For the longest time, Samsung has been criticized for their build quality and rather heavy use of plastic, even with their flagship smartphones. Consumers have been long clamoring for a change in direction for the South Korean mobile giant, and maybe they have finally listened. First ushered in by the Galaxy Alpha, which features a metal frame, this evolution of sorts were immediately followed by the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge. The mid-range Galaxy A series came next to feature a full metal, unibody design. And now, we have Samsung’s latest flagships, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge, to finally complete the transformation.
Is the wait worth it? Here we review the Galaxy S6 Edge, the slightly more interesting sibling, and tell you if it is.
First, let us talk about the design, no doubt one of the biggest selling points of the Galaxy S6 Edge. In our opinion, plain and simple, this is the best looking smartphone Samsung has ever produced. Before, people often rant about the company not producing phones that are worthy of their hefty pricetags. And they are very right in doing so. Not this time though.
Things are way different now with the Galaxy S6 Edge. Thephone features a metal frame with chamfered edges, with Gorilla Glass 4 panels both at the front and back of the device. This results to a very solid feel in the hand, and we love it, even if the S6 Edge (and the S6) evokes a lot of the iPhone 6’s design cues.
Button layout stays pretty much like the standard Samsung smartphone, with the power button on the right side, and the volume rocker on the left. The phyiscal home button is also in its usual location up front, sandwiched by the capacitive recent apps and back buttons.
Your usual sensors, front-facing camera and notification LED dominate the top of the display panel. On the uppermost part of the device you can find the IR blaster and nano-SIM slot, while the speaker, headphone jack and microUSB port at the lowermost portion. At the back is where you’ll find the usual main camera module and heart rate sensor.
Speaking of the main camera, it should be noted that as with other ultra-thin smartphones today, the camera is quite protruding here. Personally, this is not a huge issue for me, especially since most people put on a case anyway.
Quite obviously, as the name suggests, what differentiates the Galaxy S6 Edge from your standard S6, is well, the Edge. We will discuss this feature later in the article, although spoiler alert, we find it to be nothing more than a nice novelty and proof of Samsung’s technological prowess.
Unfortunately, with the new design implemented in the Galaxy S6 Edge, comes the compromises, with the flagship now not supporting expandable storage, removable battery and waterproofing. For me, this is not a big deal, although I think this is a problem for (1) those people who tend to get the lowest storage capacity in a smartphone then just opt to put a microSD card down the road and (2) those who really use their devices for a long time to the point that they would need to retire their old batteries for a new one.
Of course, as with all smartphones nowadays, the true measure of a modern handset’s quality is the beauty of its display. And man, the one in the Galaxy S6 Edge definitely does not disappoint. The 5.1 inch, super AMOLED display sporting a QuadHD resolution and an insane 577 ppi dominates the device and it is gorgeous. The sceen is very bright even in broad daylight, thanks to its 600 nits brightness level. Being an AMOLED panel, deep blacks may be expected, as well as high contrast ratios and saturated colors. If you are not a fan though, there is a color calbiration menu in the Settings app to tweak the display to your liking.
As mentioned earlier, the key differentiator of the Galaxy S6 Edge is its curved display. First showcased on the Galaxy Note Edge, the one on the S6 Edge is no longer visually separated as was the case with the Note Edge. The edge is also now found on both sides of the display, compared to the single-sided edge of its predecessor.
Samsung built a handful of software features that take full advantage of these edges. Personally though, these features are a bit gimicky to me, and generally does not provide much functionality to the handset. Nevertheless, I (including a number of other reviewers in the internet) like the swiping experience with the S6 Edge, especially with all the slide gestures present in Android 5.0. It feels very natural, very charming, and also very refreshing especially if you’ve been used to (and tired of) flat rectangular displays on your mobile phones.
The Galaxy S6 Edge, quite expectedly, is a very capable shooter. It features a 16MP primary camera with optical image stabilization and a respectable F/1.9 aperture. UI-wise, the standard Camera app of the S6 Edge is very easy to navigate, compared to previous iterations.
Usual options such as filters and HDR mode are easily accessible on the main app screen, with other modes and settings lumped together in a separate mode menu that may be accessed by swiping to the right or through the dedicated on-screen button. Also notable that the Galaxy S6 Edge comes with just a handful of camera modes such as panorama, selective focus, and a pro mode (for manual control), a departure compared to previous generations.
In actual use, picture quality is great, with pictures taken sharply, full of color and detail. Shutter speed is also very quick, and the tracking autofocus is very helpful especially when capturing moving objects. HDR works greatly as well, with 4K video an option out of the box. Low light performance is also excellent, with Samsung doing a great job in post processing images to remove noise and other unwanted artifacts.
Quite a departure from the usual Qualcomm CPU, powering the Galaxy S6 Edge is Samsung’s very own octa-core Exynos 7420 CPU clocked at 2.1GHz. It is paired with a MALI T760 GPU and a more than enough 3GB of RAM. Storage options comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB variants, and as earlier mentioned, no expansion capabilities this time around.
Given such configuration, and of course topped with a handful of Samsung’s optimizations, the Galaxy S6 Edge is very, very fast. Jumping in and out of applications, even resource-intensive games, is very smooth and buttery. Swiping through menus and other UI elements is likewise smooth, a welcome change given that previous generation Galaxy S devices have long suffered with some sluggishness out of the box.
Also noteworthy, the heart rate monitor seems to be more effective this time, probably thanks to its now vertical orientation. The same may also be said with the home button-mounted finger print scanner, which now is touch based instead of the rather buggy swipe based approach used with the Galaxy S5.
Providing the juice for all these hardware is a 2600mAh non-removable battery, which in real world tests is decent enough. Getting through a full-day with a single charge should not be a problem provided that you use the handset moderately, with approximately 4 hours of screen on-time. Wireless charging (WPC and PMA standard compliant) comes standard out of the box, although I would personally have loved that Samsung ditched the wireless charging feature and traded it for a more capable battery.
Running on Android 5.0 Lollipop, with an improved version of TouchWiz UI on top, the software on the Galaxy S6 Edge looks and feels generally lighter, cleaner and faster than in previous generations. Slow animations have been replaced with faster ones, as with the nature-centric sound effects when navigating the device.
A nifty addition, which has been quite commonplace with most handset manufacturers nowadays, is a built-in theme engine that allows users to completely and easily modify the user interface, including the icons, wallpapers, sounds, native apps and even the notification shade.
Pre-installed bloatware are also reduced with the Galaxy S6 Edge, with users now given the option to disable or uninstall most of them easily. The keyboard has also been redesigned, and now it is more accurate and easier to type on. Good thing though it still retains the dedicated number row which is a nice and useful addition.
Of course, being the Galaxy S6 Edge, a number of software customisations have been done to take advantage of its unique curved glass design. First up is Edge Lighting, where the edge of the screen lights up when you receive calls or notifications. This may be easily dismissed by placing your finger on the heart rate monitor at the back.
Next up is People Edge. When enabled, colors will light up according to what you have assigned for each individual contact. Up to five of your favorite contacts may be added, and afterwards you now have them easily accessible for a call or text message with a swipe on the top portion of the display. Notifications from these contacts, like missed calls or messages, will also be placed as additional tabs for you to easily notice.
Information Stream, on the other hand, allows users to view various streams like Twitter, and Yahoo News. Tap a stream and it will take you to the actual application for additional information.Lastly, and probably the most nifty for me, is Night Clock. As the name suggests, it allows the edge to configured as a night clock.
All these features may be enabled or disabled at will. Although just a handful for now, we think that in the long run more features may be added by Samsung, or maybe by third-party developers as well. Bottomline, as previously stated above, these features for me are nice-to-haves and not really very necessary. But then again, what’s the point of buying the S6 Edge if you won’t use these, eh?
Great design, great performance, great camera. Arguably, the Galaxy S6 Edge is indeed one of the finest smartphones Samsung has ever built. It is surely going to be a hit, especially with diehard Samsung fans itching to finally have a worthy competitor to the iPhone 6 and other droids who have been increasingly better-designed the past years.
Should you buy one? Well, if you have the money to spare (upwards of $700 the last time we checked), and if you are an Android user, then surely, you’ll never go wrong with the S6 Edge. Then again, if you want something a bit cheaper, then the sibling S6 might be the right one for you.
Nevertheless, the Galaxy S6 Edge is Samsung’s testament that its technological prowess is still up there and that, if and when they want to, they can design competitive and beautiful handsets.