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Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: Amazing Performance In A Familiar Face

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We review the Galaxy S7!

Samsung’s newest flagship looks a lot like the phone released last year, and while many readers are peeved at the Korean company for the iterative look of the Galaxy S7, we’re more inclined to cut them a little slack. It takes a lot of time and money to develop a whole new design, and considering Samsung’s major design shift last year, their decision to iterate with their latest flagships is completely understandable.

Don’t be fooled though – while the phone sports a familiar face, underneath that are new features that make the S7 worthy of its flagship moniker.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Specs

  • 2.6GHz octa-core Exynos 8890 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.1 Super AMOLED display, QHD resolution, Gorilla Glass 4 protection, 2560 x 1440 resolution
  • 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD up to 200GB
  • 12-megapixel DualPixel camera, f/1.7 aperture, OIS
  • 5-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
  • 3000mAh
  • Android 6.0, TouchWiz UI
  • Php 34,990

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Same old design with a few tweaks

Like we said earlier Samsung has chosen to iterate, rather than innovate with the design of their latest flagship. Considering that the previous iteration looked swanky enough on its own, Samsung has chosen to do minor tweaks to the design instead of starting from scratch.

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Those tweaks include more rounded corners, a flatter home button that almost sits flush against the body of the phone and curves on the edges of the back panel ala the Galaxy Note 5. The biggest change in the design of the phone is undoubtedly the camera module on the back, which now sits flusher to the main body compared to the previous iteration. The protruding camera was a major pain point in the Galaxy S6, and we’re happy to see that has been improved in the latest flagship.

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The phone sports thin side and top bezels, which makes it a rather compact phone even if it has a 5.1-inch display. The curved sides on the back make it a pleasure to hold in the hands, and allow even the daintiest of fingers to reach the entire breadth of the display. The volume and power buttons, located on the left and right side of the phone respectively, are easily within reach.

The S7 uses a typical micro USB port instead of the USB Type-C that other flagships favor. We love the new standard, but looking for spare cables (and accessories) for it is frankly a pain in the ass, something that Samsung is probably aware of.

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The S7 brings two of the features that were cut in last year’s iteration: water resistance and microSD expansion. You can now stuff in a microSD card up to 200GB inside the S7 if you’re willing to give up one of the SIM slots in the phone. The return of the microSD slot is timely since Samsung is only selling the 32GB version of the Galaxy S7 in the Philippines.

In terms of water resistance, the Galaxy S7 is IP68 rated, which means it can be submerged to depths of up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes without any issues. This is a great feature that’s sadly missing in a lot of flagship smartphones since you now don’t have to worry if your phone gets wet in the rain or if it accidentally gets dropped in a pool or toilet bowl.

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The Galaxy S7 uses the same 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display tech as the previous generation. That means you;re getting a vibrant display with saturated colors, deep blacks and overall excellent viewing angles and outdoor legibility, though some people may not prefer the oversaturated colors that come with Samsung’s Super AMOLED tech. The phone’s quad HD resolution means that images and text are sharp, which is exactly what you’d expect from a phone that has a ppi of 577.

New this year is the always-on feature, which shows you notifications on the display without unlocking the phone. It works a little like the Ambient Display Feautre for the Nexus 6p, only Samsung’s interpretation actually works as advertised.

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Performance that’s unmatched by anything else

Two versions of the Galaxy S7 will be offered by Samsung – one running Samsung’s home-grown Exynos 8890 octa-core processor and one running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 quad-core SoC. In the Philippines, only the Exynos 8890 processor will be offered to consumers, though people hoping for the Snadragon 820 SoC shouldn’t be bummed out. Exynos 8890 is a very powerful chip, built on a 14nm FinFet manufacturing process. This makes the processor more power efficient and delivers some fairly powerful benchmark numbers.

The processor is paired with 4GB of RAM and the result is pretty predictable: the Galaxy S7 demolishes everything that we threw at it, no matter the size nor complexity. It’s one of the best performing phones that we’ve tested thus far, besting even fairly recent flagships released by other international companies by a large margin.

Thermal performance for the Exynos 8890 is pretty typical for the series, and while the phone did get warm during gaming sessions, it never got hot enough to necessitate a system shutdown while gaming.

Running on top of Android Marshmallow is Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, and while many complaints have been leveled against TouchWiz, it’s important to note that the version in the Galaxy S7 is rather light, without many of the apps that’s usually pre-loaded in Samsung’s offerings back when the company released the Galaxy S5.

The speaker is sufficiently loud, and call quality is spot on. Calls made to, and from, the Galaxy S7 are clear and crisp. The fingerprint scanner is faster and more accurate this time around.

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Less megapixels but insane low-light performance

One of the biggest changes in the new flagship is the 12-megapixel rear camera. While it has less megapixels than the previous iteration, the tradeoff is that the camera sensor has bigger 1.4 um pixel size which collects more light than your standard phone camera. That’s paired with a f/1.7 aperture lens, OIS and DualPixel camera tech. DualPixel tech speeds up autofocus by using 100% of the pixels instead of the typical 5% in other smartphones. This means faster focus even in low-light.

The result? Absolutely insane camera performance in almost every lighting condition. Even in barely lit streets in BGC at 2AM in the morning, the Galaxy S7 still managed to capture fairly sharp photos with plenty of detail. Shots taken in plenty of light excel, and we’re fairly convinced that the S7 has one of the best cameras in the market today, if not THE best camera in a smartphone. The S7 also retains the same excellent “just shoot” automatic shooting mode that was on the S6 last year, though there’s also a full manual mode on tap if you think you can do better.

Screenshot_20160308-220959 Screenshot_20160308-220951

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Better battery than last year, but still struggles to make it at the end of the day

Samsung’s improved the battery capacity of the S7 compared to last year’s model, and the phone now sports a 3000mAh battery. While that’s certainly a great improvement over last year’s offering, it’s seemingly not enough when you’re using the phone all the time – during times that we had to work 14 hour days the phone struggled to reach the end of the working day, reaching around 10% when we got home from events. You’ll probably get better battery endurance if you managed your battery properly, though we’d suggest you pack a powerbank with the phone just in case.

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Verdict: Samsung pretty much nailed it with the S7

We’ve been using the Galaxy S7 since its announcement in Mobile World Congress, and we’ve been loving our time with it so far. Don’t let its familiar looks fool you – it’s a whole new beast on the inside. While it falls short of our expectations in battery life, the S7 pretty much nails everything else, and its superior low-light performance can even put some DSLRs to shame.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 will be available to purchase starting March 19 in Samsung stores. You can also pre-order it through Smart. Pre-orders for the Galaxy S7 will receive a free Galaxy Gear VR with every purchase.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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