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Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 edge

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: all major carriers
Manufacturer: Samsung
Editor's Choice award

What's Hot: Stunning designs, great displays, unique look, fast, has microSD card slot, excellent cameras, supports VR.

What's Not: Glass front and back means you'll need a good case, plenty of carrier bloatware.


Reviewed March 16, 2016 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge make up for the proverbial sins of the father-- they bring back dear hardware features that Samsung axed when it released the radically redesigned Galaxy S6, s6 edge and s6 edge+. We might not miss some of Samsung's apps when they go, but no one likes to lose hardware features-- particularly good ones that set the phones apart from the iPhone and other major competitors. That means that the microSD card slot and IP68 water resistant certification are back (Samsung claims water submersion up to 1 meter, which is actually IP67). Sorry, the IR blaster for TV remote control seems to be gone forever from Samsung's phone line.

The Galaxy S7 is almost a clone of the S6, with Gorilla Glass 4 back and front and real metal trim on the sides. It's a stunningly attractive and elegant smartphone, though we're still on the fence as to whether the platinum gold color is gaudy or great (I like bling, so I'm leaning toward great). The gold model looks like a gold bar, and that is at the very least an interesting look. Black and silver models are there for those who don't dig the gold bar look, and in Europe there's a white model. The S7 edge is the spiritual successor to the S6 edge+, since it's a bigger phone with a 5.5" display. That said, it's not as big as the S6 edge+, and is considerably smaller than the iPhone 6s Plus and it looks downright manageable compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 6P. We can understand Samsung wanting to clean up their model lineup and combining the S6 edge and S6 edge Plus into one model for the 2016 lineup.

Samsung has improved the ergonomics by employing the same curved back sides as the Galaxy Note 5. The S7 and S7 edge fit the curve of your hand better and nestle safely in the palm. The 5.1" GS7 is small enough to suit small hands and cozy pockets. For those who want something larger, there's the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, with a 5.5" display that has curved sides like last year's edge models. The S7 edge is surprisingly not that much bigger than the standard S7, and it might suit even those with less than large hands. I found it easily manageable from a size standpoint (I do have large hands for a woman), though the curved glass and thinner sides do make it more slippery and harder to pick up from a desk. The curved display also makes it easier to accidentally activate on-screen items, despite Samsung's algorithms to avoid unwanted edge touches. Beauty comes at a price: the curved sides make the S7 edge the more stunning and unique handset, and I'd understand if form wins out for over function. It's also $100 more expensive than the standard S7.

As with last year's model, the micro USB 2.0 port (sorry, no USB-C since Samsung wanted it to be compatible with the Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset), headphone jack and speaker are on the bottom edge, and this year's speaker is particularly anemic. There's a call volume boost that helps in noisy areas, but for multimedia use the speaker lacks the bass and volume we'd expect from a flagship. The micro USB 2.0 port supports USB host and a tiny micro USB to USB-A adapter is included in the box (handy for flash drives). Samsung has shaved down the camera hump and now just the lens ring protrudes the tiniest bit. Overall, they've cleaned up the design and made it more ergonomic and attractive. Kudos since the Galaxy S6 was Samsung's most attractive phone yet. Given the glass back and front, reinforced though they are with Gorilla Glass 4, you'll probably want a case unless you're very sure-handed with your slick glass phone. I wouldn't expect it to survive very rough handling or drops without a protective case.

The Galaxy 7 and S7 edge have a physical home button that once again doubles as the very reliable fingerprint scanner that integrates with Android 6.0's security features and Samsung Pay. This is a very clicky button, and it's flanked by Samsung's usual capacitive buttons for the back and multi-tasking functions (still a little too easy to accidentally activate when handling the phone if you have large hands). A reliable fingerprint scanner is invaluable because it makes securing your phone extremely simple, and we prefer it on the front so you don't have to rely on feel to judge whether you've centered your digit on the sensor.


The display is largely the same as the outgoing GS6 family: a QHD 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED display with sharp text and graphics, infinite contrast and deep blacks. The Galaxy S7 is actually a bit less bright at maximum brightness-- not the extra bright outdoor auto mode but standard max brightness. Standard max brightness is not as bright as the iPhone 6s, but it's bright enough to make the phone usable outdoors, even when taking photos and video. The auto-brightness outdoor mode is even brighter than the outgoing models.

Though AMOLED displays have intense color saturation that's better than life, all is not lost for those who crave color accuracy: the phones have several color profiles and the Basic mode accurately represents sRGB (putting it in line with better phone IPS displays) and Adobe RGB (AMOLED Photo) for wide but still accurate color gamut representation. As ever, the default is Adaptive, which analyzes what's being displayed and goes for the most vivid and high contrast representation of content (very striking but over saturated and not necessarily accurate). Most folks will likely love adaptive since it looks so vivid and sharp.

The Edge

The S7 edge screen has a strip with a variety of panels that are wider and thus more useful than previous iterations. You can have the strip on the left or right, and swipe it out via a tiny on-screen tab. There are edge screens for weather, stocks, favorite contacts, an app quick launcher (handy if you hate home screens cluttered with app shortcuts), CNN news, Yahoo news and more. You can download additional edge screens, and many but not all are free.

The edge screen can act as a bedside clock with faint illumination of the time and it can show you incoming call info, even when facing down. Both the S7 and S7 edge have a new ambient display option that can display the date, time and notification info when sleeping. Since AMOLED displays don't use any power or backlighting to show blacks, the predominantly black ambient display uses little power (1% additional according to Samsung and confirmed by our tests).

Are the edge screen features useful? Yes, they are. I use the app launcher, weather and news screens many times each day, and the bedside clock is handy too. Is that worth $100 extra? Likely yes since that money also gets you a bigger screen and a bigger battery (as long as you're OK with a bigger phone).

Deals and Shopping:


Samsung Galaxy S7 Video Review


Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Video Review


Samsung Galaxy S7 edge vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Comparison


HTC 10 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge Smackdown Comparison


Camera Comparison: iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 & Note 7

Horsepower and Software

The US models run on the quad core 2.1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 CPU, the top of the line processor that shows significant benchmark improvements over the outgoing Snapdragon 810 that wasn't what we'd all hoped--it ran hot and wasn't much faster than what it replaced. Overseas, Samsung uses their own Exynos 8890 CPU, which should show similarly strong performance. The phone benchmarks quite a bit faster than the Galaxy S6 and other flagship Android phones. The LG G5 will also have this CPU, but anything older will benchmark slower, even our beloved Nexus 6P (though the Nexus 6P comes close in some graphics tests). Do you need this much speed? Probably not, but it does offer the reassurance of future-proofing and it has the necessary performance to drive the Samsung VR virtual reality headset (often bundled at launch) well.

The phones have 4 gigs of RAM, and that's currently the most you'll find in Android smartphones. They have 32 gigs of storage and a microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 200 gigs (we tested them with a SanDisk 200 gig card and it works just fine). You can save photos and videos you've taken to the card, and transfer apps to the card. Not all apps support this feature, however. The phone let us move the large game Asphalt 8 Airborne to a card, but not the 5 (very large) bundled Gear VR games to a card.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge (both run on the exact same CPU, Adreno 530 graphics, 4 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs of storage) feel very responsive and we didn't experience any lag whatsoever. Samsung's TouchWiz improvements and the power of the latest CPU work well here. Of course there's still Samsung bloat or value added software, depending on your opinion of Samsung's offerings. Multi-window multitasking is handy, as is Smart Stay (keeps the phone's screen on if you're looking at it). The redundant music and video apps are no longer pre-installed (Google's standard Android apps are still here), but you can download Samsung's apps if you miss them. Carrier bloatware abounds on US models, and the titles will vary by carrier.

The phone runs Android 6 Marshmallow with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. That's currently the latest version of Android available (Google is only making the next version, Android N available to developers now). Samsung is typically slow to release OS updates for their smartphones, likely due to their heavy UI overlay that necessitates more customization and testing. So don't expect to be the first on your block to run Android N when Google releases the final version (you'll likely be closer to last). TouchWiz is as ever toned down and we actually don't hate it anymore. Sure, we're used to it (resigned to it?), but several of the customizations like multi-window multitasking are very useful, and won't be available to other brands until Android N ships. Samsung uses squircle icons that are rounded squares rather than stock icons, and they modify the settings menu--we can live with that or install a 3rd party launcher when it gets old. Samsung offers a variety of themes for those who want a different or even slightly more stock Android theme.



The 12MP rear camera is a downgrade in resolution but it takes simply stunning photos and video by camera phone standards. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus also have 12MP rear cameras, and I've yet to hear anyone complain about them. The new Sony dual pixel sensor allows for even faster autofocus (not that anyone complained that the GS6 was slow to focus) and it has larger sensor sites (tied to the drop in resolution to reduce pixel density and make room for larger sensor pixels). That means very good low light shots with accurate, colorful and low noise photos and videos. Watch our video review to see some low light and outdoor examples--they're superb for a camera phone and even beat some dedicated point and shoot cameras. This is one of the best camera phones on the market, and possibly the best. It offers a bit better low light performance than the iPhone (more color captured), has enough megapixels to provide sharp, detailed images that compete well against 16MP camera phones (including Samsung's own Galaxy S6 and the LG G4). Images are natural and have a 3 dimensional look that's still not common in phone cameras.

The camera can shoot photos in 16:9, 4:3 and 1:1 aspect ratios, and it has auto HDR, panorama and a variety of settings and effects, including manual control. Honestly the auto mode does a superb job, even in challenging situations. The software looks very similar to other recent Samsung Galaxy phones like the Note 5 and GS6, and that's fine with us since Samsung does an excellent job of packing features in without making the UI cluttered or confusing.

The camera on both models has OIS (optical image stabilization), a fast f/1.7 lens and a two tone LED flash. They can shoot 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p and slow motion at 240 fps. Video quality is excellent, particularly in 4K mode and stabilization effectively reduces the effects of hand shake. The front 5MP camera with f/2.4 lens is good, in fact quite good, though it's not stellar. Exposure and noise were sometimes disappointing compared to the much lower resolution iPhone 6s front camera and the 8MP Huawei Nexus 6P's front camera beats them both.

Battery Life

The Galaxy S7 has a 3,000 mAh battery and the Galaxy S7 edge has a 3,600 mAh battery (both are sealed inside). They support fast charging, Qi wireless charging and fast wireless charging with Samsung's Fast Charge Wireless Charging Pad ($69.99). A fast charger is included in the box. Last year's GS6 didn't exactly universally impress folks with battery life. Heavy users sometimes found it didn't last a full day on a charge. The Galaxy S7, and even more so the bigger battery Galaxy S7 edge, last longer on a charge the the outgoing models, though they're still not marathon runners. The S7 edge has 600 mAh more battery capacity to work with, though that's slightly offset by the bigger display it drives. Even so, we found it lasted for 30 to 45 minutes longer (actual screen on time) compared to the S7. Both outlasted our Galaxy S6 and s6 edge in our comparison rundown tests. Typically the battery on each lasted from 8am to 10pm with moderate use (a few short phone calls, email, web, streaming a few YouTube videos, playing music with the screen off). The Galaxy S7 was down to 8% at 10pm, while the S7 edge had 15% charge remaining. Happily, the phones charge very quickly with the included fast charger--30 minutes topped the battery up by 40%.



The Galaxy S6 and edge phones were a groundbreaking redesign that otherwise fell short of greatness. Though the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are evolutionary rather than revolutionary phones, Samsung's hit a home run by addressing just the right things we found lacking in the Galaxy S6 line. Now we get to have our beautiful Galaxies with that flagship look and feel, and we get removable storage, a more comfortable design, water resistance and a more refined evolution of TouchWiz. The camera proves that less can be more, and I'd pick the new 12MP S7 camera over the 16MP S6 camera. That said, if you already own a Galaxy S6 family phone, you've still got a great looking phone with one of the better cameras on the market and plenty of horsepower inside. The Galaxy S7 phones are for those who almost jumped on the GS6, but put on the brakes because of the missing SD card slot or lack of water resistance. And for those who liked the S6 edge+ but found it too big to handle and the standard S6 uncompellingly small-screened, the S7 edge is that Goldilocks phone.

The phones are expensive, but you do get best in class displays, designs, materials, processors, cameras, an excellent fingerprint scanner, removable storage and a chance at the Samsung Gear VR experience if that tickles your fancy.

Price: ~ $700 for Galaxy S7 and $800 for Galaxy S7 edge (full retail)


Related Reviews:

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Google Pixel & Pixel XL Review

HTC 10 Review

Moto Z and Moto Z Force Review

LG G5 Review

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus Review

Nexus 6P Review

Nexus 5X Review

Microsoft Lumia 950 Review

Samsung Gear Fit 2 Review

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Display: 5.1" display (GS7), 5.5" display (S7 edge), both Super AMOLED. Resolution: 2560 x 1440. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 3000 mAh Lithium Ion (S7), 3600 mAh (S7 edge). Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core CPU with Adreno 530 graphics (overseas models may have the Samsung Exynos 8890 CPU). 4 gigs RAM, 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 4.47 x 2.78 x 0.53 inches. Weight: 4.67 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band world phone with EDGE 2G. 3G and 4G LTE. CDMA dual band digital with EV-DO Rev. A and LTE 4G for Sprint and Verizon models.

Camera: 5MP front camera that can record 1080p video, f/2.4 lens. Rear 12MP camera with 4K video recording, f/1.7 lens.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth and NFC.

Software: Android OS 6.0 Marshmallow with Samsung's TouchWiz UI.

Expansion: 1 microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 200 gigs. Micro USB to USB adapter in the box.


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