- The most attractive smartphone design, hands down
- Best smartphone camera on the market
- Stunning display
- Market-leading performance
- Glass and metal build slippery
- Fingerprint sensor finicky
- New edge and display features still need work
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is a superior smartphone with market-leading performance, stunning display, knock-out design, and a world-class camera that will make iPhone owners envious. It’s expensive though, and some of its unique features are still a work in progress.
The Samsung Galaxy edge smartphones are unquestionably the most attractive on the market. The sloped display edges literally turn heads, and Android icons almost appear to float on the AMOLED screen.
The problem is that the edges have limited utility. Sure, Samsung offers Edge panels, Edge feeds, and Edge lighting, all of which are novel and unique to the design, but those features – despite improving the general aesthetics – have done little to justify the premium price of the Galaxy edge.
With a move to make its smartphones more useful, evident by the returning microSD card slot and waterproofing, Samsung attempts to give its edge screen some more practicality through third-party edges and increased pixel space.
Does it work, or is the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge just another pretty and expensive smartphone?
Please note, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is very similar to the Galaxy S7 that launches alongside it. The S7 is slightly smaller, with a 5.1-inch screen, and does not have the edge display, but it’s otherwise the same smartphone. Much of what’s written here applies to it as well.
Build and Design
Those in the smartphone market owe it to themselves to look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. It has all the hallmarks of a Samsung smartphone, but with a slicker design. It has a metal-and-glass build with the curved display and contoured back edges that make it easier to grip than similarly-sized devices. It’s cool to the touch, and even though the glass is slipperier than the textured or rubberized plastic found on “grippier” smartphones, it shrugs off smudges and fingerprints better than expected.
The Android smartphone measures 5.94 x 2.85 x .30 inches and weighs 5.5 ounces, making it slightly thicker and heavier than the S6 edge and S6 edge+. This is actually good news, because with the added bulk come a larger battery than previous Galaxy S edges, and a microSD card slot. As we’ve stated in the past, utility trumps design, especially when the sacrifices are measured in fractions of an inch and ounce.
The familiar oblong home button returns, doubling as a fingerprint sensor and is bordered by the recent-apps and back softkeys, just under the display. The 5-megapxiel front camera sits above the display, to the right of the earpiece, with proximity sensors and status light to the left. The back houses the flash and heart-rate sensor, just right of the 12-megapixel rear camera and above carrier and Samsung branding.
A metal ring surrounds the device edges, with the two-button volume controls on the left side, and power button on the right. This is preferable to other devices with have the power volume rocker on the same edge, which too often leads to accidental power button pressings.
Left to right on the bottom are the 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB charger/data port, microphone and speaker. The microphone and SIM/microSD card tray sit on the top.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance. Samsung claims it can technically survive in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Users will likely find it beneficial for shrugging off spills and rain. We dunked our review unit in about a foot of water a few times, used it in the rain, and spilled liquids all over it, and it powered through like nothing happened. Some users have reported that the S7 edge won’t charge if it detects moisture in the USB port, at least not until it dries. We didn’t experience this, but it makes sense as a protective measure against water damage.
Unfortunately, the S7 edge is not drop resistant. It feels solid and is definitely well-crafted, but it’s glass-covered. It could survive a drop or two (or three), but even a Gorilla Glass 4 display will shatter with enough force. As much as we hate covering up such an attractive device, a protective case should be the first accessory any S7 edge owner buys.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge power button
The S7 edge has a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED Gorilla Glass 4 display that stretches across the front and bends slightly at the landscape edges, revealing a very slim bezel. For all intents and purposes, it’s a curved display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and 534 pixels per inch.
Samsung hasn’t upped the pixel count from its 2015 smartphones, but the S7 edge is no worse for it. Anyway, the next step up would be in the range of 4K. A 4K display may benefit the Samsung Gear VR, which suffers from some pixilation, but it’s overkill for most users, and it would drive the price up and battery life down.
Even without 4K, Samsung displays are still the best on the market, and the S7 edge looks stunning with deep blacks and vibrant colors. Brightness is ample, and the S7 edge cuts through glare as well as any other device we’ve tested. One drawback of AMOLED is that whites appear a bit dirty, and there’s a bit of that here. Samsung offers a display setting that applies a sepia tone for those that like things a bit warmer.
Samsung added a new “always-on” mode to the S7 and the S7 edge. Users can toggle it on and off in the settings, and when activated it displays a calendar with meeting dates highlighted, clock with basic alerts, or screen saver-like image. No private information, like message content or meeting attendees, is ever displayed, and it’s based around the S7 edge’s light sensor. This way it can shut off when it senses the smartphone is in a pocket, or dim when it’s bedside.
It’s far from a necessary feature, but it’s well implemented and has a very minimal effect on the battery (Samsung tells us that it has an approximate 1% effect). We kept it on for the screen saver images alone, as they look very cool. Thanks to AMOLED’s deep blacks, the image patterns appear stamped into the glass.
Of course, the S7 edge gets its name from the series of features that take advantage of the sloped display. Collectively managed through the “Edge screen” portion of the settings menu, they include Edge panels, Edge feeds, Edge lighting, and Night Clock.
These all function similarly as they have with previous edge devices. The Edge feed is a thin data scroll with news headlines, missed alerts, sports scores, and other basic information, which is activated via a quick finger slide along the display edge while the phone is powered down. Like the always-on display, it looks neat but offers little utility. A quick tap of the power button also reveals any missed alerts, and news ticker truncates too many headlines to be very informative. Night Clock is similar in that it displays a dimly-lit clock on the same edge during specified hours.
Those that actually use a smartphone as a phone will appreciated Edge lighting. When activated and the smartphone flipped on its display, the edge emits a light wave to indicate incoming calls. A 2-second press of the heart rate monitor rejects the call and sends a user-defined and automated text message. It works flawlessly.
Finally, Samsung tweaked the Edge panels for the S7 edge, doubling the pixel-width to 550, providing more screen real estate for shortcuts and info. People edge and App edge return with shortcuts for contacts and apps. Samsung added new edges for weather, stocks, and place-specific shortcuts like home and work. The standouts here are the new Quick Tools, which includes a compass, ruler, and flashlight shortcut, and the new Tasks edge, which includes quick shortcuts for taking selfies, adding calendar items, setting alarms, and the like. Samsung also opened it up to third parties like Yahoo and CNN for news bits and sports scores. This works much better than the Edge feed news ticker, as there is enough space for the whole headline along with a small image.
There’s enough here that users will find something of use, and it’s certainly better than previous edge implementations. Most on the NotebookReview team rely on their phone as an alarm clock, so we particularly liked the Night Clock. Quick Tools is another thoughtful addition. We’ve never needed a smartphone compass, but if we ever get lost in the woods we’ll be happy it’s there. But the entire edge experience needs refinement. It’s a classic case of feature creep, with some redundancies with the always-on display.
Samsung has a history of fine tuning features. TouchWiz was a bloated mess with the Galaxy S5 before Samsung scaled it back with the S6. Same goes with the S Pen and Note series. Samsung did a great job incorporating Pen functions into workflows with the Note5, making it feel like a natural extension of Android.
As with any and all smartphones, the S7 edge speakers are suitable for personal use, but not much more. The sound has a decent fullness to it on the low end, but it’s tinny on the high. As we often state, smartphone speakers are the last thing that should sway a buying decision because they are all various levels of “good enough.”
In the Box
The S7 edge ships with a fast charger, earbud headphones, and a microUSB-to-full adapter. The headphones are high quality, as far as these things go, with basic media controls and an extra set of rubber tips. The USB adapter is specifically useful for Android smartphone owners. In fact, it’s a must-own accessory. Thanks to Android’s USB hosting ability, the S7 edge can support a USB mouse, keyboard, external hard drive, and wired gamepad, even an Xbox 360 controller. We love it when manufacturers include unexpected extras (often in the form of a plastic case) and Samsung is the first we’ve seen to include this handy adapter.