Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime Review: OK for the Basics

You get a solid camera, decent display and nostalgic design with the Galaxy J7 Prime, but similarly priced budget phones offer more pizazz.

Our Verdict

Samsung’s budget phone offers a solid camera in a nostalgic design, but you can find other Android phones that offer more at this price.

For

  • Classic Samsung design
  • Solid rear camera in unlocked version
  • Accurate colors on display

Against

  • Similarly priced phones boast higher-end features
  • Micro USB port
  • Aging version of Android with no upgrade path

You'd be forgiven for thinking Samsung only releases premium Android flagships with brilliant displays and killer cameras, because that's all we see in TV commercials. But the company also makes budget phones, such as the Galaxy J7 Prime. You won't get the latest and greatest features from a $220 Galaxy model, but if you want the bare-bones Samsung experience, the J7 Prime is just fine.

Price and Availability

The J7 Prime comes in a few different variants, depending on where you buy it. You can buy the phone unlocked on Amazon with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 13-megapixel rear camera for $220. If you order it through T-Mobile or MetroPCS, the version you buy will sport 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and an 8-MP camera. MetroPCS offers the best deal currently, selling the phone for $119. For this review, I tested the Amazon version.

The J7 Prime will not work on CDMA networks, so Verizon and Sprint customers are out of luck. If you buy an unlocked phone from Amazon, double-check that it will work on your carrier's network before you throw out the packaging and return label.

Samsung J7 Prime Specs

Price
$220
OS
Android 7.0 Nougat
Screen Size (Resolution)
5.5 inches (1920 x 1080) LCD
CPU
Exynos 7870 octa-core 1.6 GHz
RAM
2GB, 3GB
Storage
16GB, 32GB
microSD
Yes
Rear Camera
8 MP/13 MP
Front Camera
5 MP/8 MP
Battery Life (Hrs:Min)
8:32
Water Resistance
No
Size
5.97 x 2.95 x 0.31 inches
Weight
5.9 ounces

Design and OS: Vintage Samsung

The J7 Prime is identical to the Galaxy S6, which debuted in 2015. Some would consider this look dated, but I don't mind the classic Samsung design. The gold aluminum back and white plastic trim aren't cutting-edge compared with Samsung's newer, glass-covered Galaxy devices, but at this price, who cares?

Like the S6, the J7 Prime features a fingerprint sensor, an app switcher and a back button on the chin. Again, you're not getting an edge-to-edge display, or even a USB-C port — Samsung stuck with micro USB for this budget model — but I don't mind this look.

The J7 Prime runs Android 7.0 Nougat with version 8.1 of Samsung's TouchWiz UI (now known as the "Samsung Experience") layered on top. That means you're a generation behind  regarding software — the just-announced Galaxy S9 runs Android Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0, and the Galaxy S8 is in the process of getting the update, too. As a result, you'll miss out on features such as Bixby should you opt for the J7 Prime, but you'll still have access to Nougat features like Google Assistant, quick app-switching and split-screen Chrome browsing.

The Galaxy J7 Prime's gold aluminum back and white plastic trim aren't cutting-edge compared with Samsung's newer, glass-covered Galaxy devices, but at this price, who cares?

A handful of comparably priced phones, such as the $250 Moto G5S Plus, offer dual lens cameras, sleeker finishes and the promise of an upgrade to Android Oreo on the horizon. The $200 Honor 7X has a more modern 18:9 aspect ratio in a display that extends practically edge-to-edge. But we're not docking points for Samsung's old-school design, which still has its fans.

Display: You get what you pay for

The J7 Prime's 5.5-inch full-HD display isn't the best in Samsung's Galaxy lineup, but the 1080p LCD panel is pretty standard at this price.

Honor is pushing boundaries for budget phones with the 7X's 5.9-inch, 2160 x 1080 LCD screen, so if watching videos on a superwide screen is important to you, then the J7 Prime isn't the best phone.

But Samsung's panel on this handset is bright and clear with true-to-life colors, just like the Moto G5S Plus. The J7 Prime notched a 0.30 Delta-E rating, which measures color accuracy. (Numbers closer to 0 are better.) In our testing, the J7 Prime's display was comparable to the Galaxy S8, which scored a 0.28.

The J7 Prime's screen reproduced 105.4 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, in line with comparably priced phones. The G5S Plus covered 109 percent of the gamut.

The display on Samsung’s budget device is bright and clear with true-to-life colors.

The J7 Prime falters slightly when it comes to brightness, reaching 410 nits in our light-meter test. The smartphone average is 433 nits, but we don't expect a full-HD LCD panel to compete with ultra-bright (and ultra-expensive) OLED displays. You can find brighter displays at this price, though, including the Honor 7X (510 nits).

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Overall, the J7 Prime's display is perfectly acceptable. I was immersed watching Jessica Jones flee explosions in the trailer for season 2 of Netflix's Marvel series.

Camera: Solid rear shooter

I tested the J7 Prime model with a 13-MP rear camera, which is a bump up from the base model's 8-MP lens.

I was able to capture solid shots, like a nighttime scene in Bryant Park, without a ton of noise or color distortion. The details of the image, such as bare trees and a street lamp against the early evening cobalt sky, are clear and actually kind of pretty for a budget camera.

The 8-MP selfie camera, however, was a different story. I'm not much for selfies, anyway, but this low-quality lens made me look like an alien. It was even worse when I toggled on the beauty filter, which lets you adjust the shade and smoothness of your skin tone, slim your face and widen your eyes. I turned every setting on as high as it would go and vowed never to take a photo of myself again as long as I live. (Just kidding, but it will be a few days.)

Battery Life: Below average

Despite its sizable 3,300 mAh battery, the J7 Prime lasted a middling 8 hours and 32 minutes in the Tom's Guide Battery Test (continuous web-surfing over T-Mobile's LTE network).

The smartphone average is 9:50, so the J7 Prime isn't terrible. But the G5S Plus will last you 11 hours and 50 minutes, while ZTE's Blade V8 Pro lasts a whopping 12:08. The Honor 7X also offers longer battery life, at 9:21. Opting for a lower-priced phone shouldn't mean compromising on battery life, but in the J7's case, it does.

MORE: 14 Cheap Smartphones (Under $200) Ranked Best to Worst

We wouldn't mind the below-average battery life if the J7 Prime offered a quick-charging option, like the Moto G5S Plus does. But it'll take you an hour to charge up the budget Galaxy to 50 percent, which is just too long. The G5S Plus takes 15 minutes to add an extra 6 hours of battery life. With longevity being one of the key features smartphone buyers look for, the J7 Prime fails to impress.

Performance: Just OK for the price

Phones in the $200 to $250 range are upping the ante regarding performance, and the J7 Prime is competitive when it comes to speed and power in a budget phone, thanks to the Samsung-built Exynos 7870 processor inside.

Samsung's phone clocked a 3,580 score in the Geekbench 4 test of overall system performance, in line with the Moto G5 Plus (3,746) and ZTE'S Blade V8 Pro (3,018). Another $200 phone we recently tested, Nuu Mobile’s X5, turned in a paltry 2,623, so you can definitely get more bang for your buck with the J7 Prime's 1.6 GHz octa-core CPU.

However, Samsung's budget device isn't the greatest for gaming. In 3D Mark's Ice Storm Unlimited test of graphics performance, the J7 Prime produced a score of 8,140. Other phones in this price range are far more capable — the G5 Plus scored 13,862, while the Blade V8 Pro clocked in at 11,897. Honor's 7X turned in a decent performance, at 11,586.

The J7 Prime certainly isn't sluggish when it comes to lightweight games; I played Super Mario Run with ease. For more demanding, graphics-intensive runners and first-person shooters, you may want to snag a Moto phone such as the $210 G5 Plus.

Bottom Line

Some people find old-fashioned phones reassuring. You don't have to relearn how to use a new interface, and every button is located right where it always has been. That's the case with Samsung's Galaxy J7 Prime, which offers the classic design of the Galaxy S6 for $220 (or even less if you buy a version with more basic specs from MetroPCS).

If you don't expect much from a budget phone, the J7 Prime does a perfectly fine job of surfing the web, taking photos and playing basic games.

But you can get more premium features at this price. The Honor 7X offers a nearly bezel-free display and a dual-lens camera with a unique (but polarizing) user-interface experience. The Moto G5 Plus and the G5S Plus bundle better performance and longer battery life in a classic smartphone package. Those phones are also expected to get an upgrade to Android Oreo at some point, which the J7 Prime will not.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide