Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: A Great Phone in its Day, but Don’t Buy One in 2022

£569
Price when reviewed

In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 was as good as phones got. In 2022, it’s been superseded many times – there’s the S10, S20, and even Note 20 now. If you’re shopping for a new phone, getting a more recent version may be best. But, the Galaxy S7 was still a phenomenal smartphone in its day.

Read on for Jon’s original review to find out why the S7 was so great in 2016.

Samsung Galaxy S7 review: What’s new?

The first feature of note is storage expansion. Galaxy fans were in an uproar about the lack of a MicroSD slot in the Galaxy S6, so Samsung brought back the feature. It’s the sensible thing to do, and Samsung didn’t compromise on the design phone’s design 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 that doesn’t impact the look and feel of the phone. It was an upgrade on the IP67 protection of the Samsung Galaxy S5, too.

Technically, this means it’s possible to completely submerge the phone in up to 1.5 meters 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.

With the Galaxy S7, you don’t have to worry about getting your phone out when it’s raining. From that perspective, it’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)
32GB storage
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

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Display

The S7 has a 5.1in Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 – the same as the 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, such high resolutions come into their own. With the phone strapped into a pair of VR goggles, the screen mere centimeters 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 colors typical of Super AMOLED technology while delivering something that’s extraordinarily color-accurate and incredibly punchy all at once. That doesn’t change here.

The 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.

The color 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 we 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 color 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 jewelry. Of all the smartphones we’ve tested over the years, the S7 feels like the most desirable.

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. 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 phone’s top edge.

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 the Galaxy S6. First, the much-publicized 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 than 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 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 the 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 stylized trees.

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 initiated the call or message.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: A faster, better camera

That’s a disappointment, but the camera is a different matter entirely. Behind that smaller camera hump, there’s been a dramatic change to the imaging sensor. Samsung reduced the resolution from 16 megapixels to 12 and in the process, changed the aspect ratio of images captured with it from 16:9 to a squarer 4:3.

You might think this would be a problem, but in the process (or perhaps as a result of the resolution reduction), Samsung has boosted the size of the pixels from 1.16um to 1.4um and brightened up the aperture to f/1.7.

This is brighter than any other rival smartphone and, on its own, delivers 25% more light to the sensor than last year’s S6. More light means faster shutter speeds and sharper pictures. It can also mean less noise, which should lead to cleaner, more detailed photographs, but that depends as much on the ISO level chosen by the camera software as the hardware itself.

In practice, however, that’s precisely what the Samsung Galaxy S7’s camera delivers. We took a series of shots in the same conditions as the S6 and, upon examining the EXIF data, found the S7 tended to shoot with both a faster shutter speed and lower ISO sensitivity. This doesn’t make a huge difference in outdoor shots where there’s plenty of light to play with, but it means you’re far more likely to get sharp pictures in low-light situations, especially when your subject is moving.

On the downside, the colors weren’t quite as saturated as on photographs captured with the S6, and the auto-exposure didn’t work quite as well, blowing some highlights out where the S6 didn’t.

The other big development on the camera front is that the sensor has an improved phase-detect autofocus system. It’s a “dual-pixel sensor” of the type first used by Canon in cameras such as the superb Canon EOS 70D, and, predictably, Samsung is claiming it as a world-first smartphone.

Essentially, this technology employs a pair of photodiodes for each and every pixel site on the camera sensor, hence the name. So far, we’ve seen phase-detection pixels embedded on the sensor. Still, they’re scattered across the sensor, with only a small number of the total camera pixels – usually between 5% and 10% – used to aid focus. Samsung’s new camera takes this up a considerable notch.

What does this mean for your photography? Simply focusing on a subject that’s close to you and then far away is faster and more surefooted now, and that should mean fewer blurry, out-of-focus photographs.

samsung_galaxy_s7_dual_pixel

The image sensor also retains Samsung’s Isocell tech, first introduced with the Samsung Galaxy S5, to ensure that cross-talk electrical noise is kept to a minimum. And Samsung added a couple of new modes to the camera app as well. Motion Panorama allows you to capture movement as you shoot panoramas so that things move in your pictures when you scroll left and right. It’s weirdly effective. Hyperlapse creates ultra-timelapse videos, automatically selecting frames in your video to ensure the final results are smooth and stable.

It’s a superior system. Samsung demonstrated this at the launch event for the phone by mounting an S6 and S7 next to each other at the end of a sealed box and moving a dimly lit photograph back and forth, forcing both cameras to refocus at the same time. Predictably, the S7 focused quicker than the S6 – noticeably so – and it reflected that performance in real-world use.

All told, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has a fantastic camera. Although it captures less detail than the S6’s snapper and the colors aren’t quite as good, it’s more reliable in a wider variety of situations and lighting conditions. For the vast majority of smartphone users, it’s the better camera and a worthwhile step forward.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Performance and Battery Life

There was some confusion surrounding the makeup of the internal components at the launch of the Galaxy S7. Some reports said it would have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, others said it would have some form of Samsung-brand processor, and Samsung itself wasn’t saying anything at all, instead claiming generic performance increases of 30% for the new CPU and 64% for the new GPU.

As for RAM and storage, the S7 has 4GB and 32GB, respectively (with a 64GB version available in some markets). The big news, of course, is that the Samsung Galaxy S7 has expandable storage via a microSD slot in the SIM card tray. You won’t be able to pool this storage with the internal allocation due to the difference in performance. Still, it is possible to store photos and videos and install compatible apps to the SD card.

Finally, we come to the phone’s new liquid-cooling system. The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a sealed “thermal spreader” inside, which uses evaporation and condensation to cool the phone more effectively than standard methods. The aim here is to reduce overheating and, therefore, CPU and GPU throttling. This means performance should be more reliably quick.

So how does all this go together to affect performance? You guessed it: it’s quite good.

It feels ultra-responsive, as you’d expect. Screen swipes, panning and zooming web pages and Google Maps, scrolling through image-heavy websites; everything feels buttery smooth and runs at hyper speed. It’s so quick it almost seems like it’s getting ahead of itself at times.

And it’s just as impressive in the benchmarks. Here are a few charts to get you started:

geekbench_3_single-core_chartbuilder
unknown
unknown-5
unknown-4

The message from these figures is clear. The Samsung Galaxy S7 equipped with the Samsung Exynos 8890 SoC is as fast as any on the market today. It matches or beats the all-conquering iPhone 6s in most of the tests and stretches out a lead over the rest of the competition.

It only comes a clear second best in one of the tests – the games-focused Manhattan onscreen test. The reason for this is that the onscreen test is run at native resolution, and with the iPhone 6s’ screen being a much lower resolution than the S7’s Quad HD, it’s hardly surprising it holds the advantage here.

There’s only one problem – and it’s a small one. Although most of the big-name titles installed and tried out on the S7 ran smoothly at the highest of detail levels, there was one title that glitched and stuttered: Ketchapp’s endless running game, The Pit. This may be a driver issue. However, that should be fixable in software as the issue isn’t widespread.

So the performance is excellent. The big question when it comes to performance is whether the boost in speed – and that always-on screen – has had a negative impact on battery life. We’re happy to report that it doesn’t seem that way, and that’s most likely due to the S7’s large 3,000mAh battery.

In our video-rundown test, in fact, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a trooper. It lasted almost 18 hours in flight mode, playing back our test video file on a loop with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, a result that beats the S6, the iPhone 6s, and all its major rivals by a distance.

battery_life_chartbuilder

In real-world use, however, this isn’t reflected in the way we expected. You can expect a day out of it with moderate use, but even with relatively little use, we did need to reconnect the S7 to its charger well before the day-and-a-half mark.

Whether that’s due to the always-on screen – which isn’t accounted for in our test since the screen is always displaying video content – or some other factor isn’t clear. However, the S7 clearly isn’t the battery-life revelation we were all hoping for. If that’s important to you, you’re better off with the iPhone 6s Plus or Sony Xperia Z5.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Software and Gaming

However, it’s good to see that Samsung made the effort to make using the phone more efficient. As with many of its rivals, it has a highly effective Ultra power-saving mode, which minimizes background tasks and switches the screen to monochrome to save power. There’s also a slightly less aggressive power-saving mode, which caps the phone’s performance, limiting when the phone vibrates and restricting when it uses the GPS radio. It’s worth noting that when either of these modes is enabled, the phone’s swanky new always-on screen function is automatically disabled.

New for the S7, alongside the introduction of Android 6 Marshmallow as the base operating system, Samsung has also added a way to help you minimize battery consumption while playing games. This is achieved primarily through the Game Launcher app, which lets you cap the frame rate to 30fps and reduce the resolution, so you have fun without worrying about the battery going flat.

Normally, games will run at frame rates of up to 60fps, so this has the potential to save a significant chunk of power that’s consumed while gaming.  

And generally, this seems to work well. Although the drop in frame rate and quality is noticeable when you enable the feature, it isn’t so bad that it affects your enjoyment. A slightly bigger issue is that the system as yet doesn’t recognize all games, so you might install your favorite only to find you can’t save power on it after all.

Worse than this, however, is that some games it does recognize, it doesn’t play nicely with. With The Pit (once again the culprit), once I’d set the app to cap the frame rate, instead of dropping frames and maintaining game speed, the gameplay went into slow motion, rendering it completely unplayable.

That isn’t the end of the Game Launcher’s features, however. It also gives users some handy in-game features via Samsung’s floating Game Tools button. Tap this, and a set of shortcuts pops up, overlaid on top of the game you’re playing. The button can be dragged around so it doesn’t get in the way, and it adds the ability to block out notifications for a distraction-free gaming session, take screenshots and record video, and disable the phone’s sensitive back and recent apps buttons.

All these are nice features to have, and they add to Samsung’s already-comprehensive TouchWiz Android overlay, which runs on top of Android 6 Marshmallow.

Samsung hasn’t made any massive changes to this for the S7 beyond those already detailed and those enforced by the adoption of Android 6. There’s Doze, of course, which allows the phone to save power when it’s been left still on a surface – your bedside table, for instance. The permissions system is now more granular, with apps asking for access to the phone’s resources as and when needed, rather than in bulk on install. It’s also worth noting that the new permissions system also allows you to disable individual permissions you may have granted previously.

Android 6 Marshmallow also introduces Now on Tap, a handy new search contextual facility that takes a screenshot, reads it, and generates creative search suggestions based on the content.   

Aside from the goodies that Android 6 brings with it, however, TouchWiz remains a divisive build. Some people love the comprehensive set of features it delivers. Still, others bemoan the slightly childish and cartoonish nature of the UI, and there’s no denying that Samsung takes its precious time to deliver Android updates. 

Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Verdict

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a better phone than the S6 – its camera and performance are both better; in some respects, battery life is superior, and the return of storage expansion and disaster-proofing is a massive bonus.

Is it good enough to oust the superb Nexus 6P from the top of Alphr’s top smartphone chart? I’d say not quite, and that’s entirely due to the price.

Although the Nexus 6P isn’t quite as good as the S7, it’s much better value for money, and for me that tips the balance – just – in its favour.

For those who want the best, however, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is undoubtedly the phone to buy for now. It’s fast, sleek, beautiful and capable. It’s a wonderful handset you’ll love to own.

Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Alternatives to consider

Samsung Galaxy S7 vs iPhone 7: Which is best?

When the Samsung Galaxy S7 was first announced in February 2016, the iPhone 7 was a thing of rumors and leaks. Now that it’s finally here and all the specifications have been confirmed, is Samsung’s smartphone straight guy still a good buy?

A couple of the Galaxy S7’s main selling points have already been eroded by the iPhone 7. Storage is no longer a huge issue. Apple has finally dumped the 16GB base model and replaced it with a 32GB model at the same price. The two models up to the range now move to 128GB and 256GB, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the new iPhone still doesn’t have a MicroSD slot, so Samsung retains that particular advantage.

collaborate_-_21

The other area where the iPhone 7 makes a step up is that it is now, just like the Samsung Galaxy S7, both dust- and water-resistant. If you look closely at the comparative specifications, you’ll see that the Samsung is slightly superior here. It’s rated at IP68 compared with the IP67 of the iPhone 7 (the first digit signifies dust-resistance, and the second number denotes the level of water-resistance, the higher, the better).

In this case, the Samsung Galaxy S7 will put up with being immersed at a depth of up to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes without breaking, while the iPhone 7 can be immersed at a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes. That’s not a huge difference.

Apple has also improved the camera on the iPhone 7, brightening the aperture to f/1.8 and adding optical image stabilisation. Once again, however, the Galaxy S7 looks to hold the edge here, with its f/1.7 aperture. Remember, it also has OIS.

Are all these upgrades enough for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to overhaul Samsung at the top of the premium smartphone charts? I’d say no, although Apple has closed the gap.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

Some months after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung launched the S7 Active. Mostly, this takes the core hardware of the S7 and wraps it up in a tougher, grippier chassis. Interestingly, the Active has the same IP rating for dust- and water-resistance as the standard S7, but it adds MIL-STD-810G protection against salt, dust, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation and thermal shock.

samsung-galaxy-s7-active

The Active is considerably heavier than its non-rugged sibling. It weighs 185g, which is 23g heavier than the S7, and it’s thicker as well – 2mm thicker, to be precise- but don’t let that put you off. If your phone regularly takes a hammering, it’s well worth taking the hit on size and weight for the peace of mind it gives you. Best of all, though, the battery is 33% larger, so it should last even longer that the S7, which is already great.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Galaxy S7 was an excellent flagship model for Samsung. If you still have questions, we have the answers here.

What is the latest version of Android supported on the Galaxy S7?

The latest Android OS version is Android 12 (released in October of 2021). However, Android stopped issuing software support for the Galaxy S7 (aside from security patches) in 2018. This means that the Galaxy S7 is running on the outdated Android 8.0 (Oreo).

Should I buy a Galaxy S7 in 2022?

It probably isn’t a good idea to purchase a Galaxy S7 in 2022. To start, the device no longer supports software updates. While this may seem unimportant, it’s a big deal when you want to install applications, or you have software problems.

The hardware may still work fine. But, outdated software means your phone will run slowly, have more glitches, and possibly security risks.

What is a good 2022 alternative to the Galaxy S7?

The Galaxy S7 was the last flagship phone with a home button. Some users miss the older model smartphones while others want a decently priced phone with the function of the S7.

If you’re looking for a Samsung phone at a lower price check out the Samsung A series. Typically priced somewhere around $300, most US carriers support a Samsung A Series device. You will still get updated hardware and a phone that supports software updates.

But unfortunately, there are no Samsung phones with home buttons today. As mentioned previously, the last Galaxy phone with a home button was the S7. Aside from the Samsung J series (which is also aging quickly) there are some models (such as the LG and Motorola) that support new updates and have a physical home button.

Another option would be the iPhone SE series. But, that’s a completely different OS and Apple is slowly phasing out the home buttons.

Ultimately, it’s best to learn to cope without a home button if possible.

 

Samsung Galaxy S7 specifications

vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge specifications

ProcessorUK spec: Most likely - Octa-core (quad 2.3GHz and quad 1.6GHz), Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa; Other regions - Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (dual-core 2.15GHz and dual-core 1.6GHz)UK spec: Most likely - Octa-core (quad 2.3GHz and quad 1.6GHz), Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa; Other regions - Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (dual-core 2.15GHz and dual-core 1.6GHz)
RAM4GB LPDDR44GB LPFDDR4
Screen size5.1in5.5in
Screen resolution1,440 x 2560, 576ppi (Gorilla Glass)1,440 x 2,560ppi
Screen typeSuper AMOLED, always-on displaySuper AMOLED, always-on display
Front camera5MP5MP
Rear camera12MP (f/1.7, 1.4μ pixel size, 1/2.6in sensor size, phase detect autofocus, OIS, dual-pixel sensor)12MP (f/1.7, 1.4μ pixel size, 1/2.6in sensor size. phase detect autofocus, OIS, dual-pixel sensor)
FlashDual LEDDual LED
GPSYesYes
CompassYesYes
Storage32GB32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)YesYes
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2 LE, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+Bluetooth 4.2 LR, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+
NFCYesYes
Wireless data4G4G
Size (WDH)70 x 7.9 x 142mm (WDH)73 x 7.7 x 73mmmm (WDH)
Weight152g157g
Dust and water resistanceIP68IP68
Operating systemAndroid 6 Marshmallow with TouchWiz UIAndroid 6 Marshmallow with TouchWiz UI
Battery capacity3,000mAh3,600mAh

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