Two versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7 exist: one comes with the Snapdragon 820 processor, but the version we have here in the UK runs Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 chip, which is a 64-bit octa-core chip with four cores clocked at 2.3GHz and four at 1.6GHz. It’s paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (up from 3GB in the Galaxy S6), and features the ARM Mali-T880 MP12 GPU.
This phone is incredibly fast, with everything from launching apps to navigating menus done in a split-second. Games and videos play great (we especially like the new Game Launcher (jump to Software), and the only sign of lag we found was a side swipe to the left from the home screen, which brings up the Upday magazine feed and takes a few seconds to load. We’d probably switch this off in any case.
As we noted earlier, regardless of any liquid cooling that may be inside the case, the Galaxy S7 does get warm under stress. That’s not unusual for a metal phone, however, and it doesn’t appear to affect performance.
We ran the Galaxy S7 through our standard benchmarks to confirm our first impressions, and it did a fantastic job. Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs LG G5.
First we look at processing performance using Geekbench 3’s multi-core test. The Galaxy S7 scored a fantastic 6466 points, which is faster than absolutely everything we’ve seen to date. By comparison the Galaxy Note 5 scored 5149 points, and the Galaxy S6 4438 points. The S7 blew its rivals out the water, with the Huawei Mate 8 scoring 6193 points in the same test, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 4597 points, the iPhone 6s Plus 4407 points, the Nexus 6P 4211 points and the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium 4112 points. (Also see Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Google Nexus 6P)
AnTuTu is another benchmark that looks at processing performance, as well as the RAM, 3D performance and the UX. The Samsung Galaxy S7 scored 129,077 points, which AnTuTu says is higher than the Huawei Mate 8 (92,746), Note 5 (83,944), OnePlus 2 (80,090), Sony Xperia Z5 (76,862) and LG G4 (65,507).
Next up is GFXBench, a graphics test. In the T-Rex component of the test the Galaxy S7 recorded 53fps, and in Manhattan we saw 27fps - two excellent scores that show a huge improvement over the Galaxy S6, which managed 30- and 14fps in the same two tests.
In graphics the S7 is beaten, however, and an exact match for the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium in performance - that’s no surprise, given that both are fitted with Quad-HD displays. In T-Rex it has competition from the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (60- and 59fps respectively), but it matched the 53fps of the Sony Xperia Z5. Last year’s HTC One M9 (soon to be superceded with the HTC One M10) is a close competitor at 50fps. It’s a similar story in Manhattan, with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus scoring 52- and 38fps respectively, and the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact scoring 49fps.
We also recorded the Galaxy S7’s results in Car Chase (7.9fps) and Manhattan 3.1 (15fps). Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs iPhone 6s.
You can compare the Galaxy S7’s performance to all phones we’ve recently tested in our article What’s the fastest phone 2016?
(This part by Christopher Minasians.)
The Galaxy S7 is bundled with a pair of earphones with nice ergonomics and a flat-cable design with an in-line mic. As basic earphones they do the job, but we found them extremely recessed in their mids and warm-sounding, while lows are uncontrolled and lacking extension, and highs heavily rolled off and lacking sparkle.
The S7’s built-in speaker sits in the same position as on the Galaxy S6, but it’s a touch louder (we rated it 8/10 against the S6’s 7.5/10 for loudness). Sound is mid-orientated, and slightly unnatural-sounding as a result of artificial boosting. Lows are cut-off, unable to extend into the sub-bass regions. Mid-bass, meanwhile, is controlled, yet lacks conviction and impact. Highs roll off at the top end, but provide enough sharpness to music and movies for us to enjoy listening to the speaker.
When testing the phone’s internal audio quality, which utlises Cirrus Logic's CS47L91 Audio Codec, we found the S7 to be mediocre in its ability to drive an audio signal when tested at 80-85 percent of the maximum volume. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S6 needed only 55-60 percent of its total volume to output the same sound. We also found it odd that Samsung has spaced out the volume increments so much in the Galaxy S7, with volume increasing in eight percent and not the default five percent increments.
But in terms of sound quality the lows extend reasonably well into the sub-bass regions, while mid-bass has a good slam and doesn’t overpower the mids. These are a little recessed and produce a slightly warm, V-shaped sound signature, but alongside the low mid-bass slam they make a good combination. The S7’s highs roll off a little at the top end, but add sparkle to music.
The soundstage is good in terms of its instrument separation and depth, but we feel it lacks width. On the plus side, through the sound settings you can enable the UHQ Upscaler, which tinkers with the sound and delivers a slightly better width to the S7’s rather closed soundstage.
In the audio settings you’ll also be able to find the Tube Amp Pro option, which adds bass tones and softens the mids and further rolls off the highs, and the Surround and Concert Hall options try to recreate a more open sound, but we feel it ruins the overall sound quality. Also see: Best sounding phones 2016.
Whereas the Galaxy S6 came in 32-, 64- and 128GB versions and you had to try to work out which you would need before you bought it, the Galaxy S7 comes with 32GB of storage as standard, which you can add to if you wish using a microSD card up to 200GB in capacity. (Here are some other ways to add storage to Android.) However, while you can move apps to the SD card, the Galaxy S7 doesn’t support adoptable storage, which is a Marshmallow feature that lets the phone see the microSD card as internal storage. If you want to get that working you can follow this guide.
For many people 32GB of storage will suffice, however, especially given that Google Photos now lets you upload as many standard-resolution photos as you like over a Wi-Fi connection. This is also a great way to back up your Android device and ensure all your photos and videos stay safe should you lose it.
We mentioned earlier that the Galaxy S7 had lost its IR blaster, and that Samsung hadn’t updated it with USB-C. Other than these ommissions, connectivity is very good.
In the UK the Samsung Galaxy S7 is a single-SIM phone that accepts a nano SIM, with support for 450Mbps Cat.9 4G. There’s also Bluetooth 4.2, NFC (Samsung Pay will come to the UK sometime in 2016 while Android Pay will be here next month), dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO (which you can combine with 4G to download large files using Download Booster), GPS, USB OTG (with an adaptor supplied in the box) and the usual array of sensors.
Chief among those are the heart-rate sensor and the fingerprint scanner. We still think the heart-rate sensor is a bit of a gimmick, though handy for its ability to trigger a selfie, but the fingerprint scanner is excellent and will become more important as mobile payments take off. For now, it quickly recognises and unlocks the device every time, and that’s all we can ask for.