Samsung Galaxy S7 review: The smartphone to beat
“Hello, HTC One M8 my old friend” (Sung to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence)
“I’d found a new phone. For you this is the end.””
OK, so apologies to Simon & Garfunkel but after spending the best part of the last two weeks using the Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 smart phone, my almost-two generations old HTC One M8 looks like it’ll be confined to my bedside cabinet when it’s time to be replaced. The Galaxy S7 has just wiped the floor with it – and the M8 is still a bloody good phone.
When I was offered an S7 for review the PR woman asked a simple question during our email exchange: “What colour would you like? Blue or gold?”
I’d owned a blue S3 in the past and it looked nice but it’s was, you know, blue. Blue’s everywhere, right? There’s nothing special about blue, but gold? Gold’s a great colour. It screams of affluence, status and power [OK, probably not the power one]. So I went for gold – and it looks sick.
It’s a subtle gold colour, too, not loud. Sometimes, depending on the light, it almost looks a coppery gold. It’s a nice gold.
OK, so that enough paragraphs devoted to the colour of the S7. What’s the phone like? After using it every day for the past two weeks, it’s a fantastic phone. It’s responsive, it looks good and it’s probably the best Samsung phone I’ve ever used. Seriously.
To the naked eye, the S7 doesn’t looked profoundly different from its S6 sibling – and that’s not a bad thing. The S7 seems a tad thinner to me and it feels comfortable in the hand. It’s crystal-clear 5.1-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen displays things vividly but the phone’s metal and glass back means it’s a real fingerprint magnet. The S7 also has a microSD slot, which is a nice addition, and the always-on screen feature means I could see if I had a message or what the time was without having to touch the phone. The phone has a 3000mAh battery.
Talking of the glass and metal back, I was nervous about what would happen if I dropped the phone on the ground. A few days I found out: It dropped out of my bag as I was picking it up and the S7 dropped onto a tiled floor. It wasn’t far but it was enough to make me nervous. It was fine but I’m still extra careful with it.
Transferring contents from my HTC One M8 was painless using Samsung’s Smart Switch application (the S7 also comes with an adapter that will let you use the USB cable to transfer data) and before long I was up and running, and thoroughly impressed with the S7. I set up the fingerprint scanner so I didn’t have to faff about with a PIN number lock code – and it’s snappy from thumb read to unlocking the phone. It might not be as quick as the fingerprint scanner on the Nexus 6P (my son has one and he showed me how quick that one is) but it quick enough for me.
The S7 has a 64-bit Octacore processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of memory, a dual pixel camera (12MP back, 5MP back) and the S7 (and its brother/sister the S7 Edge) has an IP68 water rating, which means you can submerge the phone in up to 1.5m of water for 30mins and it’ll still working when you’re done. I just squirted it with a bicycle drink bottle (as Samsung has done in an ad for it): It’s nice that you don’t have to worry about spills on your phone.
One of my gripes with Samsung phones in the past is the amount of bloatware that came pre-installed on its handsets, much of it apps that couldn’t be uninstalled. Well, I’m pleased to say that the S7 handset came without the bloat that past S model phones came with. I’m happy with that. Clearly Samsung have been listening. Battery life was great, and while I still had to charge it every night, a full charge would get me through a heavy days use.
The S6 had a great camera (I had a review unit when it came out, too) – perhaps one of the best I’d used on a smart phone – and Samsung has delivered the goods again on the S7, with a camera that produces bright and vivid images and surpasses what the S6 was able to do. The phone has a nice selection of shooting modes (including a food mode. That’s for people who really like taking photos of food, I suppose) and a Pro mode that should keep keen photographers busy. I was impressed with the low light camera, too, and used it to take some photos of my dog in a dark room (which you can see here). There’s also a focus mode which lets you focus on a particular object in a photo. There’s also a variety of options when taking video, too, so it’s got you covered.
Samsung is also targeting gamers with the S7 and it comes with software called Game Tools which lets gamers fire up their favourite mobile game (currently mine is Alto’s Adventure and Lara Croft Go!) and do things like turn off notifications while your playing or record game play footage and take screen shots. The video below shows it in action. You can also add commentary using the phone’s external microphone if you want. I didn’t.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to post game play walk-throughs or Let’s Plays of your favourite mobile games, Game Tools is a great feature. Samsung’s Game Launcher app also manages all your mobile games in one spot (I don’t have that many as I don’t tend to do a lot of mobile gaming and I refuse to allow Candy Crush or any of that ilk of mobile game anywhere near me).
Look, you can probably tell by now that I really like the Galaxy S7. It’s a fantastic looking phone, it has a brilliant screen that is vibrant and sharp, it’s snappy, the fingerprint scanner works well, and it handled everything I threw at it. So far the only fault I have is the phone’s metal and glass body is a fingerprint magnet!
I guess it’s a ringing endorsement, too, on how good the S7 is when your teenage son, who worked hard over the summer to get enough money to buy a Nexus 6P, contemplates (briefly) selling that phone and buying an S7. It says a lot about the quality of the Galaxy S7 and tells me that it’s has set the benchmark that other smartphones have to live up to.