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Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review: Time-saver edition

Introduction

You’re eyeing up the Samsung Galaxy S7, but you find its looks too pedestrian? We don’t necessarily agree, but let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re right. No worries, Samsung’s got you covered – meet the Galaxy S7 edge.

Key specifications


5.5″1440×2560 pixels



12MP
2160p



2.3GHz
Exynos 8890 Octa



4GB RAM
32/64GB memory



3600mAhLi-Po

Flagships come in pairs, that’s the recent trend and in the case of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge they share a good bit of the internals. Which is another way of saying that the edge has a bigger battery, and that’s it.

Then again it has a larger display. And it’s that display, that gorgeous 5.5-inch Super AMOLED spilling over the sides, that’s the real difference between the two, and the sole reason why one would pay the premium and pick the S7 edge and not the S7.

Design and build quality

Last year’s Galaxy S6 edge stood at 5.1 inches, and there was the 5.7-inch Galaxy S6 edge+. In 2016 so far we have the S7 edge splitting the difference between the two, but leaning towards the Plus. In our book, that makes a potential S7 edge+ fairly unlikely to happen.

The S7 edge measures 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7mm, making it thinner than the plain S7. It weighs just 157g – 5 grams more than the S7 gets you 20% more battery and 0.4 inches larger diagonal. That said, if you’re comparing to the S6 edge, the new model is 25g heavier and has grown a bit in every dimension to fit the larger screen.

Number crunching aside, the Galaxy S7 edge is one seriously good-looking smartphone. At a quick glance, you might dismiss it as a just a large S6 edge, but it is more than that. Yes, it is basically a curved screen on the front, and two sheets of Gorilla Glass 4 with an aluminum frame on the sides, but it’s about the details.

And the details, in this case, include the slight curve on the back that helps with in-hand feel – where the S6 edge was sharp and pointy at the sides, the S7 edge is smooth and pleasing to hold. The S7 edge is also easier to pick up from a table.

Palm rejection around the edges isn’t perfect and the phone does register touch input from the sides a little more often than we would have liked. It will on occasion annoy us by ignoring tapping on the screen because it thinks that palms touching it on the side are the intended interaction.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Among the properties shared with the S7, the Galaxy S7 edge has an IP68 rating for water resistance (up to 1.5m for 30 minutes) and is also dust tight. It’s equally prone to collecting fingerprints – an inherent downside to the glass design.

There’s no IR emitter, for those that care, but storage expansion is possible, and controls are in their familiar locations. There’s a fingerprint reader in the Home button, which is activated when you wake up the device – it’s not always on.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review

In summary, the Galaxy S7 edge suffers precisely from what makes it so beautiful – the curves and the glass. If that isn’t irony. You could learn to live with the less than ideal handling and fingerprints, or stick it a case, which may be the reasonable path, but is it worth it? Half a star down for that dilemma.

Design and build quality score



4.5

Display

The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with dual curved edges. The curves are small, just barely hugging the sides, very much similar to the ones on the S6 edge.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review

Infinite contrast is AMOLED’s forte, and punchy colors are a given with the technology. The Basic display mode, on the other hand, can give you near perfect color accuracy, should you need it. Maximum brightness is a little less than 400nits, which is a good number for AMOLED if lower than LCD’s, but in Auto mode, it can go as high as 610nits when in bright light – an excellent result, which helps the S7 edge ace our sunlight legibility test as well.

The S7 edge comes with an Allways On display feature, same as on the S7. It offers you a choice to have a clock, a calendar, an image, or a combination of those, displayed during standby. Basic notifications will also show up, like missed calls and texts, but nothing more.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review

All that will eat up roughly a percent of your battery life every hour, which Samsung argues is still better than waking up the phone and lighting the entire display just to check the time on a few dozen occasions a day. It’s your call whether the trade-off is worth it, and if it isn’t, you can just pull the plug on it.

What the S7 edge has, and the S7 doesn’t, is Night clock. Coming straight from the Note Edge, the feature displays a clock and date on the curved portion of the screen, with very low brightness – perfect for a quick look at the time at night without blinding yourself by firing up the display.

Battery life

The sole difference between the Galaxy S7 edge and the S7 under the hood is battery capacity, and the edge comes with a 3,600mAh power pack. The capacity increase is higher than the increase in area needing to be lit up, not to mention some battery draining processes are a constant regardless of display size, so the Galaxy S7 edge is supposed to last longer than the S7, just by looking at the numbers.

And it does. Upwards of 20h of video playback are possible on the S7 edge, while web browsing drains it in 13 and a half hours. It also outlasts its little brother in voice calls making for an overall endurance rating of 98h.

There a few caveats with those numbers, the first of which is that this rating is achieved with the Always On display feature switched off. Switch it on, and you’re looking at a number in the high 60s. Such is the reality.

It should also be noted that these are the results of the Exynos-powered version of the Galaxy S7 edge. The Snapdragon 820 chip inside the US version isn’t as efficient and posts lower numbers across the board. Hit the “Read more” link below for a detailed analysis.

The endurance rating is an estimation of how long the phone would last if you use it for an hour each of calling, browsing and video playback a day. Such usage pattern may not be relevant to your own usage scenario, but we’ve established it so our battery results are comparable across devices. You can adjust the formula to better match your own usage pattern, by visiting our dedicated battery test results page.

Audio

The Galaxy S7 edge doesn’t shine in terms of speaker loudness, falling in the Below average category, according to our tests. There are no stereo speakers either, so the S7 edge doesn’t win many points in this department. Output quality doesn’t suffer when pumped up to max, at least.

Sound output through the 3.5mm jack should be the same as the S7, you would think, and it is of equally excellent quality when connected to an external amp. Plug in a pair of headphones, though, and the S7 edge pulls ahead of the S7, exhibiting even less stereo crosstalk, easily one of the best scores in this respect.

Photo camera

The camera on the S7 edge is entirely identical to the one on the S7. With this generation Samsung has introduced a brand new camera with a lower pixel count, but that’s about all that’s been downgraded. The 12MP shooter has the dual-pixel technology – there’s a phase-detection agent at every pixel while competitors only have one at about 5% of photosites. What that means to you is insanely fast autofocusing, both in daylight and in the dark.

The lens has also gotten brighter, actually the brightest on a smartphone (obviously tied with the S7 for that title) at f/1.7. Add to that the larger individual pixels (1.4 microns vs. 1.12 on the S6), plus OIS, and the S7 edge is very well equipped for shooting in less than ideal lighting. And in pitch black you have the flash to save the day (night) though it still uses a single LED.

Double-pressing the Home button to launch the camera works here too, and once you’re in the app, it’s the familiar simple interface with shortcuts to basic functions. If you want more control, you can launch the Pro mode, which gives you access to manual exposure settings. RAW capture is available too.

Photos are impressively detailed, dynamic range is good and the S7 edge does very well to preserve data in the highlights. White balance and colors are consistently accurate and have a very pleasant consumer-grade vibe to them. Night shots are very good, detail is abundant, noise is kept to a reasonable amount.

The selfie snapper remains at 5MP, only, this time, it has the f/1.7 aperture to match the primary camera. Samsung has also added a screen fill flash to assists when there’s practically no other light source. It has somewhat limited dynamic range, and tends to clip highlights, but produces pleasing skin tones and overall colors.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge time-saver review

Camera samples

Video camera

The Galaxy S7 edge has a feature-rich camcorder, capable of high-res 4k/30fps video, high frame rate 1080p/60fps, and slow motion at 720p/240fps, among others.

Ultra HD videos are nice and detailed, and exhibit largely the same excellent properties as still images. The fast autofocus sure helps, but on occasion, and particularly in 60fps FullHD video, the S7 edge hunts for focus for no apparent reason.