“With the Galaxy S6 duo, Samsung has successfully pressed the reboot button on its flagship franchise. Here’s an in-depth look at what the S6 edge brings to the table”
Zero, as a number, might not mean much by itself, but its importance as a placeholder in mathematical positional systems can’t be stressed enough. Even otherwise, zero has several meanings attached to it. It contains nothing, yet encircles everything and it has no beginning or end.
Perhaps, that’s why Samsung chose to codename its latest flagship as ‘Project Zero’. With the sales of its flagship devices dwindling in the past couple of years, the Korean bellwether was in dire need of a compelling offering for consumers and hence it pressed the reboot button on its high-end range to unveil the Galaxy S6 (and its sibling, the S6 edge). One look at the latest flagship duo from the brand and you’d know that it literally went back to the drawing board – everything from the design to the internals, the interface to various features that differentiated its devices has been changed. But its one thing to refresh everything and another whether the consumers find those changes enticing enough.
To find that out, we’ve been using the more premium version of Samsung’s latest top-tier model, the Galaxy S6 edge to bring you our review and see if the brand has learned from its past mistakes. Let’s begin.
|In a hurry? Check out our pictorial review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge|
For long, Samsung didn’t pay heed to what the consumers or reviewers said about its design philosophy. Right from its budget offerings to the most premium smartphones in the Galaxy portfolio, you’ll find similar ethos – three-row navigation keys with a physical button sandwiched between two capacitive buttons, plastic builds, removable rear panels, et al. In fact, the Korean giant even replicated some so-called premium elements like the faux-leather or dimpled back cover available on its flagships on some mid-range offerings. But all that’s changing with the brand’s latest high-end offerings, the Galaxy S6 duo.
While the Galaxy Alpha (review) and the Galaxy A series (Galaxy A5 review) set a precursor to the new design ethics, it’s the Galaxy S6 and the S6 edge duo that has taken things to the next level, as noted during our hands on impressions as well. Although both devices come with a typical Samsung flavour with some familiar characteristics, there are some major changes too. And, those are noticeable not only when you look at the phones, but when you hold them as well.
Talking specifically about the S6 edge, the fascia is dominated by the display panel which is cascading on both sides, making it the world’s first smartphone with a dual-curved display. Above it, you’ll find the earpiece, front-facing camera and a few sensors along with Samsung’s branding, while at the bottom there’s a row of three Android navigation buttons. The home button, in the centre, also hides a fingerprint sensor underneath.
Unlike the Galaxy Note Edge (review), the display simply tapers towards the edges and hence the curves on both sides of the Galaxy S6 edge aren’t as prominent. The device gets an aluminium frame around the sides, giving it a premium appeal. Up top lies an IR blaster, an ejectable tray to hold a SIM card, and a secondary microphone, whereas as the bottom of the phone looks like the iPhone 6 with a 3.5mm audio interface, a micro-USB port, a primary mic and precision-grilled holes for the speaker.
While the Korean bellwether always highlighted removable back panela and replaceable batteries along with the memory expansion slots as USPs of its flagship offerings, the Galaxy S6 edge doesn’t have any of those. It’s a unibody device with its rear made of glass. The glass adds a bit of classiness to the device, along with giving the handset a cool look since it bounces the light falling on its surface. Don’t worry, the glass isn’t fragile as it boasts a protective coating of Corning Gorilla Glass 4.
The power button is available on the right, whereas the disjointed volume keys are present on the left.
The rear is minimal and only sports a primary camera unit that juts out slightly along with an LED flash, and a heart rate and SpO2 sensor. Below that, you’ll find the Samsung logo. Our review unit came in classic black, but the S6 edge can also be purchased in white or gold hues.
There’s little doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is a beauty to look at. Sadly, the same can’t be said about its handling. Due to the use of glass, it’s quite slippery and you also don’t have much area to grip on the sides due to the dual-curve display. Even if you hold the phone tightly, more often than not, you’ll worry that it might slip through your hand. Another problem that arises due to the cascading display on both sides is that many a times, your palm ends up touches the screen and thus the usual touch actions aren’t registered by the device. We also felt that it was more natural to hold the rear of the device facing outward, since the curves at the front offer a better feel in the hand as compared to the flat rear.
Having said that, the handset is quite lightweight and tips the scale at 132g and is among the slimmest Galaxy smartphones with its lean frame of 7mm. It can also be used easily with one hand and we were able to reach the corners comfortably. If only the device didn’t seem so fragile and the curves on both sides didn’t register false touches, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge would have been a great device both in terms of looks as well as handling.
Thanks to its proprietary Super AMOLED technology, the displays on Samsung’s smartphones have always been known for their stunning visuals. The Galaxy S6 edge doesn’t change that either, and if anything, it’s even better and crisper. The phone features a 5.1-inches display panel, just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S5 (review | FAQs), but it bears four times the HD resolution at 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. This results in an eye-popping pixel density of 577 pixels-per-inch which results in an incredibly sharp display along with accurate viewing angles. You can also read it easily under direct sunlight. The colours are also true-to-life and if that doesn’t suit your taste, then you can change the screen mode to AMOLED cinema or photo.
The smartphone also promises a bit of drop resistance thanks to the layer of fourth-gen Gorilla Glass. The useful feature called Smart Stay is available too, which allows the phone’s display to stay awake till the time it detects your eyes on it.
Coming to the calling card of the smartphone (which is apparent from its name as well), you’ll be wondering what all is possible with the edges on its sides. Well, to be honest, the three-sided display on the device seems to be more of a showcase of Samsung’s engineering prowess than offering a practical use. Sure, there are a few features, but they aren’t that helpful even when compared to the capabilities of the cascading display on one side of the Galaxy Note Edge. This is because in the case of the brand’s flagship phablet, the edge is an extension to the display panel and is treated separately, while the edges on Galaxy S6 edge are a part of the display panel itself.
One of the features of the edges which Samsung has been touting is Edge lighting. If you’ve kept the S6 edge face down, then the sides will light up if you get a call or message from one of the five pre-designated contacts. Since these five contacts can be assigned different colours, you’re easily able to identify who’s calling. Sadly, the feature only works when the display is kept on a flat surface, something which isn’t recommended as the display might get scratched.
These five contacts can also be readily accessed thanks to a transparent bar on the right side. This way you can quickly call or message them. In case you’ve received a missed call from any of these contacts, then you’ll also notice the assigned colour displayed on the edge indicating that there’s a notification waiting. Lastly, if you get a call from these contacts, then you can set up a preset message to be sent to them if you keep you finger on the heart rate monitor for two seconds.
The edge display can also double up as night clock, and it can come into play automatically at a preset time. The clock can be displayed for a maximum of 12 hours, but it doesn’t work if the battery level drops below 15 percent. There’s also an option to change the position of the edge display between left and right.
You can also subscribe to feeds such as Yahoo, Twitter, etc. and view them on the edge as part of the information stream. When the device is in a locked state, you simply need to swipe from the centre of the edge screen to bring it to life. This will allow you to see missed notifications as well show content from the feeds you have subscribed to.
All these features are quite nice, but none of them are game changers to make us excited about the edge screen on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge ships with Android’s latest iteration, i.e. v5.0 Lollipop. While you might think that the brand would have overpowered it with its own TouchWiz layer, that’s not really the case as the custom skin gels well with Google's Material Design language and the amount of customisations have also been toned down.
By default, you get two homescreens along with a dedicated homescreen to show a visual feed of news. Dubbed Briefing, it’s powered by Flipboard and is a good way to be aware of what’s going on in the world. You also get an option to choose which categories you want to stay updated with.
The app launcher lists all the apps installed, while the notification panel can be accessed by swiping towards the bottom. However, unlike the Lollipop-style notification shade which shows quick toggles by swiping one more time, the UI offers the typical Samsung notification panel with quick toggles.
If you aren’t pleased with the default look, the the device offers you the ability to change the theme with a single click.
In terms of preloaded apps, the most surprising fact is that Samsung has partnered with Microsoft to offer some of its apps in its smartphones by default. The Galaxy S6 edge comes with OneDrive, OneNote and Skype. Not just that, users can also get 100GB space on OneDrive for a period of two years. Some of the other apps available out of the box are Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.
What’s even more surprising is the fact the brand is following the footsteps of Chinese manufacturers and is offering some tools to optimise the phone. With Smart Manager, you can see the status of device’s battery, RAM, storage and security at a glance. The storage cleaning app is powered by Clean Master, while the security app is from Intel. You can also use the one-click button to clean everything at once.
Features-wise, the phone offers support for motion and gestures. While viewing a contact or a message, you can bring the S6 edge closer to your ear to dial out automatically. With Smart Alert, the device will vibrate whenever you pick it up to notify you about missed notifications. You can also capture a screenshot with a swipe of the palm. There’s also a multi-window feature that gives you the option to use two apps simultaneously. Not all apps are supported, but it’s an extremely nifty option to refer to something on email or the browser and type that out on a WhatsApp message. It’s very easy to enable this mode as you can see a small window in the overview menu, and you can also resize the window or choose to minimise it, so that it’ll be available as a floating icon. Tapping on this will open the app again.
While TouchWiz might not be a perfect UI, we’re glad that Samsung has made it leaner and scaled back the features which weren’t very useful.
The Apple iPhone series remains the indisputable king of smartphone cameras thanks to the simplistic interface and quick-shooting capabilities, even though the devices don’t offer high resolution sensors. Samsung is also a venerable option when it comes to Android-based offerings, but it’s still not able to take on its arch rival. However if our experience with the latest offering from the leading manufacturer is anything to go by, then the S6 edge might just change the status quo.
The Galaxy S6 edge scores high on the specs front in the imagery department, with a 16-megapixel sensor mounted at its back and a 5MP front-facing shooter. The primary camera features a wide aperture of f/1.9 and is supplemented by an LED flash to shoot in poorly-lit environments. Just like the software, the brand has also subdued the camera interface, which offers a plethora of features, but all of them are neatly hidden under settings and modes. Along with the usual options to change resolution, ISO, exposure, etc., there are a ton of shooting modes such as panorama and selective focus to create bokeh effects. If you want to adjust manually, then you can switch to the Pro mode, which gives you control over ISO, white balance, focal length, etc. Another interesting mode is labelled virtual shot, which allows you to capture an object from all the angles to create a 360-degree video. You can also access the camera directly even when the device is on standby by pressing the home button twice. There’s also useful option of shooting with just your voice commands and the phone can detect various hotwords such as smile, cheese, and capture among others.
Talking about the image quality, the shots taken with the smartphone are lovely with good amount of details and colour fidelity. The impression remains the same over a variety of situations, right from landscape shots to macro photos and even low-light images. Take a gander at few of the images captured from the 16MP snapper on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge.
Being a flagship-grade device, the Galaxy S6 edge can record videos in 4K resolution. It can also shoot slow-mo videos at 120fps in the HD resolution. The 5MP front-facing camera also offers impressive quality for selfies and can capture videos in QHD resolution as well.
|Need more details about the camera performance of the Galaxy S6 edge? Read our camera review|
Overall, the Galaxy S6 edge sits right at the top when it comes to smartphone cameras, and the various modes adds to the shooting experience.
Just like Intel, which dominates the computing space with its chipsets, a vast majority of mobile devices come equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs. Samsung’s flagship offering(s) also utlilised the same till last year. But with the Galaxy S6 duo, the brand has turned to its in-house expertise to power them. Providing muscle to the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is an Exynos 7420 CPU, which is a combination of two quad-core clusters. While the high-speed quad-core cluster offers four cores clocked at 2.1GHz, the low-power cluster takes care of menial tasks and is tuned at 1.5GHz. The processor is combined with Mali T760 GPU and generous 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM.
While you might think that Samsung’s processor won’t be as powerful as the latest SoC from Qualcomm’s stable, the Snapdragon 810, that’s not the case. As indicated by synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy S6 edge is miles ahead of the competition and we felt the same in real-life usage as well. There was rarely a instance when the device froze and that was because of the OS rather than the internals. The performance was flawless even when multiple apps were opened or while playing graphically-intensive titles. In fact, gaming was such an addictive experience that we completed all 20 levels of Leo’s Fortune on the phone.
Sadly, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge isn’t much different from most smartphones these days when it comes to thermals – it heats up when stressed continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. Not just gaming, you will feel the same while using the camera as well. Additionally, the glass panel at the back makes the matters worse as it's a good conductor of heat, and even with general usage outdoors, it feels warm. We found that temperatures reach around 40 degree Celsius with extreme usage.
Handling storage needs is 32GB eMMC memory, which after accounting for OS and its resources, offers around 25GB for use. You can also purchase the phone in storage flavours of 64GB and 128GB. Thanks to the support for USB On-the-Go capabilities, the Galaxy S6 edge can readily access content on flash drives.
Taking things to the next level from its predecessor, the Galaxy S6 comes with a host of sensors. Apart from the usual ones, you get an IR emitter up top, which can be used to control TVs and various electronic devices. There’s also a fingerprint sensor below the home button, and it’s usability has improved from the last time. While earlier, you needed to swipe on the home button to authenticate yourself, now all you need to do is to keep your finger on the key and voila, you are authorised. The fingerprint authentication can be used to unlock the phone or signing in into different websites. The process is extremely smooth and works in a jiffy.
You also get a heart-rate and SpO2 sensor at the back of the device, residing along with the LED flash. The sensors integrate with the fitness-centric S Health app and allow you to keep track of your heart rate and Oxygen concentrations levels, which can be useful after you’ve done any physical activity such as running or cycling. The app is also useful to monitor daily activities such as number of steps walked and calories burned.
Rounding up the spec sheet of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is a slew of connectivity features, which include 4G support (compatible with both Band 3 and Band 40), dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, DLNA and GPS. There’s also a useful option called Download Booster, which allows you to download files sized upwards of 30MB with both the Wi-Fi and cellular data simultaneously.
While the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge has improved in all aspects from its predecessor, the battery remains an exception. While the Galaxy S5 sipped juice from a 2,800mAh battery, the Galaxy S6 edge draws power from slightly lower battery capacity of 2,600mAh. The embedded battery can help the Galaxy S6 edge last an entire day, but that’s with moderate usage and you’ll end up resorting to a power bank if you push your use. With the use of 3G and GPS, the battery percentage dropped like the proverbial apple from the tree, and so was the case while gaming. In our battery rundown test, the handset was able to run an HD video on loop for eight hours, with the Wi-Fi turned off and both brightness and volume set at 50 percent. This is lower than the Galaxy S5 and other phones of its class.
However, don’t lose your heart as the smartphone comes with fast charging capability based on Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology. With the supplied charger, it can charge fully in almost an hour, which is really impressive. Further, you can make use of various battery-saving features. Samsung debuted the ultra-power saving mode with the Galaxy S5 and it’s available on its successor as well. Enabling this would offer a long battery life even when it’s in single-digit levels since the screen turns greyscale, and you can only access basic functionality on the phone. There’s a general power saving mode available too, which reduces the screen brightness and lowers the processor clock speed to extend the battery.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is also compatible with wireless chargers. So, you can buy a charging pad compatible with PMA or WPC standards to charge the phone without the hassles of wires.
The impressive external looks of the Galaxy S6 edge have resulted in changes in many things that used to be the highlights of its predecessors. You can’t remove the battery (not that it affects the performance or usage of the device) or expand the storage. This means you have limited amount of storage at your disposal. The handset also misses out on the dust- and water-proofing capabilities, available on the Galaxy S5.
At a time when a few brands like Xiaomi, Lenovo and OnePlus have rewritten the conventional rules of price vs specs expected from smartphones, it probably won't be fair to put Samsung’s latest flagship through the same lens. Of course, the Galaxy S6 edge is available at a premium, and even with its high-end chart-topping specs, it’ll still seem expensive.
But if you look past that, then it’s evident that with the Galaxy S6 and the S6 edge, Samsung has successfully pressed the reboot button for its flagship franchise. The devices offer top-notch displays, power-packed internals, superb snappers, and of course, a stunning design language. It surely comes across as a revolutionary upgrade than its predecessor (refer to the attached comparison chart). The edge screen on the Galaxy S6 edge goes a step further to show that the Korean brand hasn’t lost its innovative edge (pun intended), though it does seem to fall short when it comes to practical usage and is more of a novelty factor.
However, as mentioned earlier, everything isn’t a perfect affair with the Galaxy S6 edge. It misses out on an expansion slot and its good looks come at the cost of comfortable handling. The battery life is also just about average.
Priced around Rs 57,000, the smartphone requires many bank notes to buy. At this price point, it’s biggest competitor would be Apple’s current flagships, the iPhone 6 (review | FAQs) and iPhone 6 Plus (review). The devices are starkly different and all of them are equally worthy choices, so the best way to choose between them is whether you want the customisability of Android or the simplicity of iOS.
|Have some doubts about the Galaxy S6 edge? We might have answered them in our FAQs|
Between the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 edge, you can go for the latter if you care more about the looks than usability. But if not, then Galaxy S6 is a better choice as it’s available at a more affordable price point of approximately Rs 45,000, but offer exactly the same hardware as its pricier sibling, barring the dual-curved edges.
Photos by Raj Rout
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