Introduction, design and screen
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone I’d hate to make. The predecessor was a multi-award winning phone, simply because it packed all the power of the ‘normal’ Galaxy S6 and yet… that curved edge. I wasn’t alone in loving it, whipping it out proudly whenever possible.
But that was last year, and the world is bored of the curved design. We’ve seen it. It’s been done. So what can Samsung do to make the new phone a real step forward?
Well, unlike what it’s done on the Galaxy S7, which looks (initially) like last year’s model, the changes on the S7 Edge are brilliant, adding a zest to a design that could have quickly become tired.
The screen is larger, yet somehow the phone doesn’t feel too much bigger in the hand. The rear of the phone is now curved too, making it sit nicely in the hand. It’s waterproof. There’s a microSD card slot. There’s so much power in there I’m pretty sure I could strap it on the back of a speedboat and make my way across the Atlantic.
And that’s even more possible because the battery – such a disappointment on last year’s S6 phones – is boosted massively too, giving us a handset that’s able to last over 24 hours between charges.
All that comes at a cost obviously – and a pretty hefty one. In the UK, that’s £640, where in the US you’re looking at a huge $299 SIM Free. In Australia, the Galaxy S7 Edge sees the highest price yet: AU$1,249 for the 32GB version.
That’s a price increase over last year’s AU$1,149 starting price, showing this is one of the most expensive phones around.
But, in my view, worth every penny.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone that lives and dies by the way it looks. If you’re only interested in the power, then just go for the standard Galaxy S7. The smaller, ‘normal’, model has got all the same smarts but a slightly sharper screen thanks to packing the same amount of pixels in a smaller space.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTQ9IbTV0iM
What it misses is the clever elements that Samsung’s used on the Edge. The display curves further away into the sides of the phone than ever before, which means that even though you’ve got a phablet-sized display, the phone is as compact as possible.
Place it side by side with the iPhone 6S Plus, and you’ll see what I mean. To think how much bezel is used above and below the display on Apple’s phone is almost laughable, especially when you compare it to how tightly packed everything is on Samsung’s model – and with a much, much larger battery.
One of my favorite parts of the design upgrade on the S7 Edge comes on the rear – using a process that sounds like it’s been named by a sentient marketing machine, 3D Thermo Forming allows the brand to curve the rear of the phone into a single metal rim that runs all around the edge.
It’s a feature that was used last year on the Note 5 (and also used by brands like Xiaomi) to really help the phone slip into your palm and remove any sharp metallic edges.
Combine that with the same curve on the front of the device, and you can see why it feels so smooth in the hand, almost pebble-esque in the way you can roll it around and around in your palm.
Intriguingly, this has led to some people feeling like it’s not quite got the same premium feel as previous Samsung phones. By having less metal to grasp on to, you’re touching the Gorilla Glass 4 covering, which can feel a little like plastic due to its lightweight (but still very strong) construction.
Tap the back of the phone and it lacks the sheen of metal, but in fairness that lack of metal allows for the wireless charging that’s a key feature of the S7 Edge.
That back does have one issue: it’s a fingerprint fairground, a veritable carnival for any crime scene investigators looking to nab you on some dirty villainy.
So many phones have that criticism thrown at them, but it’s particularly true for Samsung’s new curved phone. It’s easy enough to wipe the sticky offenders off, but it’s annoying to have to do it time and again.
The camera protrusion on the rear has been dropped down to just 0.42mm, which means it’s barely noticeable when you’re placing the phone down, while still being strong enough to help protect the lens.
And then you remember something else: this phone with the elegant rim and clean lines, complete with exposed ports… is waterproof.
No, sorry, water-RESISTANT, as it’s IP68 rated. That means it’s able to still work after being dunked in fresh water for 30 minutes up to a depth of 1.5 metres, so you’ll be able to use it happily in the bath and not worry about dropping it – or in the shallow end of the swimming pool.
It’s less of a ‘let’s take our phone scuba diving to get some amazing pictures’, and more of a safety feature – and the phone will even refuse to charge if the port is too wet, such is the ability to manage moisture.
Sadly, we’re still left with a single speaker firing out the bottom of the Galaxy S7 Edge, which doesn’t really have the most premium of sound – however, it’s serviceable and notably louder than other mono speakers past.
Overall, the design of the S7 Edge is something that I can’t speak of highly enough. It feels amazing in the hand, Samsung has managed to bring enough upgrades to make this look and feel like a completely different phone, and most people when trying it for the first time will – even if they’re not a fan – be able to appreciate something alternative in a world filled with black, rectangular slabs.
The display, while technically part of the design on the Galaxy S7 Edge, is worthy of chatting about in its own right – simply because it looks so great. It’s the defining point when you pull this phone out with friends, and while it didn’t elicit the same response that the S6 Edge did last year (like I said, curved displays are nothing new) it still gets a lot of approving looks – especially as it’s combined with the curved back.
The QHD resolution of 2560 x 1440 still looks as good as anything I’ve seen on a smartphone. Despite being stretched a little from last year, the 5.5-inch size still looks absolutely pin sharp, with it being very hard to see any artefacts lying around on the screen.
It’s amazing to think that two years after LG brought out the first mainstream QHD phone, that we still don’t have any dedicated content that can be viewed at this resolution. However, despite that I don’t feel like the Galaxy S7 Edge really suffers, as it makes web pages and viewing photos a really great experience.
The S7 Edge uses Super AMOLED technology, which Samsung’s been chucking out for close to a decade now, and it really works to make the phone look premium and the colors really pop on the page.
The contrast ratio – the difference between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks – is still pretty sensational, which is because when they’re not in use, the pixels are turned off.
With something like the iPhone 6S or the LG G5 you’ve got a display that just blocks out the backlight when the pixel is showing a black image, so there can be a small amount of light bleed through.
The Galaxy S7 Edge screen also has the added benefit of the side display, which is accessed by swiping your thumb along from the right or left hand side of the phone’s screen (you can specify which in the settings).
Where this was a nonsense, useless feature in years gone by, the Galaxy S7 Edge now has a much more defined role for the side of the phone. You can easily get access to news, regular contacts, tools (the ruler, for digi-measuring is back – GET IN) and other elements which are currently in development.
Check out the Specs and Performance section of the review to hear a little bit more – or skip it entirely if you’re bored of hearing me witter on about a piece of the display you can swipe.
Always On Display and superfast charging
Always on display
One of the best-looking features of the Galaxy S7 Edge is the fact it’ll never be turned off if there’s still battery life left inside the thing. Where before you’d have to tap the power button to wake the phone and see what the time was, or if you had any missed notifications, now the screen permanently has a clock, calendar or pattern on to keep you entertained and abreast of the hour of the day.
It’s something that I was much more impressed with than I was expecting. The amount of times I’d approach the phone on a desk and wonder why the display was on were too many to shamelessly admit, but each time I found myself admiring the feature.
I’m still torn over whether this is a battery saving element of the phone or not. It takes about 0.8% per hour of your phone’s juice by my reckoning, and over 24 hours, that’s around a fifth of the battery power gone just so you can avoid buying a watch.
But Samsung believes we unlock our phones over 150 times a day, and by stopping us do that as much the battery will be saved as the device is no longer waking up, starting the CPU and connecting to reams of data services.
In practice, that claim seemed to bear out, although turning it off at night is a must as I couldn’t handle it lighting up the room, despite only a very small amount of pixels being left on to show the time.
It’s irritating that you can’t have it turn off at a certain time of the night; instead, you can only switch to the Night Display, which is a similar thing but with less information down the side of the phone. I know you can just turn the phone over, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
However, there’s one big flaw with the Always On Display – it can only show the time, date, battery life (and calendar, if you use that mode) as well as missed messages and phone calls.
I need it to be able to let me know if WhatsApp has pinged me, or if that buzz was from Facebook or my email. Samsung tells me that this is something those apps can code for, as it’s an open API they can use, but it can’t enable them itself.
It seems an odd thing to say, when it seems like a simple task to bring the icons from the notification bar to the front screen, but without that Always On seems something of a redundant feature in my eyes.
There’s nothing like running out of smartphone juice when you need it the most, and Samsung’s trying to solve that issue in a couple of ways.
The main thing at work here is Adaptive Fast Charging, where the phone can work out precisely the best way to get juice into your phone.
You’ll need to use the charger that comes in the box, as alternatives that promise to do a similar thing won’t work as well – if at all . In theory, Samsung believes that you can get 50% battery life out of this charger in just 30 minutes – but in testing that’s not quite the case, with about 30-35% juice incoming during the same time – and the phone gets pretty hot.
You’ll need to turn it off to make sure it’s getting the maximum speed though, so don’t expect exact numbers if you’re not going to be able to live without your handset for that amount of time.
Samsung’s also improved the charging speed through the wireless charging on the back of the handset. The ‘trigger point’ is pretty small though, so you’ll need to wiggle it around on a pad to make sure it’s got the correct contact – not really the point of wireless charging, but it’s good to be able to just lay the phone down on your known portion of the desk and have it work.
The speed here again depends on which charger you use – the Samsung charger is apparently pretty rapid, but as we didn’t have this in the box to test I’m not able to confirm whether it’s easier and quicker to use.
Game Launcher and microSD slot
I’m a little conflicted about this one, so let me explain what it’s about first and then outline some of my reservations. The Launcher is simply a folder where you can add games, and when that’s done you’ll get a little icon in the corner while playing.
Tap that icon and you can disable alerts, lock the back and home keys, record a screen shot or video of yourself playing or minimise the game so I can quickly check something else while it’s paused.
All well and good, and when you add in the ability to drop the framerate and pressure on the phone’s GPU for less graphically-intensive games, is a really great tool to have. And when you’re playing Candy Crush, the latter tool is a clever thing to have.
But the main issue I had is that the Game Launcher will scan your phone when you first turn it on and pull games into the folder – including things like Fantasy Football, which aren’t actually games. Cool, no worries, I’ll just click the ‘edit’ icon and remove them. Done.
Except… wait, the little Game Launcher icon is still there when I fire up the app, and I keep hitting it when I’m trying to use the app. I can’t turn it off. What, Samsung?
And while it’s great that I can lock the keys so I don’t have to accidentally shut down the game mid-play, I KEEP hitting that fricking icon when I’m doing something like play Real Racing 3 or Piano Tiles, even though I think I’ve moved it out of the way.
I’m hoping things like this can be solved by Samsung with a firmware update soon, as they’re too annoying to keep using the Game Launcher at all the way it’s going now.
The recorded video is cool, and would be useful for people who like to do tutorials on a title. However, it would have been good to have a live streaming option here to help S7 users get the upper hand in the burgeoning world of mobile eSports – given there’s that option in the camera, it would have been good to have it here.
You can select the quality level of the videos recorded too, and I’d advise upping the frame rate and resolution as the default option is a little choppy.
Samsung’s fingerprint reader from last year was a massive step up over the intensely poor swipe method in the Galaxy S5 – and it appears that not much has changed this time around.
What’s odd is that the reader will often get my digit scan wrong the first time, but it’s nigh-on infallible for the second hit. It’s never annoying, but there were times when the iPhone 6S or Huawei Mate 8 were just unstoppable no matter how close my finger was.
You can lock more elements of the phone with the scanner, such as signing into stuff on the web, but annoyingly there’s very little in the way of apps that can secure themselves using your digit.
It seems like a massive win to be able to use your fingerprint to pay for things using PayPal etc on the internet – this was supposed to have happened with the Galaxy S5 so I’m irritated that it’s not here for the S7.
I get that a lot of people missed this feature – and it’s good that it’s back, make no mistake about that. Samsung was wrong to get rid of it last year, but it wasn’t wrong to stop using expandable storage in the way it did.
The truth is that phone performance suffers when you insert a microSD card, and Samsung recognised that its phones were among the worst for this. So it dropped the misfiring element and went for larger capacities of the higher-performing UFS 2.0 internal structure, which is a fancy way of saying ‘faster internal storage’.
The upshot? You can take photos quicker, flick through galleries faster and install apps to it faster. Internal storage is always preferable to a microSD card, but having more space to throw your photos and movies helps save the 32GB of space you’ve got (and you’ve only got a shade over 24GB of usable memory to play with anyway).
I have noticed that the performance does suffer unless you put in a higher-performance card, and if you’ve already filled it with content then good luck pulling the photos off in any speedy way – they’re massive already and take an age to copy across.
So while I think it’s a good move for Samsung to add in the memory card – it’s certainly the popular choice – I’d advocate anyone looking to add in the expansion to think about paying a little more to get a speedier microSD to avoid any issues later on.
Specs and performance
For all those that say ‘oh, I hate Touchwiz’ and use it as a reason not to buy a Samsung phone, well, you’re running out of reasons to be so pigheaded.
I’m not saying that it’s the same, better or worse than stock Android, but then again many brands are still skinning their phones and don’t get the same level of vitriol that the South Korean giant picks up for its overlay.
The menu is now one long scrolling list of options, the icons are even flatter and easier to use and see, your level of customisation is high – in short, I can’t really fault it as a skin.
I do think there’s more that can be offered in terms of tweaks and tricks to make things work a little better, but if you want that then look at the Huawei range and its Emotion UI, as that’s going to offer you the chance to alter nearly every element.
The new addition for the S7 Edge is the Upday portal to the left of your main home screens, which replaces Flipboard as the chance to fire news into Samsung users’ eyes.
It’s better than Flipboard in some ways: firstly, the curated news is decent and if you spend a little time customising the topics you’ll generally find something relevant (although if you do spend time with Flipboard, you’ll arguably get a better mix over time).
However, Upday presents itself as ‘Apple News with brains’ and that’s a little over the top – it feels equally as informed as the iPhone service, but perhaps with a sheen of editorial interaction on top.
But it’s really limited: it takes from sources that you can’t decide, and while I spent time trying to tell it what I did and didn’t like, it wasn’t as good as other services, or dedicated apps that do the same thing.
HTC’s Blinkfeed, for example, is a much more fully-featured portal, giving you the chance to choose your sources as well as mixing in Twitter and Facebook to give you some truly good elements to flick through during idle times queuing or trying to avoid life.
It’s easier to just turn off the service, as it’ll save a little battery too. You do get SOME good news, but unless Upday improves soon I can’t say it’s a big improvement to the mix.
The Edge display on the Galaxy S7 Edge is, thankfully, finally useful. When the Galaxy S7 launched you could essentially just flick the side of the screen and see a list of your favorite people. Woo.
Now, not only can you set your favorite apps, choose more people to talk to (and do more things with them), open tools and see the weather.
There are more coming too, with the downloads section of Samsung’s Galaxy App portal starting to see more come through each day – so whether you want to clean up the RAM, get different news feeds or just keep an eye on what’s trending on Twitter, you’ve got those options.
It’s great to see that with the launch of the S7 you can now have double width widgets, so you can pack more info into that little swipe. Yes, this feature came to the S6 Edge range this year, but the S7 feels like the poster child for the extra width.
The other change is the ‘stroke it for ages when the phone is turned off and the edge will sometimes show the time’ feature is gone, as it was just awful. It took ages and you might as well have turned the phone on.
The night display feature is still there from the S6 upgrades though, and that little sliver of information is a better choice than the Always On Display, although it still pumps out a little bit of light in a pitch black room.
In short: I now use the Edge screen day to day as an easy way to get to the apps I want, as well as easily access the torch. That’s not something I ever contemplated with the S6 Edge, as a combination of initial lack of functionality and less comfortable swiping meant I just ignored it – and for some reason, I find it more tactile on the newer phone.
Samsung had a real issue on its hands with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge: both had batteries that were smaller than the previous year, and struggled to last the day on a single charge.
It was a worse performance than the Galaxy S5, which was the first Samsung phone to not die in a heartbeat, and was a real shame as the brand pursued a design win over functionality.
So with the news that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge packed in a 3600mAh battery, I had massively high hopes that it would be able to hold on better than anything before it – and largely, that’s true.
Usually a phone takes a few days to ‘warm up’ to optimal battery life, but the S7 Edge was pretty bullet-proof to start with. I noted that in the first three days’ use I had around 25-15% battery life by bedtime, and that was with some pretty intensive use compared to how I’d normally use the phone.
It meant configuring a few settings, trying out all the different screen and color modes, using the camera, plugging the phone into the Gear VR and showing it off to all the family (who kept watching the same blooming dinosaur video… I must know everything there is to know about that massive-tailed megalizard).
It lost 10% overnight, which is a little high – it did have the Always On Display enabled though, which would explain why it was dropping a little overnight. A repeat test with it turned off (and do not disturb mode enabled) saw the battery drop just 2% though, showing that the S7 is pretty good at going to sleep and not drawing too much power.
This is partly to do with upgrades to the Exynos chip, but also thanks to the upgrades that Google has brought to the table with Android Marshmallow – the new Doze mode is more efficient at making sure the phones aren’t constantly waking up and checking the network to see if there’s any more information to feed you.
I appreciate that the balance is hard to achieve, giving you the information you want when you need it, but knowing when battery could be saved at less critical times. However, it’s good to see that the S7 Edge provides a real step forward here.
The battery basically felt a little less ‘slippy’ compared to previous years, where I’ve noted that just having it in my pocket would cause the battery to drain for no reason. This was all the more maddening considering the Galaxy S6 pair could destroy our benchmark tests, seemingly able to view movies, play games and stream YouTube better than anything around.
However, in later days the phone started to show the telltale signs of poor battery management once again, dropping a few percent quickly here and there when using multiple apps – faster than something like the Huawei Mate 8, which is an absolute tank when it comes to battery retention, thanks to a militant attitude to app use when the phone has gone to sleep.
Let’s talk numbers here: we ran our standard battery drain test, putting the phone up to 100% charge, starting a 90 minute full HD video at maximum brightness and seeing how much the battery dropped.
Intriguingly, the Galaxy S7 Edge managed just as much as its predecessor, offering a very impressed 14% drop over that period. Samsung’s claim of 13 hours of HD movie watching seems a bit over the top, but we ran the test with the phone connected to Wi-Fi and cellular (as most people would do) so enabling Flight Mode would have helped improve things even further.
There’s also the added benefit of having power saver mode enabled at the key points – you can choose to have this kick in at any point from 25% downwards, and again helps stretch things out a little longer. Ultra Power Saving Mode is there in emergencies, but I’ve found this is best used when you know you’re going to need the phone running for long periods of time well before things get critical – it never seems to manage to extend things too much when you’re getting into single digit battery life.
What does that mean overall? Well, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has a decent battery life, no doubt about that. It beats many other phablets out there in terms of power management, with the iPhone 6S Plus in particular losing out in the battery test – although Apple’s device does seem a touch stronger in general power management, but it’s very close.
Battery life is an improvement on the new Edge. Are you going to feel like you’ve got one of the longest-lasting phones on the market? No, because Android still isn’t set up to work that way.
Amazing battery life comes at the cost of notifications – if you want a phone that can completely shut them down, something like the Huawei range is amazing at it. But you’ll get angry when you miss yet another chat notification because the phone has gone to sleep again.
The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is, without question, one of the best I’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Yes, the resolution has dropped to 12MP, but don’t let that bother you. That lowering has meant faster auto-focusing, a wider field of view (so you can get more information into the picture) and a much more impressive low light performance.
Beyond that though, this is a sensor with real power. You can shoot in RAW for ‘proper’ photos you can manipulate later, the ‘Pro’ mode has a decent amount of choices so you can choose what the picture will look like in terms of focal length and tone.
Even the simple capability of double tapping the home button to activate the camera (which is a really nice element, if not as fast as some others on the market) helps the snapper feel more usable and intuitive – Samsung’s really thought about the way it’s put this package together. Pro tip: use the volume down button to take a picture, as it’ll feel a lot steadier in the hand given this phone’s slightly less wieldy size.
Take a look at the snaps on the next page to see what I mean – whether it’s balanced photos, wide angles or just being able to capture the moment you’re after, the Galaxy S7 Edge
One of the things that struck me during testing was just how many of the settings on the Galaxy S7 Edge were similar to the iPhone’s interface.
I’m not getting drawn into the argument of which came first, as both can lay claim to doing things a certain way, but I kept finding that there are a lot of similarities between the two and that Samsung’s certainly leaning towards a simpler camera interface, where Apple is packing in more settings – and the two are meeting somewhere in the middle.
One thing Samsung has weirdly added in is ‘Motion pictures’, taking a small video before the photo. It’s just a rubbish feature – low res, silent videos that start way too early and have random lengths – not something I’ll ever be sharing. Oh, and that’s a little like Live Photos, isn’t it, Samsung? Why aren’t you making a bigger deal of ‘Sound and Shot’ instead?
Testing out the low light abilities of the S7 Edge yielded some interesting results – this is supposed to be one of the best around, combining some of the largest pixels with a big sensor and great aperture rating – so it should be sensational in low light.
The good news: it is. I compared it to the iPhone 6S Plus (Apple’s best at low light photography, with optical image stablisation) and last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, to see where the improvements have come and how well-matched the two leading smartphone manufacturers’ flagships are in low-light.
You can see the comparison shots on the next pages, but the main things that I noticed from the test were: the S7 is both speedy at focusing in low light and excellent at capturing detail (without blowing out the picture in a desperate attempt to let in more light).
The S6 Edge arguably had brighter pictures if you forced it to do so, but they were horrendously muddy and noisy as the camera left the shutter open a touch too long to get in more light.
The iPhone 6S Plus was more of a match, but didn’t capture as much of the scene, nor with as much sharpness generally. Forcing the cameras on each to expose as hard as possible (by tapping on a pitch black element of the screen) showed that, again, the S7 Edge had the… er… beating of the other two, with a brilliant balance of sharpness and detail.
I loathe selfies still (you don’t need to be in every picture, nor is it hard to ask someone else to take one of you), but love or hate them, they’re here to stay, and as such brands are working as hard as possible to pack in as many great features into our front-facing cameras as possible.
The Galaxy S7 Edge now has a very similar ‘screen flash’ method of illuminating faces in the front-facing camera to the iPhone – it’s hard not to draw a comparison when this feature wasn’t present in the S6 duo last year, but has popped up since Apple introduced it last year.
It’s very similar in function as well, although it actually appears to give a brighter glow than Apple can manage. One thing that is clear though is that Samsung’s selfies are a lot smoother, with the phone trying to clean up the image as much as possible.
That’s even before sticking on beauty mode, which will smooth out skin, enlarge eyes and adjust lighting to make you look your ‘very best’ / ‘like a weird monster if you push the settings too hard’.
I know it’s perhaps a cultural thing, but I really wish beauty mode would disappear. I don’t mind having a simple option to smooth out images a little, but this is just crazy and irritating if you forget to turn it off and wonder why you look a little like a confused alien in the resulting snap.
S7 Edge vs iPhone 6S vs S6 Edge
- For each image set, the order is as follows: Galaxy S7 Edge, iPhone 6S Plus, Galaxy S6 Edge (except for the last one where the S6 Edge doesn’t have a front-facing flash)
Movies, music and gaming
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is supposed to be one of the best phones around for media consumption for a number of reasons: firstly, that screen.
Samsung’s often had the best-looking phones on the market when it comes to display technology, and again it’s managed that with the sumptuous curves of the latest Edge. Add that into the movie watching experience and it’s one of the best around.
There’s also the effort put in by its audio engineers over the years to bring the best possible sound quality to the mix on its flagship phones. I remember the smile I had on my face listening to music on the Galaxy S2, and that was a phone that could only just play higher-power MP3s – but compared to the rest, it was brilliant, with only Apple offering something similar to the mass market.
That heritage has continued with the S7 Edge, but it’s not as necessary any more, which I’ll come onto in a moment.
And when it comes to gaming you’d hope a phone of this caliber, with the amount of power being offered by Samsung’s Exynos chip (or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 choice in the US), using the gruntiest GPUs alongside – so there’s a lot to be excited about with the Galaxy S7 Edge.
The audio capabilities of the S7 Edge are, as mentioned, among the best out there. Samsung’s always had a very balanced, stable sound coming out of its headphone jack, with all kinds of audio being supported.
It’s also a member of the Hi-Res Audio revolution, but it doesn’t make a big deal about it, for some reason. You can play back high-end FLAC files on the Galaxy S7 Edge, and yes, they sound pretty good.
But here’s the issue: it doesn’t matter any more if a phone is capable of pumping out better quality sound. All that matters is whether or not it can play Spotify, or stream internet radio, or how much capacity it has for your millions of MP3s.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s BRILLIANT that this phone caters for the audiophiles out there, allowing them to download and put on the really high end stuff. Even streaming services (with a decent enough bit-rate) combined with a good pair of headphones will give you a great experience straight into your ears.
But delving into the audio settings on the Galaxy S7 Edge and you’re offered a few nice tweaks: UHQ audio upscaling, different equaliser settings, amp-style alternatives to your current sound. They’re all present, correct and great to see – but offer very little in terms of out-and-out improvements to the mix.
The upscaler can only work so much magic to your Spotify streams, and while there is a perceptible difference you have to work to hear it.
The only thing that’s really going to change things for you is Samsung’s Adapt Sound feature, something that’s too often overlooked. By running a series of bleeps through your headphones the phone can work out where your perceptible hearing range is, meaning it can tailor the sound to be perfect for you.
It really does work, with the difference between the original and upgraded sounds being marked. Check it out if you buy the phone.
In terms of a music player, it’s clear where the market is going. There’s no bundled Samsung player here, so you’re forced to use Google Music, which will instantly cajole you into signing up for its subscription service. It’s fine – once you skip the screens it’ll let you play stored music instantly, but it’s a very basic player.
It’s telling that hitting ‘audio settings’ in the app will take you to Samsung’s inbuilt controls – a deal was clearly struck to use Google’s music player to save bloatware. You can always download one of the reams of free players out there though, so you’re never stuck if you’re not a fan.
I’ll always love watching movies on the Galaxy range of phones – no, let’s qualify that. I’ll always love watching them on OLED screens, because there’s a richness to the color range and the contrast ratio is so strong that you feel like you’re peering at a high-end TV.
There’s not a lot to add to the Galaxy S7 Edge mix here, other than everything looks really great and clear on the 5.5-inch screen. Even lower-res streams will still come out clearer thanks to the screen technology, and while the edge display doesn’t really add anything technologically, there’s something cool about having it feel like you’re looking at a bezel-less phone in your hand.
Your fingers don’t hit the screen when you’re watching either, so you can continue to watch unencumbered by the controls popping up and down.
I still think it’s a shame the trick from the Galaxy Note Edge wasn’t used again here: being able to have the video controls hidden out of the way on the curved screen at the bottom, but that was a little more of a novelty than anything else to be fair.
The gaming experience on the S7 Edge is one of the best around – but it’s not flawless. I’ve already been through the Game Launcher, and it does help in a lot of ways. Getting rid of the alerts during gameplay is something a lot of us will appreciate, but the little Game Tools icon that sits in the corner of the display still seems to get in the way a lot.
Tap-based games see me hitting it on occasion and ruining my attempts, which isn’t something that seems very intuitive. Yes, you can move it out of the way, but I shouldn’t have to. You can disable it altogether before you start gaming, but sometimes you want the functionality it offers (minimizing games is a big plus, for instance).
I appreciate this is getting a little nit-picky, but I wanted to explore this new option Samsung gave and it’s a bit off. It’s good that you can drop the framerate on some of the games to improve performance (and it doesn’t even have that much of an effect on higher-power games, to be honest) but it can slow down some titles oddly.
Overall, gaming performance is so slick and smooth on the S7 Edge. That’s not to say there weren’t some times where it got a bit stuttery, as when playing Real Racing 3 with 20 cars crashing together on screen at once the performance coughed a little bit.
It was hardly worth crying over, but did ruin the infallible experience a little. On the whole though, you’ll find all games should look clean and crisp on the screen, taking full advantage of the combination of higher pixel count and grunt-filled engine pumping underneath.
What else should I consider?
OK, you’ve read this far. You’re feeling PRETTY good about the phone, but you’re not sure whether it’s the right phone for you.
I get that. You’re a discerning human being. You want the best of the best and you want to make sure you’re getting it. With that in mind, these are the phones that should be catching your eye, shimmying into vision and giving you confusing, lustful thoughts just before you make your final purchase.
Apple iPhone 6S Plus
I always wonder about this – do I really need to compare Apple and Samsung phones? Aren’t people already in one camp or another, locked in an Android versus iOS battle royale?
I hope not. Flicking between phones is as simple as can be nowadays, and while you might lose a message or two, there’s no worrying about whether or not you can get your apps and content across.
Both phones offer easy switching methods now, sucking key information from one handset to the next.
So that’s that covered. Now, onto the phone: the iPhone 6S Plus has the same size 5.5-inch screen, a similar level of battery performance (albeit slightly less in some cases) and a wider range of apps, thanks to the entrenched iOS platform.
It’s got a lower capacity base model (16GB) but costs a touch less as a result – although we expect the S7 Edge to drop too.
Both have a 12MP sensor, but the S7 Edge definitely offers better snaps with a better autofocus.
And then you have the issue of size – the 5.5-inch screen on the Edge is wrapped into the phone, making it SO much more compact than Apple’s effort. However, the iPhone 6S Plus does feel slightly more premium thanks to the amount of metal used, which many will see as a plus.
The LG G5 isn’t out yet, so strictly speaking it should be here. But with the metal unibody, innovative modular design and dual cameras, it’s a world away from the boring old G4 from last year.
It’s got a slightly smaller 5.3-inch display, and the cameras are 16MP and 8MP, offering dual focus (one for ‘normal’ photos, one for wide angle) which is an innovative, if slightly unimpressive, feature.
The phone fits well in the hand, has a powerful Snapdragon 820 CPU and has all the top-end features you’d expect from a flagship phone – plus LG handsets always cost a little less.
I’m not impressed with the modular elements yet, as being able to remove the battery is less of a necessary element these days, and the hi-fi / camera grip add ons don’t see to really add that much to the mix.
But it’s a solid and fun phone that will cost a little less.
- Hands on: LG G5 review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
Sony’s phablet is probably the closest in spec (and price) to the Samsung model, but has another headline feature on top: it’s got a 4K screen on a phone with a display that measures only 5.5 inches – that’s a lot of pixels shoved in to a small space.
It’s also got a 23MP camera that’s blisteringly quick on the autofocus, a waterproof design and oodles of power – although a step below the S7 Edge, as it’s got the best bits of 2015, rather than this year.
However, it’s not as ergonomic as the Edge, and the camera doesn’t excel in as many areas (although the technical brilliance of Sony’s sensor is worth checking out). It’s a little cheaper to buy, and the speed of the phone is impressive too – with audio smarts that easily rival Samsung’s too, it’s a worthy look, if not quite in the same league.
Samsung Galaxy S7
The war that will divide a Galaxy: which S7 model is best for you? Both of these phones are alike in nearly every way: camera, power, screen performance and more.
The S7 is better if you want a cheaper phone without compromising on power, or want something a little more compact.
But the S7 Edge has a larger (and better) battery life, a more premium look and a larger screen to coo over – in my opinion, if you’re spending this much money and can handle the extra heft, it’s the one you should be looking at.
However, both are great phones and stand head and shoulders above most of what was offered last year, so it just depends on your ergonomic and financial preference.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
You can’t help but look backwards when you’re looking at the latest phones, as most brands now shove their older models down the price plans to make them into a more mid-range player.
And the S6 Edge is an award winning phone, one that still packs a lot of power into an attractive frame.
Sure, the camera isn’t AS good as on the new S7 Edge, but it was one of the best of 2015 and will still offer brilliant snaps.
It’s a lot cheaper too – and given it’s only got a 5.1-inch screen, with the same QHD resolution, you’ll still get a good viewing experience (if a teeny bit darker at times).
While the Galaxy S6 and S7 are very alike in terms of design, the two Edge variants are quite distinct here – so you’ve got a decent choice to make between the two.
It’s nice to have a phone like the Galaxy S7 Edge to review. A handset from a brand that seems to have worked out what was missing from last year’s model and worked to address those concerns while also improving and tweaking the phone in other ways to make it a distinct upgrade.
Is it the perfect phone? Surely no such thing exists…
The second you pick up the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, you know you’re holding a premium phone. Actually, that moment happens before that, as when you approach, the Always On Display will intrigue you, and the blended curve design will entice a little further.
Perhaps that’s a little on the hyperbolic front, but it’s the same feeling I got with the earlier HTC One line, a set of phones that get you in with the look from the very first grip.
Then you can mention that this phone is waterproof, which gets people’s eyes raised. To some, the microSD slot is a big win (although I still want to see that used over time to make sure it doesn’t munch up performance) – and then you show them the camera.
Some of the pictures I snapped were much better than I expected, and people were constantly commenting on the quality of even a standard quick snap. Blown up and analysed, they’re not DSLR level, but for sharing on social media and viewing on phone screens (and even sent to a TV) they look sensational – this will really be a selling point for Samsung.
The battery life improvements are a relief and push Samsung back into the realm of ‘decent enough power management’ – you’ll get a good day’s use out of the S7 Edge easily. This could be better, but it’s something that sorely needed fixing and has been upgraded.
However, the main thing that I liked about the Samsung Galaxy S7 was the sum of its parts. Everything about it was a little bit above what I expected, whether that’s the refinements to the home screen and interface, the improved power management, the speed and performance of the camera, the fact it can be thrown in a pond… it’s these little things that add up to making a truly good phone.
I’m still not sold on how well the microSD support will go in the Galaxy S7 Edge – if you’re putting in an average quality card I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that over time it’s going to slow the phone down a little if you’ve got too much information that needs to be scanned – so definitely think about choosing something with a good read / write speed on it.
Battery life is another thing that will need to be watched: while Samsung has definitely improved things massively here, it’s not in the same league as some of the more hardcore smartphones that can run for days without charge.
I get there’s a balance here, but with a phone that’s got a mega 3600mAh battery underneath I was thinking it was easily going to last for possibly 4-5 years on a charge. Perhaps I’m overly ambitious, something of a dreamer.
However, while battery life is good enough for a phone of this size and power, it would have been nice if Samsung had managed to team up the best camera with the longest-lasting battery.
Game Launcher is something that leaves a lot to be desired too – it’s got a lot of potential, and being able to customise your gaming experience is a nice touch.
It still can get in the way at times though and could do with a bit of tweaking by Samsung.
And let’s not forget: this thing is EXPENSIVE. It’s rivalling the iPhone 6S for cost (but with more storage at the base level) so you’ll need to be ready to pay a higher sum for this phone.
That said, the excellent array of design, spec, power and performance on offer makes the S7 Edge leading in many areas, so if a phone was going to cost a helluva lot, this is the kind of phone you’d expect.
As you can see above, the positives far outweigh the negatives with this handset. Once you’re past the cost element (and that is something to take into consideration) you’ve got a phone that many will find it hard to put down.
Whether it’s just rolling the refined chassis around in the hand, taking pictures that look great nine times out of ten or just enjoying the clarity and sharpness of the screen, the S7 Edge manages to delight in a world where smartphones are being offered with razor thin differences between them.
We could always want more from our handsets – that seems to be the way the human race is geared nowadays – but if you’re looking for a well-designed, powerful phone that actually packs some useful features day to day, the S7 Edge is the one to go for.
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