Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Gorgeous S6 successor that brings back desired features

  • Editors' rating
    9.8 Spectacular
  • $480.00

Pros

  • Gorgeous design, superb fit and finish
  • Water resistant
  • microSD for inexpensive storage expansion
  • Long battery life and multiple ways to charge
  • Useful Samsung enhancements

Cons

  • Glossy fingerprint magnet glass back

Last year Samsung offered the Galaxy S6 with a major modern design refresh, but also took away features from the Galaxy S5 that disappointed consumers. We saw the removal of the microSD card, lack of the water resistance, and an integrated small battery that had people charging their phones up at least once just to get through the day.

Samsung apparently heard the feedback loud and clear as the new Galaxy S7 addressed each of these three elements while also providing an improved low light camera and the latest version of the Android Marshmallow operating system.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a microSD card spot integrated onto the SIM card tray, water resistance with no port covers over the 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port, or speaker, and a large 3,000 mAh battery. Let's take a closer look at the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S7.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.15 GHz quad-core
  • Display: 5.1 inch 1440x2560 pixels resolution Super AMOLED display
  • Operating system: Android 6 Marshmallow
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water resistance: IP68 certified for up to 30 minutes in five feet of water
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, ANT+, NFC, GPS, MST and NFC payment system support
  • Battery: 3000 mAh non-removable with Quick Charge and dual wireless support
  • Dimensions: 142.5 x 69.6 x 7.8 mm and 152 grams

Hardware

Samsung radically changes the Galaxy design last year with the S6 line. The Galaxy S7 is more of a S6s with the same look and feel to the exterior and improvements to the internal specs and software.

DisplayMate's independent testing confirms that Samsung continues to use the best smartphone displays in the market and the display on the Galaxy S7 is superb. The device is expensive, but when you spend nearly all of your time looking at and interacting with the display it's important to have the best display available.

I found camera performance to be very similar to the S6, which is to say it is excellent. The camera megapixel count has been reduced, but the pixels size increased to help improve low-light photography. You can confidently use the Samsung Galaxy S7 while out to dinner or at a party and trust you will capture some great shots.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The auto-focus is stunning and you shouldn't miss photos with the S7. Thanks to the double button press you can launch and start taking photos in seconds. With the water resistance, this means you can even take photos and videos while in the water.

The battery has lasted me for a full day of regular usage and while I don't conduct strict battery tests I use my devices in a similar manner so I can get an indication if a phone is going to last me at least a day or not. The S6 died on me each early afternoon, which is why I returned it, while the S7 gets me through a full day without requiring a charge.

The Galaxy S7 is pocketable and easily slips into my front jeans pocket. Like the S6, it's a bit slick so be careful pulling it out of your pocket. It's also a major fingerprint magnet and wiping it clean takes effort. However, I like the look and feel of the device so am willing to put up with fingerprint smudges.

The black onyx one I am testing is truly black, unlike the navy blue finish on the black one last year. Light reflects off the back so there is a line that appears as you angle the device in your hand in well-lit environments. It's definitely an attractive phone that has an amazing fit and finish.

Calls sound great through the headset speaker and given that it is a carrier phone you get VoLTE and all of the great network support you expect from your carrier.

Software

When you purchase an Android smartphone you should be comfortable with the current version of the operating system installed on the device because timely updates are not guaranteed. Software updates don't always mean the experience gets better and as we see today the Android situation is all over the map with devices running KitKat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 runs Android Marshmallow out of the box. Buying a new Samsung is one way to get the latest version of the OS, but Samsung is also now rolling out Marshmallow to the S6 line and the Note 5. You can count on likely getting at least the next generation update eventually, just don't expect it when Google makes the OS announcement.

Samsung continues to refine TouchWiz, to the point where it's actually tough to find this term referred to in any Samsung materials. The Android experience on the S7 is clean and close to a pure Google experience with most enhancements by Samsung appearing in the notifications and settings areas.

Pricing and competition

The Apple iPhone 6s is the closest direct competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S7, but the iPhone only comes in 16GB and 64GB storage variations while the S7 has 32GB with the ability to expand the storage capacity inexpensively via a microSD card. The 64GB iPhone 6s is priced at $749 while the AT&T Galaxy S7 costs $695. The 16GB iPhone 6s is priced at $649.

There are plenty of lower priced alternatives today running the Android OS, but at least the Galaxy S7 looks, feels, and performs as a premium smartphone. For those of us who use our phones as their primary computing platform, the $100 to $300 premium may be worth it.

There are also some special launch offers from Samsung and AT&T that make buying one a bit easier. You can fill out a promotion form for a free Samsung Gear VR, $99 value, and also get up to $50 in VR games. AT&T, and other carriers, also have a buy one, get one free (BOGO) offer. You have to add an additional line to get the free phone, but if you need a couple phones then this may be a valuable offer.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has the same cool metal frame, glass front, and glass back seen on the Galaxy S6. It is a bit thicker due to the increased battery capacity, but still feels great in your hand and is quite pocketable.

Over the past week, I have been able to go each day on a single charge. The ability to use Qi wireless charging and fast charging makes it convenient to top off as well. Samsung is clearly the smartphone manufacturer pushing the limits of mobile technology, making Apple's iPhone seem dated by comparison.

There are a few AT&T and Samsung apps and utilities, but they are not overwhelming and appear to have little impact on the performance or usability of the Galaxy S7. Some of these are useful and while it might be nice to have a phone free of carrier utilities, that's not possible unless you buy an iPhone or Nexus device.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the best Android smartphone currently available and is arguably the best smartphone available today. Actually, the Galaxy S7 Edge that I just bought earlier this week beats the S7 due in part to the massive battery and additional edge functionality. I'll cover that device next week.

Specifications

General
SAR Value 1.59 W/kg (body) / 1.24 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, FM radio, audio player, voice recorder, heart rate sensor, navigation
Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type Smartphone
Integrated Components FM radio, audio player, front-facing camera, heart rate sensor, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation GLONASS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider Straight Talk
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Input Device Multi-touch
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, barometer, gyro sensor, hall sensor, RGB sensor, heart rate, geomagnetic sensor
Security Devices Fingerprint reader
Miscellaneous
Sensors RGB sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor, heart rate, proximity sensor
Color Black Onyx
Color Category black
Protection dustproof, waterproof
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
Wireless Interface ANT/ANT+, Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Processor
Clock Speed 2.1 GHz
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty Quad-core
Display
Technology Quad HD Super AMOLED
Display Resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Pixel Density (ppi) 577
Diagonal Size 5.1 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 12.92 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.1 in
Color Support color
Camera
Digital Zoom 8
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Features Auto mode, Dual Pixel technology, vDIS technology, video recording, Fast Motion mode, HYPERLAPSE, Motion panorama, Motion photo, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Pro mode, Selective Focus, Virtual Shot
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC - up to 200 GB
Battery
Standby Time Up to 12 Days
Run Time Details Talk: up to 1680 min
Standby: up to 108 hrs
Capacity 3000 mAh
Digital Camera
Digital Zoom 8
Lens Aperture f/1.7
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Video Recorder Resolutions 1280 x 720 (720p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p), 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
Features Auto mode, Dual Pixel technology, vDIS technology, video recording, Fast Motion mode, HYPERLAPSE, Motion panorama, Motion photo, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Pro mode, Selective Focus, Virtual Shot
Header
Brand Samsung
Product Line Samsung
Model HPACP1
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Features
Sensors RGB sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor, heart rate, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 32 GB
Max Supported Size 200 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 12 pixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 5 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/1.7
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.74 in
Depth 0.31 in
Height 5.61 in
Weight 5.36 oz

Topics: Mobility, Reviews, Samsung, Smartphones

Top ZDNET Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Where To Buy

Samsung Galaxy S7 (black onyx)

Part Number: Galaxy S7-black oynx

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All