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Galaxy S7 edge review: small changes, huge impact

The Galaxy S7 edge is one of the finest smartphones of the year on the market, and Samsung’s third-generation S device with an edge display is back with some refinements that take what is already an excellent device and make it even better.

The first-generation S device with an edge display, the Galaxy S6 edge, was a stellar device but was said to dig into one’s hands when consumers held it. The Galaxy S6 edge+, released later that Fall, brought a larger edgier display, but was a device that still felt too bulky to hold and too “sharp” to hold for long periods of time. Consumers loved the edge design, but, as with anything, the Korean giant needed to make improvements.

Now, after several months, Samsung has released the Galaxy S7 edge, a device that steals the show away from the Galaxy S7 and became the inspiration behind Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. Again, the Galaxy S7 edge is nothing new in that we’ve seen the design before, but it does feature a number of refinements – which is what you’d expect of something that’s already exceptional.

 

Galaxy S7 edge build quality and hardware design

Galaxy S7 edge back gold

The Galaxy S7 edge consists of the same glass and metal construction as last year’s Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy S6 edge+, but the device has increased in display size from 5.1 inches to 5.5 inches across while retaining the same Gorilla Glass 4 we saw on the market last year (the Galaxy Note 4 was the first Samsung smartphone to feature Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4 panel tech), and this glass display for the front panel is matched by the same Gorilla Glass 4 panel on the back of the device. Some think the glass design is too fragile and doesn’t suit their tastes, but at the end of the day, the glass construction is what makes it easier for Samsung to add IP68 water and dust resistance to the device. HTC has added splash resistance (IP53) to its metal-clad HTC 10 flagship, but most water-resistant devices are made of anything but metal (plastic proves to be better in this regard than metal).

The Galaxy S7 edge is slightly thicker than last year’s Galaxy S6 edge due to a larger battery placed in the device, which we’ll get into later.

The dual-edge design build quality of the Galaxy S edge series returns in the S7 edge, but Samsung has changed the colors. Though you’ll still get the Gold Platinum Galaxy S (7) edge, the color is more of a solid “gold” than “platinum.” Some have criticized the smooth, “fragile” feeling of the back of the device this year that doesn’t give the phone as much traction as that of its predecessor. In other words, the Galaxy S7 edge is quite slippery and can easily fall from mounted surfaces. I’ve come close to watching my Galaxy S7 edge fall from chairs, tables, and even lampstands due to its slippery nature. As for the remaining colors, you’ll get to choose from Black Onyx, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium, and White Pearl. The White Pearl, however, is an international color that won’t come stateside, but the others are available.

Samsung has changed its Galaxy S7 edge colors from its offerings for the S6 edge last year: the Galaxy S6 edge came in Green Emerald, White Pearl, Gold Platinum, and Black Sapphire. Samsung ditched the Black Sapphire color that would turn either black or blue depending on light refraction angle and has gone with a solid black this year. The Green Emerald has been ditched completely, and the White Pearl is now restricted to life outside the States. US customers interested in the S7 edge will have to make do with the Gold, Silver, and Black options. Samsung is preparing the release of a Blue Coral color to for the world market to match that of the now-deceased Galaxy Note 7, so it may be worth the wait to wait a few more weeks.

Along the lines of problems with its build quality (or not, depending on your perspective), I have seen the Galaxy S7 edge prove formidable to drops and falls. It has fallen from a lampstand that’s taller than my couch in my bedroom, not to mention falling from computer chairs and comfy couches. The device has even fallen out of my hands when holding it at times – but it doesn’t bear a screen crack or scratch yet. The device goes against the consumer instinct to “put a case on it,” with the S7 edge tempting buyers to hold it in hand without a case while walking around or lounging around at home. Even when it’s fallen though, it hasn’t received any cracks on the glass that would cause me to turn around and take it in to Verizon for a 24-hour replacement.

Added to this year’s Galaxy S (7) edge is IP68 water and dust resistance, a feature that lets you use your phone in aquatic environments without fearing the elements’ power. The Galaxy S7 edge’s IP68 water and dust certification means that you can have the phone in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes. The IP68 water and dust resistance certification doesn’t mean the device is waterproof, however: anything above 5 feet for any longer than 30 minutes could lead to a defective device, impacted speaker quality (for the worse, not the better), and an overall dead brick of a smartphone that won’t work. We don’t suggest placing it in 5 feet either, even for 10 minutes, but it should prove more than splash-proof in the most water-trickling circumstances.

Samsung refines the in-hand feel of the edge in the Galaxy S7 edge

Galaxy S7 edge left side

The Galaxy S6 edge felt rough in hand, with the edges digging into users’ palms. You can only imagine that such a sharp in-hand feeling would result in users getting it out of their hands fairly quickly. This year, Samsung decided to refine the in-hand feel to such an extent that it’s hard to fathom just how large of a display the Korean giant has placed within a device that feels so small in your hand. It’s hard to believe that the display size is 5.5 inches when most devices with such a mammoth display feel heavy. The HTC 10 has a 5.2-inch display and feels heavier than the Galaxy S7 edge.

I could talk about the in-hand feel all day, but you’d have to experience it to believe it. What I can say is that the Galaxy S7 edge feels so good in-hand that you will find yourself marveling at just how something as powerful as the S7 edge can just “belong there.”

A device that feels this good in your hand will move you to keep it there, so Samsung has done something right with the in-hand feel. Phones that feel as though they’re “barely there” will seem unusual at first, but then prove to be too comfortable to release. If Samsung’s goal is to keep the S7 edge in your hands, then the Korean giant has passed the test with flying colors.

Display

Galaxy S7 edge display

In addition to the Gorilla Glass 4 panel from Corning that is designed to protect the Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung has also added an AMOLED panel, its own trademark display that allows you to have inky blacks, deep color contrasts, and save on battery life because the light emitted comes from within the display instead of the typical backlight that drags along with LCD panels. The result of this is that there’s light from within the display that powers the smartphone experience. Keep this in mind, however: the higher the brightness level you employ, the sooner the display will turn yellowish and dim. So, with that said, only employ high brightness when you’re outdoors; when indoors, tolerate natural room lighting and decrease the phone’s brightness level to keep that “white light” display looking as gorgeous as the day you took the phone out of the box.

The Galaxy S7 edge has a stunning, 5.5-inch dual-edge AMOLED panel with a Quad HD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440p, which matches the screen resolution of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge from 2015. The difference between this year’s design and last year’s dual-edge design (apart from the lighter and refined in-hand feel) is that this year’s S7 edge features IP68 water and dust resistance to handle interaction with waves on the beach, being submerged in water in your kitchen sink (for example), and other water situations you could encounter.

The IP68 water and dust resistance of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge are unmatched in the smartphone world currently in terms of high-end smartphones: Sony’s now-ended Xperia Z series is as close as you’ll get. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have IP67 dust and water resistance, but Samsung’s “Galaxies” will give you more water protection than the iPhones will.

The OnePlus 3 has zero water and dust resistance; the Moto Z and Moto Z Force (Moto Z Force Droid, as Verizon calls it as a Verizon US-exclusive) only has splash resistance (which is very little water protection at all); the LG G5 has no water resistance, and the V20 lacks it for the first time since the V series’ inception last year with the LG V10 (which did have it, by the way); and the only other handset that can match the S7 and S7 edge in IP water and dust ratings while beating the S phones in ruggedized build quality would have to be Samsung’s own AT&T-exclusive Galaxy S7 Active.

The display on the Galaxy S7 remains the same as that of the Galaxy S6 (5.1 inches), but the Galaxy S7 edge screen size has increased from a small 5.1 inches to a more livable 5.5 inches – due in no small part, no doubt, to the appeal of the 5.7-inch Galaxy S6 edge+ that was announced alongside of the Galaxy Note 5 last Fall. The Galaxy S6 edge Plus, though, arrived too late for many S6 edge users, who complained that the 5.1-inch screen, when taking the dual-edge design into account, was too small. Rather than create an S7 edge Plus (S7 edge+ is the official name), Samsung widened the S6 edge display some to make way for the edge screen slithers. The result, the Galaxy S7 edge, has a “Goldilocks” screen size for many who view the 5.7-inch display of the S6 edge+ and Note 5 as too wide, but view the 5.1-inch screen of the S6 edge as too small.

The AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge has become the gold standard for panel tech – with companies such as OnePlus having used an AMOLED panel (what the company calls “Optic  AMOLED” in the OnePlus 3 and Motorola in its Moto Z and Moto Z Force. Huawei implemented Samsung’s AMOLED panel in the Nexus 6P from 2015.

This year, there are quite a few smartphones on the market that all use AMOLED panels, according to OLED-info: Huawei Enjoy 6, Huawei Honor Note 8, Xiaomi Mi Note 2, Xiaomi Redmi Pro, ZTE Axon 7, ZTE Axon 7 Mini, ZTE Axon Nubia My Prague, ZTE Axon Max, Oppo F1 Plus, Lenovo ZUK Z2 Pro, Meizu Pro 5 and Meizu Pro 6, Vivo Xplay5, Acer Jade Primo, Acer Liquid Jade 2, BLU Vivo 5 and Vivo XL, BLU Pure XL, Motorola X Force (US Droid Turbo 2), Blackberry Priv, HTC One A9, Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL, and Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL, not to mention Samsung’s own smartphones (among others).

Why do all these phones implement Samsung’s AMOLED panels? Because AMOLED panels are the best, brightest, and most vivid panels on the market. Display expert company DisplayMate has rated Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge as having the best displays on the market. So, Samsung S7 and S7 edge users are getting the best smartphone display money can buy.

Processor and RAM

Galaxy S7 edge processor and RAM

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge feature the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor (or SoC) for the United States and China markets, which is the de facto high-end processor for high-end smartphones in 2016 (not counting Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 processor that’s being used in worldwide markets outside of the US and China). Of course, the release of the new Google Pixel and Pixel XL have challenged the 820 (with both Pixels bearing Qualcomm’s new updated Snapdragon 821), but the 821 is an incremental update over the 820. There are some improvements, however, such as a 5% graphics bump, 4x more charging efficiency, 10% overall performance bump, and 33% faster download speeds over the Snapdragon 820.

Overall, though, the Snapdragon 820 can still hold its own and shouldn’t be despised. The upcoming Snapdragon 830 will be the next major improvement to Qualcomm’s SoCs, and its accomplishments will supplant the 821. The Snapdragon 820 was produced by way of Samsung’s own low-power manufacturing process, and Qualcomm has selected Samsung to produce the Snapdragon 830 on its upcoming 10-nanometer, low-power process.

To help with the Snapdragon 820 and potential warming issues, Samsung has provided its own CPU cooling system that kicks in when the device starts to warm. Samsung provided this CPU cooling system to help with warming in hardcore gaming such as using the handset within Gear VR or normal Android gaming. In my first experience with it out of the box, the S7 edge’s CPU cooling system kicked in quickly with my first warming experience. With that said, though, the device will warm on its back and display. Keep that in mind.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge come with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, which is manufactured and supplied by Samsung for its own devices. 4GB of RAM is pretty much the standard for high-end Android smartphones in 2016, though China is seeing an upsurge in 6GB RAM devices (such as the newly released Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro that has 8GB of RAM, or the 6GB RAM, 128GB storage Galaxy Note 7 Samsung considered launching in China but decided against eventually). In the UK and US, however, 4GB RAM devices are the norm. Only the OnePlus 3 in the high-end market has 6GB of RAM, but the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge offer so much more than high-end RAM to make them the best devices on the market.

What the Snapdragon 820 does with Samsung’s low-power 14nm processor, however, is that it allows the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge to “fly.” One thing I noticed when typing on the new Samsung keyboard (that is the best the company’s produced yet, might I add) is that everything just “flies” with little concern about lag whatsoever. With the exception of device rebooting and notification loading at the start menu when turning the phone on for the first time, I’ve had zero lag with the Galaxy S7 edge (even without disabling Verizon apps).

Storage

galaxy s7 edge top

The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge maintain the 32GB storage minimum Samsung announced with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, though Samsung has brought back the microSD card slot that disappeared completely in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. Many have wondered why Samsung would remove the microSD card slot only to return it in this year’s Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, but the answer isn’t difficult to understand: the reason behind the microSD card slot’s removal pertained to the need to make the new UFS 2.0 flash storage and the microSD card storage play nicely together. MicroSD card storage is slower speed-wise than UFS flash storage, and Samsung wanted to test their compatibility. The new Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, however, come equipped with both, as Samsung has been working on their compatibility and “playing nicely together.”

Now, with 32GB of internal storage as the norm these days (no more 16GB high-end “Galaxies”), users can make the most of double the internal storage of, say, the Galaxy S5. If you’re a storage-hungry user like me, though, 32GB isn’t enough – which is why the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge also feature microSD card slots that can provide up to an additional 200GB of expandable storage. Now, you can save photos, screenshots, downloaded images, and pictures to your microSD card (along with videos), while saving your internal storage for needed documents and apps. For the rest, make the most of Google’s Google Drive cloud storage.

Unfortunately, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge do not provide Adoptable Storage that enables you to implement microSD card storage as internal storage and expand your internal storage, but most high-end Android smartphones don’t provide this option either (the HTC 10 is the only high-end smartphone available for purchase at your local carrier that allows Adoptable Storage). With that said, though, I don’t think this will pose a problem for most users that can do everything and then some with 220GB of storage (remember that the OS and TouchWiz will take some GBs out of your total storage, along with pre-installed apps).

Oh, and in case you may not know, Samsung makes its own 200GB microSD cards – so you need only buy one and insert it in the device to get started.

Battery, Battery Life, and Charging

galaxy s7 edge twisted

The Galaxy S7 edge (and Galaxy S7) have some of the best battery life on the market, with the Galaxy S7 featuring a 3,000mAh battery while the Galaxy S7 edge houses a 3,600mAh battery. It’s quite understandable that the majority of Samsung Galaxy S customers have opted for the Galaxy S7 edge (some due to the larger battery size alone), though some consumers who prefer a more flat panel and a more inexpensive price may opt for the S7 instead. The S7 and S7 edge both have larger batteries than the Galaxy S6 (2,550mAh) and the Galaxy S6 edge (2,600mAh), which means that, if you’re looking to buy either of these phones, you should opt for the 2016 Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

The 3,600mAh battery inside the Galaxy S7 edge has the potential to last over a day with light usage, often as long as 36 hours. In regular use, though, I found that the Galaxy S7 edge gets me 16-22 hours of battery life and consistently 6 hours of screen-on time (SOT). I’ve talked to others who’ve had better luck in the battery department than I have, but the S7 edge doesn’t perform as well in the battery department as compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Active (4,000mAh battery) or the now-deceased Galaxy Note 7. This shouldn’t deter you, however, since few phones match up to those – and seeing that the Note 7 has been pulled off shelves and out of production, and the Galaxy S7 Active is restricted to AT&T customers, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are the two top phones on the market for 2016.

16-22 hours of moderate use isn’t bad at all, and users who don’t use their phones most of the day (I do, though) should get well over a day of battery life. As usual, I experiment with a number of settings to add to battery life: employing WiFi Calling and texting and using airplane mode, disabling features and apps that I don’t use, cutting down my brightness level when indoors, and so on, and no matter the battery life, you’ll find yourself needing to adjust these levels at some point.

Should you run out of juice, you can choose to charge up with the provided micro-USB cable that can charge your Galaxy S7 edge from 0-100 in 1 hour, 40 minutes (or 100 minutes) due to Samsung’s fast charging tech built into the Galaxy S7 edge. What few make the most of is Samsung’s fast wireless charging capabilities that are also built into the S7 and S7 edge. You need only buy one of Samsung’s fast wireless charging stands, plug up the stand, and then place your S7 or S7 edge on the stand and watch it charge. Utilizing Samsung’s fast wireless charging, you can wirelessly charge the Galaxy S7 edge from 0 to 100% in just 2.5 hours (150 minutes). Wireless charging is the “green” charging standard that prevents your battery from experiencing the stress and shock that are all too common with USB charging.

Take a look at the battery stats below by clicking on the Galaxy S7 edge battery stats link. Keep in mind that the higher screen-on time (SOT) results from using airplane mode, as opposed to Wi-Fi and cellular data and no airplane mode.

Galaxy S7 edge battery stats

 

Camera

galaxy s7 edge camera left

The Galaxy S7 edge features a 5MP front camera and a 12MP back camera with Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF). The back camera is Samsung’s best-performing back camera, and PDAF makes a difference. Compared to the LG G5, photos in lowlight are superb, with better lighting on objects and more vibrant colors.

Gear VR photo Galaxy S7 edge

Gear VR LG G5 photo indoors

In one picture taken of my Samsung Gear VR headset, the Galaxy S7 edge (first photo above) took a more vibrant photo than the LG G5 did. The G5 doesn’t have the saturated “yellowish” lighting that is found in the S7 edge photo, but the white wall looks washed out and faded as compared to the Galaxy S7 edge.

Galaxy S7 edge photo dawn detergent

LG G5 dawn detergent vs. Galaxy S7 edge

Other photos involved a photo of Dawn dish detergent that is greener in the S7 edge photo (first) as opposed to the G5 (second photo). The Galaxy S7 edge photo of the Dawn dish detergent shows a more vibrant green as opposed to the washed-out, still, cooler green photo of the G5.

Galaxy S7 edge oven mitt

LG G5 oven mitt photo vs. S7 edge

An oven mitt photo from the G5 (the second photo) has washed out the pink fruit (presumably apples) as opposed to the pink shade of the Galaxy S7 edge (which portrays the reds and pinks perfectly), and the G5’s zoom quality is not as good and the white lighting of the background doesn’t seem as accurate as that of the S7 edge. The pinks look red, and the light pink shades of the fruit appear as light oranges.

Galaxy S7 edge pillsbury dough boy

LG G5 pillsbury dough boy vs. S7 edge

A photo of the famous Pillsbury Dough Boy shows that the circle with the word “Pillsbury” on its hat is more accurate on the G5 than the S7 edge because the color is more of a lighter blue than a darker blue. Though the S7 edge doesn’t get the color of the circle correct, the S7 edge has more vibrant lighting and saturated colors. The G5 photo appears as more “off-white” than anything else.

Galaxy S7 edge vegetable frame vs. LG G5

LG G5 vegetable frame vs. S7 edge

Another photo of vegetables on a picture frame shows more saturated orange carrots for the S7 edge than those of the LG G5. The picture frame is a darker brown on the Galaxy S7 edge photo than on the LG G5 photo. The eggplant on the G5 is also more washed out when zoomed in on as compared to the S7 edge’s eggplant that retains its purple dark and light shades. The green leaves around it remain vibrantly green, while the LG G5’s green leaves are still green but bring more noise into their photos when zoomed in on (and the G5’s green leaves look as though they’re a lighter green – a sign that the color is washed-out). Last but not least, the apples in the photo retain their look in the S7 edge but start to fade and pack a “whitish” haze surrounding them in the LG G5 photo.

The Galaxy S7 edge and Galaxy S7 have been shown in camera shootout after camera shootout to perform the best in lowlight that we’ve seen on the market for 2016, and these few lowlight photos confirm it. Of course, these photos weren’t taken with little lighting, but indoor lighting tends to distort photos (photography professionals tend to live in outdoor sunlight when taking pictures, as natural lighting is the best lighting).

The same dawn detergent we’ve seen earlier was used to take morning photos with no lighting but outdoor lighting from a nearby window.

Galaxy S7 edge morning lowlight photo vs. LG G5

LG G5 dawn detergent morning lowlight

These two detergent photos look similar, but the overexposed sunlight (or the possible refraction makes the light put a white blotch on the far left side of the photo. One may think this photo was taken at a terrible angle, but, as we’ll see with an upcoming photo, the G5 has a problem with overexposure when it comes to lighting.

A stove cover shows the discrepancies in color accuracy when it comes to the LG G5. The Galaxy S7 edge, though, retains accurate color but the G5 starts to wash out colors as is normal for the handset.

Galaxy S7 edge stove cover vs. LG G5

LG G5 stove cover vs. S7 edge

The stove cover with “espresso” on it shows that the bottom photo taken with the LG G5 seems to have lighter “grays” and even lighter “reds” and “browns” than the photo taken above with the Galaxy S7 edge.

Finally, to show how both cameras handle situations with some lighting directly involved, I took photos of some flowers above the lighting. My grandmother is quite the interior decorator, so this photo was taken at her home, as is the case with the others.

Galaxy S7 edge flowers and light photo vs LG G5

LG G5 flowers and lighting vs. S7 edge

The color of the flowers comes down to pink or red, but one thing that is obvious from the photos is that the Galaxy S7 edge handles direct lighting better (above) than the LG G5 (below). Sure, the lighting is impacted by color on the S7 edge, showing the S7 edge’s tendency to oversaturate, but it is more tolerable than the white glow surrounding the light bulb in the G5 photo. If you find yourself in a situation where there is limited wide lighting in a room or on a stage, expect the Galaxy S7 edge to provide a more acceptable photo and lighting situation than the G5.

As for daylight photos with natural sunlight, the Galaxy S7 edge doesn’t disappoint, either. It doesn’t underperform at all, and in some photos, is matched by the LG G5, as can be seen from the tree stump photo below. The S7 edge photo in the pair below (first one) shows sharper detail than that of the G5. Samsung does allow its cameras to sharpen images in photos (it’s a known trait), including that of the Galaxy S7 Active.

Galaxy S7 edge tree stump

tree stump LG G5

At other times, though, the Galaxy S7 edge goes a bit on the “cold” side with a bluish hue in photos that turns reds into purples. The LG G5 didn’t have a problem in maintaining the “warmth” of the photo and color accuracy in certain plant photos (see second photo in the pair below).

Galaxy S7 edge

S7 edge review LG G5 photo

The images above (S7 edge, followed by the LG G5) show that the G5 takes warmer photos. The brown leaf stems in the second photo are a bit more saturated than in the first photo. Also, the green leaves in the first photo don’t have the same blue hue we see in the Galaxy S7 edge photo that lives on the “cold” side. The G5 photo looks lovely, but it isn’t accurate: it’s the result of post-image processing, not of the actual plant in the moment.

This second set of plant photos show that the Galaxy S7 edge can be too cold when taking certain photos while the G5 can get some photos correct with the right mix of color. If you prefer the red tips of the plant in the G5’s photo, have no fear: the plant appears the same in real time. The colder S7 edge image is too cold as compared to the plant’s real-life appearance. At least the S7 edge photo looks as though the leaves are a darker red (perhaps a hot pink) as opposed to the vibrant red of the G5 take (second photo).

Galaxy S7 edge review plant red tips

galaxy s7 edge review plant red tips lg g5

The Galaxy S7 edge provides a cold photo below as well with the pink rose standing out against the brick wall adjacent to it. At the same time, however, the S7 edge paints the wall as “gray” while the LG G5 photo of the same scene paints the wall as “brown” – a more accurate color for the brick wall behind the rose.

Galaxy S7 edge review S7 edge pink rose brick wall

galaxy s7 edge review LG G5 pink rose brick wall

The cool hue of the S7 edge can be seen in the below photo that contrasted lighter green grass with darker green grass. The LG G5, the second grass photo, not only has a more pleasant photo but matches the outdoor scene. The S7 edge, in contrast, has taken the greens and provided something of that blue hue we’ve talked about for the darker grass. In other words, healthy green grass in the G5 photo becomes “cold” green grass. The win for this scene goes to the LG G5.

Galaxy S7 edge review S7 edge grass

s7 edge review LG G5 green grass

The photo of green clovers shows an interesting trend, though. Up until now, we’ve seen the LG G5 provide warmer images, the Galaxy S7 edge colder ones at times. Now, however, the LG G5 provides the colder image that doesn’t match the warmth of the S7 edge (or the plant’s real life appearance). The green clover plant found in the photo pair below has a blue-green appearance, but the Galaxy S7 edge photo (first) in the pair below has the bright, fertile greens that we’ve seen even in HTC 10 photos. This is a shocking discovery indeed, but what it goes to show is that these cameras have moments when they fumble in performance and moments when they triumph – and one can never know when the camera may produce a warmer or colder image.

Galaxy S7 edge green clover

LG G5 vs. S7 edge green clover

Two additional images will suffice. In this next photo pair, I took photos of a small under-the-house door that was built into the brick. The Galaxy S7 edge photo shows the maintenance of brick color (that brick red) as well as the red color/orange rustic tint of the door hinges. In contrast, though, the LG G5 turns the bricks into a washed red or pink – which doesn’t match the bricks’ original color. The rustic door hinges in the G5 photo take on more of the same light red/pink hue as the bricks do. This round, though, goes to the Galaxy S7 edge (first photo below).

Galaxy S7 edge door on brick

S7 edge review LG G5 door on brick

The last photo pair taken concerns a tree with changing leaves (yes, Fall presents some great color-changing leaves for photos). In the first photo take on the S7 edge, the tree colors remain accurate and daytime doesn’t impact the photo quality. In contrast, the LG G5 photo shows the overexposure of daylight as well as the oversaturation regarding the brown tree bark (it was more gray than brown). The overexposure doesn’t make sense in this photo considering that I took the photo after 4PM in the late afternoon/early evening, and there was less than an hour left before sunset.

Galaxy S7 edge fall leaf tree

s7 edge review LG G5 fall tree leaves

In the camera shootout between the Galaxy S7 edge and the LG G5, we can see that the S7 edge gets as close as one can be to having the all-around, no-compromises, every-situation smartphone camera. It isn’t perfect, but I have far more confidence in the Galaxy S7 edge (and regular S7’s) camera abilities than that of the LG G5.

Software 

You may be a seasoned smartphone shopper, but you may encounter buyers interested in the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Samsung smartphones for the first time. If you’ve been using Samsung smartphones for some time, you’re likely to face questioning by skeptical buyers who have heard about the “dreaded TouchWiz” and have stayed with Motorola or HTC all these years. These individuals may ask you what makes the Galaxy S7 edge worth the cost, considering that the device itself costs around $800 at Verizon Wireless, $790 at T-Mobile, $795 at Sprint, and $795 at AT&T.

Well, there are quite a few reasons why the Galaxy S7 edge (and even the Galaxy S7) are worth significant cash. Apart from their top-notch hardware and build quality, the Galaxy S7 edge is also worth the price because of its software. It is to software that we now turn.

Always On Display

galaxy s7 edge always on display

The Galaxy S7 edge (and the flat-paneled Galaxy S7) both feature Samsung’s all new Always On Display (AOD), a feature that lets users check their time, date, and notifications without having to turn on their home screen to do so. In other words, the AOD is “Always On,” aptly named after its function.

The AOD appears on other devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (now deceased), LG G5 (though LC panels have a dimmer AOD than phones boasting AMOLED panels), the Moto Z and Moto Z Force (including the Motorola Verizon phones) and likely the LG V20, but it is absent from devices such as Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL, OnePlus 3, and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Motorola has claimed the feature as one of its hallmarks, but Motorola borrowed the Always On Display (labeled by Motorola as “Active Display”) from Nokia back in 2009 with the Nokia N86.

Well, Samsung’s decision to wait until this time to implement the 7-year-old feature has little to do with Motorola or even Nokia and more to do with the company’s own research. According to Samsung, consumers check their phones over 100 times a day – leading the company to implement a feature that would ease the need to turn on the display to check the time, date, and notifications with each glance.

Samsung’s Always On Display on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge allow you to set up dual time zones for glance viewing, along with background customizations that let you express your style – even with the AOD. There are AOD-compatible themes in Samsung’s Theme Store that will let you customize this secondary display even further. Just turn this feature on, cut your screen off, and see it in all its visual glory.

Edge Functionality

Galaxy S7 edge Netflix edge

The Galaxy S7 edge is the gold standard on the market in a myriad of ways, but there’s one feature that towers above them all: the dual-edge display and the edge functionality. A number of buyers of the S7 edge may purchase the device for its aesthetic appeal, but Samsung has built in functionality that lets you do more with the edge than just stare at it. The Galaxy S7 edge allows you to access needed functions and tasks from the “edge,” the side of the display (you can adjust it to the left side if you so choose).

There are a few panels or “edges,” as they are called, that arrive pre-installed: the Apps edge, a panel that lets you add most-used apps; the Tasks edge, a panel that lets you accomplish certain tasks such as compose an email, create a contact, take pics in auto mode, take a selfie, create a memo, create a calendar event/task, use the phone keypad, and so on. A Calendar edge lets you view calendar dates, bills, and important events. You can view Google Keep memos, RSS news from your favorite sites, Yahoo News, and even CNN News from the edge.

You can download edge panels by visiting the settings symbol (a white wheel with a gray background) at the bottom left of the edge and then “download” at the top right of the “Edge panels” page. Similar to the Gear Apps Store and the Galaxy Apps Store, there is an Edge Panels Store within Galaxy Apps that lets you get both free and paid edge panels.

What other edge panels can you add to your Galaxy S7 edge? Well, all sorts of edge panels. For the Spotify-loving crowd, there’s an “Edge Playlists” panel for $1.49 (a paid app), a Messages Panel (also paid), an Edge Calculator (reminiscent of the 2014 Galaxy Note Edge), a Notification Edge for those who want to have their notifications from the edge instead of the usual drop-down notification window, and even a Facebook and Facebook Messenger Panel for the world’s most popular social network. A Data Usage Panel lets you view the amount of cellular data you’ve used up for the billing cycle, a Clock edge panel to set alarms and cooking times, and a Quick Recorder panel to record quick memo notes and audio reminders, among others. I do have to point out the Edge Flix, or what we’d know as the Netflix Edge (yes, this panel lets you keep track of your favorite Netflix shows as well as finish shows and movies you’ve not yet completed).

There are other edge panels that are worth checking out, such as the Telegram, Google Hangouts, and Twitter edge panels, and Samsung has been working on edge panel development since announcing the Galaxy S6 edge back on March 1st, 2015. With that said, the Galaxy S7 edge provides more functionality than the Galaxy S line has ever seen.

I encourage you to make the most of the edge panels if you happen to buy the Galaxy S7 edge. After all, you’re paying $800 for the S7 edge, so why disable any functionality it offers if you’re already paying for it?

Samsung Theme Store

Sure, someone will say, “LG and HTC have their theme stores, too,” but we’re detailing Samsung devices here. If anything, Samsung’s Theme Store is just one more feature that helps Galaxy customers feel that the Galaxy S7 edge is as complete a smartphone as one can find on the market. The Theme Store allows you to change the UI look along with the icon design for Samsung-specific apps, though keep in mind that the new themes won’t change all Android apps. If you have a Verizon or AT&T S7 edge, for example, you won’t be able to change the design of carrier-specific apps, but Samsung apps such as camera, Samsung’s web browser, and Samsung email will change to match your new theme.

The Samsung themes are designed for those who don’t necessarily like the look of TouchWiz, Samsung’s own unique UX, and want something akin to a more “Google-licious” look or something akin to another UI or a UX design that looks destined for Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example. Vanilla Android/Google fans will love the vanilla Android themes present in the Theme Store, and Samsung once again shows that it provides something for everyone.

For those who are considering LG devices on Verizon or AT&T, for example, keep in mind that these two carriers do not provide official theme support for LG SmartWorld, LG’s theme store for its own devices (though you can find a way around this if you’re willing to “Google” it). If you want to theme your device, then, you’ll be forced to choose between HTC and Samsung. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have to “look up” a way to get themes active on my device if I’m paying top dollar for it.

We hope that themes are just one of many reasons you find yourself drawn to the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

Samsung Pay

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge bring, along with many other things, Samsung Pay, Samsung’s own mobile payments service. Verizon customers will need to download the Samsung Pay app from the Google Play Store, unfortunately, but all other customers at all other carriers should have the app pre-installed.

Samsung Pay is another feature that sets Samsung Galaxy devices apart from the rest of the high-end smartphone market. The OnePlus 3, Moto Z and Moto Z Force, the new Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, HTC 10, LG G5, and LG V20 all have Android Pay – Google’s own take on mobile payments – but Android Pay is an exact copy of Apple Pay, I’m afraid. While Android Pay allows smartphone users to make mobile payments, there’s an “Achilles’ Heel” to it: Android Pay, like Apple Pay, only lets you make mobile payments at NFC terminals. If there’s no NFC reader, then Android Pay is not supported at a given store.

In contrast, Samsung Pay works with NFC terminals as well as traditional card readers by way of what is known as Magnetic Secure Transmission (or MST). MST allows merchants to still use Samsung Pay even if they never upgrade their credit card terminals with NFC ones. What this means is that your favorite down-home, country grocery store can still conduct Samsung Pay transactions as long as you have your “Galaxy” in hand. Android Pay won’t work on old card readers, so prepare to have severe limitations in how you would use Android Pay (non-Samsung, Android phones) or Apple Pay (iPhone).

Samsung Pay is leading mobile payments, so much so that Samsung is seeing more adoptees for its mobile payment service than either Apple or Google – and it’s becoming such the go-to service that even fellow South Korean rival LG is considering using MST (the same tech that Samsung currently uses for Samsung Pay) in its upcoming 2017 devices such as the rumored LG G6.

Gear VR and Game Launcher

Gear VR Action Bowling collage

The rise of mobile virtual reality (VR) is due in no small part to Samsung, who has decided to bring VR to the everyday consumer instead of relegating it to the diehard gamer. Sure, HTC has its Vive headset, but smartphone buyers aren’t going to fork over another $500+ for a VR headset in addition to their smartphone. At the time, Facebook-owned Oculus had its expensive Oculus Rift (retails for the same price as the HTC Vive), but again, these headsets will never become massively popular due to their pricing.

In walks Samsung’s Gear VR, the mobile VR headset that can transport you into the future of tech for the shockingly low price of just $99. Samsung gave away free Gear VRs with its pre-order promo, and you can now find Gear VR headsets compatible with your device that are priced at half the original ($49-$50). Gear VR is designed to work with your Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge the moment you place your smartphone into the headset. In addition to the free Gear VR promo, Samsung also gives away six free games to every Gear VR owner that can be accessed at any time within the Oculus Store. What headset manufacturer does that, really?

Gear VR includes games that are ready to play, and Oculus is adding new ones to the lineup all the time. Samsung’s decision to manufacture its own headsets but partner with Facebook’s Oculus for its VR software was a marvelous decision indeed. Good partnerships are important in the mobile business, and Samsung’s decision to launch VR with Oculus means that you’re getting the best VR software in the business.

For those who do not care to dabble into VR, Samsung has something for you too. If you want a great mobile gaming experience on-screen, Samsung has announced a new Game Launcher for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge that transforms your screen into a game-only enterprise. What this means for you is that you can 1) save all your games in one place without having to create yet another folder for them, and 2) you can now turn off notifications and your recents and back buttons when in game mode.

The Game Launcher is important to gaming: how many times have you turned your phone in landscape mode and, when hitting a recent or back key, find yourself on the main screen – having to go back into your task manager and bring the game back up to the screen? It’s happened to me so many times with even new devices such as the Google Pixel XL: I’m in the middle of an NBA Jam game that’s getting good, I’m in the zone shooting, blocking, stealing, and passing the ball, when all of a sudden, the game disappears and I’m on the home screen. Fortunately, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge will prevent you from accidentally “tapping out” of your game because the Game Launcher provides an option to disable recent and back keys. Once you enable it, you can tap the keys but the game will remain on-screen. Samsung’s new Game Launcher provides a peace of mind in gaming that you won’t find much of anywhere else except for its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. Samsung provides some free games within the Game Launcher, too.

Additionally, Samsung’s Game Launcher also allows you to take screenshots, record video of your games, trim your game play videos, and share them on social media. You can see an example of gaming on my S7 edge below. The game below is called NBA Jam, and it is one of my old-school favorite games that I remember mandated quarters in a game machine at the local Pizza Hut years ago (I’m telling my age here).

As a tip: if you’re viewing this on a mobile device, you’ll need to zoom out as far as you can to see the YouTube video below.

 

Good Lock 

TouchWiz has been criticized by some for its icon design and feature overload, but Samsung’s TouchWiz UI is as feature-laden as they come. For many, that’s a good thing: it means that consumers get more features and functionality for the price. Samsung’s functionality has always been a plus, and the Galaxy S7 edge is one of Samsung’s most functional smartphones yet (not counting its Galaxy Note series). At the same time, however, Samsung’s goal is to make its devices not only beautiful but functional to the point that even its largest critics are won over. To that end, the Korean giant created a new app called Good Lock that is designed to change the way you see notifications and phone settings.

Good Lock is what I’d call “the buffet of customizations,” letting you change the color of the notification shade and individual notifications, dismiss or “keep” notifications in a section all of its own, and even hide your tasks in the task manager from prying eyes. Settings for the Always On Display, for example, that were hidden in settings have been added to Good Lock — which means that now, enabling the AOD is only a tap away. The task manager has replaced copies of webpages and app screens with “icons” and app names so that you can show your tasks such as the phone app without showing the person(s) you’ve contacted.

Good Lock provides shortcuts that enhance your mobile experience by improving productivity through quick access to applications. Now, I do not recommend installing Good Lock until you’ve played around with the Galaxy S7 edge – but, once the edge panels are installed, downloading Good Lock will only add to what the edge panels offer.

Conclusion

galaxy s7 edge slant

The Galaxy S7 edge is a stellar smartphone that offers high-end specs and features that are second to none on the smartphone market. A number of high-end smartphones available on the market offer some outstanding features, but few offer them all in one. Samsung’s devices have a reputation as being industry-leading, and the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge make high-end spending worthwhile. These smartphones are the standard when evaluating other smartphones.

The only two drawbacks I’ve seen with this device are 1) the lack of fingerprint or smudge resistance due to the Gorilla Glass 4 front and back (which is standard for nearly all glass-constructed smartphones) and 2) the battery life, which, though matching expectations for high-end smartphones in 2016, teases us with the idea that a 3,600mAh should achieve longer battery stamina than the 3,500mAh battery in the Note 7. Whatever Samsung did with the Note 7’s battery life, the Galaxy S7 edge won’t match it – and the Galaxy S7 Active still surpasses the Note 7 in battery life. This won’t bother most consumers, though, but it is something to keep in mind if you’re coming from a Galaxy S6 Active or a Galaxy Note 5, for example.

There’s a reason why the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are the best smartphones of 2016: they offer together what none others offer. When it comes to spending $700 and $800 for smartphones, you deserve a premium experience in everything, and you’re getting it here. When you consider the premium hardware with glass-and-metal construction, IP68 water and dust resistance, and a 12MP back camera with Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF), wireless and fast wireless charging, fast wire charging, as well as software features such as the Always On Display (AOD), edge functionality, Samsung Pay, Samsung’s Theme Store, Gear VR and the Oculus VR Store offerings, as well as Samsung’s Game Launcher and the all-customizable Good Lock, Samsung fans are truly the most privileged smartphone users on the planet.

And that all-encompassing “Galaxy” can be yours – the moment you take your Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge out of the box. As Samsung says, “It’s Not A Phone, It’s A Galaxy.”

 

Deidre Richardson (dual B.A., History and Music, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) stumbled upon tech a little later in life than expected. After picking up her first smartphone (the Galaxy S3), the rest is history. She currently writes for SamMobile, the largest Samsung fan site worldwide, as well as smartwatch site smartwatch.me.

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