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Samsung Galaxy S7 vs S7 Active: How does the S7's rugged sibling stack up?

galaxy s  vs active samsung activity zone
Jessica Star Lee/Digital Trends

Samsung has once again released a variety of versions of its Galaxy series, including the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S7 Edge, and the Galaxy S7 Active. The Galaxy S7 Active was the last to be unveiled, and acts as a follow up to the ultra-rugged Samsung Galaxy S6 Active introduced last year. Of course, the Galaxy series has long been one of the more popular smartphone lineups on the market, perhaps bested only by the Apple iPhone. But how is the Galaxy S7 Active different from the standard Samsung Galaxy S7? They’re both excellent devices, to be sure, but one is targeted squarely at those who need something made of harder stuff. Here’s how the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Active compare.

Related: Samsung’s going for gold in Rio, may have a special phone in the works to celebrate

Galaxy S7

samsung-galaxy-s7-640x640-220x220

Galaxy S7 Active

samsung-galaxy-s7-active

Size 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm (5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 in) 148.8 x 74.9 x 9.9 mm (5.86 x 2.95 x 0.39 in)
Weight 5.36 ounces 6.53 ounces
Screen 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,560 x 1,440 pixels 2,560 x 1,440 pixels
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Storage 32/64GB 32GB
SD Card Slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820
RAM 4GB 4GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 12MP Front 5MP, Rear 12MP
Video 2,160p 4K UHD 2,160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Water Resistant Yes Yes
Battery 3,000mAh 4,000mAh
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 options Black, white, gold, silver Camo Green, Titanium Gray, Sandy Gold
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T
DT Review 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Specs and battery

Samsung Galaxy S7

Under the hood, the two devices are pretty similar, so there isn’t that much to compare. In the United States, the processor is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, which is Qualcomm’s flagship processor and should offer enough power to appease even the most power hungry users. Elsewhere, the standard Galaxy S7 may be found with Samsung’s own Exynos 8890, but the Active isn’t available internationally, so there’s not much point in comparing the two. For the record, though, both processors are top of the line. According to AnTuTu, the Snapdragon 820 performs slightly better, so if you do find a way to import S7 Active from the U.S., rest assured you’re getting an awesome processor.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review

Processor aside, both devices feature 4GB of RAM, which is standard for a flagship phone in 2016. When it comes to storage, however, there is a little variation. The standard Galaxy S7 comes in either a 32GB or 64GB iteration, but the S7 Active is only available with 32GB of storage. That’s a little weird for a phone that you’re more likely to take out of service, but hey, both devices do have a MicroSD card slot, so if you need more storage you can always use that.

Speaking of phones you’re more likely to take out, a major difference between these two phones is the battery. The Galaxy S7 Active brings battery capacity up to 4,000mAh from the standard S7’s 3,000mAh battery, which drastically increases the battery life of the device. In fact, according to our tests, the battery on the S7 Active lasts almost two days, rendering it the perfect device for those prone to longer adventures.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Active

Design

Samsung Galaxy s7 Active

Of course, making a phone more rugged means you must drastically change the design. It’s obvious that the Galaxy S7 Active is far less sleek and stylish than the standard S7, but it’s not an atrocious device by any means. It’s a trade-off, one that affords you a larger battery and more rugged build at the expensive of size.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 review

The standard Galaxy S7 really is a beautiful device. “Sleek” is the word here, and while it’s not overly thin, it’s certainly thinner than its Active sibling, which tacks on an extra 2 millimeters. With the added thickness comes a bit of extra weight, though — an additional 1.17 ounces, in fact. Durability changes also accompany the noticeable change in design. We’ll address that in a separate section, but let’s just say that you probably won’t want to drop the standard Galaxy S7.

Winner: Galaxy S7

Display

Samsung Galaxy S7

The display on the two phones is identical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about, as it really is a nice display. The screen measures 5.2-inches, and touts 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution. Samsung has long used AMOLED panels over other types of screens, and it’s been one of the main selling points of the Galaxy series over devices like the iPhone. While more companies are transitioning to OLED technology, Samsung remains the champion of AMOLED — AMOLED being a type of OLED display — and the result is the crisp and clear image that Samsung has become known for. As mentioned, both devices feature the same display, so you really can’t go wrong here. The only difference between them is that the Galaxy S7 Active’s screen is more shatter-resistant.

Winner: Tie

Durability

Samsung Galaxy s7 Active

The look of these phones is one thing, but when you’re considering one of Samsung’s Active phones, you’re likely a little more concerned about how long the phones can last rather than how they look. Interestingly enough, the standard Galaxy S7 is already a pretty rugged phone, at least when it comes to water and dust resistance. The phone features an IP68 rating, which means that it’s totally dust-proof, and can survive being immersed in 1 meter or more of water “continuously.” However, when it comes to drops, the S7 is remarkably fragile because it has glass on both the front and back. YOu don’t want to drop this phone without a case.

Related: Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Active takes a bruising without looking like a bruiser

The Galaxy S7 Active, on the other hand, is much sturdier with a metal frame, rubberized corners, a shatterproof screen, and a textured plastic back. It may carry the same IP68 rating, but it also adds a ton of extra durability features. It’s MIL-STD-810G certified, for example, which basically means that it should be able to withstand a drop from any normal distance. On top of that, the certification also means that the phone can withstand high levels of humidity, vibration, and even solar radiation. It’s not indestructible, sure, but it’s certainly close. If you’re an outdoors type and spend a lot of time hiking, camping, climbing, and so on, the Galaxy S7 Active is probably a better choice for you.

Winner: Galaxy S7 Active

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S7

The cameras on these two devices are the same, but again, they’re still worth talking about. Each phone features a 12-megapixel camera on the rear, and while that might not seem like much in comparison to other smartphones, we’ve been blown away with the image quality of these cameras, which are especially good at handling low-light situations. Even in a dimly lit room, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Active are able to capture photos with a ton of detail. That’s probably due to the f/1.7 aperture, as well as the remarkable optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus, and LED flash.

As far as smartphone cameras go, you can’t go wrong with either of these. Why? Because both phones features the exact same camera, and it’s a good one.

Winner: Tie

Conclusions

This really is a question of design versus durability. While you could argue that the Galaxy S7 Active has more features, it certainly doesn’t look as sleek as the standard S7, and in world where the phone you use is a fashion statement, that can be an important thing to consider.

This is obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway: If you need a rugged phone that can handle outdoor trips, or you just don’t want a phone that could break when you drop it, the Galaxy S7 Active is the clear choice. If you’re into finer things — i.e. a sleek and stylish smartphone — then the standard Galaxy S7 is the phone for you. Personally, Digital Trends preferred the Active after reviewing both phones because of the added durability and battery life.

Unfortunately, the choice might be made for you — you’ll only be able to get the Galaxy S7 Active if you’re on AT&T or are willing to switch. That’s right, the S7 Active is carrier exclusive, and that carrier is AT&T. There’s also the question of your price range. Whereas the Galaxy S7 Active costs $795, the standard Galaxy S7 starts at $695.

If you’re one of the lucky few who is able to choose, you can’t go wrong with either — that is, unless you pick the standard S7 and drop it on the first day. In that case, you chose poorly.