Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Review: A Tough Act to Follow

by Reads (3,616)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 9
      • Ease of Use
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Value
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 8.40
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Beautiful shatter-resistant display
    • Powerful specs
    • Wonderful low-light camera
    • Massive battery with fast charging
  • Cons

    • Only available on AT&T
    • Expensive
    • Bulkier than traditional flagship devices

Quick Take

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active takes all the best aspects of the Galaxy S7 and makes them even better with a more durable build, larger battery, and added utility via the Active Key.


What happens when you take the Samsung Galaxy S7 and wrap it in a protective coating? You get one of the best rugged smartphones on the market. However, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is more than just a durable version of its predecessor. With a larger battery and a customizable active button the phone is sporting a few notable upgrades, that make it one of the best smartphones on the market, rugged or not.

While the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is an amazing phone, it’s unfortunately also an exclusive. Currently, at the time of this review, the S7 Active is only available for purchase through AT&T as a carrier exclusive for $795. The device is locked to AT&T, so unless you’re on the carrier you will not be able to use the device.

Read this Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review to get a full run-down of the device’s pros and cons.

Build and Design

samsung galaxy s7 active screen save

Our Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review unit

As with any rugged tech device, you need to be willing to take a small hit in the design department. That’s not to say that the Galaxy S7 Active is ugly, but it’s no match for the Galaxy S7. The stylishly sleek metallic and glass design of the S7 has been replaced by a reinforced metal frame, with thick rubber edges, and textured back panel (which is available in a camouflage option). The unit that NBR reviewed came in silver, but AT&T also offers gold or gray (with camo) options.

The right side of the device houses the power button and the slot which holds both the sim card and removable storage. The left side of the device features a textured active button and volume controls. There are 3 physical direction buttons along the bottom of the screen, including a smooth to the touch home button with a built-in fingerprint sensor. The speakers and micro USB charging port rest along the bottom edge of the device, while a 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top.

samsung galaxy s7 active vs s7While the Galaxy S7 Active is no match for it’s predecessor it is surprisingly thin for a rugged handset. Measuring 5.86 x 2.95 x 0.39-inches and weighing 6.53 ounces, it’s surprisingly comfortable to handle. With the relatively thin design and textured back panel, NBR was pleased how easy the phone was to operate with a single hand.  The phone isn’t as thin or light as the S7 (at 0.31-inches and 5.36 ounces), but it’s considerably lighter than other heavy duty handsets such as the Kyocera Duraforce (at 0.55-inches and 7.06 ounces).

Despite being slimmer than the Galaxy S6 Active the S7 manages to retain the same level of durability with a MIL-STD-810G rating. That means the phone is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, shocks, vibrations, pressure and altitudes. Samsung also claims that the device includes IP68 waterproofing, which means the phone is capable of withstanding submersion in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes. However, there have been multiple reports of the phone succumbing to water damage. That being said,NBR was able to bang and drop the phone multiple times without any issue. The S7 Active may not be well suited for a water voyage, but it’s going to stand up bumps and drops with ease.

Display

samsung galaxy s7 active screen 1Luckily one area where the S7 Active doesn’t deviate all that much is the display. The same 5.1-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440 resolution) with a crystal clear 577ppi (pixels per inch) picture makes a return. As NBR noted in the Galaxy S7 review, the display is a real pleasure to look at. Colors are deep and well saturated and the screen on our Samsung Galaxy S7 review unit remained bright, even with the brightness settings turned low. Viewing angles are fantastic and the display performs well in direct light, making it a great companion for outdoor activities. The S7 Active also offers the always-on feature, making it easy to quickly check your phone without having to unlock it or turn fully turn on the screen.

Performance

samsung galaxy s7 active always on screenArmed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active offers flagship-levels of performance. With the ability to add up to 256GB of additional storage via microSD there’s plenty of room for all of you photos, videos, and applications. The S7 Active performs incredibly well scoring an impressive 5,473 in Geekbench 3 multi-core benchmark besting the Galaxy S7 which only scored 5,334. Much like the S7, the Active is one of the most powerful Android phones you can buy. Games, apps, you name it the Active S7 will run them with lightning fast precision.

Software and Features

samsung galaxy s7 active active keyThe Samsung Galaxy S7 runs Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin over it. While opinions on TouchWiz can be divisive, NBR generally enjoys the skin as it gives a nice glossy sheen to Android’s software. All of this is pretty similar to the S7 with the same home screen, layout, and applications.  Unfortunately, that means the phone also comes preloaded with all the bloatware right out of the box. A large suite of Samsung branded applications such as the Samsung Gear app, Milk Music, S Health, and S Voice are preloaded on the device.

One of the coolest features of the Active S7 has to be Dual Window mode, which lets you split the screen between two different applications. It doesn’t work with every application, but being able to watch a Youtube video while texting is pretty awesome.

samsung galaxy s7 active settingsHowever, the most iconic feature is without a doubt, Activity Zone. It’s clear that Samsung had a very specific demographic in mind with the Active S7 and the Activity Zone caters perfectly to them. Simply clicking the Active button launches the suite, allowing you to instantly pull up a compass, track the weather, launch S Health or a number of other useful things. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, it’s hard to find a phone better suited than the Active S7.

The Active S7 also has a neat safety feature built in, double tapping the Active Key pulls up the Emergency Zone. The application allows you to instantly send out a 911 distress call with a single tap, or it can be tailored to send out a pre-written text message to any of your saved emergency contacts. The app is also capable of sending a feed of a video or voice while you call for voice.

For those of you that want a bit more control over the Active key’s functionality, it can be tailored to launch different applications. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you create your own suite of apps (that would have been a fantastic feature), but you can quickly launch any desired app.

Camera

galaxy s7 active picture 1Another feature that we’re happy to see make a return from the Galaxy S7 is the impressive 12-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Equipped with dual-pixel technology, the rear-facing camera performs incredibly well. That means that whether you’re on a hike or in a low-lit room, you can rest assured that the Active S7 is going to deliver a crisp clear image, without that grainy strained look, that most cameras get. Of course, the phone also performs well in heavily lit areas well, though much like the S7 the Active does tend to overly saturate colors a bit. Personally, NBR actually likes the look of the added saturation, but if you’re looking to capture images with perfect color accuracy it may be a bit of an issue. Still, even with this slight flaws, the Active S7 still has one of the best cameras on the market.

Battery Life

samsung galaxy s7 active backThe enormous 4,000mAh battery may just be Samsung’s best addition to the S7 Active. It’s a massive upgrade compared to the S7 (3,000 mAh) and the S6 Active (3500mAh), and it shows with a monstrous battery life. We streamed Netflix over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness set to max, and our  Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review unit lasted for a whopping 12 hours and 15 minutes. NBR considered the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge exceptional for lasting an impressive 10 hours and 48 minutes, but the S7 Active is market leading. With the always on display, the S7 Active can last for days on a single charge, making it the perfect handset for hiking and camping.  

Conclusion

We loved the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active. The durable design may not match the sleek S7, but it’s incredibly attractive for a rugged handset, not to mention light and easy to handle. With strong performance, a fantastic low-light camera, and beautiful display the Active S7 hit all the best attributes of its predecessor, while strengthening the battery life and adding a few new features as well.

The Active S7 isn’t perfect, though. Consumers will have to pay a $100 premium over the already expensive Samsung Galaxy S7, and the carrier restriction will make impossible for many consumers to purchase the device right from the get go. Not to mention the numerous reports of the device failing to water damage.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active isn’t likely the most rugged handset on the market, but it’s likely the best rugged phone available. The carrier exclusivity is a harsh restriction, but if you’re currently an AT&T customer, the S7 Active is an excellent choice.

Pros:

  • samsung galaxy s7 active stylish sideBeautiful shatter-resistant display
  • Powerful Specs
  • Wonderful low-light camera
  • Massive Battery with fast charging

Cons:

  • Only available on AT&T
  • Expensive
  • Bulkier than traditional flagship devices



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