Looking for a rugged phone that makes no compromises? The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active offers the best of both worlds — all the great features of the Galaxy S7, but in a rugged, dust-proof, shatterproof, and waterproof body. Yes, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are water-resistant, but they are anything but rugged — you definitely don’t want to drop them with their glass fronts and backs. The S7 Active, on the other hand, has a shatter-resistant screen for drops from up to five feet and is rated IP68, making it waterproof when submerged up to five feet for a half hour.
Even with the prominent four-corner bumper surrounding its edges, the design of the S7 Active is tough but not overly masculine or bulky. As a matter of fact, we think that the S7 Active is a big improvement over previous generations of the Active in terms of design. And love it or leave it, we really like the camouflage model. Fortunately, for those who can’t stand the camo, there are also gold or titanium gray options. The gold model in particular is a lot less rugged looking in design, and you’ll likely surprise people when you show them just how rugged it is, since it could easily pass as an ordinary smartphone.
In place of the touch navigation keys on the S7, the S7 Active has physical buttons below its display. It could be because we’re used to touch buttons, but these physical buttons require more effort to press down than we’d like, although this is hardly a deal breaker. There is also a welcome physical ActiveKey on the side of the device, which is an extra programmable button that can be customized to do your bidding. Different apps can be launched using a short press, long press, or double tap. The ActiveKey was designed with safety and convenience in mind, so that you can also use it to easily send out an SOS, call 911, or turn on the flashlight. This ActiveKey ended up becoming a super convenient tool for quickly bringing up my most commonly used apps, and it most certainly is a feature I’d like to see in other phones.
Under the hood, the Galaxy S7 Active is packing an incredibly large 4,000 mAh battery. For comparison, the Galaxy S7 has great battery life and it’s running on a 3,000 mAh battery. It’s very unusual to find such a high-capacity battery in a phone of this size, so this was a nice surprise.
When it comes to performance and specs, the Galaxy S7 Active has nearly identical internals as the S7 — and that’s a really good thing. You get the same excellent performance of the S7 thanks to a Snapdragon 820 processor running Android 6.0. Just like with the Galaxy S7, we’re very pleased with the fact that Samsung has cleaned up their TouchWiz UI and have made the Android experience less gimmicky and cleaner. On the other hand, it’s a bit unfortunate that the S7 Active comes with a significant amount of preinstalled bloatware apps from AT&T.
Overall, our biggest gripe with the S7 Active is that call quality through the earpiece isn’t very good. In general, callers sound a bit muffled and not nearly as good as they do when using the Galaxy S7. Callers said the same of us when we spoke to them.