Best Sam­sung Galaxy phone of 2016

If you’re a fan of Sam­sung’s Galaxy phones but aren’t sure which one to get, Marie Brewis looks at your op­tions

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Sam­sung of­fers phones and ph­ablets to suit ev­ery user, from the top end Galaxy Note and S-se­ries to the mid-range A-se­ries, bud­get J-se­ries and plenty more. Things get even more con­fus­ing when you con­sider that old­er­gen­er­a­tion mod­els within these lines are still avail­able, and of­ten they present bet­ter value.

An im­por­tant thing to keep in mind when look­ing for a Sam­sung Galaxy phone is that more so than any other brand they rapidly drop in price fol­low­ing launch. Within three months of their UK re­lease

date you can of­ten find in ex­cess of £100 off their price. This means pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion phones such as the Sam­sung Galaxy S6 (which we’ve in­cluded here de­spite the fact it’s a 2015 phone) can of­fer ex­tra­or­di­nary value in com­par­i­son.

All Sam­sung phones run An­droid (the 2016 mod­els run Marsh­mal­low) with the TouchWiz UI over­laid. You’ll find that the lower down the range you go the fewer ex­tra fea­tures (such as Smart stay, Pop-up View and Multi-Win­dow) are in­cluded, but all run the same Sam­sung, Google and Mi­crosoft apps.

Here we de­tail the best Sam­sung Galaxy phones you can buy in 2016, and rea­son why each might be the best Sam­sung phone for you.

Sam­sung Galaxy Note7

Price: £749 inc VAT

The Galaxy Note7 is the new­est model in Sam­sung’s line-up. Pre-or­ders be­gan on 16 Au­gust, and the phone goes on sale on 2 Septem­ber. At this point it will also be avail­able on con­tract through all the UK’s ma­jor mo­bile op­er­a­tors, which gives the Note7 an in­stant ad­van­tage over its pre­de­ces­sor, the US-only Note 5. If you are in­tend­ing to buy the Note7 out­right, we sug­gest you wait a few months as the price will quickly fall.

The Note7 is a ph­ablet (that is a cross be­tween a smart­phone and a tablet in size) with a large 5.7in screen, so don’t buy it if you have tiny hands. This is an ex­cel­lent dis­play with a crys­tal clear Quad-HD res­o­lu­tion and Sam­sung’s edge fea­ture on both sides. The dual-edge screen is used to dis­play

no­ti­fi­ca­tions and pro­vide short­cuts to your most fre­quently used apps. In com­mon with all the Sam­sung Galaxy phones in this ar­ti­cle the Note7 uses a Su­perAMOLED screen, which of­fers ex­cel­lent con­trast and a highly sat­u­rated ef­fect that pro­duces vi­brant colours. This is pro­tected by the best-in­class Go­rilla Glass 5.

The core hard­ware is the same as what you’ll find in the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge be­low, with an octa Exynos 8890 pro­ces­sor and 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM. We’ve yet to bench­mark the Note7, but we ex­pect per­for­mance to be ev­ery bit as good as we found with the S7.

The Note7 is the first Sam­sung phone to come with a gen­er­ous 64GB of stor­age as stan­dard, and there’s also sup­port for up to 256GB of ad­di­tional stor­age via a mi­croSD card. It’s also the first Sam­sung phone to come with an iris scan­ner for ex­tra se­cure lo­gins, the first to fea­ture a re­versible USB-C port for charg­ing and data trans­fer, and the only one to fea­ture the S Pen sty­lus (with im­proved pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity and func­tional even when the screen is switched off). Both the sty­lus and the phone it­self are wa­ter­re­sis­tant, rated IP68.

For cam­eras the Note7 once again fol­lows the Galaxy S7’s ex­am­ple, with a 12Mp Dual Pixel rear cam­era with f/1.7 aper­ture and a 5Mp selfie cam­era.

Sam­sung Galaxy S7 edge

Price: £639 inc VAT

Prior to the Sam­sung Galaxy Note7 launch the Galaxy S7 edge was the top ph­ablet in Sam­sung’s Galaxy smart­phone fam­ily. It’s a larger ver­sion of the stan­dard Galaxy S7 with a 5.5in QuadHD Su­perAMOLED dis­play that, in com­mon with the Note7, has the edge fea­ture on both sides. The smart­phones look and feel much the same in the hand (the S7 edge is just 12g lighter at 157g), with the same metal frame and glass front and rear de­sign that has now fil­tered all the way down to the A se­ries. No­table dif­fer­ences in­clude the lack of the S Pen and iris scan­ner on the S7 edge, half the amount of stor­age as stan­dard and, of course, the dif­fer­ence in price.

The S7 edge was an­nounced back in Fe­bru­ary, and as such its price has dropped dra­mat­i­cally from its orig­i­nal £639 RRP. You can now pick up the Galaxy S7 edge for just £519. That’s more than £200 lower than the ex­pected price for the Galaxy Note7. How­ever, the stan­dard Galaxy S7 is cheaper still, and for the sake of a slightly higher-ca­pac­ity bat­tery and the larger dual-edge screen you might find it the bet­ter op­tion.

The bat­tery ca­pac­ity is ever so slightly higher in the Galaxy S7 edge than it is on the Note7, with

3600mAh against 3500mAh. Given the slightly smaller screen this could trans­late to longer bat­tery life, but we’ve yet to test this. Both are higher in ca­pac­ity than the 3000mAh bat­tery that comes with the Galaxy S7 be­low. We clocked the Galaxy S7 edge at 685 min­utes in the Geek­bench 3 bat­tery life test, which is sec­ond only to the Sam­sung Galaxy A7 2016.

The Galaxy S7 edge is to date the fastest phone we have ever tested, scor­ing 6,469 points in the multi-core com­po­nent of Geek­bench 3. Graph­ics per­for­mance is in­cred­i­ble, de­spite the fact its large Quad-HD screen hin­ders it some­what in our on­screen GFXBench tests. We recorded 53fps in T-Rex and 27fps in Man­hat­tan.

Sam­sung Galaxy S7

Price: £569 inc VAT

The Galaxy S7 is the flag­ship smart­phone in Sam­sung’s Galaxy fam­ily with a 5.1in Quad-HD Su­perAMOLED screen (with no edge fea­ture). If large phones aren’t for you and money is no ob­ject, this is the Sam­sung Galaxy for you.

That said, now six months old the Galaxy S7 has fallen con­sid­er­ably be­low its £569 RRP. You can buy the Galaxy S7 from SIM-free from £460, which is still £60 cheaper than the SIM-free price of the edge model. But you should also con­sider that the Galaxy S6 (be­low) is still avail­able, and ar­guably of­fers bet­ter value at £359 SIM-free.

That ex­tra £100 spent on the Galaxy S7 over the Galaxy S6 will buy you ex­pand­able stor­age via mi­croSD, waterproofing, an al­ways-on dis­play

(a rather gim­micky fea­ture also seen in the Note7 and Galaxy S7 edge), faster per­for­mance and an en­hanced cam­era - the S6 fea­tures an ex­cel­lent 16Mp cam­era, but don’t let the num­bers fool you as the 12Mp Dual Pixel model on the Galaxy S7 is faster, with larger pix­els and it works bet­ter in low light. When you con­sider that, though im­proved, many of these things were al­ready very good in the S6, the older phone might seem more ap­peal­ing. But if ex­pand­able stor­age and waterproofing are im­por­tant to you then the Galaxy S7 is your only choice.

If the money doesn’t con­cern you, the Galaxy S7 is ab­so­lutely the very best An­droid phone you can buy. As we note in our re­view, Sam­sung has taken into ac­count what its fans want, ad­dress­ing the three main ar­eas of con­cern: re­mov­able stor­age, waterproofing and bat­tery life. It’s also up­graded the core hard­ware and pho­tog­ra­phy gear, added an al­ways-on dis­play and some use­ful soft­ware. Even six months on the Galaxy S7 is sim­ply un­beat­able.

Sam­sung Galaxy S6

Price: £599 (32GB), £660 (64GB)

You might think it strange we’ve in­cluded last year’s Galaxy S6 in our round-up of the best Sam­sung

Galaxy 2016 phones, but we’ve made an ex­cep­tion be­cause at its cur­rent SIM-free price of £359 it of­fers bet­ter value than the Galaxy A se­ries and, ar­guably, the flag­ship Galaxy S7.

As we’ve noted above, key dif­fer­ences be­tween the Galaxy S6 and S7 are a smaller-ca­pac­ity bat­tery (2650mAh), no al­ways-on dis­play, no waterproofing and no ex­pand­able stor­age. Sam­sung has also en­hanced the cam­eras and per­for­mance in the Galaxy S7 – not that it needed to, be­cause the Galaxy S6 is a bril­liant phone and in­cred­i­bly fast.

In Geek­bench 3 the S6 recorded 4438 points, which is some way off the S7’s 6466, but still faster than many 2016 phones. In GFXBench T-Rex and Man­hat­tan it scored 30- and 14fps, which is again lower than the S7’s 53- and 27fps but still good.

In com­mon with the Galaxy S7 it has a 5.1in Quad-HD Su­perAMOLED dis­play, and a gor­geous de­sign with a metal frame and glass front and rear. It’s not as curvy as the newer Galaxy S7, S7 edge and Note7, but it feels good in the hand. The Galaxy S6’s de­sign has this year been in­cor­po­rated into the Galaxy A se­ries, which we ex­pect next year will get the newer de­sign.

The Galaxy S6 was not only the best An­droid phone of 2015, but it was so good that it still beats many 2016 flag­ships. Com­bine that fact with its amaz­ing value at £359, and this could eas­ily be the Sam­sung Galaxy flag­ship for you.

Sam­sung Galaxy A7 2016

Price: £399 inc VAT

If money was no ob­ject the Galaxy A7 would be a fan­tas­tic phone. How­ever, priced at £399 SIMfree, it sim­ply can­not com­pete against the £359 Galaxy S6, which is now 18 months old. It’s also com­par­a­tively dif­fi­cult to get hold of in the UK.

Sam­sung has up­dated its A-se­ries for 2016 to the same de­sign it used for the S6 in 2015. That means you get a pre­mium-look­ing metal frame with Go­rilla Glass 4-pro­tected glass front and rear, but like the S6 it is not wa­ter­proof. These phones aren’t as rounded at the rear as the newer Galaxy S7, S7 edge and Note7, but they look much more ex­pen­sive than their mid-range price tags would sug­gest.

There are three mod­els in the Galaxy A-se­ries: this Galaxy A7, and the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A3 listed be­low. They are dif­fer­en­ti­ated pri­mar­ily by their screen size, core hard­ware, bat­tery ca­pac­ity and price. As you might ex­pect this Galaxy S7 is the largest model with a 5.5in screen and a 3300mAh bat­tery. If you par­tic­u­larly want a ph­ablet then this is one rea­son to buy the A7 over the S6, but note that its screen res­o­lu­tion is a lower 1920x1080 pix­els (Full-HD). It’s still an ex­cel­lent Su­perAMOLED dis­play, but it’s not Quad-HD. The A7 also of­fers in­cred­i­ble bat­tery life (we clocked it at 709 min­utes in Geek­bench 3, which is much higher than the S6’s 413 min­utes), and has the added bonus of re­mov­able stor­age via mi­croSD.

The core hard­ware is much lower than that which you find in the Galaxy S6, though, with a 1.6GHz

Exynos 7850 octa-core chip, 3GB of RAM and a Mali-T720 MP2 GPU. In Geek­bench 3 we recorded a mul­ti­core score of 3718 points, while in GFXBench its 14fps in T-Rex and 5fps in Man­hat­tan are much lower than what the Galaxy S6 is ca­pa­ble of. That said, this is a mid-range phone, and its per­for­mance is plenty good enough for day to day tasks and ca­sual gam­ing.

Cam­eras aren’t as good as they are in the Galaxy S6, but they’re de­cent for a mid-range phone with a 13Mp f/1.9 cam­era with sin­gle-LED flash at the rear and a 5Mp, f/1.9 selfie cam­era at the front.

Go­ing against the Galaxy A7 is its lower 16GB of in­ter­nal stor­age, but it has an ace up its sleeve with Dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity and that afore­men­tioned mi­croSD slot. In com­mon with the S-se­ries and Note smart­phones there is a finger­print scan­ner, but it doesn’t fea­ture their heart-rate scan­ners or the Note7’s iris scan­ner.

Sam­sung Galaxy A5 2016

Price: £319 inc VAT

If the large 5.5in screen and Dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity of the Galaxy A7 isn’t of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to you, we’d ar­gue that the Galaxy A5 of­fers by far the bet­ter deal. It’s eas­ier to get hold of in the UK, so you can pick it up from SIM-free for just £209.99,

and it has much the same core hard­ware and the same de­sign as the more ex­pen­sive Galaxy A7.

The screen is still a gen­er­ous size at 5.2in (that’s a lit­tle larger than the dis­play on the Galaxy S7), without the phone be­ing un­wieldy, and this Su­perAMOLED panel is Full-HD in res­o­lu­tion. As with the Galaxy A7 there’s a finger­print scan­ner built into the home but­ton, and cam­eras are also match­ing, at 13Mp and 5Mp.

Bat­tery life from the 2900mAh pack is re­mark­able, and we clocked the Galaxy A5 at 706 min­utes in Geek­bench 3. That’s just three min­utes fewer than the Galaxy A7, and its per­for­mance in our other bench­marks was sim­i­larly matched thanks to an iden­ti­cal Exynos 7850 pro­ces­sor in­side (there is 2- rather than 3GB of RAM, how­ever). We recorded 3688 points in Geek­bench 3 and in GFXBench saw 14fps in T-Rex and 5fps in Man­hat­tan. There’s only 16GB of in­ter­nal stor­age, but in com­mon with its big­ger brother you can add up to 128GB via mi­croSD, mak­ing this an ex­cel­lent mid-range An­droid.

Sam­sung Galaxy A3 2016

Price: £269 inc VAT

The Galaxy A3 is the en­try model in the Galaxy A se­ries. It looks just like the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy

A7, but it’s cheaper (£175.95 SIM-free), with a lower-ca­pac­ity bat­tery, a smaller (4.2in), low­er­res­o­lu­tion HD screen, less pow­er­ful hard­ware and no finger­print scan­ner. Cam­eras are the same, though, at 13Mp and 5Mp, and the 16GB Galaxy A3 also sup­ports re­mov­able stor­age up to 128GB.

In our per­for­mance bench­marks the Galaxy A3 recorded 2156 points in Geek­bench 3 from its 1.5GHz Exynos 7578 quad-core pro­ces­sor and 1.5GB of RAM. Its smaller, lower-res­o­lu­tion screen proved to be an ad­van­tage in GFXBench, where it recorded 20fps in T-Rex and 8fps in Man­hat­tan. Bat­tery life from its 2300mAh pack isn’t as good as that of the other A-se­ries phones, though, and we recorded 444 min­utes in Geek­bench 3. In re­al­life us­age the Sam­sung Galaxy A3 will ca­pa­bly han­dle many of the jobs you throw at it, but try not to throw too many things at it at once.

Though the screen is just 4.2in and only HD in res­o­lu­tion, it’s still a great Su­perAMOLED screen. And for some users its size will be at­trac­tive: this is the best com­pact Galaxy phone you can buy.

Sam­sung Galaxy J3

Price: £150 inc VAT

Sam­sung’s J-se­ries is the bud­get line in its Galaxy range. We’ve re­viewed the mid­dle Galaxy J3 model,

but there are also Galaxy J1 and Galaxy J5 ver­sions. Both J3 and J5 are HD smart­phones, while the J1 sup­ports a 480-x800-pixel res­o­lu­tion. As you might ex­pect they are dif­fer­en­ti­ated by their screen size, core hard­ware, bat­tery ca­pac­ity and price.

The Galaxy J3 is a fairly de­cent bud­get phone at £132.98 SIM-free, if po­ten­tially a lit­tle over­priced and some­what un­der­pow­ered. It dif­fers from the other phones in this round-up with its plas­tic build and lack of a finger­print scan­ner built into the home but­ton. How­ever, it’s a good all-rounder with a 5in HD screen, a 3000mAh re­mov­able bat­tery and up to 128GB of ad­di­tional stor­age via mi­croSD (you get 8GB as stan­dard).

The J3 failed to im­press in our bench­marks with 1303 points in Geek­bench 3, and 8fps in GFXBench T-Rex (it didn’t com­plete Man­hat­tan). That said, it is up to speed for watch­ing HD videos and the odd spot of ca­sual gam­ing.

Pho­tog­ra­phy is catered for with an 8Mp cam­era at the rear and a 5Mp selfie cam­era at the front. It’s noth­ing spec­tac­u­lar, and will not re­place a proper dig­i­tal cam­era, but it’s handy to have about you.

One thing to note is that this J3 runs An­droid Lol­lipop out of the box.

The Sam­sung Galaxy J3 is a no-frills phone that will suit many users needs, but it’s not quite cheap enough for our lik­ing. At £132 it is un­der­pow­ered and un­der-fea­tured, though we like the mi­croSD sup­port and re­mov­able bat­tery.

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