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Is the 'rugged' Galaxy S7 Active worth an extra $100?

Al Sacco | July 4, 2016
The latest 'ruggedized' smartphone from Samsung is now available, and it packs a ton of high-end features in a hardened form factor that's built to last. But should you go rugged or choose the more stylish and affordable Galaxy S7?

The GS7 Active's big old 4,000 mAh battery is the largest power pack of any Galaxy S smartphone, by far, and it's 33 percent bigger than the GS7's 3,000 mAh power pack. But the beefy battery also makes the Active about 20 percent heavier than the base GS7.

If you prioritize battery life and durability in a phone, the GS7 Active might be a good fit.

samsung galaxy s6 active camo
Brian Sacco

Samsung's Galaxy S6 Active smartphone. 

Galaxy S7 Active style sacrifices

For a ruggedized smartphone, the GS7 Active is fairly good looking. It's clunky and a bit boxier than the regular GS7, and it's not nearly as easy on the eyes as the curvaceous GS7 edge. Compared to the last-generation GS6 Active, however, it's downright handsome.

For some strange reason, Samsung and AT&T released the GS6 Active last year only in a hideous white-camouflage option. Thankfully, the companies learned from the mistake, and though the GS7 Active still comes in a somewhat less-tacky "green camo" color, it's also available in good old gray and gold.

The GS7 Active looks and feels like what it is: a GS7 with a built-in case and protective "plastic" screen layer. The case components add some bulk and a few extra ounces. The rear side of the Active scraps the smooth, curved rear glass of the base GS7 for a plastic exterior bezel and weave-pattern back plate, which definitely subtracts some style points. But most people quickly cover their phones with cases anyway. 

It has two additional hardware buttons sunk into its display next to the home key, for access to recent apps and a back button, which add to its somewhat awkward design. The two buttons, however, may actually be more functional than the GS7's on-screen keys, because they provide tactile feedback.

Galaxy S7 Active custom key and 'Activity Zone'

The ruggedized GS7 has a side button that its sleeker sibling lacks, and it can be customized to launch three different apps or functions of your choice. For example, a hard press can be set to launch a sports app. A quick tap can launch your email inbox, and a rapid double-tap can display your Instagram feed.

By default, a hard press on the Active key opens up the phone's "Activity Zone," another feature that's exclusive to the rugged GS7. The Activity Zone is a dashboard for various health and wellness information, including the local weather, a barometer with elevation and pressure details, your daily step count, a compass and stopwatch. I use separate apps for fitness, however, so the custom button is much more useful to me as a "convenience key." And it's one of my favorite GS7 Active features.

 

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