The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge was unexpectedly one of our favourite phones of last year, proving itself to be much more than the gimmicky sibling of the S6 with a design that really worked and a few nice software touches to boot.
Of course, it came in two versions – the 5.2in S6 Edge and the 5.7in S6 Edge Plus, the latter winning itself an Award in our larger phones category.
This year, Samsung’s Edge contribution sits some way between the two at 5.5in, with a refined design, improved spec list and enhanced usability that makes that edge design more useful than ever before.
Read on for our first impressions.
A large part of the S7 Edge’s charm is its design, and like the regular S7, it has seen the same subtle refinements to make it look and feel better than ever.
Its back panel now has curvier edges that fold gently round to meet the screen, making it feel better than ever. There are no obvious seams or joins between the front and back either, with smooth edges that make you just want to flip the phone over and over in your hand.
Thankfully its metal and glass design remains easy to hold, without feeling so smooth that it could give you the slip at any moment.
The camera lens has been given the same treatment as with the S7 too, and now sits more flush to the back panel for a cleaner design. And because the Edge isn’t just a pretty face, waterproofing is here as well, allowing you up to 30 minutes at depths of up to 1.5m.
Of course, the microSD card slot makes its return here too, allowing you to boost the on board storage by up to 200GB, plus the fingerprint scanner is built in to the home button as normal.
While most of the tweaks here are the same as the S7, the S7 Edge’s unique curved screen gives it the, erm, edge over its more strait-laced sibling when it comes to overall desirability. We’ve no doubt it will come at a premium, as it did last year, but it’s one we think a lot of people will be happy to pay to stand out from the crowd.
Like the S7, the S7 Edge will be available in four chrome finishes – black, silver, gold and white. All of them are pretty liable to fingerprint smudges, but the silver is an absolute haven for them.
The S7 Edge packs a new 5.5in screen, which sits in the middle of last years S6 Edge and S6 Edge+. It’s a good move – picking the larger screen over the S7 makes sense to really make the most out of its innovative screen, without encroaching on the Galaxy Note family, the sixth iteration of which we’re sure to see later this year.
It’s a touch big for one-handed use, but that’s something we got over some time ago. Big screens are great for video on the go, plus when the screen is this gorgeous, you won’t mind using two hands to navigate it.
The Edge is more useful this year than ever too, with Samsung adding more functionality that can be accessed with a swipe outwards from the edge display.
Previously this included a small number of app shortcuts and five favourite contacts for quick calls, but not only is it now double width to squeeze in more apps, it also incorporates “Task Edge”, which allows you to create shortcuts to access specific functionality within an app.
Samsung also says it has opened up the SDK for this so we’re bound to see more in the coming months – we saw an Edge news feed from Yahoo News for example, so there could be a time you can use the Edge to swipe through Facebook posts, for example.
As for screen tech, Samsung has stuck with its 2K Super AMOLED screen, which is as sharp and punchy as the S7, offering bright, vibrant colours and excellent black levels.
It also offers the always-on display technology that we saw in the S7 too, allowing you to have the time, date and notifications appearing on your screen at all times with very little impact on battery life.
The camera in the S7 Edge is the same as in the regular S7, so takes the same dip in megapixels from 16MP to 12MP, but there’s much more to it than that.
For a start, it packs dual-pixel autofocus, a world first on a smartphone and something usually only found in full-blown DSLR cameras. It basically allows for almost-instant focusing speeds in around 0.2 seconds.
Not only does it mean you’ll get great, sharp shots without waiting around, but it’s also able to track fast-moving subjects and keep them in focus throughout.
Samsung likened it to looking at something with both eyes instead of one, promising clearer, more detailed shots. While 100% of the pixels in Samsung’s new cameras work in this way, only 5% of the iPhone 6s’s do – we’ll see what this means in real world use in our full review.
Autofocus isn’t the only place the S7 Edge’s camera has improved on its predecessor though, with a larger aperture (up from f/1.9 to f/1.7) that lets in 25% more light and an increase in pixel size to absorb more than 50% more light than before.
All of this should mean better results in low-light photography, and considering the S6 Edge was no slouch in this department, we’re really looking forward to putting it to the test.
Unfortunately, audio wasn’t a focus in Samsung’s press conference, but a little nose around the phone shows us that hi-res audio is indeed still supported on the handset, which if last year’s performance is anything to go on, we’re glad to see.
In our hands on time with the S7 Edge, we also noted that Samsung’s own music player was nowhere to be seen, with Google’s Music app sitting pretty instead.
Staff told us it would be available for download instead should we wish, so we’re hopeful this is a further move for Samsung away from the pre-installed bloatware that it’s been so guilty of in the past. Fingers crossed.
More on this in our full review when we can really put the S7 Edge through its audio paces.
Performance and battery life
Samsung has squeezed even more power into the S7 Edge than last year, with a new octo-core Exynos processor that promises to be 30% faster and a 64% faster GPU for even better graphics. There’s also 4GB of RAM to support it all.
Considering the S6 Edge never kept us waiting, the extra horsepower makes the S7 Edge feels faster and slicker than ever, powering through menu swipes and app transitions with ease and tackling graphic-heavy gaming without a stutter.
Battery life should hopefully see a bit of a boost over the predecessor too, with a 3600mAh battery over last year’s 2600mAh. That’s a significant uplift, thanks to the bigger size, but let’s not forget there’s a bigger screen to power as well. We’ll be sure to put it through our normal battery run down test in our full review.
As with the S7, gamers can also access the new Game Tools feature on the S7 Edge, which will allow you to lower the resolution and frame rate of games you’re playing to put less strain on the battery. Not an option for those who want the very best performance of course, but a nice additional feature to get more from your battery when you need it.
It’s no secret we were huge fans of last year’s S6 Edge in both its screen sizes, and the S7 Edge looks to be doing all the right things for us to fall in love with it all over again.
The refined design makes the S7 Edge more desirable than ever, and the 5.5in screen size feels like the perfect dimensions for getting the most out of it and the new software tweaks.
Waterproofing is a useful addition to prove the S7 Edge is more than just a pretty face, plus its new powerful processor and interesting new camera technology give us plenty to get to grips with in our full review.
The LG G5 might well be the most interesting handset we’ve seen at MWC 2016, but the S7 Edge? The S7 Edge is definitely the most beautiful.