Does Samsung’s new flagship beat out the current crop of super-phones on the market? Find out in our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Review!
This year’s Mobile World Congress set an interesting precedent. The two largest flagship reveals – Samsung’s Galaxy 7 duo and LG’s G5 – went at each other’s throats in entirely different directions. Samsung opted for subtle refinement, with LG moving to secure the moniker of the “modular smartphone”. Now, our verdict on the former is in with our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Review.
I love to open a review with an analogy, and the irony of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is that I struggle to find one. The thing that Samsung’s curvy new contender is closest to is – ironically – its predecessor, the Galaxy S6 Edge. Read: Hands-on preview: Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge ““ the stars are shining bright
Our Editor Theunis van Rensburg took the reigns on that review a year ago, and collectively at Bandwidth Blog we found the S6 Edge to be Samsung’s triumphant return to form; the Korean giant was back in the game with a sharp, sleek, and sexy design.
Now, we have the S7 Edge, which instead of a bold, revolutionary claim – such as being ‘modular’ we have a simple premise; it’s a smartphone that’s supposedly sharper, sleeker and sexier than what we had a year ago. Where we three years in the past, this would be more of an iPhone-esque release than what even Apple could pull off.
2016 has seen some wonderfully weird Android smartphones; whether we’re talking about the BlackBerry Priv with its two keyboards, ASUS attempting to cram in as much storage as technically possible, or the likes of Huawei developing a dual camera setup with Leica, things in the Android world are changing. The biggest surprise, then, is that the Galaxy S7 Edge is more of the same. Read: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Review: License to thrill
The S7 Edge tips its hat to its predecessor, and refines what we’ve already seen; a 5.5″ Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 534ppi gives way to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (or an Exynos 8890 Octa, depending where you are), which is complemented by 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. Finally, internal storage is once again expandable through MicroSD support.
Physically, there’s little I believe I could say about the form factor of the Galaxy S7 Edge that wasn’t said in our Galaxy S6 review; improvements from Samsung this time around focus more the intersection between hardware and software, and little is evidently different at first glance. The S7 Edge bears a slightly larger berth (designed to reduce its camera bump) and is altogether more rounded around the top and bottom chins than its predecessor was.
Is it comfortable to hold? Definitely. Once again, the device’s Edge screen allows pixels to melt into the palm of one’s hand, and the use of glass on both the front and back panel gives a wealthy, luxurious impression. The metal rim and its chamfered edges are refined and courteous to one’s fingers, and the highest compliment I can give Samsung on this device is that the Korean giant has, in my eyes, perfected the art of the volume rocker and power button.
I feel so strongly about this, I’m actually going to dedicate a paragraph to it. Not only are the S7 Edge’s buttons well-balanced (were one to press anywhere, the entire button presses in rather than pivoting) but they’re small, light and perfectly sized. Compared to some other flagships I’ve used this year – the BlackBerry Priv comes to mind – Samsung is streaks ahead in this regard.
Of frustration is Samsung’s single speaker on the device’s bottom panel, which can be silenced through the obtuse movement of a thumb. Beyond this, there’s little to complain about and a great deal more to appreciate.
Personally, I’m satisfied with Samsung’s decision to make the S7 Edge larger than the S7 this time around. As I said in Bandwidth Blog On Air, a larger Edge renders its namesake far more easy to appreciate, and gives consumers more reason to spend their hard-earned cash. However, I feel the S7 Edge’s size will render the next Galaxy Note (the 6) a difficult proposition to punt. Read: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Huawei P8: Flagship showdown
Samsung may not refer to its skin as TouchWiz anymore, though its visual touches are still abundantly present with the S7 Edge. However, as I said in my Galaxy Note 5 review, Samsung has been considerate to double-down on visual and software bloat and this is a faster Galaxy than what we’ve been privy to in the past.
Sure, there’s still the endless frustration of having a phone with duplicate apps (Samsung Internet, meet Chrome) though the improvements Samsung has made to in-house apps such as the former add more of a value proposition this time around. Despite being a Chrome stalwart, I felt as comfortable using Internet my browser of choice.
There are two special additions to Samsung’s UI which deserve special mention in my Galaxy S7 Edge review, not least because they’re intrinsically tied to why one would want to buy this phone. The first is Samsung’s Always On display.
The S7 Edge’s Always On display is a mixed bag. While it’s handy to tell the time and quickly glance at notifications, there are two decisive factors which hold it back in my mind. The first is a lack of a dedicated hardware button to deactivate it at night (something similar to the iPhone’s silent button would work, to my mind, even if I am alone in saying this) and the second is the battery drain it inflicts on the device. Left off, the Galaxy S7 Edge is on par with the Note 5. Left on, standby time decreases significantly despite Samsung’s claims otherwise.
Lastly, there is, of course, the Edge screen. Samsung have taken a different approach with its extra slice of bezels, as I noted in Bandwidth Blog On Air. While at first this was a dedicated screen on its own, the Edge screen has instead matured to be an extra swathe of pixels. There are some niche uses for this – swiping from the right to read quick news bites was something I enjoyed – though I increasingly find the Edge screen is, in many ways, becoming too indistinct from the S7 screen as a whole. There are nifty uses for it, mind – such as quickly viewing notifications from the lock screen, but I found these more needless than I’d normally want to admit.
On a grand scale, the Edge screen isn’t integrated into Android apps – least of all Samsung’s own, which it continues to force on us. It adds no new functionality to what we already can do with a conventional screen, and, to my mind, is curvy for curvy’s sake alone. To put it frankly, where there a way to disable the device’s Edge screen, I could live without it – and that’s coming from a user who actively wants to see more phones embrace the idea of fluid, exciting, and – at the end of the day – marketable screens. Read: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Review: Beauty, at last!
If I had to add another S to our title in this review, it’d be Snappy. The Galaxy S7 Edge ditches the stammer of yore and embraces the speediness of the future. Apps load without incident, the RAM-draining Edge screen is faster than ever before. To load TouchWiz is a feat, and to perform with, I believe, is worthy of commendation.
My favourite area of the phone remains to be how quickly its camera loads and focusses – more on the later – and Samsung have one-upped Apple in this regard. There are few things the S7 Edge can’t handle, even when taxed with multi-tasking furore, abundant notifications and an intense game. Further, it does this all without overheating in my hand – a fault I’ve begun to find more and more common with Android phones making use of Snapdragon’s latest SoCs.
One gripe I am left with is how inaccurate Samsung’s fingerprint scanner can be. Despite having relatively clear thumbprints, again and again I found myself locked out of the phone and forced to resort to a standard PIN to gain entry. Further, with the S7 Edge bearing a larger frame than before, a bottom-mounted fingerprint scanner makes far less sense; in this regard, I believe a rear fingerprint scanner as Huawei has employed to be a far more sensical addition. Accessing the device itself was a continuous effort during my Galaxy S7 Edge review.
In a strange turn of events, dealing with the S7 Edge’s battery is an area to which I had two answers to. Using the device’s Always On display significantly hampers its standby time, and hence, in my mind, its usefulness. I found during my Galaxy S7 Edge review that the battery drains twice as quickly compared to when the feature is otherwise turned off, and frequently drained the phone flat on its second day – or sometimes night – of use.
With it off, things are a different ball-game entirely. The S7 Edge brings just as much stamina as the Galaxy Note 5 did before it, lasting a day and a half in my pocket under strenuous activity and frequent camera usage. It’s a pity, in many ways, that one of the most exciting additions to the Android scene could give a battery this solid such grief. Read: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge pricing confirmed for South Africa
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 quickly became my favourite camera phone, one-upping even my beloved iPhone 6s or Xperia Z1. Surprisingly, I found during my Galaxy S7 Edge Review that Samsung’s new contender bests its forebear; focussing times are insanely quick, and the fast f/1.7 aperture lets enough light in for the Galaxy S7 Edge to perform no matter the circumstance; even a modicum of light in a room is enough to see this device’s camera perform.
Similarly, the phone’s front-facing camera deserves equal acclaim, and will leave even the most zealous selfie-taker pleased. As usual, there’s slight barrel distortion here, and due to its smaller sensor, the front-facing camera lacks the same macro prowess its counterpart has. Still, both cameras are a noble effort that combine some of the best tone, detail and contrast I’ve yet seen in a smartphone, without having to resort to dual-camera trickery. Thankfully, that trademark Samsung over-saturation is gone, and instead we have been left with a speedy performer.
During my Galaxy S7 Edge Review, I’ve found the device to be a great, modern take on an Android super phone – and have largely praised its successes here – there’s still much to consider when recommending this device as an actual purchase; and much of that is owed to the two devices it replaces.
Over the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, the S7 is a clear upgrade with performance in mind over a full revolution. While one could greatly enjoy the former, I’d still recommend the latter. However, in comparison to the Galaxy S6 Edge +, the S7 Edge has a harder fight on its hands.
Primarily, my reasoning is this: the S6 Edge + arrives in a similar form factor, retains a great camera, and further caries a stylus through which once can make extra use of its Edge screen. With Samsung promising to bring new updates to its elder phones, the real – and only – reason one would want the S7 Edge over its Note-line forebear is for its faster camera and – should one want to brave using it – it’s Always On display.
As I surmised in the beginning of our Galaxy S7 Edge Review, this is a difficult device to draw analogy to, because it stays close to the flock that has passed before it. More of a stepping stone than a conquered summit, the S7 Edge is best offered to users who’ve never experienced a Samsung Galaxy S device before, or those who are steadfastly committed to Samsung as a whole. For the rest of us, who’re seeking a new phone or an upgrade, it’s acceptable to look elsewhere – even, in this case, to the past.
Let‘s wrap up. To surmise our Galaxy S7 Edge review, this is a terrific phone that sports some interesting ideas despite not carrying their execution through. Build quality, camera prowess and user comfort are at an all-time high in a device that rarely – if ever – stutters. However, the S7 Edge feels greatly iterate, and will displease those hoping for Samsung to make another leap like we saw between the Galaxy S5 and S6.
What are your thoughts on our Galaxy S7 Edge Review review? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA