Playing around with the Galaxy J7 Prime confused me in several ways. Is this supposed to be part of Samsung’s entry-level series, or is it trying to bite off more than it can chew as a midranger? In the end, it didn’t really matter; I had loads of fun.
And that’s the thing: The J7 Prime will constantly mesmerize you with features you’d find in more expensive smartphones, only to pull you back to reality with its shortcomings. Let’s break it down to a few points.
It plagiarizes more expensive Galaxy phones to a fault
A lot of my time with this handset was spent marveling at how nice the smooth metal body feels. I honestly thought it was made of plastic when I first held the phone, but that’s just a testament to how well balanced and comfortable it is to hold. Never did I feel underwhelmed by the build quality — until it slipped out of my hand a couple of times.
I strongly suggest buying a grippy case for the J7 Prime. As great as the metal back feels, thanks in part to its curved edges, it’s terribly slippery and can’t withstand dents too well. You’ll lose out on the excellent texture, but it’s for the best if you care about aesthetics.
The 5.5-inch 1080p display applies the same slightly curved edges, which are enough for my fingers to slide along when accessing pesky side menus. Only drawback is the use of a TFT LCD panel, which doesn’t provide the wide viewing angles you’d find on the more common IPS panels. Fortunately, the screen doesn’t overly saturate colors like on most Samsung handsets equipped with AMOLED displays.
One oddity is the placement of the lone loud speaker. Samsung decided to place it above the power button on the side, instead of on the bottom edge or rear. It’s only when I watched YouTube videos in both portrait and landscape orientations when I realized how strategically placed it is: No hands can cover up the speaker. It can get pretty loud, too.
Can’t get rid of its entry-level feel
As well thought-out the design cues are, you’re constantly reminded where the J7 Prime really stands.
For one, while I’m overjoyed to have a fingerprint sensor conveniently placed on the physical home button, it’s awfully picky. And even if you do place you finger properly, there’s a noticeable delay in unlocking the phone. It doesn’t help that it only accepts three fingerprints in total, limiting your alternatives.
The lag carries over to the overall performance. Samsung has done a decent job reducing the bloat of its user interface, but the combination of the in-house Exynos 7870 octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM wasn’t consistent. Games like Pokémon Go and Asphalt 8: Airborne were riddled with jittery animations, while the camera and heavy social media apps (looking at you, Facebook) ran perfectly fine.
While on the topic of performance, both the front-facing and rear cameras (8 and 13 megapixels, respectively) are better than expected. It’s clear that their photos suffer from noise under poor lighting conditions and focusing is hit or miss without any laser-guided system; however, the speed they run at is impeccable.
By double-tapping the home button, you can enter the camera app in an instant, whether the phone is active or locked. Reviewing photos after being shot is snappy, as well. We don’t have any video proof of our process, so check out these sample images instead:
One feature makes up for some losses
This being a budget-conscious Android, a few cuts had to be made. There’s no NFC for easy pair-ups; no gyroscope to get some games and virtual reality apps to work; no ambient light sensor to automatically adjust screen brightness; and absolutely no form of quick charging.
I was able to get by without the first three, but the last one irked me a bit. You see, the J7 Prime takes a long time to charge its 3300mAh battery — nearly three hours from zero to full. The good news is a single charge can last more than a day with around five hours of screen-on time if you remember to manually lower the display brightness while indoors.
In exchange for the missing features, Samsung included something most manufacturers fail to add: slots for two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card, all at the same time. This is such an underrated necessity, and trumps the hybrid setups that force you to choose between a second SIM card or expanded storage to fit alongside the first LTE-compatible SIM.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
Although it isn’t exactly budget-friendly, the borderline midranger is perfect for anyone wanting to step up from a entry-level plastic phone. I can easily forgive the performance hiccups for its premium-ish design, but with similarly priced options from ASUS, OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi offering features that the J7 Prime lacks, you have to first figure out how detrimental the aforementioned setbacks are.
Also consider that paying a little more brings you closer to Samsung’s higher-end Galaxy C and A series smartphones, which cover up most of the J7 Prime’s weaknesses. Looking down the price ladder, the cheaper Galaxy J7 is also worthy of a mention. Its primary downgrades are lower resolutions for the display and selfie shooter, and a non-metal build.
I must also stress that the Galaxy Note 7 disaster shouldn’t prevent you from looking at another Samsung. Yes, the image is tarnished, but let’s set the hate and conspiracy theories aside in favor of a well-designed handset like the J7 Prime.
The Galaxy J7 Prime is available in India, Vietnam, and the Philippines for INR 18,790, VND 6,290,000, and PHP 13,990, respectively. The amount of storage and Android version you get depend on where you buy it; the Philippine unit we reviewed came with 32GB and 6.0.1 Marshmallow.