Sam­sung Galaxy A7

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Android Advisor - - Contents -

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.

De­sign

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.

Per­for­mance

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

only slightly bet­ter than the A5, but sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the S6. It was the same story with the JetStream JavaScript bench­mark, GFXBench graph­ics tests and even Geek­bench 3 bat­tery life. Let’s not do down that last point, though: with 11 hours 49 min­utes the Sam­sung Galaxy A7 2016 sits at the top of the smart­phone pile for run­time. We have not tested a phone that has man­aged to last longer in this bench­mark. Pleas­ingly the Galaxy A7 also sup­ports Sam­sung’s Adap­tive Fast Charg­ing technology, but un­like the Galaxy S6 there’s no wire­less charg­ing.

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.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

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.

Cam­eras

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.

Soft­ware

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.

Ver­dict

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

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

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

Geek­bench 3

GFXBench Man­hat­tan

GFXBench T-Rex

Auto set­tings

HDR

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