Samsung Galaxy J7 Core Review: Underrated Smartphone with a Great Camera

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We review the Samsung Galaxy J7 Core!

When Samsung introduced the Galaxy J7 Core as a budget gaming phone, the idea was somewhat peculiar. Priced at a hair under Php 10K/$197, the Galaxy J7 Core offers modest specs, along with a few software gimmicks to make it a phone optimized for playing some of our favorite Android games.

Along with some gaming-centric features, the J7 Core’s body was designed for users to be comfortable with hours of playing. Did it meet our expectations as a so-called budget gaming phone?

Samsung Galaxy J7 Core Specs
  • 1.6GHz Exynos 7870 Octa-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display
  • 16GB internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 13-megapixel, f/1.9 rear camera with LED flash
  • 5-megapixel, f/2.2 front camera with LED flash
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • Micro-USB
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 3,000mAh battery

Design: Familiar Samsung DNA

The J7 Core overall looks like any Samsung phones, especially those from yesteryears. The front panel looks very similar to the 2016 Galaxy J7, save for the redesigned proximity sensor. You have your home button and two capacitive buttons below the 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display. The display is superb, and is a perfect companion for watching videos, even if it is just an HD panel (some models in its price range sport IPS Full HD Panels). As we have reviewed phones with IPS and AMOLED panels, AMOLED panels have better image quality in general, and the Galaxy J7 Core is a good example.

What makes the J7 Core different is the slightly recessed top and bottom, creating a notch at the four sides of the phone. While it looks strange up close, the design is beneficial for those using the phone in landscape mode, especially while playing games.

The phone’s rear is made of textured plastic and is removable. Underneath it, you have your 3000mAh battery and slots for two MicroSIMs and a MicroSD. Because the J7 Core is equipped with a 13-megapixel, f/1.9 rear camera, there’s a noticeable camera bump in the back. We recommend getting a case for the J7 Core to prevent scratches to the camera lens.

The phone’s sides are made of metallic-coated plastic, which is a bit sensitive to scratches. You have your volume control on the left side.

You have your power button on the right side.

At the bottom, you have your microphone, MicroUSB port, and headphone jack.

Performance: Pretty good for a daily driver

Sporting an Exynos 7870 processor, along with 2GB of RAM, the J7 Core is a good performer. It scored 45490 in AnTuTu—a quite impressive score as it puts the Galaxy J7 Core at par with mid-range smartphones sporting 3GB of RAM like OPPO’s A71. While it has less ram compared to phones in the same price range, the J7 Core performed fairly well in multi-tasking. We’ve used this for posting our social media posts on our Facebook page, along with occasional browsing, and the J7 Core manages to keep up with the pace with a few hiccups.

As it runs Android Nougat with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin, you get a few gimmicks with the Galaxy J7 Core like SHealth (where you have a pedometer to record the number of steps you have walked) and a few gaming-centric apps like Game Launcher and Game Tools.

Game Launcher is an app that neatly organizes your games into one folder. Game Tools, on the other hand, is a floating icon that appears when you play games. The latter provides several options (see photo below) to give you an optimized, interruption-free gaming experience, along with tools to record your in-game achievements. It’s a well-thought-of feature for a smartphone marketed as a budget gaming phone.

How did the J7 Core perform in games? In a test we done (and measured through GameBench), it managed to coast through runs of Mobile LegendsMarvel Future Fight, and Asphalt 8: Airborne. For Future Fight, however, it is recommended to play it on medium graphics settings, as the J7 Core experienced lags while playing the game on high setting.

Camera: It’s the phone’s best-kept secret

At an era where brands are pushing for dual rear camera setups, the Galaxy J7 Core keeps things simple with a single camera setup. For its price point, it is one of the most affordable smartphones out there that sports a f/1.9 rear camera, and the results simply speak for itself. We even tried using the Galaxy J7 Core for a quick product photography session, and we’re quite impressed at how it pulled of shallow depth-of-field shots without the need for a secondary camera.

The Iron Man Lego figure is well-focused here, blurring the Mercedes Benz Matchbox in the background nicely.

As for the J7 Core’s 5-megapixel, f/2.2 front camera, it’s easy to capture good selfies with it. That being said, the Galaxy J7 Core could have been marketed as an affordable smartphone with a great camera as well.

front camera

rear camera

Battery: Steady and efficient

Having an HD panel, along with a 3000mAh battery, it is not surprising that the Galaxy J7 Core fared well in terms of battery life. Getting a result of almost 10 hours in PCMark’s battery test, the Galaxy J7 Core is a dependable smartphonefor hours of gaming and long photography sessions. In real-life tests, we have used this phone for a few hours of playing Future Fight and Asphalt 8—both CPU demanding games, along with several hours of social media browsing and usual calls, and manage to coast along for more than a day before we need to hunt for a power outlet. It does not have fast charging though, so expect around two hours to fully charge the Galaxy J7 Core.

Verdict: An impressive mid-range offering from Samsung

While the Galaxy J7 Core’s branding as a budget gaming smartphone may be a bit debatable to some, we do think that the Galaxy J7 Core’s main asset lies in its rear camera, as it offers an impressive single-camera configuration that can match the dual-camera offerings of other brands in the same price range. The addition of gaming-oriented apps is a welcome addition to the Galaxy J7 Core for enhancing. However, we want Samsung to give its camera UI some oomph by giving it better manual controls and support for RAW shooting because we believe in the potential of the Galaxy J7 Core’s camera. Save for its lack of a fingerprint scanner and small internal storage (which can be expanded via MicroSD anyway), the Galaxy J7 Core is a great option for those in need of a decent-performing phone without forking too much cash.

(unbox.ph, https://goo.gl/MqALpw)

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