Mobile nirvana? Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Garmin Fenix 3 HR are as good as it gets

With the vast number of smartphones and wearables, it's tough to find a pair that reaches perfection for all of us. Matthew Miller has finally achieved nirvana after 10 years of writing here at ZDNet.

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Next month is my 10 year anniversary here on ZDNet and in that time I've tested hundreds of smartphones and tens of wearables. We all have different needs from our mobile gear and while a few devices exceeded my expectations over the years, it wasn't until the last few weeks that I achieved near perfection with two devices.

Smartphone perfection?

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, see my review, was awarded a 9.6 rating, but after more usage I could easily give it a 9.9/10 with the only thing knocking a 1/10th of a point being the tendency for it to attract fingerprints. The camera is outstanding, it fits well into my pockets, it lasts all day and charges fast, the display is the best smartphone display available today, you can expand the storage with a microSD card, and I can use it without worry in nearly any environmental condition.

Beyond these rather obvious hardware features and the 10 reasons to buy the S7 Edge I recently wrote about, I have other aspects I've come to appreciate, including the following:

  • Outstanding phone call performance: The clarity, volume, and reliability has been great. VoLTE and WiFi Calling are also supported while native video calling to other T-Mobile customers is a handy feature.
  • Headset audio experience: While not as loud and mind-blowing as the HTC 10, audio is excellent when you tune it for your ears or toggle some of the sound quality and effects settings. I thought HTC was the only one that had a special audio tuning experience and then I dove deeper into the advanced sound settings. You can enable Adapt Sound and then step through an audio wizard to personalize the sound output for your hearing ability.
  • Incredible RF reception: I board the Sounder commuter train at King Street Station and the Galaxy S7 Edge is the only phone I've tested that has been able to connect to T-Mobile and stream audio/video as I wait for my train to depart. Testing shows it beats the iPhone 6s Plus, HTC 10, LG G5, and others in signal strength.
  • Customizable quick actions and edge panels: Using other phones that don't support full customization, I appreciate being able to setup the notification panel quick actions to meet my specific needs. The edge panels may seem gimmicky, like the S Pen for some, but once you use them you can realize some serious efficiences with the right panels.

I'm sure there are other reasons to love using the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, including those above and the ten I previously wrote about. If you have others to add, I would love to hear about them in the comments.

Wearable perfection?

Wearables vary even more than smartphones with the focus on activity trackers, smartwatches, and GPS sport watches offering a vast number of alternatives. My time with wearables over the years has refined my needs while the companion smartphone has also helped form my path forward. For example, I no longer require that a wearable provide music streaming capability without a phone. With the S7 Edge being water resistant and able to join me on runs in the rain, while also providing the security and safety of a phone with the ability to capture photos as I run, I now just mount the S7 Edge to my arm when I want to enjoy music.

Battery life has also been a major factor in my decision about which wearable fits my life. I'm done with the one day smartwatch battery life and only want a wearable that lasts at least 5-7 days. My experience has shown that a daily charge wearable ends up in a drawer as I tire of such battery management while there is not an urgent need to have such advanced smartwatch capability.

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR checked off all the boxes on what I was looking for as an activity tracker, GPS sport watch, and basic smartwatch. After reviewing the Garmin Fenix 3 HR I ordered one for myself and will be using it to train for an upcoming half marathon and Ragnar relay.

I posted my criteria for a wearable in my full review, which includes:

  • Strong battery life
  • Integrated heart rate monitoring
  • Readable and customizable display
  • Automatic sleep tracking
  • Half marathon battery life with daily tracking
  • Basic smartphone notifications
  • Silent alarm
  • Solid ecosystem and apps to access/report all the data

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR may be more than most people need, but its the one wearable that achieves near perfection for me so it was worth the cost.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Garmin Fenix 3 HR are expensive devices, but knowing that I finally reached a state of mobile bliss I can say both were worth the price of admission. I will continue to test other smartphones and wearables since that's what I do here at ZDNet, but it feels good to have core mobile gear that I can rely upon to meet my needs.

Have you reach mobile nirvana with any devices? Share your experiences below.