A fresh splash of paint
First and foremost, the biggest noticeable difference between the Galaxy S5 and this year’s S6 and S6 Edge is the design. Last year’s Galaxy S5 employed a predominantly plastic body because at the time, that was Samsung’s go-to design language – they favoured polycarbonate, chromed plastic details and removable backs, which were quite robust but also look and feel cheap.
However, the Galaxy S5 was also the first Samsung phone to rock IP67 dust and water resistance, so you can actually submerge the phone without having to worry.
The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge ditched the plastic and unfortunately also got rid of the waterproofing, replacing it with a more elegant, premium design – one of the biggest things that Samsung fans had been crying for.
The S6 and S6 Edge boast metallic frames which Samsung says are significantly stronger than any other metal-bodied smartphone on the market and they also feature Gorilla Glass 4 back panels making them super tough and scratch-resistant. Of course, those glass panels also seem to scuff up all too easily, meaning you’ll need to constantly buff them up.
And while the Galaxy S5 had a removeable battery, this feature is gone in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
Power me up
Instead, Samsung has crammed smarter charging technology into the 2015 flagships. The Galaxy S6’s 2550mAh battery is actually smaller capacity than the Galaxy S5’s 2800mAh cell, but the S6 and S6 Edge support wireless charging standards, something the S5 required an accessory for. You also get Fast Charging with the new phones, which will convert 10 minutes of charge time into four hours of use.
We’ll be fully testing and comparing battery life when we get our hands on the S6 and S6 Edge.
Pretty as a picture
All three phones pack 5.1-inch Super AMOLED HD displays, but while the Galaxy S5 packs a Full 1080p HD panel, the new flagships offer some incredible new display tech. Both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge boast a Quad HD resolution AMOLED panel, which means you get 577 pixels crammed into every square inch. That beats even the mighty LG G3.
Of course, the S6 Edge sports a special screen that curves at both edges and that’s the main difference between that handset and the S6. It seems to be more of a gimmick than anything, although there’s no denying that it helps the S6 Edge to stand out from the rest of the smartphone crowd. We’re not too sure that’s worth an extra £100 however.
If you’re after a mobile entertainment machine, any of these phones will do the job. However, for cutting-edge visuals, the S6 and S6 Edge have it in spades.
What a performance
Moving onto the inside of the device, all three phones pack beefy processors. The Galaxy S5 opted for the industry standard last year, a quad-core Snapdragon 801, which still holds up well and can handle the latest games and apps.
This year Samsung is pushing its own Exynos silicon across all markets, so even in the UK we’re expecting the company’s latest own-brand octa-core chip and 3GB of faster DDR4 RAM. Early indications are that these chips are some of the most powerful around, so if you want a handset that will stay nippy into the foreseebale future, the 2015 handsets are the way to go.
Features and interface
In place of the expandable microSD slot the Galaxy S5 packs, the S6 twins offer a larger capacity 128GB model and both also partner up with cloud storage deals on top. However, that extra storage will undoubtedly cost you more than a cheapy microSD memory card, so get your wallet at the ready if you’re hoping to carry lots of apps and media around.
Elsewhere, the software on the newer Galaxies has been reworked, slimmed down and simplified, something older Sammys like the S5 were in dire need of. At this stage in the game you get Android Lollipop whichever handset you choose, but going forward, the S6 will enjoy newer releases for longer.
All three Galaxy phones here offer heart rate sensors and fingerprint scanners, although the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge fingerprint scanner seems to be a serious upgrade and a lot less frustrating. This is because they use a similar tech to Apple’s Touch ID, meaning you just have to place your print on the home button now rather than swiping across it. So far it seems to be a more accurate way to unlock your phone, and of course pay for stuff via your phone.
Samsung’s camera technology is arguably the most interesting element of all of these devices. The S5 and S6 both offer 16-megapixel rear sensors, 4K video recording and the heart rate sensor can double as a shutter key, but the camera experience on the S6 is undeniably beefier.
Both front and rear cameras sport an f/1.9 aperture lenses for superior low light performance, plus a 5-megapixel front facer (as opposed to the 2-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S5) which is capable of shooting HDR video. On the back you also finally get Optical Image Stabilisation with Object Tracking OIS built in to keep moving subjects in focus – something the S5 lacks altogether.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is still a fantastic device and with its waterproofing, removable storage and battery, it offers something a bit different to the new S6 and S6 Edge. On the other side of the coin, these newer devices give you future-proofed performance, more premium (yet scuffable) designs and some of the most beautiful screens you can get on a mobile device.
If you already own the Galaxy S5, we’d say hold off a little while before upgrading to the Galaxy S6. While the new camera, battery and sensor tech is undoubtedly a step up, there’s nothing essential here until your S5 starts to chug.
Check out our full hands-on review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge