Here's How the Samsung Galaxy S7 Tops the Pixel, iPhone

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Samsung's Note 7 situation may be an omnishambles, but its amazing Galaxy S7 line keeps getting better. This week's example: a report from Cellular Insights shows that a new update to the T-Mobile Galaxy S7's radio gives it an ability to capture weak signals that the Google Pixel and iPhone 7 are unlikely to beat.

I can't praise Cellular Insights enough, because it does a level of radio testing using very expensive equipment that I just can't do. It got to the bottom of Samsung and T-Mobile's activation of 4x4 MIMO, which packs extra antennas into each phone and tower to pull out clearer signals, especially where service is weak. (Verizon has also said it's rolling out 4x4 MIMO.)

"Between -110dBm and -114dBm, where most devices typically begin to struggle, the Galaxy S7 Edge managed to achieve over 100Mbps. ... Even at -120dBm, where most devices would generally fail and lose a connection, we've observed 63Mbps on Galaxy S7 Edge. At -130dBm, 11Mbps was achieved using QPSK scheme, and the lowest TBSI," Cellular Insights's report says.

Translated into English: signal strength is measured in negative dBm, with larger negative numbers marking a weaker signal. Traditionally, in the real world, most phones tend to gutter out around -114dBm or so. But according to Cellular Insights, the new 4x4 MIMO update gives the phone nearly supernatural powers of signal capture.

4x4 MIMO is a feature on the Qualcomm X12 modems in a number of recent phones, but the true shocker is that many devices don't use it. The Google Pixel and the Verizon iPhone 7 both have the X12 modem, but declined to implement 4x4 MIMO, and I've been told by insiders that it can't be enabled in an update. For now, it looks like the Galaxy S7 is going to stand alone in this ability to capture weak T-Mobile signals.

Cellular Insights is currently working on a report comparing the two versions of the iPhone 7, which have different modems from Qualcomm and Intel. I can't wait.

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