Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review: Costly curves
Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Samsung Exynos 8890, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 12 megapixels, Storage (free): 32GB (24.8GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 151x73x7.7mm, Weight: 157g, Operating system: Android 6.0
Until the Galaxy Note 7 came along, the Galaxy S7 Edge had top-billing in Samsung's 2016 smartphone lineup - and rightly so. As a larger, curvier version of the regular Galaxy S7, the S7 Edge is immensely more attractive than its flat little brother, and it also has a much bigger battery, giving it more stamina over the course of a day.
It's still a great phone even with the Note 7's release, and for many the S7 Edge will be the better choice due to its lower price and lack of stylus. It also has plenty in common with the Note 7, as they both share the same processor, camera and screen resolution. Besides, the Note 7's 5.7in screen is only 0.2in bigger than the S7 Edge, which is hardly going to revolutionise the way you play games or watch your iPlayer downloads on the commute home.
Instead, you're more likely to notice the difference if you compare the S7 Edge with the regular S7, which only has a 5.1in display. Here, the S7 Edge's enlarged screen size finally puts some much-needed distance between each handset to help make it feel like a more obvious upgrade over its flat sibling.
The S7 and S7 Edge also address many of the complaints we had with the entire S6 family. There's still no removable battery, but the S7 Edge now has a microSD slot that lets you expand its 32GB or 64GB of default storage by up to 200GB, and it also has IP68-certified dust and waterproof protection, making it more both flexible and more practical than either of its predecessors.
For some, this alone might be reason enough to sign up for one of Samsung's new generation of smartphones, especially if you're a Galaxy S5 owner who's been deliberately holding off due to the lack of expandable storage. That said, one thing the S7 Edge definitely hasn't improved on is the sheer number of smeary fingerprints it picks up on its glass-plated rear. Grime and grease isn't the best look for a flagship handset, and there were several times during testing when I actually longed for the faux leather rear of the S5. Still, it is, at least, easy to hold, as its curved sides and metal frame converge into a bit of a harder, flatter edge than the regular S7, providing a decent amount of grip despite its large footprint.
The curved display looks as stunning as ever, and Samsung's made a number of improvements to the Edge Screen software, too. Activated by a simple thumb swipe over the small translucent tab on the side of the screen, the Edge panels are now wider, allowing them to hold more information, and have a greater number of uses. The app shortcut panel and quick access contact page make a welcome return, but you can also have Edge screens that are now solely dedicated to internet bookmarks, a compass, the weather and S Planner to name just a few.
^ The People Edge (far left) gives you quick access to your favourite contacts; the Tasks Edge (centre left) lets you jump straight into certain tasks; My Places (centre right) promotes certain apps depending on your location; and Quick Tools (far right) gives you a full compass
Our favourite new addition is the Tasks Edge. Maybe in response to Apple's Force Touch technology, the Tasks Edge lets you instantly jump to certain phone functions, such as composing a text message or email, viewing your internet bookmarks, creating a calendar event, taking a selfie, or quick dialling specific contacts. There's even a My Places Edge screen, which pinches elements of HTC's Sense 7 Home interface to promote three of your most-used apps that are geared toward your current location. For instance, if you're at Work, the My Places Edge screen might show S Planner or Google Docs, but it might switch to Google Play Music and Google Maps when you're out and about.
All these are handy extras, but considering its two best Edge screens borrow features we've already seen elsewhere (and to arguably greater effect), it suggests that even Samsung seems to be struggling to give its Edge screen purpose. While there's no denying that some of the Edge screens are very convenient, most of the shortcuts (excepting the Tasks Edge) could easily be replaced by adding additional widgets on the home screen. The Edge screens do have the added advantage of helping to reduce the amount of clutter on your home screens, but I'm still not convinced they're an absolute must-have feature yet.
One thing you needn't doubt, however, is the quality of the S7 Edge's display, as Samsung's 5.5in, 2,560x1,440 Super AMOLED panel is, once again, best in class. It covers a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut along with pitch perfect 0.00cd/m2 black levels. Images look stunning on the S7 Edge, and its ultra-high contrast ratio captures plenty of detail, too, so you can be sure your photos and videos will always look their best.
As per usual, Super AMOLED displays aren't as bright as their LCD counterparts, as evidenced by the S7 Edge's peak brightness level of 361.01cd/m2. However, as with the S7, the S7 Edge has a clever trick of being able to boost its brightness in very bright sunshine when it's set to auto. To test this, I shone a torch over its adaptive light sensor, which promptly made its peak white levels shoot up to 503cd/m2. This is around what I'd expect to see from an LCD smartphone, so to see this on a Super AMOLED display is pretty impressive, combining the brightness of an LCD when you really need it with the rich, vibrant colours of Super AMOLED when you don't.
Samsung's also introduced an always-on element to the S7 Edge's display this year, which shows the time, date and battery status when the phone's in sleep mode. This is incredibly useful if all you want to do is have a quick glance at the time, and it doesn't use much battery either, as Samsung's Super AMOLED panel only illuminates the pixels it needs to show the information instead of the entire backlight.