The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is the fourth phone in Samsung’s Active line. It brings an extra layer of toughness to the Samsung Galaxy S7, but this year the difference between the two is smaller than ever. When the regular model is already waterproof, what more can the Active have to offer? Let’s find out.
S7 Active vs S7
This review will be focusing on the elements of the Galaxy S7 Active that differentiate it from the regular Galaxy S7. For information on the camera, performance, and software read our full in-depth review of the Galaxy S7. Also, read the Tips & Tricks for the Galaxy S7 Active. There are only a few real differences between the two phones.
- “Shatter-resistant” display
- Shortcut button on the side
- Bigger 4,000 mAh battery
- $100 more and only on AT&T
Read our full comparison, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, for more information about the differences between these devices.
Hardware & Design
The Galaxy S7 Active doesn’t look anything like the Galaxy S7, but the basic foundation is the same. They both have the Snapdragon 820 processor, 5.1-inch 2K Super AMOLED display, 12MP camera, 4GB of RAM, and TouchWiz based on Android Marshmallow. You’re getting the same Galaxy S7 experience but in a more rugged shell. We’ll go over the hardware differences in more detail below.
The design is where the S7 Active becomes a much different device. Where the Galaxy S7 is elegant and refined, the Active is rough and industrial. It’s a completely different look for a completely different market. For that reason, it’s hard to say the Active is “uglier” than the Galaxy S7. The design serves a different purpose.
The Active is made from a combination of metal, plastic, and rubber. The sides retain the metal from the Galaxy S7, but the back and corners are covered in hard plastic and a grippy rubber. Some would say the materials are “not as premium,” but it feels great in the hand. On the Active, you don’t get that oily feeling (or fingerprints) from the glass on regular the Galaxy S7.
Samsung phones all pretty much have the same buttons in the same spots. The Active mostly follows with tradition. The Recent, Home, and Back buttons are in the same order, but all three are physical buttons. Power is on the right side, the volume is on the left, right below a special “Active Key.” The Active Key can be used to quickly launch apps. It’s mostly useful for launching the camera, but since double-tapping the Home button can do the same thing, it feels a bit redundant.
All in all, while not the most stylish phone, there’s a lot to like about Active’s design. And you won’t have to worry about putting it in a case. It’s already in one.
The big selling point for the Galaxy S7 Active is the durability and “ruggedness.” It’s marketed as the “toughest Galaxy device ever.” It undoubtedly is the toughest Galaxy device, but that’s not much of a competition. The real question is how tough is it compared to other tough phones?
For starters, let’s talk about what the Active has in terms of rugged features. Just like the Galaxy S7, the Active is IP68 certified. That’s the highest rating you can have for water and dust resistance. It can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it just for fun. Spills and splashes will also be no problem.
The Active is also MIL-STD-810G certified. This is a pretty serious certification used by the United States Department of Defense. In short, the Active is protected against salt, dust, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, transport and thermal shock. Most people aren’t going to be in those extreme situations.
Where the Active falls short is compared to other “tough” phones. Phones like the Kyocera Brigadier can withstand an insane amount of damage. I wouldn’t feel confident putting the Active through these same tests, but I did do some durability testing.
I ran the Active through a series of “real world” durability tests. I dropped the phone on gravel, dirt, and cement. Since it was dirty after those tests, I sprayed it off with a hose and put it under running water from a faucet. There were no scratches, cracks, or signs of wear after the tests, and everything continued to work fine.
We mentioned that the Galaxy S7 Active has the same 5.1-inch 2K Super AMOLED display as the Galaxy S7, and it looks every bit as beautiful. Colors are vivid, bright, and saturated. Blacks are super deep and great for nighttime viewing. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Samsung displays. However, the Active’s display has a special ability that you won’t find on the regular Galaxy S7: shatter resistance.
Samsung has been very clear about calling it shatter-resistant, not shatter-proof. This is not the same as the nearly invincible display on the Motorola DROID Turbo 2. The Active’s display can resist the “spider-webbing” that sometimes occurs, which basically ruins the entire display. Instead, the crack is isolated and prevented from spreading.
Shatter resistance is a nice feature, but when there are non-”active” phones out there with shatter-proof displays, it would have been nice to see Samsung go the extra mile. The display remains the weak point in durability, but it’s still an improvement over most flagship phones.
The last big different between the Galaxy S7 Active and Galaxy S7 is the battery The Active is packing a whopping 4,000 mAh battery. That’s a full 1,000 more than the Galaxy S7 and 400 more than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Combine that massive battery with the relatively small 5.1-inch display, and you’ve got exceptional battery life.
Battery life has been spectacular. I’ve been able to get close to two days when using mostly WiFi. Most people will not be able to kill this phone in one day, even if they stream video and play games. It’s easy to stretch the battery to last three to four days if you’re careful. That’s a big deal if you’re using the phone for camping trips and other off-the-grid adventures.
When you do need to inevitably charge the phone, it supports Fast Charging, which works great. You can also use wireless charging. And Samsung hasn’t switched to USB Type-C yet, so all your old cables are still compatible.
The Galaxy S7 Active is a phone that tries to live in two worlds. Typical “rugged” phones are underpowered and offer poor user experiences. The Active tries to bridge the gap between rugged phones and flagship phones. It does a decent job of that. You’re not going to find another rugged phone with the same high-end specs.
A lot of rugged phones really do suck at being good phones. The Active is a great option if you want something that will survive your rugged life, but can still take great photos and won’t make you pull your hair out. It’s a rugged phone for people who still want a great phone.
Those people better like AT&T because that is the only place you can buy the Active. It also costs $100 more than the regular Galaxy S7. The bigger battery alone is worth the extra $100, but it’s not worth switching to AT&T over. The Active is a perfect example of a great device hampered by carrier exclusivity. But if you’re on AT&T, and you need something tougher, there’s no reason to avoid the Galaxy S7 Active.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50 (4.6 / 5)
- Durable design & build quality
- Shatter resistant display
- Excellent battery life
- Still a Galaxy S7
- Only available on AT&T
- Bad speaker quality
The Bottom Line
The Galaxy S7 Active is the closest thing you can get to a truly rugged phone with high-end flagship specs. At it’s worst, the Active is still just a Galaxy S7. But at it’s best, it’s something a little more.