Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review: Stargate
If the best rival is the one you can learn from, has Samsung learnt the wrong trick? Or did the Project Zero redesign got everyone there too excited to think rationally? Probably a bit of both. The company delivered these beautiful Galaxy S6 smartphones but they missed a few user-favorite features, which now make a comeback on the next model. We've seen Apple do exactly this in recent years. First we get the new cool design, then we get the proper hardware upgrades a generation later.
Yes, you may've read our review of the vanilla Samsung Galaxy S7 but it bears repeating. The S7 edge is what the Galaxy S6 edge was supposed to be a year back, an all-round flagship ticking every box. And now, for the extra cash over the S7, you're getting the sexy curved design but also a bigger screen. That's the right thing to do.
The regular S7 doesn't drop out of favor as the ordinary, unattractive, more affordable option. It's just as relevant being the more compact, equally powerful, yet more affordable version of the undisputed flagship.
Now, that's what the Galaxy S7 edge is. The flagship phone to have right now. Polished to perfection, immensely powerful and reliably powered, incredibly proficient at imaging and pretty much everything it does.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge key test findings
- A sight to behold, the design carefully refines the S6 edge, with slimmer bezels and subtle curves on the back. Grip is questionable and the screen sometimes registers your palm rather than your fingertips but one-off looks and the amazing feel in hand more than compensate for that.
- Water and dust protection will give you peace of mind in adverse environmental conditions.
- The AMOLED display looks pleasing in default mode, near-perfect color accuracy can be achieved with a flick of a switch. Sunlight legibility is great, and maximum brightness has been further improved compared to the S6 edge.
- The Always On feature is useful though it does inevitably take a toll on battery life.
- There's no wired video out or FM radio and the IR emitter is gone too, but the microSD slot is back, thankfully.
- Battery life is flagship-worthy at 98 hours between charges - a good 18 hours more than the Galaxy S7. The Always On display lowers this rating down to 67 hours, still an acceptable result. If you want to use the Edge feeds on the lockscreen, the endurance will go further down to 60 hours.
- The Galaxy S7 edge comes with little on top of the Google app suite - there are a few signature apps like S Planner and S Health and Samsung's custom multimedia software, but other than that, there's little in the way of bloatware. Microsoft's mobile app package is on board too.
- The Always-On lockscreen makes some of the exclusive edge features redundant. The edge shortcuts are useful at times but you can safely do without them.
- Standard-setting benchmark results, both the CPU and the GPU pack plenty of power and are chart-toppers, future-proofing is guaranteed.
- Loudspeaker scores "Good" on loudness, and its sound quality is among the better ones with deep sound.
- Clean audio output with external amp, only minor quality drop with headphones (though more than the Galaxy S7), above average volume.
- The all-new 12MP still camera is capable of near-instant focusing thanks to its dual-pixel technology. Images are detailed, dynamic range and colors are good, and while in terms of image quality, the camera is comparable to that of the S6, the entire package is a downright upgrade.
- The selfie camera is great with skin tones, but has a tendency of clipping the highlights. It's also about time Samsung upped the resolution of its flagship front snappers.
- 4K videos are packed with detail, however camcorder struggles to hold on to focus at 1080p/60fps, which is the only bad thing we can say about it really.
Water resistance and memory expansion make a comeback on the Galaxy S7 line - Samsung may be owning up to a mistake made a year ago or simply have used the time well to polish a design that back then demanded all their attention and resources.
Either way, the Galaxy S7 edge is what it is because it manages to finally reconcile the brilliant new design and the traditional values. After an eventful previous season, the return to Snapdragon is a sign of going back to normality. The return of the memory card slot and water proofing are probably even better news for users. If you think about it, even the Gear VR headset has been a fairly long time coming since the Note 4.
Here and now, the Galaxy S7 edge has a perfectly credible shot at capitalizing on its pole position but Samsung better brace itself for a fight.
The new generation of Snapdragon 820-powered flagships isn't short on innovation, and each of them tries to offer something unique to set itself apart. The modular LG G5 is what we'd go for if we wanted to experiment with the Magic Slot and the compatible accessories. The Xiaomi Mi 5 is beautifully compact, has enhanced camera OIS, and costs less. The Sony Xperia X Performance claims to have it all: stereo speakers, 23MP worth of still images, water and dust proofing.
HTC are expected to finally cross the Quad HD mark and are making a big fuss about the camera on their upcoming HTC 10, so it will only get more exciting over at the Android camp.
The 5.5" iPhone 6s Plus is an obvious competitor, a great looking handset itself, of beastly performance, enhanced 12MP camera with OIS and dual-tone flash, and 3D Touch.
Microsoft's Lumia 950 XL may not sound as exciting, but it surely ticks all the right boxes - a big Quad HD AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 810 chip, an iris scanner, gorgeous 20MP camera, and Windows 10 Mobile with Continuum. Occasionally, it can replace your netbook, so it's a niche tool you may want to consider.
Right now, the Galaxy S6 lineup, S6, S6 edge and the S6 edge+, cover a wide range of screen sizes and will only be getting more and more attractive with every discount they receive. The Galaxy Note5 with its exclusive S-Pen features is also a nice deal already.
Finally, the smaller Galaxy S7 may lack the design edge, but it still has gentle curves on both sides, better handling and smaller footprint. It costs less than the S7 edge, and yet it has the same build quality, screen, performance, and imaging skills.
The Galaxy S7 edge is easily the best Android phablet right now, if the S-Pen isn't a must. Not only does it employ the best tech available today, but puts it one of the most beautiful bodies in business.
If you break it down to its parts, you will be right to ask what stopped Samsung from delivering it a year ago. Try it, and the experience may change your perspective. Hold it in hand and you may as well wish all phones were like it.