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Samsung Galaxy S7 edge: Best of Beauty and Brains

One week into the review unit (read my first impression here) and I continue to be impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. If you look into my review history of Samsung Galaxy devices, I have not been impressed with their smartphones in recent years. For the kind of premium they are asking for, I did not find them worth the price. While the S6 is the first Galaxy smartphones with premium materials, there are just a few thorns that fail to buy my vote.
Why do I finally like the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge?
Subtle But Important Design Changes
Samsung started a new trend of smartphone designs with the curved-screen Galaxy S6 edge, but it was not perfect. Now, the S7 edge is a lot better. You could not tell just by looking at it: the S7 edge looks similar to the S6 edge and S6 edge+. But once you hold it, you will feel the difference.
First, the aluminum edges are thinner, smoother and rounder. It feels better on your palm, as if you are only holding a piece of thick glass with rounded sides which do not feel rough.
Second, the 5.5-inch size is perfect for consumers who prefer a smaller device. The S6 edge was 5.1-inch, the S6 edge+ was 5.7-inch. One is too small, while the other is slightly big. The S7 edge is a good size, identical to a normal 5-inch phone.
Third, the phone is certified IP68 without the need to seal the exposed USB and audio ports. It does not mean you can bring it for swimming, but you can be assured that the phone will not spoil when submerged in water.
I also like the protruding volume and power hardware buttons, so that I can find them with my fingers and press them easily.
With such a gorgeous design, it is unfortunate that most consumers would be buying a thick casing to protect the pricey device. And rightfully you should. The S7 edge is made of fragile materials all around. The aluminum frame easily makes a dent if it hits hard surfaces, and the glass surfaces are exposed to impact if the phone drops on a rough surface. 
The camera lives up to its expectations. I love the double-click home button shortcut, which starts up fast. The shutter is prompt and the photo review is equally responsive. Most other smartphones would require a longer time to shoot HDR images, but Samsung is able to shoot in HDR without impacting the capture speed. The white balance is rather aggressive in the good sense. Most of the time, the camera is able to adjust white balance very accurately, even though the actual scene is not that white. The image sharpness is also bumped up, which is great for immediate photo sharing, but might not be ideal for post-processing.
What truly impresses me is not just the ability of the camera to take low light scenes with good brightness level, but the scenes are captured quickly too. Most other smartphone cameras would have live preview lags and the screen would freeze for a brief moment as the camera captures the scene in slow shutter speed. 
The "Pro" mode is truly professional, with the ability to capture RAW (DNG) format, as well as EV adjustment of 1/10-step, while most cameras typically have 1/3-step or 1/2-step adjustments. You can also save up to 3 custom settings, just like a premier camera. The preview screen displays multiple green AF points telling me where the camera is actively focusing. 
And like many expensive cameras, the S7 edge supports subject-tracking, activated when I tap on the subject on-screen. The camera will recognise the subject and follow the subject wherever it moves on screen. 
The various shooting modes are easy to use and helps to create content easily without additional post-processing. Here's a few to mention:
  • The "Video Collage" lets me capture a few seconds of video footage over 4 quadrants. Once finished, the final video will have a video collage of 4 footages in each quadrant.
  • The "Selective Focus" mode captures both near focus and far focus, and allows you to select either focus areas or both areas to save the image. The S7 edge allows you to save all 3 focus areas separately, so there is no need to commit to one focus area and losing other details.
  • The "Virtual Shot" mode is a great mode to capture 3D objects. After capturing, you can replay the 3D image and even tilt the phone to view the capture image.
  • The "Food" mode is basically a quick way to capture objects with a sharp focus around the selected area while blurring the others, to create an impression of a shallow depth of field (think Instagram "Tilt Shift" filter). The result is really subtle though I do no fancy the increased colour saturation.


User Interface
The S7 edge works smooth and fast. It does not exhibit any strain in handling my screen interactions like opening apps, switching apps. There is no degradation of the performance over the week of my immersive use. And no wonder, because the Antutu benchmark score just shoots through the roof. But if you are fearful of performance hogs, you can easily free up RAM using the Smart Manager app that monitors your RAM, storage, battery and device security.
In addition, Samsung UX has several useful features that I like. One notable feature is the ability to capture continuous screen shots of long pages without limits to number of pages. The Edge screen apps are also enhanced to allow me to add apps shortcut, tasks shortcut, and other widget panels that are downloadable. They even have a widget on StarHub Go!
Battery Life
The battery life is astounding. On every single day of my review, the battery never dropped below 20% from the moment I wake till the time I sleep - 16 hours. At 3600 mAh, the S7 edge has the largest battery capacity for any Samsung Galaxy smartphone. And for that, it also has the most impressive battery life I have experienced on a Galaxy smartphone. Looking at the size of the S7 edge, there is no excuse for other smartphone makers to offer larger battery size in a smaller form factor.
The Always-On display is first introduced on the S7 series, so Samsung is prudent in its capability. For now, it only displays the time, date and selected notifications. It does not support third party notifications like Whatsapp. The wallpaper only supports selected images. And while Samsung claims it uses relatively little battery, I would not enable it since it does not significant benefit.
Premium Hardware
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is loaded with premium hardware that you pay for. You get dual SIM, micro SD slot, 4GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, NFC, fast charging, wireless charging, biometric sensor. One feature that was removed from S6 is infra-red sensor.
Gimmicky Curved Display
To be honest, I do not fancy the curved screen. I am perfectly happy if Samsung had a curved glass while the display ends before the curve. The reason is that Samsung extended the display to the sides which leaves no space for our hands to rest. For content that goes all the way to the edges, I have to turn the phone slightly to see them. I would prefer the implementation of the Note Edge where the edge panel has a life of its own. What it means is that both the edge panels have the ability to provide independent information, similar to what the LG V10 is offering. It would be useful when, say, I am doing full-screen browsing and there is an incoming event which I would not be able to see because the notification bar is hidden.
Samsung has a brilliant design. Now all it needs is a complementary UX to better use its curved areas.
Overall Verdict
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I am yet again delighted with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The smartphone is finally worth the premium retail price. The battery is great, the camera is spectacular, the TouchWiz UI runs smoothly, you can expand the storage with micro SD card, the phone can survive in water. And above all, it is light, compact, and a design that is uniquely Samsung Galaxy.
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