Galaxy A7 (2017) Review: The Mid-Ranger With Flagship Smartphone Properties

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Mar 26, 2017
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PRODUCT INFO

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)

2017
Type Android smartphone
Price $399.99

With flagship smartphones getting better to the point where you actually have to nitpick the things they lack in order to show that they don’t feature the element of perfection, mid-range devices have been getting treated in the same manner. For some time, Samsung has given emphasis to its mid-range family of smartphones, which is a really good approach since the company can target a larger audience. Today I have with me the Galaxy A7 2017 and I will be going through its design, performance, features, and covering every nook and cranny of the phone.

How well has Samsung improved the mid-range smartphone game for consumers? Well, in short, the company has definitely come a long way and you’re about to find out why.

Related Samsung Ports Its Flagship’s Premium Features to Its Latest Galaxy A Family

Hardware Specifications of Galaxy A7 2017

Before moving on, let us dive into the specifications of the Galaxy A7 2017 to see how far Samsung has come in improving the mid-ranged family from a hardware perspective.

  • Size: 5.7-inch display with approximately 73.6 percent screen-to-body ratio
  • Display type: Super AMOLED and protected with Gorilla Glass 4 display
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Chipset: Exynos 7880
  • Processor: Cortex-A53 1.90GHz x 8
  • RAM: 3GB
  • GPU: Mali-T830 MP3
  • Internal storage: 32GB (with a microSD card option up to 256GB)
  • Primary camera: 16MP
  • Secondary camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 3,600mAh
  • Water-resistance: IP68-certified
  • Price: $399.99 in the U.S.

Several details listed above and more will show that while Samsung has intended its Galaxy A7 2017 to be listed in the mid-range smartphone category, it is far more capable than that, as you will soon find out. One example will be its ‘bigger than average’ battery capacity of 3,600mAh. For its size, it is definitely warranted but keep in mind that the upcoming Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ have been reported several times to feature a 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh cell, respectively.

1. Box Contents

Not a lot of presentation went into making the box contents unique or different than the competition, but then again, we do not expect Samsung to go down this road. Inside the box, you will find the following:

  • 1 x USB-A to Type-C USB cable
  • 1 x Type-C USB to microUSB adapter
  • 1 x Power brick
  • 1 x Pair of earphones
  • 1 x SIM tray removal tool
  • 1 x Instruction manual

Since the phone features a Type-C USB port, it was delightful to see that Samsung had not forgotten about the compatibility issues that users might face when using the device so they decided to bundle this tiny, but very useful adapter. Keep in mind that due to its small size, it can easily get misplaced so keep it in a safe place when not in use. My advice would be to let it remain plugged into a microUSB charging cable for as long as you intend to keep it.

Related Samsung announces an addition to its Galaxy Alpha line: Galaxy Alpha 7

2. Aesthetics and Build Quality

This is the category that I was most impressed with from all angles. Just like its more expensive cousins, the Galaxy A7 features a Super AMOLED display that ‘rainbows out’ when you change your viewing angles. But because of that sharp contrast, the display is easily viewable outdoors, though I found myself cranking up the brightness to its maximum threshold. Some users might be more enticed towards using IPS LCD displays thanks to their ‘truer to life colors’ but there are significant advantages to using Super AMOLED panels in phones, with one of them being the ability to view content on your smartphone vividly under broad daylight.

The second thing I’d like to dive into is build quality. While it is not a preference for most smartphone users, including myself, durability is not at the top of the priority list when you head out to purchase a phone. However, I was greatly impressed with what Samsung introduced to the table with its Galaxy A7 2017, because as stated previously, it might belong to the mid-range category but it certainly does not look the part. Thanks to its glass and metal body, the Galaxy A7 2017 has several grams added to its overall weight that also contribute to its overall durability and aesthetics. The phone does not feel flimsy from any corner and the buttons are extremely ‘clicky’ and tactile.

In short, the click sensation is downright amazing. From experience, I have used devices that have mushy keys but this phone just takes the cake in high-quality buttons. The phone is a complete beauty to look at and while you can see that the antenna bands are visible on the phone, the model that I specifically received was the Black Sky color version, so this obscures those lines by a huge degree when the handset is viewed from a distance. This also gives a very clean look to the phone, although I have to add that with this color, dust and other grime can become very visible, even from a distance. The dark color also introduces my least favorite thing with the phone; fingerprints. Even if you have maintained a clean Galaxy A7 2017 by carrying around a separate cloth with you, the phone is a fingerprint magnet.

This is how the reflective the backside of the Galaxy A7 is

As you can tell from the images, I had to constantly use a microfiber cloth to clean out the smudges so that I could get a nice, clean shot of the phone, but it looks like that was not sufficient as every time I ended up gripping it, the phone would attract fingerprints. Since the device sports the same glass and metal frame as Samsung’s higher end family, it also felt like a slippery bar of soap. Often times I would find myself having difficulty in gripping the phone comfortably, but to clear out the confusion, let me be perfectly clear; the size had nothing to do with that. The only time I had difficulty was actually holding onto it.

That being said, I currently have two remedies for this problem; either use a high-quality case or a skin. Lots of people are probably going to opt for the skin because not only does it help you grip the phone easily without adding any unnecessary bulk to it, but you can say goodbye to those fingerprints as well. Since Samsung decide to up the build quality of the phone, it also brought about another complication to the equation; no removable battery. This might not be a deal breaker for me but if you intend to keep your phone for a significantly longer period, then you cannot replace the battery all by yourself when the overall charge starts to degrade.

While this had to be done to upgrade the build and looks of the Galaxy A7 2017, the mid-ranger is also IP68-certified, meaning that it is just as water and dust resistant like its flagship counterparts. Overall, I highly appreciate what Samsung has done, and while the smudges and slippery exterior of the phone do put me off a little, it is not something that would get in my way when I whip the phone out and continue using it as my daily driver.

3. User-Interface: Exceptional

While I am a huge fan of the clean Android user interface, I have to say that this Samsung skin grew on me after a couple of hours of use. On other Android-running devices, I always resort to installing a custom home alternative like Nova Launcher, but on this occasion, I did not find myself running towards it. This does not mean that the user interface Samsung has employed on the phone is clean; it is still customizable when you want to go all out, but the changes that the company has introduced is that the multitude of options do not appear in your way when you are busy with the device.

One feature that I really enjoyed using was the ‘Always On’ display. I chose to leave it enabled since, in this way, I never had to switch on my phone to see how many notifications were waiting for me to sift through. This is, after all, a Super AMOLED display, so leaving the ‘Always On’ display had a negligible difference on battery life.

The only time it took me longer than usual to get used to the interface was when I swiped down from the top to see what notifications I received. Though my intentions were to browse through my notifications, I was met with an army of options at the top and their increased number covered at least 60-70 percent of the screen, which was downright annoying, forcing me to remove those options. I understand that different users will have a different preference when it comes to the interface, and this is something that took me a long time to get used to.

Browsing the ‘Settings’ of the Galaxy A7 2017 UI, I came across the option ‘Advanced features’ and since the term ‘Advanced’ definitely piqued my interest, I decided to take a gander at what sort of improvements Samsung incorporated. Throughout my use, there was only one, the ‘One-handed operation’. These days when phablets have reached monstrous screen sizes, a one-handed use becomes exceptionally difficult but what if you tweak the UI to the point where a one-handed use would become possible? One could not expect a 5.7-inch device like the Galaxy A7 2017 to ever accompany with a one-handed use, but the miracle of software has made the impossible possible.

With the one-handed use, you can opt to reduce the screen size at will and at the same time, also choose where to position the keyboard for a majority of applications. It even had the option of allowing you to change positions of your keypad when you attempted to unlock your device using the pattern approach. There was also a notifications tab where you can choose which applications will provide you with alerts and which ones should not bother you and because all of them have been provided in a list to either trigger ‘on’ and ‘off’, it made life so much simpler.

I will say this again; I am a fan of the clean Android interface like the one that stock Android offers, but the interface of the Galaxy A7 2017 also shows that having a slew of customization options at your fingertips can transform you into a proficient smartphone power user in just a few hours. If I were to really nitpick at the interface, it would be the options presented to you once you swipe down your finger from the top. Though you have the option to choose what elements appear in front and what don’t, not having to make the effort is something that I would have liked in the first place.

4. Security

Galaxy A7 2017 comes with a gamut of security options, but I decided to jump straight to the fingerprint reader to see if Samsung compromised on the quality of security. To my surprise, it was difficult to ascertain if the Touch ID fingerprint reader on my iPhone 7 Plus was faster or the one on Galaxy A7 2017, which just goes to show how neck and neck the unlocking speed was between a flagship and a mid-range phone. Samsung Pay is not available in our region, but know that if it was, I would definitely take it for a spin for authenticating payments just to see how seamless the experience would have been.

5. Performance and Battery Life

Featuring an octa-core Cortex-A53 running at 1.90GHz, 3GB RAM and a Mali-T830 GPU, we can expect some decent all-round performance from the smartphone. In terms of regular use, the device displayed no signs of slowing down as the majority of apps I opened did not go through a delay phase to completely fire up. It was when I started opening up the entire suite of apps present on the phone in rapid succession was when I started to realize that the memory was getting used up quickly and the processor was being pushed to its limits.

This part is not surprising because phones touting better hardware than this tend to show the same level of weakness. However, knowing most of you, you are definitely are not going to be checking your phone on a weekly basis to see how it holds up to quick-fire app testing so I am going to say that the performance of the device in terms of real-world use was above satisfactory. If you take a look at the benchmarks, you will realize that the scores are definitely not reflective when you compare the points below with some of the heavy hitters in the market right now.

As for battery life, for the two weeks that I had it with me, it was giving me somewhere between 3 to 3 hours 15 minutes of screen-on time with moderate use which included browsing through YouTube, social network apps like Facebook, checking emails, and whatnot. This was with Wi-Fi enabled, data network turned off, the display automatically turning off after 5 minutes of inactivity, and brightness set to 50 percent. That being said, your experience with the phone may vary considerably.

Thanks to the 3,600mAh battery coupled with the 1080p Super AMOLED display, I was expecting a high degree of battery life from this phone, and the phone certainly delivers on this front.

Camera

With a 16MP shooter and an f/1.9 aperture, the Galaxy A7 2017 is expected to be a real boss in smartphone photography, right? Well, in low-light conditions, the rear camera struggles to snap decent quality images, which is something that all phones struggle with. Even with light scattered during the night, we weren’t impressed with what the Galaxy A7 2017 brought to the table, but as we are writing this review, we are waiting for the sun to show up because those are the conditions is when we can expect the camera to shine. For now, take a look at these sample images that I snapped with the rear 16-megapixel shooter without manual controls enabled.

Conclusion

In one word, the experience was more than exemplary. Naturally, there is no such thing in this world as a perfect smartphone and while that experience was above par, I cannot let the Galaxy A7 2017 get away with full marks. For one thing, audio quality was less than appealing because there is just a small tiny grill present on the right side of the phone. Often times I have to crank up that volume to get a higher degree of clarity and I feel that Samsung should have improved this by incorporating front-facing speakers.

In addition, camera quality in low-light conditions was met with a poor response. It is an area where all smartphones struggle and the Galaxy A7 2017 was definitely no exception. On paper, the camera specifications sound stellar but it is a whole different ball game when you start to shoot images from the phone in actuality. Another thing I would like to mention is the lack of wireless charging support. When packing the Galaxy A7 2017 with premium features, Samsung included a superior fingerprint reader, IP68 water-resistance and a build quality to die for, but no Qi wireless charging, which is a real disappointment.

Samsung might have intended to keep the costs low, but their mission has also led the phone to come shipped with a non-removable battery. If any Samsung representatives are reading this with a close eye, I hope that the Galaxy A7 2018 version is able to fix all the things missing from this phone to transform it into the king of mid-rangers.

Right now, this device will definitely exceed your expectations and for $399.99, I can definitely recommend this to those who are not looking to shell a significant amount of doe on a flagship.

8.5

Samsung has upped its game with the Galaxy A7 (2017) as it offers a premium build, terrific battery life and a heavily improved UI

Performance9.0
Value8.0
Design & Aesthetics8.5
Features8.5

Pros

  • Exception build quality (glass and metal build, just like Samsung's flagships)
  • Great battery life
  • IP68 water-resistance is a plus
  • Hyper-fast and accurate fingerprint reader
  • Crisp display
  • Flexible expandability (2 SIM cards and storage card up to 256GB)
  • Smoothened UI with lots of options

Cons

  • Non-removable battery
  • Glass and metal body, but does not support wireless charging
  • Poor camera performance (in low-light)
  • A smudge and fingerprint magnet that requires constant cleaning
  • Small speaker grill does not deliver stellar audio quality
  • $399.99 might feel on the higher side for a small number of consumers
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