Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review: one big Android middle finger to Apple

Samsung has listened to customers and made an (almost) perfect smartphone

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For

  • Premium glass and metal design
  • microSD and waterproofing
  • Large battery and great camera

Against

  • Fingerprints
  • Fingerprints everywhere!
  • Cartoonish looking UI

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is the first flagship smartphone to break cover in 2016. It was announced at MWC in February, and a few weeks later it arrived on our desk. Miraculous.

It certainly caused a stir when unveiled in Barcelona - taking last year's already highly praised S6 Edge and improving it (without shaking things up too much).

Has Samsung jumped the gun? Have they played it too safe? Will Kanye West really get a job at IKEA?

No!

This is a great phone, and now we're going to tell you why.

Life on the edge

This is the best looking Android phone you can buy, it's sleek, has curves in all the right places, and, most importantly, feels premium. Although it must be said, we still don't think it's as attractive as the iPhone 6S.

Our main issue with the design is that it's an absolute fingerprint black hole (that's a few levels above magnet). If you even think about picking the phone up it'll get covered in prints.

The Black S7 Edge is a nightmare, but it's slightly less noticeable on the Gold S7 model we have.

If you don't have OCD like us, that's not a problem, but if you pride yourself on a spotless smartphone… maybe purchase a pair of those white gloves snooker referees wear.

The glass is grippy (better than aluminium) and paired with the subtly curved rear case, the S7 Edge sits firmly and comfortably in your hand.

It's larger than last year's phone with a 5.5-inch display up from 5.1-inches. It packs the same number of pixels (1440 x 2560) so PPI is lower. But in reality, this doesn't make a difference. The screen is probably the best we've seen on a smartphone, especially in terms of brightness and contrast.

The screen is also 'always on', constantly displaying the time and system notifications when not active. It's a helpful little addition, and Samsung claims it only uses less than 1-percent battery per hour. Of course, it can be turned off.

Other key measurements are 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm, so while the screen size is bordering on phablet territory, it's by no means a massive device thanks to the thin bezels.

It also makes selecting which Galaxy device you want easier - there's the smaller S7 with a 5.1-inch screen or the larger S7 Edge. Both come with four colour options and 32GB of internal storage.

Last year's S6 range from Samsung was bewildering, so it's good to see the company has de-complicated things a little.

At 7.7 mm thick, the S7 Edge seems a little portly for a 2016 smartphone, but thanks toits beautifully tapered design it feels much thinner than it really is.

That leads us nicely onto the device's standout feature - that Edge.

It looks great, and is still really striking a year on. Is it useful? Probably not, I haven't really found myself using it all that much, but it's still the model I'd choose over the regular S7.

On the rear of the device, you'll find the camera and flash-come-heart-rate-come-blood-oxygen-come-stress-sensor.

The camera doesn't sit flush with the rear casing, but it's much more streamlined than last year and barely noticeable. I'm not really a fan of the square/circle housing which cheapens the design slightly.

The multi-sensor is interesting, but I'm not sure how useful/accurate it really is (we'll find a way to scientifically test it at a later date). It certainly seems more suited to a wearable, but if your smartwatch is dead and you desperately need to know your heart rate - you'll be thankful you own an S7 Edge.

The front is pretty simple. There's a front-facing camera, speaker (for calls), pill-shaped home button, and two touch sensitive buttons (multi-tasking and back) which only light up when the screen is active.

The home button houses a fingerprint sensor which I've found is faster and more reliable than the iPhone's.

The best thing about the S7 Edge's design?

It's now waterproof (if you hadn't guessed from the images).

Fully waterproof as well - categorised as IP68 - enabling it to be dunked in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5 metres. Take it swimming if you want.

It features a MicroUSB charging port, not a USB-C. Opinion's divided whether this is positive or not. But I'm thankful I don't have to start carrying another cable around.

There's only a single speaker along the bottom edge of the device. It's loud and clear, but lacks punch.

Speed demon specs

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is blazing fast. The Flash levels of fast. Like, if this was a cartoon it would travel everywhere in a mini tornado. It's. That. Fast.

It comes packing Samsung's Exynos 8890 octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM.

Navigation is smooth and apps load almost instantly.

Tapping and swiping around TouchWiz is a breeze. Which brings us on to the infamous UI…

Good news is: it's nowhere near as bad as previous iterations. In fact, I could quite easily learn to live with it.

The icons look childish, but the UI is intuitive and easy to use. It's also pleasantly customisable, with a large settings list which allows you to tailor your TouchWiz experience.

Of course, if you can't stand it. Simply download and install the stock Android launcher and away you go.

I really enjoyed using the keyboard (the little things, ey?). The keys are nicely spaced out and it includes numbers above the QWERTY letters. That makes entering postcodes MUCH easier.

Battery life is also pretty great. Rather than making the device thinner Samsung has opted to put a larger battery inside the S7 Edge.

It now packs a 3,600 mAh unit. Which is good for around a day and a half, much better than the typical daily charging most other smartphones require.

There's wireless charging and quick charging as well. I got to 50-percent from zero in half and hour, which is really useful.

As I mentioned earlier, the S7 Edge has 32GB of internal storage. Thankfully Samsung has put a microSD slot into these new handsets so you can expand it to 200GB. That really is a necessity - especially with apps taking up so much room these days.

Stand out snapper

The 16MP camera on the Galaxy S6 was a-maze-zing. Samsung really didn't have to tinker too much here. But they have…

Megapixel-count has actually taken a step back with the S7 Edge - now sitting at 12MP.

Don't worry though, the S7 Edge camera still packs a mighty punch. It's without doubt one of the best on a smartphone.

Despite the lowered megapixel count images are still sharp and detailed. The colours are vibrant (if a little oversaturated) and the white balance is spot on.

The pixel drop allows for faster autofocusing, and better low light performance (thanks to larger pixels). Low light performance is best in class.

We think the lens may be the star here, with minimal glare even in direct sunlight. Very impressive.

The camera app is also really pleasing to use. The auto mode does a good job, and more advanced photogs can use pro mode and shoot RAW files.

The app is fast to load, and can be quick-launched by double-tapping the home button from the lock screen.

The front-facing camera is the same 5MP until from the S6. It's okay, but not a stand out performer.

Verdict

Whether you value the premium glass and aluminium chassis, the high-end specs, or the outstanding camera. This smartphone has it all.

Expandable storage and waterproofing, back from the S5, are also big bonuses, and all of this shows that Samsung has really listened to customer complaints about the S6 (which is really quite refreshing).

It's not perfect - the casing is a fingerprint magnet and TouchWiz still isn't perfect. But the pros far outweigh the cons.

When it comes down to it: the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is the best smartphone you can buy right now.