Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review: A cut above the rest

31 Mar 2016

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Photo: Luke Maxwell

Samsung is still struggling to compete with Apple in terms of sheer numbers of mobile phone sales, but how does the latest Galaxy S7 Edge fare against other flagship handsets on the market?

When it comes to the release of a new flagship phone, I can’t help but be reminded of the recent news surrounding the industry’s decision to effectively read the last rights for the concept known as Moore’s Law.

Without wanting to dive too much into the details behind it in a phone review, the fact is we are fast reaching a point where we can’t make silicon chips any smaller without making them almost useless.

Where the comparison with mobile phones comes in is that the demand to follow a doubling of innovation with every new phone launch – in the same way expected with a new microprocessor – has now become unreasonable.

And so, here we have the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, following on from the previous Edge phone that tried to bring something new to the table with a phone screen with edges, so is the S7 Edge much better?

Galaxy S7 Edge design

There’s no denying Samsung’s Edge range has introduced something that none of the other major manufacturers have attempted, and in this phone’s case the whole package has worked out rather well.

In fact, there’s not much to tell the S7 Edge apart from the S6 Edge, with the newer model just as sleek and solid-looking as the previous one with its metal and plastic casing, but it differs in the sense that the screen has been bumped up to 5.5in from 5.1in and it has a slightly curvier chassis.

Galaxy S7 Edge design

The noticeable difference in the design between this and the previous edition is that Samsung realised the oversight in having its 16MP camera lens protruding visibly from the phone, which led to the phone rolling somewhat awkwardly on the table.

Now, the right amount has been taken away from the camera (at least physically, but we’ll get to that later) and added elsewhere, with a total thickness of 7.7mm and a width of 72.6mm.

It’s also waterproof, as any good phone should be, with the S7 Edge certified to IP68 standards, which means it can be subjected to depths of 1.5m of fresh water for a maximum of 30 minutes, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Galaxy S7 Edge display

It’s probably a spoiler alert for the rest of the review, but I’m going to say right off the bat that we’re dealing with arguably the best phone now on the market, largely thanks to having a screen that leaves its competitors cast in a huge shadow.

The clarity of the screen on first glance is just phenomenal, with a hefty resolution of 1440x2560p with words like ‘vibrant’ and ‘stunning’ actually being worthy of inclusion in this case.

Just to give you some comparison, the iPhone 6s – which remains Apple’s flagship phone until its next announcement – has a resolution of 750x1334p on its, admittedly, smaller 4.7in screen.

S7 Edge Screen

Playing around with the AMOLED screen from all perspectives – whether it be browsing, watching video or playing games – showed incredible detail that has really set it as the screen to beat for other flagship phones.

You then also obviously have a revamped list of Edge features, with shortcuts available for regularly-used features, as well as making it customised to allow feeds and the like to appear there, like Twitter.

In the coming months, third-party developers will begin creating feeds to work within the Edge format, which should work rather well with news apps and the like.

If I were to have any criticism, I’d say activating the Edge sidebar was a little finicky at times for me, requiring me to try and flick it a few times to activate it, but it would work most of the time.

Galaxy S7 Edge camera

Sticking with the good things, there’s few cameras better that I’ve come across than the one included with the Galaxy S7 Edge, which has actually been reduced in megapixel numbers to 12MP, due to the reduction in its size that I mentioned previously.

If you consider yourself to be a megapixel snob – despite the fact any photography expert will tell you it’s not the size that matters, but how you use it – then you’d probably need to check out this camera, as its resolution is the best by some distance.

S7 Edge camera

Aside from the speed at which it’s able to boot up and take snaps in daylight, the software included with the Galaxy S7 Edge has made taking photos in the dark really easy compared with its closest competitors.

It also includes a whole range of filters, including one specifically designed to cater (pun not intended) to the food bloggers – and wannabe food bloggers out there – which all add some nice finesse to your shots.

Selfie lovers will get a camera that will definitely do the job at 5MP, but given its put so much effort into its forward-facing camera it seems strange to put it below other phones that have focused on it, such as the HTC One M9.

Galaxy S7 Edge performance

The phone’s performance is as you should expect from a company’s best phone, with the Galaxy S7 Edge easily handling all of the heaviest processes thrown at it, from gaming to video usage, using its in-house Exynos 8890 processor dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo, dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo and 4GB of RAM.

S7 Edge performance

While we’re on the topic of memory, one of the main talking points about the Galaxy S7 range was the return of expandable memory using a micro SD card, which has always been a favourite of fans of Android phones, with this phone capable of handling an extra 200GB of data.

This probably isn’t surprising though given that the phone’s camera – capable of recording footage at 4K resolution – needs a hefty amount of free space on the hard drive.

Galaxy S7 Edge UI

Moving on to the user interface (UI) that we would be dealing with on a regular basis, I have to say Samsung has done a rather impressive job with tweaking ‘TouchWhiz’ enough, and including its own stuff, to make it easy to navigate.

One of my biggest bugbears with Samsung phones traditionally has been a clunky UI crammed with its own bloatware that made me long for stock Android but this, thankfully, hasn’t reared its head with this phone.

S7 Edge UI

In fact, the features it does have that impressed me a lot were the gaming tool that is the first, at least from my perspective, that treats the phone as a gaming device, rather than a battery-consuming app.

Once a game is installed on the phone, it can be tweaked using Samsung’s software to lower the resolution or the fps rate to improve battery life rather than tweaking with the app itself.

On top of that, you have the option of recording your game session and saving for uploading online, tapping in to that increasingly influential market of YouTube gamers, and you can also turn off notifications during gaming.

Galaxy S7 Edge battery

With its 3,600mAh battery, this phone was able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it, especially long sessions of gaming.

Lasting for over a day during general use, it never felt like I had to activate one of the phone’s battery saving features, which range from reduced performance, to severe limiting when not near a charging point during rare circumstances.

This is largely down to some of the little things in Samsung’s TouchWhiz UI such as its new ‘always on’ screen, which brings notifications in black and white text when the screen is not activated.

S7 Edge battery

While this sounds like it would drain your battery much faster than normal, the fact we tend to check our phone over 100 times a day draws huge power from the battery typically, so by removing this, helps it last a bit longer.

While the Galaxy S7 Edge supports Qi wireless charging, the real winner for Samsung is its fast-charging capabilities, which through its own charging unit will get you to full charge in around 1.5 hours.

Galaxy S7 Edge verdict

Going by what’s available out there, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is the one to beat, no question about that.

Its hardware easily rivals – and surpasses – many of those out there like the iPhone 6s, but the Huawei Nexus 6P, which we also reviewed on, would be its closest competitor.

Like I’ve said, it’s definitely a phone you want to have in terms of taking some great photos in both day and night time, while mobile gamers and those creating content for YouTube will have a field day tinkering around with all the different gaming tools.

Throw on top of that long battery life and fast charging and, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve got yourself the best phone on the market currently.

All images in this piece via Luke Maxwell

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic