The full metal body construction, much better looking design and some good inclusions in the new TouchWiz UI – sums it up for the A series from Samsung, although the pricing has still kept the devices little far from reach for all the users. The Samsung Galaxy A7 is the top-end smartphone with a bigger screen, better cameras and upgrading the internal specs as well, compared to the Galaxy A3 and A5 in the same series. While the A5 has a perfect screen size for a smartphone, the A7 caters to a different set of buyers, who prefer to have large screen devices in the hand, and it could be really good for the previous Galaxy Note series users.
Let’s talk about the highlights: Android 4.4.4 KitKat, Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, 2GB and the 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display. Some good top-notch specs, this seems to be more powerful than even the Galaxy A5 that had the same processor powering the A3. The Galaxy A7 in that context, looks no way affordable, but at the same time, we’re talking about Samsung – the brand that doesn’t go well with the pricing.
Design, Form Factor
As mentioned in the review of Galaxy A3, Samsung finally coming out of its comfort zone is in itself, something worthy of an appreciation. While the A3 looked sleek and slim, the larger display on the A5 makes it look even more sleek and beautiful. But, we’re talking about the A7, easily the slimmest and tallest, not the easiest to hold. Solid in hand, the A7 looks like the one I would prefer over the other phablets in competition, but if the A series is to choose from, I’d have still gone with the Galaxy A5.
More of a personal choice, but the E7 seems easier to hold because of the smooth edges, rather than the A7, as the slimmer body makes it not good to hold for a long time for that large size. The metal frame on the side is the same, rock solid and painted in the same color as the back panel is, so that it adds to the good looks. There are chamfered edges, with the shiny side reflecting the light source.
The device looks mostly like the Galaxy S3, Samsung’s 2012 flagship, especially with the placement of buttons, back speaker, camera and the LED flash. On the front, the Gorilla Glass 4 protection makes it strong enough to resist any scratches, and towards the corner, the glass keeps itself lowered so that there is a clear demarcation with the edge.
The bottom of the Galaxy A7 has the MicroUSB port, headset jack and the primary microphone, while a secondary mic is seen on the top. While Samsung is setting a premium pricing for the device, we see some compromises here. Firstly, the capacity of the non-replaceable battery is just 2600 mAh. Second, the home button can well, do just the Home screen and Google Now functions and it doesn’t have the fingerprint sensor beneath it. We’d have also loved to see an IR blaster for Smart Remote functionality as well.
Other hardware inclusions are the 13-megapixel rear camera, the same one that we see on Galaxy A5, and all the three devices in this series have the same wide-angle lens with 5-megapixel selfie camera above the display. The camera on the back pops out, making it prone to scratching. A set of sensors are located just beside the earpiece, and towards the bottom, there are the two touch sensitive buttons (app switcher, back) on the either side of Samsung-standard physical home button.
The back panel is not removable, and thus, the slots for SIM cards and/or MicroSD card are located on the right frame, on the same side where the power button is seen. The upper one is a slot that can either host a SIM card, or a MicroSD card. So, this technically won’t be a Dual SIM phone if you choose to use a MicroSD card for storage expansion.
The only reason why the phone still feels good in the hand, is its light weight for the big size. For the 5.5-inch screen, Samsung has managed to pack everything within a 6.3mm chassis, and this could be one of the slimmest devices ever from the company, but as the feelings were about the Oppo R5, the large screen phones with slim bodies don’t really give the comfort.
Finally, how easy is it to access the screen with the same hand using which you are holding the Galaxy A7? not really easy, but the TouchWiz UI is well optimized, with the options that were seen in the Galaxy Note 4, for the one-handed operation. Thus, the overall experience is good, else the screen is usually too large for a single hand usage.
The display on Samsung Galaxy A7, as expected, is superb with the 1080p resolution, and Samsung’s mid-to-top range phones come with Super AMOLED displays that are good with color output as well as in keeping the reflectiveness to the least. The Note 4 beside this has a sharper display because of the 1440p resolution, but the difference becomes well noticeable only when the proper content with that resolution is available to watch in it.
The pixel density of about 401 PPI is good enough, as I have used most of the phones with a 2K display, and they don’t really solve any purpose, while eat up more battery than a 1080p display does. The display settings of the Galaxy A7 have a Display mode setting, where there are options like Adaptive display, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo and Basic. There is considerable amount of difference in each, and the Adaptive display is one that might not work in every app, but does it perfectly in Camera, Gallery, Internet, Video and Google Play Books app. It automatically optimizes the color range, saturation, and sharpness of the display.
Just as we talk about display and the battery, there is also a setting for Auto adjust screen tone, which adjusts the display brightness based on the image on the screen, to save power. There are some one-handed features that might help you use the phone in a better way, as it isn’t easy to use the A7 with one hand.
The display of Galaxy A7 does seem to have a bit more blue than what it is naturally, but that is only with the blue on some particular objects. Overall, it is as good as you would want it to be, for a 1080p resolution and the Super AMOLED tech that has always be one putting out beautiful colors on Samsung smartphones.
OS, User Interface
The TouchWiz UI on Android 4.4.4 KitKat in the A7 seems much better than the ones in A3 and A5, as Samsung has given some handy options for easier use with a single hand, and some functions that were missing in the A3, have been added here. This TouchWiz UI is a little different and better than the one in recent mid-range devices, but still, it holds the same look and feel that you get while using a Samsung device.
The new major feature in the A series, is the addition of Themes into the interface. Though it is limited in number, you at least get to do some changes to the way icons and interface looks, which was never possible in TouchWiz UI unless you installed a launcher for the same.
The lock screen shows unread notifications, but they disappear the next time even though you might have not checked them but just unlocked the screen. The A7 also has the search option in Settings, that was missing and was much needed, given there are quite a lot of options deeply placed, and not easy to find directly. After using the Galaxy S6 for a day in between, the TouchWiz on Galaxy A7 seems incomplete. Much of the features given in the S6 are missing here.
Under the Display settings, you see the One-handed operation settings, helping reduce the screen size as a whole, and also having options of one-handed input for typing, and side key panel. Some smart gesture features include Smart alert, Mute/Pause and Palm swipe to capture screenshot.
- Samsung has provided an Easy Mode for those who prefer to stay away from the TouchWiz clutter, and have a simpler and easier to use interface with large icons for apps, and large fonts. The user can also choose which pre-installed apps should show in the Easy Mode, and which shouldn’t.
- Blocking Mode is something that disables notifications for features like incoming calls, alarm and timer, or notifications from apps. The user will be able to set time and allow contacts if there has to be an exception.
- Private Mode is a feature usually seen in the high-end Samsung devices. It is now a part of the Galaxy A7 settings as well, and using this, all the personal content can be hidden and kept secure.
The device also has the Multi window feature, where content can be viewed in split screen view, or have a pop-up view shortcut to have two apps running on the screen at the same time. But, that will be, as always, limited to the apps that support it. The multitasking view shows up as a vertical carousel view, just like the one in Lollipop OS.
The Galaxy A7 is the only one in the series, that comes with a different chipset. It is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, octa-core chipset with 64-bit architecture. You can already assume how good the performance should be. The same chipset powers a few other known devices, i.e. Yu Yureka, Oppo R5, HTC Desire 820 and the Vivo X5 Max. It is known for a very good performance, and that is no different here. The Galaxy A7 performs much better than the A3 and A5.
Played a whole lot of games, including FIFA 15, FIFA 15 UT, Dead Trigger 2, Stick Cricket 2, Asphalt 8 and even GTA Vice City. None of them seemed to be lagging or slowing down any time, but the only issue was with the phone getting heated up in no time. We already expected this, given our experience with the other smartphones with Snapdragon 615, but this one was more than one would feel okay about.
Interestingly, the TouchWiz UI that is always known to be laggy and slow, sometimes freezing due to the over-loaded animations, is much better and rarely getting slowed down, and that is again a credit to the processor in the phone. The 2GB RAM seemed enough almost always, although it was just about 1.2GB available to the user, but multiple apps opened at the same time didn’t affect multitasking.
It is the same combination of cameras that you see on the Galaxy A5 as well – 13MP rear and a 5MP front-facing cameras. And this, easily, is one of the best 13MP cameras in the recent times. Of course, you cannot expect lesser than this for the price you are paying for Galaxy A7, but this is a beautiful camera for every light condition – bright or dark.
There are some obvious compromises, when compared to the top-end phones from Samsung. There is no OIS, and this is not a wide-angle lens on the back, though the 13MP camera sticks out of the back due to the slim design of the phone. The camera app interface is no much different from what you see in the other Samsung smartphones.
The captures are well detailed, sharp and have a perfect temperature. HDR makes it even better and it is a bit faster than the HDR capture on Galaxy A5. Even here, there is very less noise in bright conditions. In low light, the Night mode puts light on the objects, but there is noticeable noise in the entire capture. It sometimes seems more than what you can call a naturally bright picture.
The colors are a little washed out on the front-facing camera captures, though it is good enough for selfies with the beautification making it brighter and the wide-angle selfies bringing in, more faces for a group capture.
The Galaxy A7 unit in India, is a Dual SIM one, but the connectivity is limited to 3G, i.e. WCDMA and there is no LTE capability in this, though the device is powered by a well supporting chipset. And, it isn’t really a Dual SIM device if you plan to use a MicroSD card, as it is the same slot that can hold either a storage card or a SIM card.
This is a Dual standby device, thus you can talk on the phone using one SIM, and receive calls on the other at the same time. The 3G connectivity is excellent, with swift options, as well as being good at data reception. While what are paying for the A7, there is lesser than what you would actually expect from it. No IR blaster, no TV out, and no 802.11ac support for Wi-Fi.
One of the little disappointing factors about the Galaxy A7, is its 2600 mAh battery. Too little could Samsung pack for a 5.5-inch display and the octa-core 64-bit processor, while trying to keep the phone slim and good in the hand. Within the 6.3mm frame, Samsung couldn’t pack in more than what they had in the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5.
The battery seemed to give up almost always when the device heated up, and there was drastic drain seen while the phone is kept aside to even cool down. On the other side, do no much and see the standby to be too good. The battery lasts quite well when listening to music, when browsing the web on Wi-Fi and even sometimes on 3G network, but gaming or keeping the screen active with graphics, it gets quickly drained.
The battery on Galaxy A7 does really well on individual tests and functions, but as an overall unit, I was more of disappointed because the device mostly asked for a charge before the end of the day, when we used it as a daily driver with all social accounts active with sync, and connected to Wi-Fi and 3G based on availability.
Overpriced for what is included in the Galaxy A7, is what comes to the mind first. There are some better alternatives, and if you are okay with a device from last year, the flagship Galaxy S5 is priced almost the same, with a better camera. Though, if you want to have a bold design and are okay with the non-removable battery on the device, then the Galaxy A7 can be worth it.
Well, while we talk about the price point, there are some worthy competitors such as Oppo R5 and Vivo X5 Max, as they sport the same processor, a similar camera configuration and an even better design. But again, Samsung is up to something new, which is quite worth it, except for the heating issues. But hey, the other two slim devices we are talking about, are no different when it comes to heating. If you are strict about Tier-1 brands, you might want to see the Galaxy Alpha as well, and the HTC One M8!