Samsung Galaxy S7 review - the best Android phone of 2016

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Samsung Galaxy S7
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
569
inc VAT (SIM-free)

With its incredible battery life, great screen and top performance, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the Android phone to buy right now

Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Samsung Exynos 8890, Screen Size: 5.1in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 12 megapixels, Storage (free): 32GB (24.8GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 142x70x7.9mm, Weight: 152g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
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The Galaxy S6 was one of the best smartphones of last year, but there were a few things that even the most diehard Samsung fans didn't quite agree with - the lack of microSD card slot and no user-replaceable battery. This year's entry, the Galaxy S7, still doesn't have an interchangable battery, sadly, but it does, at least, bring back the microSD slot. 

It's a small change, but it's important all the same. For starters, it means you now don't have to pay extra for a larger capacity smartphone upfront, a la Apple. Instead, you can simply buy a microSD card and slot it in whenever you like, allowing you to upgrade your storage cheaply rather than being hamstrung by your original purchase decision. Samsung's also brought back its waterproofing protection, which was strangely absent on the S6 after making such a splash (pardon the pun) on the Galaxy S5

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Of course, the same applies to the S7's curvy sibling, the Galaxy S7 Edge, as well. However, rather than have two S7 phones that are the same size this year, the S7 Edge is now much bigger, coming in at a 5.5in while the S7 remains at 5.1in. As a result, those after the fanciest Android phone around should probably check out the S7 Edge. However, for the rest of us who want something a little more reasonably sized and a little less expensive, the regular S7 is arguably the best Android handset you can buy today. 

Design

Admittedly, my first impressions of the Galaxy S7 weren't great, as my review sample had fine scratches in numerous places on the display and the fingerprint sensor. The back was in better condition, but its glass-plated rear is an absolute magnet for fingerprints, so it never looks quite as new and pristine as you'd ideally want it to be. As a result, you'll probably want to invest in a case, particularly when the S7's rounded back and edges feel like they're constantly about to slip out of your hand.

Otherwise, the rest of the S7's design improvements are all relatively minor. The S7's metal frame is now slightly smoother and less angular, but it's also a fraction fatter and heavier than the S6's, measuring 7.9mm thick compared to the S6's 6.8mm and weighing 152g rather than 132g. However, it's not something you'd notice in everyday use.

Samsung galaxy S7 charge

More obvious is the S7's newly streamlined camera bump, as it now protrudes by just 0.46mm, making it far less prominent and the phone far more stable to use when sat on a flat surface. The phone still rocks from side to side a bit when tapping the top half of the screen at the side, but it's a huge improvement on the unstable S6, especially if you're using a wireless charging pad.

Another welcome addition is the S7's microSD slot, which lets you expand either your 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage by up to 200GB. This makes it a lot more flexible than the S6, and it also means you won't have to shell out for an expensive, high capacity model in order to store all your music, for instance.

One of the most important changes, however, is one you can't see at all, as the S7's IP68 certification means it now has that all-important waterproofing protection that the S6 was severely lacking. This means that it can survive being submerged in up to 1.5m of water for 30 minutes, and as the waterproof design is integral to the phone, there's no need for rubber caps to block off the phone's ports if you accidentally drop it down the loo or into a puddle.

The only major quibble I have with the S7's design – apart from its overall slipperiness – is its fingerprint sensor. Having grown used to rear-facing fingerprint sensors, such as the one on the Nexus 6P, the S7's seems positively old-fashioned by comparison.

Galaxy S7 button

For starters, it's not in a very sensible place, as it's much lower down than where I'm used to reaching on my phone. However, my main problem is that it will only unlock the phone once you've pressed the home button or woken it up with the power button. This is nowhere near as useful as simply touching your finger to the back of the Nexus 6P, which wakes and unlocks automatically without the need to press anything, and I found the S7 didn't always recognise my fingerprint successfully, either. I ended up simply turning it off in favour of a more traditional swipe pattern.

Display

Samsung's Super AMOLED displays have always been one of the highlights of its S-series smartphones, and the S7's screen is no exception. It might not have the curved sides of the S7 Edge, but this 5.1in 2,560x1,440 resolution display has a super sharp pixel density of 577ppi and its quality is top notch. Covering a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, it can produce pitch perfect 0.00cd/m2 blacks and a super-high contrast ratio makes it lovely to look at, regardless of whether you're watching a video or scrolling through web pages.

With a peak brightness of 353.74cd.m2, it's not as bright as most LCD-based smartphones, but switch to Auto brightness and shine a torch on its adaptive light sensor and the brightness will shoot up to around 470cd/m2. It's the same thing Samsung did with the S6, and it makes using the S7 in bright sunshine much easier than some of its other Super AMOLED handsets.

Samsung galaxy S7 display

It also has the added benefit of Samsung's Always on Display technology, which can be used to display information such as the date, time and the phone's battery status when the screen is turned off. It's a similar idea to Motorola's Moto Display, which displays the time and any notifications when you pick up the phone or give it a jolt, but, as its name implies, the S7 displays this information permanently, which is more useful when you just want to glance down at your phone on the table to check the time.

The Always on Display can also show calendar information, but it's a shame this widget isn't actionable like traditional Android Marshmallow notifications. It's also not particularly useful for anything other than just looking at the date, as it doesn't pull in any events from Samsung's S Planner app, which is in turn linked to your Google Calendar, or highlight upcoming appointments.

Samsung's promised that the Always on Display won't detract much from the phone's battery life, using less than 1% of battery consumption per hour when it's enabled. This is because its Super AMOLED screen will only illuminate the pixels it needs in order to show the information. As a result, only a fraction of the display is being used at any one time. We didn't see any significant battery drain in our time with the handset to date. Continues on Page 2

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