Interface and Functionality

Smart shortcuts deliver real usability gains

TouchWiz used to get a lot of flack for introducing unnecessary bloat on top of stock Android's comparative sleekness, but Samsung's been doing much to redeem itself in recent years. Truthfully, if you pick up the Galaxy S7 active expecting some kludgy, slow, mess of a UI, you're going to be pleasantly surprised. Dare we say that it's actually adding something quite nice to Android these days, with easy access to tons of system settings, in addition to legitimately useful features like its split-screen view. Sure, Android N will turn split-screen on its toes, but for now, Samsung's got a perfectly useable implementation of its own.

The Galaxy S7 active's Active Key adds a new layer to the interface beyond what you'll get on the Galaxy S7 itself, providing fully customizable quick-launch access to your most-used apps. With separate app options corresponding to a short press, long press, and double press, Samsung squeezes a lot of functionality out of a single button. And really, there's nothing inherently rugged or “active” about the key; this would make a nice addition to Samsung's mainstream Galaxy S flagship, should the company ever feel so inclined.

Even when you're not using the Active Key, shortcuts afford speedy access to critical apps; more than once we managed to snap a blink-and-you'll-miss-it photo thanks to the phone's double-tap-home shortcut for its camera – even from lock.

As configured out of the box, the Active Key takes you to Samsung's Activity Zone, which you can think of a bit like a widget hub: one tap of the Active Key and you've got at-a-glance access to weather, a compass and elevation gauge for your orienteering challenges, and convenient access to S Health, where you can track steps, assess your stress level, and track pulse and blood oxygen saturation with the phone's sensors. Some of those are more useful than others, but they're all just as easy to pull up.

One big change for this year's Active model is the fingerprint scanner that's found itself embedded in the home button of flagship Galaxy S and Galaxy Note devices for the past couple years has finally migrated to Samsung's rugged phone. Recognition occasionally took a few goes before authenticating a stored finger, but most of the time a clean, head-on scan was successfully matched in the blink of an eye.

Processor and Memory

Best-in-class components refuse to let this phone down

All too often companies get to cut corners with rugged models; it wasn't that long ago when water-resistance was such a stand-out feature that it could almost forgive major performance trade-offs. But thankfully that's no longer the case, and Samsung very much does not make any sacrifices when it comes to the Galaxy S7 active's silicon.

The phone's powered by the same top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip you'll find under the hood of the standard GS7, with an equally capable 4GB of RAM ready to have you juggling all your favorite apps with ease. The phone's available in a single 32GB storage option, but with microSD support (thanks to a combination SIM/storage expansion tray), you can easily push that capacity much higher, at least for media storage purposes.

Suffice it to say, you should feel confident throwing even the most demanding mobile titles at the Galaxy S7 active (though users without a microSD card should start planning early about just which apps they want living on their phone – that 32GB won't last forever).

AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 139915
Samsung Galaxy S7 136695
HTC 10 131088
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 128191
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 3583
Samsung Galaxy S7 3632
HTC 10 3578
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 3198
Vellamo Browser Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 5152
Samsung Galaxy S7 5339
HTC 10 4418
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 4840
JetStream Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 44.077
Samsung Galaxy S7 62.049
HTC 10 46.453
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 60.315
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 52
Samsung Galaxy S7 53
HTC 10 47
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 52
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 28
Samsung Galaxy S7 29
HTC 10 13
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 28
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 2411
Samsung Galaxy S7 1943
HTC 10 1806.33
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1761
Geekbench 3 single-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 2340
Samsung Galaxy S7 2327
HTC 10 2094.33
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 2318
Geekbench 3 multi-core Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 5364
Samsung Galaxy S7 5455
HTC 10 4381.33
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 5433


Connectivity

Fully equipped to interface with your world

The Galaxy S7 active's ability to access mobile networks is a bit of a mixed bag. The hardware's certainly well equipped to handle what you can throw at it, with support for over a dozen LTE bands in addition to a trio of 3G bands and the standard legacy support. But for all the phone is technically capable of doing, you're only going to be operating this puppy on AT&T's network – at least as its primary home. That's right: once again, Samsung's Galaxy S active phone is a carrier exclusive.

But looking past its mobile data for a moment, the GS7 active's also well equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 LE for interfacing with your accessories, supports high-speed 802.11a/g/b/n/ac/i/r Wi-Fi, and offers NFC for things like mobile payments or quickly connecting with new devices. There's even that magstripe emulation hardware for use with legacy retail terminals through Samsung Pay.

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