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Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: the edge is here to stay
Over the last few years, Samsung has been heavily criticized for their build quality and heavy use of plastic, with consumers eagerly awaiting a design overhaul with every flagship release. This long awaited evolution began with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha which featured a metal frame, a design element that made its way over to the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge. The mid-range Samsung Galaxy A series also debuted around this timeframe, featuring full metal unibody designs. These experiments culminated into what we have today, the Galaxy S6, along with a version that includes Samsung’s unique edge concept. What does the Galaxy S6 Edge have to offer when compared to its flagship counterpart and the competition? We find out, as we dive into this in-depth Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review!
While Samsung may have taken some inspiration from existing products when it comes to the design language, there’s no denying that the Galaxy S6 Edge is the company’s most beautiful phone yet. Samsung has finally given us a phone befitting the flagship title, and the high price point the device commands. The Galaxy S6 Edge features a metal frame with chamfered edges that holds together two Gorilla Glass 4 panels, resulting in a very solid feel in the hand. The glass on the front and back allows for a translucent effect that is extremely eye-catching when the light hits it at just the right angles.
Although this is a welcome new direction on the design front, there is no mistaking the Galaxy S6 Edge for anything other than a Samsung device. For starters, the typical button layout returns with the power button and volume rocker on the right and left, respectively, both offering a solid tactile feel. As always, Samsung’s signature physical home button can be found up front, flanked by capacitive recent apps and back keys.
Above the display are the usual sensors, the front-facing camera, and a very bright notification LED. On top is an IR blaster and the nano-SIM card slot, with the headphone jack and speaker moving from their usual positions at the top and on the back, respectively, to the bottom, with the microUSB port placed squarely in between. At the back is the camera module, with the heart rate monitor now found next to it.
As is the case with the Galaxy S6, the camera does protrude quite a bit here, due to the thin body of the device. This is something that we’ve started to see with an increasing number of devices, mostly of the ultra-thin variety. At least in my experience, the protruding lens hasn’t been impacted negatively with the Galaxy S6 Edge, but it’s something to be careful about, as we saw in the review of the Galaxy S6.
The new design aspects are not without compromises, with expandable storage, a removable battery, and waterproofing all being cut from the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Some may view the removal of these staple Samsung features as a step backward, some may simply not care, and some probably won’t even notice, depending on which device they’ll be making the switch from. Samsung has thus far always preferred function over form, typically piling on a slew of hardware and software features. This time around, the focus on form does result in some of these features being given a skip. This will surely be a subject of debate for many users, and it’s going to be up to you to decide as to whether the premium design is worth those sacrifices.
At 5.1-inches, the Galaxy S6 Edge is still within the realm of comfortable one-handed use for most users, but its unique design does raise questions with regards to the overall handling experience. To put any doubts to rest, holding the device isn’t any different from using a device with a flat display. Even though the glass curves into the metal frame, the actual display portion does not. As such, what you grip in the hand and hold on to is purely metal and bezel, and the device is not as prone to accidental taps or presses as you might expect. With the way Samsung has implemented the features that take advantage of these edges, it is, in fact, actually very difficult to trigger them unless you’re intentionally trying to.
The star of the show really is the Galaxy S6 Edge’s display, with the device featuring a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen with Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of a whopping 577 ppi. The advantages of Quad HD are debatable, but it is impossible to deny that the display here is simply gorgeous. All the great characteristics of Super AMOLED can be found here including deep blacks, high contrast ratios, and saturated colors. With 600 nits worth of brightness, the screen is extremely vivid and easy to see in broad daylight, and everything from web browsing, games, and video look absolutely fantastic on it. That said, the color calibration can also be toned down from the Settings, if the default doesn’t quite suit your taste.
What sets the Galaxy S6 Edge apart however, and gives it its name, is the way the display is curved onto the sides and disappears into the metal frame. This is a concept people will be familiar with from the Galaxy Note Edge, but this time around, the edge can be found on both sides of the display. Plus, the edges are no longer visually separated from the rest of the display, like on the Note Edge. Apart from the software features that take advantage of these edges, I really liked the swiping experience, which is extremely smooth and seamless, fitting right in with the various slide out elements found in Android 5.0 Lollipop. The illusion that it creates, of the user interface rolling in from underneath the glass as you swipe inwards, and disappearing as you push outwards, gives it that extra charm.
Another big change Samsung made with its latest flagships was the decision to go all-in with its in-house processing package, entirely skipping Qualcomm this time around. Under the hood, the Galaxy S6 Edge packs an octa-core Samsung Exynos 7420 processor, clocked at 2.1 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760 GPU and 3 GB of RAM.
With its top of the line specifications, coupled with the software optimizations made by Samsung, the Galaxy S6 Edge is blazing fast. The sluggishness that is typically associated with Samsung devices is nowhere in sight, with the Galaxy S6 Edge flying through the elements around the UI, quickly jumping in and out of applications, and comfortably handling multi-tasking and gaming without missing a beat. The animations throughout the user interface have also been cleaned up to make the phone feel just as fast as you would expect. Probably the best feature to showcase this impressive speed is the ability to launch the camera in less than a second with a simple double-tap of the home button.
It isn’t all perfect though — there is one glaring hiccup, even though the blame may lie entirely on the software side of things. Swiping into the My Magazine second screen is now faster than ever, but swiping out forces a one-second pause before you can do anything. This makes it feel like this second screen implementation isn’t as well integrated as Google Now or Blinkfeed are. Granted, this only occurs if My Magazine is enabled, and since this is a software issue, a fix is likely on the way. Still, it’s worth mentioning, even if it doesn’t take away from the raw power that this device delivers otherwise.
With expandable storage now out of the picture, Samsung is hoping to alleviate this concern by offering the Galaxy S6 Edge in 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB variants. The heart rate monitor makes a return, but is now in a vertical orientation, and it seems to work more effectively thanks to this. The fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the home button has also been improved. The sensor is now touch-based, instead of the rather cumbersome swipe-based type found in the previous generation, making it much faster and easier to use.
As far as speaker is concerned, the newly bottom-mounted speaker is surprisingly loud, and can easily be heard even in noisy environments. It does suffer from the same issue that all speakers placed in this position are facing though, with the sideways-firing audio being easily muffled when you hold the device in the landscape orientation. The Galaxy S6 Edge may not be on par with its front-facing counterparts, but this is still one of the better sounding speakers you’ll get from a Samsung device.
Another point of contention is with regards to the battery. The battery on the S6 Edge is not only non-removable, but also, the 2,600 mAh capacity seems rather small, especially when taking the Quad HD display it has to power into consideration. The Exynos 7420 does feature a 14-nm processor that is much more energy efficient, but all in all, that only helps to keep the battery life at just above average. With that said, even if you will have to charge the device every night, getting through a full day of use should be easy, keeping in mind that the screen-on time won’t go very far beyond the 4 hour mark.
Wireless charging is now built-in, and Samsung is utilizing a dual-mode charging technology that allows the Galaxy S6 Edge to work with both the WPC and PMA standards, which, in layman’s terms, means that this device will work with the vast majority of wireless chargers, giving you a variety of charging options.
The Galaxy S6 Edge features a 16 MP sensor with optical image stabilization and a very wide aperture at f/1.9. Samsung has decided to ditch the ISOCELL camera tech it used on the Galaxy S5, in favor of a more conventional sensor, but this change is really for the better.
The camera UI has been cleaned up and simplified, making it a lot easier to navigate. Basic camera settings like filters and HDR mode (which now features an auto mode that kicks in when needed) are all available. Camera modes are easily accessible by swiping to the right, or by tapping the mode button in the bottom right corner. The camera modes have also been slimmed down to just a few, like panorama, selective focus, and a pro mode for full manual controls, with users being given the option to download more if required. A new mode called Virtual Shot has been added, allowing you to take a full 360 degree view of an object. But, as cool as it looks on the viewfinder, it’s not something that can be easily shared on social media.
Of course, picture quality is what matters the most, and the great news is that this camera absolutely delivers. Pictures are sharp, colorful, and full of detail, and the shutter speed is extremely quick. More often that not, I got exactly the image I wanted on the first try. The tracking autofocus is a nice touch, especially for moving objects like cars or pets, and the f/1.9 aperture gives off a “natural” bokeh effect, that just can’t be beaten by fancy software tricks that try to emulate it. HDR also works well on this camera, bringing out some extra detail. It’s not overly aggressive though, and sometimes you’ll be hard pressed to see a difference between the standard shot and the HDR shot. 4K video recording is also possible, and even though video stabilization is disabled in this mode, the built-in OIS prevents the video from becoming too shaky.
The camera is also pretty phenomenal in low light, and what you’ll soon realize is that you can’t always trust what you see in the viewfinder. The viewfinder may show a grainy and colorless image, but once you take the photo, it’s a completely different result, which is a testament to how well the software handles post processing. The low light images may appear slightly muddy in the darker spots of the photos, but the post processing does a great job of cleaning up the excess noise, providing for an overall sharp looking image, particularly at the point of focus.
Samsung cameras have always historically been pretty good, but Samsung continues to exceed expectations with their latest offerings, and it’s going to be up to other Android manufacturers to keep up.
Changes are not limited to the design and hardware of the S6 Edge, with the latest in the Galaxy S series also bringing improvements to the software. The Galaxy S6 Edge is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop with a revamped version of the TouchWiz UI on top, which is lighter, cleaner, and faster than ever before. Samsung finally got rid off all the slow animations, the Settings menu isn’t the convoluted mess it once was, and all the annoying “nature” sounds have been removed.
The general aesthetic remains largely the same though, even if things aren’t as jarring as they once were. Another welcome addition on the software side is the newly introduced Themes feature — the built-in theme engine allows you to change the user interface completely, including icons, wallpapers, sounds, native applications, and the notification shade. The theme options available as of now are somewhat limited, but should get much better once Samsung opens up the feature to theme makers.
The trimming of the TouchWiz UI continues with regards to the pre-installed applications, with only S Health and S Voice still present from Samsung’s old stable of apps. Users are given the option to disable or uninstall some of the pre-loaded apps as well. The slew of features that Samsung usually packs into its devices have also been cut down; features like air gestures and toolbox are no longer available, while more useful ones, like multi-window, Smart Stay, and palm swipe to capture have been retained.
One of the software aspects that doesn’t get talked about much is the built-in keyboard, but it’s worth a mention here, because Samsung redid its keyboard from the ground up. It’s now extremely accurate and easy to type on, and the dedicated number row is a nice touch. I haven’t felt compelled to replace this keyboard with a third-party one, something that otherwise I usually do right away. In a lot of ways, this keyboard is very comparable to the Google keyboard in terms of accuracy and word prediction, and that says a lot about the time Samsung has dedicated to revitalizing its software.
Now we come to the side of the software that takes advantage of the curved glass of the Galaxy S6 Edge. The edge features can be set to either the left or right edge, depending on which hand you mostly use when holding the device. The new features are Edge Lighting, People Edge, Information Stream, and Night Clock.
With Edge Lighting, the edge of the screen will light up when you receive calls or notifications, and can be dismissed by simply placing your finger on the heart rate monitor. If People Edge is enabled, the colors will light up according to what you have assigned for each individual contact. You can add up to five of your favorite contacts, and have them easily accessible with a swipe on the top portion of the display. From here, you can place a call or send a text message, and if you have a missed call or message from your contacts, it will place additional tabs on the edge of the display so you can easily respond.
Information Stream allows you to view various streams like Twitter, Yahoo News, sports scores, and more. Tapping on a stream will take you into its respective application if you want to see more, and additional streams are also available for download. While useful, the implementation is a little bit clunky, as you have to swipe quickly back and forth across the edge to activate it, and doesn’t feel intuitive.
The final feature is called Night Clock and it’s pretty self-explanatory. The edge can be used as a night clock, and you have the ability to set the time at which this feature is automatically activated and when it turns off again.
People Edge and Night Clock are certainly the more useful of the bunch. Not a lot of people are going to be placing their devices face down to really take advantage of Edge Lighting, and unfortunately, the implementation of the information stream isn’t the best in its current iteration. Features you don’t use can easily be turned off, but if you decide not to use any of these additions, it almost defeats the purpose of picking the Edge variant of the Galaxy S6.
|5.1-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera with 90 degree wide angle lens
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS + GLONASS
LTE cat 6 300/50
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
Android 5.0 Lollipop
142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0 mm
Black, white, gold, green
In regards to price, you can expect the Galaxy S6 Edge to be priced at a premium over the Galaxy S6. So far, only T-Mobile and AT&T have come forward with pricing, with T-Mobile coming in just shy of $780 for the 32GB model, and it only goes up for higher storage options. The AT&T version will be available from 815, and we can expect the remaining carriers to be priced similarly. As you may already know, the Galaxy S6 Edge will be available in four different colors, depending on carrier or region. The green option is exclusive to the Edge, just like the blue option is exclusive to the regular Galaxy S6. With all of the different storage options and colors available, users will have plenty of choices to pick from.
So there you have it – an in-depth look a the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge! The edge has grown up, and is no longer the experiment that it was on the Galaxy Note Edge. We can expect the Galaxy S6 Edge to be marketed just as heavily, if not even more so, as its flat counterpart. The edge will probably be one of the key aspects of Samsung’s new identity going forward. There isn’t a lot that sets the Galaxy S6 Edge apart from the Galaxy S6 though, except for the unique design and the still somewhat limited software features that take advantage of the edge. So it’s up to you to decide if the premium you’ll be paying for the Galaxy S6 Edge is worth it.