Introduction, design and screen
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone I’d hate to have had to make. Its 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 this comes at a cost obviously, and a pretty hefty one. In the UK that cost is £640 (although if you shop around it can now be found for around £630), while in the US you’re looking at a huge $299 on a two-year contract, or the new unlocked price of $769 (again, shop around and you’re looking at more $600 now). In Australia, the Galaxy S7 Edge attracts the highest price for a Galaxy yet: AU$1,249 for the 32GB version.
That’s quite a jump from last year’s AU$1,149 starting price, showing this is one of the most expensive phones around.
But, in my view, it’s worth every penny.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is a phone that lives and dies by its 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 into a smaller area.
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 7 Plus or 6S Plus and you’ll see what I mean. The amount of bezel 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 the S7 Edge – and the Samsung has a much, much larger battery.
The S7 Edge is shorter and narrower (150.9 x 72.6mm) than the 7 Plus and 6S Plus (158.2 x 77.9mm), even though both devices have the same 5.5-inch screen size. The iPhone is however, a hair thinner at 7.3mm versus the Samsung’s 7.7mm girth.
It’s also very similar in size to the LG G5 (149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7 mm), which again sports a 5.5-inch display – with the Android manufacturers really sticking it to Apple.
One of my favorite parts of the design upgrade on the S7 Edge comes on the rear. A process called 3D Thermo Forming – which sounds like it’s been named by a sentient marketing machine – enables 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 is 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 in your palm.
Intriguingly, this has left some people with the impression that 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 though: it’s a fingerprint fairground, a veritable carnival for any crime scene investigators looking to nab you for 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 reduced 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 its elegant rim and clean lines, and complete with exposed ports, is waterproof.
No, sorry, water-RESISTANT, as it’s IP68 rated. That means it’s still able to 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, or beside the shallow end of the swimming pool, and not worry about dropping it.
It’s less of a ‘let’s take our phone scuba diving to get some amazing pictures’ feature, and more of a safety feature – and the phone will even refuse to charge if the port is too wet, such is its ability to manage moisture.
Sadly, you’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 noticeably louder than other mono speakers I’ve used.
Overall, I can’t speak highly enough of the S7 Edge’s design. It feels amazing in the hand, and Samsung has managed to bring enough upgrades to make this look and feel like a completely different phone; and most people trying it for the first time will – even if they’re not a fan – be able to appreciate something different in a world filled with black, rectangular slabs.
The display, while technically part of the Galaxy S7 Edge’s design, is worthy of chatting about in its own right – simply because it looks so great.
It’s the defining feature when you pull this phone out among friends, and while it doesn’t elicit the same response that the S6 Edge’s display did last year (like I said, curved displays are nothing new these days), it still gets a lot of approving looks, especially as it’s combined with the rounded back.
The QHD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 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, and it’s 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, we still don’t have any dedicated content that can be viewed at this resolution. Despite that, however, I don’t feel like the Galaxy S7 Edge really suffers, as that display makes viewing web pages and 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 well to make the phone look premium and the colors really pop.
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 side display has a much more defined role on the Galaxy S7 Edge. You can easily get access to news, regular contacts, tools (the ruler, for digi-measuring is back – GET IN) and other elements that are currently in development.
Check out the Specs and Performance section of this review to hear a little bit more about this feature – 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 super-fast charging
One of the best features of the Galaxy S7 Edge is that it’ll never be turned off (as long as there’s still battery life left inside the thing).
Where before you’d have to wake the phone to see the time or check your notifications, now the screen permanently displays a clock, calendar or pattern.
It’s something that impressed me much more than I was expecting. The number 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 feature 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 doing that the device is no longer waking up, starting the CPU and connecting to reams of data services, which in turn saves battery.
In practice, that claim seemed to bear out, although turning the display off at night is a must, as I couldn’t handle it lighting up the room, despite only a very small area 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’t show all your notifications.
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 this is something those apps can code for, as it’s an open API that they can use, but it can’t enable them itself.
LG has managed to get all notifications on the always-on display of the G5 – although its implementation isn’t without its own limitations – which adds insult to injury with Samsung’s offering.
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 quite so frustrating as 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 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 35-40% juice incoming during that half hour – and the phone gets pretty hot in the process.
You’ll need to turn the phone off to make sure you’re getting the maximum charging speed though, so don’t expect such fast refuelling if you’re not going to be able to live without your handset for that amount of time.
Samsung has 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 than others.
Game Launcher and microSD slot
I’m a little conflicted about the Game Launcher, 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 that you can quickly check something else while it’s paused.
All well and good, and when you add in the ability to drop the frame rate and pressure on the phone’s GPU for less graphically-intensive games, it’s a really great tool to have; Candy Crush, for example, really benefits.
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 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 issues like these can be addressed by Samsung with a firmware update soon, as they’re too annoying for me to want to use the Game Launcher at all the way things are now.
The gameplay recording feature is cool, and will 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 – 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 and the like 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 fact 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 for 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 on the Galaxy S7 Edge anyway).
I have noticed that the performance does suffer unless you put in a higher-performance card, and if you’ve already filled a card 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 advise 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.
It’s a move Apple still refuses to do, with the iPhone 7 Plus devoid of expandable storage, but boasting a new 256GB internal capacity option (at a cost).
Specs and performance
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has two variants: one running the Snapdragon 820 quad-core CPU from Qualcomm (available in the US) and the other using Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 octa-core CPU for the rest of the world. Both chips are paired with 4GB of RAM.
The reason for the different chips is that the Qualcomm 820 can handle LTE bands that Samsung’s can’t, and Verizon in the US needed a chip that could use its network. I’m reviewing the Exynos version, which benchmarked higher than the Qualcomm chipset using Geekbench.
With those specs you’d expect everything on the Galaxy S7 Edge to run smoothly under the finger, despite having a skin on top of Android 6.
For all those who 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 without attracting the same level of vitriol that the South Korean giant gets for its overlay.
The menu is now one long scrolling list of options, the icons are even flatter and easier to use and see, and your customisation options are plentiful; in short, I can’t really fault TouchWiz 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 level of customisation 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 in non-US versions of the phone as the default news aggregator.
It’s better than Flipboard in some ways: first, 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 OTT – 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 define, 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.
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 S6 Edge launched you could essentially just flick the side of the screen and see a list of your favorite people. Woo.
Here you can 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 features 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 Edge 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 Edge feels like the poster child for the extra width.
The other change is that the ‘stroke it for ages when the phone is turned off and the edge display will sometimes show the time’ feature is gone, as it was just awful. It took ages, and you might as well have just 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 Galaxy S5’s, and which struggled to last the day on a single charge.
Performance was worse than the Galaxy S5, which was the first Samsung phone to not die in a heartbeat, and it was a real disappointment as the brand pursued a design win over functionality.
So on hearing that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge packed in a 3600mAh battery, I had high hopes that it would be able to hold on better than anything before it – and largely, that’s true.
Usually a new 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 of use I had around 15-25% battery life by bedtime.
And that was after some pretty intensive use – 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).
The Galaxy S7 Edge lost 10% battery overnight, which is a little high, but I did have the always-on display enabled though – a repeat test with it turned off (and do not disturb mode enabled) saw the battery drop just 2%, demonstrating that the S7 Edge is pretty good at not drawing too much power when it’s asleep.
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 your phone isn’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 the battery could be saved at less critical times. However, it’s good to see that the S7 Edge makes a real step forward here.
Its battery basically felt a little less ‘slippy’ compared to previous years, where I’ve noted that just having the phone in my pocket would cause the battery to drain for no reason. This was all the more maddening considering that the Galaxy S6 pair could destroy our benchmark tests, seemingly able to view movies, play games and stream YouTube better than anything around.
However, after a few more days the Galaxy S7 Edge started to show the telltale signs of poor battery management once again, dropping a few percent here and there rapidly when running multiple apps – noticeably 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 test, charging the phone to 100% and then running a 90-minute full HD video at maximum brightness with various apps syncing wirelessly in the background, and seeing how much the battery dropped.
Intriguingly, the Galaxy S7 Edge fared just as well as its predecessor, showing a very impressive 14% drop. Samsung’s claim of 13 hours of HD movie watching seems a bit over the top, but then we did run the test with the phone connected to Wi-Fi and cellular, as most people would do; enabling Flight Mode would have improved things even further.
You can choose to have the basic power saving mode kick in at any point from 25% downwards, and this helps to eke out a little more battery life.
Ultra power saving mode is there for 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 doesn’t seem to extend battery life too much if you enable it when you’re down to single digits.
What does that mean overall? Well, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge offers 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 – Apple’s device does seem a touch stronger in general power management, but it’s very close.
So 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 does a great job – 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 pixel drop makes for faster autofocusing, and much more impressive low light performance.
Beyond that though, this is a sensor with real power. You can shoot in RAW for ‘proper’ photos that you can manipulate later, and the ‘Pro’ mode has a decent amount of options, so you can choose what the picture will look like in terms of focal length and tone.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f90z3L1bvQ8
Even the simple option to double-tap 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 has really thought about the way it’s put this package together.
Pro tip: use the volume down button to take a picture, as the phone will feel a lot steadier in the hand given its slightly less wieldy size.
Whether you’re shooting a big landscape or a wide-angle close-up, or just want to capture the moment, the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera performs superbly – take a look at the snaps on the next page to see what I mean.
One of the things that struck me during testing was just how many of the features on the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera interface were similar to the iPhone’s.
I’m not getting drawn into the argument of which came first, as both brands can lay claim to doing things a certain way, but there are a lot of similarities between the two. Samsung is certainly leaning towards a simpler camera interface, where Apple is packing in more settings – and the two are meeting somewhere in the middle.
One feature that Samsung has weirdly added is ‘Motion photo’, which captures a very shot video before taking a photo. It’s just a rubbish feature, producing low-res, silent videos that start way too early and have random lengths – not something I’ll ever be sharing.
Oh, and it’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 capabilities of the Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera yielded some interesting results – the combination of the larger pixels with a big sensor and fast aperture means it should be sensational in low light.
And the good news is, it is. I compared the S7 Edge to the iPhone 6S Plus (Apple’s best at low light photography, complete with optical image stablization) and last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, to see where the improvements have come and how the two leading manufacturers’ flagships fare.
You can see the comparison shots on the page after next, but my big takeaway was that the S7 is both fast at focusing in low light and excellent at capturing detail, not blowing out the highlights in a desperate attempt to let in more light.
The S6 Edge can arguably capture brighter pictures if you force it to do so, but they were horrendously muddy and noisy, as the camera left the shutter open a touch too long in an effort to pull in more light.
The iPhone 6S Plus fared better against the Galaxy S7 Edge, 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.
We’ll update this section again once we’ve put the Galaxy S7 Edge head-to-head with the dual cameras on the back of the new iPhone 7 Plus.
I loathe selfies still (you don’t need to be in every picture, nor is it hard to ask someone else to take a photo of you). But, love or hate them, they’re here to stay – and brands are working hard to pack as many features as possible into their front-facing cameras.
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 note the similarity when this feature wasn’t present in the S6 duo and 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 evident is that Samsung’s selfies are a lot smoother, with the processing software cleaning up images well.
And that’s even before sticking on beauty mode, which will smooth over skin, enlarge eyes and adjust the 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 set, as the S6 Edge doesn’t have a front-facing flash)
Movies, music and gaming
Samsung has given us some of the best-looking smartphones on the market when it comes to display technology, and it’s delivered again with the sumptuous curves of the latest Edge. For watching movies it’s one of the best phones around.
There’s also the effort put in by Samsung’s 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 – 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 been carried all the way through to the Galaxy S7 Edge – although it’s not as necessary any more, which is something I’ll come onto in a moment.
And when it comes to gaming, given the amount of power being offered by Samsung’s Exynos chip (or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 choice in the US) and the gruntiest GPUs alongside, there’s a lot to be excited about.
The audio capabilities of the Galaxy S7 Edge are among the best out there. Samsung has always managed to pipe very balanced, stable sound through its headphone jack, with all kinds of audio formats supported.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is also a member of the Hi-Res Audio revolution, although Samsung doesn’t make a big deal about it for some reason. You can play back high-end FLAC files on the S7 Edge – and yes, they sound pretty good.
But here’s the issue I alluded to earlier: it doesn’t matter as much these days if a phone is capable of pumping out incrementally better quality sound. What’s arguably more important 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 delve 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 – although they 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 strain 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 music players, 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 won’t be stuck if you’re not a fan of Google’s offering.
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.
The Galaxy S7 Edge doesn’t add anything radical here – suffice to say 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 feeling 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 do think it’s a shame that a trick from the Galaxy Note Edge wasn’t used again here – the option to have the video controls hidden out of the way on the curved screen at the bottom, although that was more of a novelty than anything else to be fair.
The gaming experience on the Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the best around, but it’s not flawless. I’ve already covered the Game Launcher, and while it does help in lots of ways – getting rid of the alerts during gameplay is something many of us will appreciate – 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 the icon on occasion and ruining my efforts, which isn’t something that seems very intuitive. Yes, you can move it out of the way, but I shouldn’t have to, and while you can disable it altogether before you start gaming, 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 really wanted to explore this new option Samsung has given us, and it’s a bit off. It’s good that you can drop the frame rate on some of the games to improve performance (and it doesn’t even have that much of an effect on higher-powered games, to be honest) but it can slow down some titles oddly.
Overall, gaming performance is slick and smooth on the Galaxy S7 Edge. That’s not to say there weren’t some times where it got a bit stuttery – 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 detract from the experience a little.
On the whole though, you’ll find games should look clean and crisp on the screen, taking full advantage of the combination of the higher pixel count and the grunt-filled engine pumping underneath.
What else should I consider?
Okay, you’ve read this far. You’re feeling PRETTY good about the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but you’re not quite sure whether it’s the right phone for you.
I get that. You’re a discerning person, and you want the best of the best. With that in mind, these are the phones that should be catching your eye, shimmying into your vision and giving you lustful yet conflicting thoughts before you make your final decision.
Apple iPhone 7 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, having taken sides in the Android vs iOS battle royal?
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, shifting key information from one handset to the next.
So that’s that out of the way. Now, onto the phone.
The iPhone 7 Plus has the same size 5.5-inch screen, similar battery performance (albeit slightly less impressive in some situations), and a wider range of apps thanks to the entrenched iOS platform.
Which the S7 Edge has one 12MP camera, the 7 Plus sports two 12MP lenses on its rear, but it’s the S7 Edge which offers better snaps, with 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 7 Plus does feel slightly more premium thanks to the amount of metal used, which many will see as a plus.
Samsung is one of the safest options when it comes to buying a new flagship smartphone. You get a load of tech and a premium body, and the S7 Edge brings it all together into a compelling package.
LG on the other hand, likes to take a walk on the wild side. With its latest flagship phone, the LG G5, you get a slightly smaller 5.3-inch display on the back the two (yes, TWO) cameras are 16MP and 8MP, offering dual focus (one for ‘normal’ photos, one for wide-angle) which is an innovative, if not overly-unimpressive, feature.
The big selling point is its modular capabilities. Pull the bottom bezel off the phone and you’re able to slide in additional accessories giving the phone extra functionality, whether it’s the handy Cam Plus grip for photographers or the music booming Hi-Fi Plus DAC for the audiophiles among you.
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 that the competition.
I’m not impressed with the modular elements yet – the ability to remove the battery is less of a selling point these days, and the hi-fi / camera grip add-ons don’t seem to add that much to the mix. However, it’s a solid and fun phone, and one that will cost you a little less.
- Read our LG G5 review
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
Sony’s phablet is probably the closest in spec (and price) to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but it 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 into a small space.
It’s also got a 23MP camera that’s blisteringly quick to autofocus, a waterproof design and oodles of power – although it’s a step below the S7 Edge, as it’s got the best features of 2015, rather than this year’s.
However, it’s not as ergonomic as the Galaxy S7 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 – and with audio smarts that easily rival Samsung’s, it’s well worth a look, if not quite in the same league.
Samsung Galaxy S7
The conflict that pits Galaxy against Galaxy: which S7 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 longer-lasting) battery, 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 preferences and budget.
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 more mid-range players.
And the S6 Edge is an award-winning phone, and one that still packs a lot of power into an attractive frame.
Sure, the camera isn’t AS good as the one on the new S7 Edge, but it was one of the best of 2015, and will still give you brilliant snaps.
It’s a lot cheaper too – and given that 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 genuine choice to make between the two.
It’s nice to have a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to review – a handset from a brand that worked out what was missing from last year, and both addressed those issues and improved 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 you pick it up, as when you get close to it the always-on display will intrigue you, and the blended curve design will entice a little further.
Perhaps that’s a little hyperbolic, but it’s the same feeling I got with the earlier HTC One line – a set of phones that draw you in at first look and first touch.
Then you can add the fact 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 how that works with a card inserted over time, to make sure it doesn’t munch up performance)… and then there’s the camera.
Some of the pictures I took were much better than I expected, and people were constantly commenting on the quality of even a quick snap.
Blown up and analysed, they’re not DSLR quality, but for sharing on social media and viewing on phone screens (and even sent to a TV) they look sensational – this will be a real selling point for Samsung’s new handsets.
The battery life improvements are a relief, and push Samsung back into the realm of ‘decent enough power management’. You’ll easily get a good day’s use out of the Galaxy S7 Edge; it could be better, but it’s something that sorely needed fixing, and Samsung has fixed it.
However, the main thing I liked about the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge was that 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 improvements that add up to making a truly great phone.
I’m still not sold on how well the microSD support will work 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 high read / write speed.
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 that there’s a trade-off 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 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 – it’s got a lot of potential, and being able to customise your gaming experience is a nice touch. But it still can get in the way at times, and could do with a bit of tweaking by Samsung.
And let’s not forget: this thing is EXPENSIVE. It’s rivalling the iPhone 7 Plus for cost, so you’ll need to be ready to pay a premium for this phone.
That said, the excellent design, specs, power and performance on offer make the Galaxy S7 Edge a leader in many areas – if a phone is going to cost a helluva lot, this is the kind of phone you’d expect it to be.
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 you’ll find 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 10, or just enjoying the clarity and sharpness of the screen, the Galaxy S7 Edge manages to delight, and stand out in a world where new smartphones are increasingly being offered with razor-thin differences between them.
We could always want more from our handsets – that seems to be the way we’re programmed nowadays – but if you’re looking for a well-designed, powerful phone that actually packs some useful day-to-day features, the Galaxy S7 Edge is the one to go for.
Frist reviewed: March 2016
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