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Hands-on review: Samsung Galaxy A7 - a sleek midrange smartphone
Tue, 21st Mar 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Samsung's latest Galaxy A series might just smooth what has been something of a bumpy path for the global giant. This month the company launched the A3, A5 and A7 in New Zealand. We take a hands-on look at the Galaxy A7, Samsung's highest-specced and highest price bracket of the three.

Samsung NZ's head of Mobile Portfolio Todd Selwyn pitches the A series as devices perfect for students, first time smartphone purchases and those looking for Galaxy performance from a midrange device.

Smooth, sleek and available in black sky and gold sand, I tried out the A7 to see how Samsung is keeping smartphone users on their toes. At first glance, I could've been fooled that this could almost fall into the premium smartphone category. But let's suss out the guts of it first.

When I opened up the signature white packaging, the first thing that struck me was the size comparison to the ill-fated Note7. The A7 clocks in at 15.7cm high, compared to the Note7's 15.3cm and the S7's 14.2cm.

The A7 is designed with what Samsung calls a ‘3D glass back' with a metal frame. It feels smooth albeit a bit hard to grip without textured coating.

We also have a 1.9GHz Octa Core processor under and 3GB RAM under the hood, which in practice means it can handle almost anything you can throw at it (including running split screen apps). It does heat up when using memory-intensive applications such as games.

It has 32GB on board storage with a slot for memory cards (up to 256GB is supported), all the usual guff that's standard in smartphones now.

In terms of the screen, the FHD Super AMOLED looks nice behind this 1080x1920 screen. It handles well in bright conditions when screen glare can often affect viewability.

I've seen the A series referred to as a phone for selfie lovers – I suspect it's because the front camera is 16mp and includes front flash. In terms of megapixel count, this is the same as the rear camera.

Both cameras are decent quality (particularly in conjunction with the manual controls in the app) and having a 16mp front camera is a design that should hopefully set a new precedent. But, as always if you're a keen smartphone snapper I recommend that you try before you buy to see if it suits you.

The camera can also record in 30fps FHD video at 1920x1080p, which is good for those candid moments and panoramic travel pics to show your friends. I found the recordings to be average in quality - maybe a little bit underwhelming when considering the A7's price point.

The A7 is also IP68 dust proof and water resistant so dropping your phone in water less than 1.5m deep for under 30 minutes might just stop you from having to pull out the rice bags.

The home button doubles as the fingerprint scanner. Nine times out of ten, there were no issues using it – in fact the times it usually didn't work were because my thumb hit the button at the wrong angle.

The battery life clocks in at 3600mAH, which considering its massive screen could be improved. Despite some fairly heavy bouts of activity, it has lasted 24 hours of varying usage (intense then none) between charges. It took just under two hours to charge up from flat.

It also has a USB-C to USB cable included so while the phone itself is hopping on the evolutionary trend, at least it's not alienating its customers by making its entire connection cable USB C as well.

Interestingly, for a brand new flagship line of devices the A7 runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow). Once Android 7.0 Nougat comes to town, I suspect the A7 will have far more uses.

There's not much in the way of Samsung bloatware this time except for useful things such as Secure Folder, the native email apps and web browsers, the voice recorder, S Health, S Voice and a file manager. There are also the standard Google and Microsoft Office apps included. In short, there's plenty of room for the apps you want and need.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy A7 seems to be a very good phone. It's large, it looks and acts the part; the 16mp front camera is hopefully something that will stick around, and it's an all-around sturdy device. If you're considering another smartphone, take the time to see if this one checks all the boxes.

The Samsung Galaxy A series is available now on Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees starting from NZD$599. The A7 is priced around the $749 mark.