Samsung Galaxy S7 review: A great phone in its day but don’t buy one in 2018
Back in 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 was as good as phones got. In 2018, it’s been superceded a number of times – there’s the S8 and S9, of course, but also the Note 8 and a slew of other rivals from the likes of Sony, HTC, Huawei and, of course, Apple.
Over that time, prices have shot up considerably, so you won’t get Samsung’s latest for £569 as you did back in 2016. The S8 is a great buy, even a year into its life, and can be had for under £450 if you shop around. But for the most bang for your buck, the OnePlus 6 is an absolute steal at £469.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is still a decent phone if you’re using one right now. But if you’re looking to buy new, it’ll be quite long in the tooth by the end of your standard two-year contract, so it pays to spend a little more now.
Read on for Jon’s original review, and to find out why the S7 was so great in 2016.
Best Samsung Galaxy S7 contract and SIM-free deals
Samsung Galaxy S7 review: What’s new?
So, without further ado, here’s our review of the Samsung Galaxy S7. We’ll start with a closer look at the major changes, most of which are impossible to spot from a cursory physical inspection.
The first feature of note is storage expansion. Galaxy fans were in an uproar about the lack of a microSD slot in last year’s models, so Samsung has brought back the feature here. It’s the sensible thing to do, and Samsung hasn’t compromised on the design of the phone to do it either. The microSD card is neatly hidden away next to the nano-SIM card in an elongated SIM drawer on the top edge, meaning there’s no unsightly second slot to muddy the phone’s clean lines.
The dust and water resistance is another nice feature making a comeback here that doesn’t impact on the look and feel of the phone. It’s an upgrade on the IP67 protection of the Samsung Galaxy S5, too, which was the last Samsung flagship to have the feature.
Technically, this means it’s possible to completely submerge the phone in up to 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes, so you could use it to take pictures of hermit crabs in rock pools – if that’s what floats your boat.
I prefer to think of it as extra peace of mind. With the Galaxy S7, you don’t have to worry about getting your phone out when it’s raining, or putting it down on a beer-soaked table in the pub. From that perspective, it’s something that’s well worth having.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Specification and price
|5.1in Super AMOLED display, Quad HD resolution, always-on|
|Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8890 processor (2 x quad-core CPUs running at 2.3GHz and 1.6GHz)|
|microSD slot supporting up to 200GB|
|Android 6 Marshmallow|
|12-megapixel rear camera with f/1.7 aperture, dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus|
|Smaller camera “hump” protrudes only 0.46mm|
|IP68 dust and water resistance|
|3,000mAh battery capacity|
|Price: SIM-free, £480 inc VAT – Buy Now from Amazon|
Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Display
Aside from those headline changes, though, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a mild update. The Samsung Galaxy S6 was and still is, an excellent smartphone, so this doesn’t represent too much of a problem.
The S7 has a 5.1in Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 – the same as last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6 – and it’s as sharp as sharp can be. Some might say such a high resolution is pointless; after all, from typical viewing distances, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the S7’s screen and a 1080p one of the same size. At least not without reverting to a magnifying glass.
It’s for use in a VR headset such as the Samsung Gear VR, however, that such high resolutions come into their own. With the phone strapped into a pair of VR goggles, the screen mere centimetres from your eyes, and split in two (one-half per eye), the resolution you need for a crisp display skyrockets and every additional pixel counts.
In fact, even with such a high-resolution display, the Samsung Galaxy S7’s screen looks a touch grainy in its VR headset, so the extra resolution isn’t as over the top as it might at first appear.
The quality of this new display is excellent, too. Samsung has long perfected the art of producing top-notch screens on its smartphones, somehow managing to tame the oversaturated colours typical of Super AMOLED technology, while delivering something that’s extraordinarily colour-accurate and incredibly punchy all at once. That doesn’t change here.
Contrast is perfect, as you’d expect from a Super AMOLED-based panel. Since the individual pixels provide their source of light, there’s nothing to leak through from behind, and so you get inky, perfect black.
Colour quality is excellent. The phone has several different modes available to use, and it ships with the eye-catching Adaptive mode enabled. That’s the one I tested, and it delivers excellent figures.
With auto-brightness disabled, brightness peaks at 354cd/m2, which doesn’t look all that great. As with previous Samsung handsets, though, that all changes when you enable auto-brightness. On a bright sunny day, the screen is capable of peaking much higher – up to 470cd/m2 – so it should be perfectly readable in most conditions.
Samsung’s Adaptive mode also does an excellent job of presenting eye-popping graphics without looking too unnatural and covers 100% of the sRGB colour space.
Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Design
Also unchanged is the glass-sandwich design and exotic, metallic finish that underpins it. In short, the Samsung Galaxy S7 looks just as good as the Galaxy S6 did last year – all shiny, flashy and glitzy glamour – catching the light in all sorts of interesting ways, and gleaming like freshly polished jewellery. Of all the smartphones I’ve tested over the years, the S7 feels like the most desirable – the most beautiful I’ve laid my hands on.
There are downsides to the Galaxy S7’s glossy finish, though: it looks terrible once covered in greasy fingerprints, and it picks them up quickly, too. This is a phone that you’ll be wiping several times a day on your shirt or trousers to keep it looking pristine. The good news is that the oleophobic coatings applied to the Gorilla Glass 4 mean it’s easy to banish the grease with a couple of scrubs and get it back looking its best.
All the buttons remain in the same locations as on the Galaxy S6. I’m glad to see the home button and fingerprint reader is still below the screen in the centre – I’m not a huge fan of rear-mounted controls. The phone’s single speaker and headset jack flank the phone’s micro USB socket. The volume buttons are on the left edge, the power button on the right, and the combined SIM card and microSD tray are on the top edge of the phone.
Flip the Galaxy S7 over and look at the rear, and you’ll begin to see the first of the physical differences between this phone and last year’s Galaxy S6. First, the much-publicised camera “hump” has been reduced in size, from around 1.6mm on last year’s model to 0.46mm here.
That doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a bigger impact that you might think. A less prominent bump means it lies flatter when you pop it on a wireless charger, so it’s less likely to fail to charge, and it doesn’t tip this way and that if you tap the top corners of the screen when it’s laid on a desk. The camera bulge also has more rounded edges, meaning it’s less likely to catch on your pocket when you’re stowing it away.
The other major aesthetic change is that by employing a process that Samsung calls “Thermoforming”, there are now curves on both long edges of the rear panel (a bit like on last year’s Galaxy Note 5), lending the phone a softer, pebble-like feel than the more squared-off S6. It also makes it feel a lot smaller than you’d expect it to, and although the S6 is still a great-looking phone, the S7 just pips it in the design stakes. It looks, and feels, much more sophisticated.
The rest of the design is somewhat similar to the S6. The buttons and ports are all in the same place: the SIM card and microSD drawer are on the top edge, the volume buttons are on the left, the power button on the right, and the 3.5mm audio, micro-USB port and speaker grille on the bottom.
The only other major difference is the screen’s new always-on capability. As with Motorola’s Moto Display, this shows useful information such as the time and new notifications on the screen, even when the phone is on standby.
Unlike Motorola’s version, Samsung’s is switched on permanently, and you get a choice of what style of always-on screen is shown. There are seven different basic clock and notification views, ranging from basic digital displays to twin, world clock views. You get a choice of two different calendar views, and three images – a couple of the stars and planets, and another of stylised trees.
Having lived with the S7 for a while now, though, I’m not convinced of the usefulness of this feature. Although it’s nice to be able to see what the time is without tapping the screen or pressing the power button, the fact it doesn’t show more detailed notifications is a big missed opportunity. Although you can see when you’ve missed a call or received a text message, you can’t see who the call or message was sent by. Come on, Samsung – I want more information.