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REVIEW: Samsung's Galaxy S7 is a flawless phone

The best of everything. Photo: Harry Tucker / Business Insider

What do you want in a phone?

I want a great screen, a battery that will last all day with heavy use, a camera that will take every photo I’m looking for in any situation, as much storage as I need, and technology that simply works.

In the past, the closest I could come to that was Apple’s iPhone. It worked: you didn’t need to worry about it, and it packed a top-of-the-class camera. The battery life, the somewhat stale iOS software, and its fragile design left it wanting, but on the whole, it delivered.

But the game has changed. There’s now a phone that will do everything you want it to do, and do it well. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is that phone.

Samsung’s phones have always been interesting in the past. They’ve always been really good at some things, but missed the mark in other important areas.

Take the Galaxy S5 for example: it had a brilliant display, offered a waterproof design and a camera that was excellent for the time. But the design, compared to its Apple and even HTC competitors, was garbage. It felt cheap and was full of bloatware you didn’t really need.

Last year’s Galaxy S6 attempted to fix those problems – and succeeded, to a large extent. The design and build quality was finally worthy of flagship status; the fingerprint reader was usable, and Samsung decluttered the operating system.

But there were still glaring holes such as the terrible battery life, the lack of expandable memory, and the removing of water resistance.

Enter the Galaxy S7. It has all the strongest DNA from the Galaxy S6 and S5, but all the features are much more refined. It is the best all-round phone I’ve ever used.

Photo: Campbell Simpson

It all starts with the build. The review unit Samsung has supplied me with is the bigger edge model, which uses a 5.5-inch screen that’s curved on its edges – hence the name. The design itself isn’t too dissimilar to last year’s Galaxy S6 edge, however the screen has gone up from 5.1 inches and it borrows the curved rear edges from the Galaxy Note 5. Those rear curves are definitely a welcome addition, making the phone much easier and more comfortable to hold compared to other phones of similar size, especially Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus. The feel of the phone itself is fantastic – it combines the use of aluminium around the back and glass over the front of device, with no cheap plastic in sight.

(That rear design is a hell of a fingerprint magnet, though. Within minutes of using it, it was already covered in marks.)

Photo: Campbell Simpson

My favourite part of the design is Samsung’s reintroduction of water resistance to the Galaxy S7. You can have your phone fully immersed for up to 30 minutes in water and it won’t cause any problems. And it got rid of the annoying flaps on the phone’s ports that were there on the S5. You can even use the screen in the water, so you can jump in the pool, browse the web, and take neat underwater shots.

Next is the screen, which continues Samsung’s use of quad-HD AMOLED technology. Like LG’s OLED TVs, colours look fantastic, appearing more vivid than LCD competitors. The quad-HD resolution also means you won’t be able to spot an individual pixel, making things clearer than ever. The use of AMOLED, which doesn’t light up pixels if they’re black, means that it can use an always on display, showing the time, date and basic notifications all the time with minimal drain on the battery.

The only time I ever wished the Galaxy S7 had a higher resolution display – like the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium’s 4K – is when using the Gear VR headset, where the display is magnified. Samsung’s Gear VR is actually bundled in if you pre-order the handset, and is a first step for most people into the virtual reality world. If you’ve never used virtual reality before, even something as simple as Samsung’s offering which just uses your phone will blow you away. It can completely teleport you into another world, and there’s already some really exciting content on there for you to watch.

On the software side, Samsung has also thankfully removed just about all of its bloatware which plagued previous devices. Outside of Android’s default apps such as Chrome, Gmail and YouTube, Samsung has a total of 11 apps of its own installed. And these aren’t annoying gimmicky ones either, they include a file explorer, Samsung Pay, a memo apps and S-Health. Unfortunately Samsung Pay still has a couple of months to go until it launches in Australia.

The edge also has extra functionality with the side where you can quick launch apps or phone functions from wherever you are on the phone.

The performance itself is snappy, with no lag noticed in my entire time with the device. Transitions are smooth, and it feels how you would expect a $1000+ device to feel.

For a basic indication of how the new octa-core processor performs, I did an AnTuTu benchmark test where they Galaxy S7 scored a 113591, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 which is no slouch scored a 83944. A big difference.

Despite the big performance figures, battery life on the Galaxy S7 edge is spectacular. Thanks to the bigger screen and slightly thicker design, Samsung has squashed a huge 3600mAh battery inside it. In real world terms, using it quite heavily throughout the day – taking half a dozen pictures, making half a dozen calls, listening to an hour of music, text messaging and a few hours worth of browsing social media, emails and the internet – I was left with around 20% battery life by the time I put it on the charger at 10pm. If I did that type of activity on a Galaxy S6 edge or iPhone 6s I would have been reaching for the charger before I even left work.

The camera. Oh, the camera

But the best part of the phone by far is the camera.

It may seem counterintuitive, but Samsung has dropped out of the resolution race with this phone, dropping the resolution in the S7 and S7 edge’s main camera from 16mp down to 12mp.

This allows for better low light, one of the main factors in mobile quality. But this is by far the best camera I have ever seen on a smartphone, especially in low light. The colours look great, and it’s easy to change the settings between what is natural, and colours that pop out. Lowlight is next-level too: you can take usable pictures in just about anything that’s not pitch black. The Pro settings allow you to do cool things with long exposure so you can take awesome photos of lights. Take a look at the pictures I took below:

First, how about some food in low light?

Picture: Harry Tucker

Why not take a picture of a Tesla?

Picture: Harry Tucker

Here it is in low light. The Harbour Bridge looks incredible.

Picture: Harry Tucker

Cats make great test subjects. This is with HDR on and it looks spectacular – look at that depth of field.

Picture: Harry Tucker

Next to the iPhone 6s, this one shot sums it up. The brightness and colours are both head and shoulders above the iPhone’s. This shot is on the Apple iPhone 6s with just one lamp on in the room.

Picture: Harry Tucker

And the same shot on the Galaxy S7 edge. Notice the light and colours.

Picture: Harry Tucker

After around a week with the S7 edge, I’m genuinely trying my hardest to find a major fault and I just can’t do it. Sure, it’s a fingerprint magnet, and sure the fingerprint reader still isn’t as good as Apple’s, but at the end of the day they are tiny things that don’t shouldn’t be a concern when picking a phone. There are no ground-breaking innovations either, but innovation doesn’t have to be about doing something new; sometimes, innovation is in taking a product from good to perfect.

Every fundamental need, every thing you want to be good about a phone, the S7 edge does fantastically.

Samsung has hit it out of the ballpark with the S7 edge, and there’s no other way to say it: this is the best phone ever made.

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