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Review: Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge -- the new phones to beat

Dan Rosenbaum | March 9, 2016
Samsung's latest flagship Android smartphones are waterproof, well designed and have an interesting UI. But there are no unlocked versions in sight.

The Samsung phones follow the current fashion of "always-on" screens; even when the phone is in sleep mode, it displays the time or calendar. (Exactly what the phone displays is configurable to a slight extent.) Samsung says power drain is minimal -- 0.8mAh per hour -- and has no significant impact on battery life. I'd agree with that claim.

And as in previous models, the rounded screens of the S7 Edge have functions. Depending how and where you swipe from the edge, you can read news or sports headlines, get quick access to top contacts or frequently used functions. The Edge has a Do Not Disturb mode that shows the time only along one of its edges. It's really quite subtle and lovely. And swiping up and down along an edge when the phone is asleep will show you how many emails you have waiting and show a news crawl.

I love the look and feel of the Edge -- and I'm not usually a fan of big phones -- and kept hoping to love the Edge-exclusive functions, but could never quite get there. They're an incremental interface improvement, but in and of themselves, not a reason to get the Edge.

Speed and comfort

There's hardly a corner on these phones. The sides are rounded and fit comfortably in the hand. The power button is on the right edge, perfectly placed, and volume buttons are along the left edge. The SIM/SD card drawer is on the top; the speaker, micro-USB port and earphone jack are on the bottom.

The power and volume switches are perfectly positioned under your thumb and index fingers. The designers paid close attention to the phone's balance and the way you'll hold it, and the buttons are exactly right in ways that most phones' aren't.

Notice two of those features: Samsung has restored the micro-SD port that it took out of the S6, and it has decided to stick with a micro-USB power connection instead of USB-C. The former is a welcome choice. The wisdom of the latter will be revealed only with time and through the competitive landscape.

The battery (3,000mAh for the S7, 3,600mAh for the Edge) remains sealed. This really isn't a problem; the phones support QuickCharge 2.0 and charge fully in about two hours. Rundown tests show a 4-hour talk time for the S7 and 5 hours for the Edge, and standby times of more than two days each. Both support wireless charging -- both the Qi and AirFuel standards -- which wasn't tested for this review.

Depending on which market you wind up with, your phone may be based on either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or Samsung's home-rolled Exynos 8890. (In the review units, both on Verizon for the U.S. market, the S7 came with a Samsung processor and the Edge with Qualcomm's.) Both are quad-core top-of-the-line processors, and if there is any functional difference between them, it didn't emerge in testing.

 

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