There’s no denying that the latest additions to the Samsung flagship family, the Galaxy S6, and its curved display counterpart, the Galaxy S6 Edge, are two of the best smartphones of the year thus far. Of course, Samsung does tend to launch multiple devices with various features and capabilities that share the flagship moniker, and that’s exactly what you get with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active.
The new active variant of the Galaxy S6 is a ruggedized, waterproof, and overall beefier version of its original brethren. Is this version of the Galaxy S6 the one that is best suited to your needs?
Before we fully jump in and do our best to answer that question, it has to be mentioned that a lot of what made the Samsung Galaxy S6 a success returns with the Galaxy S6 Active. Particularly the performance between the two devices will be largely the same, due to the fact that it sports the same processor, GPU, and RAM. Still, there are a number of enhancements or compromises made with the Galaxy S6 Active, which is why we will skip over all that is same and instead focus solely on what makes the Galaxy S6 Active different from its flagship namesake.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and take an in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge!
The big difference between these devices, of course, begins in the design department. Many of us were excited with Samsung’s decision to move on to a different build material in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, with their metal and glass unibody designs finally offering the premium look and feel that we wished for. This is why the all plastic build of the Galaxy S6 Active may feel like a step back, but is a necessary change to create a device that sports a sturdy and beefy build that can take any punishment you bring its way.
Speaking of taking any punishment, there’s plenty that the Galaxy S6 Active has to offer in terms of protection. Its IP68 rating for resistance to dust and water means that apart from being almost entirely protected from dust, the device can also be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for as long as 30 minutes with no negative impact on usability and performance. The Galaxy S6 Active is also Military Standard MIL-STD-810G certified, making it resistant to salt, dust, rain, vibration, solar radiation, and transport and thermal shock. Basically, accidental spills, drops, and bumps aren’t going to do much to keep this device down, as this phone is outfitted for so much more than what the clumsiest of people can dish out.
These protection capabilities are in stark contrast with the seemingly fragile glass encased Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, whose thin, and what looks like delicat, builds give an impression that even a small drop from the hand to the table could cause damage. While making the Samsung Galaxy S6 review, the protruding camera of the device did crack from just falling over, which has resulted in me being wary of even any small stumbles. There isn’t any form of waterproofing either, so don’t go spilling any water on it or dunking the phone in liquids, as just about everything will malfunction if you do.
In order to reach an alleviated level of durability with the Active some compromises had to be made, and they’re easy to see at first glance. For starters, the button layout has been made fully tactile, and the home button also loses the fingerprint scanner. This poses a problem that isn’t that far removed from what occurs with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, with there always being a danger of the device being triggered in the pocket, because of the presence of a tactile home button. This might be more prevalent with the Galaxy S6 Active though, because of a quick launch button on the top left corner that can wake the phone and automatically go into preset applications which, while incredibly useful, can be an issue when the device is in the pocket.
The Galaxy S6 Active sports a rugged design and is significantly thicker than its flagship counterparts, with a camouflage print on the back making for a device that may not be particularly attractive to everyone. That isn’t the point here though, with the device being built to withstand anything that is thrown at it. Where an elegant, but somewhat delicate, device like the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge may turn heads, the Galaxy S6 Active provides a peace of mind that will be useful and necessary for quite a few users out there.
When it comes to the display, the same 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with a Quad HD resolution is found across the board, so the main difference in this area comes with regards to the edges of the Galaxy S6 Edge, with capabilities that include tickers and quick shortcuts, all of which are overshadowed by the only truly useful feature, the night clock.
The Galaxy S6 Active obviously doesn’t have the curved sides of the display, that ultimately helps with handling, helped along with the extra girth that the device features. In the case of the Galaxy S6 Edge, handling and comfort are helped by the curved sides, but what became a nuisance was accidentally triggering the screen from to time, along with the many times that our palms emulated a long press on the screen and stifled any other taps on the screen as a result. Overall, the better handling experience the Galaxy S6 Active provides is more useful than the abilities of the edges of the Galaxy S6 Edge.
This isn’t an issue with the regular Galaxy S6 of course, which makes it the middle path device here. The Galaxy S6 and the S6 Active won’t suffer from touch problems like the Galaxy S6 Edge, but the latter is definitely the most attractive of the lot. Granted, the Galaxy S6 Active may turn heads as well, but not for the same aesthetic reasons as is the case with the sleek S6 Edge.
We keep using the word “beefy” to describe the Galaxy S6 Active, but that is just not in association with the size of the phone, but is also related to what the device packs underneath the surface.
This is mainly seen in terms of battery life, with the Galaxy S6 Active featuring a larger 3,500 mAh battery that has been proving itself, giving this device one highly contestable point over its original siblings. With typically heavier than average use a full 12 hours of work was possible with relative ease, and I was comfortably able to end most days with at least 25% of battery life left in the tank. With fast charging capabilities still available, it doesn’t take long to get the device back to full capacity either, and the device also comes with the same wireless charging capabilities as its siblings. While the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge also come with these features, you might find yourself relying on fast charging more often than is comfortable, and the batteries of these devices feel quite paltry when compared to the beefier Galaxy S6 Active.
As mentioned, there are compromises though, like the understandable omission of the fingerprint reader, with its press type implementation something that we really enjoy on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. If it is a feature you absolutely need than the Active probably isn’t the right device for you, but if you are someone who won’t miss it much, and give more importance to external protection, the choice is obvious.
The customizable quick launch button on the top left of the device allows for two applications to be launched, via a tap or a long press, and has proven to be incredibly useful. Have them set to open up a music application and your fitness tracker, or to open up Evernote and a calendar app for any important meeting or notes, and you’ll find yourself pressing consistently. You also don’t have to waste a precious slot on the camera app, as a double-tap of the home button will quickly and smoothly launch the camera. This extra button on the side for customized launches will be useful to everyone, and it is something we’re hoping isn’t just limited to Active iterations in future devices.
The same sensor and features of the Galaxy S6 return with the Galaxy S6 Active, with its f/1.9 aperture, pro modes, and video recording that includes 4K and slow motion capture. As expected, the picture quality is fantastic with the Active as well, with images benefitting from higher saturation and high detail even in lower light conditions. As mentioned in the reviews of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the best part of the image quality stems from a lack of post processing artifacts. Noise reduction is kept to a minimum, allowing for details to be shown the way they are, without any smudging that otherwise occurs.
The only real difference here is addition of an Aqua Mode with the Galaxy S6 Active, which makes the touchscreen inoperable, and requires using the Active button for photos, or the volume buttons for video capture. It’s a typical move for swimming photos that make another case for the inclusion of this Active button in future Galaxy smartphones.
On the software side of things, you get the same new trimmed down, speedy, and smooth version of TouchWiz, which certainly proved to be pleasantly surprising when we first used it. With both these devices sporting the identical operating system, it’s hard to really give the edge to either in this department.
The Galaxy S6 Active does come with an Activity Zone though, but it’s really nothing more than a easy to find grouping of tools that are mostly found in S Health already, including a compass and barometer. The Galaxy S6 Active doesn’t get much more in the way of software features, but having a rugged phone that is ready for the active lifestyle makes sense when it can still take advantage of all the sporty and fitness related apps found on the Google Play Store.
|Samsung Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge||Samsung Galaxy S6 Active|
|Display||5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display|
|5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display
|Processor||2.1 GHz octa-core Exynos 7420 processor|
|2.1 GHz octa-core Exynos 7420 processor
|RAM||3 GB||3 GB|
|Network||4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21/42 Mbps||4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21/42 Mbps|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, A-GPS / Glonass, USB 2.0||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, A-GPS / Glonass, USB 2.0|
|Camera||Rear 16 MP with OIS. |
Front 5 MP wide angle lens
|Rear 16 MP with OIS.
Front 5 MP wide angle lens
|Software||Android 5.0.2 Lollipop||Android 5.0.2 Lollipop|
|Battery||2,600 mAh - S6 Edge|
2,550 mAh - S6
|Dimensions||142.1 x 70.1 x 7 mm|
132 grams - S6 Edge
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
138 grams - S6
|146.8 x 73.4 x 8.6 mm
Pricing and Final Thoughts
While the curves of the Galaxy S6 Edge result in a significant increase in the price when compared to the regular Galaxy S6, usually around a $100 more, the larger battery, rugged exterior, and extra useful button of the Galaxy S6 Active will set you back only $10 more. At least for the moment, the Galaxy S6 Active is available exclusively from AT&T.
So there you have it for this closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active vs Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge! The Galaxy S6 Active is really the phone made for anyone that doesn’t feel as safe with Samsung’s more elegant, but also more delicate, offerings. Despite the move back to plastic, or as a result of, the Active can take a beating and keep things ticking along. Its usefulness is more than catered just towards the rock climber, the drink spiller, or the clumsy handler, with its larger size allowing for a battery capacity and longevity that we only wished the Galaxy S6 could muster, and the Active button is useful for everyone who wants an easy access method to their most used applications. If the Galaxy S6 Edge is the luxury sports car, and seems to be priced accordingly, the Galaxy S6 Active is the off-roading vehicle that can still show off on the streets, and in this scenario, also gives far better gas mileage.