While the Galaxy S7's box was dark with shiny letters, AT&T's exclusive phone has average looking packaging. We feel AT&T missed on the opportunity to capitalize on the rugged nature of phone when designing the box.
Anyway, it's what's inside that counts so let's dig in right away. The box opens like a lid, and you're greeted by the Galaxy S7 active. Once that's out, lifting the top layer of packaging reveals some documentation and warranty info. Just under that are a charger block, micro-USB cable, and SIM tool which can be hooked to a key ring if you ever need to pop out the SIM and microSD tray.
The charger block is the same Adaptive Fast Charger that Samsung has been packing with its phones since the Note 4. The Adaptive Fast Charger and any Quick Charge 2.0 charger can usually be used interchangeably.
Something that Samsung has also been doing since the Galaxy S7 is bundling an OTG adapter for using with Smart Switch, Samsung's own app for transferring files from your old device. You can plug your old phone into the adapter and transfer photos, contacts, and it even works with iOS and it'll download all your stuff directly from your iCloud if you'd like.
The Galaxy S7 active is perhaps not as attractive as some other flagship phones, but that's not what the active is about. Taking cues from its predecessors, the Galaxy S7 active is designed for ruggedness and endurance.
The Galaxy S7 active measures 148.8 x 74.9 x 9.9 mm (5.86 x 2.95 x 0.39 in) and weighs in at the hefty 185g but that's fine considering the extra battery capacity. When you pick the phone up, it feels lighter than its volume would suggest. Granted, it's significantly chunkier than the S7 (whose glass and metal build is much denser).
The S7 active takes cues directly from the S7 but comes with a completely redesigned chassis as is usual for the Active series. The most apparent differences upon first glance are the three hardware buttons in the front whereas the S7 only has one physical home button while the Back and Recents keys are capacitive touch keys.
The design of the buttons has changed from previous active generations as well. Where every other model had buttons that were adjacent, the S7 active leaves a bit of space between the pill-shaped buttons, likely due to the introduction of the fingerprint sensor into the central key. In previous Active models, the fingerprint scanner was left out, even though both the Galaxy S5 and S6 had fingerprint scanners themselves.
The bezels on our Gold unit have a texture under the glass that's different from the standard S7's which is a shiny solid gold. The S7 active has more of a striped look to it when inspecting it up close. Samsung says this was a cosmetic choice to achieve visual appeal.
The layout of the S7 active is a bit different than that of the Galaxy S7. The headphone jack is on the top instead of the bottom; the SIM tray is on the right side just about half way along the edge while the S7 has it on the top next to the noise canceling mic. And finally, the two volume keys on the S7 are replaced with a single volume rocker and just over it is the Activity button. We'll come back to that button further into the review.
The keys themselves are borderline "too sensitive" and are prone to accidental presses if you are not careful.
The bottom and top of the S7 active is made of some kind of really dense rubber that has almost zero give. The way to describe how it feels would be somewhere between rubber and matte plastic. This material is what covers every corner of the device and it's perhaps meant to absorb lots of shock. If you look close enough, however, you can see the seams from the molding process, which is not quite fit for a flagship device.
This bumper-like material reinforces a metal frame which holds the screen in place as well as the buttons and SIM/microSD card slot on either lateral side of the phone. This frame also helps the phone to dissipate heat since the back plate is made of polycarbonate plastic.
The back plate on our gold model sports an intricate pattern that aesthetically gives the device more depth VS a satin finish. This texture also aids in gripping the back of the phone thanks to the gold finish that has the same rubber/matte feel as the bumpers. The back of the phone features the same camera setup found on the Galaxy S7: A 12MP camera with LED flash and heart rate sensor.
Unlike the S7, this camera setup is recessed into the body to protect the camera lens from shattering in the event of a direct impact with a flat surface. It's also worth noting that Samsung kept the LED notification on the Active model in the same location as the S7, to the left of the earpiece setup which includes the light and proximity sensors, along with the wide-angle 5MP camera.