I feel like I’ve been on a Samsung binge recently. So far this year, I’ve reviewed the Galaxy S6 edge+ and the Galaxy Note5. Verizon recently offered to let me take an extended look at the new Galaxy S7 and they even threw in a Gear VR, the review for which I posted earlier this week.
The S7 is very similar in design to the Galaxy S6. They’re essentially the same size, though the S7 is thicker to support a bigger battery. That thickness makes the protrusion on the back for the camera much less pronounced. The back is still unfortunately glass, but the edges are rounded in a way that makes it feel less slick than the S6 – the S7 feels like the premium phone that it is.
The S7 has the same top-of-the-line performance, beautiful screen and shockingly fast camera that you’d expect from Samsung’s latest flagship. It’s water- and dust-resistant, but that’s not exactly a feature I wanted to test. The S7 features the same fast and accurate fingerprint sensor found on the S6 – so accurate, in fact, that I used it for a couple weeks before even peeling the plastic sticker off of the home button.
The biggest improvement of the S7 over the S6 is the SD card slot. The 32 GB on the phone simply isn’t enough for my podcasts, and the expandable storage means I don’t have to write mean things about it being a missing feature like I did with the S6! Samsung is also unfortunately still using a physical home button with capacitive back and recent apps buttons that are reversed from standard Android configurations.
Another new feature is the always-on screen. The phone always shows the date, time and battery charge, even when it’s turned off.
I’m still disappointed that the battery in recent Galaxy phones is no longer upgradable. The battery on the S7 is 3000 mAh compared to the 2550 mAh on the S6, but it’s still not enough to make it through the day. In fairness, the performance is much better than the S6, but I want a phone that I can pull off the charger at 6 a.m. and play podcasts until I come in from the field at 10 p.m. Here’s a battery curve for the S7 showing that it lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in my real-world podcast test. It’s a problem that could be solved with a third-party battery case, but an external battery cases doesn’t work as well as a single, larger battery.
Samsung partially makes up for the lack of an expandable battery by making it easy to charge the S7. It supports fast charging as well as wireless charging, which means the only reason to plug the phone in is when you’re in a hurry or to transfer pictures.
Speaking of pictures, the camera on the S7 is pretty stellar. It has fewer, larger pixels than Samsung’s previous cameras, which means better low-light performance. As usual, I’ll include a gallery at the end of this review, but here are side-by-side comparisons of the Galaxy S7 (left) and the Blackberry PRIV (right). The PRIV has more pixels, so the images look bigger. These are thumbnails, but the originals are on the attachment pages if you click on the images to see the comparisons in detail. As you can see, the color response on the S7 seems much more realistic.
This second side-by-side shows how much more vibrant the colors are on the S7 than the PRIV.
The video camera has fun shooting modes as well. Here’s an example of the slow motion video capture.
Samsung’s software is still a little frustrating, but less so than on previous Galaxy smartphones. It still warns me about listening at high volume whenever I turn my headphones up loud enough to hear them, which is frustrating. It also displays a notification on each reboot telling me I have an SD card installed. The launcher and keyboard are less obnoxious than previous Galaxy iterations, but not good enough to prevent installing Action Launcher 3 and the Google Keyboard.
The S7 isn’t as thin and hard to hold as the S6, but it’s still not something that would be easy to use without a case. Verizon sent me a speck CandyShell Grip case with the S7. It’s a great addition that makes it much easier to hold and use. Since that case didn’t have a belt clip, I grabbed a Bentoben case with belt clip from Amazon. While it was a cheap way to get a belt clip for the S7, it’s a very bad design because the soft shell is simply way too soft.
Top three reasons to buy the Samsung Galaxy S7
- It’s a fast phone with an amazing camera
- Premium build quality
- Features – water resistance, fast charging, fingerprint reader
Top three reasons to pass on the Samsung Galaxy S7
- Physical, backwards buttons on the front
- Non-upgradable battery
- Not large enough
Granted, these are personal preferences. I happen to like big phones without buttons on the front. However, I’ve also told multiple people that this is the first Samsung phone I’ve actually thought about buying for myself in years because it’s just that good.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is currently $672 from Verizon, which is running a limited time, buy-one-get-one-free offer.
Here’s the photo gallery. As always, they’re unedited.