Galaxy S7 edge review: Samsung is finding the mark

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9.1 Excellent

The Galaxy S7 edge isn't a huge upgrade over last year's models, but it makes up for where they lacked: battery life. While battery life is much improved, outside of that, let's just call it a refinement of the S6 edge/edge+.

  • Design 9
  • Display 9.5
  • Performance 9
  • Software 8
  • Camera 9.5
  • Battery 9.5
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 8.9

It has now been a full year since Samsung committed to completely redesigning their devices from the ground up and totally excommunicating plastic. While the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge were huge departures from their predecessors, both lacking removal batteries and storage expansion, the design was more premium and that cannot be denied. The issue was that the redesign cause shortcomings that in some cases outweighed the changes. The question is, does the Galaxy S7 edge fix all of those shortcomings? Let’s take a look.

Design

If you are familiar with the Galaxy S6 edge design then you will not be in-store for any surprises. The device is constructed with a metal frame flanked by glass on either side. It definitely continues on with what the original Galaxy S6 edge started, but has its refinements. Samsung is one of those companies that slowly makes progress, but progress nonetheless, and the design reflects that.

The original Galaxy S6 edge was slightly annoying to hold for extended periods of time, mainly do the lack of a solid edge to grip. It didn’t help that the back of the device was completely flat, but Samsung took notes. When the Galaxy Note 5 was released, it had a slight curvature to the back to make it more comfortable to hold. Samsung went ahead and took what it learned a year ago and employed it on the Galaxy S7 edge.

As for dimensions of the S7 edge, it comes in at 150.9 mm tall, 72.6 mm wide, and 7.7 mm thick. It isn’t really comparable to the S6 edge or S6 edge+ due to the fact that it isn’t the same size, but it is worth noting that it is .7 mm thicker than the S6 edge and .8 mm thicker than the S6 edge+. I’m very glad Samsung took a step back from the thinness war to add more usefulness to the device.

Galaxy S7 edge front

Looking at the front of the device, you’ll see a typical Samsung phone. At the bottom in the middle is the home button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. If you’ve noticed, it’s more recessed on the S7 and S7 edge duo, partly due to the increased thickness of the device. Flanking the home button are the capactive keys for the recents and back button. Like always, Samsung flip flops the buttons so the recents is on the left and the back button is on the right.

The front of the device also has the Samsung logo below the ear-piece to get the branding out there. To the right of the ear-piece is the 5 megapixel front-facing camera and the left has the proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and the LED notification light. What I feel goes unmentioned on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge reviews is how well everything is hidden behind the glass this year. If you don’t have capacitive buttons or notification LED lit, they are hidden behind the glass without a trace. It really gives the device added sleekness.

Galaxy S7 edge back with dbrand skin

On the back of the S7 edge you’ll find the same layout as seen last year with the camera in the middle with the LED flash and heart rate monitor to the right. Both more recessed due to a combination of the thicker device and smaller camera. When the glass back gets towards the edges of the device, they dip down and roll into the sides which make the device much more comfortable to hold. It isn’t as extreme as the S7 or Note 5’s curve, but it still helps.

The right side of the Galaxy S7 edge houses the power button and the left side has the volume buttons. Samsung also doesn’t get much praise for their buttons, but they are very tight to the chassis and clicky. They don’t rattle around which always bugs me on other phones… I’m looking at you LG G5 (review to come).

Galaxy S7 edge bottom 2

On the bottom of the device is the microUSB port, which was a slight disappointment for some, myself included. It does make sense though, it makes the S7 and S7 edge compatibly with last year’s Gear VR, so I’ll let it slide. To the right of the charging port is the speaker, and to the left is the headphone jack. I always am a fan of the headphone jack on the bottom of a phone, so +1 Samsung. The top of the device is quite bare, aside from the nano-SIM card slot and microSD card slot.

Display

There is no question who is the leader in display technology. Samsung shows it off on their smartphones so that means the Galaxy S7 edge is no exception. It features Samsung’s latest Super AMOLED panel on the 5.5 inch display. The S7 edge comes in at 535 ppi, which is great for VR and daily usage. Samsung obviously felt that Galaxy S6 edge was too small and the Galaxy S6 edge+ was slightly too big, so they settled on a 5.5 inch display for the S7 edge. I think it is the perfect medium as the device is manageable to hold, but still houses a large screen for multimedia.

I have always taken a liking to Samsung’s displays because I am a huge fan of LED. Not only is it battery efficient, but it can get very bright and dim. I don’t have fancy stats for you, but what I do have is my real world usage and comparison to other flagships. Comparing it to last year’s Nexus 6P, it can get both brighter and dimmer than the Google flagship. That should be expected though as the 6P is using last year’s AMOLED panel.

There is not really anything new to report about the display’s edge functions as they are about the same usefulness as the S6 edge+. It is still a great concept, but I’m still not sold on the functionality and usefulness yet. Maybe that is because the edges aren’t truly an edge, but I still like the look. A thing to note about the edges, is that there is some light bleeding on the side, but it is only really noticeable at night.

While the edge features haven’t changed much, Samsung did add a new Always-On feature. One of the best things Samsung did was to check the proximity sensor before the Always-On display kicks on. That means your display won’t be on in your pocket. While I am a fan of the Always-On feature, it is lacking. The main function is to show you the time and if you have any messages or missed calls. The issue is that currently it only supports the default Samsung apps and there is no way to interact with the screen. Samsung has the right idea, they just need to refine it. Maybe that will come in a future update.

Performance

Last year Samsung opted for their in-house processor for all markets due to the firestorm that encapsulated the Quallcomm Snapdragon 810. Samsung wasn’t impressed with the performance of the chip nor the heat dissipation, so they opted for their Exynos 7420 processor. It was the right move as the Exynos chipset topped all benchmarks and handily beat-out the Snapdragon 810.

This year is different. Qualcomm’s latest chips are manufactured by Samsung so in certain markets, like the United States, the Galaxy S7 edge features the Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm took a step back from the core-war and opted for a quad-core processor built with their custom Kyro cores after they had such an issue with the ARM cores previously. The 64-bit chip is built on the 14 nm process and is clocked at 2.2 GHz and features the Adreno 530 GPU. Backing up the latest Snapdragon chip is 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM.

Galaxy S7 edge AnTuTu Benchmark Score

Comparing it to last year’s Galaxy Note 5 with the Exynos 7420 processor, there isn’t really a comparison. The Galaxy S7 edge easily beats out the Note 5 in every category. At the same time, that is what is expected from the latest processor. The most impressive is how much better the S7 edge is at 3D performance. The Snapdragon 820 processor looks like it’ll be a great processor in 2016.

Performance is as you’d expect from a high-end Snapdragon processor. The efficiency and performance of the Snapdragon 820 reminds me of the Snapdragon 801, but I don’t think that Qualcomm can duplicate that success, but time will tell. I am not what you’d call a true “power-user” as I don’t play any games, but I definitely multitask a lot, and the S7 edge was a great improvement over previous generations of Samsung devices. TouchWiz still hogs memory, but the device does a good job powering through it.

I am hoping that there will be a way to unlock the bootloader because I feel with stock Android this phone could definitely set the bar with performance. That may or may not happen, but we can hope right?

Software

The Galaxy S7 edge comes with the latest version of Android, which is version 6.0.1 out of the box. Running atop of it is Samsung’s custom UI TouchWiz which receives its complaints and praises. On one hand, Samsung has the best multi-window out of any Android manufacturer. Couple that with floating windows and Android is a pretty powerful operating system. The issue is that where there’s good, there’s bad, but that can be said about a lot of things.

Positives

Multi-window
Like I stated earlier, the one real area where TouchWiz excels over other versions of Android and even stock Android, is the multi-window support. Although Android N’s integration is very good, Samsung was the catalyst for the feature in the first place. It was even good enough for Apple to steal for iOS. The interaction between the muilti-window is also very convenient.

Floating window:
Backing up the strong multi-window support, Samsung provides us with something that is also being implemented into Android N, and that is floating windows. Samsung’s floating windows can be resized, minimized, and moved around.

App functionality:
As much as I say I dislike TouchWiz, Samsung does employ some of the best features within their default apps. Yes I prefer Google Messenger and Dialer over TouchWiz’s apps, but they have added functionality. One of my favorite features the slide right to make a call or left to send a text message. Another feature I enjoy is the look-to-call one. It may seem gimicky, but while looking at a contact or message thread, bring the phone up to your ear and the device will call the person you’re looking at.

Themes:
This is one of the biggest perks of TouchWiz as of late. Samsung added theme support and they have a very sizable library. At first, quality themes were few and far between, as they all seemed tailored towards little girls… but it has since gotten better. There are plenty of decent themes that are free.

Fingerprint sensor:
One of the changes that came with the design of the Galaxy S7 edge was the slightly larger home button. The reasoning behind this was to grant the fingerprint sensor a larger surface area to have higher accuracy when checking fingerprints. On the first couple Samsung devices, you had to swipe your finger across it to have it read the entire fingerprint, but that is not the case. In my experience the sensor is very accurate and quick, coming in just behind my experience with the Nexus 6P.

Negatives

No System UI tuner
This may be a dumb gripe, but System UI tuner in stock Android Marshmallow was a great addition. They were little tweaks to hide certain icons in your status bar, enable embedded battery percentage, etc. Samsung didn’t include it on their version of Android, and it really bugs me. I’m sorry, but I don’t need to know that NFC is on. To Samsung’s defense, they do have the Good Lock app, but that is a whole different topic.

No “just once” when selecting a default app
Sometimes when I select a new notification sound, I want to use my third-party file explorer to pick my new sound I downloaded. Unfortunately, when I choose which software I want to use to navigate to the file, there isn’t a “just once” option. It just automatically selects it. Thankfully there are apps out there that help with this issue, but it is quite annoying.

It’s still TouchWiz
At the end of the day, I’m sorry but TouchWiz is still TouchWiz. The default launcher is just downright unappealing, updates are slow, and memory management isn’t the best. Some day Samsung might get it right, but at least they are improving.

Camera

The one thing I have learned about Samsung is that they like to top their competitors, and that mainly involves their camera. They take a lot of pride in their camera and it’s been that way ever since the Galaxy S3 became the first true iPhone competitor. When I do get a new smartphone as a daily driver the camera plays a large part in how long I keep it. Now I’m not a photographer, but I still enjoy crisp, high-quality pictures, so that is a big reason why I always like to try Samsung phones.

Galaxy S7 edge camera

Last year, the Galaxy S6 and friends came with a 16 megapixel rear-facing camera that had an ƒ/1.9 aperture. That was huge for smartphones as they were usual around an ƒ/2-2.2 aperture size. Then came along LG who unveiled their camera that had an ƒ/1.8 aperture so you knew Samsung was going to come back swinging.

The Galaxy S7 edge comes with a 12 megapixel camera, down from the 16 megapixel camera, but houses a much larger ƒ/1.7 aperture. Along with the larger aperture, the larger megapixels are supposed to lead to much better low-light shots. Couple that with OIS and you have yourself a very high-end camera.

The Nexus 6P was one of the first big phones to step back from the larger megapixel counts and focus on pixel size, and it made some waves, big enough waves that Samsung decided to join the party. Less megapixels definitely does not mean worse pictures. Samsung’s image processing is second-to-none and that continues on the S7 edge. Images are all very crisp, even though it has 4 less megapixels.

If you’d like to see the images in full resolution, click to view them here.

Battery

When I first picked up the S6 edge, I was very excited to try out Samsung’s new design and build. The one area I wasn’t as excited about was the battery life. The S6 edge came with a very small, 2,600 mAh that could barely last a whole day. The Exynos 7420 processor tried its hardest to make up for it, but it was too little too late. The good news is, Samsung definitely learned from their mistake. The Galaxy S7 edge features a battery that is 1,000 mAh bigger to come in at 3,600 mAh.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge great battery life

Combining the efficiency of the Snapdragon 820 battery and the massive battery packed within the S7 edge, I have experienced my best battery life on an Android phone to date. There hasn’t been any issue making it through an entire day. When testing a new phone for battery life, I never have it connected to WiFi as it can mislead the battery statistics. I have yet to try it on WiFi, but so far only using mobile data my results are downright great.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge battery life gallery

An average day of mine consists of anywhere from 10-15 hours and I had no problem ending with 50% or more battery on most occasions. Getting 5 hours or more of screen on time is easy and there is no need to enable power saving mode. One of my longest tests when 1 day and 9 hours and I still achieved 5 hours of screen on time. If I were to really push it, I had no problem getting up to an hour of screen on time per 10% of battery. Remember, this is without WiFi as well.

My only gripe is that for some reason the Android system has the highest battery drain one hundred percent of the time. I don’t know if it is an error with the device reporting battery statistics or it is truly draining the battery. If it is a case of the latter, battery life could be in-store for a big jump, maybe matching the Exynos variant of the S7 edge. If not, I am still impressed with the battery life on this device.

Conclusion

From my experience using the Galaxy S7 edge as my daily driver for over a month, I can tell you that Samsung is improving. Their software may have its flaws, but Samsung always employs the top-of-the-line hardware that never disappoints. The S7 edge is one of the best performing devices I’ve ever used, but as it should be. One because it is running the latest hardware and two, because it is a $700+ device.

The S7 edge might not be as radical of a design change or an upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S6 edge/edge+, but it has made up in the categories where the other devices lacked. If you are sick of the battery life on last year’s models then I suggest upgrading to the S7 edge. If you are satisfied with what you have, I see no reason to upgrade.

If you are in the market to upgrade phones and want to try something different, I would definitely recommend the S7 edge to both power and casual users. At this point in time of 2016, the S7 edge has no competition in both performance and aesthetics. It has the best battery life, best camera, and best display, and if you don’t let the software bug you, you’ll really take a liking to this device, as I did.

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About Author

I skateboard, listen to metal, write on my website FWNED, autocross, and love messing with new phones. Currently I’m using a Pixel XL running Pure Nexus with ElementalX as my daily driver.