As you know, 2016 brought with it some really amazing Android smartphones. Brands such as LG, HTC, and Samsung have brought their A game this year and have done much to distinguish themselves from your typical Android device. While I’ve mainly been a hardcore iOS user in the past, I’ve come to really appreciate Android and the type of things you can do on it that you can’t do on iOS. With that said, I had the pleasure of finally receiving a Samsung Galaxy S7 earlier this month. This isn’t the larger Galaxy S7 Edge version that most people would opt for but the slightly smaller, more traditional Galaxy S7.
While the Galaxy S7 Edge is arguably better looking and features a rather nice looking curved screen, I’ve used the Galaxy S6 Edge in the past and while it was a great device, I didn’t like the way it felt in my hands. The edges were just too sharp and rather than go through that again, I went for the regular Galaxy S7. Samsung was kind enough to send over a gold platinum 32gb unit running the latest Snapdragon 820 processor with 4gb of RAM. It’s also locked to AT&T, but all the various carrier versions in the US should be virtually the same.
What’s Different This Year?
Last year’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge felt like a step backwards. While the overall look and feel of the device were applauded, Samsung removed some crucial features that didn’t sit well with fans. Mainly Samsung had removed the ability to swap batteries, upgrade storage with a microSD card, and the device was no longer waterproof. These were all staples of Samsung’s flagship devices and with the S6, they were gone.
Not to make the same mistake again, the new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge brought back removable storage and waterproofing. It still doesn’t have a replaceable battery however, but that is remedied with much larger batteries this time around. The Galaxy S6 I’m using has a 3,000mAh battery which is the same size that is found in the new HTC 10. Also different this year is the rear camera which has dropped down to a 12mp unit (down from 16mp) but provide larger individual pixels that let in more light. I’ll talk more about the camera in a separate post soon so be on the lookout for that.
No Longer Feels Like a Toy.
In the past, Samsung Galaxy S devices were made of plastic. Despite their flagship status and desire to compete with the much more premium feeling iPhone at the time, past Galaxy S devices just felt like really expensive toys. Sure they had gorgeous screens but users just couldn’t get over the fact that they felt really cheap in your hand. Samsung’s Galaxy S line doesn’t feel like that anymore.
It started with the Galaxy S6 and continues with the Galaxy S7. The new Galaxy S7 features an all metal frame and Gorilla Glass 4 for both the rear panel and front screen. An improvement from the Galaxy S6 is that the Galaxy S7 now features a curved rear panel to make it much more comfortable to hold than the previous device (which it is). There are no longer any sharp edges making the Galaxy S7 feel really good in my hands.
Rounding out the hardware details, the Galaxy S7 has a metal power button on the right side of the device and two separated volume button on the left side. I prefer this over a volume rocker as it makes it a bit easier to adjust volume. Up top we find a dual function tray that holds both the sim card and the optional microSD card. At the bottom of the device you’ll find a downwards pointing speaker, micro-USB port, and your standard 3.5mm audio jack. Mostly all standard stuff here. Samsung even still includes wireless Qi and PMA charging built in.
What you will not find in the Galaxy S7 is an IR Blaster. Like the HTC 10, that too is gone in this iteration, which again makes me sad. I rather liked having the option of using my smartphone as a universal remote with my home entertainment system but I guess I was the minority. That’s two devices I’ve checked out recently that have ditched the IR Blaster so I guess that means we won’t be seeing this anymore on future devices.
What’s an Always on Display?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 features something new this year called an Always on Display. This is something that has not been seen on any other Samsung devices, but has been seen on competing devices in the past. What the Always on Display does is it shows you the time and/or calendar as well as notifications for missed calls and messages. It’s handy in the respect that a lot of the times, I’ll use my phone to check what time it is or the date and it just makes it easier for me to check this without having to turn on my phone.
The Always on Display is said not to affect the battery performance too much and for the most part, I don’t think it does. The Galaxy S7 will still go an entire day without me having to charge it and that’s with some heavy gaming thrown in. Of course if you don’t have need for it, you can always turn it off in the settings.
Speaking of the Display…
The display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a stunner, but that’s no surprise. It features a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. This is the same exact resolution as the larger Galaxy S7 Edge but has a higher pixel density of 577ppi. What this means is you’ll be hard pressed to ever find a hint of jagged edges on a photo or during video playback and everything looks crazy smooth on this screen.
The screen also displays color very vibrantly with whites that look white and blacks that look black. I haven’t noticed any yellowing or anything of that nature during my usage. The screen is also super bright and can easily be seen even in the brightest of sunlight. For indoor usage though, it’s too bright and I usually leave it at the halfway mark.
Hard to tell in photos, but you’ll notice them in real life.
What is There to Hate? Fingerprints!
The one thing I really dislike about the Samsung Galaxy S7 and this was also a problem with the Galaxy S6 & Galaxy S6 Edge was that because the device is covered almost entirely in glass, it will pick up every single fingerprint and grease mark it can every time you touch it. It doesn’t matter if you clean it or wipe it down obsessively. Every time you pick it up to make a call, use any of the apps, or text message, you will leave a nice greasy fingerprint, palm mark, or cheek mark on it. There is no getting around that and it’s one of the only things I really hate about the design.
I’m actually not going to talk about the software here much as this is mainly just a review of the hardware. What I will say is that current owners of and Samsung smartphone will feel right at home using the Galaxy S7. There are a few improvements to Touch-Wiz and the device itself is now running the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow update, but all in all, it’s still very familiar.
It is very fast though and I haven’t run into any instances of lag or slowdowns with everything I’ve thrown at it.
The only real issue you’ll have with the software is that depending on which carrier you buy the Galaxy S7 on, you’ll find different carrier loaded crapware on it. This is unavoidable for most. On this AT&T version, it came with 8 separate AT&T apps, Lookout, Uber, Amazon & Amazon Kindle, Plenti, and a DIRECTV app and Remote. These are apps that can’t be deleted but at least you can hide them or disable them.
While I know that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge will probably get most of the attention when it comes to these two powerhouse siblings, I’m quite happy with the smaller, less “innovative” Galaxy S7. Aside from the larger curved screen and battery, these two devices are virtually the same in spec so you can’t really go wrong with either. It ends up being left to personal preference and my preference is towards the Galaxy S7.
I have no need for the fancy Edge enhancements and the larger device makes it difficult to hold one handed for me and in my pockets. Plus I’ve always had trouble with accidental taps due to my palms and fingers with the previous Galaxy S6 Edge and I just didn’t want to go through all of that again. Not only that, the Galaxy S7 actually has a higher pixel density than the larger Galaxy S7 Edge, the image quality is a tiny bit better there.
In terms of hardware, this is one the best Galaxy S devices Samsung has ever made. It has everything Galaxy S fans have loved about the series (minus not having a replaceable battery) in a much more grown up exterior. Gone are the childish plastics of yore and have been replaced with high quality glass and metal. This is finally a device Samsung can be proud of and one that is befitting a flagship status device.
On that note, stay tuned for a separate post detailing the camera and the software.
This version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 I’m checking out is an at&t unit with 32GB of memory and a Snapdragon 820 w/4GB of RAM. It was provided by Samsung for evaluation purposes and is being used with an at&t sim card.
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