The new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge is launched in Singapore market. Thanks to StarHub Community, I do not have to wait for 6 months before receiving a review unit. I have earlier published 8 new things about the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. After using it for one week, I remain impressed. Here is a write-up of my thoughts.
First, please watch my unboxing video.
What do I like about the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge?
Design Improvements: Same but Different
Samsung started the curved-screen trend of smartphone designs with Galaxy S6 edge, and has improved its design on the S7 edge. You could not tell just by looking at it: the S7 edge looks similar to the S6 edge and S6 edge+. But once you hold it, you will feel the difference.
First, it has a smoother and thinner aluminium frame without the bulge against the front and rear glass panels, giving the phone a wraparound feel. The slim bezel frame makes the phone feel thin on my palm. The front and rear glass panels further deceive my fingers that I am holding a piece of crystal artwork. The curved glass adds to the impression of beauty and grace.
Second, the S7 edge is the first 5.5-inch Samsung curved display smartphone, and I thought this is a fantastic size for people who do not like large phones. The phone is almost the same size as the HTC One M8 which houses a 5-inch screen.
Third, the phone is certified IP68 without the need to seal the exposed USB and audio ports. It does not mean you can bring it for swimming, but you can be assured that the phone will not spoil when submerged in water.
With such a gorgeous design, it is unfortunate that most consumers would be buying a thick casing to protect the pricey device. And rightfully you should. The S7 edge is made of fragile materials all around. The aluminium frame easily makes a dent if it hits hard surfaces, and the glass surfaces are exposed to impact if the phone drops on a rough surface. Confirm damage!
It is interesting to note that while the front display is treated to minimise fingerprint marks, the rear glass does not have the same coating which will be prone to grease, nor is scratch-free. But they won’t matter since most of the consumers would either stick a protective film or get a casing.
You may like to remove the white sticker label that states the IMEIs and serial number, because the numbers are already printed at the bottom of the phone.
Camera: Faster and Better
The camera lives up to its expectations. I love the double-click home button shortcut, which starts up fast. The shutter is prompt and the photo review is equally responsive. Most other smartphones would require a longer time to shoot HDR images, but Samsung is able to shoot in HDR without impacting the capture speed. The white balance is rather aggressive in the good sense. Most of the time, the camera is able to adjust white balance very accurately, even though the actual scene is not that white. The image sharpness is also bumped up, which is great for immediate photo sharing, but might not be ideal for post-processing.
What truly impresses me is not just the ability of the camera to take low light scenes with good brightness level, but the scenes are captured quickly too. Most other smartphone cameras would have live preview lags and the screen would freeze for a brief moment as the camera captures the scene in slow shutter speed. And like many expensive cameras, the S7 edge supports subject-tracking, activated when I tap on the subject on-screen. The camera will recognise the subject and follow the subject wherever it moves on screen.
The “Pro” mode is truly professional, with the ability to capture RAW (DNG) format, as well as EV adjustment of 1/10-step, while most cameras typically have 1/3-step or 1/2-step adjustments. I can also save up to 3 custom settings, just like a DSLR. I can even set the shutter speed manually up to 1/24000s! In this mode, the preview screen displays green AF points continuously telling me where the camera is actively focusing.
There are various shooting modes that are easy to use and helps to create content easily without additional post-processing. More can be downloaded from the Samsung app store. Here’s a few to mention:
- The “Video Collage” lets me capture a few seconds of video footage over 4 quadrants. Once finished, the final video will have a video collage of 4 footages in each quadrant.
- The “Selective Focus” mode captures both near focus and far focus, and allows you to select either focus areas or both areas to save the image. The S7 edge allows you to save all 3 focus areas separately, so there is no need to commit to one focus area and losing other details.
- The “Virtual Shot” mode is a great mode to capture 3D objects. After capturing, you can replay the 3D image and even tilt the phone to view the capture image.
- The “Food” mode is basically a quick way to capture objects with a sharp focus around the selected area while blurring the others, to create an impression of a shallow depth of field (think Instagram “Tilt Shift” filter). The result is really subtle though I do no fancy the increased colour saturation.
Smoother Interface, Finally
The S7 edge works smooth and fast. It does not exhibit any strain in handling my screen interactions like opening apps, switching apps. There is no degradation of the performance over the week of my immersive use. But if you are fearful of performance hogs, you can easily free up RAM using the Smart Manager app that monitors your RAM, storage, battery and device security.
In addition, Samsung UX has several useful features that I like. One notable feature is the ability to capture continuous screen shots of long pages without limiting any maximum number of pages. The Edge screen apps are also enhanced to allow me to add apps shortcut, tasks shortcut, and other widget panels that are downloadable.
There are still times when the smartphone would restart by itself, for reasons unknown to me. Also, the Facebook Messenger crashed in early days of my review when I tried to send photos. The bug has since been fixed, which goes to show that there may be app compatibility issues in the early times. I would expect the occurrences to reduce tremendously.
Biggest Battery Ever
The battery life is astounding. On every single day of my review, the battery never dropped below 20% from the moment I wake till the time I sleep – 16 hours. At 3600 mAh, the S7 edge has the largest battery capacity for any Samsung Galaxy smartphone. And for that, it also has the most impressive battery life I have experienced on a Galaxy smartphone. Looking at the size of the S7 edge, there is no excuse for other smartphone makers to offer larger battery size in a smaller form factor.
The Always-On display is first introduced on the S7 series, so Samsung is prudent in its capability. For now, it only displays the time, date and selected notifications. It does not support third party notifications like Whatsapp. Nor does it display music tracks on play. The wallpaper only supports selected images. And while Samsung claims it uses relatively little battery, I would not enable it since it does not significant benefit.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is loaded with premium hardware that you pay for. You get dual SIM, micro SD slot, 4GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, NFC, fast charging, wireless charging, biometric sensor. One feature that was removed from S6 is infra-red sensor. Samsung will be launching Samsung Pay in Singapore and so this phone will be one step closer to achieving cashless payment convenience.
Audio Quality and Headset
The Galaxy S7 edge can handle 24-bit high-resolution music files, which is great news for audiophiles. The mono speaker delivers clear treble and no bass, without surprises. The wired headset that comes with the retail package does not do justice to the audio quality. The earbud design follows the Apple iPhone on-canal design, resulting in lacklustre audio because there is no audio seal. The lows lack punch while the highs lack precision.
Gimmicky Curved Display
To be honest, I do not fancy the curved screen. I am perfectly happy if Samsung had a curved glass while the display ends before the curve. The reason is that Samsung extended the display to the sides which leaves no space for our hands to rest. For content that goes all the way to the edges, I have to turn the phone slightly to see them. I also find myself touching the screen too often when handling the phone. I would prefer the implementation of the Note Edge where the edge panel has a life of its own. What it means is that both the edge panels have the ability to provide independent information, similar to what the LG V10 is offering. It would be useful when, say, I am doing full-screen browsing and there is an incoming event which I would not be able to see because the notification bar is hidden.
Samsung has a brilliant design. Now all it needs is a complementary UX to better use its curved areas.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I am once again delighted with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The smartphone is finally worth the premium retail price. The battery is great, the camera is spectacular, the UI runs smoothly, you can expand the storage with micro SD card, the device can survive in water. And above all, it is light, compact, and a design that is uniquely Samsung. If you were a Samsung S4 user and moved to other brands due to lacklustre S5 and S6, then it’s time to move back to S7.
Will I buy it? I said “no” to the S6 because for the price, it’s not giving me enough value. But for the S7, I’m going to say “yes”, because it has finally offered critical features that no other phone can easily achieve: fast-response low-light camera, long-lasting battery and A-list hardware with stellar performance packed in a slim form. As consumers get more savvy with photo-sharing, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge will earn you the social likes that you badly need, and keep you engaged with your online channels for longer periods.
The Galaxy S7 4G+ and S7 edge 4G+ is available at S$998 and S$1,098 respectively. Both models come in Black Onyx, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium, with built-in memory of 32GB at all local telecommunication Operators, major consumer electronics stores, authorised retailers and Samsung Experience Stores.