Samsung Galaxy S7 review
|Review: February 2016
Last updated June 2016
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy S7 launched in the UK on 11th March. Building on the Galaxy S6, the S7 features an all-metal water-resistant design with a 5.1 inch Quad HD display. It uses Samsung's new super-fast 8-core Exynos 8 processor, and includes a microSD card slot, allowing the memory to be expanded to 200GB. A new dual pixel camera enables even better low-light photography, and the new selfie flash lets you capture perfect shots of yourself and your friends. An enhanced 3,000mAh battery keeps the phone going for longer. The S7 is already priced very competitively for a flagship phone, and we don't hesitate to recommend it.
More stylish than ever
Last year's Galaxy S6 was quite a radical departure for Samsung as it first embraced the beauty of metal. The S7 keeps the same style, and reintroduces some key features that were missing from the S6.
Samsung's slogan - "Rethink what a phone can do" - seems to somewhat over-state what the S7 really is and can do, because the new phone doesn't look very different from the S6. Rather like the "s" versions of Apple's iPhones, the S7 seems to be a consolidation of the previous phone, fixing all the slightly annoying wrinkles, for a perfectly smooth finish.
The S7 is 1mm thicker than the S6 at 7.9mm, and is slightly heavier too. We're happy that the rear camera is more recessed, and the shape seems to be subtly enhanced for easier grip. In fact, the S7 has finessed the design of the S6 in all kinds of tiny incremental ways, with more rounded edges making it a very comfortable phone to live with.
The S7 retains all the good looks of the S6, making it one of the best-looking phones around. The S7 is water-resistant too, so you can stop worrying about getting caught in the rain - although we wouldn't recommend you take your S7 for a swim, especially not in the sea.
The screen is unchanged from the S6, which is exactly how we like it, given that the S6 had the perfect screen size (5.1 inches), and with Quad HD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels) and Super AMOLED display tech was unbelievably sharp, saturated and detailed. Tough Gorilla Glass helps protect this wonderful screen from damage.
The S7 supports one-touch fingerprint recognition too, and comes in a choice of Gold Platinum or Black Onyx.
Update (11 June 2016): From today, the Samsung S7 is also available in Silver, White or Pink.
The S7 launches with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Samsung has exercised more restraint than usual in its customisation of Android, and that can only be a welcome move. What's included is useful.
Exynos 8 processor
Samsung has stuck with its own Exynos 8-core processor for the European version of the Galaxy S7, and it's the new Exynos 8890 processor. The Exynos 8890 runs a "big.little" combination of 4 Exynos M1 cores and 4 A53 cores. The M1 cores are capable of reaching a maximum speed of 2.6GHz, giving the S7 a significant performance boost over the 2.1GHz of the S6.
Tests indicate that the S7 performs similarly to the iPhone 6s Plus in benchmark tests and may out-perform it in real-world tasks such as web browsing, thanks to the Exynos's 8 cores (the iPhone's A9 processor is dual-core.) Performance is always task-dependent however, but in simple terms, the Galaxy S7 is an extremely fast smartphone. There's no lag, and the S7 can handle the most complex games and apps with ease.
Can a phone ever have too much memory? Hardly ever. The S7 has more RAM than the S6 - a massive 4GB. This RAM enables the phone to multitask like a laptop, swapping almost instantly between apps.
While the flash memory is fixed at 32GB, the S7 brings back cheap expandable memory via a microSD card slot, which is a huge bonus. Cheap memory is a basic consumer right, in our opinion. We were dismayed when Samsung removed this feature from the S6, and we're pleased that the company has recognised that error and allowed space for a 200GB card in the S7. It's one of the seemingly small things that makes the S7 more of a complete product than the S6.
Dual pixel cameras
The main camera in the Galaxy S6 was quite probably the best in any phone in 2015, rivaled only by the iPhone 6s Plus. The camera in the S7 is even better.
While the headline pixel count has actually dropped to 12 megapixels (down from 16 megapixels), the size of the individual pixels has increased, and the aperture has increased to f/1.7, enabling the camera to capture more light than ever before. Both features combine to deliver significantly improved low-light performance. Even in a gloomy bar at night, images remain crisp and bright, with just a little graininess creeping into the texture. We'd rate this as the best performance from any camera phone ever.
Optical image stabilisation also helps to keep photos pin-sharp.
The other new feature is a "dual pixel sensor". Technically this means that each pixel in the sensor has two photodiodes instead of one. The result is faster phase-detection auto-focusing, even in the dark.
Another new feature is motion panorama - sweep the camera sideways to capture a single image stitched from the individual frames in the panorama.
Another nice photo feature is "motion photo", which captures 3 seconds of movie when you take a photo. You can choose which frame to use as the final still shot.
The 5 megapixel front camera has also been enhanced for improved indoor performance. Wide selfie mode lets you pan to the side, if you have lots of friends. And the front camera now uses the AMOLED screen as a flash, so there's no excuse for bad selfies any more. Unless, like us here at S21, you're just ugly.
As expected, you'll find 4G LTE support, GPS, Wi-Fi, USB, NFC and Bluetooth 4.2. The device also has a 3.5mm audio jack, and support for ANT+. Samsung Pay is also supported.
A one-touch fingerprint scanner can be used to unlock the phone.
Longer battery life
Batteries - the more you use them, the quicker they run out. That's why every phone can benefit from a larger battery, and it's why Samsung has endowed the S7 with a very impressive 3,000mAh of battery power. That's almost as much as the Note 4, and so much bigger than anything ever seen in an iPhone. It may also be the reason the S7 is thicker than the S6, but if that's the case, we're happy to accept the trade off.
In day-to-day use, the S7 has exceptional battery life, easily surviving a whole day of very intensive use. You'd have to be an espresso-fuelled gaming junkie on a Fruit Ninja marathon to run out of charge in a 24 hour period. Normal people could easily get two days between charges, or even longer.
Although the S7 doesn't support USB Type-C, it does have fast charging. With a wireless charging accessory, you can fully recharge in two-and-a-half hours.
The new Samsung GearVR is designed to work with the Galaxy S7 to give a virtual reality experience. This promises a rich and immersive gaming and entertainment experience.
Conclusion - a worthy upgrade
At first glance the Samsung Galaxy S7 may not seem like much of a jump from the S6. After all, it repeats the same all-metal slim design with Quad HD screen, and many of the new features - Android Marshmallow, faster 8-core processor, dual-pixel camera, and microSD card slot - seem like minor advances.
Yes, but no.
What the Galaxy S7 does, in our opinion, is turn a superb phone into a truly outstanding one. Those minor upgrades should be seen as refinements of a phone that was very nearly perfect. Now the gap between reality and perfection is even smaller than it was before.
Admittedly, if you already own a Galaxy S6, you might worry whether an upgrade is worth the money. In this case, perhaps the S7 Edge may tempt you. But for anyone else, we'd seriously recommend this phone.
One thing that's worth pointing out is that the S7 is already retailing for less than the S6 did at launch one year ago.
For all these reasons, we think that this is the phone to choose right now, and we'd be surprised if we see anything better than this launching in 2016 (apart from the S7 Edge.)
Samsung Galaxy S7 features include:
- Operating System: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 12 megapixel camera with LED flash, f/1.7, autofocus, optical image stabilisation, digital zoom, UHD 4K video recording
- 5 megapixel front camera
- Display: 5.1 inch Super AMOLED, Quad HD, 1440 x 2560 pixels
- IP68 water resistance
- One-touch fingerprint sensor
- Processor: Exynos 8890 processor with 4GB RAM
- Memory: 32GB, plus microSD card up to 200GB
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, micro USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, ANT+
- Networks: LTE 4G, HSPA+, EDGE / GPRS
- Size: 142 x 70 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 152g
- Battery: 3000mAh battery with Qi wireless charging
Sorry - questions and comments on this page are now closed.
I am torn between which phone to choose.
Asked by Terry
on 1st Sep 2016
I am looking for an upgrade from my LG G4 which personally i absolutely love (but it currently has a glitch). I have shortlisted to Galaxy S7, LG G5 & HTC 10. Can somebody give me some impartial advice on what to go for, bearing in mind how much i love my G4?
How good is it as a Phone? Connectivity, Volume etc?
Asked by Richard
on 31st Mar 2016
This review is all very good but misses the central point for a lot of people. Samsung have in the past been quite poor in this area.
Reply by Bernard
on 2nd Apr 2016
Not everybody lives in a great reception area.
Reply by lee
on 29th Jul 2016
I know ive a had a quick blimp around it as a mates got a silver one and its VERY NICE, as for the reception, he's on Vodafone & has a signal improvement thing in his house...and got am reduction in his bill by 10 quid, he seems happy. My friend: had an iPhone and is wide-eyed @ what android can now do = yes, he aint regretted it at all luvs android, it seems.
Samsung Galaxy S7 user reviews
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