Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review

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Samsung released the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge a few months ago, and the pair has easily become the best devices of the year. In fact, it was reported that, by the end of June, Samsung would sell 25 million combined units worldwide. That’s a staggering amount, and there’s not really another company seeing that many sales this year. It’s a popular handset, but there’s one small problem: essentially being encased in glass, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are extremely fragile. I know this firsthand, as working out of a garage, and even with a case, my Galaxy S7 Edge didn’t take many beatings before the back glass completely shattered.

Enter the Galaxy S7 Active as Samsung’s answer to many of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge’s durability problems. With the Galaxy S7 Active you get the entire Galaxy S7 experience, but this time encased in a worry-free protective polycarbonate shell. If you want something high-end but with built-in protection, the Galaxy S7 Active is Samsung’s answer.

Editor’s Note: This review will primarily cover the areas that differ from the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, hence why we’re not repeating the Performance and Camera sections.

Design

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The Galaxy S7 Active is drastically different from the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The traditional glass and metal build you’d find has been replaced with a beefier plastic shell. Unfortunately, plastic is viewed as cheap material that degrades the value of your phone. That isn’t the case with the Galaxy S7 Active as it feels hefty in the hand; there’s no cheapness to the material in this scenario.

Button placement is almost identical to last year’s Galaxy S6 Active. On the left hand side, you have the volume rocker and a button that launches Samsung’s Activity Zone that offers tools for outdoor activities. You get quick access to things like the flashlight, compass, a stopwatch, what the weather is like, and so on. In addition to that, long-pressing the button will act as a shortcut to an app on the phone. You can actually set it up to be a shortcut to your favorite app or an app you use regularly for added convenience. And, of course, on the right hand side you have your standard power button, with the SIM card tray just below it.

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A little bit has changed since the Galaxy S6 Active as far as buttons on the front go. There’s now more space between them, and they also have a rugged feel. From left to right, you have the Recents, Home, and Back buttons.

It goes without saying, this phone is beefy. It’s much thicker than the Galaxy S7, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since you get the added protection. It’s not slippery either and the grip is excellent. That said, you won’t be dropping the Galaxy S7 Active too much.

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In addition to that, the Galaxy S7 Active comes with a bunch of certifications. The first of those certifications is IP68, bringing dust and water resistance to the handset. The Galaxy S7 Active will be able to withstand sitting in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, effectively making the handset accident-proof. The handset is also MIL-STD-810G certified, meaning it’s resistant to salt, dust, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, transport and thermal shock. You’ll be able to take the Galaxy S7 Active with you anywhere with little risk.

Hardware

 Samsung Galaxy S7 Active
AnnouncedJune 6, 2016
ReleasedJune 2016
Display5.1-inch Quad HD (2560x1440) Super AMOLED
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 820
RAM4GB
Storage32GB, microSD card slot
Rear Camera12MP
Front Camera5MP
Battery4000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, wireless charging
SoundBottom-facing mono speaker
SoftwareAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow with TouchWiz
ConnectivityNFC, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
SensorsAmbient, barometer, gyro, geomagnetic, heart rate, proximity, fingerprint, GPS
Measurements148.8 x 75.0 x 9.9mm
Weight185g
ColorsSandy Gold, Titanium Gray, Camo Green

Battery

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It goes without saying, the Galaxy S7 Active is designed to take beatings from hard work and time in the outdoors, and it’s got the battery to prove it. The Galaxy S7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the Galaxy S7 Edge being the larger device it is, has a 3600mAh battery. The Galaxy S7 Active’s battery is even beefier at a whopping 4000mAh.

In my time with the handset, the Galaxy S7 Active has lasted well into the third day of use with a single charge. I use my smartphone primarily for messaging, phone calls, and occasional Internet browsing. I’ll very occasionally load up Facebook or Twitter from the handset, leaving most of my browsing and social media for when I’m at home on my tablet. With that in mind, your mileage will vary with how much you get out of the Galaxy S7 Active, especially when it comes to power users.

The Galaxy S7 Active definitely has good battery life, and it’s wireless charging capabilities are an added benefit of convenience.

Software

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As far as software goes, there aren’t many differences between this and the Galaxy S7 or even the Galaxy S6 Active. You have just about all of the same software on here that you could find on a Galaxy S7. You’ll get a handful of preloaded Samsung applications that cannot be installed, and being an AT&T only device, you’ll have another 15 or so preloaded apps from the carrier that cannot be installed.

As we mentioned earlier, there is some software on the Galaxy S7 Active called the Activity Zone, which can be triggered by selecting the app or by pressing that dedicated Active button on the left-hand side of the device. It’s literally the same thing found on the Galaxy S6 Active, there really are no difference. Activity Zone will give you that same quick access to the Weather, S Health, Flashlight, Stopwatch, a Compass, and the Barometer while on a jog or some other outdoor activity.

The amount of software on this phone is quite frustrating, as it’s likely that you aren’t going to use much of it. It’s just sitting there taking up valuable space that you could be using for something more important to you, such as additional pictures, video, and so on. It’s extremely annoying, and there’s no getting around it.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S7 Active is outfitted with the Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm’s new high-end processing unit. Paired with some performance enhancements in TouchWiz, this phone is speedy fast. I didn’t notice any stuttering while going through menus, accessing applications, browsing the web, or even scrolling through photos.

Closing

The Galaxy S7 Active is a smartphone I’d recommend to any “active” person. The plastic shell is obviously the way to go for those in harsher environments, as any old regular Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge cannot hold up to those scenarios. The software is definitely disappointing, as it has the potential to be a whole lot more useful than it actually is, but then again, is the handset really aimed for a crowd who is worried about the type of software is on their handset? That’s a tough call, but I’d wager to say probably not.

Now, the Galaxy S7 Active is a bit pricier than last year’s model, as it sits at a whopping $800 outright from AT&T. Alternatively, AT&T is offering payment plans where you can pay an addition $26.50 per month on a 30-day Next device payment plan. As far as colors go, you can get it in Sandy Gold (an almost desert-like look), Green Camo, or Titanium Gray.

Buy it now: AT&T


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.