Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Breach the Line

Samsung flagship smartphones used to be key releases in the whole industry, so we do even not need to introduce any of them specially. Samsung Galaxy S7 is the new king of the hill presented in February right before WMC 2016 in Barcelona. Samsung expressed it many times that their new flagship is much much better than the previous Samsung Galaxy S6 model. Looks the way Apple used to present their new models, doesn’t it? Well, anyway. we have to admit the last year flagship was as perfect as possible. Considering the real crisis of ideas in the industry it is not that easy to make something really top, useful and of great demand. Especially for the company that has followers and haters like Apple, those who expect true tech revolutions all the time. Let’s review are all those innovations of Samsung Galaxy S7 so useful and handy for techie fans.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Breach the Line

Samsung flagship smartphones used to be key releases in the whole industry, so we do even not need to introduce any of them specially. Samsung Galaxy S7 is the new king of the hill presented in February right before WMC 2016 in Barcelona. Samsung expressed it many times that their new flagship is much much better than the previous Samsung Galaxy S6 model. Looks the way Apple used to present their new models, doesn’t it? Well, anyway. we have to admit the last year flagship was as perfect as possible. Considering the real crisis of ideas in the industry it is not that easy to make something really top, useful and of great demand. Especially for the company that has followers and haters like Apple, those who expect true tech revolutions all the time. Let’s review are all those innovations of Samsung Galaxy S7 so useful and handy for techie fans.

A Sort of Preface

Whatever you can do any smartphone review consists of traditional feature description – enclosure, display, performance, time of work, camera and so on. But since the last year I personally think that actual flagship smartphones are not just a specification of case, screen, speed, battery, megapixels. They are a whole experience to share. If you just dismount the top smartphone to investigate it under the microscope you will get something boring as they used to be perfect. Well, let’s leave aside Sony with their mistake with keys, they did it too crazy. Top smartphones are different from each other in tiny details you can just ignore. What about this or that brand? How to evaluate GUI attractiveness for users having only that ordinary scale? The GUI plays the key role for choice to buy. User experience gets stuck in the specification of enclosure, display, performance, camera and hip-hop. So, what to do?

While making a general review of the top smartphone Samsung, Galaxy S7 I would like to step aside of the standards for this kind of articles and try to tell you a total user experience with the smartphone. I got it before long March holiday I spent travelling. Any trip is a sort of extreme situation and it is good enough to feel benefits and disadvantages of the device. And I would like to put aside all those specifications. User experience only.

Well, for those of you needing those specification you can find news and announces and media translations and a whole bunch of useful materials and all adventures the new flagship already experienced and comparison of Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

Ok, here you are.

Specifications of Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Model Galaxy S7 Galaxy S7 edge
Size 142x70x8 mm 151x73x8 mm
Weight 152 g 157 g
Android Version 6.0 Marshmallow + TouchWiz
DIsplay Super AMOLED, 5.1", 2560x1440, 577 ppi Super AMOLED, 5.5", 2560x1440, 534 ppi
CPU Exynos 8890 Octa (64 bit, 4 cores 2.3 GHz, 4 cores 1.6 GHz), graphic card Mali-T880MP12
RAM 4 Gb
Flash Drive 32/64 Gb + microSD card (instead of the second SIM slot)
Camera 12 mpx (Dual Pixel), f/1.7, 26 mm, video recording 4K nad FullHD at 60fps, front camera 5 mpx
Battery 3000 mAh, nono-removable 3600 mAh, nono-removable
SIM Card nanoSIM
Protection Class IP68
Interfaces Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, apt-X, GPS A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, NFC

Acquaintance. At the Office

To be honest Galaxy S6 is really good. It is so good you cannot imagine what a successor must have to be better. Our editors discussed a lot about which edition of S6 is more interesting, flat one or curved one. All last year curved flagships hired their fans.

I love nice pictures but I cannot create any on my own, so I’m fond of the camera quality which requires no settings, and I love quite brave case of the smartphone. But they decided to step back to classic black, white and glamorous silver and gold when designing Galaxy S7, so I’m a little bit upset.

We got the silver one at our office. Well, it is stylish. But I will have understood it later. At the office we have quite cold and bright lights so I first think about S7 as about a can without a label.

The problem is you cannot describe the color of Galaxy S7 with words or give any idea how it looks like. The color changes depending on the light angle and surrounding things. Artificial light can make it light gray like a can, warm light makes it put on golden shade and look like the golden Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. But it surprises the most on the street under natural light, the color pretends to be like the inner side of an oyster shell, a pearl found at the sea beach.

But it is not Sony Xperia Z5 Premium and does not feature mirror surface of the case, you cannot see reflection of your surprised face, but you can enjoy as it changes color this or that angle in your hand. Very unusual and interesting special effect. It would be nice to see the flagship of Samsung in other colors, especially black. The black color of Galaxy A of the 2016 line looks quite simple. The flagship is to have something very special, indeed.

I have to admit honestly that not everyone in the office thought the silver color of our Galaxy S7 was not that nice as it seemed to me.

The smartphone is spoiled like any other glossy devices. But you can clean it easily.

 

It seems the touch screen reacts faster in Samsung Galaxy S7. I don’t know if it is the effect of waterproof so you can use the smartphone while having your fingers wet. Who knows. There is no special option to work with gloves. The screen feels your touches through cloth, but not very good.

I cannot say anything special about the quality of the screen, it is as great as previous models are – fast, detailed, nice looking – but not that good for calibration. There used to be a few color modes (by default it is set adaptive, the most natural is the main, the coldest and most optimal is for bright sun light – Film AMOLED).

All three color modes are not excellent, well, Samsung and their Super AMOLED is too far from being perfect.  But color saturation hides too cold screen colors, especially on the white background. Thanking to the Super AMOLED technology the screen has endless contrast.

The brightness is not that impressive but there are two points for excuses: we got not the final commercial sample so  those going on the market will have higher brightness, the adaptive mode can make miracles with its auto justification, so it can be brighter on the sun light than in our quite darkish office. Unfortunately, the month of March cannot secure the sun light bright enough around our office. Well, but it works OK under the timid spring sun light.

Some extra data:

Main mode. Maximal brightness: 330,728 Cd/sq.m.

Film AMOLED mode. Maximal brightness: 307,676 Cd/sq.m.

Adaptive mode. Maximal brightness: 358,455 Cd/sq.m.

And finally, my impressions of the first meeting with the Galaxy S7 case. The case is I don’t have any. Well I described above how it looks like. But I cannot say anything special about physical feelings, the smartphone fits in your hand perfectly like your foot in a proper expensive shoe. You cannot feel materials it made of, heel height and so on, because all moments are made so perfectly you don’t even try to think about the shoe itself. Galaxy S7 is the same type of things, in fits in your hand perfectly and your mind doesn’t consider it something alien you have to get used to. I don’t remember my feelings toward Galaxy S6, but I think I felt the same way.

Case roundings they say so much about at the announcement have not impressed me visually. But I have to admit that physical contact with the smartphone feels good with that feature. Despite the glass cover it does not slip in the hand.

Frame thickness comparison with Meizu Pro 5.

All elements of the case are placed standard way. Everything is familiar and comfortable. There are three buttons below the screen – Home in the middle, Back and Context Menu Call on the left and right. THey done have backlight and that is strange. Volume control and screen block buttons are on the side of the metal frame. If you need to grumble you may say the buttons of volume control could be placed lower.

There is a single speaker, but the quality is much better then stereo speakers of some other smartphones are.

There are a microphone hole and slots for nanoSIM and dual nanoSIM/microSD.

The camera module speaks out loud it makes excellent shots.

The back camera is less convex than one in the previous model. Anyway, I personally think all those grumbles some smartphones have too convex cameras are just waste of air. The camera of Nokia Lumia 1020 is convex, yes. But all other complains are childish whim.

Day 1. On the trip

Samsung Galaxy S7 has become my fellow traveler during my 900 kilometers voyage around Ukraine. Roads of Ukraine, road holes of Ukraine, pulchritudes of Ukraine, foggy March of Ukraine, regional hotels of Ukraine where you can hardly find a socket.

As I wrote in my previous reports for trips I require three important things from my smartphone (I think you do as well if you travel a lot): good camera, performance and length of work from a single battery charge. The latter requirements is rather optional as there is no problem to own a portable battery charger. And if the battery of your smartphone an charge fast it will take enough time to charge while having a snack at a aroadside cafe. Samsung declares the first 83% the smartphone battery fills in the first half an hour (the rest takes for about an hour). In transit I charged my smartphone from portable batteries quite often and I didn’t feel that benefit. I think during long trips that benefit could do better.

Generally, I have uneasy opinion about the battery of Galaxy S7. On the one hand, often screen on, constant use of camera, navigation and 3G do not  make any problem to the smartphone to work over 8 hours. That is cool as, say, Meizu Pro 5, would give up much earlier, I think. On the other hand, with minimal work load and 3000 mAh battery considering all specifications the smartphone possesses it works about 24 hours only. Even entry-level devices do better. The battery life test in PCMark demonstrates upto 8 hours of work, during the period the battery discharge is 80% and then the screen does not go blind and shows some pictures from the test. The sane results have this year Samsung Galaxy A5 and Samsung Galaxy A7, but at minor work load they work 50% longer. I think they will issue a better firmware to handle the issue. But now it goes how it goes. I like the feature the smarphone shows how much time left till the charge is full.

Some extra data:

Benchmark result with a beautiful picture.

Here you can see the battery’s behavior at the full work load while in transit

As I wrote in the previous article about the ideal smartphone, a camera is important only if it is a camera of a flagship that can make really killer shots, and it is rather an exclusion not a rule. But Samsung makes good cameras. So.

I had  several smartphones on me during my trip, but I made photos only with Galaxy S7, a mass market pocket camera and a DSLR camera. I’m not a big pro with DSLR so I used not to take it with me on trips.

It is an evident fact the camera is indeed better than that in the previous generation Galaxy S. Maybe even better than that in iPhone 6s (still we have not yet got a chance to make a head-to-head comparison, so my apology for my doubts). Here is a gallery of last year shots made with the Samsung flagship of early 2015 (here is the link to Torba for original size pictures).

Here are a few random pictures made with the 2016 flagship (also a link to Torba for original size images).

Part of them (with the cat and wagon on the road) were made from a moving car. The cat was displacing all the time and the wagon sped swiftly toward us. But the camera was fast, so fast I made my first shots made in such circumstances where a cat did not look like a smeared spot.

In a room in not so good light (original resolution).

This one was taken in a room with very bad light. So you can see noise and the pictures a far from being perfect. Well, seriously, it is complete darkness for smartphones. And in this condition you have to value your Galaxy S7 the most (original resolution).

City at night. Sometimes you cannot say it is a smartphone (original resolution). You know, what is the most valuable thing in this photos for me? I had not stay still to wait till the camera focused. It shot as fast as at day light.

With and without HDR (original resolution). Instant takes like it is not HDR at all.

Here is a try to play with white balance in cloudy day. Failed, of course. The result was not that bad on the smartphone screen, better than on the PC screen. Well, the resume – the auto mode is what we all have to rely for mobile photography with Galaxy S7 (original resolution).

And by the end of the day in cloudy whether pictures are anyway dull and platitudinous . Miracles cannot be (original resolution).

Finally, some zoomed details from the pictures above.

Some extra data:

Camera UI changes from generation to generation and I’m lost in all those changes. There are several modes to take photos and resolutions for video. By default the camera records at FullHD at 30 fps, as it can make HDR, special effects and object tracking only in that mode. Optical stabilizations is available for resolutions up to 2K (not available for 4K). All settings for white balance, ISO and so on are hidden in the PRO mode, only a few simple modes are available. HDR is on by default and works automatically without any problem but you can switch it off easily. Flash light has only three modes – on, off and auto. The auto mode works just excellent, all pictures I took were ok. I have to admit in the camera of Samsung Galaxy S7 makes best photos in the automatic mode. The front camera is also great, but it is not useful at night. IT can take photos by hand gesture.

You can easily get access to the gallery, as usual. Bit if it is launched from the blocked screen you have to touch it with your finger to view a picture (if you have to use your fingerprint to unlock the smartphone). Maybe it is not that important but worth to mention.

Day Two. Still in Transit

Performance is the most important criterion of the three mentioned above. To be honest I have not yet been successful to cause performance problems to my not-so-advanced передового Meizu Pro 5. So I have to say I have got no chance to use all resources of Galaxy S7 so it could start choking. I have installed about 40 applications in total and used half of them on regular basis. While on the trip they were Google maps, maps for tracking road quality, maps of gas and service stations, hotel booking apps, browsers, camera apps and various messengers. You can hardly find something more extreme to test your smartphone than mess of a trip.

Some extra data:

Benchmark screenshots to prove this device, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and LG G5 are the fastest on the market. No surprise.

On the second day of my trip I noticed one funny thing – when arriving to a new town with 3G networks accessible, Samsung Galaxy S7 connected to 3G faster than other smartphones of my fellow travelers (Vodafone was the provider of all of us). Some time ago I also notice that top Samsung and Apple (but not Sony) smartphones are more stable while connected to public WiFi in crowded places than other devices. IT seems the same situation is with mobile internet.

GPS in the smartphone works perfectly.

Day three. Emotions and Details

It happens sometimes that 7 or 10 days are not enough to fully explore a device. But travels are good testing field for both devices and people. Our trip was extremely fast so I used Galaxy S7 very intensively during  2 days (or rather two and a half, but it doesn’t matter) so I had got a chance to learn advantages and disadvantages of the device. So there were features I had not paid attention to that started annoying me, and features I had been disappointed first that bought my heart later.

One annoying point with Galaxy S7 was the hidden Back button and context menu. When you work with your smartphone with one hand the activated by occasional touches. Not a tragedy but a vary strange thing considering other smartphones that did not have that kind of issues. Maybe it was because the frame of the case was too minimal, or the touch sensor was too sensitive, or buttons were placed too close. Anyway, occasional activations happened.

One impressive moment was the speed of the smartphone and the quality of the camera. And I could overheat the smartphone only using extensive tests despite the CPU was quite powerful. Even a long phone call did not cause my bad experience with HTC One M9.

The fingerprint sensor works perfectly. By the way, now you need to use a password or a fingerprint every time you add Google accounts to the device.

Samsung Galaxy S7 works on Android 6.0. It means its UI features fine tuning for power saving for apps, request to access various smartphone functions from apps, Google search right from apps and anywhere, widget grouping by apps, file sharing not only with the apps list but with popular contacts. What does not appear in TouchWiz of ANdroid 6.0 are vertical scroll (I’m happy!) and search launch from left bottom corner of the blocked screen (TouchWiz offers “Phone” there it cannot be launched without a fingerprint). Also it does not offer to translate a highlighted text with Google Translate.

The blocked screen of the Samsung flagship can also out put some information. People used to talk about it more than it deserves. The smartphone outputs date, time, missed SMSes and calls, or even a whole calendar.  It can present it nice way if you select right theme. But you cannot actually set up notifications like in Windows Phone. I would personally like to see the number of unread messages from email, Skype, Viber on the blocked screen. The number of steps done would also satisfy me. Nokia did it, why doesn’t Samsung? Android can do it all. And they say this type of display functioning (Always On) requires littl of battery power (nobody can’t check it as the consumed power is all but nothing).

They heard my pray and now allow to switch off that crazy pop-up SMS window jumping on the screen over an app you need the most at the moment. That feature annoyed me the most since implemented (I don’t remember when this feature first blown my mind, but I met it first in LG G2). There is no this feature kind for incoming calls.

There is a lot of option settings. Some options are just glamorous, icons they offer are hard to read. But you can find your perfect settings. High display resolution provides space on the screen for many apps. By default the grid is 4x4, but you can easily make it 5x5 or 4x5 (the latter is the best on my opinion).

Day 4, 5, 6, 7. City Life

Starring in water. I would just like to remind this light and thin smartphone with slots open has IP68 moisture protection.

You can put to water even a sample model. It means Samsung is not Sony, the latter recommends not to put your smartphone to water completely. Samsung is confident with reliability of their flagships. Well, you have to understand that salty, hot or chlorinated water will bad to Galaxy S7. If you’re going to purchase Samsung Galaxy S7, keep in mind you do better not charge it right out of water.

Galaxy S7 features Bluetooth 4.2 and AptX support. You are lucky to have that kind of sound quality being sent by air. Wired sound is also ok, as expected. The speaker is excellent, I already mentioned it.

Extra benefit. Game Mode

For some time Samsung flagship smartphones were more like an expensive toy for savor. Geeks were glad to have HTC full of special features, modest Nexus and cheap but powerful Chinese nonames. With Galaxy 7 Samsung flirts with the geek audience and offer features other devices don’t have. It is powerful graphics (not yet used in full), Game Launcher, a folder for all games in the smartphone, and a dedicated game mode. Game Launcher offers to run even in some tests. It is a cool feature not only gamers will fall in love with. I used not to play games on smartphones. Well, maybe some simple card games. But I like it very much the mode blocks touch buttons. They are a headache sometimes. You cannot call the gamer when he plays, the feature the gamer will like the most. Software can shrink the game you play and record gameplay. It is very useful for true gamers with Youtube channels.

Competitors

At the moment the main competitor is the LG flagship G5. It was presented the same date as S7 but it is not available for sale at the moment. It is a modular smartphone. It is both joy and sorrow for it. The joy is you can upgrade the camera or battery. The sorrow is modules will evidently be quite expensive and not available in time you need them.

And the previous generation of flagships are not bad at all. Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note 5 are all excellent devices. They differ by camera quality or charging speed, but not that much while the price less by one third attracts more attention.

We can highlight the antique Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. Well, the camera is not that good and ergonomics are bad but it features a mirror and much better battery life. And there are many fans of the Sony label.

Soon we will receive Moto X Force, it will be quite strong smartphone for the price like Galaxy S7. Geeks love the brand and it is a good alternative for them. And you cannot break the Moto screen.

And finally, there is Huawei Nexus 6P. It features pure “naked” Android and will be updated first. And it costs less. And its camera will have to be good as well.

General Resume

The only thing we crazy users may complain about is the battery life for minor and average work loads (with high work load the smartphone works relatively good). But in general it is a perfect device with cool and fast camera with optimal processing algorithms. The camera is definitely better than any pocket camera or DSLR in hands of a monkey. It has elegant, reliable and nice case and excellent display (well, some calibration would be the must) with great details and think frames. All pictures displayed are heaven. The main question for those who own the previous flagship is to change or not to change. The answer is don’t do it. Especially if you won a Samsung top smartphone. For other owners of various smartphones the answer is definitely yes, go for it.

7 reasons to purchase Samsung Galaxy S7:

  • top performace up to date;
  • fast and probably best mobile camera up to date;
  • compact and water proof ergonomic case;
  • it is also strong and nice made of noble materials;
  • excellent sound of both headphone and built-in speaker, AptX support;
  • the fastest charging;
  • perfect fingerprint scanner and other protection features for personal and corporate users.

3 reasons not to purchase Samsung Galaxy S7:

  • you own Galaxy S6 or other last year top smartphone from Samsung (or other top brands);
  • you don’t have enough money;
  • you need a smartphone to work with average work loads more than 24 hours.