Samsung, a very well known brand among the elite Android smartphone users in India recently introduced the latest version of its A Series (A7 and A5) handsets in the country. Announced at it’s annually Forum Meet, which was hosted in Kuala Lumpur this year, the premium mid-range series has been given an overhaul. It is said to be a promising upgrade from the last year’s Galaxy A7 smartphone, which lacked in battery capacity and RAM support. But this time, the company has done more just improve a few specifications, they’ve changed its design, for good or worse, it’s completely changed and resembles the premium flagship devices from the company. For the past couple of days we have been using the Galaxy A7 2016 as our daily driver, but before we talk about it in details, let’s go through what Samsung has been up to since last year as MWC timeline for this year closes in.
Apart from launching its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ later at IFA in Berlin last year, the brand has been quite active in a mid and affordable range of handsets. There was a Galaxy A8, which was considered as a toned down version of the Note 5, more or less. While in the affordable range, the company introduced its new series, Galaxy On5 and On7, which we have reviewed in detailed. They’re practically the best affordable Samsung devices available on the market right now. Moving on, let’s talk about the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) below in full detail to find out whether it’s a great upgrade or not.
From any average metal built device to a full-fledged metal device, the construction on the A7 handset has been changed up a lot. With a unibody design, it sports 2.5D curved glass on front as well as backside of the device, the edges have been left uncovered, although, they does an offer solid shiny look. The device flaunts its color quotient, in this case its golden, and it’s nothing less than a dazzling piece of design. What Samsung might have been trying to achieve here with Galaxy A7 is to offer premium looking handsets for what they think is the mid-range, Rs 30K. Well, the industry has grown up a lot since last year and we have been seeing handsets offering superior quality in the sub 20K category. There’s no doubt that Samsung provides one of the top quality products in industry, but it’s still too much to ask for such pricing. Moving on with the talk of design, the device is quite sturdy and has a protection of Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which is the toughest glass on the market right now. We tried scratching the surface on back and front, but it just wasn’t ready to show up any marks or scratches. Moreover, for what it is worth, the glass metal design on this handset isn’t as slippery and fingerprint prone, when compared with Samsung’s premium handsets like S6 and Note 5. They are fingerprint-prone; we have had our fair share of that experience.
Talking about the ports placements, the top edge houses a nano SIM slot, which needs to be taken out with SIM ejector pin and along with that there is a primary microphone present on that edge. The bottom edge houses audio jack, microUSB 2.0 port, loudspeaker and a second microphone, it’s the same arrangement present on the premium handsets of the device. While the right edge houses a power button and another hidden slot for a SIM card and a microSD card. The left edge has the volume rocker keys, which is the usual setup of the Samsung device and I’m not very happy with that, it’s not just ideal to put volume rocker keys on the left edge. The device maybe still compact for its 5.5-inch display, thanks the to bezel-less screen and curved edges, it isn’t an excuse to not learn from user’s feedback. I have pointed out this every time I review a Samsung handset, which just goes in vain. Not being melodramatic, well just a little. Hope they’ll listen this time. Again, it’s a personal choice, you might be happy with this setup, but I’m not.
On the front top, the device has an earpiece, camera module and a Samsung logo branding, what’s missing from the set of sensors is the LED notification light, without it, it’s hard to understand if the device is fully charged or still charging , when kept plugged in for charging. There is one more instance where LED notification light helps, the notifications! If there would have been such feature, assigning the colors would help to understand the priority of the notification. But hey, don’t listen to a user’s feedback. The front bottom has the iconic physical home buttons, which also houses the fingerprint sensor, alongside are the back and recent menu buttons, and thankfully they’re backlit. Coming to the rear side, the device houses a bumpy camera module alongside is the LED Flash; both of the modules seem to be covered with glass protection, as the whole rear side does. The Samsung Logo branding is visible on the center, as you move to bottom part, you’ll notice the Made in India declaration, along with other information. Yes, Samsung has started to manufacturer handsets in India under the “Make in India” campaign being promoted by the Narendra Modi government. Gone are the days that we would used to see Made in China handset, for some users it won’t make a big change, but for few it can be a big impact on the attitude. Overall, the device feels like a big upgrade in terms of the design aesthetics, as flaunts scratchproof glass metal body. And it can’t get more solid quality than this, even if you compared the handsets priced around it.
With a display of 5.5-inch, it is quite an ideal screen size for these days, as it has become a trend among the media buffs, craving for large real estate on their smartphones. It comes with a Super AMOLED technology and boasts a full HD (1080p) resolution, so you get around 400 PPI (Pixel Per Inch), which is quite good when compared with other handsets in this similar range. Sporting a bezel-less look, the 1080p display allows a good viewing experience for the user, and if you’re watching it in dark, it would be something unforgettable experience; it’s like sitting in a mini theater. The screen has a high brightness level, we are not provided with an exact number of nits it can deliver, but it certainly felt up to the standard of Note 5, except the 2K resolution.
I have always been a fan of Super AMOLED displays over LCDs, as they offer superior quality, such as better color outputs, white balance and saturation levels. Meanwhile, it is also said Black and White colors look more real on an AMOLED screen. So, for obvious reasons, we are satisfied with the quality of the display. Now talking about the viewing angles experience, as far as we had the pleasure of watching high quality content on this handset, we are quite happy with viewing angles as well. The display is also a good performer when it comes to sunlight legibility, meaning it is capable to showcase content despite heavy sun rays falling down on it on a bright and sunny day. The display isn’t as fingerprint prone as we thought, since it sports the similar construction as the Galaxy Note 5, so if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about any fingerprint marks. Overall, the large real estate on this thing is the perfect example of quality features a display can offer. I can easily say it’s one of the best 1080p displays I have encountered since past couple of years.
Samsung likes to be consistent, and its Touch Wiz UI is one of those examples they have set since it was first introduced. The interface on this handset is based on the Android Lollipop 5.1.1, which is the latest version of the Lollipop. If you’re not familiar with the interface on the Samsung devices, we will walk you through it. Once you unlock the device, it will welcome you to a home screen, where you’ll find some apps like eMail, Camera, Gallery, Play Store and Google apps on the home screen. There would be an icon called Apps, tapping on that would lead you to open the app drawer. The app drawer can be arranged in alphabetical order in one tap, or you could change them according to your need, once you tap on the edit option. You can directly uninstall apps from the app drawer when in editing mode. It’s the fastest way to get rid of unnecessary apps.
Talking about the pre-installed apps on this handset, it comes with a lot of apps and you might have heard that Samsung installs a ton of bloatware on their handset. Well, it isn’t completely true, I mean there are quite a lot of apps installed by the brand, but these days they have kept it to a limit and the offers only couple of apps that would be resourceful to its consumers. Though, you would find some third party apps which company have partnered up with such as Microsoft Apps including MS Office apps, OneDrive and Skype. Other third party apps include MixRadio, a popular music streaming service, and OperaMax, a mobile data saving service. Samsung apps that would be useful to you are Smart Manager, S Health, S Planner, My Galaxy and tools like File Manager, Memo and Voice Recorder. With so many useful apps, it might get confusing at first, but you’ll get used to after some time. Now if you’re worried that these apps might have taken a lot of space, well you needn’t worry. The device comes with 16GB of internal storage out of which around 10GB was available to user, 5GB used by system and 1GB used by pre-installed apps. Moreover, you get a microSD card slot and support of USB OTG drive. There is a separate USB backup app on the device, which would allow it to create and then restore backup from the USB attached to the device. Quite convenient, right!
The Touch Wiz UI is a kickass interface when it comes to multitasking, with a support of 3GB of RAM the system can surely offer its support for heavy lifting. Switching between apps is quite easy, just tap on the recent menu button and you’ll see all the apps running in the background. The interface also allows you to change the appearance using the themes. Just hold and tap on the home screen and you’ll see Themes button, tapping on it would lead you to a dedicated theme store. There you can find custom themes for your Galaxy A Series handset; they’re exclusively designed for the newly launched A Series. What’s interesting is that you can choose it by color category or by topics. Overall, the UI experience on this handset is pretty neat, and we haven’t had any unfortunate crashes.
Hardware & Performance
Under the hood is an Octa-core processor powering the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) smartphone, which is claimed to be quite a powerful processor by the brand. Honestly, we were expecting a Snapdragon 616 chipset as it was launched in China with that SoC, but unfortunately, it wasn’t what we expected. Moreover, apart from mentioning the clocking speed, which is at 1.6GHz, the company hasn’t specified correctly that which processor is it. We were only able to find out some specifics like it’s an ARMv7 processor with VFPv4 Neon. What it means is that it is likely an Exynos chipset, but the correct model number is hard to guess. Let’s wait on that by the time company respond to our query. Supporting the chipset is the Mali-T720 graphics processing unit, which claims to offer great support for graphic intense games.
Well as a matter of fact we played a lot of games on this device to understand its behavior about gaming. We played games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2 and Dead Trigger 2; these are some of the graphic intense games, which one should be able to play on a mid-range handset. Playing these three games we realized that it’s decently powerful device, but once you turned up the gaming to the highest quality, it started to show little lags. It wasn’t a bad experience, but rather a decent one, I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but it wasn’t completely fulfilling either. Talking about the heating, it wasn’t a big of an issue, but the device did heat up a lot while playing games for more than just couple few minutes. It may not be the Snapdragon 616, but heating issue prevailing on this handset means, the processor on this handset is not power efficient. The same case was with the previous generation A7 smartphone, which had Snapdragon 615 under the hood. What do you make of it? Well, the company failed to offer a smartphone with no heating issue.
Moving on to the benchmarking tools, we ran two popular benchmarking apps on this handset to just know the potential, and we weren’t surprised to see the scores. The two apps are Antutu and Vellamo. First we tested with Antutu app, which yielded a score of 40888, which doesn’t scream “Passed with Flying Colors,” instead, it felt more like a MediaTek processor. The score can be broken down into four points, 3D, UX, CPU, and RAM. While talking about the Vellamo app, the scores are pretty much fine, as here it is measured in three aspects; Multicore, Metal, and Browser, Scores are 1626, 1123 and 2974, respectively.
We were first quite happy with the decision Samsung took to include a fingerprint sensor on their new handset, Galaxy A7 (2016). But after using it for quite a while now, we realized that it isn’t as fast as it’s on other Samsung devices, such as Galaxy Note 5, S6, and other premium flagships while it was quicker even on the Galaxy A8. We even added up to five fingerprints, one for each finger and a thumb. But despite successfully adding fingerprints, it was quite slow; maybe the company has used a different biometric sensor here, not the usual one.
We have always had faith in camera modules installed on the Samsung devices, may it be premium, mid or budget range handsets, company somehow try to manage the expectation according to segment and deliver it perfectly, well most of the times at least in premium flagship cases. This time, around it has managed to introduce a camera module which might be one of the best 13-megapixel camera sensors out in the market right now. Overlook our enthusiasm if we look too much excited for these cameras, because we have literally fallen in love with it. I don’t usually praise a 13MP module; much less get excited a lot. But after spending quite a time with this handset, I’m pretty much sold on the thought that it is one of the best camera modules Samsung has put in their premium mid-range of the handset. Well, there is an exception here, Samsung Galaxy A8, priced similarly, sports a 16MP resolution camera that is said to be same module company put in the Galaxy Note 5. Before we talk about the camera outputs, let’s walk you through the features of the camera module.
The camera sensor features an f/1.9 aperture number, which is considered quite good as it allows absorption of a large amount of light passing through module and object, so that the output would have more details when the light is low. What it says about module is that it can shoot good captures in low light conditions, thanks to the large aperture number. Note that lower is the f-number, larger it is considered. Company doesn’t claim that it uses a PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) or not, as it feel quite quick in detecting object and automatically focusing on it. As well as it can snap quick shots, not to mention it has a continuous mode, which is like burst mode allowing to capture as may photos, if you’re holding onto the shutter button. Lately, we didn’t had good experience with camera modules sporting the PDAF technology, Lenovo Vibe K4 Note and Moto X Force is the example of that, although later still manages some good shots after practice, but camera on the Lenovo handset is just not useful in any sense. See for yourself in our detailed review, where we have shared our experience with camera as well.
Moving on to camera interface, the Touch Wiz UI hasn’t changed much in terms of look, but it has surely improved in terms of neatness and offering buttery user experience. Such is the case with camera UI on the Samsung device here, as it a sports similar interface that can be seen on other Samsung devices, such as premium flagships. The modes that we are fond of includes HDR (Rich Tone), Night and Pro Mode. The HDR tones down the resolution to 8MP for rear camera while the Night mode allows you to keep it at 13MP only; both the captures are in 4:3 ratio. The focusing seems to be pretty quick, white balance is nice as well, moreover, the color reproduction looks pretty real in the rear module captures. We took it for spin in all three conditions, natural light, artificial light and low light, in all circumstances; it has the right set of tools to help capture best possible shots.
Now about whether or not the rear module is a good for video recording, well, as far as the 1080p standard goes, it does the commendable job, but we do miss the 4K video recording. The most interesting thing is the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which not only helps in capturing better pictures, but is particularly useful in videography. If you like to shoot a lot of movies or, you’re someone who does Vlogging (Video Blogging), and then this might be a suitable camera module for you. Or if you are active on Snapchat, Vine or Instagram, then video output on this camera is pretty nice for you. But let me warn you about the noise, when you zoom in at full, which is 4X Zoom. The front facing camera is quite good as well; it sports 5-megapixel image resolution with a claimed 120 degree wide angle lens support. It supports palm gesture to take selfie, and is nice for capturing even in low light conditions. But do remember that there will be a lot of noise if it’s too dark, while the selfie would be finds if you have taken it in front of light, but not facing it backwards. It should totally click a nice selfie at a dinner table and most definitely would fit a lot of members. Overall, these are the great camera modules that company provides on this handset. We are very much satisfied with the output and ease of use.
The battery life on this handset compared with last year’s iterations is pretty much a massive upgrade, not just regarding the capacity but performance as well. The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) comes with a 3300mAh capacity battery, which is even larger than Galaxy Note 5, which has a 3000mAh battery, whereas it’s around 700mAh bigger than the previous generation A7 handset. Coming to the point, we have been testing this handset for quite a while now, and our conclusion is that it has an amazing battery life.
We got around Seven hours of Screen-On-Time (SOT) on the regular basis while we were using the device for more than just average times. We played games for a couple of around 45 minutes, 67 minutes of YouTube viewing and add couple more minutes of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter apps. I would say its pretty good amount of usage and despite that getting more than seven hours of SOT is just downright awesome. It has been impossible to get such battery life on almost every device Samsung has launched in the past years. The standby time on this handset was great as well with only 2-3% drop in the idle time of around 7-8 hours. On the bright side, it has a fast charging feature, so you don’t have to keep waiting to get it fully charged from zero.
Regarding the connectivity features, Samsung usual offers pretty decent options, and such is the case with Galaxy A7 (2016) smartphone. You get 4G LTE network supports, dual SIM slot, where both SIM support should be a nano SIM while there is a slot for a microSD card as well to expand storage space. We tested the mobile data and call quality for the 4G LTE network connection and were pretty much satisfied with the experience. It is on par with other handsets in the same range, mobile data speed is incredibly fast and calls quality is quite good, you could hear what other person is saying. We are just hoping to see a VoLTE support on a Samsung device as India gets ready for the VoLTE technology by this year end. Another interesting set of features includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS and micoUSB port.
To answer the question; Is Samsung Galaxy A7 2016 is an overpriced device for its specifications, well in summary it is quite true and we can’t deny that there are various choices users going opt for around Rs 30K pricing. What’s interesting is that for Rs 33,999 you could get Samsung Galaxy S6. It looks like Samsung didn’t think much before pricing the Galaxy A7 (2016), as there is clearly a conflict of interest happening between their two devices. Though, if you want to get convinced about getting the new A Series handset, well, the battery life on A7 is far better than on S6. I would recommend you to buy this handset only if you’re not worrying about the performance, as it’s not the power horse you might expect it to be. Other alternative options in this price range is the recently launched LeEco Le Max, which is a large sized phablet with powerful processor, display and great build quality. The Choice is yours, choose wisely.