Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 full review

The Samsung Galaxy S7 isn't a huge upgrade over the Samsung Galaxy S6, but Samsung has done the most important thing: it has listened to its fans on the things that matter, then focused solely on those. In this article we'll explain what is the difference between the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 - and why you might prefer to buy the S6 over the S7. Also see our Samsung Galaxy S7 review and Samsung Galaxy S6 review.

Also see: Best Black Friday Phone Deals

The Samsung Galaxy S6 was - and still is - an excellent phone, and a year after its release it still tops our best smartphone- and best Android phone charts. But while Samsung really pulled it out the back with its 2015 S-series flagship, it fell down in three key areas, and it was these three things that caused many long-term Samsung fans to threaten to look elsewhere for their next upgrade. Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs LG G5.

Expandable storage via MicroSD. A removable battery. Waterproofing.

Three things Samsung had previously included in its Galaxy S5, but did not see fit to include in the Galaxy S6. Little things, you might think, but much bigger when you don't have them.

Thankfully, all return with the Galaxy S7 - save for the removable battery, although it is higher in capacity. Samsung has also bumped up processor- and camera performance, and added an always-on display. Also see: Best new phones, tablets, laptops & more at MWC 2016.

Our colleague Florence Ion remarks in the video at the top of this article that the Samsung Galaxy S7 is like an 'S' upgrade to the iPhone line, and that's a pretty good analogy. Samsung hasn't made any groundbreaking updates to the Galaxy S7, but it has changed the things that matter most to users. Also see: Best smartphones 2016.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Price and UK availability

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is available to pre-order from Samsung now at £569. Those who pre-order before 5 March will get their handset on 8 March ahead of the 11 March official on sale date, and will get a free Samsung Gear VR headset. Also see: Best Samsung Galaxy S7 deals.

You can also pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S7 from UK mobile operators Vodafone, EE, Three, O2 and Carphone Warehouse.

A year older the Samsung Galaxy S6 is obviously cheaper, and offers excellent value for money at £369.99 SIM-free (Amazon) or free on contracts from £27.50 per month (Carphone Warehouse). Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 launch as it happened | Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge UK release date, price, new features and specifications.

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Build and design

The Samsung Galaxy S7 looks very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S6 - and that's a very good thing. Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

When Samsung revealed the Galaxy S6 last March we were in awe. It was by far the best-looking Samsung Galaxy yet, swapping out the tacky dimpled plastic for a Gorilla Glass 4 back panel and metal frame. Finally, the Galaxy S-series had a premium design to match its premium price.

Its mirror-shine finish quickly gathered fingerprints, but looked beautiful on the Sapphire Black model - and quite repulsive on the Blue Topaz version. Thankfully, it seems Samsung has ditched its pendant for garish colours, and instead of yucky blue, white, black or gold, with the S7 you now have a choice of just black or gold (though we can't promise more colours aren't on their way). Also see: Best MiFi 2016.

The problem with the metal-glass build was no longer could you access the battery. You still can't, but Samsung has bumped up its capacity from 2550mAh to 3000mAh to extend battery life. And it's made two more welcome tweaks to the build, bringing back the IP68 waterproofing of the S5 (without the fiddly port flaps), and adding a microSD slot for expandable storage. You can dunk the S7 in up to 1.5m of water for up to half an hour and it'll be just fine. Also see: Best Android phones 2016.

Samsung is already being criticised for not adding the latest technologies such as a reversible USB-C port and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 ultra-fast charging to the Galaxy S7. It told PC Advisor at MWC2016 that it thinks Quick Charge 2.0 is fast enough and, as is the case with USB-C, people don't have the accessories required for these brand-new technologies just yet.

One area it is keeping up with the times, though, is in its always-on display, also seen in the LG G5 that was announced on the same day. While the screen itself is the same 5.1in crystal-clear Quad-HD (2560x1440, 576ppi) SuperAMOLED panel as seen in the Galaxy S6, only the S7 can show you notifications and the time and date on its energy-efficient, always-on display. This uses a proximity sensor to turn off at night or while in a pocket, but at other times the information you need is just a glance away.

The Galaxy S7 is a little thicker than the Galaxy S6, but we like the way this reduces the camera bump on the rear, and the jump in capacity it affords the battery. Whereas the S6 measures 143.4x70.5x6.8mm and weighs 138g, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is 142.4x69.6x7.9mm and 152g. Also see: Best Samsung phones 2016: What is the difference between Galaxy Note, Galaxy S, Galaxy A and Galaxy J?

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Core hardware - processor and performance

When Samsung updates its Galaxy S-series the new smartphones always jump straight to the top of our performance benchmark charts. We haven't had long enough with the S7 to run our benchmarks just yet, but we know we're in for some good news.

Not only has Samsung included the brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core (2x 2.15GHz + 2x 1.6GHz) processor - or the octa-core Exynos 8890 depending on your region - but it has increased the LP-DDR4 RAM complement from 3- to 4GB. Graphics are now improved to the Adreno 530 GPU, too. We can't wait to get it into our lab to see how it performs.

Update 29 February: We've just had confirmation from uSwitch that in the UK the Samsung Galaxy S7 will come with the more powerful Exynos 8890, not the Snapdragon 820.

The Samsung Galaxy S6, meanwhile, was originally supposed to get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, but Samsung instead opted for its own octa-core Exynos 7420 processor. This is a 14nm, 64-bit chip built with two quad-core (1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and 2.1GHz Cortex A-57) sets. A Mali-T760 GPU is integrated. In our benchmarks it performed fabulously, with 4438 points in Geekbench 3.0, and 30fps in GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex.

Storage-wise the standard Galaxy S7 has 32GB of storage; the Galaxy S6 also comes in 64- and 128GB models, but lacks the S7's microSD card slot. Also see: How to add storage to Android and How to move to SD card.

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Connectivity

Something that may have slipped under the radar in all the hype surrounding the Galaxy S7 is where, oh where, has the Galaxy S6's IR blaster gone? Admittedly, it's not something I tend to use on the S6, but I know of several people who will be disappointed by its ousting.

Also missing in action: USB-C. Make that Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-compatible USB-C. But I have to admit I do sort of understand Samsung's reasoning behind it. Sure, Quick Charge 3.0 and reversible USB-C are super-fast and convenient, and I'm a busy lady, but I tell you what's not convenient: needing to charge your phone and someone's swiped the only USB-C cable in the house.

Charging shouldn't be a major concern with the S7, of course. Like the Galaxy S6 it supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, and here the fast charging is extended to wireless- as well as wired connections. I can't say I've ever found myself wishing the Galaxy S6 would charge faster, but I do often use a wireless charger so this is a pleasing addition.

The LTE network connectivity is up from 300Mbps Cat.6 to 450Mbps Cat.9 in the Galaxy S7, and Bluetooth is now at v4.2. Everything else is the same, so you'll find NFC (Samsung Pay will be coming to the UK sometime in 2016), dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, GPS and the usual array of sensors that includes the Galaxy S6's heart-rate sensor and fingerprint scanner.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Cameras

As with processing performance, it's impossible for us to judge camera performance without having spent more time with the new Samsung Galaxy S7.

On paper, it sounds as though the 12Mp, f/1.7 camera in the S7 is inferior to the 16Mp, f/1.9 camera in the S6 (which came joint-top in our phone camera comparison by the way). We're told it's not; we're told its f/1.7 aperture and larger 1.4um pixels let in 95 percent more light for much improved low-light photography. But we're just going to have to wait and see.

Both phones have 5Mp selfie cameras, the Galaxy S7 with a f/1.7 aperture and the Galaxy S6 f/1.9.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Samsung Galaxy S7: Software

The Galaxy S6 ships with Android Lollipop, while the Galaxy S7 comes with Android Marshmallow. However, the S6 should receive an update to Marshmallow within the coming months. Both phones overlay the TouchWiz UI, with several of Samsung's own customisations. Also see: Funny things to ask S Voice.

S6 vs S7 specifications

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2016.

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Samsung Galaxy S6: Specs

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Exynos 7420 octa-core (1.5GHz A-53 & 2.1GHz A-57) processor
  • 32GB/64GB/128GB storage (no microSD support)
  • Mali-T760 GPU
  • 5.1in (1440x2560, 577ppi) Super AMOLED screen
  • 16Mp rear camera with LED flash, smart OIS, real-time HDR and IR Detect white balance
  • up to 4K video recording @ 30fps
  • 5Mp front camera
  • 4G Cat 6 LTE
  • SIMtype: nano-SIM
  • dual-SIM as standard: no
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • NFC
  • heart-rate sensor
  • fingerprint scanner
  • 2550mAh non-removable battery with Qi and PMA wireless charging
  • 143.4x70.5x6.8mm
  • 138g
  • 1-year warranty
  • test scores: Geekbench 3.0: 4438 (MC), 1347 (SC)
  • SunSpider: 1048ms
  • GFXBench: 30fps (T-Rex), 14fps (Manhattan 3.0), 6fps (Manhattan 3.1)

Samsung Galaxy S7: Specs

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 5.1in Quad HD IPS (1440x2560)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Micro-SD card slot (up to 200GB)
  • 12Mp rear camera with f/1.7
  • 5Mp front camera
  • 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 4G LTE
  • Micro-USB
  • 3000mAh non-removable battery
  • IP68
  • 142x70x7.9mm
  • 152g