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Samsung Galaxy S7 vs S7 Edge - what's the difference?

Katharine Byrne
4 Apr 2016
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge rear
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Wondering if you should buy the flat S7 or the curved S7 Edge? We put both phones head to head to see what's different

Last year's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge were two of the best Android phones you could buy, but when the only thing really separating them was the S6 Edge's curved screen, it didn't really provide potential buyers with a lot of choice, as both phones were exactly the same size, had the same camera and came with the same processor. 

This year, Samsung's Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge still have plenty in common, but they also have some pretty marked differences this time round, so we've put both phones head to head to see what's new, what's different and, more importantly, which one you should be saving your money for. In this article, we'll be comparing each phone's design, display, performance, camera and battery life, but if you'd rather see how the S7 compares to the S6, make sure you check out our S7 vs S6 article as well. 

Design

Dimensions: This is one of the biggest differences between the two phones, as the curved S7 Edge is much larger than the regular S7. While the S7 maintains the S6's 5.1in screen size, the S7 Edge has grown to 5.5in. Unsurprisingly, this means the S7 is much taller than the regular S7, coming in at 151x73x7.7mm, but it's not really that much wider, as the S7 only measures 142x70x8mm. This is because the curved display on the Edge takes up less room, allowing it to be much narrower than your typical 5.5in handset. The S7 Edge isn't much heavier either, as the S7 Edge's weight of 157g is only 5g more than the S7's 152g. 

It's also worth noting that the height difference of 9mm is barely noticeable when you put each phone side by side. As a result, the S7 Edge gives you a larger screen without all the hassle that's usually associated with big, 5.5in smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy S7 vs S7 Edge

Materials: As with the S6, the new S7 models are constructed from glass and metal, giving them a premium feel and look. They still pick up all manner of fingerprints, but the overall designs haven't changed much since last year, which is no bad thing considering the S6 was already one 2015's best-looking phones. One big difference from the S6 range is that the S7 and S7 Edge are now IP68 certified, which makes them dustproof and waterproof up to 1.5m of water for a duration of 30 minutes. 

Conclusion: The size of the Edge won't be for everyone, but it's definitely one of the more compact 5.5in smartphones you can currently buy. There's also no denying that its curves still look just as good as they did on the S6 Edge, giving you yet another reason to upgrade if you want the flashiest smartphone money can buy. The regular S7 is by far the more practical handset, but if you want a smartphone that will make others green with jealousy, then the S7 Edge is the way to go. 

Display

Screen size and resolution: The S7 might have a smaller display than the S7 Edge, but both of them have the same 2,560x1,440 resolution and use the same Super AMOLED screen tech. Due to the screen size differences, this means the S7 has the slightly higher pixel density of 577ppi vs 534ppi. However, you simply can't tell the difference when you're looking at the phones side by side, as both of them look equally sharp and equally lovely. 

The quality of each screen is top-notch, too. Both displays cover a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and produce perfect 0.00cd/m2 black levels, and their contrast ratios are so high that our colour calibrator couldn't even give them a score. However, the S7 Edge just nudges ahead when it comes to overall screen brightness. On max brightness, both phones can hit around 340cd/m2, but switch them over to auto and the S7 Edge can reach an impressive 503cd/m2 when placed in direct sunlight. The S7, on the other hand, only managed about 470cd/m2.

Samsung Galaxy S7 close up camera

Due to the lack of available sunshine during our testing period, we simulated this test by shining a torch over each phone's adaptive light sensor. While a difference of 30cd/m2 isn't much, it does mean the S7 Edge will appear brighter and more legible when you're using it outside compared to the normal S7. 

Both displays also support Samsung's Always On Display technology, which lets a portion of the screen always display information such as the time, date, battery status or calendar. 

The other big difference is the Edge's curved screen. As with the S6 Edge, Samsung's Edge Display technology means you can pull up additional app shortcuts and widgets when you swipe in from the right of the screen. It can be quite useful in some circumstances, but it doesn't really save you a lot of time or effort in the long run, and most of its shortcuts can simply be placed on your homescreen via Android's own widget tools, which rather defeats the point of having the curve and Samsung's special shortcut software in the first place. As a result, the curves don't really add a lot of extra utility to the S7 Edge, which can make it feel like you're paying over the odds for its visual flourishes.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge curved display

Conclusion: As lovely as the S7 Edge's curved screen is to look at, Samsung still hasn't found a way to make it an absolutely necessary part of the overall phone, which is disappointing considering how much more it costs compared to the normal S7. Personally, I prefer Samsung's flat S7 screen, as it's not only a more convenient size, but it's also a better fit for the Gear VR, Samsung's virtual reality headset, where resolution and pixel density play a key role in delivering the best VR experience possible. As such, this one's a win for the S7. 

Performance and storage

Processor: Samsung's using an octa-core 2.3GHz Exynos 8890 SoC for the S7 and S7 Edge this time round, and both produced nigh-on identical benchmark results. In Geekbench 3, for example, the S7 scored 2,115 in the single core test and 6,437 in the multicore test, while the S7 Edge scored 2,147 and 6,323. As a result, both phones felt equally quick in everyday use, and Samsung's Marshmallow version of TouchWiz was very smooth and responsive.

Gaming performance was also neck-and-neck, as the S7 produced 2,336 frames (38fps) in GFX Bench GL's offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test, while the S7 Edge managed 2,296 frames (37fps). This is the best set of scores we've seen from an Android smartphone, so both should be able to handle any game currently available in the Google Play Store.

The S7 pulled ahead in our Peacekeeper web browsing test, scoring 1,882 compared to the S7 Edge's 1,528. In practice, though, the difference was pretty negligible, as both phones proved supremely capable of handling media and ad-heavy web pages, even while pages were still loading. 

Samsung galaxy S7 buttons

Battery: The S7 has a sizeable 3,000mAh battery under its hood, but the S7 Edge goes even further with its massive 3,600mAh battery. In theory, this should mean that the S7 Edge lasts considerably longer, but our continuous video playback test showed the S7 was surprisingly power efficient compared to its big brother. With the screen brightness set to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2, the S7 lasted a highly impressive 17h 48m, but the S7 Edge couldn't even hang on for another hour, finishing the test in a still excellent 18h 42m.

Storage: Both phones are available in 32GB and 64GB base models, but everyone will be pleased to see Samsung's brought back a microSD slot on each one, letting you expand storage up to 200GB.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge SD and SIM drawer

Conclusion: It's a close call here, but our benchmarks showed the S7 was just that little bit better in almost every respect. It may not have the edge on battery life, but considering its battery is so much smaller than the one inside the S7 Edge, its 17h 42m is arguably more impressive than the Edge's 18h 42m. For us, it's another win for the S7. 

Camera

The S7 and S7 Edge have new 12-megapixel sensors this year, which some might consider a bit of a downgrade compared to last year's 16-megapixel sensors on the S6 family. However, Samsung's more than made up for its lack of resolution by increasing the size of each individual pixel to 1.4um from 1.12um. This means that each pixel gets more light, which should, in theory, dramatically improve low-light performance. Samsung's also increased the size of the lens aperture as well, opting for a brighter f/1.9 lens over the S6's f/1.7 aperture. Again, this is all geared toward letting more light into the camera, allowing it to produce brighter and better quality shots. 

In our tests, both cameras were excellent. Each one had a tendency to slightly overexpose very bright parts of the frame, such as white buildings, but overall there was a very high level of detail present and plenty of contrast available to help accentuate highs and lows. 

Samsung galaxy S7 camera test

^ The S7's camera (above) is highly capable, but there's not a lot of difference in terms of quality between this and the S7 Edge (below)


Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge camera test

Indoors, it was much same. Noise was kept to an absolute minimum, but detail levels remained high across the board, even in low lighting conditions. Check out our test shots below to compare each one in full. 

Samsung galaxy S7 camera indoors

^ If you didn't know it, you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference between the S7 (above) and the S7 Edge (below)

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge camera test indoors

Conclusion: This one is a definite draw. Both cameras are superb and neither one is better than the other inside or out - which isn't surprising given they both use the same sensor. 

Verdict

Ultimately, though, the biggest factor comes down to price: the 32GB S7 Edge costs £639 SIM-free, but the 32GB S7 costs £70 less at £569. For some, that probably isn't enough to stop them from getting the S7 Edge, and some in the Expert Reviews office would be more than happy to shell out the extra cash for a more attractive-looking phone. 

Overall, though, I think the regular S7 is arguably the better, more practical choice. It not only edges out the S7 Edge when it comes to performance, but its battery life is also far more impressive considering the size of its battery. Similarly, I think its screen size will be much more convenient for the vast majority of people, and the fact that Samsung still hasn't given people a concrete reason to buy into its curved screen technology also shows just how superfluous it is to the overall phone. In this case, the S7 remains my top Samsung handset of choice this year, but the S7 Edge still comes in a very close second. 

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