Samsung has just given the Galaxy A7 a comprehensive makeover, with a stunning new design and better specifications. The 2017 A7 is quite a massive jump when compared to its predecessor and comes with a feature new to Samsung's A series line-up - IP68 dust and water resistance.Can the new Galaxy A7 lay down the gauntlet and challenge the formidable competition? Does it do enough to justify the Rs 32,999 price tag? Let's find out.
One of the features that make the new Galaxy A series stand out from the competition is its IP68 dust and water resistance rating. An IP68 rating means that the device is protected against dust ingress as well as water ingress to a maximum depth of 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. You don’t have to worry about spilling coffee on this phone and you can even use it to take underwater photos as long as you’re mindful of the limits.
Samsung’s Galaxy A series pushes the envelope on design as it boasts a robust metal and glass build that’s similar to flagship handsets like the Galaxy S7. The Galaxy A7 (2017)’s metal frame feels really nice and the slight curve on the 3D glass back makes it very comfortable to hold the device despite its 5.7-inch display and 156.8 x 77.6 x 7.9 mm dimensions.
The Galaxy A7 (2016) had a 5.5-inch display while its successor bumps it up a notch to a 5.7-inch display; it is also slightly heavier at 186 grams compared to 172 grams. Make no mistake, this is a big phone and it does have a notable heft, but that doesn’t make it hard to live with on a daily basis. However, since the bezels are very slim, the front of the device basically looks like one big chunk of glass. The slightly curved back does wonders for the grip, but given the amount of glass this phone has, you won’t need any extra effort to drop it and shatter the glass. Yes, you may have concerns about the device scratching easily but that’s to be expected on a phone with a metal and glass build.
The color we chose for this review is called Black Sky and it does justice to the name. It’s a really nice, rich black color that will fade away when you’re using the phone in bed late at night with the lights turned off. You’re basically left with a big display and that makes it a treat to watch YouTube when you can’t go to sleep.
The display is one of the strong points of Samsung's 2017 mid-range flagship. While the resolution is limited to 1080p, the 5.7-display comes with excellent contrast, vibrant colors and deep and inky blacks thanks to it being an AMOLED panel.
The Galaxy A7 does offer a few display modes through which the display can be configured to look a little more realistic. Fans of neutral and realistic displays should best stick to IPS LCD panels though.
The A7 also comes with Samsung's trademark Always-on Display which can be configured to display the time, notifications, battery percentage and so on. Whilst a very useful feature, it does reduce the battery life a little bit.
We told you in our Galaxy A7 (2016) review that the handset’s camera left a lot to be desired. Samsung seems to have paid attention as the successor touts significantly improved cameras. It has a 16-megapixel f/1.9 camera with LED flash on the back and a 16-megapixel f/1.9 camera on the front. If you’re looking to upgrade from last year’s Galaxy A7, the new handset’s camera performance is going to be a pleasant surprise. The rear camera can shoot at 4:3 aspect ratio on full resolution while 16:9 is available at the 12-megapixel setting. It’s the same story with the front camera.
The camera performance is very respectable in daylight and you’ll find that the pictures have good color reproduction and detail. Pictures taken indoors with nice lighting come out just fine but I found that the camera leaves the user wanting for more when taking pictures in low-light conditions. They just don’t have the sharpness or detail so the quality isn’t something to write home about. Samsung has addressed some pain points that we highlighted in its predecessor: focusing is much faster, and color reproduction has been improved as well. Aside from Auto, the camera provides a Pro mode with advanced settings, Panorama, Hyperlapse, HDR, Night, and Food modes by default.
Selfie lovers will find the 16-megapixel front camera more than capable of indulging their daily dose of vanity, with pictures that offer noticeably more detail than the lower-resolution front cameras on other Samsung devices. The device is capable of recording Full HD video and the result is what you’d expect from a device of this caliber.
The fact that the Galaxy A7 looks similar to the flagship Galaxy S7 does not mean that it is in any way a poor man's alternative to the Galaxy S7. Considering the price bracket the A7 has been positioned in, the smartphone is more than capable.
The Galaxy A7 is a surprisingly well rounded package from Samsung. It features IP68 dust and water resistance, micro-SD card support, 32GB of internal storage and a substantial 3,600mAh battery. Samsung's trademark suite of Made for India features - S Bike mode, Ultra data saving and S Power Planning are also thrown in for good measure.
The smartphone disappoints a little when it comes to pure performance though. The Galaxy A7 comes with 3GB of RAM and Samsung's own mid-range Exynos 7880 SoC. This combination, while not bad just cannot compare (on specifications alone) with the whopping 6GB of RAM and the high-end Snapdragon 821 found on the OnePlus 3T - the A7's primary competitor.
While the A7 can handle day to day tasks like web browsing and using social media applications with aplomb, the weak processor and lack of RAM does rear its ugly head when playing heavy duty games such as Modern Combat 5 and when pushing the phone a little. Open a ton of tabs in chrome, have a few games and apps running in the background and the smartphone will slow down.
This is not a deal breaker by any means. The smartphone will give you little trouble in day to day use and when playing casual games. Even intensive games are extremely playable if you don't do crazy multi-tasking at the same time.
But for those people who value power over anything else and don't ever want their devices to leave them waiting, the Galaxy A7 might disappoint a little.
The Galaxy A7 (2017) comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box. Unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t have the same old TouchWiz. It features the Grace UX instead that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Note 7 last year. The result is a much simpler and cleaner user interface that feels intuitive and swift. The Grace UX has softer colors and rounded icons so that it’s easier on the eyes. The notification shade gets a splash of white, making it it feel lighter than before. The toggle icons in the shade still light up in the blue “active” color when features like Wi-Fi or NFC are toggled on and off. You’ll also find that the animations are a lot smoother.
Overall, it’s a great user interface that complements this handset well. Software features that are included in the Galaxy A7 (2017) by default include the Secure Folder, S Bike Mode, Device maintenance, Blue light filter, and more. Support for themes makes a return, with thousands of third-party themes available in the Theme Store (you can take a look at our Themes Thursday series to find the best themes each week).
The Galaxy A7 comes with a 3,600mAh battery which is slightly larger than that that of its primary competitor - the OnePlus 3T, which has a 3,400mAh battery.
While not spectacular in any way, the battery life of the Galaxy A7 is pretty decent. It will last you through the day and nothing more. Considering the fact that there are many smartphones out there which give up the ghost by around 6PM in the evening, a full day's battery life is not bad at all.
During my testing, I got around 5-6 hours of screen on time, which is pretty decent. As my usage is pretty heavy, a lighter workload might fetch even better battery life.
The Galaxy A7 (2017) is powered by a 1.9GHz Exynos 7880 octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM, Mali-T830MP3 graphics processor, and 32GB of storage. The handset is capable of supporting a microSD card up to 256GB. You’ll find that it lives up to the performance expectations that one can have from a mid-range device. It feels quick and smooth most of the time, but like we noted last year, the performance does seem to go off a bit randomly. It’s not something that happens very often but you’re bound to notice it with daily use, even when you’re not performing any heavy tasks. The aggressive RAM optimization that impacts multitasking is still present. We pointed this out last year, and it appears to have been carried over to the new handset as well.
Given that it has a very big display, the Galaxy A7 (2017) is a great device for gaming on the go. The device performed well even with heavy titles like Need for Speed: No Limits, and during testing, I didn’t feel it running unreasonably hot during extended gameplay sessions.
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