A Samsung for every taste - that seems to be the main mantra of the Korean giant as of late, as evident by its sprawling and ever-expanding smartphone lineup. We guess it's always good to have more options, but we just can't shake the feeling that some of Samsung's recent creations are beginning to overlap and tread in each other's territory - at least from the global perspective we have.
Here's what we mean - the Galaxy A line and the Galaxy C line are way too close specs-wise to clearly distinguish from a consumer point of view.
The Galaxy A7 (2017) packs a 5.7-inch display, an efficient 14nm Exynos 7880 Octa SoC, a body made out of a glass/metal combo, IP68 certification, 16MP f/1.9 cameras front and back.
Offerings like the Galaxy C7 and its C7 Pro sibling come pretty close to the Galaxy A7 formula and the 6-inch C9 Pro takes things even further size-wise.
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) at a glance:
- Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass 4 display protection
- Screen: 5.7" 1080p Super AMOLED screen (386ppi); Always On Display
- OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow; Samsung Grace UX; Nougat update in the works
- Chipset: Exynos 7880, 14nm process
- Memory: 3GB of RAM; 32GB storage, dedicated microSD slot for expansion
- Camera: Primary 16MP, f/1.9, 27mm; Secondary 16MP, f/1.9
- Video: 1080p
- Connectivity: nano SIM (dual SIM version available); LTE (Cat. 6); dual-band Wi-Fi ac; Bluetooth 4.2; FM Radio; USB Type-C; 3.5mm jack
- Battery: 3,600mAh
- Misc: Fingerprint reader, IP68 certification for dust and water resistance, Samsung Pay
- Somewhat expensive - the Galaxy S7 goes for about as much and might drop in price even more once the S8 comes.
- Not the most recent Android version though an update shouldn't be that far away.
- Lack of 4K video recording is unusual at this price point.
- No OIS, even though the previous generation had it.
If you want a well-equipped Samsung offering with current hardware features like a metal exterior, a snappy processor, and the coveted Super AMOLED panel, then you can look for it within the "A" family. The fresh Galaxy C line, however, fits that bill just as well.
Now with the waterproofing, the refreshed 2017 Galaxy A line easily stands out.
Then there is also the still current S7 flagship, which might be smaller in size, but is packed to the brim with tech and has been coming down in price rapidly.
Deciding between any of these appears to be a daunting task and might require some careful consideration to identify your perfect Samsung mix - if they are all even available where you live, of course. Samsung is still keeping the A7 (2017) away from European markets for some reason and until that changes, gray imports are your only bet on the Old Continent.
With that in mind, follow along on the next page as we start to pick apart the Galaxy A7 (2017) and what it has to offer.
The Galaxy A7 (2017) comes in a standard package, not deviating from the Samsung norm in terms of presentation. You get a simple two-piece box with only gray writing, no colors to be found.
The phone cradle on the inside is made of plastic and has a pair of deep compartments to house the additional accessories. Samsung has packaged in one of its Adaptive Fast chargers, rated at 5V at 2A or 9V at 1.67A. Pretty standard so far.
What is less standard, however, is the included USB cable or at least now how you expect it to be. Most markets seem to be getting an old-school micro USB one, which is why there is also a micro USB to Type-C adapter in the box. Our unit did, however, come with a native Type-C cable as standard.
There is also a pair of Samsung-made 3.5mm earbuds in the box. Nothing too fancy, but they do have a microphone and get the job done.
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 360-degree spin
Samsung cut no corners when it comes to the aluminum and glass shell of the Galaxy A7 (2017). You can actually mistake it quite easily for the Galaxy S7 flagship, and the resemblance isn't just skin-deep.
The list of materials appears to be identical between the pair - aluminum around the frame, softly sloping back and a mostly flat front side, complete with Gorilla Glass 4 protection. Even the shapes appear to be identical.
Aside from a few differently shaped or placed controls, the only difference seems to be in scale. This year, the Galaxy A7 has grown in size and now houses a 5.7-inch display inside its 156.8 x 77.6 x 7.9 mm body, weighing in at 186 grams. This puts it squarely in phablet territory - probably not a bad thing, considering the recent dismay within the Galaxy Note ranks.
It's no wonder Samsung went with the S7 look for the A7 (2017) - the style simply works, the shapes and proportions are well thought out and when executed with top-shelf materials, it really makes for a no-compromise experience.
Starting from the front of the A7 (2017), we find, well, the S7 really - that somehow unmistakable Samsung look, comprising of a screen, distinctly rounded home button, with a fingerprint reader and a pair of capacitive controls in a somewhat retro arrangement. Enjoy it while it lasts, since the S8 will probably bring about the retirement of this design language.
Speaking of the fingerprint reader, it works just as on the Galaxy S7, which is another way of saying - it's good but it's not the fastest one around. One thing that is missing from the clean front panel is a notification LED. The A7 (2017) does, however, have an always-on display feature, which kind of fills the void.
Still, this is admittedly a small omission. The A7 (2016) has at least a few other flagship-grade features to make up for it. The IP68 rating is definitely one of them. This is the first time it appears as part of the A-series formula and we really hope it sticks around.
Continuing our hardware tour with the sides and the rest of the device's controls, one thing instantly stands out - the speaker grill. It sits right above the power button. For ringtones that's as good as any other position and in a way it's better for video viewing when holding the display in landscape orientation than the prevalent bottom placement. There are no stereo speakers, but there aren't any on Samsung flagships either. Not yet, at least.
On the opposite bezel, we find a pair of volume controls and a SIM tray. Yes, you read that right, the tray houses a single card and nothing else. And in case you are wondering where the microSD card goes or the second SIM, provided you have the dual version - that would be on the top side of the phone.
That is something you don't see every day. And just like its smaller sibling the A5 (2017) which we recently reviewed, it has a dedicated second tray. It houses the other potential SIM slot and also has a dedicated space for the microSD card. It's a dedicated solution and not a hybrid one and we can't stress enough just how much we prefer it this way. Only like this can you enjoy both Dual SIM functionality and have a microSD card inside the phone simultaneously.
The only other hardware on the top side seems to be a secondary microphone.
The bottom of the A7 (2017) houses two connectors with a very different story - one still pretty new, while the other potentially headed towards retirement. The former is the USB Type-C port. Since the Galaxy S7 still relies on the traditional microUSB connector, the new A line is currently a bit ahead of the curve in Samsung terms. This will likely change with the S8, but besides updating the connector, the flagship might also use the opportunity to drop the older 3.5mm audio connector. If you are among the many who don't exactly fancy this new trend, you will be happy to learn that it is still present on the A7 (2017).
Moving on to the back, there isn't much in the way of hardware here either. A camera and a single LED flash. That's it. No fancy collection of sensors, like on the Galaxy S models.
We already mentioned the round slope on the back on the A7 (2017), which does make it a joy to hold. Still, the glass finish does have its shortcomings. For one, it is a fingerprint magnet. Then there is the question of traction. However, this seems to vary from person to person and we have handled more slippery aluminum-finished phones as well.
As previously mentioned, the Galaxy A7 has grown since last year. Now with a 5.7-inch display diagonal, it sits squarely in Note territory. With all the trouble Samsung's coveted productivity series has been going through lately, having a close alternative isn't really a bad thing. The same is true if you don't particularly care for new curvy display designs. Then again, the A7 (2017) isn't alone in this category - there's the also excellent Galaxy C7 and the even bigger C9 Pro to possibly go for. But, more on that later.
Just like most of its siblings, especially in the higher price register, the A7 (2017) sports a Super AMOLED panel. Just like the smaller A5 (2017) sibling, it offers a resolution of 1080p, which does add up to a lower pixel density of 386 ppi. The Diamond Pixel arrangement within the panel helps with the screen sharpness to an extent, but it's still Pentile. This leaves the A7 (2017) at a slight disadvantage compared to a competing LCD with the same size and resolution. However, this is nothing new and the A7 (2017) is still plenty sharp in our opinion.
AMOLED panels have become synonymous with punchy colors and the A7 (2017) doesn't disappoint in this department. If you are into that kind of color pallette, then the Adaptive color mode should be perfect for you. Of course, the reds, the greens and cyans are way off. Whites are also a bit bluish, but images just seem to pop off the screen, as usual - pretty eye-catching if nothing else.
You can also improve accuracy by switching to the Basic mode, which results in a pretty calibrated panel. In this case, it brings deltaE below 2 for almost every color. You do get a washed-out look too, so perhaps AmoledPHOTO represents a nice balance between color accuracy and punchiness.
The maximum screen brightness is excellent on the A7 (2017) at around 425 nits in normal mode and a hefty 533 through Auto boost. These results actually match last year's A7 (2016) almost number for number - impressive, when you consider the bigger panel size.
Combine the nice max brightness level with the effectively infinite contrast of the AMOLED panel and you end up with excellent sunlight legibility. You won't have any trouble working with the A7 (2017) outdoors even in the brightest of days.
The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) is pretty well equipped with connectivity options - quite natural for a device, positioned right below the flagship line. Just like its little brother, the A5 (2017), the A7 is based on the company's own Exynos 7880. On paper, the chip is capable of Cat.7 LTE speeds, however, Samsung only rates the A7 (2016) for Cat.6. That is up to 300 Mbps downlink and 50Mbps up, depending on your regional version and network.
We already touched upon Samsung's dual tray approach in the hardware overview section. It is a really elegant solution that works well and leaves you with two SIM slots and a dedicated microSD one - no hybrid compromises. It is interesting to note that both the Single and Dual SIM models get two trays. On the former, there is no cutout for a second SIM next to the microSD. Presumably, that means no contacts and internal hardware either.
In terms of local connectivity, the A7 package includes dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, as well as a USB Type-C connector. Since the S7 came out with a micro USB one, the refreshed A series is actually a bit ahead of the curve in this aspect. USB OTG is part of the package, but there is no video output, MHL or otherwise.
NFC and Samsung's proprietary MST tech for emulating magnetic cards are also on board the A7 (2017) and are a potent mix for using Samsung Pay in supported markets.
The phone has an FM radio too, great for tuning in to free live broadcasts that require no data connection.
The new Galaxy A7 (2017) also boasts a bump in battery capacity to go along with the bigger screen. Samsung has managed to cram 3,600mAh inside the 7.9mm thin body. This is actually a whole 600 mAh more than the A5 (2017), which we already know makes pretty efficient use of its juice thanks to Samsung's Exynos 7880 Octa chipset. Combined with a Super AMOLED panel, the 14nm fabrication process of the chipset means some impressive battery numbers.
Naturally, the A7 (2017) outshines both of its smaller siblings as well as the flagship Galaxy S7 in this department. Sure, the latter definitely packs a stronger punch performance-wise, but its 80 hours of total endurance rating seem almost inadequate compared to the whopping 115 hours the A7 (2017) scored.
The improvements over the A5 (2017), as well as the older A7 (2016) are across the board. 28 and a half hours of talk time is no joke, and neither is 15 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing - a task which brings the S7 down to its knees in under 10.
As far as standby goes, we employed our typical two-test approach to see how much of a difference the Always On Display feature has. And once again, the answer is: A lot! However, it is worth noting that our testing procedure does not allow the automatic dimming or display switching off to take place, which would be the case with normal pocket or night use (two scenarios where the AOD turns off automatically). So with that said, your mileage will vary on AOD - consider our score the worst-case scenario.
Technology: GSM / HSPA / LTE
2G bands: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - SIM 1 & SIM 2 (dual-SIM model only)
3G bands: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100
4G bands: LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 17(700), 20(800), 28(700), 38(2600), 40(2300), 41(2500)
Speed: HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (2CA) Cat6 300/50 Mbps
Announced: 2017, January
Status: Available. Released 2017, January
Dimensions: 156.8 x 77.6 x 7.9 mm (6.17 x 3.06 x 0.31 in)
Weight: 186 g (6.56 oz)
SIM: Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
- Samsung Pay
- IP68 certified - dust/water proof over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
Type: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size: 5.7 inches, 89.6 cm2 (~73.6% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels, 16:9 ratio (~386 ppi density)
Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 4
- Always-on display
OS: Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), upgradable to 7.0 (Nougat)
Chipset: Exynos 7880 Octa
CPU: Octa-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A53
Card slot: microSD, up to 256 GB (dedicated slot)
Internal: 32 GB, 3 GB RAM
Primary: 16 MP, f/1.9, 27mm, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
Features: Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
Video: 1080p@30fps, check quality
Secondary: 16 MP, f/1.9, 1080p
Alert types: Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
3.5mm jack: Yes
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth: 4.2, A2DP, EDR, LE
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Radio: FM radio
USB: 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
Sensors: Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging: SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
- Fast battery charging
- ANT+ support
- MP4/WMV/H.265 player
- MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+/FLAC player
- Photo/video editor
- Document viewer
Non-removable Li-Ion 3600 mAh battery
Talk time: Up to 23 h (3G)
Music play: Up to 59 h
Colors: Black Sky, Gold Sand, Blue Mist
SAR: 1.00 W/kg (head) 0.71 W/kg (body)
SAR EU: 0.21 W/kg (head) 1.33 W/kg (body)
Performance: Basemark OS II: 1619 / Basemark OS II 2.0: 497
Basemark X: 14619
Display: Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal), 4.124(sunlight)
Camera: Photo / Video
Loudspeaker: Voice 66dB / Noise 66dB / Ring 81dB
Audio quality: Noise-91.9dB / Crosstalk -90.3dB
Battery life: Endurance rating 115h