Review roundup: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge impresses

— 11:46 AM on March 8, 2016

Unless you're living beneath a rock or in a pineapple under the sea, you're probably aware that Samsung has released new Galaxy flagship handsets. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones are in reviewers' hands now. We scoured the internet for the juiciest morsels of information about the new handsets, and here's what we found.

First off, the news is universally good. The reviews focused almost entirely on the S7 Edge model, since it's the one that changed the most from the Galaxy S6 line. All reviewers had very high praise for the handset's shape, build quality, and exterior design. The S7 Edge seems to be just the right size for a phone—not too big or too small—and reviewers say the overall shape makes it very easy to hold and pocket. The glass back, although gorgeous, is apparently a fingerprint magnet.

The screen on the handsets is reported to be top-notch. It's described as being extremely sharp (at 577 PPI) and very bright, so it's easily usable outdoors. Since the screen uses OLED technology, its black level is a big fat zero, too. The S7 uses the OLED screen to implement an "always-on" mode that shows the time, weather, and other bits of information while the phone is locked, all with minimal impact on battery usage. This feature received a mixed reception. While it's undeniably useful, Samsung's software is set up so that one can only get phonecall and message notifications in always-on mode if they're using Samsung's own dialing and messaging apps.

All the reviewers praised the S7 phones' waterproofing, too. Gizmodo said this feature lets users rest easy when using the phone in adverse conditions. One reviewer even took a 10-minute phone call in the shower, an interesting way to benchmark a phone. The handsets are also smart enough to detect when the charging port is wet in order to avoid any electrical mishaps.

Battery life is another high point, particularly for the S7 Edge model. That phone got a battery capacity upgrade of almost 40% over its predecessor. Reviewers reported that the Edge easily lasted a whole day under intensive usage. The handset's fast-charging feature also comes in handy, as Wired pointed out—10 minutes of charging seems to be good enough for five hours of usage. Wireless charging is a convenient side-kick, too.

Every review we surveyed described the S7's cameras as among the best smartphone shooters around, especially when it comes to photography under poor lighting conditions. The fast autofocus got top marks, too. Overall, the S7's cameras rate even more highly than the iPhone 6S Plus', which is no small feat. The only consistent complaint was that the phone had a tendency to produce slightly overexposed shots.

Samsung's addition of a microSD slot to the phones didn't go unnoticed, either. The S7 phones support cards as large as 200GB. That extra space will come in handy, since the operating system and preinstalled applications take up about 9GB of USA S7s' 32GB of storage. The microSD card integration isn't perfect, however. Despite shipping the phones with Android Marshmallow, Samsung didn't enable the "flex storage" feature, which allows external storage to be treated like the phone's internal memory. As a result, users still have to manually manage the location of individual apps.

Software has eternally been Samsung phones' weakest link, and the S7 models seem to be no exception. The company still insists on shipping its TouchWiz skin over stock Android and duplicating applications. Preinstalled carrier apps make matters even worse. The Verge says the bloatware on the Galaxy S7 "almost [ruins] what is otherwise a great phone." Because of all the software bloat, reviewers seem to think that the S7 feels pretty fast on its own, but it still can't quite keep up with Apple's offerings.

Still on the software front, the S7 Edge's, erm, Edge curved screen apparently hasn't graduated from "interesting gimmick" status yet. Although Samsung has improved this feature's usefulness, nearly every reviewer we surveyed ended up ignoring it. The Edge screen doesn't seem to have much utility beyond serving as a shortcut bar, and reviewers complained about the phone's annoying tendency to detect touches to its edges as swipes. It does look neat, though.

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