Hot gaming tip: Galaxy S7 has ice water in its veins

Samsung's Galaxy S7 has a suite of features to pitch this phone as the perfect choice for mobile gamers, from water cooling to "No Alerts" mode and game recording.

Seamus Byrne Editor, Australia & Asia
Seamus Byrne is CNET's Editor for Australia and Asia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Preferably all at the same time.
Seamus Byrne
3 min read

Samsung wants mobile gaming to feel as much like desktop gaming as possible, and with the Galaxy S7 it's pushing to deliver on that mission.

But there's saying "we take games seriously" and then there's delivering meaningful features that make a real difference to what people want to do when playing games. The good news is that in the Galaxy S7, launched at the Mobile World Congress here in Barcelona, Samsung has integrated deep hardware and software tools to back up the claim.

Games push processors harder than anything else, so the first big upgrade from Samsung is water cooling like you'd find in a serious desktop gaming system. Obviously the scale is miniature compared to desktop water cooling, but the sealed copper cooling system will still do its best to shift excess heat away from the S7's processor when games push things to the phone's thermal limits.

Samsung Galaxy S7 games settings
Enlarge Image
Samsung Galaxy S7 games settings

The Galaxy S7 lets you adjust game settings to balance how good your games look against your battery life.

Seamus Byrne/CNET

In other low-level updates, the S7 also supports the Vulkan API for game development. You don't need to care about the details, but what it means is that many new games are coming soon to take better advantage of modern multicore processors. The S7 is ready to support these games, and when they arrive they should look and play much better than almost anything you've seen on Android before.

Samsung needs the Galaxy S7 to reignite consumers' interest in its phones. Although it remains top dog in mobile, it's not biting off as much of that market as it used to: About 23 percent of all smartphones shipped last year came from Samsung, down from 25 percent in 2014 and 31 percent the year before, according to Gartner. Consumers aren't rushing the way they once did to acquire new phones, and when they do upgrade, they're increasingly opting for cheaper devices from companies like Huawei and Xiaomi.

Tweak, snap, share

You may not pay much attention to the changes under the hood, but the new game launcher and tools options are things you won't want to miss.

A new "No Alerts" mode means launching a game will tell the S7 to suppress all notification pop-ups so you can play uninterrupted. Anyone who has ever had a high score ruined by a rogue calendar reminder will love this. You can also lock the Recent and Back keys so you can't accidentally bump something and knock yourself out of a game.

YouTube Let's Play videos of console and desktop games are a huge industry now, and Samsung is also making it easy to record mobile gameplay on the S7. Launching game recording will also trigger the front camera so you can commentate over the top of your gameplay with a picture-in-picture mode.

Finally, Samsung also offers the ability to tweak graphics performance between three settings so you can dial things back a little if you want to put battery life ahead of gameplay. The standard setting will run games at maximum resolution and at 60 frames per second. The "low power" setting reduces frame rate to 30 frames and dials down the resolution somewhat, while "extreme low power" sticks with 30 frames but drops the resolution again. We didn't catch exact figures here, but we could guess at a reduced resolution of 720p or thereabouts. This may depend on the game in question.

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These features are all launched from a new "game tools" icon that can lurk inconspicuously at the edge of your screen during gameplay so taking screenshots, recording videos or tweaking settings are all just a tap away.