Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review: Major Junior League

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Introduction

The Galaxy J7 (2017) is the latest annual edition of an already popular phone. The J series has already shaped as a home to some solid midrange propositions and the Galaxy J7 (2017) is meant to spice things up even further. The newcomer is blurring the lines between the J series and the A series just as we thought we had Samsung’s portfolio segmentation all figured out.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

The J phones have been enjoying a killer key selling feature and that’s Samsung’s Super AMOLED screens – and the Galaxy J7 (2017) is no different. This time around it’s a high-tier screen with 1080p resolution, but Samsung didn’t stop the upgrades there. The new model builds on the 2016 model with a premium-looking unibody, splash resistance, a high-res selfie camera with a flash, more RAM, and a newer Android.

The Exynos 7870 chip was the only part, which was passed up for promotion, stuck in 2016. It’s a nicely power efficient 14nm chipset so it should surely provide great battery life. Either Samsung had built a great chip ahead of its time, or they just felt confident that the rest of the value-adding upgrades will make up for this omission. And with this attractive specs sheet we are not sure we can blame them.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) key features:

  • Body: Aluminum unibody
  • Screen: 5.5″ 1080p Super AMOLED screen (401ppi); Always On Display
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat; Bixby virtual assistant.
  • Chipset: 14nm octa-core Exynos 7870 (8 x 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 cores)
  • Memory: 3GB of RAM; 16/32GB storage, dedicated microSD slot for expansion
  • Camera: Primary 13MP, f/1.7, LED flash; Secondary 13MP, f/1.9, LED flash
  • Video: 1080p at 30fps
  • Connectivity: nano SIM (dual SIM version available); LTE (Cat. 6); dual-band Wi-Fi ac; Bluetooth 4.2; FM Radio; microUSB; 3.5mm jack
  • Battery: 3,600mAh
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader, IP54 certification for dust and splash resistance, Samsung Pay

Main shortcomings

  • Same GPU as the J7 (2016), yet twice as many pixels on the screen
  • Low grade water resistance
  • microUSB port is getting outdated
  • No quick charging

Having an old-gen chipset takes its toll – the Galaxy J7 (2017) lacks 4K video capturing for starters. But our major concern is with the graphic performance as the processing power hasn’t increased, yet it must handle twice as many pixels.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

But then again there are so many improvements, which will probably make the old chipset easier to swallow. And while we are wondering whether the Galaxy J7 (2017) can deliver adequate performance or not, it’s time we get this review started and find out what’s hot and what – not.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) unboxing

The Galaxy J7 (2017) comes packed within a paper box accompanied by a cheap-looking pair of headphones, a regular microUSB cable, and a 5V/1.55A wall plug.

The retail box contents - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The retail box contents

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) 360-degree spin

The Galaxy J7 (2017) measures 152.5 x 74.8 x 8 mm – close to the Galaxy J7 (2016) footprint but slightly narrower thanks to the impressively narrow bezels. The new J7 has gained 11g of extra weight though, contributed to the solid aluminum unibody.

Design

Samsung has been trying out the premium metal build across different segments of its portfolio. The J series finally gets a taste of it and, hopefully, we’ll see even more Samsung midrange devices come with it.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

The Galaxy J7 (2017) is a well-built device with a sturdy 2.5D glass at the front and metal all across the rest of the body. The seamless aluminum unibody is an instant eyecatcher and the signature antenna strip design, which Samsung has gone for. Instead of trying to hide those as most manufacturers do, the designers here have decided to turn them into a prominent design feature for the back.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

For this to work, the designers even chose contrasting colors for the antenna lines for some of the color versions of the phone. Only on the black model the lines are black too so they are less noticeable.

The display glass on the front gets easily smudged with fingerprints and is tough to clean, so there is no oleophobic coating there for sure. The back however is not only fingerprint resistant, but its smooth matter surface actually makes up for a secure grip.

An curious fact is that this “black” version we have here for review actually looks indigo or navy blue under certain light conditions.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

Handling the Galaxy J7 (2017) is a fine experience – the phone feels sturdy, fits well in hand, and won’t slip in spite of its round edges. Sure, the J7 may not be the best device for single-handed use, but it’s a very reasonably-sized phablet with a solid claim for premium build, and we are inclined to agree.

Handling the Galaxy J7 (2017) - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHandling the Galaxy J7 (2017) - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Handling the Galaxy J7 (2017)

Device overview

Above the 5.5″ AMOLED screen is the earpiece flanked by the new 13MP selfie camera and the front LED flash. A couple of sensors are also placed nearby, but those are barely visible on the black model.

Samsung brought back the good ol’ clickable Home key for the Galaxy J7 (2017) while the Task Switcher and Back keys are touch only. The always-on fingerprint scanner is incorporated within the Home key surface and works quite well.

The always-on AMOLED - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGalaxy J7 (2017) - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewthe front LED flash - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewthe keys - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The always-on AMOLED • Galaxy J7 (2017) • the front LED flash • the keys

The left side of the Galaxy J7 (2017) is quite busy – there are two ejectable trays below the independent volume keys. The first one holds the primary nano-SIM card, while the one to follow has places for another nano-SIM card and a slot for expanding the storage with a microSD card. We are glad Samsung found a way to fit all three slots in to the Galaxy J7 (2017) instead of choosing the hybrid option.

The left side of the Galaxy J7 (2017) and its card slots - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewThe left side of the Galaxy J7 (2017) and its card slots - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewThe left side of the Galaxy J7 (2017) and its card slots - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The left side of the Galaxy J7 (2017) and its card slots

The loudspeaker grille and the power/lock key are on the right side of the Galaxy J7 (2017). While the speaker placement isn’t that new – the 2017 A series has the speaker at the same spot – you have to be mindful of it so that you don’t muffle it accidentally – especially in landscape orientation.

The speaker is on the right - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewthe power key - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The speaker is on the right • the power key

There is nothing of interest on the top of the Galaxy J7 (2017). The bottom has the microUSB port, the audio jack, and the mouthpiece. We wonder why Samsung went for the older microUSB port while it has already phased it out in the A-series and the S-series replacing it with the newer reversible USB-C port.

The top is bare - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewthe bottom - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewthe audio jack - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The top is bare • the bottom • the audio jack

Finally, the new 13MP main camera with f/1.7 bright lens is on the back coupled with a single LED flash. Unfortunately, the new J7 has lost all access to the battery due to the design change towards unibody and honestly, we don’t mind the trade-off.

The 13MP main camera is on the back - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewThe 13MP main camera is on the back - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
The 13MP main camera is on the back

Display

Just like most of the recent Samsungs, the Galaxy J7 (2017) sports a Super AMOLED panel. It upgrades over the (2016) model with higher 1080p resolution and thus offers an adequate (if not flagship-worthy, right, OnePlus?) 401ppi density. The AMOLED matrix is based on the familiar Diamond Pixel arrangement.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

Just as expected from a Super AMOLED unit, the Galaxy J7 (2017)’s screen offers great contrast. The display is decently bright at 348 nits. If you rely on the auto brightness option, the screen can even light up as bright as 482 nits when the surrounding light is very bright.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) 0 348
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) Max Auto 0 482
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 0.00 353
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode 0.00 484
Sony Xperia XA1 0.512 537 1049
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) 0.00 421
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) max auto 0.00 601
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 0 413
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) max auto 0 559
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (X20) 0.38 439 1158
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625) 0.322 484 1503
Nokia 6 (Chinese version) 0.377 522 1385
Honor 8 0.37 460 1243
Samsung Galaxy C7 0.00 422
Oppo R11 0 410

Naturally, Samsung has included several display modes. The “punchy” kind of color palette is achieved with the default Adaptive color. There is also Basic mode, where colors are most accurate with deltaE below 2 for almost every hue, but you also get a somewhat washed-out, darb look, which we are not big fans of. The AMOLED Photo mode is perhaps a nice compromise as the screen is relatively accurate but remains nice and contrasty at the same time.

The the Galaxy J7 (2017)’s display is perfectly usable under bright sunlight – its contrast ratio is typically high at 3.812 – an excellent mark by our book.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    4.768
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    4.658
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Oppo R11
    4.454
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • OnePlus 3T
    4.232
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    3.935
  • Lenovo Moto Z
    3.931
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • OnePlus 5
    3.914
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3.818
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3.812
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3.804
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
    3.767
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
    3.688
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Huawei Mate 9
    3.68
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
    3.597
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • LG G6
    3.556
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Motorola Moto Z Play
    3.526
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Huawei P10 Plus
    3.456
  • HTC U Ultra
    3.453
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Huawei P10
    3.379
  • Oppo R9s
    3.352
  • Honor 8 Pro
    3.341
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Lenovo P2
    3.316
  • Honor 9
    3.289
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    3.244
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 2
    3.228
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    3.218
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
    3.206
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • ZTE Nubia Z17
    3.159
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • HTC U11
    3.089
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.012
  • Sony Xperia L1
    2.994
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • Huawei P10 Lite
    2.974
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4
    2.92
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
    2.893
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium (sRGB)
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Nokia 3
    2.871
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2.813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Meizu MX6
    2.751
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    2.714
  • Meizu M5
    2.71
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    2.679
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
    2.658
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.635
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus
    2.582
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus (max auto)
    2.582
  • Meizu M5s
    2.58
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
    2.563
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Lenovo K6 Note
    2.544
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Meizu m3 max
    2.447
  • HTC 10 evo
    2.407
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    2.378
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Oppo F3
    2.376
  • vivo V5 Plus
    2.371
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)
    2.249
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2.189
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (X20)
    2.145
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Mi 4S
    2.095
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • vivo V5
    2.059
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1.996
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Meizu m3 note
    1.923
  • BlackBerry Leap
    1.892
  • Meizu m2 note
    1.892
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • ZTE Nubia Z9 mini
    1.759
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Asus Zenfone Selfie
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    1.659
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) utilizes a sealed 3,600mAh Li-Ion battery, which is a 10% increase in capacity over the J7 (2016). The phone does not support fast charging, and its 1.55A charger fills only 24% of a depleted battery in half an hour.

The 14nm chipset manufacturing process used for the chipset means solid battery life and we have already witnessed how frugal the Exynos 7870 can be in a few previous Galaxies (the 2016 J7 model included).

Samsung promises the J7 (2017) can last a day on 3G calls, 18 hours on video playback, or 16 hours when browsing on Wi-Fi. A few days of testing confirmed Samsung’s claims and that combined with a low standby consumption, the J7 scored a top-notch 108h endurance rating in our test.

As usual we employed our typical two-test approach to see how much of a difference the Always On Display feature has. As expected, the AOD shrinks the standby endurance, but even though it took a hit, the J7 (2017) still posted a respectable endurance score.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.

Connectivity

The Galaxy J7 (2017) is available in single-SIM and dual-SIM variants, so you can get some flexibility in terms of carriers and plans. The LTE is rated Cat.6 for up to 300Mbps downlink.

Samsung improved the J7 (2017) connectivity compared to the 2016 model by adding Wi-Fiac support, which also means it will readily work on both the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands. There’s GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou; Bluetooth v.4.1, and an FM radio receiver. NFC is also on board with a dedicated options menu in the Settings.

Wired options include a microUSB port and a 3.5mm jack. The microUSB port can be used to attach an external accessory as it supports USB On-The-Go. We really wish Samsung started using USB-C ports on all of its new products – not just for the higher-end ones – as this would really help establish the new standard more quickly.

Android 7.0 with Samsung UX

We have to hand it to Samsung for extending its fresh new UI design all the way down to the budget/mid-range J-series. Just like the Galaxy S8 and S8+ pair, the J7 (2017) runs on Android Nougat and basically offers the same heavily-customized Samsung UX. It now goes by the simple Samsung UX slogan – the Grace UX name from the Note7 has seemingly died with the phablet itself.

To be fair, however, Samsung has significantly dialed back on its customizations. The new version looks more simplified even just on the surface, thoroughly revised with new iconography and other goodies. Before you get to those, however, there’s an Always On Display to greet you, and a few unlock options.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

It is really refreshing to see AOD on a lower end device. AMOLED is AMOLED no matter which way you cut it, so the feature makes equal sense on the J7 (2017) and provides just as much added value. There’s a selection of analog and digital clocks to choose from, plus a calendar or image option. What used to be a Night clock mode on the S7 edge is now a separate mode of the AOD, which means that you can no longer have the full blown AOD in the day, and the Night clock at… um.. night.

Always On Display - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewAlways On Display - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewAlways On Display - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewAlways On Display - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewAlways On Display - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Always On Display

Then there’s the lockscreen itself which displays the standard Nougat notification feed with grouping and direct reply. There are two shortcuts in the bottom corners, Dialer and Camera by default, but you can change them to any app you want.

Lockscren - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewShortcuts settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewPick an app, any app - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Lockscren • Shortcuts settings • Pick an app, any app

You may not get to see the lockscreen at all though, depending on how you choose to handle the unlocking process, and you’re not short on options. Now, the selection isn’t nearly as rich as on the S8 pair, with its iris scanner and facial recognition. Still, there is a fingerprint reader in this year’s model, which you could only get with the J7 Prime last year. It’s not the fastest fingerprint reader, but it’s always-on, no pressing or waking up required. It also completely bypasses the lockscreen.

Unlock options - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewUnlock options - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Unlock options

There’s always the option for a simple swipe unlock, no biometrics whatsoever, as well as PIN, pattern, or password. You’ll need to set up one of those three as backup to the fingerprint reader anyway. Don’t go with 0000 for PIN, please.

The Galaxy J7 (2017) also has support for the standard Android Smart Lock feature. You can use it to set trusted voices, places or devices, as well as leverage on-body detection.

Smart Lock - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSmart Lock - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Smart Lock

On to the homescreen then, where we find Samsung’s still new ‘Light and Line’ concept for icons and navigation keys. Since the J7 (2017) still has a physical home button and the standard Samsung pair of capacitive navigation keys (in the old-school arrangement) you get non of the fancy new remapping options of the S8 on-screen navigation controls. Depending on your personal taste, this might actually be a good thing.

The stock icons look cool, there’s no denying, and the simple and clear designs for the pre-installed apps make them easy to tell apart. You can have third-app icons on a padding with the same shape as the stock ones, or you can leave them as they are. Multiple grid sizes are available, and you can set them differently for the homescreen and add drawer.

Home screen - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHome screen settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewApps button settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewIcon frames - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Home screen • Home screen settings • Apps button settings • Icon frames

By default, you have no Apps icon to take you to the app drawer. Instead, you evoke it with a swipe up or down from pretty much anywhere on the screen. It’s not the most natural implementation, though – on a Pixel, you practically drag the app drawer up from under the dock, while here you swipe up or down, and the app drawer just appears.

You can still have the Apps icon, if so you wish, but that won’t change the swiping behavior. Alternatively, you can opt for a one-level UI, iOS-style, where all your apps are on your homescreens and there’s no app drawer.

Folders - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewFolders - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewApp drawer toggle - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewApp drawer - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewApp drawer - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Folders • Folders • App drawer toggle • App drawer

Samsung UX includes a powerful Theme engine. You can tweak almost every part on the interface individually to your liking. There is also a rich online database of pre-made skins. Some of them include an icon pack as well.

Samsung themes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung themes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung themes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung themes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung themes

The notification shade is slightly tweaked in this new design as well. On the first pull only the first six toggles are displayed – just the icons, no text. Pull down a second time or do a two-finger pull (yes, that still works), and you get the full list of toggles, complete with text. Where there’s contextual info to be shown, it replaces the button’s respective title – under Wi-Fi you’d see the network you’re currently connected to, under Bluetooth it’s the headphones you have paired.

You can choose between three button layouts, or rather you can select between 3 and 5 icons for each of the three rows – that number you cannot customize. You can pick from 20 toggles in total, so if you want to have all of them there and you go for the 3×3 layout you’re looking to have 3 panes of toggles.

Samsung hid the Auto brightness in a drop down menu next to the slider, which also contains a toggle than controls whether you have the slider displayed at the first pull or the second. There’s also a red area on the slider where the phone warns you that brightness might strain your eyes – much like headphone volume warnings.

Notification shade - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewNotification shade - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewNotification shade - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewNotification shade - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewNotification shade - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Notification shade

Notification handling is one of the big changes in Nougat, and we’re already familiar with how Samsung adopted it on the Galaxy S7/S7 edge – it’s the same here. Gone are the separate cards for each notification – instead, it’s more of a feed of notifications. If an app has more than one event to inform you of, the notifications from that app are bundled together, so things don’t turn into an endless feed of Gmail messages, for example.

You can, however, unbundle those, and act on them one by one. You can go one step further and expand the card to see part of the message body, and then you can go ahead and reply straight from the notification panel. Google calls this Notification Direct Reply and the rationale behind it is to allow you to streamline your workflow and save you the hassle of having to go into each separate app.

The task switcher is pretty traditional – the rolodex that’s been around for a while, with Nougat niceties like screen pinning and multi-window support. The task switcher itself now features two distinct and convenient drop zones for toggling split screen or spawning a pop-up windows view for supported apps. To be fair to Samsung though, its flagships had multi-window since way before it was cool (debuted on the Galaxy Note 3), and it’s only now making its way to stock Android.

Task switcher with multitasking shortcuts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewTask switcher with multitasking shortcuts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewTask switcher with multitasking shortcuts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewTask switcher with multitasking shortcuts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewTask switcher with multitasking shortcuts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Task switcher with multitasking shortcuts

And yet, Samsung’s implementation is still better and more powerful that what you’d find on a Pixel, or on the LG G6, for example. Here, you can resize the windows to just about any ratio, you can swap them, and you can have pop-up apps on top of the two ones that are in multi-window. Even shrink those up to a single draggable icon (Facebook chathead style).

Interestingly enough, we couldn’t find the S8 UI cropping feature on the J7 (2017) and it seems to be the only omission in an otherwise full-featured multi-window implementation.

Multi-window - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMulti-window - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Multi-window

Speaking of missing features, the Edge Panel and Edge Lighting menus are a perfectly logical cut-back from the S8, since the J7 (2017) lacks its curvy profile. Still, there are a few other interesting extra-value features that Samsung graciously decided to leave in. These are housed under the rather aptly named “Advanced Features” settings menu.

Although the J7 (2017) isn’t particularly wide or tall, Samsung acknowledges that some folks would still like to be able to use it single-handedly on occasion, so it’s included a One-handed mode. It’s not on by default, but when you enable it, you can swipe diagonally from either bottom corner and the interface will shrink to more-manageable proportions. Alternatively, you can call it with a triple-tap on the Home button.

One-handed mode - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewOne-handed mode - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
One-handed mode

Direct share is another neat little feature that allows the OS to dig through supported apps and collect your frequent conversations and popular contacts, then place them at the beginning of the share interface for convenience.

Dual Messenger simply allows you to install two instances of certain messenger apps and use them with a pair of different accounts at the same time.

Direct Share - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDual messenger - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Direct Share • Dual messenger

If you like the idea of a second space within your phone, Secure folder takes it one step further. It has been around for a while too. It’s where you can keep files, memos and apps away from prying eyes. It’s locked independently from the lockscreen. You can also install two copies of an app – one in plain sight and one in the Secure folder. And you can hide the folder too, so people can snoop all they want and will not find anything suspicious.

Samsung says Secure folder is like having a second phone. It does feel a lot like it too – you can have a different Google account in the Secure folder, you can launch the camera from here and photos you take go straight into the secure gallery. There are secure Contacts too, calls to them do not show up in the regular call log, but you can import contacts from your phone’s non-secure-folder alter ego.

Secure Folder - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSecure Folder - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Secure Folder

The whole Secure Folder platform is tied in with Samsung’s patented KNOX active protection system. It is the company’s primary offer in terms of user data protection. You can find some settings for it in the Device Maintenance menu.

Device Maintenance - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDevice Maintenance - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDevice Maintenance - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDevice Maintenance - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDevice Maintenance - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Device Maintenance

The same central hub also has you covered with easy tools for memory and storage optimization. All the battery saving features reside here as well. Besides a convenient per-app battery consumption breakdown and process control, The J7 (2017) has two battery saving levels. Medium is relatively mellow. It throttles your CPU, lowers the brightness and turns off background data usage, so you all your messengers will probably be off the grid.

Then there is the Maximum power saving mode that basically leaves you with a minimal, mostly black and white shell, with very limited phone functionality by default. It is great for emergencies.

Battery saving modes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewBattery saving modes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewBattery saving modes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewBattery saving modes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewBattery saving modes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Battery saving modes

The Game Launcher has been Samsung’s way of outplaying other makers in mobile gaming since the S7. It groups all your games in one place, so they don’t get lost in the busy app drawer.

The in-play Game tools portion of it has been redesigned, and offers pretty much the same functionality as before, admittedly in a much more straightforward manner. You can disable notifications during a game and disable the home and navigation buttons. You can grab screenshots, and record gameplay too.

Again, the interface seems almost as full-featured on the J7 (2017) as it is on the S8 and S8+. It does, however, lack resolution control. The J7 (2017) only has a FullHD panel to begin with, but given the hard time the Mali-T830MP2 is having with the native pixel count, we really do wish there was the option to take some of the load off and run games at 720p instead. We can only hope for a software update in the future.

Game Launcher and Game Tools - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGame Launcher and Game Tools - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGame Launcher and Game Tools - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGame Launcher and Game Tools - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGame Launcher and Game Tools - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Game Launcher and Game Tools

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) is running on the Exynos 7870 chipset, which although incredibly power-efficient, is the same as on last year’s model. We certainly wouldn’t have minded getting the higher-grade Exynos 7880, which is utilized in the Galaxy A5 (2017).

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

While the 7870 chip has a decent octa-core Cortex-A53 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, its Mali-T830MP2 GPU maybe somewhat disappointing. While this dual-core Mali was perfect for the 720p screen on the J7 (2016), the twice as many pixels on the 2017 model will probably be tougher on the GPU.

We kick off our benchmark inspection with some Geekbenching. In the single-core test, the J7 (2017)’s Cortex-A53 scores about the same as other mid-ranges, but lags behind the A72 core inside the Helio X20.

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    1546
  • Oppo R9s
    845
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    800
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    764
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    693

GeekBench 3 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    1819
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    1621
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    1596
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    1025
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    933
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    755
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    745

Employing all processing core will surely solve every problem which could be presented under Android OS but won’t impress in our benchmark chart. Still, the score is about the average and expected for the class.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    4456
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3958
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3554
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3388
  • Oppo R9s
    3130

GeekBench 3 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    6558
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    5636
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    5166
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    5103
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    4539
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    4187
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    4140
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3619
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3061

Here comes the interesting part. The Mali-T830MP2 in charge of the graphics department wasn’t a big deal last year on a 720p display, so it’s even less twelve months later on 4x pixels.

The offscreen tests prove the GPU inside the J7 (2017) is inferior to the competition and outdated. The same Mali, but with three cores and faster clock speed does far better inside the Exynos 7880 within the Galaxy A5 (2017).

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    18
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    15
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    15
  • Oppo R9s
    10
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    9.8
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    9.8
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    9.6
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    5.7
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    5.1
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    4.9
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    4.1

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    10
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    10
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    9.5
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    9.1
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    6.2
  • Oppo R9s
    6.2
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    6.2
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    6.1
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3.3
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.2
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    2.6

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    6.5
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    6
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    5.4
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    5.2
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.7
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.4
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    3.4
  • Oppo R9s
    3.4
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    1.9

The Galaxy J7 (2017) scored miserably on the onscreen tests where the increased screen resolution finally caught up with the dated GPU.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    19
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    19
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    15
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    15
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    9.8
  • Oppo R9s
    9.7
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    9.6
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    9.5
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    8.3
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    5.7
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    5.1

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia XA1
    15
  • Huawei P9
    11
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    11
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    9.4
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    9
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    7.2
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    6.1
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    6.1
  • Oppo R9s
    6.1
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    5.7
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3.3

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia XA1
    7.9
  • Huawei P9
    7.1
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    6
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    5.4
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    5.2
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.4
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    3.4
  • Oppo R9s
    3.4
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    1.9

The scores from the all-round GPU tests conclude pretty much the same thing – the GPU does a basic job compared to the most recent competitors.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    16942
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    16695
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    13666
  • Oppo R9s
    10519
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    10445
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    10394
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    9714
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    5489
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    5383
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    4947
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3922

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    341
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    287
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    261
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    259
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    191
  • Oppo R9s
    143
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    137
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    137
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    93

Basemark OS II and AnTuTu are good indicators of overall performance and those put the J7 (2017) in the bottom of the pack.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Oppo F3 Plus
    2349
  • Huawei P9
    2190
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    1368
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    1367
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    1171
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    999

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Huawei P9
    98069
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    91458
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    85162
  • Samsung Galaxy C7 Pro
    67540
  • Oppo R9s
    66081
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    62818
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    61020
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    60707
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    49094
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    46822
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    35689

We are disappointed to see the J7 (2017) so far behind the competition even though it had notable potential. We blame Samsung for going cheap on where it mattered the most, and investing mostly in cosmetics.

The good news – the dated chip was designed quite well. Despite the low scores, we can confirm the Galaxy J7 (2017) packs enough punch for gaming and while occasional hiccups do happen, especially in 3D games, they won’t stop anyone from enjoying a good gaming session. Arcade games runs better, of course, while lag throughout the UI almost non-existent.

Finally, thanks to the high-end 14nm manufacturing process, the Exynos 7870 runs cool and you won’t experience the so-called hot spots during low gaming sessions.

Telephony and loudspeaker

The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) is available in either a single-SIM or a dual-SIM version. We have the latter and are more than happy to note once more that it has a dedicated microSD expansion slot accompanying the two SIM slots. No hybrid compromises here.

The new Samsung UX design has soaked through to the core features of the J7 as well. There are some notable differences, though, from the likes of the S8 and S8+ we recently reviewed. Some are surely dictated by hardware limitations, but then there are things like the omission of the new Places tab in the Phone app. Shame really, the local directory it provided was kind of neat.

Still, you get the familiar dialer, which can be summoned from any tab by tapping on the green button in the bottom right corner. And Contacts in the adjacent tab.

Dialer - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewContacts - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSettings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Dialer • Contacts • Settings

The Do Not Disturb mode can be put on an automated schedule. When it’s on, only priority notifications can get through and you decide what counts as “priority” – it can be anything from calls by select contacts to reminders from key apps.

Do note disturb settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDo note disturb settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDo note disturb settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Do note disturb settings

The Galaxy J7 (2017) has a single speaker at its disposal. It is positioned on the right frame, above the power button, which, while a little unorthodox, should protect it from accidental muffling in most situations. It is also quite loud and scored a “Very Good” mark in our test.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Oppo R11 66.4 71.5 65.0 Average
Sony Xperia XA1 61.7 69.7 71.8 Average
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) 64.5 71.0 68.9 Average
Samsung Galaxy C7 67.3 67.8 72.8 Average
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 64.2 67.2 76.9 Good
Moto Z Play 62.9 70.3 77.0 Good
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) 66.4 66.2 78.0 Good
Huawei Honor 6X 68.4 67.0 79.1 Good
Honor 8 67.1 66.2 82.6 Good
Nokia 6 (Chinese version) 63.0 70.2 85.2 Good
Huawei P10 Lite 68.5 72.5 80.1 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) 67.8 71.2 83.1 Very Good
ZTE Axon 7 66.4 72.2 84.1 Very Good

Text input

The Galaxy J7 (2017) uses the Samsung Keyboard, which long-time Samsung users swear by. It’s quite feature-packed, with a dedicated numbers row, a row above that for word suggestions and additional characters on each key (accessible via long-press).

Samsung keyboard - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung keyboard - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung keyboard - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung keyboard

If that seems too tall, you can scale the keyboard down (or up, if you want bigger keys). We don’t like that the Space key is quite short, though.

Keyboard settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewKeyboard settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewKeyboard settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Keyboard settings

Additional typing tools include swipe input, My Hot Keys (predefined phrases that can be typed by long-pressing a number key) and voice dictation.

Other apps

Samsung continues to bundle the Microsoft app package that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and Skype.

Microsoft app package - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMicrosoft app package - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMicrosoft app package - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMicrosoft app package - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Microsoft app package

The Samsung-customized web browser makes use of the Samsung Pass service and features Web sign in – a password manager secured by your fingerprint. This makes logins as simple as unlocking the phone and people can’t peek over your shoulder to see your password.

With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewWith the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewWith the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewWith the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password

S Health has been renamed to Samsung Health but it’s the same thing – it can fully utilize the heart rate and blood oxygen sensors. It also tracks walking/running/cycling and you can manually input water and coffee intake and so on.

Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Health - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Health - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Health - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Health - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Health

The My Files app is the default file browser. It features Google Drive and Samsung Cloud integration. You can ZIP folders to make them easier to share as a single file, and you can do batch actions.

My Files - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMy Files - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMy Files - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewMy Files - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
My Files

All the other basics are covered as well and all executed in a consistent visual style. Clock, Calendar and Calculator are about as straight-forward and approachable as possible. Samsung Notes (formerly S Note) is a bit more feature-rich, but still pretty simple to use.

Clock - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewCalendar - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewCalculator - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Notes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Notes - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Clock • Calendar • Calculator • Samsung Notes

If you do find something essential missing, Samsung still maintains its own aptly named “Galaxy Essentials” app store. It is a good place to find great tools (like Kids Mode), but for general app shopping, you would probably be better off with Google Play.

Gallery

The Samsung Gallery has been focused on Stories for a while now. Stories are shared, collaborative albums – that means your friends can add their own photos from the party or just a Story on a shared theme (e.g. sunsets).

Samsung Gallery - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Gallery - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Gallery - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Gallery - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Gallery - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Gallery

Several image editing tools are available – from basic cropping, to collage making, to a more capable editor (which supports image correction, effects and drawing).

Viewing an image - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewImage details - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewPowerful editor - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewPowerful editor - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewPowerful editor - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Viewing an image • Image details • Powerful editor

Google Play Music for music playing

Google Play Music is the default player for your tunes on the Galaxy J7 (2017). It can play your local files, as well as stream music from the cloud and it’s backed by Samsung’s extensive sound enhancements.

They include the SoundAlive tool, which has an intuitive interface for tuning the equalizer. Presets and two simple dials are available for basic users, a manual 9-band equalizer for more advanced users.

Google Play Music - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGoogle Play Music - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGoogle Play Music - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGoogle Play Music - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewGoogle Play Music - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Google Play Music

Adapt Sound is even simpler. It tunes the EQ to your hearing and your particular pair of ears and headphones by playing multiple frequencies and asking how well you hear them. Smart Volume automatically adjusts the volume of tracks from multiple sources.

UHQ sound resolution enhancer is available as well for upscaling compressed audio. There are also features such as Surround sound emulation and Tube Amp Pro simulator.

Equalizer and Adapt Sound - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewEqualizer and Adapt Sound - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewEqualizer and Adapt Sound - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewEqualizer and Adapt Sound - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewEqualizer and Adapt Sound - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Equalizer and Adapt Sound

Video player

There is no video player app pre-installed so the Gallery handles the videos by default. Like with the music player, you can grab the traditional Samsung one from the Galaxy Essentials collection in Galaxy Apps (the Video Editor is there too). Even if you don’t, the Gallery app is up to the task. It has full subtitle support with advanced features to modify their appearance.

Video player: Interface - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewVideo player: Settings - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewVideo player: Pop-up view - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewVideo player: GIF Creation - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewVideo player: GIF Creation - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Video player: Interface • Settings • Pop-up view • GIF Creation

The app also lets you play only the audio track of the video. A pop-up view is supported, which you can resize with a pinch gesture – don’t look for resizing handles. There is even a convenient interface for quickly creating animated GIFs out of your clips.

Audio output is very good

When plugged into an active external amplifier, the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) delivered clear output with excellent readings top to bottom. Its volume levels were well above average too so all’s well here.

Plugging in a pair of headphones introduces a little extra intermodulation distortion, but has hardly any effect on the stereo crosstalk. It’s very accurate audio reproduction overall and even if volume drops to just barely above average it’s another solid showing by the Galaxy J7 (2017).

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) +0.01, -0.03 -92.8 92.8 0.0032 0.031 -92.3
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) (headphones attached) +0.23, -0.15 -92.1 91.8 0.013 0.223 -77.3
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) +0.05, -0.28 -91.9 92.2 0.0037 0.051 -90.3
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) (headphones attached) +0.18, -0.05 -91.0 91.6 0.019 0.230 -57.9
Huawei P10 Lite +0.04, -0.02 -88.2 88.6 0.011 0.021 -84.3
Huawei P10 Lite (headphones attached) +0.13, -0.05 -87.4 87.7 0.014 0.084 -75.9
Oppo F3 +0.09, -0.03 -93.7 93.5 0.0055 0.0099 -93.5
Oppo F3 (headphones attached) +0.52, -0.19 -87.6 88.6 0.0081 0.396 -51.7
Huawei Honor 8 Pro +0.04, -0.01 -93.3 95.0 0.0018 0.0075 -93.3
Huawei Honor 8 Pro (headphones attached) +0.15, -0.02 -92.6 94.2 0.0023 0.100 -63.9

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) frequency response
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

13MP snapper

The similarities between the Galaxy J7 (2017) and last year’s Galaxy J7 Prime run pretty deep, so much so that both devices use the Sony IMX258 sensor for their 13 MP main cameras. However, this time around it is positioned behind a much brighter f/1.7 lens. While the particular sensor is rather uncommon within Samsung’s own lineup, it is a fairly popular overall. It powers a few pretty strong camera experiences, like the LG G6, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Sony Xperia XA.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

Rounding up the package is a simple single LED flash – perfectly adequate for a budget (somewhat) device. It you were hoping for OIS to eventually trickle down to the lower end of Samsung’s lineup, the J7 (2017) hasn’t managed to break that barrier. Come to think of it, even this year’s A-series Galaxy devices lacked the stabilization of their predecessors, so we can’t really expect miracles from the J7 (2017) in this respect.

What has trickled down, however is the new UX, which includes the camera interface. There are a few changes here and there, but nothing really substantial. The traditional Samsung quick-launch, home button double-tap is still present and is now complemented in the usability department by new swipe gestures.

Swiping down will switch between the front and back camera. Left brings up a panel with filters (no download option, though). Right lands you on a shooting mode selector. All pretty convenient, at least at first glance.

There is an issue worth noting here and it has to do with HDR. For one, it can only be turned ON or OFF manually. An auto HDR mode would have been greatly appreciated. Even worse, toggling its state requires a swipe and a tap, since the main camera interface only has a flash shortcut.

Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewCamera interface - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewCamera interface - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Camera interface

A Pro mode is present too, though that’s clearly a huge overstatement – you get control over exposure compensation, ISO and white balance presets, plus a metering mode selector, but no manual focus and no manual shutter speed. Not really the “Pro” we were hoping for.

Basic Pro mode - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewBasic Pro mode - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Basic Pro mode

Settings are sparse as well, but at least all the basics are covered. So many manufacturers still don’t offer straight-forward resolution controls, so we almost view it as an extra on the J7 (2017).

Pretty basic settings menu - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewPretty basic settings menu - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Pretty basic settings menu

A dedicated video mode and viewfinder would have been a nice touch.

In terms of quality, the J7 (2017) camera can be best described as “average”. Don’t get us wrong though, it is a perfectly satisfactory and adequate experience for a budget-friendly device. Detail is plenty and colors look nice, albeit a little toned down. Noise is pretty low overall, but there are also noise suppression artifacts here and there, especially around edges. We also observed some corner softness.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/2252s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/4016s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1866s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1328s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1748s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/14286s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) camera samples

Despite having a bright f/1.7 lens, the Galaxy J7 (2017) tends to underexpose photos quite often. Its dynamic range is a bit narrow as well, which results in a lot of detail lost in the shadows and to a lesser extent – clipped highlights. HDR is pretty laid-back, but still helps remedy the situation most of the time. It does what it promises without much drama – shadows get a modest boost, and some detail in the highlights is salvaged, adding up to a very natural-looking image. Some might prefer a little less subtlety here. In high-contrast scenarios you might be wise to take a shot in normal and HDR mode, just in case.

HDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1203s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1190s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1770s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
HDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1553s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1328s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1543s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
HDR OFF • HDR ON • HDR OFF • HDR ON • HDR OFF • HDR ON

HDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1866s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1887s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1748s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
HDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1789s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR OFF - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1773s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewHDR ON - f/1.7, ISO 40, 1/1773s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
HDR OFF • HDR ON • HDR OFF • HDR ON • HDR OFF • HDR ON

Panorama samples are surprisingly good. Resolution is plenty and the level of detail is easily comparable to that of stills. Also, there are virtually no stitching defects or artifacts.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) panorama samples - f/1.7,  - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) panorama samples - f/1.7,  - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) panorama samples

You can also do some pixel-peeping in our photo compare tool and see how the J7 (2017) stacks up against the competition.

Photo Compare ToolPhoto Compare ToolPhoto Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) in our photo compare tool

Selfie shooter

The Galaxy J7 (2017) has a pretty impressive 13MP selfie shooter up on offer, on paper at least. It is a f/1.9 unit, which does, overall, look deceptively similar to the rear one in numbers alone. However, as you can imagine this is not the case. For one, the front-facer lacks autofocus. This is quite normal and typically a non-issue on most devices, since they are intended to focus at roughly an arm’s length.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

However, just like a few other recent Galaxy devices, the J7 (2017) seems to be exhibiting some weird focusing issues. It is almost as if focus is locked at a much shorter distance than normal. However, we can’t really say for sure that this is the cause of the problem. The perfect focus plain is very shallow and we often found ourselves missing it in both directions. The Galaxy A5 (2017) and A7 (2017) have similar issues, but we are yet to pinpoint the exact culprit.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) selfie samples - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/165s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) selfie samples - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/298s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSamsung Galaxy J7 (2017) selfie samples - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/157s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) selfie samples

The camera app offers a few beautify selfie filters, but they do tend to take things a bit overboard. Use them moderately or avoid altogether.

Make up - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/152s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSlim face - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/157s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewAll filters to maximum - f/1.9, ISO 40, 1/157s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Make up • Slim face • All filters to maximum

Low-light performance on the J7 (2017) selfie cam is actually pretty good. Noise is kept at bay and the front-facing flash should really come in handy for all those nighttime Snapchats the kids are into these days.

Low-light selfie - f/1.9, ISO 200, 1/33s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewDark room selfie - f/1.9, ISO 640, 1/8s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) reviewSelfie with flash - f/1.9, ISO 320, 1/13s - Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review
Low-light selfie • Dark room selfie • Selfie with flash

Video camera

The Galaxy J7 (2017) can capture videos at up to 1080p and 30fps. The lack of 4K is currently the norm at this price point, so, we can’t realistically ask for more. Furthermore, the J7 (2017) makes pretty good use of the hardware it has.

Clips get saved in a standard MP4 format, with overall bitrate holding steady at around 17 Mbps, an AVC video stream and an accompanying AAC audio one. The latter is captured in stereo at 48 KHz – pretty standard.

The FullHD video output is good, with nice levels of detail and low noise. Colors are rendered quite well too. Perhaps, they could be a bit more saturated, though once again you’re better off looking at the Video compare tool to get a better idea. Audio, by the way, is surprisingly clear, and it can’t be down to just the bitrate.

You can also download an unedited sample (10s, 22MB) to avoid any possible YouTube compression.

Last, but not least, here are a few links to the J7 (2017) in our video compare tool. Feel free to pit it against any other device we have in our database.

Video Compare ToolVideo Compare ToolVideo Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) in our video compare tool

Final words

Samsung knows its way around the mid-range just as good as it dominates the top-end market. Maybe that’s why we had such high hopes for the Galaxy J7 (2017) and we wanted to find good reasons to like it.

Samsung did get right quite a few things – the all-metal splash-resistant design, the main and selfie camera upgrades, the ample battery, and the modern software.

We are just not sure if those are enough to make up for the dated hardware left in charge of an even more demanding phone. We noticed the occasional hiccups in arcade games while lag and low frame rate are common things in more complex 3D titles. Not to mention that the measly amount of sorage available to the user out of the box is on the 16GB version is almost insluting.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) review

The bottom line – the Galaxy J7 (2017) is an excellent mid-range smartphone with above average specs. If the old chip is not an issue, it didn’t ruin the overall experience, after all, then the new J7 has everything to become the new headliner for the series.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) key test findings

  • Build quality and materials are flagship-grade, we appreciate the IP54 rating. The antenna strips may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
  • The high-quality Super AMOLED display has very good maximum brightness and infinite contrast and can put out punchy or spot-on colors depending on your preference. Sunlight legibility is great.
  • Battery life is superb – the phone’s endurance rating is 108h, and it posted excellent numbers in all our individual tests.
  • We were happy to see the fresh new Samsung UX on the J7 (2017). It looks and feels almost identical to the one running on the Galaxy S8.
  • The Exynos 7870’s processor is powerful enough to handle any daily task. The GPU on the other hand is not only dated, but also weak and responsible for a dissatisfying gaming performance. In absolute terms, it’s an average midrange SoC that’s not greatly suited for gaming. Oddly, the Game Launcher now lacks the option to change the game resolution, which would have improved the performance.
  • Very good audio output through both amplifier and headphones. The loudspeaker is surprisingly loud and earned itself another “Very Good” mark in our tests.
  • Image quality from the main camera is good, although not spectacular in any way. Detail is plenty and noise is kept pretty low, but the dynamic range is rather poor, colors are a little toned down for our taste and there is some corner softness.
  • 1080p video quality is very good, so is the audio that accompanies it.
  • The 13MP selfie camera is a solid performer. There are some minor focusing issues, though, just like on the Galaxy A5 (2017) and A7 (2017). The front-facing flash works well and could provide some added value to the right user.

The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) is priced about 20% higher than the 2016 iteration of the Galaxy J7 back when it launched. It’s not unusual for the prices to hike this way nowadays. And the best way to find out if the J7 (2017) is worth the extra cash is to check out the competition.

The Galaxy A5 (2017) is probably what we expected from the J7 in terms of performance. In addition to the water-proof design, it got the more powerful Exynos 7880 chip, double the storage, and higher camera resolution. Today, the A5 costs between €30 and €50 extra over the J7 depending on the market, so it will be a tough call unless you absolutely want the bigger 5.5-inch screen.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

The Nokia 6 is hot on the Galaxy J7 (2017) heels when it comes to price and features, but it has an edge when it comes to the overall sentiment towards the brand. The Nokia 6 lacks an AMOLED matrix and splash resistance, and is no selfie master either, but is arguably prettier, it offers more storage, and there are those stereo speakers, too.

Nokia 6
Nokia 6

The Sony Xperia XA1 has a smaller and low-res display, but it relies on a stylish design and high-end camera to impress at first look. Instead of AMOLED and selfie flash, you’ll get a much better main camera, faster performance, and more storage, so the XA1 might be a deal worth considering. Oh, and it’s cheaper.

Sony Xperia XA1
Sony Xperia XA1

The Moto G5 Plus design is ordinary looking but it’s also splash resistant while its chip is snappier. The phone supports fast charging, has double the storage and features a clean version of Android Nougat, but it’s inferior to the J7 in the camera department.

Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Motorola Moto G5 Plus

The Honor 8 was far nt exactly expensive at launch and now, a year later, it costs almost the same as the J7 (2017). The Huawei-made phone is not only prettier, but also way more powerful. It may lack an AMOLED screen, but the dual-camera on its back is something that Samsung is still contemplating on even for its flagships.

Huawei Honor 8
Huawei Honor 8

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 may not be as fancy-looking as the Galaxy J7 (2017) but is ready to offer more horsepower for less money. If indeed performance-per-buck is what’s most important to you, the Snapdragon version of the Redmi Note 4 won’t disappoint. Even better, the Note 4 offers a good 1080p screen wrapped in a metal unibody, as well as a capable camera. The battery endurance is great, too. And the best part – the Redmi Note 4 costs half the Galaxy J7 (2017).

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (MediaTek)Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (MediaTek) • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X

It all boils down to performance – gaming is subpar on the Galaxy J7 (2017). If this is an issue, the competition has plenty of better offers. But if smooth 3D performance is not on the checklist, the Galaxy J7 (2017) is probably the best-suited device in the class for everything else – video, camera, web, even design and style. This seems like a fair deal, doesn’t it?

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