Samsung Galaxy S7 review: A mild improvement, but it's still the best phone around

Body, brains, and brawn: This is still the Android flagship that does it all.

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A phone made for gamers

I had fun this past year uttering “Exynos” any time I mentioned the Galaxy S6—it’s a fun word!—but Samsung is back to using Qualcomm’s chipset in its smartphones. The 2.2Ghz Snapdragon 820 is quite a performer. It offers all new faster “Kryo” CPU cores, and better image and graphics processing. Altogether, it’s an enticing package for anyone who needs a phone that’s fit for multitasking on a long train ride into the city, or for marathon mobile gaming sessions.

galaxy s7 benchmarks pcmark

The Galaxy S7 is great at handling day-to-day smartphone tasks like posting to social media and editing photos.

galaxy s7 benchmarks 3dmark

Compared to the Nexus 6P and Moto X Pure Edition, the Galaxy S7 soars. As an added bonus, Samsung supports the new Vulkan API.

galaxy s7 benchmarks antutu

I did a double-take when I saw the Galaxy S7’s score in AnTuTu. 

The Galaxy S7 whizzed by the Nexus 6P’s Snapdragon 810 and the Galaxy S6’s Exynos 7 Octa 7420. It’s fast, responsive, and especially quick at loading heavy applications, including large games. Apps loaded quickly and visuals were smooth—perhaps too smooth for gory games like Mortal Kombat X. In fact, I had a physical reaction to Takeda slicing the face off of an opponent precisely because it was too realistic. It’s certainly a testament to how far mobile gaming has come.

The Snapdragon 820 features a sealed copper cooling system, which is essentially a miniature, scaled-down version of a heat-pipe system you’d find in many notebooks. This is how the Galaxy S7’s metal chassis manages to stay comfortably tepid as you’re playing games or streaming video, though I’ll be checking to see if the Galaxy S7 keeps its cool when the weather gets warmer.

g7 gamelauncher

The Game Launcher houses a shortcut for every game you’ve downloaded from the Google Play Store. 

The Game Launcher is my new favorite thing about the Galaxy S7—and this is coming from a person who tends to roll her eyes at this kind of stuff. This little folder houses shortcuts to all the games you’ve downloaded, excluding any games you may have side-loaded. (I tried getting a space for my Humble Bundle picks in there and it denied me.) From here, you can choose whether to enable Game Tools, which will pin a small red icon in the far corner of any game you launch from inside the Game Launcher. There’s also an option that allows you to tweak the graphics performance, dialing it back to save on battery power. I’m curious about the actual battery life saved with this mode turned on, but I’ll have to test this at another time.

gs7 gametools

The Game Tools are a part of the Game Launcher and they’re quite helpful if mobile gaming is your thing. 

The Game Tools overlay offers options for shutting off alerts during a game, locking the Recents and Back keys so you don’t accidentally bump one of them and exit in the middle of it all, minimizing a game so that it doesn’t crash your system, and snapping a screenshot. There’s even an option to record your game play, which you can then upload to YouTube or whatever video sharing service you prefer. 

The Game Tools and Game  Launcher features remind me of the types of add-on applets that my PC gaming pals would download to enhance their own gaming experiences. It’s obvious that with these included software features, Samsung is making a ploy for the Twitch generation, and I think it’s a smart move.

Made for people who stay out all day

The Galaxy S6’s 2550mah battery pack seemed promising after our initial battery tests, but things quickly degraded. I still can’t leave the house with the Galaxy S6 Edge, for instance, without an external battery pack in tow.

galaxy s7 benchmarks battery

The Galaxy S7’s 3000mAh offers fantastic battery life (though if you’re a Verizon subscriber and battery life is your thing, you might want to check out the Droid Turbo 2 instead). 

I’d hoped for better results with the Galaxy S7’s bigger 3000mAh battery pack. Like its predecessor, the initial results seem promising: the GS7 lasted seven hours and 15 minutes in our PCMark battery rundown test, and six hours and 56 minutes in Geekbench—about 50 minutes more than the Galaxy S6. I had about enough battery life at the end of the work day to commute home as I do with my Nexus 6P—about 40 percent—which actually sports a bigger battery.

On the weekend, I got to 40 percent after about four hours of use just by using Snapchat (a ton), Facebook, and Instagram on Wi-Fi—the social networking trifecta, if you will. Through the night, the Galaxy S7 barely used up any of its juice thanks to Doze mode. It used up maybe two percent of its battery while remaining dormant underneath my bed, and that's with the always-on display enabled.

One annoyance: the Galaxy S7 does not support Quick Charge 3.0. Samsung apparently nixed this because its Exynos chip overseas doesn’t yet offer support for it. It still supports Quick Charge 2.0 and charges up quite fast, but it's a shame to see that the Snapdragon 820's charging performance might be held back for such a lame reason. Wireless charging returns from last year, and with the right charging pad, you can now get fast wireless charging.

Samsung claims the Galaxy S7 can manage up to 10 hours of video playback before petering out—that’s enough for you to binge-watch an entire season of Game of Thrones. I’ll be testing this myself this week with ten of my favorite episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 and will update with the results. Stay tuned.

At a Glance
  • The Galaxy S7 is a near-perfect Android device, but you should only upgrade if your carrier is offering you a discount.


    • Metal-and-glass chassis is dust and water resistant
    • 12-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor with f/1.7 aperture offers the best low light performance of any smartphone
    • Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 is fast and powerful and perfect for mobile gamers and multitaskers alike
    • The expansion slot is back! Which is great, because there's carrier bloat testy.


    • You'll have to contend with unremovable bloat if you buy this phone through your carrier
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