[ Review ] Samsung Galaxy J7+ is a Midrange Dual Camera Delight

[ Review ] Samsung Galaxy J7+ is a Midrange Dual Camera Delight

Samsung’s latest addition to their entry level Galaxy J-series range dubbed the Galaxy J7+ comes with several features from the higher end Galaxy S and Note series phones while keeping the price tag below the sub-RM1.6K mark along with a constant flow of dining and shopping discounts and freebies from their mySamsung app.

Externally, the comes with matte finish in your choice of either gold or black though our test unit was the latter. The finish is fortunately fingerprint resistant with the smoothly finished backplatebroken up by top and bottom antenna bands flanking a vertically oriented dual camera array that comes with a dual LED flash and the Samsung logo engraved into the casing. The Galaxy J7+ is the first Galaxy J-series model to mount a dual camera array including a facsimile of the Note8’s LIve Focus mode that offers snaps with the background artfully blurred out while the subject remains sharply in focus.

The left side of the phone comes with a volume rocker and a hybrid SIM card slot. The right side sports a power button and in a departure from many other phone designs, a side-mounted mono speaker. The base of the phone has a 3.5mm audio jack and a microUSB charging port. The front of the phone sports Samsung’s trademark oblong-shaped home button cum fingerprint reader flanked by a menu and back button on the base of the phone. The 5.5-inch display is a Super Amoled panel and also incorporates an Always On mode for important notifications.

The box itself comes with the bare minimum of accessories in the form of a charger and a cable though that’s the extent of it. The phone itself is about the same width as a Galaxy Note8 albeit not as tall and about as thin, making it very pocketable; more so for its gently rounded corners and edges. While it lacks the mirrored glass finish of its pricier siblings, it is still a relatively good looking, soundly made phone.

In terms of hardware, the Galaxy J7+ is somewhat unusual as it is one of the few phones that Samsung has opted to use a MediaTek processor, this case the Helio P20 2.4GHz octacore as opposed to their own Exynos SoCs or a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This is paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage via a hybrid SIM card slot. In terms of firmware, the Galaxy J7+ runs Android Nougat 7.1.1 out of the box.

To compare the Galaxy J7+ with its contemporaries purely on the basis of its hardware would not be an altogether fair comparison as much of what justifies its price tag is based on its more subtle upgrades that have been culled from its higher end Note series siblings with differing levels of success in its implementation. For starters the front 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display also sports an Always On mode akin to that first seen on the Galaxy S7. For a minor trade-off in battery life, the display constantly shows the time and other important notifications onscreen rather than having to turn the phone on all the time.

Another particularly handy addition to the phone is their Samsung Notes app culled from the Galaxy Note series that accepts typed notes and handwritten ones too. The display works just fine with third party styli or your fingers; and no, it doesn’t work with an S Pen stylus – we tried. Implementation is somewhat rudimentary and while the app will save typed notes and whatever you scrawled, it lacks pressure tracking so you’ll need some extra elbow grease as well as a third party stylus if you attempt to use the Galaxy J+ for artistic endeavours.

Another addition to the phone is the addition of a content aggregator for curated news feeds, reminders, snaps you’ve taken and the like dubbed Bixby Home. It lacks Bixby’s artificial intelligence and voice assistance though if you’re still keen on getting an AI assistant on your phone you can still use Google Assistant which works perfectly fine on the J7+.

Of particular note is that the phone comes with a Secure Folder, allowing you to keep certain files private and lock it with the fingerprint reader or some other security measure of your choice. This is invaluable, especially to prevent someone else from casually browsing anything important on your phone. The fact that they’ve included this feature in their entry level J-series phones is a pleasant bonus indeed.

The phone also comes with Microsoft OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Skype preinstalled though they can be disabled if you’re not using them. Bar the above, the phone by and large runs their clean Grace UX user interface. Getting about the menus is a simple process and the help function that’s reachable by typing your query in usually points you in the right direction if you need to get something done.

The MediaTek Helio P20 SoC runs on a 16nm FinFet process and integrates eight A53 Arm Cortex cores in a BIG Little configuration with four running at 2.35GHz and the other four at 1.65GHz for non-intensive work. When subjected to benchmarks, the phone yielded a a score of 685 on Sling Shot Extreme via 3D Mark, a decent score on PC Mark’s Work 2.0 test at 3,763 points and a score of 62,800 on Antutu. In GeekBench, it got a score of 886 on single core operations and 3,821 on multi-core operations. On a single core alone, it is badly outgunned compared to its pricier contemporaries like the Galaxy S7 though on the multi-core front it manages to trail slightly behind the Galaxy S6 edge. Antutu’s scores bear this out in an approximate fashion with the Galaxy J7+ trailing behind the Galaxy Note5 in performance tests. In Epic Citadel, it managed to pump out an average of 47.7FPS at Ultra High Quality on a Full HD screen which is quite respectable.

In field tests the phone ran in a competent fashion to handle most day to day tasks. Web browsing, emails, texting and social media ran smoothly and most games loaded in a relatively smooth fashion as well as YouTube videos. The latest games Noblemen:1896 experienced some lag on loading but otherwise ran smoothly. While it won’t outrun its pricier siblings, the Galaxy J7+ is a very capable performer for its price range.

The Super Amoled display itself is par for the course with vibrant, punchy colours and crisp detail even under sunlight. They’ve been remarkably thorough here and have included the option to modify the colour settings even down to the RGB level though there are broad predefined settings for those who aren’t up to tweaking it. Blacks were good, more so for what you pay for and movies were a pleasant treat on the phone. The side mounted speaker is an astute design decision as it precludes your digits blocking it like on a conventional bottom-mounted speaker setup in many other phones. Audio quality on the speaker is loud if unremarkable. You’re not going to be using this to listen to Tchaikovsky at any rate but it’ll handle movies and the usual dramas and pop music without trouble with sufficient clarity to let you and presumably everyone within two paces of you on the MRT appreciate your taste in music or lack thereof.

Dual Camera Delight

The biggest draw to the Galaxy J7+ is that it’s Samsung’s first dual camera array for their phones outside of the Galaxy Note8 though it is appreciably different in design and operation. Rather than the dual optical image stabilisation on the Note8, the J7+ comes with a more mainstream primary 13-MP camera with an F/1.7 aperture paired with a 5-MP mono camera with an F/1.9 aperture to gather depth data. Unfortunately, the J7+ lacks optical image stabilisation though including it would likely ramp up the price tag even more. The front is a conventional 16-MP selfie snapper albeit one with a respectable F/1.9 aperture and a dedicated LED flash to boot.

The camera user interface, befitting its entry level status is significantly pared down from the Note8 and S8 though it does have an Auto mode, a Pro mode, a Panorama mode, a HDR on mode, a Food mode and a Night mode. Pro mode on the J7+ only allows for you to control the ISO, the white balance and the exposure settings. Optionally, you can download additional modes including an Animated GIF mode if that floats your boat.

It’s only in Auto mode that you’re able to enable Live Focus mode which uses both cameras in tandem to help create a defocused background and a sharply focused subject in the foreground. You’re also able to dial the effect in both pre and post shot as needed.

Samsung J7 Plus Live Focus test

The Live Focus mode on the Galaxy J7+ artfully dialled out the background of the subject while the chap in front remains in focus.

In the field, the phone did a pretty decent job. The lack of OIS means you need somewhat of a steady hand in low light but the bright F/1.7 aperture and nippy autofocus helps mitigate that quite a bit. Shots have good detail and relatively good colours even in low light though there’s quite a bit of grain under more challenging lighting conditions. The phone’s Live Focus effect is a bit of a mixed bag as it occasionally defocuses the edges of something that ought to be in sharp focus like a subject’s hair.

Fortunately, it’s more hit than miss and the effect is best appreciated when the phone is used to take food shots or other static objects. With a bit of patience, you can get some very Instagram worthy shots out of the rear snapper. The front camera offers a Selfie Focus mode that digitally defocuses the background and has a bare minimum of beautification modes –  you can tweak skin smoothness and skin colour correct but that’s about it with no face sharpening on whatnot which may deter narcissists. Selfie shots are pretty good in decent light with enough detail to pick out hair and crow’s feet on a male test subject. Videos are serviceable if unremarkable with both the front and rear capped at 1080P.

Battery Life, Price and Conclusion
The phone is juiced by a 3,000mAh battery and with averages a decent full day’s worth of usage with light gaming on Clash Royale, social media usage throughout the day, web browsing, emails and some usage of the rear camera. Overall battery endurance is acceptable but unremarkable.

The phone comes in at an interesting median in terms of its price tag, with many other dual camera phones prices both cheaper and dearer than it. In its favour, the Galaxy J7+ has a capable dual camera for its price range with a bright F/1.7 aperture and a pretty convincing Live Focus mode. It also has several useful features culled from the higher end Note and Galaxy S series phones – Secure Folder, Samsung Notes and Bixby Home though your mileage may vary as to its utility depending on how you use the phone.

One of the biggest draws to the J7+ though is an ongoing cornucopia of freebies, deals and bargains via their MySamsung app; it’s something worth thinking about if you’re heavily into retail therapy and at launch Samsung was offering several dining-themed bargains specific to the phone itself. If you’re banking on a budget camphone that has a decent rear dual camera along with a bunch of shopping and dining related bargains thrown in for good measure, this is worth a gander.

Price RM1,599
Display 5.5-inch Super AMOLED, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Processor MediaTek Helios P20 2.39GHz octacore processor
Memory 4GB RAM/32GB storage
Camera 13-MP w/ F/1.7 and 5-MP w/ F/1.9 & LED flash (rear) | 16-MP w/ F/1.9 & LED flash (front)
Battery 3,000mAh
Size/Weight 152.4 x 74.7 x 7.9mm / 180g
*Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia

What We Liked Pretty good rear camera, sturdy build quality, Secure Folder, Always On display, bright F/1.7 aperture on rear camera
What We Didn’t Samsung Pay support would be nice, only has Bixby Home, not many accessories
We Say Samsung’s first entry level dual camphone brings in numerous features once enjoyed only by its higher priced siblings, making it worth a look for those on a budget

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