Holy crap. This is the best Samsung phone ever made.
What Is It?
- Processor: Samsung Exynos Octa-core processor (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz)
- RAM: 3GB
- Screen: 5.1-inch 2560x1440 (577ppi)
- Memory: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
- Camera: 16-megapixel rear-facing, 5-megapixel front-facing
- Connectivity: 4G (700MHz-2800MHz), Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi (802.11ac)
No wait, it isn't just the best Samsung phone. It's the best Android phone I've ever used.
It’s packing a 5.1-inch Quad-HD Super AMOLED screen. That’s a screen resolution of 2560×1440, with 577 pixels per inch. It’s also stocked with an octa-core processor made up of a quad-core 2.1GHz processor and a quad-core 1.5Ghz processor sandwiched together to produce a stupid amount of power. That’s backed up by 3GB of RAM and a 2550mAh battery to keep it all going.
Other features include a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera — complete with Optical Image Stabilisation — a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the same heart-rate monitor built into the flash unit from the Samsung Galaxy S5, a fingerprint scanner you no longer have to swipe your finger over and Android 5.0 Lollipop.
The S6 and the S6 Edge also have the same drawbacks: no removable battery, no expandable storage, no USB 3.0. They also share another common trait: they’re both gorgeous.
It comes in three models: 32GB, 64GB and 128GB, all with the same specs under the hood. You'll pick up the 32GB S6 Edge for $1149, the 64GB model for $1299, and the the 128GB model for a whopping $1449.
I’m actually quite taken with the Samsung Galaxy S6. Like, really taken with it. The model I’m reviewing absolutely has to go back to the PR agency in a few days and they will absolutely have to come and take it from me. It’s that special.
The S6 Edge is such an anomalous device. If you broke down the materials used in Samsung phones up until this one, your graph would be 99 per cent plastic and 1 per cent sadness, because that’s how you felt when you got your mitts around the S III, the S4 and the S5. The S6 Edge makes every Galaxy S device that came before this one look like a plastic lunchbox dressed up as a phone.
Samsung puts the S6 together by heating glass to incredibly high temperatures to bend it around the ultra-light metal chassis, before applying a layer of gorgeous reflective aluminium to give it colour and coating it in super-strong Gorilla Glass 3.
As a result of all the metal in the chassis and the strong glass, this thing doesn’t bend. Trust me. I tried. I put an unfriendly amount of pressure onto the device to see if I could get it to move, and it doesn’t. Gorilla Glass keeps this thing intact.
And don’t for a second think that just because it’s glass it’s going to smash into a million pieces like the iPhone 4S when you drop it. It’s lightweight and rigid so it’s not about to go to bits the first time it has a fall.
Not only is it sturdy, it’s also pretty. I’m testing the black coloured model right now, and the only time it actually looks black is when there’s no natural light shining on it whatsoever. The way Samsung has built the S6 and the S6 Edge is to have them almost shimmer and change colours slightly when natural or artificial light is applied.
I’ve seen the S6 Edge change from a deep black in no light to an intense topaz blue under fluorescents and shades in-between under UV light. It’s gorgeous, and means that your S6 Edge is rarely going to look the same colour twice.
I can’t believe the phone that came directly before this was the S5. It’s so, so much better than the S5.
When we reviewed the Galaxy S5 we complained that its direct competitor, the HTC One M8, ran rings around it in terms of design. Both are back for a rematch in the form of the One M9 and the Galaxy S6 Edge, and HTC is about to leave the ring with a bloodied nose.
While the M9 looks almost identical to the M8, the Galaxy S6 Edge looks like it was designed in a different century. Bam. Design knock-out: S6 Edge wins. The Edge only weighs 25 grams less than the M9, but you really feel the difference. The One M9’s heavy metal loses out to the sleek glass and aluminium of the S6 Edge. The One M9 loses again when it comes to screen size, being beaten out by just 0.1 inches thanks to the glorious dual edge panels.
The dual-edge screen that wraps around the bezel of the device makes the banding around the sides of the device super thin. It isn’t so thin that it’s sharp and annoying to hold like it is on the Galaxy Note Edge. Instead it feels like a wafer-thin slab of future in your hand. And the best part is that because the edge screens hang over the sides of the device, there’s no side-bezel to speak of. It’s edge-to-edge screen, and it couldn’t look any better.
The S6 Edge packs in a 5.1-inch screen with a glorious 2560x1440 or 2K display with 577 pixels per inch. What does that mean in Layman’s terms? It means it’s twice as sharp as the screen in last year’s Galaxy S5. More colour, more pixels, more fun!
And then of course there’s the dual-edge screens that curve around the device.
Rather than make the edge screens on the new Galaxy their own individual panels as it was on the Note Edge, Samsung just curved the panel around the body of the unit and made it all one screen.
What’s weird is that with the screen curvature and the eye-popping resolution, it’s almost like the screen has a kind of 3D depth when viewing HD content. It’s awesome.
The edge screens aren’t just visual decoration, either: those curves are used for two things right now. On the one side you get the Information Display. It’s similar to the ticker on the Note Edge and gives you notifications, news and other relevant information.
The new features come from the other edge, known as the People Edge. On it you get five contacts, all colour-coded to a new person. It acts as a drawer you can quickly swipe open to select people to contact. On top of that, the People Edge can be used while the phone is facing down to notify you of new calls and SMS messages. When a contact gets in touch while the phone is facing down, it glows with a the subtle hue of the colour you chose for them. Based on that information, you know who’s calling and decide whether you want to answer it during a meeting.
The edge screen functionality is clever, to be sure, but it could all be better executed. For example, the Information Display doesn’t work when the screen is switched on. That sounds baffling, but stick with me.
Information Display only works when the display is sleeping, and is activated by the user rubbing the edge swiftly back and forth like Aladdin rubbing his magic lamp. From there your Genie pops up to give you everything from notifications through to news, sport and Twitter trending topic updates. It has the same problems as the edge screen on the Galaxy Note Edge, only worse. Not only is there no real point to it right now, it only works when the screen is off, which takes a useless thing and just makes it redundant.
The People Edge is a smart idea. It’s a persistent little drawer on the side of your device that you can pull out whenever you want. It’s like the people drawer in iOS’ multi-tasking window, only you know exactly where you left it and who you put in there.
The edge screens don’t just change the way you interact with the device’s software, either: it changes the entire look and feel of the device. As we mentioned earlier when talking about design, it’s amazing how the edge-to-edge wrap-around glass squashes the whole device and thins out the banding so you feel like you’re holding a super-thin, super-futuristic device.
The only other real complaint I have about the Edge screens is that they seem to pick up a huge amount of glare because of their angle. It’s not a flat panel, and your eyes are never more aware of that than when there’s a bright white light flanging its way down the peaks of your edge screen to remind you where your real screen stops and your edge screens start. That can sort of hem you in a bit, but you can push passed it with a bit of time.
I’m actually as blown away by the camera on the S6 Edge as I am with its design. It’s another one of those “how did Samsung possible make it this good?!” aspects.
The camera on the Galaxy S5 had great auto-white balance and clarity on its images, but always injected too high a contrast level into the photos and oversaturated the whole affair.
The S6 Edge camera is completely different.
It takes a gorgeous photo in just about any light. I’d almost go as far to say that it takes a better image than the iPhone 6 Plus, which to me is the best phone camera for any scenario. Beating it is something that we’ll figure out over time, but in these review images the device certainly equals the iPhone camera's performance.
Check out these images samples.
Click to enlarge
Samsung Galaxy S6
iPhone 6 Plus
HTC One M9
Gorgeous. Blown away.
The sound is where the S6 loses to its main rival, the One M9.
The HTC One M8 ran rings around last year’s Galaxy S5 for sound, and now that the rematch is on, the result is still the same. The S6 Edge’s speakers are tiny, tinny and should be avoided at all costs. If you have any money left after buying the thing, invest in a cool Bluetooth speaker like the UE Boom to get the most out of your music.
The software is another slam dunk. Samsung looks to be letting go of its TouchWiz obsession, shipping the S6 Edge into the market with what looks to be as close as we’ve ever had to stock Android 5.0 Lollipop. Proprietary menus are long gone, gaudy icons are sleek and stock and the only thing that’s really there to bother you is the perpetual Flipboard Briefing screen on the far left of the device.
When you have a little play with it, it feels like Samsung made another Nexus, but, dig a little deeper and you find the TouchWiz beast lurking to make life more than a little annoying for you.
While it might look and feel that Samsung has pulled back on the bloatware pre-installed on the S6 and S6 Edge, it’s a little more complicated than that under the hood.
At first glance, the new S6 and S6 Edge appear to be less cluttered, but you’ll actually find some 56 applications pre-installed. That’s 6 more than the 50 you’ll find on the Galaxy Note 4! Between the Google Apps you’ll find on every phone (Play Newstand? Come on), Samsung’s apps like S Voice and S Health, the new Microsoft apps like OneDrive (intended to soften the blow of no microSD slot), assorted social apps like Whatsapp and Instagram and carrier apps, there’s a lot of cruft. A Moto G I have hanging around — which runs near stock Android — starts with just 33.
And despite statements from Samsung that “Samsung has allowed users to remove the pre-installed applications on Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge“, the most severe action you can take is “disabling” them. This removes them from the app drawer and the homescreen, but not from the phone entirely. You’re basically opting instead to put them in a sort of stasis, out of sight but not out of storage.
So what is different from last time around, software-wise? Not much. The new Lollipop version of Samsung’s TouchWiz Android skin makes it slightly less painful to disable apps in rapid succession. You can disable the calculator on the S6, which you couldn’t on the Note 4. But that’s about it. Minor, minor stuff. This is, for the most part, the same old bloat despite all our wild hopes.
Samsung made the following tweaks to its statement when I asked for a little clarification:
Simplicity is critical for usability and functionality, so Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge offer a refined and optimised user experience and the offering of core and preloaded apps has been streamlined. Some apps can be uninstalled while some can be disabled, and this varies by region and carrier. Further, 40% of the features and steps have been deleted compared to previous models.
That’s not to say there aren’t improvements though. The newest version of TouchWiz is slimmer and slicker and prettier than it’s ever been. The extras Samsung puts around the actual operating system are less intrusive than ever, and in some ways actually make Android better. Samsung surfaces things like a media volume slider, which stock Android inexplicably buries.
The annoying new-phone chore of disabling all the bloatware apps is also at least slightly simpler than it has been in the past. The new UI makes it a four or five minute task as opposed to a seven or eight minute one if you’re going so far as to disable the apps and dive into settings to delete all their stored data. Even if you don’t, the bloatware doesn’t take up that much room; not more than 100 MB or so as far as I can tell. That’s a whole ton in the 32GB-at-minimum (but-more-like-24GB-once-you account-for-system-files-and-whatnot) scheme of things.
But the S6 was supposed to be a close-to-stock dream come true, and having to deal with any of this cruft at all is a pain in the arse that makes Samsung’s sweet new redesigned phone seem like a budget offering, crammed with excess software to help keep the price down.
That’s a terrific way to make a great phone feel gross right out of the box.
I hope you're ready to empty your wallets: the Galaxy S6 Edge is super expensive.
How expensive, you ask? Well, to put what you're about to read into perspective, take this into account. The Galaxy S6 Edge's less curvy sibling, the Galaxy S6 starts at $999 and goes right up to $1299 for the 128GB model. The S6 Edge because of all its bendy bits starts at $1149.
That's right: you'll pick up the 32GB S6 Edge for $1149, the 64GB model for $1299, and the the 128GB model for a whopping $1449.
Sure, that's the same price as the iPhone 6 Plus, but that's still a stupid thing. Both companies are charging too much money for these gadgets.
What’s Not So Good?
We’ve talked a lot about what’s good about the S6 Edge, but there are some clear drawbacks that may rule this out of contention for some people.
There’s no microSD card slot, which sucks from Samsung which has taunted its competitor -- Apple -- for not having the same thing for ages. It’s going to turn a lot of people off, even though Samsung is throwing in 100GB of Microsoft OneDrive storage to make up for it.
Just on that bonus offer too: does anyone on Android use Microsoft OneDrive? Maybe if you’re a very forward-thinking cross-platform user, but not if you’ve been on Android your whole life. You’ll be a Google Drive user! I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth here, but what’s the point of free storage space to a service nobody really uses?
Then there’s the fact that there’s no removable battery. Every Samsung phone I’ve had for more than a year has started to have battery problems. The company assures us it has it right this year, but only time will tell. It’s enough of a worry to keep some people away, I’m sure.
And finally, Samsung has ditched the waterproof and dustproof aspect of the device, so it’s still just as susceptible to water as ever. If you want an Android flagship that you can immerse in liquid, look Sony’s way.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely. If you have the money and can justify the purchase, you’ll be getting the absolute best that Samsung and Android have to offer.
It’s not so much a return to form for Samsung with the S6 Edge: it’s an entirely new thing, completely out of left field.
It’s brilliant software, a gorgeous screen, an amazing camera and a battery that goes for two whole days, wrapped up in a light, futuristic, sexy package.
Eric Limer also contributed to this review.