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Samsung Galaxy J7 Core Review - Samsung's Budget Gaming Phone?

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The J7 series from Samsung has been a successful bunch of smartphones. The Galaxy J7 Core, their budget-friendly performance variant, should be no different right?
Samsung Galaxy J7 Core Review - Budget Gaming Phone?
Meet Galaxy J7 Core

I have been using the Samsung Galaxy J7 Core for quite some time now and let us see how it fared.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Core Specs

Display: 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED 1280 x 720 resolution w/ Gorilla Glass protection at 267 ppi
CPU: 1.6GHz 64 Bit Exynos 7870 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-T830
RAM: 2GB
ROM: 16GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 256GB (dedicated)
Back Camera: 13MP f/1.9 w/ AF and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 5MP f/2.2 w/ LED flash
Battery: 3,000mAh
OS: Android 7.0 Nougat w/ TouchWiz UI
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM (micro)
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, sound
Others: Colors: gold, black
Dimensions: 152.4 x 78.6 x 7.6 mm
Weight: 170 g
Price: PHP 9,990

Disclaimer: This unit was borrowed from Samsung Philippines for our unbiased take.

Unboxing / Accessories

The device with accessories

When you unbox the Samsung Galaxy J7 Core, you are greeted by the device immediately. Digging deeper into it, you will find the accessories included.

In the box, you have a 1.54A USB adaptive charger, USB to micro USB data / charging cable, and an earbuds w/ microphone for calls. A pretty complete package.

Build Quality / Design

Sturdy plastic
Sturdy plastic

In terms of build quality and design, the J7 Core is a standout even on a budget. It is made out of a high quality plastic which is something you should expect since this technically the budget variant of the J7 series. The beautiful AMOLED display is protected by an unspecified version of Corning Gorilla Glass.
Mic, micro USB port, and 3.5 mm headphone jack below
Mic, micro USB port, and 3.5 mm headphone jack below
Volume rocker
Volume rocker
Right

Overall, the build is what we expected, however, design could have been better. For instance, the bezels are quite thick for a 2017 smartphone. There is also a significant camera hump. However, the texture of the back's matte finish gives the J7 Core a pretty good grip.

On the brighter side, it has a removable back that, when removed, reveals a replaceable battery. The SIM card slot and SD card slot are also found underneath the back cover.

Overall, the look is quite an outdated yet stylish approach. It is complete with standard ports and buttons including the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Display Quality

The J7 Core's 5.5 inch Super AMOLED is gorgeous
The J7 Core's 5.5 inch Super AMOLED is gorgeous

The J7 Core's display is something that you would expect from a Samsung device. It has a 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED Display with Gorilla Glass protection. It has a 267ppi pixel density and a great color reproduction. It is really a joy to play games and watch videos with it.

The Mali T830 GPU is no joke either as it can play 720p YouTube content with no hiccups. At this price range the 720p HD screen resolution is acceptable and, to be honest, it is really not that noticeable for an untrained eye.

The display's brightness is on the dimmer side. However, at maximum brightness, it is still usable outside on a sunny day. It can get better though. Viewing angles is also impressive. I haven't found any angles where the display becomes distorted.

Interestingly, it has 10 points of touch.

Audio Quality

The J7 Core has the speakers placed at the back. The placement could have been better and I personally prefer it to be at the bottom of the device.

However, for a budget smartphone, it is acceptable. In normal everyday noise, the J7 Core surprised me. I never had a hard time hearing my notifications unlike on other smartphones on the same price range like the OPPO A71. Music comes out with a really punchy quality as well.

The performance when you use the headphones (included in the box) is really impressive as well. The volume is really good and you can easily drown out the outside noise when you crank it up (Not advisable though.) Overall, the audio quality from the J7 Core is, to say the least, a surprisingly good experience.

Microphone for calls did alright too.

Battery Life

8 hours benchmark
8 hours benchmark

The battery life with the J7 Core is average to say the least. During our benchmark, it lasted for 8 hours and 37 minutes in an everyday workload simulation. However, on my normal usage as a daily driver, it only lasted me 6 - 7 hours with LTE usage.


Battery performance could have been better!

As a "budget gaming" phone, this is a fairly short battery life. Take note that the things that I used the J7 Core for are much lighter tasks than gaming. You can only imagine how fast the battery drains if you game while using data or WiFi.

In comparison the OPPO A71 also sport a 3,000mAh battery but it lasted for 12 hours and 33 mins during our benchmark.

Camera

The J7 Core's rear camera has a 13MP sensor
The J7 Core's rear camera has a 13MP sensor

At the back of the J7 Core, it sports a 13MP f/1.9 sensor with AF and LED flash. Even if it has a single camera setup, it can surprisingly create a shallow depth of field that is the usual highlight feature of dual camera setups.
Camera modes
Camera modes

It also has different modes including a Pro Mode, Panorama, Continuous Shot, HDR, Night Shot, Sports and Sound & Shot.

The Pro Mode is a bit disappointing. The only settings that you can manually change is the ISO, White Balance and Exposure. There is no manual focus or shutter speeds. Yes, it is a budget gaming phone, but those are the two main reasons why you would include a manual or Pro Mode.

The autofocus is NICE. The focus is fairly quick and, with a steady hand, can get you some pretty cool looking closeup shots. However, the shutter speed can be faster. Actually, to my surprise, there is no manual settings for the shutter speed on Pro Mode.

As a point and shoot camera, the J7 Core is actually a surprisingly good camera. It has good color reproduction with an acceptable low light performance as well.

Rear Camera Samples

Gloomy daylight shot
Gloomy daylight shot
Daylight auto
Daylight auto
Indoor good lighting 1
Indoor good lighting 1
Indoor good lighting 2
Indoor good lighting 2
Bokeh
Bokeh
Close-up
Close-up
Indoor 1
Indoor 1
Indoor 2
Indoor 2
Lowlight
Lowlight

The selfie camera sports a 5MP f/2.2 sensor with LED flash. It is a capable selfie shooter but low light situations can be a struggle even with the LED flash.

The Samsung J7 Core has 5 MP sensor for selfies

With good lighting, it is a very good selfie camera for the price.

Selfie Camera Samples

Indoor good lighting
Indoor good lighting
Indoor dim
Indoor dim
Outdoor dim flash
Outdoor dim flash
Lowlight
Lowlight

Both cameras can take videos at 1080p at 30fps. Both cameras are pretty stable and has a pretty good video quality.

Performance

Good benchmark scores
Good benchmark scores

The performance should be fast since Samsung touted as a budget gaming smartphone. We liked that Samsung included the mid-range grade 1.6GHz 64 Bit Exynos 7870 octa-core processor.

Switching between apps is snappy even if it only has 2GB RAM. We never had a problem going from app to app. However, Facebook can sometimes crash but we think that its the app itself and not the J7 Core's fault.

Our gripe is the 16GB expandable storage. For a phone dubbed as a gaming device, 16GB is simply not enough. Even for a budget gaming smartphone, we think that 32GB of internal storage should be the minimum.
Asphalt 8!
Asphalt 8!

Playing Asphalt 8 at high settings did not produce any stutter. Naturally, less graphics intensive games like Mobile Legends and Arena of Valor played as smooth as butter. 

However, it can't play the heavy games like NBA 2K17 at high settings. Even at medium settings, it will lag a bit. Other similarly priced smartphones with Snapdragon 430 chipset produced better gaming performance.

Thermal management is pretty good as well. It did not get that hot even after a couple of hours of gaming. Kudos to Samsung for that.
Nougat OS!
Nougat OS!

The software side is the same Samsung experience we are all familiar with. It is running Android 7.0 Nougat with TouchWiz UI on top of it. The experience is smooth with not that much bloatware, just a few Samsung apps.

The notification panel along with the toggles all have the same Android feel. You can easily feel at home even if you are new to TouchWiz.

Telephony experience is also good. Signal is mostly strong and LTE works just fine. Bluetooth and GPS are alright as well. It even has OTG. There's no gyro sensor for VR and AR though.

Pros - Great Super AMOLED display, decent performance, snappy UI, good cameras
Cons - Small internal storage, battery life could have been better, display can be brighter

Verdict

At PHP 9,990, the Galaxy J7 Core is a Samsung good phone on a budget. It can also be good for some games like Mobile Legends.

However, it could struggle with the heavier games. Samsung should optimize its battery life via software update and the internal storage needs to be upgraded to at least 32GB as well.

The positives still outweigh the negatives though. But, it is more of a lifestyle device rather than a gaming machine. 

It could also struggle against some similarly priced devices.

Build / Design - 3.75
Display - 4
Audio - 3.75
Battery - 3.75
Camera - 4
Performance - 4
Average - 3.875 / 5
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