Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review: Time-saver edition
You're eyeing up the Samsung Galaxy S7, but you find its looks too pedestrian? We don't necessarily agree, but let's say for the sake of argument that you're right. No worries, Samsung's got you covered - meet the Galaxy S7 edge.
2.3GHz Exynos 8890 Octa
4GB RAM 32/64GB memory
Flagships come in pairs, that's the recent trend and in the case of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge they share a good bit of the internals. Which is another way of saying that the edge has a bigger battery, and that's it.
Then again it has a larger display. And it's that display, that gorgeous 5.5-inch Super AMOLED spilling over the sides, that's the real difference between the two, and the sole reason why one would pay the premium and pick the S7 edge and not the S7.
Design and build quality
Last year's Galaxy S6 edge stood at 5.1 inches, and there was the 5.7-inch Galaxy S6 edge+. In 2016 so far we have the S7 edge splitting the difference between the two, but leaning towards the Plus. In our book, that makes a potential S7 edge+ fairly unlikely to happen.
The S7 edge measures 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7mm, making it thinner than the plain S7. It weighs just 157g - 5 grams more than the S7 gets you 20% more battery and 0.4 inches larger diagonal. That said, if you're comparing to the S6 edge, the new model is 25g heavier and has grown a bit in every dimension to fit the larger screen.
Number crunching aside, the Galaxy S7 edge is one seriously good-looking smartphone. At a quick glance, you might dismiss it as a just a large S6 edge, but it is more than that. Yes, it is basically a curved screen on the front, and two sheets of Gorilla Glass 4 with an aluminum frame on the sides, but it's about the details.
And the details, in this case, include the slight curve on the back that helps with in-hand feel - where the S6 edge was sharp and pointy at the sides, the S7 edge is smooth and pleasing to hold. The S7 edge is also easier to pick up from a table.
Palm rejection around the edges isn't perfect and the phone does register touch input from the sides a little more often than we would have liked. It will on occasion annoy us by ignoring tapping on the screen because it thinks that palms touching it on the side are the intended interaction.
Among the properties shared with the S7, the Galaxy S7 edge has an IP68 rating for water resistance (up to 1.5m for 30 minutes) and is also dust tight. It's equally prone to collecting fingerprints - an inherent downside to the glass design.
There's no IR emitter, for those that care, but storage expansion is possible, and controls are in their familiar locations. There's a fingerprint reader in the Home button, which is activated when you wake up the device - it's not always on.
In summary, the Galaxy S7 edge suffers precisely from what makes it so beautiful - the curves and the glass. If that isn't irony. You could learn to live with the less than ideal handling and fingerprints, or stick it a case, which may be the reasonable path, but is it worth it? Half a star down for that dilemma.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with dual curved edges. The curves are small, just barely hugging the sides, very much similar to the ones on the S6 edge.
Infinite contrast is AMOLED's forte, and punchy colors are a given with the technology. The Basic display mode, on the other hand, can give you near perfect color accuracy, should you need it. Maximum brightness is a little less than 400nits, which is a good number for AMOLED if lower than LCD's, but in Auto mode, it can go as high as 610nits when in bright light - an excellent result, which helps the S7 edge ace our sunlight legibility test as well.
The S7 edge comes with an Allways On display feature, same as on the S7. It offers you a choice to have a clock, a calendar, an image, or a combination of those, displayed during standby. Basic notifications will also show up, like missed calls and texts, but nothing more.
All that will eat up roughly a percent of your battery life every hour, which Samsung argues is still better than waking up the phone and lighting the entire display just to check the time on a few dozen occasions a day. It's your call whether the trade-off is worth it, and if it isn't, you can just pull the plug on it.
What the S7 edge has, and the S7 doesn't, is Night clock. Coming straight from the Note Edge, the feature displays a clock and date on the curved portion of the screen, with very low brightness - perfect for a quick look at the time at night without blinding yourself by firing up the display.
The sole difference between the Galaxy S7 edge and the S7 under the hood is battery capacity, and the edge comes with a 3,600mAh power pack. The capacity increase is higher than the increase in area needing to be lit up, not to mention some battery draining processes are a constant regardless of display size, so the Galaxy S7 edge is supposed to last longer than the S7, just by looking at the numbers.
And it does. Upwards of 20h of video playback are possible on the S7 edge, while web browsing drains it in 13 and a half hours. It also outlasts its little brother in voice calls making for an overall endurance rating of 98h.
There a few caveats with those numbers, the first of which is that this rating is achieved with the Always On display feature switched off. Switch it on, and you're looking at a number in the high 60s. Such is the reality.
It should also be noted that these are the results of the Exynos-powered version of the Galaxy S7 edge. The Snapdragon 820 chip inside the US version isn't as efficient and posts lower numbers across the board. Hit the "Read more" link below for a detailed analysis.
The endurance rating is an estimation of how long the phone would last if you use it for an hour each of calling, browsing and video playback a day. Such usage pattern may not be relevant to your own usage scenario, but we've established it so our battery results are comparable across devices. You can adjust the formula to better match your own usage pattern, by visiting our dedicated battery test results page.
The Galaxy S7 edge doesn't shine in terms of speaker loudness, falling in the Below average category, according to our tests. There are no stereo speakers either, so the S7 edge doesn't win many points in this department. Output quality doesn't suffer when pumped up to max, at least.
Sound output through the 3.5mm jack should be the same as the S7, you would think, and it is of equally excellent quality when connected to an external amp. Plug in a pair of headphones, though, and the S7 edge pulls ahead of the S7, exhibiting even less stereo crosstalk, easily one of the best scores in this respect.
The camera on the S7 edge is entirely identical to the one on the S7. With this generation Samsung has introduced a brand new camera with a lower pixel count, but that's about all that's been downgraded. The 12MP shooter has the dual-pixel technology - there's a phase-detection agent at every pixel while competitors only have one at about 5% of photosites. What that means to you is insanely fast autofocusing, both in daylight and in the dark.
The lens has also gotten brighter, actually the brightest on a smartphone (obviously tied with the S7 for that title) at f/1.7. Add to that the larger individual pixels (1.4 microns vs. 1.12 on the S6), plus OIS, and the S7 edge is very well equipped for shooting in less than ideal lighting. And in pitch black you have the flash to save the day (night) though it still uses a single LED.
Double-pressing the Home button to launch the camera works here too, and once you're in the app, it's the familiar simple interface with shortcuts to basic functions. If you want more control, you can launch the Pro mode, which gives you access to manual exposure settings. RAW capture is available too.
Photos are impressively detailed, dynamic range is good and the S7 edge does very well to preserve data in the highlights. White balance and colors are consistently accurate and have a very pleasant consumer-grade vibe to them. Night shots are very good, detail is abundant, noise is kept to a reasonable amount.
The selfie snapper remains at 5MP, only, this time, it has the f/1.7 aperture to match the primary camera. Samsung has also added a screen fill flash to assists when there's practically no other light source. It has somewhat limited dynamic range, and tends to clip highlights, but produces pleasing skin tones and overall colors.
The Galaxy S7 edge has a feature-rich camcorder, capable of high-res 4k/30fps video, high frame rate 1080p/60fps, and slow motion at 720p/240fps, among others.
Ultra HD videos are nice and detailed, and exhibit largely the same excellent properties as still images. The fast autofocus sure helps, but on occasion, and particularly in 60fps FullHD video, the S7 edge hunts for focus for no apparent reason.
The Galaxy S7 edge runs on the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a due TouchWiz layer on top. It's the latest installment in Samsung's strife for a lighter Android build than the widely criticized company overlays of old.
Samsung shot for ease of use this time, and made the default grid size 4x4, making for large easily tappable icons, but also squandering screen estate on the large 5.5-inch diagonal. Thankfully, 4x5 and 5x5 options are also available.
On top of that, an experimental mode is also available as part of Galaxy Labs, which gets rid of the app drawer and all your apps are located on the homescreens, iOS-style. You can also change the entire look and feel of the phone, thanks to Themes.
Samsung's take on split-screen multitasking is probably the best there is. The two windows can be resized and swapped and plenty of apps are supported. Alternatively, you can shrink just about any app to a smaller windowed view by swiping diagonally from one of the top corners. The large display very well suited for the job.
The truly new feature this year is Game Launcher. The app lets you disable the capacitive keys to avoid unwanted taps mid-game, cuts off notifications and has screenshot and screen record features. A couple of power-saving modes cap frame rate at 30fps, and set two levels of progressively lower resolution.
Those are all available on the vanilla S7 too, the Galaxy S7 edge is all about the Edge features. Edge panels take up about a third of the screen and can give you shortcuts to apps or people, calendar, weather, compass, you get plenty of options.
Edge feeds are available while the display is off, and can show you RSS feeds, news, and notifications. Edge lighting can light up the sides of the display when you receive a call and the phone is lying face down on a table, but why would you leave it that way is beyond us.
The Galaxy S7 edge comes in two versions, one powered by the in-house Exynos 8890, the other by the Snapdragon 820, depending on the region. Each of them comes with the respective GPU, Mali-T880 MP12 in the Exynos flavor, Adreno 530 in the Snapdragon, and 4GB of RAM is standard equipment.
Single-core CPU tests put the Snapdragon variant slightly ahead while the Exynos pulls ahead in multi-core thanks to more and higher clocked cores. In graphics benchmarks, the S820 generally has a marginal advantage. In the end, both are top-tier chipsets and no matter which one you get, you can expect exemplary performance.
The Galaxy S7 edge is the better S7, one may think. That's certainly true if looks are a top priority, but also for more practical reasons - the S7 edge has quite a bit longer battery life.
However, when you mention practicality, there's no escaping the fact that the smartphone is still a little awkward to handle. Strides have been taken towards improving that, but with the curved sides, there's a limitation to what can be done. Meanwhile, the edge features are cool, but not in a scale-tipping kind of way.
|Samsung Galaxy S7 edge|
The rest is very much the same - excellent dual-pixel camera (if lower-res than last year), superb build quality, environmental sealing, storage expansion, we've been through the list. It's just that the Galaxy S7 edge is so much prettier.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Total GSMArena score
|Design and build quality||