The Galaxy S7's acclaimed camera makes a welcome return

Samsung had a lot of convincing to do when it decided to dial-back the Galaxy S7's camera from the GS6's 16MP component to a new 12MP shooter, but the loss of pixels sure feels like it's worth it. That very same camera's back for the GS7 active, and it continues to impress here.

But a good camera module only takes you so far, and even the best sensor and lens in the world can't do much to help an app that makes you feel walled-off from all the hardware's features. Luckily, that's relatively far from the case with the Galaxy S7 active's camera app, which is both clean-looking and intuitive while hiding some powerful functionality just under the surface.

Common options like HDR and flash settings are easily toggled right from the main UI, and a “pro” mode augments those with shutter, aperture, white balance control, and more. Samsung offers a number of custom modes for things like panoramas, slow-mo shots, and even shooting underwater.

After all, this is a water-resistant smartphone, and while its capacitive screen won't do you much good while submerged, remapping shutter controls to hardware buttons allows you to direct the action even from below the waves.

Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 1.5
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
HTC 10 2.4
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1.5

Image quality

As pretty as the phone is robust

The “dual-pixel” tech Samsung employs captures ample amounts of light, allowing you to pull off what we found to be quite satisfactory shots even in dim indoor environments with no flash needed.

Occasionally, though, the camera seemed to have more light than it knew what to do with, and especially on overcast days, outdoor shots ran the risk of looking washed-out.

Optical image stabilization for the main camera helps keep your scene sharp, and even when shooting from the hip at moving subjects we were pleasantly surprised at the camera's ability to keep up. An automatic high-dynamic-range mode helps out with complicated exposures – and maybe most importantly, works so fast as to feel seamless.

The 5MP front-facer isn't nearly as impressive as the rear camera (though how could it be?), but just because it doesn't “wow” doesn't make it any less of a perfectly workable selfie cam – just keep your expectations in check.

Video recording

Ample high-res options for your UHD recording needs

The Galaxy S7 active supports video recording up to a 4K-class 3840 x 2160 resolution at 30 frames per second. If you don't need quite so high-res videos, another impressive option is a 60 fps mode in 1080p.

Unfortunately, both high-res and high-frame-rate video recording bring with them some trade-offs, and neither supports features like HDR, video effects, or tracking auto-focus; furthermore, the 60fps mode loses the ability to snap still pics alongside video, and the 4K mode does without digital stabilization. That limits the usefulness of both as “everyday” video recording options, but we're still grateful they're there (even with their limitations) when we need them.

Just as with the Galaxy S7, the quality from all these filming modes leaves little to be desired, and Samsung's software is smart enough to make filming a point-and-shoot experience. The downside to that is that extra manual controls still aren't present for video, and the GS7's wobbly shutter still impacts panning shots.


Don't judge a speaker by its grille

The Galaxy S7 active doesn't make a point to be a rich multimedia handset first and foremost, and while its speaker grille keeps the same design as the Galaxy S7's, it looks positively tiny and lost among the expansive plastic of the Active handset's rugged build. Still, we have to credit Samsung for giving us a speaker that's loud and resistant to distortion even at higher volume levels.

Combined with that bright, saturated AMOLED screen, and you've got a phone that's not about to let you down when it comes to video playback. Like so many other of the GS7 active's features, this is one that picks up an extra boost from the phone's rugged design; sure, many phones make it easy to share a video with your friends, but if you can do so while feeling confident that if you drop the phone you're not about to shatter its screen, that's a real bonus.

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 0.67
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.704
HTC 10 0.95
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.707
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active 75.7
Samsung Galaxy S7 72.7
HTC 10 68
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 72.9



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: 1919; 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: 1919; 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. 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.. 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.

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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