Galaxy S7 Edge review: Samsung's vanity phone is all grown up

The Galaxy S6 Edge felt like an experiment, but this year's curved flagship proves the Edge has some staying power after all.

At a Glance
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

    Greenbot Rating
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    on Amazon

    The Galaxy S7 Edge is everything you could want or need in an Android flagship, though its edge-specific software features aren't exactly necessary.

I was such a skeptic about last year’s Galaxy S6 Edge, but then I ended up buying one from my carrier. I still have it, and I still bring along the S6 Edge as my “camera phone” when I know the Nexus 6P just won’t cut it. 

That said, I’m actually seriously disappointed in myself for not waiting another year before using my upgrade to buy a smartphone. The Galaxy S7 Edge is one of those Android flagship devices that’s worth blowing your carrier subsidy for. It has all the same fantastic specifications of the Galaxy S7, including a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera. It’s also a remarkably attractive phone, and a pronounced example of how badly Samsung wants to eclipse its biggest competitor, Apple. If last year’s Edge-mania was any indication, this is a phone that will be wildly popular among Samsung fans. 

A curvy phablet

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It’s bigger, but it’s more comfortable to hold than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S7.

Last year, Samsung followed up the 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 Edge with a 5.7-inch S6 Edge+ about six months later, which I assume was to test the waters on which size would sell the best. It appears the Korean manufacturer had more success with the bigger device.

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Curvy and loving it.

The Galaxy S7 Edge is a 5.5-inch phone, so while it’s not as big as the S6 Edge+, it will take up significant space in your hand and in your pocket. I’ve been living with a Nexus 6P for the last five months and I can attest that a bigger phone really is the best for getting lots of work done—it helps that there’s a Multi Window feature as part of Samsung’s interface, so you can use two applications at a time if needed. And with the Galaxy S7 Edge, you have a Quad HD Super AMOLED display with 534 pixels per inch. Samsung’s displays are among the best in the business for brightness, contrast, and color.

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The Galaxy S7 Edge’s curved screen cascades down into the sides. 

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The curve is still undeniably cool.

I love the look of the Galaxy S7 Edge, but curved screens aren’t for everyone. Over time you’ll realize that you use it differently than you would a basic flat phone. For instance, if you have larger hands, you might accidentally activate the screen when part of your palm grazes the curved edge. I often encountered this issue with last year’s smaller Galaxy S6 Edge, and again while testing this year’s model. 

However, there is something to be said about wielding this particular phone. It’s one of the most comfortable Samsung devices I’ve ever held due in part to the combination of the smooth, curved back glass and its rounded edges. It really is a better looking device than the regular Galaxy S7, and I can see more people choosing this one precisely because of how stunning it is.

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The Galaxy S7 Edge’s viewing angles are fantastic. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s interesting to see how the image on the screen appears to melt into the metal-and-glass chassis.

Lastly, and this is something I failed to mention in the original Galaxy S7 review, the Galaxy S7 Edge’s metal-and-glass chassis is highly prone to scratching. You’ll seriously need to be delicate with the phone and cover it in a case and screen protecter as soon as you take it out of the box.

The software on the edge

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The S7 Edge’s edge-specific features can be accessed via a tab that peeks out from either side on the Home screen.

This year’s Galaxy S7 Edge variant is not only bigger and fancier-looking, but it comes with software features meant to make your one-handed-with-a-curved-phone life easier, too. They’ll be especially familiar if you’ve used last year’s Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge+ features at all.

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The Galaxy S7 Edge’s edge-specific software features may be helpful to some, but I doubt they’ll be helpful to all. 

There are now more Edge panels to choose from. You can have a total of nine different ones, including a Tasks Edge, which adds shortcuts to oft-used tasks like snapping a selfie or creating a new contact, or a news tickers from the likes of Yahoo! News and CNN. Apps and People Edge are back, too, but have been expanded to allow up to ten options this time around, instead of five. You can download additional Edge panels, but unfortunately you can’t make any of your own.

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Thankfully, you can turn off the edge-specific features if you don’t want them. 

I can see these features being particularly helpful when you’re in a bind, with only a thumb to navigate your phone’s screen. But I’ve lived with the Galaxy S6 Edge for over six months and I never used any of its edge-specific features. I doubt I’d use these either; Yahoo and CNN are not my primary news providers, and if I really wanted to snap a selfie, all I’d have to do is double-press the Home button. This is another one of those features that’ll likely be highlighted in advertisements, but isn’t the most exemplary part of the phone. If you’re as unconvinced as I am, you can easily turn off the Edge features from inside the Settings panel.

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The Edge feed is the only edge-specifica feature I’d use.

Not all the Edge features are futile. There’s a new feature called Edge Feeds you can access if you enable the Night Clock. Quickly swipe up and down on the edge to bring up a news ticker, check in on your S Health step counter, or peruse notifications. You can choose to view stocks and sports scores, too, without having to pick up your phone and turn on the screen.

The Night Clock is the only edge-specific feature of the Galaxy S6 Edge that I consistently used, and I imagine that it’ll be the same with the Edge Feeds on the S7 Edge. This is something I could actually benefit from because I can discreetly check on notifications without turning on the screen. And it’s better than getting buzzed on an external accessory like a connected smartwatch because it’s less disruptive.

Speaking of TouchWiz…

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Touchwiz is still a little much. You’ll want to customize it the minute you take the phone out of the box. 

Samsung’s TouchWiz interface is still the same: intuitive for some and gaudy for others. The application drawer is a mess of icons and folders, but there are still some user friendly features, like the ability to long-press on a quick setting button to go to the relevant setting screen, as well as a one-handed operation mode, which enables you to adjust the screen size and layout for easier control of the interface when necessary. Also, there’s less Samsung-bundled bloatware, though the carriers are having a field day with this particular generation of Galaxy devices, for whatever reason..

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The Galaxy S7 Edge’s built-in gaming features are fun to use for even the most casual of mobile gamers. 

The Galaxy S7 Edge also comes bundled with a software feature especially tailored for gamers. The Game Launcher, which houses all the icons to any games installed on your device, also offers an option to enable the Game Tools overlay. You can learn more about these features in the Galaxy S7 review

Damn good hardware

Like last year’s Edge variant, the Galaxy S7 Edge is ostensibly a Galaxy S7 in a slightly larger, curvier chassis. It features the same fingerprint sensor embedded into the Home button, supports both Qi and PMA wireless charging standards, works with both Samsung Pay and Android Pay, is water- and dust-resistant, offers an MicroSD expansion slot, and charges with a soon-to-be-archaic MicroUSB port. And like the Galaxy S7, it doesn’t support Quick Charge 3.0 either (only Quick Charge 2.0), though it does offer fast wireless charging.

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With day to day tasks like editing photos and browsing the web, the Galaxy S7 Edge is killer. 

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It’s especially impressive in synthetic benchmarks like AnTuTu. 

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And don’t worry: Games load quickly and run smoothly with the Galaxy S7 Edge’s Adreno 530 GPU.

The Galaxy S7 Edge is also powered by the same 2.2GHz Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM. There’s not too much differentiation in performance between the regular GS7 and the Edge version, save for battery life. That’s because the S7 Edge is equipped with a 3600mAh battery pack.

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The Galaxy S7 Edge's bigger battery gives it an hour more screen-on time than the regular Galaxy S7.

The S7 Edge’s 20 percent larger battery pack lets this phone run the PCMark battery test for an hour longer than the regular Galaxy S7, which already has great stamina. I can attest that the numbers match up with real world experience, too. On standby overnight, the Galaxy S7 Edge hardly used up even two percent of its battery life thanks to Marshmallow’s built-in Doze mode. The Super AMOLED display is an energy hog when the brightness is cranked up, but when it’s off and the phone is laying dormant in the corner of your desk all day, it seems to store up energy like it’s hibernating for winter. I took me almost three entire days to kill the S7 Edge with minor use.

The best camera on any phone right now

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This is the kind of phone you’d buy a tripod and a holster for, and get into some serious smartphone camera action.

The Galaxy S7 Edge employs a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor with Dual Pixel technology, which refers to the fact that there are two photodiodes in every pixel of the camera sensor. This allows every single pixel to be a phase-detection autofocus point. That means faster, more accurate focus in all conditions.

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In perfect lighting environments—bright studio lights—the Galaxy S7 Edge’s rear-facing camera soars. (Click for full resolution.)

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It’s interesting to see how sensitive it is to subtle lighting changes, however. In this lab shot, we have two large lamps set to the lowest brightness setting. The room looks almost peach, even though the lights are white. (Click for full resolution.)

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In low light environments, the Galaxy S7 Edge performed on par with the Galaxy S7, which beat out its predecessors with its f/1.7 aperture. (Click for full resolution.)

Our lab tests also showed that while the Galaxy S7’s 12-megapixel sensor has an aperture of f/1.7, it’s only marginally better in low light situations against the Galaxy S6’s f/1.9 aperture. It’s also interesting to note how sensitive the sensor is to certain lighting situations.

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Here’s a photo taken with the manual mode. I adjusted each individual element of the photo and then snapped it with the Galaxy S7 Edge on a tripod.

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Here’s a photo of the same tree snapped in auto mode, with HDR on by default. 

The weather’s been exceptionally gloomy in Northern California, so I haven’t been able to take any shots that show how the Galaxy S7 Edge shoots in bright sunlight. Still, I was impressed with S7 Edge’s photo-taking abilities in both indoor and outdoor situations. There’s even a few new camera modes to choose from, including one tuned specifically for food shots, though it’s just a macro mode that blurs out the environment around the subject.

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The face slimming and spotlight selfie features are odd and can easily distort your face if you don’t use them correctly, but I know people who legitimately use them for their head shots on social media. 

The Galaxy S7 Edge employs a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for all your selfie-taking needs. It has the same f/1.7 aperture as the rear-facing camera, in addition to a host of new software features for those of you especially concerned with the way your selfies look. They’re fun to use, though they’re not exactly groundbreaking. And like the Galaxy S7, the S7 Edge front-facing flash uses an unflattering screen burst to light up your face.

Should you buy it?

I practiced a bit of existential meditation when it came time to figure out whether the evolutionary Galaxy S7 was worth upgrading for. Spoiler alert: If you already have last year’s Galaxy S6, it’s not. But I feel differently about the Galaxy S7 Edge. 

Samsung’s vanity phone is definitely all grown up. It’s bigger, because it’s the best form factor for those curved-edges, and it features those flagship bells and whistles you won’t get from a Nexus device. It’s absolutely the kind of phone I could see myself wielding for more than two years, and it’s nice to see Samsung thinking of its devices as long-term mainstays rather than disposable plastic devices. If you’re due for an upgrade and you want the best Android phone with the nicest body, the Galaxy S7 Edge is it. 

This story, "Galaxy S7 Edge review: Samsung's vanity phone is all grown up " was originally published by Greenbot.

At a Glance
  • Greenbot Rating
    View
    on Amazon

    The Galaxy S7 Edge is everything you could want or need in an Android flagship, though its edge-specific software features aren't exactly necessary.

    Pros

    • Gorgeous Super AMOLED display
    • Curved edges and a bigger body make this one of the most comfortable Samsung devices available
    • 3600mAh battery pack, coupled with Android's Doze mode, is sure to get you through the day

    Cons

    • The metal and glass chassis is prone to scratching