Samsung Galaxy J7 Max preview: A closer look

Prasad Naik, 3 August 2017.

Software

The Galaxy J7 Max runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with Samsung Experience 8.1 on top. This is the latest version of the Samsung Experience, although definitely not the latest version of Android. 7.1.1 has been out for several months now, and Samsung has been lagging behind on that front, even on flagship devices like the Galaxy S8.

TouchWiz Home - Samsung J7 Max review TouchWiz Home - Samsung J7 Max review TouchWiz Home - Samsung J7 Max review TouchWiz Home - Samsung J7 Max review
TouchWiz Home

Version 8.1 does bring with it several new features, including a redesigned launcher that now lets you swipe up to see the app drawer or disable it entirely to have all your icons on the homescreen a la iOS. You can also press briefly on the icons to see a popup with options to move them around, uninstall them or see the app info. Unfortunately, the launcher (still called TouchWiz Home, by the way) won't show the same set of custom app options that we see in the Pixel Launcher, or even the Moto Launcher and OnePlus Launcher. Samsung had the opportunity to implement that feature and clearly did not bother.

Also, while the option to mark multiple apps exists in the launcher to batch uninstall them or move them around as a group, if you select to uninstall them, the phone asks your permission for each app before uninstalling instead of just doing it quickly together as on MIUI. It defeats the purpose of having this feature entirely.

Settings - Samsung J7 Max review Settings - Samsung J7 Max review Settings - Samsung J7 Max review Settings - Samsung J7 Max review
Settings

The new UI also features a completely redesigned Settings app with a simplified main screen. Most of the options are grouped together under fewer top level options. It does make finding options more difficult, as you now have to dig through layers upon layers of menus to find something that may have previously been on the top level. So while it does look pretty on the outside, it's the UI design equivalent of sweeping everything under the rug.

The new UI also has a new default theme that does look markedly better than the previous one, especially the icon design. And if you don't like it you can always change the theme and there are a bunch of options available. Speaking of icons, the phone does put borders around the icons by default, but that can be disabled from the settings.

As is typical for Samsung, the phone does come with far too many apps than is necessary by default. This includes Facebook, Flipboard (which still gets its own dedicated homescreen that can thankfully be disabled), and the entire suite of Microsoft apps. Of course, none of these can be disabled but we are used to it by now. You could always disable these, but we found it easier to just use the Hide apps feature of the homescreen to put them out of sight, and quite successfully, out of mind.

Interestingly, while stuffing in apps from Microsoft, Google and Facebook, Samsung has dialled back on its own set of apps, which means that now if you want the Samsung Music Player or the Video Player, you will have to head over to Samsung's own app store to download them separately.

S Secure - Samsung J7 Max review Opera Max - Samsung J7 Max review
S Secure Opera Max

One constant source of annoyance these days on budget Samsung phones is S Secure, which is just a layer on top of what is actually Opera Max. Opera Max routes all the data on the device through Opera's VPN servers where it gets compressed and generally hidden from your ISP. While not a bad feature on its own, it isn't exactly a must have, let alone something to be constantly reminded of. Every single time you turn on the Wi-Fi on your device the phone will popup a notification to enable this feature and you cannot disable these notifications.

Samsung Pay mini - Samsung J7 Max review Samsung Pay mini - Samsung J7 Max review
Samsung Pay mini

Exclusive to India is also Samsung Pay mini, a stripped-down version of Samsung's payment system. This particular app is designed for devices without NFC, such as the Galaxy J7 Max. The app only supports UPI and mobile wallet services such as Paytm and MobiKwik. You can use these to transfer money to your friends or make payment at establishments that support UPI or mobile wallets by manually entering or scanning their ID.

In the end, there is very little about the Samsung Experience that is appealing. Despite any moments of delight or joy in the design or animations, the software often comes across as unfriendly - with poorly thought-out design choices, overbearing bloatware borne out of partnerships with software companies that have little to benefit the actual user, and bothersome popup notifications. Someone used to navigating Samsung's UI minefield on previous devices might see an improvement, but for those coming in from stock Android or something completely different like iOS, the environment here is just difficult to get used to.

Battery Life

The Galaxy J7 Max has a 3300mAh internal battery. The battery life on the phone in regular use is pretty decent, with about 22 hours of standby time and 5-6 hours of on-screen use. Unfortunately, there is no fast-charging support here, and the phone takes two and a half hours to charge completely.

Performance

Burdened with a run-of-the-mill chipset and Samsung's general disregard for optimizing its software, the performance on the J7 Max is far from scintillating. While opening and closing applications is reasonably quick, scrolling through them is choppy and generally unpleasant. Powerful, smooth, and fluid are simply not words in this phone's dictionary, and it is always worries us when a brand new phone feels sluggish out of the box. One can only imagine what a well-used unit would feel like after a couple of years. As such, the octa-core processor and 4GB memory figures don't mean much, since the real-life experience is nothing to write home about.

As for gaming, it's fine - as long as you are not running anything too graphically intensive. The good news is that there is no shortage of great 2D games to play on Android, and even most of the 3D titles are designed to run on slower devices. The heavier titles often feature visual settings that you can turn down a bit and still get a reasonable gaming experience.

The multimedia performance is unremarkable. The phone does have a headphone jack and the audio quality is passable. The phone only has a single loudspeaker in the aforementioned awkward position. The loudspeaker does get quite loud, but the sound isn't as smooth or warm as some other devices and can get a bit harsh. Also, the loudspeaker positioning pushes the sound away from you, making it seem distant. The display quality isn't great for watching videos either, as the colors look too unnatural at times.

Samsung has improved the performance of the fingerprint sensor considerably. In the past, Samsung fingerprint sensors have been some of the most finicky we have used, often requiring more than one attempt to unlock. The one on the J7 Max is fast and accurate, and we have rarely seen it fail. It can also unlock the phone simply by placing your finger on the button and not actually pressing it. Unfortunately, Samsung still puts an arbitrary 3 print limit so you can't save all your commonly used fingers to unlock the phone.

Here are a bunch of benchmarks to drool over. The Helio P20 is not a chart topper, but performance-wise it's on par with the Snapdragon 625.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    5447
  • Moto G5 Plus
    3789
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    3351
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    3011
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    2964
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    2719
  • Oppo F3
    2685

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    1720
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    832
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    819
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    801
  • Moto G5 Plus
    799
  • Oppo F3
    737
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    638

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    94892
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    74488
  • Moto G5 Plus
    63390
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    61616
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    57996
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    57012
  • Oppo F3
    53008
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    44062
  • Oppo F1s
    30657

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    18
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    15
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    9.9
  • Moto G5 Plus
    9.7
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    9
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    8.4
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7.2
  • Oppo F3
    6.8
  • Oppo F1s
    5.1

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    19
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    15
  • Oppo F1s
    10
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    9.7
  • Moto G5 Plus
    9.7
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    8.9
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    7.9
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7
  • Oppo F3
    6.8

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    10
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    9.4
  • Moto G5 Plus
    6.4
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    6.2
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    5.8
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    4.8
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    4.6
  • Oppo F3
    4.5
  • Oppo F1s
    2.4

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    11
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    9.4
  • Moto G5 Plus
    6.4
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    6.2
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    6.2
  • Oppo F1s
    6
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    4.6
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    4.6
  • Oppo F3
    4.5

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    16592
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    15487
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    10446
  • Moto G5 Plus
    10406
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    9034
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    8458
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7522
  • Oppo F3
    6148
  • Oppo F1s
    419

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Huawei Honor 8
    2099
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1362
  • Huawei Honor 6X
    1309
  • Moto G5 Plus
    1089
  • Oppo F3
    1085
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    1050
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max
    379
  • Oppo F1s
    269