Samsung Galaxy A7
£199 inc VAT samsung.com/uk
The A-series is Samsung’s mid-range smartphone line-up. Refreshed for 2016 it includes the Galaxy A3, A5 and A7, which are differentiated by their screen size, core hardware and battery capacity. We’ve always been slightly troubled by Samsung’s Galaxy A-series. Not because they aren’t great phones, but because they aren’t as good as the previous-generation
S-series flagships and yet as brand-new phones they cost more. Here we look at the A7.
Samsung couldn’t have done a better job in updating its A series for 2016, at least in terms of design since not a lot else has changed. Gone is that cheap-looking plastic and in its place is a premium design with a metal frame and glass front and rear to match its S series. More specifically, it’s a match for its 2015 flagship, the Galaxy S6, which helps to differentiate it from the curvier 2016 Galaxy S7.
It’s not unwieldy, but the Galaxy A7 is the largest model in the A series, and slightly bigger than the Galaxy S6 with a 5.5in screen. As was the case with its predecessor, there’s a Full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels that is crystal clear but also lower than the S6’s Quad-HD. It’s the same resolution as is seen on the 5.2in A5, but stretched over a larger area the pixel density is reduced (but not enough for you to notice the difference).
In common with the Galaxy S6 this is a SuperAMOLED panel, which is our favourite kind of screen tech. It produces vivid, saturated colours and deep contrast, while delivering ample brightness and infallible viewing angles. Super AMOLED is also a good friend to long runtime, and the Galaxy A7 gave a better performance in our Geekbench 3 battery life test than any phone we’ve tested.
At 5.5in, the screen is an ideal size for viewing media and playing games, yet the phone itself isn’t a great deal larger than the screen. There are
very slim bezels to the left and right edges, but a bit more space up top and down below due to the physical home button (now with fingerprint scanner built in), speaker, front camera and sensors.
Like the S6 a SIM slot sits below the power button on the phone’s right side. It’s joined by a microSD slot – one big advantage over its S-series rival – while a second SIM slot sits at the top of the device in the same place as the Galaxy S7’s. We’re not entirely sure why the two SIM slots had to be separated, but it works.
The new Galaxy A7 for 2016 is a bit chunkier than its predecessor, at 7.3mm against 6.3mm, but it also packs in a higher-capacity (but non-removable) battery, now up to 3300mAh from 2600mAh. As we noted earlier battery life is outstanding, so this really isn’t something we can grumble about.
The primary camera juts out every so slightly at the rear, but not enough to cause the phone to wobble uncontrollably when used on a desk or other flat surface. We’re pleased to find that the single speaker is located at the bottom rather than the back, and also that despite all that glass the Galaxy A7 still feels reasonably tough thanks to its Gorilla Glass 4 protective armour.
The Galaxy A7 is capable, but we’re not convinced performance is good enough for Samsung to justify a circa-£400 price tag. If you want the fastest phone you really need to turn to Samsung’s Galaxy S series.
With its 1.6GHz Exynos 7850 octa-core chip, 3GB of RAM (up from 2GB and an extra gig over
the Galaxy A5) and Mali-T720 MP2 GPU the Galaxy A7 is up to casual gaming, video streaming and everyday smartphone tasks.
You would expect the A7 to be the fastest phone in the A series – and it is, but surprisingly only just. As with the screen’s clarity, you really will not be able to tell the difference.
In Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu general processing performance benchmarks the A7 performed
In our charts you can see how the Galaxy A7 performed in comparison to the A3, A5, S6 and S7.
Storage is still stuck at 16GB internal, which isn’t anything to shout about at around £400. However, we appreciate the ability to add a 128GB microSD card to bolster the internal storage capacity, plus the fact Samsung – unlike so many other phone makers – doesn’t force you to decide between microSD and a second SIM.
One of the best things about the Galaxy A7, aside from its design, is its Dual-SIM functionality. This is almost unheard of with UK phones, but there’s no reason why us Brits are any less likely to want to separate calls for work and leisure or take advantage of cheaper local plans when abroad. For many people who won’t want to take their chances with a Chinese Dual-SIM phone, the Galaxy A7 will be attractive. (Note that a Single-SIM version of the A7 is also available.)
The A7 has a fingerprint scanner built into the home button, and this is quick to recognise input. You’ll also find standard connectivity features including dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS and GLONASS. You won’t find the Galaxy S6’s extra features such as a heart-rate scanner here, but we don’t suppose its loss would put off too many customers.
The Samsung Galaxy A7 is fitted with the same cameras as the Galaxy A5, which means there’s a 13Mp, f/1.9 camera with a single-LED flash at the rear, and a 5Mp, f/1.9 selfie camera at the front. As it did when it upgraded the Galaxy S5 to the S6, Samsung has added optical image stabilisation. Everything else is the same.
Unsurprisingly, we found the same photography performance as we did from the Galaxy A5: the camera isn’t as good as the 16Mp model found in the Galaxy S6, but it does capture a fair amount of detail, with accurate exposure and the lens is sharp right to the corners.
The camera app features various modes including HDR, Pro, Continuous Shot and Panorama, or you can shoot Full-HD video at 30fps Check out our test shots of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel above.
As we prepare for the launch of Android Nougat, it’s disappointing to find the now two-year-old Android Lollipop 5.1.1 operating system preinstalled on the Galaxy A7. We hope it will be updated to Android Marshmallow, which can now be found on its flagship S series, although we wouldn’t necessarily hold out for a future upgrade to Nougat.
The TouchWiz UI is overlaid, but with few of the features found further up the range. For example,
there’s no Smart Stay, no Pop-up view and no Multi-View Window, nor the new screenshot functionalities seen in the S6 and S7. You might like the Galaxy A7’s dumbed-down Easy mode for novice users, and Smart alert, Easy mute and Palm swipe to capture gestures.
TouchWiz differs from standard Android most noticeably in the drop-down notification bar, with a row of circular quick-access toggles and shortcuts to S Finder and Quick connect, the layout of the Settings menu, and the extra apps installed by Samsung. And there are rather a lot of these, from Samsung’s own apps for browsing the web and playing media to Microsoft apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and the likes of S Health and the Galaxy Apps store. Of that 16GB
of internal storage you can expect to have around 9GB available to you.
The new Galaxy A7 for 2016 is a great-looking upgrade over its predecessor, with outstanding battery life and some welcome tweaks, but there is no escaping the fact it is overpriced at £399. That’s even more apparent when you consider the betterspecified, more fully featured and much faster Galaxy S6 is available for £40 less. Marie Brewis
5.5in Full-HD (1920x1080) SuperAMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 4 Android 5.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz 1.6GHz Exynos 7850 64-bit octa-core processor 3GB RAM Mali-T720 MP2 GPU 16GB storage MicroSD support up to 128GB 4G LTE Cat 6 Dual-SIM dual-standby Fingerprint scanner Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4.1 GPS, GLONASS NFC 13Mp, f/1.9 rear camera with single-LED flash and OIS, Full-HD video at 30fps, 5Mp front camera 3300mAh non-removable battery with Adaptive Fast Charging 151.5x74.1x7.3mm 172g