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Which Galaxy should you buy? Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. the Galaxy S6

galaxy s  vs samsung
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

At first glance, Samsung’s newly-announced Galaxy S7 looks a lot like its predecessor, the Galaxy S6. However, pull up the spec sheets for each phone and you’ll find that the S7 has a lot more going on under the hood when it comes to storage capacity, battery life, overall processing power, and special features. Considering the fact that S7 is the S6’s successor, we wanted to provide a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison to give you a better sense of how the S7 compares to its lookalike predecessor.

Related: Not all Samsung Galaxy S7 models have the same camera

Below, you will find an in-depth spec comparison, as well as detailed analysis for how the two phones compare in terms of power, design, camera function, and more. You can also read our full review of the Galaxy S7 and the S7 Edge.

Samsung Galaxy S7

samsung-galaxy-s7-640x640

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Size 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 in) 143 x 71 x 6.8 mm (5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 in)
Weight 5.36 ounces 4.87 ounces
Screen 5.1-inch Super AMOLED 5.1-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,560 x 1,440 2,560 x 1,440
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Storage 32/64GB 32/64/128GB
SD Card Slot Yes No
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (US Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
Exynos 7420 octa-core 2.1 + 1.5 GHz
RAM 4GB 3GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 12MP Front 5MP, Rear 16MP
Video 2160p 4K UHD 2160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.1
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Water Resistant Yes No
Battery 3,000 mAh 2,550mAh
Charger Micro USB Micro USB
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging Yes, Qi and PMA Yes, Qi and PMA
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, white, gold, silver Black, blue, white, gold
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
DT Review 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Power and storage

The Galaxy S6 was considered one of the most powerful phones on the market when it made its debut last year. Its Exynos 7420 octa-core processor was coupled with 3GB of RAM, which enabled the S6 to tackle resource-intensive processes and run apps with ease. Now, with the announcement of the S7, Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy phone is taking another huge step forward when it comes to processing power. How far? Well, that actually depends on your market.

Related: The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are fast, but Exynos versions have major performance issues

U.S. models of the Galaxy S7 will pack the impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, while models in other markets will ship with the next generation of Exynos chips, the Exynos 8890 octa-core processor. While both chips are faster and more capable than the one in the S6, the Snapdragon 820 has proven to perform better than the Exynos 8890. Regardless of the chipset available to you, the S7 will offer increased performance over the S6. Samsung claims that the S7’s new chipset and 4GB of RAM will help it deliver CPU speeds that are up to 30 percent faster than that of the S6, not to mention GPU speeds that are 64-percent quicker.

Another major upgrade to the S7 is its inclusion of a MicroSD card slot. Samsung offers 32 and 64GB versions of the S7, which may look like a slight downgrade when considering there are 32, 64, and 128GB models of the S6 available. However, the S6 does not include expandable memory like the S7, which is expandable up to 200GB thanks to its MicroSD card slot. It’s a noteworthy improvement, and gives the S7 yet another edge over its predecessor.

When the S6 was initially unveiled, its battery specs raised a lot of eyebrows. The non-removable 2,550mAh Lithium-Ion battery was a step down from the S5’s removable 2,800mAh capacity battery. The S7 makes up for the drop in battery life, however, upping the capacity to 3,000mAh, which Samsung claims is enough juice to power the device for nearly 10 hours of continuous video playback. Once again, the S7 outperforms the S6. Both support quick and wireless charging, though.

So, even though the S6 was (and still is) a powerful device, the S7 is a marked increase in all performance aspects.

Winner: Galaxy S7

Design and display

The S7 looks very similar to its older sibling, though it’s a few tenths of a millimeter shorter and thinner, and just a hair thicker. It’s also a fraction of an ounce heavier. Overall, the two are quite close in terms of size, but the thinner, shorter dimensions on the S7 result in a finer bevel. Both phones feature a sturdy aluminum chassis, and you’ll find the button layout and fingerprint sensors familiar. The S7 does have one major feature over the S6 in this category: The S7 is dust and water-resistant with an IP68 rating. This makes the S7 far more reliable and durable in everyday life than the S6.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7.

Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends

The S7 has an identical display to the S6: a 5.1-inch super AMOLED screen, with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 577 ppi. This makes for a crisp, beautiful display on both phones. However, the S7’s display additionally includes and “always on” feature that keeps important information — such as time, date, and notifications — ever-present on display, even when the device is locked. This is a feature exclusive to the S7 and S7 Edge, and won’t find its way onto previous iterations of the Galaxy.

So we’ve got two phones that look and feel mostly the same, but only one that can handle the outdoors and keep you constantly updated throughout the day. The winner is clear.

Winner: Galaxy S7

Camera

Based on megapixels, the S7 seems like a step back in terms of camera quality, seeing as the S7’s main and secondary cameras sport 12 and 5-megapixel sensors. The S6, on the other hand, boasts 16 and 5-megapixel sensors for its main and secondary cameras. You’d also be forgiven into thinking their video capabilities are equal, given that both can record in 2,160p ultra HD.

samsung-galaxy-s6-sample-image_161450-1500x844

Image captured with the Samsung Galaxy S6.

Ted Kritsonis/Digital Trends

The truth is, however, that the S7 is the better of the two. Why? It all comes down to the speed and performance of its camera sensors. The S7’s camera includes Sony’s IMX260 sensor, a notable upgrade from the S6’s Sony IMX240. Every pixel on the S7’s autofocus are “Dual Pixels,” which aid in image focusing. In contrast, only 5 percent of the S6’s autofocus sensor’s pixels are dual pixels. The S7 camera’s f1.7 aperture is also better than the S6’s f1.9. These upgrades mean the S7 can focus better and quicker in low-light conditions. In a camera test with both phones in a dark room, the S7 was the clear winner

Winner: Galaxy S7

Related: This is the super dual pixel camera sensor inside your flashy new Galaxy S7

Samsung Gear VR compatibility

As with the S6, the S7 is compatible with Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset. While the upgraded hardware should theoretically open the S7 up to a broader range of VR apps and games, and also make for better performance of those already available, there is a question of screen quality. A major complaint about the current crop of phones for the Gear VR is that their resolution isn’t high enough to effectively remedy that “screen door” effect that can sometimes break the sense of immersion VR strives to impart. Or, worse, it can be uncomfortable to view for long periods of time, causing some users to get headaches or become sick.

To be fair, these complaints are not widespread, and the S6 and S7 remain some of the best choices for use with the Gear VR. Due to the better horsepower on the S7, however, it remains the better choice for Gear VR.

Winner: Galaxy S7

Conclusion

The reality is that the S7 is simply better than the S6 in every way, which isn’t surprising when you consider that the S7 is the latter’s successor. With a better camera, faster chipset, and more RAM packed into a virtually identical form factor and display, the S7’s specs are impressive. The one place the S6 trumps the S7 is in price, so if you’re upgrading from the S5 or earlier, either phone will be an improvement to you. When it comes to a head-to-head matchup, however, we can’t help but give the nod to the S7. If you’re considering upgrading to the S7 from the S6, you’ll find it refreshingly familiar in the hand, but with better hardware and software performance.