Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Boring, And That’s Just the Way We Like It

by Reads (3,200)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 9
    • Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Design
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Value
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Quality build and display
    • High-end performance
    • Waterproofing and expandable memory have returned
    • Great camera
  • Cons

    • Fingerprint sensor isn’t very accurate
    • Doesn’t bring much of anything new to the table
    • Always-on display needs work

Quick Take

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a beautiful, high quality device that performs well and brings back some attractive aspects from previous iterations. Call it “more of a good thing,” rather than “groundbreaking.”

Whether it’s a result of market oversaturation or manufacturers releasing new iterations too frequently, it’s starting to feel like “this year’s smartphone model” isn’t all that distinct from “last year’s smartphone model.” Sure, phones are getting better every year, objectively speaking; a slightly faster processor here, a marginally improved camera there. But when new versions are launching at such a fast clip, you’re bound to occasionally end up with phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7: undoubtedly excellent, but without many new and meaningful features.

Don’t get us wrong, this is a tremendous phone that defines “top of the line.” It’s just that the line isn’t all that far from where it was a year ago.

Please note, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is very similar to the Galaxy S7 edge that launches alongside it. The S7 edge is slightly bigger, with a 5.5-inch screen, and has the Edge display, but it’s otherwise the same smartphone.

Build & Design

The Samsung Galaxy S7 doesn't deviate from the traditional Galaxy design.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 doesn’t deviate from the traditional Galaxy design.

The usual complimentary language applies to the Galaxy S7 build – sleek, gorgeous, premium, etc. – but it also leans a little towards futuristic. Part of this is due to the metallic, semi-reflective nature of the “Gold Platinum” color variant we reviewed. But it can also be chalked up to Samsung’s seamless blending of sharp and rounded aspects. Most of the Galaxy S7 edges come together at a sharp crease, but the back panel of the phone meets the rest of the body with gently sloped edges on the sides. This back “panel” is not actually removable; although it’s clearly a separate piece, you won’t find any battery access here.

Another attractive aspect of the Galaxy S7’s design, in addition to its beautiful metal and glass construction, is its manageable size. Many on the NotebookReview team have long lamented the unfortunate trend of smartphones becoming larger with each generation, but Samsung has finally taken a step back and created a phone with a more reasonable footprint than some of the competition (and even some of its predecessors). Thanks to an efficient use of real estate, the phone still has a good-sized screen at 5.1 inches while sporting comfortable dimensions, measuring in at 5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches. Together, the design and the more compact size make it great to use and hold.

The phone’s weight isn’t excessive either, also adding to the comfort factor. At 5.36 ounces (152 grams), this device strikes that perfect balance: it’s not so light that it feels cheap, but it’s not so heavy that it feels like a brick. It has just enough heft to feel like the byproduct of a quality build rather than poor engineering.

The Galaxy S7 has a metal and glass build, but the back panel is not removable.

The Galaxy S7 has a metal and glass build, but the back panel is not removable.

A word of warning: this phone is slick, literally. Metal and glass are not the most grip-friendly materials. We fumbled with and dropped it a few times during testing. It may be a good-looking smartphone, but you’ll want to buy a case for it ASAP.

As for various ports and controls, nearly everything is where you would expect. Two separate buttons serve as a volume rocker and reside on the left side, while the right side plays host only to the power/standby button. The front of the phone is standard, with the physical home button/fingerprint sensor placed directly below the display, flanked by capacitive recent apps and back buttons. In addition to the sensors on the left of the phone’s earpiece, there is also a multi-colored notification light, while the 5-megapixel front-facing camera sits on the right. The back houses the 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and, directly to its right, the LED flash and returning heart rate sensor.

The 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port, and speaker sit on the bottom edge. And finally, the card tray rests on the top edge. The tray holds not only the phone’s SIM card, but also a microSD card as expandable memory makes its triumphant return to the Galaxy S series.

Samsung Galaxy S7 microSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy S7 microSD card slot

Samsung Galaxy S7 microUSB input

Samsung Galaxy S7 microUSB input

Samsung Galaxy S7 volume rocker

Samsung Galaxy S7 volume rocker

Display

There isn’t much new to be said about Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays, but it’s worth noting the S7 display is a real beauty. Colors are deep and well saturated, it’s bright (even on lower settings), and the sharpness is among the best on the market. Protected by a healthy layer of Corning Gorilla Glass, the Galaxy S7’s 5.1-inch display sports a 1440 x 2560 resolution for a density of roughly 577 pixels per inch. This iteration of the Galaxy S also introduces an “always-on” display feature, should you want it, which we’ll get to soon.

The only real gripe we had about the display is that it very occasionally suffered from some accuracy issues in testing, particularly near the edge of screen. This happened a few times with one handed navigation, particularly while navigating deep into menus, as the phone seemed to register just below our thumb taps.

Specs

Our Verizon Samsung Galaxy S7 review unit came with the following specs:

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED Display (2560 x 1440 resolution, 577ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
  • 5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
  • 5.36 ounces
  • IP68 certified dust and water resistance
  • Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 processor (dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo and dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo, Adreno 530 GPU)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB capacity (microSD expandable to 200GB as of this writing)
  • Android 6.0.1 with TouchWiz UI
  • microUSB 2.0 charging and data
  • 12-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front, f/1.7 lens, dual-pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS
  • 3000mAh battery (non-removable)
  • Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, apt-X
  • LTE Cat9, VoLTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • PMA wireless, QuickCharge 2.0
  • Samsung Pay support (NFC, MTS), Knox 2.6
  • Black Onyx, Silver Titanium, Gold Platinum
  • Price: $672 (will vary slightly by carrier)


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