When the Galaxy S7 Edge was first launched, many claimed it to be “the perfect smartphone”. Now that we’ve finally got our hands on a review unit ourselves, I’ve tested the device for 2 weeks to see if it lives up to its accolades.
It’s hard give the Galaxy S7 Edge our conventional review treatment. This device has been tested by so many other sources that I can’t help but feel like I’d be repeating everything they’re saying. So instead of going through every single detail about the device, I’m going to talk about how this device struck me as a phone enthusiast.
My smartphone history has been a relatively complicated one. I initially started off on Android in the days of Froyo (Android 2.2), before moving on to Windows Phone 7, then Android, then Windows Phone 8, and finally iOS. So yes, while I may be an iPhone user now, I’ve never stopped reviewing Android devices, and am familiar with all 3 ecosystems, including Microsoft’s (dying) one.
This particular period of my life is a rather interesting one. I had just enlisted into NS this year, and thus my phone-reviewing had to be put on hold. But one day in OCS I decided that life was starting to get dull, and so I went back to a phone reviewing spree. I switched out my iPhone 6 for a ZenFone MAX for a week (check out my full review here), then to a Redmi Note 3 for another week (review coming soon), before picking up the Galaxy S7 Edge for 2 weeks. It was an interesting transition, because I was basically hopping to a better Android phone every time, and all of these phones have 5.5 inch screens (my iPhone 6 feels downright minuscule now). And just when I think that the Redmi Note 3 is so much better than the ZenFone, the Galaxy S7 Edge comes along and completely blows the Redmi away.
With the S7 Edge, Samsung showed me that a 5.5-incher could be even more compact than what Xiaomi offered, and that while Xiaomi may be able to build a metal unibody phone for just $299, when it comes to an actual premium feel, Samsung’s is the real deal. The Xiaomi just felt cheap all of a sudden.
I’ve found the claims of most reviewers to be true: the S7 Edge is a solid all-round performer. The set that I got is the Exynos variant (the only variant sold in Singapore), which performs poorer than the Snapdragon 820 variant in benchmarks. This is NOT a bad thing. If given a choice, I’d pick the Exynos variant over the Snapdragon one any day. Yes, the Snapdragon does have higher raw horse power, especially in the graphics department, but the Exynos performs much better in multitasking and battery life, which I tend to value more. Besides, the difference in graphics performance is barely noticeable to the average user. So don’t bother trying to find a Snapdragon variant of the S7. The one that they sell here off the shelf is better.
Battery life was good, but it was not mind-blowingly amazing like what some reviewers make it out to be. Sure, I’ll be able to make a full day even with heavier usage, but it seems like more can be done to improve standby times of the phone. Even with the Edge features off and Always On display disabled, the phone still manages to drain the battery rather quickly when idle. That being said, this is still one of the better battery lives I’ve encountered recently, and being able to achieve 5 hours of SOT on one occasion is certainly a respectable result.
Waterproofing works as advertised. I took the S7 Edge for my routine weekend swim (a relaxing change of pace from OCS life). What most reviewers forget to point out is that there are some inherent issues with any waterproof device. Remember that these are not complaints about the S7 Edge but rather limitations of what a waterproof device can or cannot do, be it an Xperia Z3 or a Galaxy S7. You can’t get a cellular signal underwater, or any form of connection for that matter: my Pebble Time constantly lost connection with the S7 Edge while it was in the pool. The touchscreen doesn’t work underwater, and drops of water does interact with the screen, making it register random touches. You can still take underwater photos though, by using the physical volume buttons as camera shutter keys. Another thing to take note is that the audio jack, speakers and micro USB port become filled with water as they are not covered, and they take some time to dry before being fully functional again. So don’t expect to be blasting music or charging your phone immediately after taking it for a swim.
Speaking of the speaker, it is the 2nd thing I dislike most about the phone. When watching video or playing games in landscape mode, you will almost certainly cover up the speaker, and the audio will completely vanish. I’m really looking for the day Samsung puts in front facing speakers into their phones.
The number 1 thing I dislike about the S7 Edge is, ironically, the Edge. It gets in the way, and the software features are absolutely useless. Firstly, the large 5.5 inch screen coupled with the curved sides makes it very easy to touch something by accident with your palm when holding the device. There’s quite a bit of acrobatics going on if you wish to hold up the phone while watching a video: you can’t really hold it on the right for fear of tapping the capacitive buttons by accident, and you have to avoid touching the top and bottom curved displays. Yikes. Also, there’s still that issue where the curved part of the display will tend to trap light, making it hard to see whatever is on that part of the display.
As for the software Edge features, they’re limited and completely useless in my opinion. The functionality and convenience they provide just aren’t enough such that you feel like it’s actually helping you. Why swipe to open up Apps Edge and launch an app when I can press the home button and launch the app from the home screen? Why would I pay $2 to get a Music Panel on the Edge screen from the Galaxy Store when I can just control my music from the notification centre or from the app itself? Now let’s assume, in some alternate universe, that the Edge is actually useful. Why then, do we need an actual physical curved screen just to have those software features? Wouldn’t they work just fine on a flat screen? None of it makes sense to me and just thinking about it drives me on the edge. Pun completely intended.
So yes, the S7 Edge is great in every single way. The camera (especially the camera), the screen, the battery life, the look and feel of it. But it’s not perfect because of the speakers and the goddamn edge. And let’s not mention the TouchWiz UI which I got rid of 2 days after using the phone (seriously, why would anyone use anything else when Action Launcher is just so awesome). I would get an S7 over this so that my only qualm with it would be with the speaker.
But Samsung has me sold. Not on the S7 Edge, but on the future of Samsung phones, and the idea of what they can achieve. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the Galaxy Note 6 when it launches. But I sure as hell hope that the Note 6 doesn’t come with an Edge.