusion
All things considered, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a premium flagship smartphone that is a worthy successor to its predecessor. It is a great phone in most aspects and is a true workhorse at the same time. But, as much as we enjoyed using the device, the phone is only evolutionary and not revolutionary.

We aren’t saying that all smartphone brands should aim to change the rules of the game every year. In fact, it is really impossible to achieve such a feat. What we are saying though, is that, apart from LG’s modular G5, this year’s smartphones have been played it safe by only improving on last year’s formula. And leading this pack is the Samsung Galaxy S7.

But, do note that the Galaxy S7 is a superb flagship device and one worth owning. However, at Rs.48,900, the Galaxy S7 is an expensive proposition, considering devices like the Nexus 6P and the Xiaomi Mi 5 cost much lesser and are equally powerful, if not better. Having said that, if you have around Rs.50,000 lying in your bank account and want a great Android smartphone (some might even argue that it is the best), the Galaxy S7 could be a great option.

 

In the stores
Samsung Galaxy S7
₹28,598
Go to Store

Samsung Galaxy S7

Rs 48,990
Samsung Galaxy S7
8.8

Design

8/10

Display

10/10

Hardware

10/10

Software

8/10

Camera

9/10

Audio/Video

9/10

Performance

9/10

Battery

8/10

Pros

  • Best display on any smartphone
  • Superb rear camera performance
  • Great for gaming
  • Water and dust-resistant

Cons

  • Battery life could have been better
  • Software UI is still bloated and slow
  • Gets warm during charging
  • Rear is a fingerprint magnet

When Ershad is not killing dinosaur-sized mosquitoes with a vengeance using a make-believe shotgun, he writes/edits for Gear by MySmartPrice. He is also our resident karaoke star. Don’t encourage him to sing.

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