I haven’t been this excited about a smartphone in a long time. There are plenty of great devices on the market right now — the Nexus 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, the One M9 and more, but I’d argue few, if any, execute everything as well as the Galaxy S6 Edge does.
From the jaw dropping display, which is among the sharpest and most colorful you’ll find on the market, to the bonus features like built-in wireless charging and OIS, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a cornucopia of some of the best tech you’ll find on the market today.
I’ve been playing with the Galaxy S6 Edge since Friday, March 27 — Jon Rettinger has had his unit longer — and am here with my final thoughts on the whole package.
There’s a lot to love here, but since it’s so similar to the regular Galaxy S6, but with the edge display, we’ll also need to address if that tweak is worth the extra $100 with a new contract.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Did Samsung copy Apple’s design language on the Galaxy S6 Edge?
I don’t know the answer, but there are more than just a few similarities between the devices. To be fair, I think it’s fine they’re relatively similar: Apple has a good thing going, Samsung knows it, and I think differentiated that enough with its own unique flavors, like the curved display.
During an early meeting with Samsung, the company told me that its designers were finally given free rein over the design of the smartphone. The design team was allowed to choose materials and build whatever it is they wanted, within budget, that was going to replace the plasticky Galaxy smartphones that reviewers and consumers have complained about since man set foot on land.
The designers settled on glass and metal, and what two better materials could you ask for? The front and back of the Galaxy S6 Edge feature Gorilla Glass 4, the strongest and most scratch resistant glass that Corning has developed to date. Fingerprints on the glass weren’t an issue on a white model Jon tested, but they really show prominently on the black version that I tested. Samsung also created a curved edge at both sides of the 5.1-inch display, which is built from heating the glass to extreme temperatures before molding the single panel.
It’s an amazing looking effect, and while the edge of the screen doesn’t really add that much functionality, it looks cool. And there’s nothing wrong with tech that looks cool in my book.
You’ll find that the aluminum extends from the core of the device outward around the edges, where it’s flanked by narrow beveled edges. The bottom of the phone, where the untrained eye might think it’s looking at an iPhone, is home to a single speaker, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB port.
The home button rests below the display and now doubles as a fingerprint reader that, in my tests, worked exceptionally well. You no longer need to swipe, just place your finger on the button and the recognition begins. The trick is to make sure you cover the entire home button with your finger — use a fat one like your thumb —and, so long as you do that, you should find a pretty high success rate.
The back of the Galaxy S6 Edge is home to the camera, single LED flash and sensors used for monitoring your heart rate. There’s also an IR blaster up top, used for controlling your TV with a preinstalled Peel remote application, and a single nanoSIM tray.
Gone is the removable battery. You also won’t find a microSD card slot, though folks who need the extra storage can opt for the 64GB or 128GB models instead of the entry-level 32GB SKU. I’m really not bothered that the microSD card slot is gone, especially now that I rely on cloud storage now than ever, but the permanent battery will be an issue for some. I’ll cover that more in the battery section.
I don’t think I usually create a review section for the display, but I’m going to do that here because it’s warrant here. I’ve always loved Samsung’s AMOLED screens, which seem to pull me through the glass and into the very movies and photos I’m viewing, but this one is really special.
Now, like on the Note Edge and Note 4, we’re presented with a Quad HD AMOLED display that is incredibly bright, colorful and inky. And since the Galaxy S6 Edge has a smaller 5.1-inch screen, all of those pixels are crammed down even tighter—577 pixels per inch to be exact—which means you’re looking at a darn sharp screen.
Looking at the screen’s colors during a movie offers up the same kind of satisfaction as biting into a warm gooey brownie — something just feels complete and all feels right in the world. If you have a chance, go check one out at your local retailer or carrier store, the screen is downright impressive and the tech should be appreciated, no matter what operating system you prefer.
Samsung said TouchWiz is about 40 percent lighter on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. While I can’t say for sure whether it’s really “40 percent” lighter, it is indeed much more fluid and less clunky than previous versions of the custom user interface.
That said, it’s still TouchWiz. There’s a lot of color throughout the operating system and folks who have used TouchWiz before will feel at home. I’ve gone over some tips and tricks to use things like gestures and smart stay, but you won’t find all of these options right in your face, complete with annoying pop-up tutorials that were in earlier versions of TouchWiz. That’s a good thing. Oh – and those annoying pops and bubble sounds are finally gone. Thank goodness.
Samsung added a new piece of software to apply Themes on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. There are only a handful currently available, but they can be applied in a matter of seconds and change everything from menu colors to the wallpaper and icons. I prefer a purple theme I found in the store, and I mix that with Apex launcher, which I still prefer to TouchWiz. It’s a nice combination of the two – and the colors applied in the theme still apply when Apex is used, which is great.
Samsung also included a special contacts menu for the edge of the phone. You can swipe in to view your favorite contacts and apply colors to each. Then, when the phone is down, you can see who is calling thanks to a color strip that appears on the phone’s face. First, I never place my phones face down – it just seems like a bad idea – and second, I’m not sure why the contacts software is limited to the Galaxy S6 Edge and isn’t available on the S6, either. It works well, but I never found myself actually going back to use it again. That’s one strike against the “edge” of the phone.
You can also view little tickers for the news, weather, notifications and more. Again, it’s not something I ever really used, and it’s not available all the time – as it is on the Galaxy Note Edge – and only when the display is inactive. There’s a bedside clock, too, which works as advertised but turns on the entire display instead of just the edge, again as it does on the Galaxy Note Edge.
While I think the curved display looks awesome, there’s really no true benefit that I can find for it. It’s not worth the extra $100 in my book, as the software is too limited and really not all that useful.
The octa-core Exynos 7-series processor on the Galaxy S6 Edge was excellent in my use. I didn’t experience slowdowns at all, and was able to play games such as The Bard’s Tale with high quality graphics enabled without any problem. In general, I don’t think anyone is really going to see the phone slow down much.
We ran an Antutu 5.6.2 test on the Galaxy S6 Edge for the folks who appreciate benchmark scores, and received a score of 64,691, right on a par with the score of 67,000 garnered by the Galaxy S6, which has the same amount of RAM and the same processor.
I do have one complaint about the performance, however, and it boils down to subpar battery life.
The Galaxy S6 Edge doesn’t last very long, which is kind of a bummer. It packs a 2,600mAh battery, 50mAh larger than the pack in the Galaxy S6, and it’s not removable. Sure, that’s going to be a bummer for some, but there are some redeeming qualities.
First, we received about 6.5 hours of screen on time playing HD video without volume and the brightness set to auto, which is the same amount of time the Galaxy S6 lasted, too. We just found that we’d be around 20 percent or lower by the end of the day – sometimes the phone was dead when we used it much more – so you’ll want to keep a charger nearby.
Thankfully there are some great charging options. It supports the two largest wireless charging standards out of the box, so it will work with a PMA or Qi charger. Wireless charging is on the slower side, but it’s convenient if you plop the phone down on a charging pad at work. And I really can’t wait to walk into a Starbucks and drop it down on a table for charging, too, a feature that’s already rolling out in some locations.
The battery also charges really quick. We went from 22 percent charge to almost 80 percent in 40 minutes when it was plugged in. Keep in mind you’ll need to use Samsung’s charger for this quick charging to work properly, however.
There are phones on the market that get better battery life, but all of the charging options soften the fear of battery drain enough that we weren’t always concerned.
The Galaxy S6 Edge camera is excellent. It takes crisp 16-megapixel shots quickly – you can launch into the camera in just 0.7 seconds by double tapping the home button, and I was confident that my shots were going to look good every time. That’s not something I could assure myself of with other flagships like the One M9, which didn’t perform to our expectations.
It’s particularly good in bright situations with a lot of light, but lowlight worked well, too, and the optical image stabilization (OIS), helped keep things looking good even with slight movement on my part.
Perhaps my only complaint, and this is true with a lot of Samsung devices, is that shots in lower light can sometimes look soft, lacking some of the detail you get in brighter light. Thankfully there’s not a lot of noise, and pictures are always acceptable, but I did prefer my iPhone 6 Plus in some lower light situations.
Selfies shot with the 5-megapixel front-facing camera were pretty solid, and I like that there’s a nice wide angle lens for fitting more of the scene into a single shot. As usual, this works a bit better in brighter lighting conditions due to the lack of front facing flash, but in general you’ll get some nice shots of yourself at the Grand Canyon, should you choose to snap them.
In general, I found myself enjoying the shots snapped with the Galaxy S6 Edge as much as I do with photos taken on my iPhone 6 Plus, which is often considered the best mobile camera on the market.
4K video looked nice and smooth on the screen, and audio came in just fine, though I actually prefer to still shoot in 1080p since I don’t have a 4K display, and prefer smaller file sizes for easier sharing.
Samsung knocks it out of the park with the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
I’m not going to beat around the bush. The Galaxy S6 Edge is, so far, the best phone of the year. It’s only March, which means we have another 10 months to go, but I suspect that it’s going to remain at the top of the list for most of that time – if not all of it.
Samsung did a fantastic job with “Project Zero” and redesigning its flagship using premium materials, something Samsung fans and critics have been clamoring for for ages. The software is improved, though still requires some tweaks by the end user to get away from TouchWiz. The camera is top notch, and we love the wireless and quick charging capabilities, too.
There are only two main problems with the Galaxy S6 Edge: I don’t think it’s worth paying the $100 extra for the Edge, which still has limited functionality. And the battery life isn’t as good as I’d have liked. Most folks will be better served by the Galaxy S6, which is why this phone is receiving the same score despite its extra cost but arguably better looking industrial design. Even still, it’s the best phone Samsung has ever built.
As a final word of backing: Jon Rettinger is planning to buy the phone for himself when it hits store shelves later this month.
Disclaimer: Samsung provided TechnoBuffalo with a T-Mobile Galaxy S6 Edge that Jon reviewed, and a European model used by Todd. Jon used the phone for more than a week before the review, while Todd Haselton tested for 6 days.