What is the Samsung Galaxy like after using it for 2 weeks?
Hello everybody and welcome to my first ever review! Unlike many reviews out there I aim to give you a real-life run down of what I feel about the Galaxy S7 two weeks after owning it (although the phone has been out for around 3 weeks now in the UK). There are many things that one might pick up on that aren’t seen on a first look. There’s quite a bit of information here so feel free to skip to each point if there is a certain bit you’re interested in (bold titles). There’s also a quick summary at the beginning and conclusion at the end, if you want to see the rundown of the phone.
Let’s start right at the beginning, what have I got and why? I have here the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the latest in the line of the Galaxy S series. It has a 5.5 inch QHD AMOLED screen that is 1,440 x 2,560 pixels – meaning that the screen should be so sharp that you can barely make out the pixels with the human eye. This is really important with the potential use of the Gear VR glasses where the view of pixels may distort the ‘virtual reality’ illusion. Also the AMOLED screen promises richer colours and better contrast than other LCD-type displays, as well as boasting an ultra bright display – perfect for a sunny day. I can confirm that this really is great in bright light! I could see the screen happily on a sunny day but strong reflections do wash out the display so I wouldn’t want to use it for anything too important. But you can see who’s calling, find a quick bit of info on the internet etc. Usable. It’s worth noting that some phones are close to useless in bright light. The screen looks amazing when in the right lighting conditions and away from that strong light. It really is sharp, great colours and contrast. It’s probably the best display I’ve seen on any device, very impressive.
- It’s 32 GB with expandable storage micro SD slot. Even better yet – it has the ability to store applications onto the SD card.
- The camera is 12 mega pixel on the back, which I am so happy about! I’ll talk more about this in a bit as I feel the camera is one of the best points of the phone. It’s also got a 5 mega pixel camera on the front but this just seems pretty standard to me.
- The battery life is 3,600 mAh on the Edge, 3000 mAh on the S7. I can happily get a full day of good use out of this. That is playing a few games, watching some videos etc. Proper use.
- It’s an octocore processor that is really quite amazing for a phone, but there is little need for it I feel – I can’t say I’ve found anything that comes close to using that much power. However, just because they don’t have much use now doesn’t mean that will be the case in the future. Plus the cores only activate when needed so it doesn’t impact the power consumption.
- 4 GB of RAM – I’m afraid to say I don’t know much about the impact of RAM on a phone’s performance, but it certainly isn’t slow and I can move between tasks without any slowdown so it seems more than ample.
Plus a whole host of other features that you’d expect in a modern phone such as 4G, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WIFI as well as some other things I’m not sure I’ll use like wireless charging and a heart rate monitor. OK, that last one is just useless – why did they even bother? The S7 does also have a fingerprint scanner that does work well for the lockscreen but I believe it will be more useful in places that accept Andoid Pay. As of writing this article it’s not available in the UK so only really a gimmick for now.
I’m haven’t had a huge amount of experience with phones so really my main go to when it comes to a comparison is my HTC M8; both the best and worst name ever to be used on a product in England. I have to say that the S7 feels good to hold, nice to grip and well weighted. I say well weighted, to be honest I’m not going to complain over 10 grams here and there, something I know some reviewers would do. Let’s face it, most people can cope quite happily if their phone is 200 grams so it’s a bit of a pointless argument. Anyway, the phone both feels and looks amazing, so much so that I want to keep this amazing design view-able on a daily basis so I’ve bought a transparent case and screen protector (the current case I have for it is terrible – I’ll make a blog post on that when I get the new screen protector and case in the post). Even though it’s secure when gripping, it’s nice to know a case and screen protector is going to keep it safe should it be dropped. If you don’t want the case then be happy in the knowledge that it’s a phone fit for the human palm, unlike HTC who decided a non-stick frying pan was good inspiration for the design of the M8, that thing flew straight out my hand -useless without a case.
Always on display
This to me is nothing more than a feature of interest, a gimmick if you will. It sounded great when I first read about the always on display, equally when I first used it I thought ‘that’s a brilliant’, but this is why this review exist – to shed light on the reality of it’s daily use. To those unfamiliar with this technology I’ll briefly sum it up. The phone enables you to see a view of the time, calendar, battery and missed calls/ messages. The idea is that using the new AMOLED screen, only the used pixels are lit so it should be fairly power conscious to keep this display on. But it does have its issues. Firstly, it’s a little annoying – the image jumps around the screen every minute or so and this can really be distracting – it’s to stop the image burning into the screen, but I can’t help feel they could have done this in a better way, perhaps fading in and out? Secondly, the options for using the always-on function is so limited that it serves little purpose. I would like to know if someone sent me a message over Facebook or a new email has just come in – can’t show that, still have to take the phone out of standby. Basically you are restricted to the aforementioned – a clock, simple calendar, battery level and two notifications of missed calls and received texts (only an amount – no contact ID). The always-on screen can be turned off if you leave it in your pocket to save power, but when you take your phone out it often takes a good 5 seconds to turn on the display! How useless is that? It’s basically rendered the idea of a battery saving device into nothing more than the gimmick I mentioned because it doesn’t even serve its core reason for existing. I do hope this feature gets an update – fast.
I think I’ve been spoilt with HTC’s Boomsound on the M8 because sadly I don’t think much of the sound on the S7. It is loud and by no means is it terrible, but it’s clearly limited by the single small speaker. There is limited bass response and the speaker positioning is just awful. If you’re using your phone landscape then there’s a pretty good chance that the speaker will be covered by your hand so that means muffled games and Youtube videos. I understand this is a style choice and HTC really have a cornered market with their front facing design, but it’s something I didn’t think about till the phone arrived. Although I’m slightly disappointment here I will acknowledge there always will be limitations to a phones audio and but no means is it terrible. When I’m on my own I’ll just use some headphones. Speaking of which, that neatly leads me to the next point – the free earphones. I wasn’t expecting to get these earphones but I suppose it’s nothing special to get a free pair with a phone, right? Once again, the audio you get from any new speaker is limited on the first day, you need to wear them in. As such I can tell you that two weeks on, they’re not too bad. Granted that they’re not going to win any awards, but for a freebie, not too bad…. To be critical I would say that they offer poor bass response, not great when the phone is already failing on that side. Midtones seem to be lacking somewhat too, but I feel this is somewhat similar to most earbuds of this design. The volume control on the headphone leads is mighty useful too. I’ll keep my current headphones and have these as a backup. I think you’d expect to see better headphones after spending around £10.
Touchwiz is actually pretty good. I was half expecting it to annoy me considering how much negativity surrounds this aspect. It is somewhat annoying that if you search for an app you cant then place it on your main screen. If you have loads of apps then you might want to sort through the one you use most and place this on one of the main screens but that requires an alphabetical search. A minor issue, but its quirks like this that makes me miss the raw Android interface. The only thing I would say is that I don’t like how Samsung, like many phone manufactures, add all this bloatware onto the phone. By this I mean apps that are pre-installed and often without the ability to remove. It turns a 32gb phone more into a 20gb phone. Because of this I am endlessly happy that you can now use external storage to add extra space for large games and videos. I would say that I’d be annoyed at the extra battery consumed by background processes but the S7 has an ‘app power saver mode’, or something along the lines of that name. Essentially it will disable any app after three days of no use so I’m actually finding that my predicted battery life has gone up since I first booted the phone.
The keyboard can be annoying at times, as it doesn’t show punctuation on the main board. I find this a bit of an oversight as other touch screen phones offer great QWERTY keyboards that are pretty accurate but with the ability to write out full words and string coherent sentences together, why put punctuation on a second page? It breaks the flow of your typing and in my opinion makes writing more sloppy as it’s easier to miss out a comma or exclamation mark due to the way you type. Also, the back up and split app view buttons on the bottom of the phone are really frustrating when using the phone, especially in landscape. They’re easy to press meaning you exit out of games or videos when holding the phone. It’s such an oversight as HTC solved this problem easily with their M8 phone – you swipe from the side of the screen to bring up said buttons. Simples.
Ability to use external memory cards
Now you might ask, why is this a separate point on my list? It’s because it’s a biggy. Before with my M8 I had 16 gigs of internal storage and most of that was taken with bloatware that came with the phone. So really I was limited to what apps I could download, even though I had a 64GB external card. I believe this is a new function with Android in that you can combine internal and external storage to make one solid block of space. Now I can download larger games without fearing the limitations of past. This neatly segues me into the next section, processing power.
Processing power – the more cores, the better. Right?
I had this idea that I would test both installing a game on external storage and streaming the gameplay footage to my TV. I was curious whether a small phone was as powerful (if not more) than a computer from 12 years ago (bearing in-mind that all the tech in the S7 is a lot more advanced than the desktop I built back then) that allowed me to play Doom 3. I saw that someone had created an app to play a copy of Doom 3 on an Android phone. In all honesty I didn’t bother looking much into it as I found that not only does the S7 NOT support MHL connection (that is USB to HDMI for high quality video), the wireless streaming is way too laggy to do something more than watch a video on the TV. I know someone might argue that I have a real niche interest here in that most people wouldn’t use an MHL connection and many more wouldn’t even know what one was; I still think that Samsung are really missing a trick here. I can’t help feel that high quality mobile gaming could be a really interesting concept. How about a games console you can bring round a friends house and all you need is a Bluetooth gamepad? It’s more a potential avenue that I feel may never be explored. Also it’s worth noting that (unless you use direct WiFi) streaming content from your phone onto a TV isn’t always possible with devices such as the Chromecast as they only work on the same WiFi network – that means no use in the hotel room! Although the S7 really is a powerful phone and I’ve yet to find a game that slows it down, it feels somewhat pointless at this stage – especially considering nothing seems to test phones processing power, yet. I liken it to a sports car stuck in city traffic. It somewhat becomes a bit obsolete really, all that power and no means to use it. I feel that there could be a great use for the extra processing power though – check this blog in a couple of weeks when I make a video about my idea…
I would like to mention that the phone does run cool when stretching it, this is most likely thanks to it’s new ‘liquid-cooled evaporative heat pipe’. As other reports have been made online, the phone can run hot with fast charge but I’ve only found this to be the case when using lots of processing power whilst charging, so I can’t vouch for what others have said.
It’s probably worth noting that there may be a positive for more processing power, it could mean that when the 360 cam comes out that live video stitching will be a reality – something I’d imagine requires quite of strain on the hardware.
I personally love the camera on this phone, so much so that I feel it’s better to give examples rather than speaking about it. The above example is of a photo I took of my cat. The S7 takes both a RAW and Jpg at the same time so it really helps for comparison purposes. There is so little to say about it though, the JPGs out of the camera are so good that I doubt I’d bother much with RAW. There is some differences that might be worth noting. I feel the sharpness is a bit much on the JPGs and there is a bit more dynamic range in the RAW, but not the huge difference I was expecting. I will say that I used the camera’s HDR mode for all my photos as I don’t see a reason for turning it off. The images look a load better if you’re taking JPGs. Considering the difference in file size (about 24MB of RAW compared to 5MB JPG means that I’d rather stick to JPG. If I’m taking high quality photos then I’d use an SLR so I don’t see the point on a phone right now.
I’ve also recorded a video for you to look at. It’s HD test footage I made using the camera before and after sundown so you get a good amount of lighting conditions and colours to see its ability.
Whilst using the camera I wrote down some points that are worth mentioning:
- The auto focus is brilliant – extremely responsive and accurate.
- No control of aperture – It’s ‘pro’ mode is limited. Some might argue the f1.7 aperture is a bit too much, but I’m not fussed. It’s nice to see on a phone I think.
- Hardly any jello effect from movement – This is a rarity and so so good to see! The amount of (previously) wobbly looking video from phones has made a big change to the way I see the humble mobile camera.
- Speaking of jello – The S7 has optical stabilisation and it really shows! The video is very steady.
- Colour profiles might actually be useful for video as the look is ‘baked in’ quite heavily. Probably due to the bit-rate at which the footage is recorded.
- Battery usage is great, also quick to charge for another go.
- Most video sizes seem to crop as if you’re digitally zooming in by about 1.5 times. I’ll conduct a proper test of this at one point.
- Dynamic range, sharpness and colour reproduction is good, for a phone.
- Clicking the middle button twice for camera is such a useful function.
- ISO is 50-800. I find that even at 800 the image is still pretty good. Most of the clips in my Youtube video here is around 100 ISO and the night footage around 320-400.
There’s no control over the framerates and this can show in some footage. It almost looks like everything is moving faster than it should. I think this is more of an issue when you get past 30 FPS and higher shutter speeds. The slow motion just seems to be limited to processing power with frame rates ranging from 200 to 240 FPS. This isn’t a huge issue, but it means that you might need to do some quick calculations to get the best slowmo in editing without looking choppy.
Even standard video seems to fluctuate by plus or minus 0.1FPS around the 30 mark. Once again it’s not a bit issue but some might question this.
In the end this is a phone. I raise these points just to highlight it’s abilities, not to make claims that it doesn’t do as I expect it too.
Although the slow motion is an excellent addition, I didn’t use it much as it lowers the quality to 1280×720 FPS and it really seems to suffer in low light, probably as it pushes up the ISO to compensate for the extra frame rate needed. Also there is little control over the slow motion function. You cant change any settings or zoom. As such I stuck to the brilliant 60 FPS at 1080P for a few of my shots. It slows things down just enough to smooth hand held movement and makes fast action a little easier on the eye, subtle but a nice addition. The phone can actually film in 4k, which is mighty impressive but completely impractical in my opinion. Firstly, the screen isn’t 4k, neither is my TV or PC monitor. I don’t actually know anyone who owns one of these screens so really it’s pointless. Plus I would ask why people would be bothered about this on a phone. It takes up more space, limits your 60 FPS ability and is still only a phone camera. Further to this, it really can push your computers ability to edit the footage. If people shoot 4k on a pro system then I can understand that, just not in a phone. It does however, give you a little bit more of a digital crop on video should you want to re-frame something in a lower resolution.
Here’s the main part, the piece de resistance, it’s fully waterproof. IP68 rating – Up to 30 minutes under 1.5 metres of water. Dust proof too, apparently. Now that is impressive considering water damage is the one of the main reason for broken phones. I wont lie, I’ve yet to test this. I’m sure it works, I’ve seen videos and everything. I just don’t want to tempt fate, yet. Give it a week or so and that thing is going in the fish tank.
Summary – Pros and cons
I truly feel it’s a beautiful piece of design, something that transcends the boundary of what one might believe to be the Android/ Apple divide. It now sits neatly in the middle of these two systems and this is no bad thing. I’ve heard people mention on forums that there have been issues with the Galaxy series when it comes to compatibility so I really hope they haven’t taken a leaf out of Apple’s book there when it comes to restrictions, but I’ve yet to see this myself. It does still maintain the core principles of an Android device in that you really do have a lot of control in what you do with the phone. However, I do feel that there is somewhat of a hybrid going on here with Samsung’s ‘Touchwiz’ interface (I believe you can disable this?) offering that more user friendly interaction that can feel a little limiting if you’re used to a raw Android experience. But the restriction is minimal, that you can still use it as a storage device, connecting to various devices with Bluetooth and most importantly, use a huge variety of apps on the Playstore (many for free).
I really hope Samsung keep on the side of Android’s ethos and not restrict the use of their phones like Apple. Only time will tell, but please don’t do this!
So what we have here is an astonishingly good-looking phone, great battery life, a brilliant camera with RAW capabilities on the photos. It’s arguably one of the fastest phones on the market that may enable some exciting use with 360 VR videos on the Samsung 360 cam coming out later this year. The screen is near perfect, crisp, low power and great colour reproduction.
- Good audio – Although speaker placement/ sound could be better.
- It truly is water and dust proof
- Runs cool, despite what you throw at it processing-wise
- Can use expandable storage with apps perfectly
- The always on display not only looks cool, it actually makes sense as often we check out phones for quick bits of information such as the time or whether a message has come through. The software for this just needs to improve as it currently quite restricted with what it shows.
- It feels good in the hand, perfect for every day use.
- Touchwiz has a few ‘quirks’ that are a little annoying.
If you have any questions or comments on this article then please enter them in bellow on this post – I promise to reply to as many as possible!