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Galaxy S7 on Nougat defaults to 1080p: A look at Samsung's new display scaling options

Android 7.0 Nougat for the Samsung Galaxy S7 — currently in testing in the form of a semi-public beta build — is the phone's biggest software update to date, featuring not only a brand new OS version, but a host of new Samsung-specific changes, and a significantly updated UI. Among them are major changes to the display settings, allowing you to change how graphics and fonts are shown — and change the phone's screen resolution.

This feature isn't entirely new. The GS7 has offered a "condensed mode" for a while, and the ill-fated Note 7 let you reduce the screen resolution as a battery-saving measure. On the GS7 on Nougat, however, the option is presented less as a last-ditch battery-saving feature, and more as a thing you just set and leave on.

Your three options are HD (720p), Full HD (1080p) and Quad HD (1440p). And whereas before the native 1440p resolution was the default, now it's 1080p.

Wait... what?

Yep. A clean installation of the current Nougat beta on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge has both phones running below their native screen resolution. This comes along with the standard disclaimers about the current build being a beta, and things possibly changing when the official OTA rolls out. (It's entirely possible Samsung may vary this setting from region to region, too — Chinese characters, for instance, would benefit from the additional clarity that 1440p brings.)

A subtle visual downgrade for subtle performance and battery improvements.

But as bizarre as this move might seem, there's a method to Samsung's madness. Most of the time, you just can't tell the difference between Full HD and Quad HD anyway. And bumping down to 1080p can bring performance and battery life improvements. Not huge improvements to be sure — we haven't noticed significantly lengthened battery life in the past couple of days in 1080p mode. Other things like display brightness, CPU load and signal strength play a much greater part. Nevertheless, it's a factor.

And it speaks to something many of us know, deep down: Quad HD resolution is, for the most part, wasted on a device with a 5- to 5.5-inch display.

Naturally, downscaling all the way to 720p makes the display noticeable more pixellated, with some UI elements having to be juggled around to compensate for the lower pixel density.

GS7 resolution

GS7 at 1440p, 1080p and 720p. If you can't tell the difference here, just imagine how it looks on a phone.

On the 5.5-inch GS7 edge, the difference is only barely noticeable, when examining text and fine details in photos up close. On the 5.1-inch GS7, the argument for defaulting to 1080p is even more compelling. In both cases, we'd imagine the Gear VR would still be able to use the displays' full resolution, however VR isn't supported in the current Nougat beta.

Changing the resolution doesn't affect the size of things on the display — that's controlled by a separate setting called "screen zoom." Nor does it seem to affect memory consumption — the amount of RAM consumed by the system with no apps running in the foreground didn't change notably when switching between resolutions. We also didn't notice any major performance differences in the system UI and day-to-day apps like Chrome, Twitter, Instagram, Hangouts, WhatsApp and the like. (Games will be more sensitive to screen resolution changes, but many titles already offer in-game resolution sliders.) As always, your mileage may vary.

Galaxy S7 display scaling

"Huge," "Medium" and "Tiny" screen zoom settings.

Could we see similar resolution options built into a 4K-capable Galaxy S8?

The default screen zoom level has everything looking a bit oversized, at least to my eye. Stepping down to the "tiny" zoom level (roughly equivalent to the old Condensed Mode on Marshmallow) shows more on screen. "Huge" mode scales things up significantly, showing less on the screen, and may be more legible for GS7 owners with vision problems when combined with a larger font size.

This is a natural extension of the display scaling features Google has built into Android 7.0, and it's interesting to see Samsung developing things further by offering control over display resolution, as well as the density of the UI.

It's easy to see how these features could be further built out in Samsung's next flagships, the Galaxy S8 line. If, as rumored, one of these phones has a 4K-capable screen, it's likely the phone wouldn't run in 4K mode all the time, but instead scale down to 1440p or even 1080p in day-to-day app use. (The first mainstream 4K phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, already does this without any user-facing settings.)

In any case, it's good to have options. Be sure to hit the comments and let us know which resolution you'll choose when the GS7 Nougat update hits.

Alex Dobie
Alex Dobie

Alex is global Executive Editor for Android Central, and is usually found in the UK. He has been blogging since before it was called that, and currently most of his time is spent leading video for AC, which involves pointing a camera at phones and speaking words at a microphone. He would just love to hear your thoughts at alex@androidcentral.com, or on the social things at @alexdobie.

70 Comments
  • I'm all for it. I'm running 1080p with tiny zoom. As long as I can see a lot on my screen I'm fine. I'm sure it's helping with battery life as well.
  • Oh yeah, they are trying to squeak out extra battery to challenge the Pixel. Good luck I say.
  • The S7 and S7 Edge already smash the iPixel with ease, they don't need this.
    And if we're being completely honest here, the only company that can claim to have managed great battery life in their Android phones (well...used to manage...) is Sony.
  • K
  • What? No. Not even close. There's never been a Samsung phone that performs as well as it's Google equivalent. The Pixel is in a class of its own and so was the 6P before it. That's what you get when comparing hardware running stock Android to something heavily modified
  • Bah. He's happy. Let him defend his purchase while we enjoy buttery smooth Pixel stuff.
  • Enjoy that expensive butter that's as light as air!
  • I'll take s7e over pixel more features
  • I had a 6P for a year and with it I had an unlocked S7E since it was released last June. You're wrong. Sorry. But you are.
  • Well I have an S7 edge that I just got 2 weeks ago as a work phone and my experience is quite different. But that's great that youre satisfied. I do know however it's natural to defend a purchase like a smartphone so more power to you
  • Wait what?? Nexus5 !!!!! Nuff said
  • "The Pixel is in a class of its own" Indeed it is. The class of iPhone-copies, ie, overpriced and underperforming.
    Guess what? I have no use for a phone that is "butter-smooth" but barely does anything useful. If ANYONE was OK with that , Windows Phone wouldn't be dead. Users do NOT care about stock Android. The fact the Nexus line never took off with consumers is proof of that. People want their phones to be useful. And the more they can do, the better. Stock Android couldn't even restart. The iPixel *may* be smooth (well, so far) but the amount of things is LACKS, allows the S7 to beat it to the ground, kill it, bury it and p*ss in its grave.
    In fact, it allows the S7, the V20, the Xperia XZ and a bunch of others to do that.
  • Good grief dude what are you 15 years old? I'm glad that you have a superior telephone and you have it all figured out while everyone else is misguided. And I love how you speak for everyone. Good job, keep it up. I'll put another bag of popcorn in the microwave. Also, yarrell, is that you?
  • You're responding to him, what are you 14?
  • I speak for the numbers and facts. Something you have a hard time with just like any blind fanboy has. Also, cut the popcorn. The world doesn't need another fatso, kid.
  • Well Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Please avoid me from now on, you are a nasty person. Thanks.
  • Preach it brother! I have a pixel xl, s7 edge and iPhone 7+ so I am neutral. Some weeks I like different features. I will say that the S7 Edge and iPhone 7+ do not have the lens flair that the pixel xl has. I have taken the exact picture with all three and the pixel has an issue there.
  • Ok, the Nexus line never really took off because the manufacturer changed. That is a fact. Only needs like us even knew it existed. The Pixel is a whole other beast. Rest assured it handily runs more smooth and crashes less than any other Android phone on the market. Google is adding useful features, maybe not as many as Samsung to be sure. But most of those Samsung features are redundant, trying to lock you into a separate ecosystem. Nothing wrong with that,but it ain't great either. Google knocked it out of the park with these two phones. It will see traction in the market. Already way more case options than any Nexus,and that really means something.
  • There's still a few things I'd like Google to sort out for the 2017 model. Going from history, the next one ought to be quite super
  • You're a bit clueless man. Nexus was never popular because Google didn't spend heavily on marketing. You should know that. I guess not though Also I gotta say, this last post of yours was pretty gay
  • 1 - the Google brand doesn't sell phones. Never did, never will. That's why any mention of Google was dropped after the initial Nexus. The only thing selling the few Nexus devices was the OEM brand attached to it. The Samsung or LG badge sold them to consumers. 2 - Your last paragraph was worthy of a 5 year old. Congratulations.
  • Put down that crack pipe bra. Googles garbage nexsuses never account for much when it comes to battery performance. Never performs as Google equivalent, Kidding me?
  • Don't know about you, but from my experience, the Exynos version is quite close. I for one, appreciate that we have choice. Silky smooth performance of the Pixel or featureset of the S7? How about the great headphone audio from the HTC 10 or LG V20? Or the really interesting modular accessories system on the Moto Z? Seriously, can we just appreciate the fact that we have choice instead of pounding our chests for whatever phone we like? What one person likes might not be what you like, and that is fine. For the record, I have zero brand loyalty. I went from Samsung to HTC to LG, then back to Samsung and now on Motorola. Next up might be OnePlus or Google.
  • Exactly! While some people may want a fully-loaded car and think it's better, some people are very much content with a nearly stripped-down model. Both have their advantages, and it's in the eye of the beholder.
  • Since the Note 7 was just out for a brief minute .. you might not know that this setting ability was also in that version of Grace UX. Maybe they just set it that way in this beta build. Devs do **** like that. Or at least in my experience they do. Ascribing malicious intent to get over on the consumer .. is a bit silly.
  • I hope they don't leave these settings out in the S6 build, whenever it gets rolling. Samsung is notorious for stripping features on the previous generation devices, so it wouldn't surprise me, even though these are tremendously useful features. I've been using the Game Tuner app for more than its intended purpose and have many apps running at 1080p on my S6 Edge on Marshmallow. I also have the screen scaling set to condensed, so I get more information just a little bit more smoothly than running at full WQHD.
  • Wait, so the same blog that routinely extols "pixel density" and the like in its reviews is now letting us know that WQHD is no big deal and FHD is actually fine? Will you be going back and updating reviews for phones that may have been dinged for not having 1440p screens?
  • Would you mind pointing out those reviews? Note that screen resolution does make a difference in VR applications but I don't really remember them dinging phones for lower resolution screens in non VR compatible phones. Not to mention there is an obvious difference between a phone that has a 1080p native resolution and a phone that can scale to 1080p despite a Quad HD native resolution.
  • When have they done any "extolling" beyond just listing the resolution in the review?
  • I don't remember them dinging any phone with a 1080p display, except for VR uses and that is different as I'm sure the phone will revert to QHD when VR is enabled. They always mention it's 1080p and then talk about the quality of the display regardless and in many cases give it a great review.
    they gave the pixel 1080p display a great rating, but mentioned it was sub par in the daydream headset (which is reasonable)
    they gave the oneplus 3 and 3T a good to great rating, but of course mentioned it because certain spec heads won't consider anything that's not QHD so the review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the display resolution. The only time I heard them dinging a display during non vr usage was in very big ~6 inch displays where the difference between QHD and Full HD starts to become noticeable.
  • The actual screen is still WQHD. No difference than watching 1080 on a 4K TV. Unless the source is excellent 4K it's very had to tell from a quality 1080p source.
  • EXACTLY! #Hypocrites
  • Well I'm on the Beta and I'm running WQHD and 399 DPI and I'm getting the best battery life I think I've ever had on any phone that I've owned
  • The 'tiny' setting seemed too big for me, i found a setting in developer options that's called minimum width, I've set it on 450 to fit more content on the display.
  • Hope Samsung rolls this out soon. I still think it's weird that unlocked international editions can't get in on the Beta.
  • Yes they can? I have an unlocked Exynos S7 registered with the beta app.
  • Weird. I had read they wouldn't allow it. I can't even find the app. Did you actually get accepted?
  • I hope this makes it to the final version.
    The S7 has pretty good battery life but if I can have it in 1080p instead of 2K and squeeze more life out of the battery, then even better.
    After all, 2K displays on a 5.1" screen has always been a gimmick. It's useful in VR but that's it. There's literally no other place where you'll be able to notice the difference. If this is preparatory work for the S8, then I think we can safely assume that Samsung will copy Sony and make the phone with a 4K display but that only runs in 4K when necessary. So having the S8 for example run constantly at 1080p and jump to 4K when in VR mode would present not only a much better VR experience but also allow Samsung to work on battery life savings. I will judge for myself when the update comes out which resolution I'll go for but to be honest, if my tired eyes don't see the difference between 720p and 1080p on the S7 screen, I might even lower the resolution even further if I see noticeable battery life improvements.
  • The author of the article should have said to everyone " these are things in Grace UX and were part of the UI update for TW that shipped on the Note 7." It'll be in the 7 release for the S7/S7E.
  • Well, if it was part of the Grace UX even better.
    I never delved very deeply into what was on the Note 7 software since it was not launched with 7.0 (and didn't live enough to get it). All I knew was the splitting of icon packs from the themes in the theme engine (by far my favourite thing about TouchWiz).
    Anything else on the Grace UX worth noting?
  • Yeah, the Grace UX is miles above the UI on the S7E at the moment. It's filled with lots of little things that folks will probably gloss over. Honestly, I've said this at least 100 times .. getting Android 7 is nice but the best part will be the Grace UX update. As far as the theme/icon split .. I'll also be able to use the icon packs that are still attached to my account. One nice thing is that you don't have to tap that A-Z at the top in the app drawer to get your icons to reorder. It does it automatically. There is also a search bar in the app drawer for folks who install a lot of stuff or keep things in folders in the app drawer. This is nice.
  • Anyone can change resolution via Adb with a simple command (adb shell wm size 1080x1920) and density ( Adb shell wm density 401). I see no noticeable diference in batery consumption or performance on my Idol4s. In my opinion the snapdragon 652 is the most balanced cpu of 2016 and it is prepared for qhd so I see no advantage in lowering resolution.
  • Also in developer setting to can customize the DPI. Lets you type in whatever you want and scales the screen without a reboot needed.
  • I think you could change DPI since the days of the note 4....am I wrong?
  • Idk if i can do that on my note7. Ill have to have a look. I dont mind having the option. Qhhd rocks. 1080p is great &i think 4k is un needed. As sony realied with Xperia z5pto xp. Having thw option is good. It was interesting to see that ehen you do a test is shows as 1080p or 720p not 2k. I assumed intests the res would always show 2k. I dont think the option was on the 4.i dont have it on 5. I love this note7 even without updates
  • Nice article as usual Alex! very informative. I don't have a problem scaling down to 1080p for saving battery but I do like having the option for QHD. Same thing when the new Galaxy phone gets released I will be looking forward to a 4K display simply for a better VR experience. And when I'm not using I'll simply lower the resolution to 1080p although however I think you could tell the difference unlike this article suggests.
  • 4k is also great for Images...
  • This won't save anywhere as much power as running a lower res panel to begin with, and could look fuzzier with certain things... Still, I guess having the option doesn't hurt anything. Seems totally counterintuitive tho unless OLED panels scale a whole lot better than the traditional PC LCD (both as far as power usage relative to res and as far as actual scaler needed for lower resolutions).
  • Such BS. You ding people all day for not having QuadHD displays & are apologists for Samsung now.
  • He's an apologist for Samsung how? You do know that you can bump up to QHD is you so desire right? You can't do that with a lower res screen. Atleast the option is their for Samsung which is not present in other devices.
  • What are you writing about? Samsung's display IS QHD, the company is simply giving you the OPTION of LOWERING the screen resolution in order to improve the battery. The thing is set to 1080p at default, but you CAN, as the article state: CHANGE IT TO QHD or put it even lower to 720pHD in order to save even more battery. |----------------------|----------------------| 720HD 1080FHD 1440QHD Like that. The phone gives you a slider. And with the use of something called finger you can CHANGE the resolution however you want and whenever you want. It is a features that has been available since ye olde ICS holo-yolo years if you rooted your phone, Samsung simply place it in their nougat Beta. Nobody is being apologetic AT ALL, they are just saying : "oh, Samsung is giving me option of changing screen resolution. Meh, cool." And also repeating what MOST of us (because there is a very, very naive minority) have been saying more than 1.5 years: the difference between QHD and FHD is not exactly noticeable. There is a difference between criticising something for not having a specific resolution, and praising something for giving YOU, the user: control of the resolution of the screen of the device YOU brought.... (PD: I am not a Samsung apologists. I am currently using a MOTO G3 and couldn't be happier with it.)
  • The graphics didn't come out as I hoped for.
  • |--------------------------|------------------------------| 720 1080 1440
  •   ▲
    ▲ ▲ **** it.
  • Hey fellow Moto g 3 user! How do you feel about Motorola ending support for Android updates after only 1 year? Personally, I have no issue since I installed a custom ROM with ease, but don't you think it's a little ridiculous Lenmotorola would go back on their update promise?
  • I don't like, ever since Lenovo took over Motorola has been awful with updates, the same thing happened with a moto e until the users started complaining about it, it's annoying. I will root my device as well, I shouldn't have to do that in 2016, but you know? If you want to avoid dealing with corporate bull: take control of what you paid for I guess.
  • I'm torn. I guess I could understand them doing that to a <$250 phone. Not as understanding for a $300+ phone. Their Moto Z series should get updates for 3-4 years. Maybe they should offer it with an upgrade charge. e.g. $25 for each major update. I personally would pay a "small fee" to have my devices upgraded from 5.0 to 6.0, etc. I have devices still running on 4.4 that I would love to be on 5.x. Paying $10-$20 for an official upgrade versus hacking Cyanogenmod onto them.
  • Fvck me didn't even notice!
  • Naturally.
  • I see it more as a performance thing.
  • I was using android 7.0 on s7 for about a month . Then went back mm. Battery life was great. I didnt experience any lag . My bluetooth would cut in and out while streaming music and my keyboard would act weired while texting i press a letter and bam it goes off like im swyping.switching from normal mode to gaming mode would cause settings to fc. If it wasnt for those 3 things i would still be using 7.0. What pissed me off was they made a update which didnt fix any of those issues but it fixed facebook app fc .
  • Any benchmark (esp Antutu 6) comparison between these resolution options?
  • Good move. Hope they do the same for GS6 when the time comes. I love my phone, but it doesn't have the greatest battery life...
  • It's hilarious to see the extremes that Samsung is going to in order to copy Apple, first with the touchscreen format, then with the central home button, next with fingerprint sensor, and now they are downscaling the resolution to match the IP7+'s? I mean, COME ON! \s
  • Yupp here it is the dumbest thing I've read all day. Like apple has never copied any feature from Android correct like notifications, toggle WiFi and such all blatantly stolen from Android. IPhone users don't mention the features that ios has taken from Android but will vice versa it everytime. Samsung is just giving us the options thats it.
  • Sarcasm. Go ahead, Google it.
  • Funny, I my Moto Z, w/Nougat, has this feature too and it is defaulting to 1080p as well. I feel the love AC! But I did learn about a new 7.0 feature :)
  • Actually I was wrong. The option I noticed was Display Size, not Resolution Size. The Display Size just changes the DPI, not the actual resolution.
  • Yooo I forgot all about that, well said I remember the toggles was released on ios 6 or 7 when the started using toggles!
  • Call me crazy, but I was expecting to find helpful comments about dpi and which one folks are using and why. All these dudes arguing about which Android phone is better than this or that device ISNT HELPFUL. Thanks anyway.