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Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Review: In Depth

4.5
A stunning update on 2015's best smartphone

The Good

  • Stunning design
  • Class-leading display
  • Impressive performance
  • Excellent all-round cameras

The Bad

  • Smudgetastic glass bodywork
  • Only a minor improvement
  • Lacklustre quick charging
  • Expensive

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review: The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are impeccable phones, but there are a couple of rough edges that we’re hoping Samsung has ironed out with its new 2016 offerings, especially in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Design

The awkward plastic body of the Galaxy S5 seems like a distant memory (read: distant nightmare) when looking at today’s top Samsung phones. Last year’s S6 duo set a precedent for the company with their glass and metal construction, the form of which continued to evolve with the arrival of the S6 Edge+ and the Galaxy Note 5 later that same year, but the S7 Edge is unquestionably the most attractive iteration of the company’s latest aesthetic style and perhaps the best looking phone on the market right now, period.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge front Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge back

Samsung’s combined the S6 Edge’s Dual Curve display with the folded back of the Note 5, giving you a handset with tapered sides that curve to fit the palm and one that feels great under finger when swiping across its rounded front. 

The way the thin metal edges rise away from flat surfaces make the S7 Edge much easier to pick up over the likes of the S6 Edge and Edge+ too, but those wafer-thin sides can cause problems when trying to hold the phone in certain positions – you don’t have a huge amount of purchase and your fingers may occasionally catch the touchscreen as a result.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge SIM tray

Two notable differences you won’t immediately notice are the phone’s new waterproofing chops and its new expandable memory slot. Similarly to rival Sony, Sammy’s managed to add IP68-certified dust and water resistance to the S7 Edge’s body, without adding any extra bulk. What’s more the SIM slot mounted on the top edge of the phone now also accommodates microSD cards – addressing the two biggest shortcomings many users had with the S6 family.

Screen

It feels as though Samsung’s struck the perfect balance with this new Edge by giving you a 5.5-inch screen on a device that’s markedly smaller than the likes of Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus (which also uses a 5.5-inch panel). The benefits of that beautiful Dual Curve display are compounded by its impeccably narrow bezels and those distinctive sides, which give the illusion of a practically borderless design.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge screen

In typical Samsung fashion, the viewing experience is outstanding; the S7 Edge technically has a lower pixel density than its smaller sibling, but the curved Quad HD Super AMOLED screen appears seamless and pin sharp, with vibrant colours, great contrast, exceptional viewing angles and strong overall brightness.

Whilst the actual curved edges make up only a tiny proportion of the whole panel, Samsung’s expanded the functional space that the Edge screen UI takes up, giving apps, shortcuts and text a little more room to work with. You can still argue that the edge screen is a huge gimmick, but it feels great to actually use nonetheless

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge edge screen

The Edge also retains its predecessor’s night clock and information stream functionality, but Samsung has also added an always-on mode too. This makes it markedly easier to check the time or date without having to unlock the phone however, notification support is currently limited to Samsung’s own apps, which seems like a major oversight, especially considering other phones like the Moto X have offered similar functionality for years.

OS

The S7 and S7 Edge are the first flagships in Samsung’s arsenal to launch on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. They’re unsurprisingly coated in the company’s own TouchWiz UX, which is a far cry from a stock experience, but it does have its merits.

Enhancements like spilt-screen and floating-window multitasking are welcome, but new additions like Upday – a new Samsung-exclusive replacement for Flipboard Briefing won’t blow minds unless you're a news junkie. The Edge screen retains the S6 Edge+’s People Edge and Apps Edge, but you’ve now got options for accessing specific tasks, Internet bookmarks, settings profiles based on location and more.

Microsoft’s Office suite comes bundled alongside Google’s own productivity apps and the notifications panel packs customisable quick settings too, but the biggest addition on the software side has to be Game Launcher.

Samsung’s added a gaming hub and a dedicated overlay for use whilst gaming, letting you silence incoming notifications, disable the capacitive keys and even record gameplay on the Edge; most likely to help users capitalise on the insane popularity of Let’s Plays found across platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

Read next: What is Game Launcher? Samsung's new gaming feature reviewed

It’s also worth commending Sammy for taking stuff away too, as Samsung-specific apps like the music player are absent out-the-box, leaving room for Google’s first party solutions to shine through. If you’re a Sammy evangelist however, fear not as you can still pick the company’s own apps from the Samsung App store.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge handsets in the UK leverage Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 chipset, versus the Snapdragon 820 available on select models in other markets. Technically it is marginally less powerful than both the 820 and Apple’s A9 chip based on benchmarking apps like AnTuTu, but in real-world scenarios you’d be hard-pressed to notice any real lag in performance.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge upper screen

The user experience of the Edge is unquestionably one of the fastest and smoothest on the market right now, with 4GB of RAM backing up the processor, 32GB of inbuilt storage and microSD expandability up to 200GB – a huge win for Sammy fans who were dissatisfied with the S6’s storage limitations.

Initial setup and start-up did yield a restart and a little lag initially, but once the device was fully up and running it didn’t falter once. In a quick side-by-side test, the fingerprint sensor also proved as responsive and instantaneous as the Touch ID sensors on Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and whilst Samsung Pay hasn't yet launched in the UK, the Edge has all the gubbins to support the feature already.

Battery was another big weakness for last year’s Galaxy S phones and there’s been a notable bump up in capacity for this year’s offerings (an extra 1000mAh from the S6 Edge and 600mAh from the S6 Edge+/Note 5). We were expecting a comparable jump in longevity as a result but finished a full workday with 25 per cent remaining. It’s certainly better than last year’s phones could have managed, but also won't see you through to a second half day without careful handling.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge camera

To counter such a minor improvement in battery life, Samsung does include a fast-charger in the box, which will take the S7 Edge from zero to full in less than 100 minutes. Should you wish, you now have the option to switch to conventional charging too, for instances such as powering your phone up overnight, reducing heat build up at the expense of speed.

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge quick charge breakdown and test results

Camera

Many were surprised to hear that Samsung actually dropped the pixel count from 16 to 12-megapixels with the camera on the S7. Instead, Samsung’s opted for Dual Pixel sensor technology, which the company says boosts low light performance and autofocus speed.

In practice the Edge is indeed fast to focus and produces crisp photos with outstanding levels of detail. It’s a testament to the camera in last year’s S6 line that overall image quality seems surprisingly similar. In low light, noise and grain are greatly minimised versus the majority of rival smartphone snappers too, but there is one shortcoming.

The fast autofocus is helped by an incredibly quick shutter, but the S7 camera setup really struggles with motion. Even slow moving subjects in frame blur and the same can be said for snapping using the front-facing camera – at least in wide selfie mode. Standard selfies look pretty good however, with a competent beauty mode to smooth the skin and give you fine-grain control over other aspects like eye size and face shape.

On the video side of things the Edge shoots in Full HD by default, but you’ve got the option of raising quality up to 2K or 4K if you feel you footage needs extra pixel power. There’s also a digital image stabilisation (DIS) system that smooths out camera shake and handheld footage with competency that would make Sony’s Xperia Z5 family blush.

Despite a few minor misgivings, Samsung continues its streak of offering the best smartphone camera on the market with the S7 Edge.

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge camera review

Verdict

Whilst first impressions might lump the S7 and S7 Edge into the same camp as Apple’s iterative ‘s’ handsets, they’re more an example of a massive electronics behemoth actually listening to its consumers without going out of its way to push ‘innovative’ new features that barely see use after the first week of ownership.

The Edge screen is still the biggest question mark from a usability and functionality standpoint, but it grants Samsung major style points by helping render the Galaxy S7 Edge one of the most (if not the most) beautiful smartphones ever made.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge handheld

If you’re already on the S6 train, then the S7 Edge doesn’t bring enough ‘new’ to the table to warrant an early upgrade. It packs a user experience that’s, for the most part, the same as last year’s phones and hardware that isn’t notably more capable in everyday use (even if it is empirically better).

On the flip side, for those not using any of the company's top 2015 phones the S7 Edge is a phenomenal all-round flagship combining the best balance of hardware and design out there. Come upgrade time, make sure this phone is on your short list, it’s not worth missing out on.

Big thanks to Carphone Warehouse for our Galaxy S7 Edge review sample. You can grab the S7 Edge from Carphone now, from £36 per month or £569 SIM-free

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: In Depth

Key Specs

  • 5.5-inches
  • QHD (2560x1440)
  • 157 grams
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 12-megapixels
  • 5-megapixels
  • 1.6GHz/2.6GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 8890
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB. Expandable via microSD up to 200GB
  • Yes
  • Game launcher, front-facing flash, always-on screen, dual curve display, IP68-certified dust + waterproofing, adaptive fast charging, wireless fast charging, heart rate sensor

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