Samsung required a much needed upheaval of their flagship Galaxy S line to better keep up with current trends in the smartphone world, and that is exactly what the company did. With a dramatic shift in build material and quality, significant changes in hardware, and a far improved software experience, Samsung has finally delivered what many were looking for in the Galaxy S6.
Of course, Samsung is known for pushing its boundaries, and this came in the form of the Galaxy S6 Edge, bringing forward a concept seen last year in the Galaxy Note Edge, and introducing it to the mainstream. With the release of two worthy flagship smartphones from the company, the obvious question that will be on your mind is with regards to which one is better suited to you. That is what we attempt to answer, as we take an in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S6 Edge!
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On the design front, there is basically just one differentiating factor between these two devices, namely the curves on either side of the screen in the case of the Galaxy S6 Edge. Both devices do retain the tried and true design language of previous Samsung devices though, complete with the same tactile home button up front and standard placements for the volume rocker and power button.
The similarities continue on the back, as both devices sport a protruding camera module that is accompanied by a heart rate monitor. Both devices also have glass back panels, which eliminates the ability to remove the back cover and additional hardware features that they entailed. The Galaxy S6 is a tad taller and only a few grams heavier that the Edge variant, a difference that is largely negligible.
When it comes to design, what makes the case for the Galaxy S6 Edge is indeed its slopes on the right and left portions of the screen, a significant difference that might have to felt to be believed. The inclusion of two edges started to make sense after holding the device. The fact that they come down to meet the palm allows for a side to side handling experience that is perhaps better than what you would get with the slab form factor of almost every other smartphone out there.
Grip and accidentally turning on the display are mild concerns when it comes to the Edge variant. But when holding on to the phone, a very prominent lip is present in the metal frame that tilts down very slightly, and mainly sticks out from behind the screen. So with a good pinch, there aren’t a lot of problems with keeping the phone in check without triggering the screen accidentally. However, the same cannot be said when holding the phone in the landscape orientation, as I did find it a little tough to hold the device on the edges without some fidgeting.
The width of the devices is pretty much the same, but with the screen coming down on either end, the Galaxy S6 Edge actually feels more narrow, and that makes a lot of difference. Aesthetically as well, the S6 Edge is the one that will definitely turn heads. While the original looks like a mashup of the Galaxy and Xperia lines due to its dual glass panels, the Edge version will be instantly recognizable to the tech-savvy, and given Samsung’s big marketing push, likely to the common consumer soon enough. If handling is a big deal to you, the S6 Edge offers an experience that has to be felt, and its uniqueness is something that will certainly stay with you.
The sentiments on the design side of things hold true when it comes to the display, with the curves of the Galaxy S6 adding to the overall viewing experience as well. First, on the specifications front, both devices offer nothing short of what you would expect from a Samsung flagship, with their 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screens featuring a Quad HD resolution, resulting in the super high pixel density of 577 ppi. Both displays are vivid, colorful, and sharp, and don’t miss a beat in work, play, or media consumption.
What makes the Galaxy S6 Edge so compelling is the fact that its screen is essentially one entity, and doesn’t have a specific area sectioned off for the edge capabilities, as was the case with the Galaxy Note Edge. We will explore the features of the edge in the software section below, but worth a mention is that they only take up one side of the display, and further, only appear when specifically triggered. It does feel like Samsung has finally figured out that the edges aren’t made for supposedly game changing features, but rather to offer literally a new way of looking at a device.
As such, elements of the Android 5.0 Lollipop Material Design are also given an auxiliary benefit, with a roll-in effect of various UI elements that may not always be noticed, but are certainly appreciated every time it is. As an example, watching media in the landscape orientation makes the heads up notifications look even better because of this effect. The edges don’t move any of the frame away from your viewpoint, and once again, are mostly there more for aesthetics and convenience, with a few features that for the most part, stay out of the way.
Another big change with their latest flagships was Samsung’s decision to give the Snapdragons of the world a skip in favor of its in-house Exynos processor, something that looks to have worked to great effect. Under the hood, both phones pack the octa-core Exynos 7420 processor, backed by the Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. It is also worth mentioning that the built-in storage benefits from a UFS 2.0 flash memory construction that helps keep things super speedy and optimized, a case that has been made against expandable storage, that just won’t be able to keep with installed memory. It’s also packing LPDDR4 RAM, which represents a huge leap forward in memory performance for mobile devices
Both these devices race through the elements of the dialed-back TouchWiz interface, with virtually every stutter and hiccup from the past now eliminated. The only real stutter that we’ve ever seen involves the Flipboard-powered Briefing screen, which has to refresh every time you swipe to it, slowing down an immediate return to the homescreens as a result.
All other tasks are handled extremely well, even if you’re trying to perform them at the same time using Multi-Window or the S Window capabilities. Almost no problems were seen with gaming as well, though the phone does get quite warm, but not uncomfortably so, while running the more processor intensive applications. The edge screen panels don’t down the Galaxy S6 Edge either, so its speed doesn’t get hindered because of its slightly higher feature set. As such, performance is one aspect where things are very much a tie, and is a non-factor for anyone confused between these two devices.
The big story since the announcement of these devices has been the lack of replaceable batteries and expandable storage, that have been otherwise staple features of the Samsung line. These phones do pack more than most when it comes to hardware though, including a better implementation of the fingerprint scanner embedded into the home button, and the now vertical heart rate monitor that, in our testing, worked a little faster than previous editions found on Samsung devices.
Connectivity with the LTE networks has been very steady on either device, and the quality of voice calls are as good as they’ve ever been. The sound coming from the speaker in its new position at the bottom gets adequately loud, no matter which iteration of the phone you get.
Battery life on either device is pretty standard, despite the higher resolution displays. Of course, we come back again to the primary difference between the two smartphones, the edges. There are no real hardware capabilities that put the edge over the top in this regard, though the different form factor does mean different third party accessories.
As you may have seen, or can check out below, in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge camera shootout, it has to be said the camera package Samsung has put out this year is definitely among the best. A rear-facing 16 MP camera with a f/1.9 aperture adds auto-HDR to a laundry list of capabilities, with the front-facing 5 MP unit sporting the same as well.
The camera application comes with a variety of modes, including panorama and slow motion video capture at 120 fps, and can easily be activated by a double tap of the home button, which is one of the best felt enhancements with the latest Galaxy offerings.
Using these cameras in all but the lowest light in indoor situations yields some really great looking photos, and with an auto mode that performs extremely well, most of the guesswork is taken out of the smartphone photography experience. Extra features, and a manual Pro mode, are available to those who want it, but for the general user who just wants to capture memories, both of these devices are great companions to have.
To some extent, smartphone cameras were struggling to get to the point of replacing even typical point and shoot devices, but things are closer than they’ve ever been with the current crop of flagship smartphones, and the possibilities offered by the latest additions to the Galaxy S line are prime examples of that evolution.
As has been mentioned a few times already, the latest iteration of the TouchWiz software experience available with the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge has been toned down considerably, to the pleasure of many. Not only has a lot of gimmicky aspects been put aside, but those that are still available aren’t very prominent in their presence. Even the pop-up tutorials about how to use the different features are largely absent, and turning off features like S Voice is very easy to do this time around. The user interface still features a pretty colorful aesthetic, but the available theme engine can be used to change the look to anything that better suits your tastes.
With the software experience also mostly the same between both devices, it’s better to take a look at what makes the Galaxy S6 Edge different, and what features and capabilities the edge panels offer. First, these panels and features don’t show up until triggered, which happens only from a standby position via a few swipes on the side that are pre-determined by the user.
The night clock comes up, and then you can swipe from the bottom portion to see notifications, news tickers, and a number of other edge panels that can be installed from the Settings menu. Despite some usefulness to the news tickers, the scrolling generally focuses on one story at a time, and thus pales in comparison to using even the Briefing screen instead. It can also be a good way of looking at notifications quickly, but waking the phone up and seeing them on the lockscreen is arguably still faster.
Finally, there is the People Edge, which houses five of your favorite contacts with specific colors assigned to them for easy access to calls and messages. While its functionality as a speed dial was great, the main gripe I had with it was the messages required the use of the native messaging app, instead of something else that you may already be comfortable with using, such as Hangouts. While the phone is upside down, the color assigned to the contact will glow on the side to let you know exactly who is calling in a very interesting way. That said, there aren’t a lot of situations where you will have your phone screen placed down on a table, and it honestly does look like the underside of an import tuner car.
Overall, the main takeaway from the software side of things is how much better the Samsung TouchWiz UI has gotten, helped by how optimized it is with the company’s own processing packages. The edge features are there for those who specifically need them, but all said and done, there might not be a whole lot of people who do.
When it comes to comparing the price points is when you realize that wanting the sloped edges requires a premium over the already not particularly cheap Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S6 Edge costs about $150 more overall for the unlocked version, and will result in higher monthly payments on various network carriers. For example, The S6 Edge will cost $10 per month on the Simple Choice monthly plan from T-Mobile.