Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Galaxy S6: first look


Well, for those just tuning in, we're putting it right out: the rumors and leaks were on point. Like, bull's eye. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is now a reality, and it feels awfully familiar—and not just because preliminary intel checks out. Rather, the Galaxy S7 looks and feels a whole lot like the Galaxy S6 does, and that can be both a good or a bad thing depending on who you ask.

Bad for those among us who had a problem with the design of the Galaxy S6. Good for us people who liked what we saw last year, and are content with building and refining on top of that foundation. And in that sense, the Galaxy S7 is a sensible upgrade over the Galaxy S6, especially if you forget about design for a second and consider the many other improvements it brings to the table.

Just how different, however? Join us below as we take our first crack at the question.

Design


Alright, so design. As mentioned already, what we saw before Samsung's Unpacked event—what we all had very good reason to consider the real deal—is, indeed, what we got. A slightly modified Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S7 nevertheless offers a few improvements on the formula.

There are two main areas where this is apparent, and the more obvious one is the back of the S7. Taking note from the... Note 5, the Galaxy S7's back features the same curved rear glass that seeps into the metal frame of the phone, giving a more ergonomic feel in the hand. The device handles splendidly, though it should be noted that we immediately felt that it's heavier than its predecessor at 152 vs 138 grams (5.4 vs 4.8 ounces) and slightly thicker. This didn't detract from our experience, though we're certainly disappointed to see that Samsung has done nothing to protect the back from fingerprints. It's still a mess and will either require obsessive cleaning or a vinyl skin or a case.

Rotating to the front, the main differentiator is the slightly improved physical home button—it feels less rigid and more clicky, so good stuff on this front.

Finally, it's good to see Samsung continuing to work on miniaturizing its tech, as this has resulted in a slightly smaller Galaxy S7 compared to the Galaxy S6, or somewhere in the 2% ballpark as far as screen-to-body ratio goes. Considering the phone features a significantly larger battery than its predecessor and it's actually water- and dust-resistant, that's an impressive feat.

Overall? Even with these slight improvements in design, your average Joe is unlikely to be able to tell the S7 apart from the S6. So if you've shaken hands with the latter, you pretty much know what to expect from Samsung's new flagship.

Display


Samsung refrained from commenting on display properties, so a gambling man would assume that everything has stayed the same. Like the Galaxy S6 before it, the S7 sports a 5.1-inch display with a Quad HD resolution (1440 x 2560 pixels)—an overkill in our opinion for that screen size, but a benefit if you're one of them early VR adopters. Since we refrain from making conclusions about display image quality without conferring with our lab gear, and given the lack of relevant information, we're guessing that things like color fidelity and maximum brightness are either near identical, or slightly improved. 

On a more positive note, just like the LG G5, the Samsung Galaxy S7 will improve upon its forerunner by including an Always-on-Display feature. This is nothing new on a Super AMOLED panel as we've seen from Motorola, and works in a similar manner: only a few pixels are dimly lit up to show you the time and date. Alternatively, you can have your calendar or a custom image, and Samsung tells us it'll be letting third-party developers add their own creations to the list.

Interface and functionality


At the surface, the TouchWiz build offered with the Galaxy S7 doesn't much differ from the Galaxy S6. Digging deeper reveals a few changes courtesy of Marshmallow, though, along with some design updates. The most noticeable of these is the notification panel, which is redone in white, along with the Settings menu. Apart from that, however, it's pretty much the same old user experience, though the unit we tested felt snappier than before.

It's also interesting to note that the Galaxy S7 has a feature that kills the app drawer, in line with what LG has done with the G5, and a departure from what previous Samsung devices have offered. So if you like the app drawer, you can keep it—it's on by default. But if not, you can do away with it.

Finally, the Galaxy S7 is the first to debut the Samsung+ app, which will give users access to live tech support, including device diagnostics, tips and tricks, and "exclusive content, giveaways and special offers". Just what these last three might be remains a mystery.


Processor and memory


The Galaxy S6 was a bit of a watershed event for Samsung last year, as it marked the first time the company strayed away from Qualcomm's loving hands. Instead of offering a Snapdragon processor, the company finally felt its Exynos system chips were up to the task, and ditched the US-based silicon slinger. Not only did the Exynos 7420 prove capable, it actually outdid the flagship Snapdragon 810.

Well, it seems that was a lesson worth remembering, for Qualcomm is back, and so is the old arrangement: buyers within the US will get the quad-core Snapdragon 820, while most other regions will be treated to Samsung's Exynos 8 series chips. Paired with that are 4GB of RAM (vs 3GB for the Galaxy S6), which ought to allow for hassle-free multi-tasking.

Finally, and this is a bigge for a lot of Samsung faithfuls, the microSD card is back with vengeance! Indeed, for regions like the US, the SIM card tray will be integrated with a microSD slot, while regions where dual SIMs are popular will have a hybrid miroSD/SIM slot and the option to use it however they see fit.

Camera



So far, we've been talking about mostly evolutionary upgrades when looking at the Galaxy S7, but if there's one area that Samsung certainly seems to have spent a lot of work on, it's got to be the camera on the back.

Finally listening to reason and not marketing people (which likely entailed a small rioting crew of engineers), Samsung has ditched the 16-megapixel unit of the Galaxy S6 and done the seemingly unthinkable: go for a lower resolution camera. But that's actually a step in the right direction, for the new 12-megapixel camera offers vast improvements in the areas that count—like pixel size. 

This is not to say that the old sensor was disappointing—it was actually one of the best for its time—but we're far more excited to benchmark the new camera, especially since it's paired with largest-in-the-industry, f/1.7 lens. Theoretically, along with the increase in pixel size, the snapper of the S7 should deliver an improvement in light sensitivity somewhere in the 90% ballpark. 

As a result, it follows that low light performance—long a pain point with smartphone cameras—ought to be significantly improved. And while we haven't had the opportunity to really dive into this, demo sets at Samsung's booth showed a very noticeable improvement over its predecessor when light is limited. We observed far less graininess and better color accuracy, all the while the image was brighter and therefore more detailed. 

That's not all, however, and what's next is just as good: the phase detection auto focus mechanism of the Galaxy S7 has also seen huge improvements. According to Samsung, instead of making use of just 0.7% of the pixels available to find the proper focus as was the case with the S6, the new sensor is using all of them. Apparently, this has helped decrease the time needed to lock focus by a factor of two under normal lightning, and a factor of four in dark. And again, from what we saw, Samsung isn't making empty claims, for the Galaxy S7 proved extremely quick in locking its focus in low light, all the while the Galaxy S6 struggled.

So for those of you hoping for an even higher resolution sensor with the Galaxy S7, you might feel disappointed. But don't be—instead you're getting something much more meaningful.

Expectations


The freedom of snapping great photos wherever you are has long been one of the top reasons to get a smartphone—and the number one cause for the decline of point-and-shoots. If you're nodding your head right now—whether literally or not—then the Galaxy S7 is definitely going to be worth checking out. On paper, and from what little we've seen so far, the main camera unit has seen some meaningful improvements. 

In regards to design, we also can't complain. The Galaxy S6 finally gave Samsung a reason to be proud of its designers, and the Galaxy S7 iterates on that with worthwhile improvements. Sure, the phone is heavier, but everything else is moving in the right direction. And we can't get over just how much better the new, clickier physical home button feels.

Ultimately, however, we can't really pretend that the Galaxy S7 will compete much with the Galaxy S6, given how the latter has depreciated in price since its introduction—and this process will only intensify going forward. But if you're an existing Galaxy S6 user simply trying to decide whether the Galaxy S7 is worth the investment, it'll probably come down to just how much you value low light photography and, hopefully, battery endurance.


Related phones

Galaxy S7
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(28h 3G talk time)
Galaxy S6
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 7 Octa, Octa-core, 2100 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 2550 mAh(23h 3G talk time)

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24 Comments

1. kkmkk

Posts: 699; Member since: May 06, 2013

alot of people complain about the design not being changed !! why would they change this Gorgeous design ? they improve it even better with the back edge & water prof imo the s7 is near perfect and you cant say this about many phones

20. Scott93274

Posts: 6032; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Meh, maybe you're right, last year's design was the most beautiful device on the market. I can't say the same for the OS, I still prefer stock Android. Is the S6 still running Lollipop?

2. maherk

Posts: 6770; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I am glad they listened and went with a thicker phone for a bigger battery.

14. pooma

Posts: 85; Member since: Oct 01, 2015

thicker and noticeable heavier

19. Scott93274

Posts: 6032; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

If the weight of a phone is something that bothers you then you should be embarrassed.

3. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Love it. Those small changes make a world of difference. Last year the S6 seemed like an unrefined version of the S6 Edge. This year I actually prefer the non-Edge version (and by that I mean no disrespect to the S7 Edge, which is also beautiful.)

4. Zapp_B

Posts: 31; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

I agree! S6 looked good but the metal frame was a little bit overdesigned. S7 looks almost perfect, very clean.

5. Jevon5

Posts: 60; Member since: Feb 15, 2016

It's not the first with Samsung + either. My note 5 has it

6. MKeditor

Posts: 97; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Phone Arena is avoiding any mention of infrared

8. bradley8795

Posts: 64; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

If you look at the pictures you can clearly tell there is no IR blaster.

10. MKeditor

Posts: 97; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Agreed. So why does Phonearena not address that it has been omitted from the S7? They also failed to mention it when they reviewed the S6 edge+ vs the regular S6 edge. That's poor reporting.

9. PPFitness

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

It seems that not only Phonearena but also gsmarena, and these are the only ones that I follow ... But the exhaustive research I did after the official presentation of the Galaxy S7, it seems that IR blaster in this equipment is unwanted subject ... Something strange is happening ...

17. adecvat

Posts: 638; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

And lack of OIS

7. Tripax

Posts: 7; Member since: Oct 12, 2014

Very similar, I was dismayed by the 12MPixel camera at 4.3 and not 16.9 16Mpixel as S6?

11. PPFitness

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

Usually I see reference to upgrades and downgrades in the presentation of a new product, and I have seen it for granted, but it seems that this time no one speaks the downgrade is that the disappearance of the IR Blaster ... Nothing important, only a function that allows me to control 90% of electronic equipment I have at home and replacing roughly 11 remotes I have at home. So for me, yes it is a big downgrade and do not understand why this is not clear in the description or analysis ...

15. benno

Posts: 94; Member since: Apr 17, 2015

Oh well, no S7 for you then since you like to use your phone as a remote control. Why you would want to do such a thing is beyond me but hell people do all sorts of stupid stuff I dont understand. OR, you could not use your phone as a s**tty universal remote and actually use, lets say, a universal remote. Either way is up to you though but for most people the IR blaster was useless which is why they removed it.

24. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 592; Member since: May 26, 2011

It was a convenient feature for those who were too lazy to get up and get the remote or for those who couldn't find their remotes and were too lazy to look, but for most it was more of a useless feature.

12. stuck_788

Posts: 54; Member since: Jul 26, 2013

the perfect phone, almost. they listened customers and put back the Microsd card slot, as well as a bigger battery! the only thing I don't like si the camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio. who shoot 4:3 anymore in 2016 when everything is wide format? in this way in 16:9 ratio the photos are only 9mpx.

16. benno

Posts: 94; Member since: Apr 17, 2015

That is kinda weird, they essentially lowered from 16mpx to 9mpx for any 16:9 which is a massive drop. 16 to 12 was ok ish I guess with the benefits of low light enhancement but 16 to 9... that sucks

13. AZNHA unregistered

thicker portfolio with larger battery capacity is good well done samsung even though s7 is heavier than s6

25. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 592; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm use to sporting Note series devices so this will still be a lighter phone for me.

18. joey18

Posts: 666; Member since: Jul 20, 2010

Good job samsung on your piece shiet phone

21. darealist

Posts: 107; Member since: Feb 25, 2015

Cons: Large bezels. A toy phone running kiddie Androids.

22. Shocky unregistered

The only thing I don't like about the Galaxy S7 is a lack of internal storage, as I said would happen with the return of the sdcard they've returned to their old ways, the smaller capacity devices will be the ONLY version available in the US and Europe, no word on the 64GB versions. So, a big thanks to all the trolls who complained about the lack of sdcard, you've ruined it for everybody now. Not looking forward to having to use an sdcard again, btw the feature to use the external card on marshmallow as internal doesn't even work, Android still installs the apps on the internal storage. Going from 128GB internal to 32GB is going to suck, but no choice but to adapt I guess.

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