Samsung's high-end smartphones have managed to impress us with their performance in recent times. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the mid-range handsets from the company, which have been unable match the competition in their respective price bands. One of the reasons has been the entry of new Chinese vendors who are offering better features at each price level.
For Samsung, the arrival of the Galaxy J-series was a turning point. According to an IDC data released in August, the Galaxy J-series has been received well in the Indian market and has driven a large proportion of Samsung's smartphone shipments in Q2 2016. Samsung has launched a number of smartphones in this series in the last quarter including the Galaxy J2 (2016), Galaxy J3 (6), Galaxy J5 (2016) and Galaxy J7 (2016). Capitalising their popularity, the company also recently launched the Galaxy J5 Prime and Galaxy J7 Prime smartphones. Of the two, we received the Galaxy J7 Prime for review.
The new Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime features a metal body, supports 4G, packs a large battery, and has a fingerprint scanner. The company is also heavily marketing India-specific "smart" features called S Power Planning, S bike mode and S Secure, which have been developed by its R&D centres in India. In our first impressions, the Galaxy J7 Prime looked like a solid competitor in its price segment, but will it be able to live up to our expectations? Let's find out in our full review.
Look and feel
Samsung users have been complaining for years about the lack of variety in designs across the Galaxy range. The South Korean company has made a few changes in terms of design in the premium segment, though its budget and mid-range models largely still bear the same old Samsung styling. The Galaxy J7 Prime is also part of that same crowd.
It sports a physical home button just below the display, with capacitive Recents and Back buttons placed on either side. With the addition of metal rear panel, the new J7 Prime looks solidly built, and its rounded sides make it easier to hold the device. At 8mm, the Galaxy J7 Prime is slightly thick, though it feels light for a 5.5-inch phone at 167 grams. The 3.5mm audio jack and Micro-USB port are on the bottom. A Samsung logo is embossed above the phone's display, plus there's more branding at the back.
The metal body definitely gives this phone an edge over others in the same price range. There's also 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass spread across the front, giving it a premium feel. With a screen size of 5.5-inches, the J7 Prime isn't ideal for one-handed use, and during our review period, we preferred using both our hands. The metal rear panel also made the handset slightly slippery, especially with sweaty hands. The power button is placed on the right and is accompanied by a single speaker grille. On the left you'll find the two distinct volume buttons as well as the SIM and microSD card slots. Samsung has emphasised that the J7 Prime features separate SIM and microSD card slots, which is an advantage over hybrid slots which force users to choose between using two SIMs or one SIM and a microSD card.
The rear panel of the J7 Prime sports a minimalistic design and houses the primary camera accompanied by an LED flash. It's worth pointing out that the back panel isn't entirely metal; there are plasticky panels at the top and bottom, though the paint job gives them a metallic feel.
The Galaxy J7 Prime's fingerprint scanner is embedded in the home button and was always easy to use. Fingerprint recognition was quick for unlocking the device. Double-tapping the home button launches the camera instantaneously, and this even worked with the phone locked.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080x1920-pixel) display, which is quite bright and vivid with no legibility issues even under sunlight. Colours look good, and black levels are also decent. The 480ppi pixel density means that even text looks sharp. The J7 Prime is great for watching videos and games.
Specifications and software
The new Galaxy J7 Prime is powered by an octa-core Samsung Exynos 7870 processor clocked at 1.6GHz coupled with 3GB of RAM. There is 16GB of inbuilt storage, while microSD cards of up to 256GB are also supported. This dual-SIM phone supports two Nano-SIMs with 4G connectivity on both, though only one can connect to 4G at a time. There's a 13-megapixel rear autofocus camera with f/1.9 aperture and an LED flash. There is also an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone has a non-removable 3300mAh battery. Connectivity options on the Galaxy J7 Prime include GPRS/ EDGE, 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, GPS/A-GPS, Bluetooth, and Glonass.
Running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Galaxy J7 Prime comes with Samsung's own TouchWiz UI layered on top. Over the years, Samsung has worked on its TouchWiz UI and it is now much lighter than it used to be a few years ago. One of the biggest changes is the reduction in the amount of bloatware. Much like current high-end Samsung smartphones, the J7 Prime also comes preloaded with a number of Microsoft apps including Word, Excel, OneDrive, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Skype. The home screen also features a Google folder which includes Google apps such as Gmail, Chrome, Google Search, YouTube, Drive, Play Music, Play Movies and TV, Hangouts, and Photos. Apart from Google and Microsoft, the J7 Prime also comes with a folder packing a variety of Samsung apps including the phone's default mail app and Web browser, S Health, Galaxy Apps, and S Planner.
On the software front, the biggest highlights of the Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime are the new S Power Planning and S Secure features. There is also an ultra-data saving mode and S bike mode, though both these features have been seen on previous models. During the India launch, Samsung's Manu Sharma, Vice President, Mobiles Business, had said that the new "smart" features were inspired by insights from the company's wide range of consumers and are 'Make for India' innovations.
S Power Planning basically offers consumers three ways to get more out of the remaining battery life. The three options include Reserve Battery For Calls, which allocates a certain percentage of the battery for calls and messages; Extend Battery Time, which offers three power-saving levels to users to choose from; and Forward Calls, which as the name suggests, forwards calls to another number when the phone runs out of power.
S Power Planning is a different take by Samsung to extend battery life on the J7 Prime, compared to the usual Ultra Power Saving mode we've seen before. To compare, the Ultra Power Saving mode restricts use of apps on the handset and turns off mobile data when the screen is off. It also shuts off battery-hungry functions such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. There's also a way to limit the use of Wi-Fi and mobile data in the background.
Another highlight feature of the software on the J7 Prime is the Secure Folder which focuses on security and privacy. The feature lets users lock and hide apps with a fingerprint. It's worth mentioning that in order to access the Secure Folder feature users will have to lock the device with a fingerprint. The Galaxy J7 Prime also offers what Samsung is calling Secure Wi-Fi, which encrypts data being transferred over public Wi-Fi hotspots. The S bike mode feature on the J7 Prime smartphone was earlier seen on the Galaxy J3 (6). It is based around the core idea that two-wheeler riders should not be distracted by incoming calls while on the road. Before starting on a journey, a user can enable the S bike mode from the quick settings menu. Once the mode is activated, callers will hear a prerecorded message informing that the person they are trying to reach is currently riding. If the call is urgent, the caller can press 1 to pass it through, and only then will the phone ring to alert the rider. Even so, there's a motion lock feature which will prevent the user from picking up a call until he or she comes to a stop.
For user convenience, Samsung has placed the S Power Planning, S Secure, Secure Wi-Fi, and S Bike mode toggles in the Quick Settings panel by default.
The Galaxy J7 Prime sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with a decently large f/1.9 aperture and an LED flash. The large aperture lets the handset capture more light per shot, resulting in detailed photos during the daytime. Most of the shots taken by the smartphone have good colours and are crisp. We noticed that the handset was able to lock focus quickly, which is an advantage.
In artificial light or low light, the shots taken with the Galaxy J7 Prime still look crisp, though slight graininess can be seen when checking out images at full size. Overall, the rear camera on the J7 Prime performed well in varied conditions. We however wish that Samsung could have offered few more options for video. The phone can record videos at full-HD resolution, but that's about it.
The 8-megapixel front camera also sports an f/1.9 aperture which means selfies were detailed. In low-light conditions, the front camera took some shots with a lot of noise and we wish this had been better. The camera app on the J7 Prime was easy to use and launched really quickly.
During the review period, the Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime was able to handle almost everything we threw at it. The octa-core processor performed really well and we had no complaints. It handles games like Dead Trigger 2 with ease. Multi-tasking on the J7 Prime was fine and apps launched quickly.
While using the device, we noticed that there was almost 1.3GB of memory free at any time which was impressive. The 5.5-inch screen is ideal for watching videos and playing games. The sound quality from speakers was surprisingly good and we didn't notice any distortion at higher volumes. Samsung didn't send us headphones with the box so we tested audio quality through our own headphones, and we were impressed.
We were however slightly disappointed with the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy J7 Prime. It worked really well most of the time but occasionally gave us a hard time, requiring us to press down on the home button for several seconds. We have seen better and quicker implementation on smartphones priced below the J7 Prime.
During our review, the Galaxy J7 Prime was able latch up to 4G connectivity decently and we were able to use a 4G Vodafone SIM at all times.
In our standard benchmark tests, the Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime performed well with scores of 45,795 in AnTuTu and 23,955 in Quadrant. In 3D Mark Ice Storm Extreme, the J7 Prime returned a score of 5019. However in GFXBench, the phone managed just 11fps.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime is backed by a non-removable 3300mAh battery. In our video loop test, the handset ran for 14 hours and 50 minutes, which is not bad for a phone at this price. With medium usage, the Galaxy J7 Prime lasted for almost 36 hours after which we had to reach for a charger.
Apart from regular calls, we used Telegram, Outlook, Gmail, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter which remained open in the background almost all throughout. We also used the camera occasionally and streamed music while performing other everyday tasks. When we added graphics-intensive games and streaming YouTube videos, the battery life came down to less than 12 hours but this is still pretty much standard.
We have to commend Samsung for the new S Power Planning feature which came in handy during the review period. The Reserve Battery For Calls feature was one of our favourite power saving options and was of help a few times when we were unable to charge the phone. It's worth mentioning that on selecting the Extend Battery Time option, users will be left with limited phone functionality as it kills a lot of features. Users can see how much useful time they'll have at the current charge level for each of the three levels available. The option is claimed to give users up to twice the usual amount of battery life.
Samsung is not touting any kind of fast charging support for the J7 Prime but we noticed that it went to 40 percent from zero in just about 30 minutes which isn't bad at all. The phone took slightly less than two hours to charge fully from zero.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime has been launched in India at a price of Rs. 18,790 and is now available at various retail stores. It has a lot of features such as a metal body, large 3300mAh battery, S Power Planning, and superb screen. S Power Planning and Secure Folder are both neat value additions in software. Despite featuring a large 5.5-inch screen, the J7 Prime is easy to manage. At this price point, the phone is pleasure to use.
The new Samsung J-series handset will easily compete with current favourites such as the Motorola Moto X Play and Lenovo Vibe X3. The Galaxy J7 Prime however faces its biggest challenge with the launch of the Lenovo Z2 Plus which packs a flagship-grade Snapdragon 820 processor and starts at a price of Rs. 17,999.