- Beautiful QHD AMOLED screen
- Fast performance
- Long lasting 4000mAh battery
- Premium rugged build
- Shatter resistant screen
- Always on screen
- A little on the chunky side
- Failed Consumer Reports water test
This is the rugged version of the Galaxy S7 exclusive to AT&T. While the exterior is different it’s basically just a repackaged Galaxy S7. If you were to take the S7 and combine it with a premium built in Otterbox case, this is what you’d get. I’ll mostly focus on the differences between the S7 and S7 Active in this review. If you’d like a more in depth look at the software or camera check out my S7 review.
There is no glass back on the S7 Active. Instead it features a textured plastic back with a nice camo design on this green model. The camera, flash, and S-Health sensors are still here at the top. With almost no camera bump thanks to this thicker body which helped them pack in an enormous 4000mAh battery.
Around the edge is a soft touch rubber material that extends to the top and bottom. This makes it comfortable to hold and helps absorb the shock from falls. The sides are metal with power button and nano SIM tray on the right. With the volume rocker and textured activity button on the left side. Plus the microSD card slot that will support cards up to 256GB.
Even though the S7 Active comes in this rugged body it still only has IP68 water resistance and dust proofing. Making it no more water or dust resistant than the Galaxy S7. Recently Consumer Reports has tested this and found that the S7 Active fails its water resistant claims. This was after testing two different units. Consumer Reports said, the S7 Active didn’t live up to Samsung’s claims and they could not recommend it. While the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge both passed their tests and sit at the top of the list for recommended phones. Samsung has since made a statement that they stand behind their IP68 claims, and will replace any water damaged phones under warranty.
On the front is Samsung’s beautiful 5.1 inch Quad HD AMOLED display from the original S7. Except this one has a shatter resistant screen. Not only do you have a beautiful display, but you won’t have to worry about shattering it. Making this phone even more rugged for your active lifestyle, or for those of us who are accident prone. It says it can withstand a five foot drop and in my testing I only tried around waist high, but it definitely didn’t shatter. However it did get some scrapes on the body and chips in the glass. That’s a lot better than a shattered screen though.
The top features the headphone jack and a microphone. While on the bottom is the speaker, microphone, and micro USB port. That’s right still no USB-C love here from Samsung. The speaker sounds decent but like with all side mounted speakers, it can get muffled while watching videos or gaming.
The navigation keys are a big change from the Galaxy S7. In order to make it more rugged they’ve lost the capacitive keys and opted for push buttons. They don’t light up but the symbols are reflective making them easy to see in daylight. In darkness you’ll have to tell them apart by feel alone.The fingerprint scanner hasn’t changed, but a heads up it won’t work if it’s wet or your fingers are wet.
Samsung has come up with a great compromise between protection and premium here. The phone feels great in the hand, and is comfortable to hold. It’s thicker but not bad and definitely worth it for the 4000mAh battery.
This is the same TouchWiz you’ll find on the Galaxy S7 running on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. It has the same side scrolling app drawer, themes, and messy menu. As well as the usual one handed mode and multi-window.
Samsung also has their always on clock which won’t show you any notifications except for missed calls or texts, that’s if you use Samsung’s built in app. The S-Health suite is included making use of the sensors on the back. Plus the Game Tools allowing you to block notifications, record games, turn off navigation keys, and more.
One extra the S7 Active has in software is the Activity Zone. This is quickly opened by using the Activity Key on the left side. Here you’ll find a Barometer and Compass plus shortcuts to Weather, S-Health, Stopwatch, and the Flashlight. The Activity Key shortcut is made even more useful by allowing you to assign more apps to it. You can choose whether to use a long press or replace the short press.
With a double press it activates an emergency feature that will take a photo with the front and back camera, as well as take five seconds of audio. Then send it to your chosen contact. It also opens up a screen with a shortcut to call 911.
Just like with the S7 performance is good, and it should be. Considering it packs a top of the line Snapdragon 820 SoC and 4GB of RAM. The S7 models have the fastest app switching I’ve ever seen on a Samsung phone. Games play great and look fantastic on this screen.
The 12MP f/1.7 aperture camera on the back is pretty good but it’s not perfect. Since it’s the same camera used in the S7. I found many of the same issues present that I found in my S7 review. Such as it crushing the blacks in photos and having a green tint in the white balance. One key difference with the S7 Active is the Aqua mode for taking photos underwater though. It still offers a good built in camera app, and is very fast at focusing and taking photos. Overall it’s a good camera and one of the best on Android, but it could be improved.
The S7 Active has amazing battery life. For good reason with a 4000mAh battery inside. This must have been done with all the active users in mind. Making sure your phone will last while you’re out in the sunlight all day. While I don’t spend all day outside, I was able to get six and a half hours of screen on time. Even then I still had 28% battery left. I couldn’t kill this thing in a day. Under light to moderate use you should be able to make it through a day and a half or almost two days.
While the S7 Active is marketed to active users. It’s really a fantastic phone that would be great for anyone. This is like the S7 plus because you get everything in the S7 plus more. If you want a tough rugged phone, with long battery life, and don’t mind it being a little on the chunky side. Then this is the phone for you. Even without the Active Key and it’s features I’d be sold on this phone. Big thanks to AT&T for lending us this review.