For some time now, Samsung has been the dominant player in the Android space, especially at the high end of the market. From the Galaxy S2 onwards, Samsung has been able to ride the wave of the smartphone industry’s growth without much disruption. Samsung has also shown a pretty impressive ability to adapt to changes in the market as seen by their dramatic departure in materials from the Galaxy S5 generation to the Galaxy S6 generation. While the Galaxy S6 was ultimately one of the best phones you could get that year, at least a few design decisions like the loss of removable battery and microSD slot were generally considered to be a step back relative to previous devices.

Throughout their reign of dominance Samsung has always been able to stay on top, however their competition is never too far behind. To that end, it’s probably obvious now that the Galaxy S7 family represents an attempt to improve on the Galaxy S6’s perceived faults, while building upon its perceived strengths. In order to start discussing these changes, we can start by looking at the basic specs and design of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

Samsung Galaxy S Family
  Samsung Galaxy S7 Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
SoC Snapdragon 820 (US, China, Japan)
2x Kryo @ 2.15GHz
2x Kryo @ 1.6GHz
Adreno 530

Exynos 8890 (Rest of World)
4x A53 @ 1.58GHz
4x Exynos M1 @ 2.28-2.60GHz
Mali T880MP12 @ 650MHz
Exynos 7420
4x Cortex-A57 @ 2.1GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz
Mali T760MP8
RAM 4GB LPDDR4-3600 3GB LPDDR4-3100
NAND 32/64GB NAND (UFS)
+ microSD
32/64/128GB NAND (UFS)
Display 5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED
5.5" 1440p
SAMOLED
Dual Edge
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED
5.1” 1440p
SAMOLED
Dual Edge
Network S820: Qualcomm X12 Integrated
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 12/13)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6)
Dimensions 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm, 152 grams 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm, 157 grams 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm max, 138 grams 142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0mm max, 132 grams
Camera Rear Camera w/OIS
12MP (4032 x 3024)
Sony IMX260
f/1.7, object tracking AF
Rear Camera w/OIS
16MP (5132 x 2988)
Sony IMX240 / Samsung S5K2P2
f/1.9, object tracking AF
Front Facing
5MP, f/1.7
Front Facing
5MP , f/1.9
Battery 3000mAh (11.55 WHr) 3600mAh (13.86 WHr) 2550 mAh (9.81 WHr) 2600 mAh (10.01 WHr)
Launch OS Android 6 w/TouchWiz Android 5 w/TouchWiz
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MU-MIMO +
BT 4.2,
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac +
BT 4.1 (BCM4358),
USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
Wireless Charging Yes, Fast Charging WPC 1.1 (4.6W) &
PMA 1.0 (4.2W)
Fingerprint Sensor Touch Touch
SIM Size NanoSIM NanoSIM
Launch Price
(No Contract)
$650+ USD $750+ USD $650+ USD

$750+ USD

One of the other major changes in terms of design this time around is electing to go with a significantly larger battery than before. Compared to most other aspects of smartphone technology, battery technology is a more mature field and improves as a slower pace, so the tradeoffs made here result in a thicker device and increased weight relative to the Galaxy S6. However, as we’ll soon see Samsung has made a number of changes in the industrial design which help to mitigate these issues.

Meanwhile, with the Galaxy S7 generation, Samsung has further blurred the line between the Galaxy S lineup and the Galaxy note. The Galaxy S7 edge is a 5.5-inch device - fully into the phablet territory - and only 0.2 inches smaller than the 5.7" Galaxy Note5. This means that the two Galaxy S7 phones are now more significantly differentiated than with the Galaxy S6 generation, where the difference amounted to the dual-edge display and a slightly larger battery. Now the Galaxy S7 edge is larger, ever so slightly heavier, and contains a battery with 20% more capacity than it's base Galaxy S7 brethren.

The final change of note in the Galaxy S7/S7 edge is the camera. With the Galaxy S6 review it was hard to avoid wondering why Samsung didn’t bother to integrate a camera with larger pixel size to improve low light performance, especially when camera was such a significant part of the Galaxy S6 design story with the noticeable camera hump. For the Galaxy S7, Samsung has gone ahead and done just this: the pixel size is now 1.4 micron which should significantly increase the number of situations where the image quality is limited by shot noise rather than image sensor noise. And to top things off the camera hump has now been almost entirely eliminated.

On a quick housekeeping note before we dive in, as we've had less than a week to look at the Galaxy S7, we're dividing up our review into two parts. Today we'll focus on the basics: performance, battery life, design, and the display. Part 2 will go deeper, looking into the Snapdragon 820 SoC in fuller detail, and coupling that with Wi-Fi performance, camera performance, and more.

Design

Now that we’ve gone over the high level changes of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, we can start talking about the design of the device. While the Galaxy S6 was an enormous departure from what we were used to seeing from Samsung, the Galaxy S7 is really more an evolution of the Galaxy S6 design. As previously mentioned, it is noticeably thicker and heavier than the Galaxy S6. However, to offset this increase in thickness Samsung has integrated the curved 3D glass of the Galaxy Note5 into the design of the Galaxy S7.

The result of this change is that the Galaxy S7 arguably feels much better in the hand than the Galaxy S6. While I didn’t really have huge issues with the ergonomics of the Galaxy S6, it definitely felt a bit blocky relative to something like the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro and didn’t quite fit in the hand as nicely. The weight increase is noticeable, but not really the end of the world.

The thickness does result in a noticeably reduced camera hump, but on a personal level I never really cared about the camera hump in the Galaxy S6, so I’m not sure I care about the reduction in the camera hump here. I would actually argue that a camera hump is preferable to a camera cover lens that is perfectly coplanar to the back of the phone, as it means that the camera lens isn’t contacting whatever surface I’ve set it down on. While sapphire cover lenses go a very long way to eliminating the potential for scratching a cover lens, there’s also the potential for oil to smear on the camera’s cover lens so I would actually prefer having a camera hump.

The other noticeable change here is the re-introduction of 2.5D curved glass on the edges of the display. I’m not quite sure why Samsung tends to remove and re-introduce this design element seemingly on and off, but it does help with improving the feel of edge swipes at the cost of complicating some things like screen protectors and glass lens durability. Honestly speaking, I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes either way, but it does remove another edge present in the design.

Other than these changes, the design is almost unchanged. The power button remains on the right side of the device and is well-positioned ergonomically. The volume buttons are pretty much in the same place on the left side as well. The 3.5mm jack, micro-USB port, and single speaker are all on the bottom of the device. The only notable deletion in terms of design elements here would be the loss of the IR port on top of the device, which was removed from Galaxy devices starting with the Note5.

Battery Life
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  • Michael Wilding - Tuesday, March 08, 2016 - link

    Great write up Josh. I'm looking forward to seeing the camera performance, and the Adreno 530 is a beast! Let's hope performance can be sustained without significant throttling. Reply
  • warreo - Tuesday, March 08, 2016 - link

    Yes, somewhat disappointed that overheating wasn't addressed in Part 1 given Andrei's skewering of Samsung's use of a heatpipe and his comments that the S7 got pretty hot under load. Hope it gets addressed in detail for Part 2! Reply
  • Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, March 09, 2016 - link

    That is awesome that in EU will have Exynos 8890 .. crappy SD820 battery drainer.. Reply
  • Azurael - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    I seem to recall that real world battery life has traditionally been worse on Samsung SoCs than Qualcomm's mainly due to the modems using a lot more power - hopefully they've resolved that this generation... Personally, I'm disappointed that we get the Exynos version in Europe because it means there will probably never be a fully working AOSP port. Reply
  • leexgx - Monday, March 14, 2016 - link

    be nice to add CUBOT H1 results in there as well (i had the phone for like a month or 2 now and 2 days of active use is lovely without having to use an external battery that norm would still only last me a day on my last phone)

    my use i am typically getting 8 hours screen on time (i use GPS a lot so i never expect to get the 12 hours screen on time, or probably mythical 15-18 hours if anandtech benched it for power)
    Reply
  • leexgx - Monday, March 14, 2016 - link

    anandtech review http://www.anandtech.com/show/9868/cubot-h1-smartp...

    not sure if the phone is fully suitable for USA due to 3G and (real) 4G Bands been used on the phone
    Reply
  • Ethos Evoss - Wednesday, March 09, 2016 - link

    Huawei Mate 8 rocks .. still ! Reply
  • jjj - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    A throttling result for the Exynos variant of the Edge with a 42% drop http://www.techspot.com/articles-info/1147/images/... Reply
  • MaxIT - Monday, March 14, 2016 - link

    ... as usual. Samsung and Qualcomm just can't balance their system. They just look for a benchmark number to impress people and try to be competitive with Apple. But that's just a smoke curtain... Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, March 09, 2016 - link

    There is finally a GFXBench long term perf result for the MI5 https://gfxbench.com/device.jsp?benchmark=gfx40&am...

    There are some complications though, the device is just 1080p, the 60FPS limit,no heatpipe. While keeping all that in mind, we do see a 37% drop and this test is not the worst case scenario. Hopefully Andrei will have a better test based on OpenGL ES 3.x or test it with some actual games since T-Rex is becoming outdated.
    Reply

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