Samsung Galaxy S7 hands-on: The best Android smartphone gets better

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
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ASUS ZenBook 13 14

A day before the Samsung Unpacked event in Barcelona, I had the exclusive opportunity to a brief hands on with the new Galaxy S7 and S7 edge devices. Generally, Samsung didn’t reinvent the wheel and chose to build upon the success of the Galaxy S6. What do I think about the latest flagship from Sammy? Read on.

In a nutshell, the Galaxy S7 will look and feel familiar to you. From the offset, you will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the outgoing S6 and the successor. You still get the beautiful metal chassis and gorgeous (if a bit of a fingerprint magnet) 3D glass back.

Refined and better

What’s different though, is that the pronounced camera bump on the S6 is now gone. On the S7 it’s been shaved to just 0.46mm, quite a mean feat to say the least. It hides the fact that it has an all-new camera module with a kick-ass fast lens. More about that later.

But that’s not all. It seems that Samsung has been paying attention to the feedback it was getting from fans and customers. It’s put back what it took out from the previous Galaxy S5 – microSD; and dust- and water-resistance. The S7 has a built-in hybrid SIM slot that can either take two nano-SIMs, or a single SIM and microSD card. Evidently, storage can be upgraded to a whopping 200GB.

Taking the flagship device fight further, the S7 now features IP68 rated dust- and water-resistance. The ports have been treated with a special nano coating that protects the internals, without the inconvenience of protective flaps. This is similar to what’s found on the new Xperia Z5. For kicks, I tested water resistance by pouring a bottle of mineral water over it, short of dunking it in a fishbowl.

On the display side of things, the S7 sticks with the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, while the S7 edge gets a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED double curve edge display.

In this day and age, instant notifications and being ‘always on’ is essential. The new S7 features an Always-On Display that shows you time, date, calendar and customizable notifications. Thanks to AMOLED display technology coupled with a new display driver, it helps to keep you connected, while remaining energy efficient. A Samsung rep informed me that this feature is only available on the current S7 and will be integrated to future flagship devices.

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The edge does more

On the S7 edge, the dual edge gains more features. Edge UX has been given a boost with more enhanced features and convenience. Added options to Apps Edge, Task Edge and People Edge make the edge less of a gimmick and more useful. You can now customise the edge further, including adding transparency, as well as adding folders to Apps Edge.

Under the hood, the S7 is powered by either Samsung’s own octa-core Exynos, or Qualcomm Snapdragon. This is mated to 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM with 32GB of storage. Samsung claims the S7 is 30% faster than the S6 in terms of CPU power, and over 60% faster in graphics.

Phone top cake

2015 was the year Samsung dominated in terms of phone camera performance. The brilliant 16MP f/1.9 main shooter on the S6, S6 edge and S6 edge plus truly pushed the envelope in terms of mobile imaging performance.

With the S7, things get even more interesting. The new camera module is a 12MP Dual Pixel camera, with a superfast f/1.7 lens. Samsung’s Dual Pixel camera module is the first in the world. The camera uses bigger pixels, increasing from 1.12um pixel size to 1.4um pixel size. The combination of these changes helps deliver 95% more light. Autofocus is immediate and stupendously fast, as demoed during the preview. Even blows the already fast S6 camera out of the water. Impressive indeed.

The S7 gets a 3,000mAh battery, while the S7 edge, an even larger 3,600mAh. Both supports Samsung excellent rapid fast-charging technology, as well as wireless fast charge.

The ultimate mobile gaming machine

It’s a little bit of a surprise that Samsung has chosen to focus on gaming for the S7. That being said, this baby flies in terms of performance and a bigger battery helps give you more juice for more gaming hours. To show that it’s not half-hearted in driving gaming as a selling point, the S7 has a nifty water-cooling system, much like a gaming PC. A copper pipe containing liquid helps to channel and dissipate heat, to help cool the device down when it’s being pushed.

Taking that a step further, the S7 also has a Game Launcher where you can manage battery consumption for your game time, and reduce notifications while you’re in-game. Nothing is more annoying than when you’re playing NFS and a WhatsApp message pops up in your face, disrupting game play. And there’s more. It allows you to take snapshots, or even record video of your game play too. Very cool.

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Integrated in the S7 is Vulkan API. This is something you’ll be hearing a lot this year, in terms of mobile gaming. Vulkan is an open source framework that’s more advanced and capable than OpenGL ES (the long-standing standard for graphics). What you get is more incredible graphics and lower power consumption (hence a cooler device and longer gaming hours).

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge
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Samsung has gone crazy with accessories for the S7. The coolest by far is the Lens Cover, a unique cover that enables you to plug in exterior lenses for your device. The kit includes a Fisheye and Telephoto lens. There’s also an improved Keyboard Cover, LED View Cover and a OTT-looking Game Pad. Additionally, there’s a Wireless Charger for convenient and fast charging.

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The game is set

The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge looks to be phones to beat so far this year. They look and feel great, and backed by performance to boot. I’m personally highly impressed with the new camera, just as I was impressed with the camera on the S6. It’s pretty cutting edge in terms of mobile camera performance.

Samsung didn’t re-invent the wheel, so to speak. But I guess it didn’t have to because its predecessor the S6, was already so damn good. That being said, it didn’t rest on its laurels and I think it has delivered the goods in every aspect, and IMHO, will do very well this year.

Your move, competitors.

Learn more about the Galaxy S7 edge here:

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