Under the hood, the Galaxy S7 is top-notch. As was the case with previous models, the phone could house one of two different chips: either Exynos chip (Mongoose CPU) from Samsung, or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 (Kryos CPU). The US version features the Qualcomm chip, and it’s a powerhouse. Apps open in an instant, browsing is a breeze, and games (and more intensive apps) run without a hitch. That said, the phone does start to warm up pretty quickly the moment you start pushing it.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 did well in benchmark testing. It scored between 1919 and 2151 on the Geekbench 3 single-core test, and between 3784 and 5334 on the multi-core test. The scores line up with the similar S7 edge, and bests last year’s flagships, which topped out at around 1500 and 4600, respectively.
As for memory, the Galaxy S7 sports 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage (expandable up to 200GB via microSD as of this writing, with Samsung claiming it will certify larger cards as they come available). It’s also worth noting that the heart rate and thumbprint sensors make a return here, with the fingerprint sensor proving finicky as ever during testing. It rarely worked to unlock the device on the first press.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 ships with Android 6.0.1 and Samsung’s ever-present TouchWiz UI tweaks. Our 32GB review unit shipped with 22.5 of storage out of the box, with bloatware taking up some a chunk of the used space. Samsung’s contributions include the Samsung Gear app, Milk Music, S Health and S Voice. Whichever your carrier, expect it to include plenty of useless apps too. Our Verizon review unit came littered with NFL Mobile, Slacker Radio, VZ Navigator, go90 (Verizon’s “Mobile TV Network”) and VZ Protect, among others.
Let’s be real here: who actually uses Samsung Milk Music or Verizon’s VZ Navigator or VZ Protect? In fact, it’s safe to say that all of Verizon’s apps are throwaway save for the Messaging+ app, if only because it’s the default messaging app out of the box.
Google’s offerings are also present (Gmail, Chrome, Hangouts, etc.), which are fair additions considering this is an Android smartphone and they are all pretty useful. And then there is the Amazon collection. We still wouldn’t exactly call these apps (Amazon shopping, Kindle, and Music) must-have, but they are better additions than the carrier offerings.
The rest of the software is pretty standard, including a calculator, camera, contacts, the Google Play Store, and other utilities.
The Galaxy S7 had solid longevity during testing, with a single charge lasting a full two days. This included leaving the brightness at max, email syncing, and two hours of daily commuting with Spotify streaming and occasional internet browsing.
Streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi with the display brightness set at max, the Galaxy S7 lasted 8 hours and 37 minutes. This is about the bare minimum you can expect from the S7 without recharging. Most flagship smartphones last 7 or 8 hours, so anything beyond that is excellent.
Also, the Galaxy S7 features quick charge technology for its battery. We were able to charge it 60% after 30 minutes, and completely charge it in less than 90 minutes.
The return of expandable memory is the headline here. Given that there’s no removable back on the phone, microSD expansion is cleverly implemented by doubling the SIM card tray. We would have love to see the removable battery also return, but this is most certainly welcome.
Also returning is water resistance, a feature that took a break for the Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S7 sports an IP68 rating, meaning that it’s water resistant for up to 30 minutes in up to five feet of water. We can vouch for the veracity this feature, as we used the Samsung Galaxy S7 freely in the pouring rain for at least 10 to 15 minutes, suffering no adverse effects.
Samsung’s other new S7 features are the Game Launcher and Game Tools. Samsung’s is clearly under the impressive that smartphone gaming is more than just a way to pass the time (some on the team disagree with that sentiment), and Game Launcher offers not only a way to consolidate all games in a single place on a homescreen, which admittedly keeps things tidy, but also tools like game recording, a power-saver mode, and the ability to turn off alerts and disable the softkeys. The whole endeavor strikes us as a perfect example of how it’s not just important to bring something new to the table, it’s also important that the something is meaningful.
Finally there’s the always-on display, a feature that has the potential to be quite useful, but falls a little short on its debut device. Options include a series of three images or basic alerts. Aside from info like the time and date, it can show the S7’s battery life and certain push notifications for things like text or email. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes. There’s just not enough detail for it to be useful. Other standby displays show you a little more, like who the message is from, or even the first few words of it. We understand the privacy concern here, which is why it should be opt-in, like the standby display feature found on the Google Nexus 5X.
The other thing about Samsung’s implementation is that it functions like a screensaver, randomly popping up in a new position every few seconds. It sounds like nothing, but you’d be surprised at how distracting it can get.
Samsung should be proud of the S7 camera. While it continues to offer the high-end performance we’ve come to expect – sharp, 12-megapixel images with wonderfully saturated colors that pop – it’s been tweaked to build on Samsung’s mobile camera success.
Improved low-light shooting is definitely a highlight here (as described when we first saw the S7), with minimal noise showing up in poorly-lit indoor shots. In testing, it impressed with how well it always seemed to draw upon whatever light source it had available, no matter how small, and use it to help clear up the picture without washing it out. We were able to snap pics in a completely dark room, lit only by a computer screen facing the opposite direction, and still easily make out the subjects. Other smartphone cameras would have shown nothing at all.
Both of these photos were shot under the same conditions, with the S7 on the left, and the S6 edge+ on the right. The S6 edge+ is no slouch, but notice how much more detail is present in the S7 photo.
The autofocus is also much better, and can pull subjects into focus seamlessly. This improved aspect of the camera is especially useful when using tracking autofocus to follow a subject that may be shifting in depth.
As noticeable as the camera’s improvements are, however, it’s still not perfect. It can autofocus nearly instantaneously when it detects a subject, but it doesn’t always detect the subject. Every now and then, it will fail to “catch” onto a subject that enters the frame, necessitating a quick tap on the screen to bring it to the camera’s attention. And on the other end of the spectrum, the focus sometimes stays looked when a subject leaves the frame, again requiring a manual readjust.
Looking at the sample photos, you’ll see excellent color saturation, balance, and details. The S7 also handles whites very well. Looking at the Riverside sign, a lesser camera would have blown out the white circle around the “T,” while this camera captures the cracking paint and shadows.