Great camera, despite boasting fewer megapixels
Premium look, again
You can expand storage with a microSD card
No major improvements from the Galaxy S6
Always-on display has very limited range of functions
Glossy finish soon gets marred by fingerprints
- Premium look and feel
- Nicely designed
- Feels every inch a high-end smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy S7 looks fantastic and feels great in the hand. But for us, the S7 Edge takes the crown in the looks department, thanks to its novel curved edge that doubles as a secondary screen.
We felt the same way about the S6 and S6 Edge from last year. And in truth, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge look very similar to 2015's models.
Not that we're complaining when they look as gorgeous as this. If it ain’t broke, don't fix it.
Keen to see how the Galaxy S7 fares against the iPhone 7? Read our head-to-head review.
- Premium glass and metal and glossy finish
- Slightly cosmetic changes from last year
- Exterior is water-resistant
Samsung realised that plastic just isn’t fantastic last year, when it stopped using it for its flagship phones.
In its place, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge featured a premium glass and metal construction, giving them more of a first-class appearance, instead of cattle-class.
The change was well received. But not much has moved on since, with the same blend of materials and design in evidence this time around. So much so that we found it hard to tell the S6 phones and S7 models apart.
There have been some very slight refinements. But unless you really know the phones inside and out, it's hard to spot them.
The tweaks include slightly curved rear, which we'll concede does make the S7 and S7 Edge a tad more comfortable to hold.
On the plus side, and undetectable by the naked eye, is that the phones are now water and dust-resistant. This marks a welcome return for a feature we last saw in the S5. No longer will you need to be afraid of dropping your phone in the sea at the beach, or having sand kicked into the face of your phone.
But there is still the problem of fingerprints. Not in recognising them to unlock the S7 through its fingerprint security-enabled home button . But the fact that these phones attract them as if they’re going out of fashion. They constantly need a good wipe to remain smudge-free and clean.
||Metal and glass
||152g (standard model) 157g (Edge variant)
||142.4x69.6x7.9 mm (standard model)
150.9x72.6x7.7 mm (Edge variant)
- Edge's secondary screen is a show-stopper to look at
- Colours can appear unnaturally bright
- Same tech as last year
The curved look and secondary screen of the S7 Edge are certainly eye-catching, to say the least. And in a significant and welcome break with form, the S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch screen instead of the 5.1-inch display that featured on the S6 Edge.
The bigger screen is great to use, although we should sound a note of caution for Tube and train travellers. The reflective glare from the overhead lights marks out a distinct white border around the screen. It's very distracting, especially when viewing video or reading an ebook.
The S7 and S7 Edge's screen features the same full QuadHD Super AMOLED technology as the Galaxy S6 and delivers amazingly colourful and sharp images.
On the downside, these can appear unnatural and a little over-the-top, but there’s an option for more muted tones if realism is what you're after.
Both S7 variants now come with an always-on display, which shows the time and notifications on the phone’s screen even when it's in standby mode.
The idea is that you don't have to wake up your phone each time you want to check the time or weather. You can simply see that at a glance.
This sets them apart from the last models, although currently the information displayed is limited to Samsung’s own apps.
That means it doesn't work with Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and other key apps from which you'd expect to get regular notifications.
If and when this gets resolved, it would put the S7 on par with phones from Motorola, LG and Microsoft's Windows handsets.
At the present time, though, the always-on screen is of rather limited usefulness.
||5.2" (standard) 5.7" (Edge variant)
- Great pictures in low-light conditions
- Fast autofocus means it's easier to capture to spontaneous moments
- Camera launches fast too
Cameras in Samsung phones are generally very good. And we're pleased to say the S7 and S7 Edge's cameras, which protrude at the rear much less than on the S6, are no different.
Naysayers have criticised the fact that the S7's camera (with 12 megapixels) has fewer megapixels than the S6, which has 16 megapixels. But megapixels aren't the be all and end all, especially because Samsung has made improvements to other aspects of the camera.
These include the addition of a wider f1.7 aperture lens. This allows more light in for better results in darker conditions. To help you focus on your subjects faster, Samsung has also added a dual pixel sensor.
We also appreciated that the camera app is always on standby, so can be launched in microseconds. Just double tap the home button to get snapping.
|Optical image stabilisatioN
Performance and battery life
- Always-on display only drains battery by 1% per hour
- Very impressive battery life on both models
- Feels really fast
The fact that you couldn't add a microSD card to expand storage on the Galaxy S6 was a major bugbear for some people.
This has now been resolved with the return of the microSD card slot on the S7, which comes in handy in light of the fact that 8GB of the phone's internal storage is taken up by pre-installed software.
To save space, instead of a separate slot for the microSD card you can now insert your card into the SIM card tray.
The batteries on both phones are huge. The standard Galaxy S7 features a 3000mAh battery (up from the S6's 2500mAh), while the Edge has an even more whopping 3600mAh battery.
To put that in some sort of perspective, these are among the largest batteries on any smartphone. And under extremely strenous testing conditions, we got the best part of eight hours use out of them.
The latest Marshmallow version of Google's Android operating system powers the phone, with some exclusive apps from Samsung installed too.
The good news is that, unlike previous years, Samsung has kept these apps to a minimum, so you're not saddled with a host of applications that you don't really need.
Keeping things ticking over in UK editions of the phone is the Samsung Exynos 8890 octa-core processor. It's not as powerful as the Snapdragon 8820 octa-core processor that you'll find in some overseas Galaxy S7 models, but it seems to work well.
It certainly coped well in our tests and there was no overheating even when we running multiple apps and games simultaneously. That's likely in part due to the S7's innovative built-in water-cooling system.
Value for money
With prices starting at £569 for the Galaxy S7 and £639 for the Edge when bought SIM free, these are very much high-end phones with price points to match.
For the extra outlay for the Edge, you get a bigger screen and a more powerful 3,600mAh battery. But otherwise they're essentially the same phone.
At the time of going to press, the S7 is available with 4GB of data for £34.99 a month. That's in line with pricing for the iPhone 6S. If you want the S7 Edge you're looking at £5 per month more.
- Great, if perhaps too familiar, design
- MicroSD card slot
- Great camera
- Very good screen
- Two different sizes
- Water and dust resistant
The S7 and S7 Edge phones are some of the best smartphones around today. As are the year-old S6 and S6 Edge.
If you're coming to the end of a 24-month contract and you've got a bit of cash to spare, we've got no reservations in recommending the S7.
But if you want to save your pennies and don't feel you need a water-resistant phone or expandable storage, then the S6 and S6 Edge and Plus models might be a better option. Especially since they're now available for significantly cheaper.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 used for this review was supplied by Carphone Warehouse.
Pick up the Galaxy S7 with monthly allowances of 11GB of data and unlimited texts and minutes for £36 per month (plus £79.99 upfront) here.