Loud auditoriums, ballet dancers, camera flashes, YouTube video reviews and then – absolute silence. This is the short, floodlit, winding road that is universally traversed by all global players in the mobile industry when unveiling their “next big thing”. Sooner or later – usually sooner – the bandwagon moves on to the next, “next big thing”. So, around 6 months after launch, we look back at the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, in Retrospect.
This device was, and is, still stunning. The sleek curves of its parallel edges are the main feature of the design of Samsung’s flagship for 2016, but they don’t tell the whole story. So far in 2016 we’ve had a number of premium devices, but arguably none have surpassed the build quality and sheer beauty that the Galaxy S7 Edge brings to the table.
The now ubiquitous Gorilla Glass 4 melts away the closer you get to the edges and forms a seamless connection with the metallic core of the device. The buttons are well placed, and with the near non-existent camera hump, Samsung have really gone to town on delivering a premium looking, and feeling Android device. They’ve nailed it. Even Android nay-sayers can’t deny that this iteration has hit the mark.
The internals are, as expected still top-notch and we’ve noticed no slowdown of them since our first S7 Edge experience at launch. The Octo core Exynos 8890 that powers the S7 Edge does a good job of dealing with any and all applications that can be thrown at it, and with 4GB RAM on board, the memory management issues that had plagued the S6 line up seem to have vanished. That leaves only the storage showing signs of wear and tear – 32GB just isn’t enough for a hardcore media consumer these days, alas that’s the only variant available in the EU and US markets.
When we first laid hands on the device, the fingerprint scanner was seemingly out of this world. Quick, responsive and consistent. Whilst I personally would have preferred a rear scanner, the functionality couldn’t be questioned. Fast forward 6 months and the fingerprint scanner is starting to post a number of missed scans. We’re not quite sure why that is, but it happens enough for us to mention it here.
Optical Illusions, Pure Magic
On to the camera – well the camera is still amazing. Ultra fast focusing thanks to the phase detection, optical image stabilisation, a 12MP f1.6 optical setup and a large pixel size means great daylight shots and crisp bright night-time shots. The LG G5 which launched just a month after the S7 Edge does offer a compelling and perhaps more creative optical solution, but for the point and click crowd, the S7 Edge is still the better option for almost all situations.[tz_plusgallery id=”5″]
Viewing that captured media on this device is still a great experience. The QHD 1440 x 2560 display is one of the best we’ve ever seen. Bright, and typically vibrant for a Samsung display, it’s great for media consumption, and as it’s a Super AMOLED display, the always-on feature is a great addition also. With it’s rather high 493 nits of brightness, sunlit days are no longer as much of an issue as they are with other flagships, and indeed other panel technologies.
Touched Up Wiz?
What we’ve been most shocked about is our utter lack of hate towards this iteration of TouchWiz. It’s flat, clean, responsive and offers many features that, coupled with the edge display actually make compelling value adds. Dual screen is back and provides even more utility thanks to the excellent screen quality. Quick camera launch via double tapping the home button is always speedy, and the always on display implementation is welcome also. All nice features to have.
It’s still not without its foibles however. The increasingly baffling decision not to auto-sort alphabetically when new apps are installed becomes more irksome over time, as does the inability to move the app drawer icon positioning on the home screen. These can of course be fixed, either manually in the case of the app drawer sort, or with third-party launcher, but it’s still evident that Samsung gives a lot with one hand whilst sneakily taking something away with the other.
The multi-screen support, whilst not all-encompassing, is fun to use also, and there are other gestures and titbits within TouchWiz that actually add value to the experience now rather than cluttering up the device with meaningless features.
On The Cutting Edge?
The Edge display is the standout feature of the device. Forgive the pun but it’s a double-edged sword for us. It looks great aesthetically, but in use we’ve found a few issues 6 months on. Certain websites with Chrome have rendered strangely, favouring the right hand ‘edge’ as the far right and only rendering the website up to the start of the left hand edge – not curving around it. This is most likely down to poor web coding, but it’s a jarring experience when it does happen.
Then there’s the use of the notification swipe on the Edges which we used frequently to begin with but then drifted away from as we quickly learned its functionality was limited. Swiping across and then back down one edge whilst the screen is off reveals any notifications. It’s just as easy to power the screen on and pull the notification shade down or, if you’re not particularly security conscious, have them displayed on the lock screen.
Then there’s the actual Edges themselves. For those with small, or medium hands, holding the device one-handed, where the balance might be shifted left or right (i.e. lying down in bed) becomes a no-no. The Edges are frequently touched during this sort of use case and sends the screen into a scrolling frenzy. Equally, when using completely balanced, it’s sometimes hard to get a firm grip for fear of triggering the edges, with a claw grip on the metallic edges being deployed to ensure there are no erroneous screen/edge touches.
The Edge Display widgets are growing in utility however thanks to increased development. News aggregateors, Social Media tickers, and a multitude of calendar, and shortcut widgets are now available and almost all of them are polished and functional.
Battery life is one area we’ve been backward and forward on since revisiting this device. The embedded 3600 mAh battery is good for around 3-4 hours of screen on time during constant use, or around 1.5-2 over a 24-48 hour period of light use. In essence that’d not too bad at all and the ability to touch up the charge when at a desk via a Qi-enabled pad offsets any issues we might have generally. We still can’t help thinking that a 3600 mAh battery should be providing better screen on times. This is one area we’ve not really seen much of an improvement in the last 12 to 24 months. All the technology seems to relate to standby time only. We’re sure the QHD 1440 x 2560 display also doesn’t help here.
In terms of wear and tear we’ve noticed a few scratches appearing on the screen thanks to a few scrapes here and there and whilst visible with the screen off (which is, granted, infuriating for many) when the LEDs are fired up all is good. The Gorilla Glass 4 certainly does protect the device – we can vouch for that.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is an excellent device. It was when it launched and it still is 6 months later. The specifications are still class leading, and the display could also be considered as such.
Samsung’s TouchWiz still feels lighter than any of their previous iterations, perhaps thanks to the specification of hardware it’s running atop, however there are aspects; simple aspects, that Samsung could improve. The Edge display proved to be a bit of a talking point for us with the general consensus being that the S7 might be a better choice for most, however we’re unsure how power users would fair with a lesser battery powering their daily use. On the whole Samsung have delivered a compelling and value added software layer in this iteration of TouchWiz, which is impressive.
If you purchased a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge on a 24 month contract we’re sure you’d still be happy with it. The camera, the specifications, the display, the battery life, the aesthetic – all great even 6 months on. If for whatever reason you hadn’t grown to love it however, it’s holding it’s value quite well in the second-hand market too!