Samsung Galaxy S7 active Review

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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61 Comments

1. Rydsmith unregistered

This seems like a very very poor battery test that doesn't give metrics of any kind.

13. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

This review was half assed. Where's the battery benchmarks? Display figures? Audio output? Seriously PA?

26. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Samsung was like "Hey PA you wouldn't mind giving this mediocre phone a good review? Ill sponsor your team on your next trip to MWC and CES" PA: Is a 8.7 good? I'll drop LG and Sony's ratings while we're at it. Samsung: Fair enough. Ill send TechieXP and PapaSmurf to give good comments too.

27. JC557

Posts: 1921; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

I'd wait for Phonescoop and Pocketnow's reviews. Hopefully it'll be reviewed on Anandtech as well. TrustedReviews is decent but they also don't have much metrics on it.

36. aBoss

Posts: 164; Member since: Sep 15, 2014

phonearena is known for their lack luster reviews. They outsource them to 3rd world countries who never saw a smartphone in real life.

30. JC557

Posts: 1921; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

So Phonescoop has a review up on the S7 Active and it seems that the vibration motor is stronger, louder speakers, screen works when wet and the battery can go 36 hours with their version of heavy usage, 2 days on light usage.

39. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I've been team iPhone for almost two years now and people still think I'm a die hard Samsung fan lolololololol.

49. Kumar123 unregistered

Really shows how much a samsung asskisser you are in the comment section. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

50. matherchodmaherk

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 15, 2015

Yeah, PapaSmurf is trash. A trash Samsung employee.

37. QWERTYphone

Posts: 654; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

$800 ???? LMFAO This might be the best phone of 2016, but it's not worth a penny more than $399 for new retail.

40. Fonatic

Posts: 70; Member since: May 23, 2016

ifones are not worth a penny more than 49 cents!!!!!!!!

2. Kumar123 unregistered

This phone is insanely ugly and overpriced. Definitely the ugliest phone of 2016. Plus it's so called militery grade protection is a joke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNuUrh9TI-o Look at this video, even simple keys can scratches the screen. LOL. regular S7 is better buy.

5. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

of course it can scratch.. its just a plastic!!! if you want scratch-resistant glass, go GS7 or other phone with gorilla glass, and it will 100% scatter on 1 meter face-down drop.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gdx37VDbmA we're talking about shatter-proof screen here, which is more required for rugged phone (if you insist about scratch, just slap some tampered glass on it)

55. OscarHUGar

Posts: 21; Member since: Mar 10, 2017

I Do remember when the rugged ones were a rarity! Hahaha… to me the waaay cheaper-and now better- AGM chinese models online are the way to go :) .. but this was a decent device tho its price but ll prefer to get an x1 18k gold edition xP ( i know: demanding xD )

8. Schmao

Posts: 365; Member since: Jul 05, 2009

But you can drop it 50 times without cracking the screen. A 5 dollar screen protector can prevent the scratches. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gdx37VDbmA

18. Unordinary unregistered

Thats YOUR opinion. I think it looks good. What do you expect? Some high end designer product to bring out in the wild/snorkeling/hiking/snowboarding/etc????

31. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I also think it looks good. Maybe if he's a soldier, he would whine about a tank not looking like an Aston Martin.

44. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

You can hit thats phone with hammer and drop it its wont break. Take a normal S7 its will shatter. Even a small crack and S7 screen die. Different phone for different need i would take the S7 active over any other S7 any day because for me a screen thats scratch but dont break is far from an issue... Tempered glass screen protector anyone? Ugly? maybe for you it is but personally i always put big rugged cases on my phones so if its built in why not? Overpriced there i agree with you should be 699$ max.

3. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

First one to comment, wee! BTW, lets see how it "stack-up" against The Samsung Galaxy S7 "Lazy"... Or perhaps; "Passive"...??? Edit: Third one to comment... Come-on, why people can't see an old man happy these days, eh?

7. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Man... Sucks you didn't get first. I was hoping you would. +1 for effort.

22. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

Are you Irish? I read all of your comments in an Irish accent. Idk why.

4. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

those cons is a joke, lol.. cant you find more proper down-side of this phone?

12. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

AT&T exclusive is a legitimate con

33. sebbellic01

Posts: 305; Member since: May 03, 2016

I'd say AT&T are the worst carrier in the US at updating their phones.

6. AgentZero

Posts: 314; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

so you are telling me that you are using a test that ranks the normal iphone 6s higher than the s7 in battery life while every other review says otherwise ? , and u deducted more than one point for style and price ? I don't understand how can you do a review of a phone without keeping in mind the reason why this phone exists ....

9. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

@AgentZero The cons are fair enough; in my humble opinion: 1. Not for the style-concscious True indeed... It looks fugly; specially the back... 2. Battery life leaves something to be desired I'm not sure about it; but if its true then its indeed pathetic... One naturally expects 2-Days from such an enormous juicer... Just 1 Day is indeed pathetic... iPhone 6S Plus; which has a much MUCH smaller battery; can last 2 days and yet it has a larger and relatively more hungry IPS Display... 3. Pricier than the regular GS7 Another fair point... You get an ugly duckling that costs more than the regular 'lazy' Galaxy S7... And all it has over 'regular' 'non-active' S7 is a bigger battery & shatter proof display... Do you think its worth it??? 4. AT&T exclusive: Some people hate AT&T, just Google it... But since I'm not a Yankee; I can't possibly comment on this... SO WHAT "EXACTLY" ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT HERE, I WONDER???

20. AgentZero

Posts: 314; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

Well 1 . This a phone made for people that drop their phones alot . So its not made to be stylish and you cant rank it for that . 2.when the galaxy s6 gets a close battery score to the s7 and the iphone 6s gets more than both then the battery benchmark is messed up 3.bigger battery and waaaay more protection ... what do you expect ? Check phonebuff drop test 4. AT&T exclusive is a real con so i agree with this

21. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Eh yes you can. Droid Turbo 2 and Moto Z Force are for people who drop their phones. both have QHD displays, top-tier Dragons, high capacity batteries and neither needs a fake camouflage paint-job and both look positively attractive.

23. AgentZero

Posts: 314; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

There is a defference between a shatershield display and military grade protection. Anti heat -dust-wtar etc

28. godwhomismike

Posts: 22; Member since: Nov 01, 2013

I wish someone would use Waze as a battery test. I had the battery replaced on my iPhone 5S, and Waze can kill the battery in 2-3 hours using it as GPS on battery mode.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Galaxy S7 Active
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4000 mAh

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