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Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review: The rugged flagship phone for clumsy fingers

Florence Ion | June 23, 2016
Some phones are built like fragile little flowers. This one is built to withstand a rough-and-tumble lifestyle, though it's not entirely life-proof.

Life can be perilous—resulting in smartphones with broken screens and dented chassis. But covering up your metal smartphone in a disaster-proof case can make the phone both harder to use and just plain ugly. Enter the Galaxy S7 Active, Samsung’s answer for people who want a stylish smartphone that can withstand almost anything.

The S7 Active may belong to a niche product category, but after three generations of rugged designs, it seems that Samsung has perfected its vision for what a stylish, durable smartphone should offer. The only bummer is that this particular phone is limited to AT&T.

For this review, I’m mostly going to focus on the rugged qualities of the Galaxy S7 Active. If you want the full skinny on the original Galaxy S7—which includes most of the same features—check out my review here.

A tough chassis

galaxys7active 1646 4 Florence Ion

Camo isn’t my thing, but I still think the S7 Active is pretty stylish.

Aside from battery capacity, the main differences between the regular S7 and the S7 Active can be found in their bodies and displays. Whereas the S7 has an aluminum and glass body, the S7 Active sports a rubberized chassis (making it two millimeters thicker, at 9.9 mm). And while both phones use Gorilla Glass 4 for their displays, the Active version has a “shatter resistant” screen. The upshot is that this phone is built for rude encounters with river rocks and concrete.

The S7 Active comes in three design themes: gold, gray, and green camouflage. I tested the camo version, and while it’s not really my style, I appreciate that it has a rough-and-tumble aesthetic that might appeal to folks who aren’t keen on the fragile, all-glass construction of the regular Galaxy S7. I also like that despite its thicker chassis, the Galaxy S7 Active is thin enough to resemble a non-rugged S7 with a case on it.

img 1651 Florence Ion

The Galaxy S7 Active next to the regular Galaxy S7.

The Galaxy S7 Active’s rubber bumper is designed to withstand drops of all sorts, but while its 5.2-inch Super AMOLED screen is shatterproof, note that it’s not scratch-resistant. My review unit suffered a scratchy fate at the hands of a thick, thorny blackberry bush.

The S7 Active also features physical navigation buttons that accomodate anyone who has to wear gloves out in the field. Just know that you’ll need to take off your gloves to use the fingerprint scanner embedded in the Home button. 

galaxys7active 1646 5 Florence Ion

The Galaxy S7 Active can withstand up to five feet of water for 30 minutes.

 

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