You can't help but feel sorry for the Galaxy S7. A few years ago it would have been the flagship going head-to-head with the iPhone, but times change and now all eyes have been on the Galaxy S7 Edge since both phones went on sale.
The larger, curvier, sexier S7 Edge is undeniably beautiful, but there is still a lot to be said for the smaller, flat-screened – and cheaper – S7. Can the regular S7 cut the mustard, or is the Edge still the one to go for? Let's find out.
The gold handset was provided for review by Carphone Warehouse, where the Galaxy S7 is on sale now
- Screen: 5.1in, resolution of 2560 x 1440, 577 pixels per inch
- Cameras: Front 5 megapixel, rear 12 megapixel
- Processor: Exynos 8890 Octa with 4GB RAM
- Storage: 32GB with microSD card slot for up to 200GB more
- Software: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with TouchWiz UI
- Measurements: 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm. Weighs 152g
- Colour options: Black and gold
- Price: £569
Samsung Galaxy S7: Design
The S7 and S7 Edge are clearly very closely related, but there are several important differences. First up is the size. Because the screen is smaller – 5.1in compared to 5.5in – the regular S7 is a more compact handset.
It measures 142.4 x 69.6mm compared to the Edge's 150.9 x 72.6. Strangely, the S7 is slightly thicker than the Edge, at 7.9mm compared to 7.7, but you are unlikely to notice such a small difference, and nor will you notice the 5g weight saving over the 157g Edge. Although you wouldn't know it, the S7 is waterproof to a depth of 1.5 metres of clean water for up to 30 minutes, exactly the same as the S7 Edge and a welcome upgrade on the S6, which wasn't water resistant at all.
Where the Edge is curved at the front, the S7 instead has a pronounced curve on its back, the glass rear tapering away at each edge making it easier to pick up and more comfortable to hold. It's a small but welcome change over the flat-backed S6. Speaking of the S6, its rear camera bump is almost completely gone on the S7; it now protrudes by less than 1mm.
It is hard to love the S7 as much as the S7 Edge, but once I got used to the smaller size and flat screen I began to realise how good the S7 is in its own right. It might not have the wow-factor of a curved screen, but it is more than capable of holding its own against the iPhone 6 I normally use.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Screen
The largest – and pretty much only – difference between the S7 and S7 Edge is the screen. Here it has shrunk from 5.5in to 5.1in and lost its curved sides, but otherwise it uses the same AMOLED technology and has the same 2560 x 1440 resolution. Spreading the same number of pixels across a smaller screen means pixel density has increased from 534 to 577 per inch, but you'd need a microscope to tell the difference.
A noticeable benefit of the smaller screen is how I was less prone to catching the touch-sensitive back and multitasking buttons either side of the home button. With the S7 Edge I often caught the multitasking button with my thumb or palm when reaching across the screen. Being smaller and easier to stretch across, this was less of an issue with the S7.
All of this adds up to give the S7 one of the best displays ever fitted to a smartphone. It is bright, crisp and vibrant without suffering from Samsung's age old problem of over saturation.
Having moved from a white iPhone 6 to use two models of Galaxy S7, one gold and the other black, I found the highly reflective front was more distracting than on the iPhone. This isn't too bad outside in even, natural light, but under harsh office lighting I found it quite annoying. The back of the S7 – and the gold version in particular – is incredibly shiny.
Do you notice the loss of 0.4in when switching from Edge to S7? At first, yes, but I think that's more due to missing the design of the curved sides rather than extra usable space. Everything is slightly smaller, but you get used to it very quickly indeed. Anyone switching up from the 4.7in iPhone 6 will adjust equally as fast.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Software and performance
The Galaxy S7 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Samsung's own touchWiz user interface. Since the bloated Galaxy S3 and S4, both with more gimmicks than useful features, Samsung has worked hard each year to tone down TouchWiz into something more attractive and functional. For the S7 this trajectory continues, with simplicity (mostly) being order of the day; the app icons still look a bit childish, but the rest of the interface is good.
Performance is excellent thanks to the S7's Exynos octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM. It's exactly the same processor as the S7 Edge and the regular S7 gets the same 32GB of storage, expandable by a microSD card slot, too. The phone warms up when worked hard, like when it's powering the Gear VR headset, but performance doesn't suffer as a result.
Apps open quickly, switching between them is seamless and the whole experience is exactly what you'd expect from a phone costing north of £500. Unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy S7 offers real multitasking, with two apps on screen and active at the same time. You can't do this with all apps, but many – like Facebook, Chrome, Gmail, Instagram, Maps, Spotify and YouTube – can be displayed side-by-side.
Battery capacity has been increased from 2,550mAh to 3,000, taking it to almost double that of the iPhone 6S. I won't spend any time comparing Apples with Galaxies, but what I will say that the S7 can manage a full day of fairly heavy use without any trouble. It doesn't have the day-and-a-half stamina of the S7 Edge, but I'm confident it will last a full day and night in almost all situations. Fast charging and wireless charging add to what is already becoming the complete smartphone package.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Cameras
Megapixel count has dropped from 16 on the S6 to 12 here, but don't let that put you off because these pixels are larger and let in more light. This means better photos and low-light images which are truly amazing. It is the same camera as the S7 Edge and I was endlessly impressed with both and their ability to take sharp, well-lit images at night-time.
There is optical image stabilisation to reduce blur and help keep low light photos sharp. Ultra HD video recording is also an option if you want it, along with full manual controls for those who know how to aperture and ISO, and a fun food mode which lets you focus on a small area to really make that gourmet burger-on-a-slate photo pop.
The front camera keeps the same 5MP sensor as the S6, but has a larger f/1.7 aperture to let in more light. Photos taken by this camera are very soft, which helps to even skin tone and flatter the subject, but makes photos feel too artificial for my liking. I'm sure selfie-takers will love it.
As much as I adore the curved screen of the Galaxy S7 Edge, the more I used the regular S7 the more I realised how much I enjoy using a slightly smaller phone. For me, the S7 Edge is slightly too large to be comfortable, whereas the regular S7 is the ideal size. Add in the gorgeous screen, excellent performance and hugely impressive camera, and the Galaxy S7 is just about perfect.
I've taken half a star away from the S7's score because I'm a sucker for design and the Edge's curved screen at the smaller size of the S7 would be, for me, the perfect combination of style and functionality.
But that's personal. Speaking more broadly, and to anyone reading this and debating buying the S7 or S7 Edge, then you absolutely should. Pick which screen you prefer – or if the Edge's larger battery is crucial – and go for it. You will not be disappointed.
- Screen: 9/10 - Brilliantly clear and crisp, but lacks those curves of the S7 Edge
- Camera: 9/10 - Rear camera is just about perfect, but front produces very soft, artificial photos
- Software: 8/10 - Samsung's best attempt yet, TouchWiz improves every year but never quite matches regular Android for simplicity
- Design: 9/10 - Looks stunning and the curved back helps grip. Glass front and back will likely crack or smash if dropped. Front so reflective it can be distracting
- Build quality: 9/10 - Feels very sturdy and well made, but crackable glass could be a future concern
- Overall: 9/10 - A superb smartphone which is perfect in almost every way
- Great design
- Excellent rear camera
- Waterproof without compromise
- Front camera is very soft
- Screen lacks the Edge's curves