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Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Review: In Depth

5
All the right curves in all the right places...

The Good

  • Class-leading display
  • Impressive performance
  • Excellent all round cameras
  • Improved fingerprint scanner

The Bad

  • Smudgetastic glass bodywork
  • Non-expandable storage
  • DCD needs more features

We know you’re itching to find out just what it’s like to spend some quality time with Samsung’s new top dogs and the eagle-eyed amongst you will have already spotted our Samsung Galaxy S6 review. Here’s everything you need to know about its more exotic, curvy sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.

Design: Curved front, flat-backed

Big changes are happening within Samsung right now and whilst the likes of last year’s Note 4 and Galaxy Alpha were foreshadowing what 2015 might bring to the table, the S6 Edge is a prime example of a company truly refocused going forward.

Design no longer feels like an afterthought as it did with the Galaxy S5 and the blend of sculpted metal and curved glass excuses Sammy’s past faux pas with the other plastic-heavy handsets of days gone by. Naturally the S6 Edge’s screen is the star of the show, but the thin metal frame ties the whole form together.

S6 Edge front S6 Edge back

Unlike the awkwardly lopsided Note Edge, the S6 feels balanced in the hand. There’s enough metal forming a hard edge beneath that curved glass to provide enough grip and the hardware controls offer a solid, satisfying response too.

Fondling the front of the Edge is arguably more enjoyable than its flat back and depending on the colour option your go for the pearlescent reflective glass may become a fingerprint magnet of the worst magnitude. If you want an S6 Edge that retains its good looks, pick up the Pearl White option and stay away from the darker shades.

S6 Edge profile

The improved build quality does come at a price depending on your needs and preferences, with the phone’s smart new battery and the capacious storage tucked away with no room for expandability or (easy) replacement. That said convenience has been significantly improved on the fingerprint sensor front, with the user required to simply press their finger against the hardware key iPhone-style, rather than having to swipe – an action that more often than not ended with frustration.

Screen: A waterfall of pixels

The main reason you’re here might have something to do with this phone’s unique screen technology. The ‘Dual Curve Display’ (DCD), as Samsung has named it, packs a ludicrously sharp 577ppi and as the phone’s moniker suggests, curves over at the left and right edges.

S6 Edge screen

To look at it’s hard to think of anything out there with the same incredible fidelity; individual pixels are barely discernable with the help of a macro lens and to the naked eye the S6 Edge’s QHD screen looks like a backlit, moving painting, with an impressively narrow gap between the Super AMOLED panel and surface glass.

It feels somewhat special, using a device where the images appear to flow over the sides of the phone as you swipe left and right. Despite the likes of the G Flex 2 and the aforementioned Note, there really doesn’t seem to be anything else out there right now with a viewing experience as pleasurable as what’s offered here.

S6 Edge People Edge

The only potential hang up comes with just how much of the phone’s curved edge is actually taken up by the display. Yes, the phone’s 5.1-inch screen does curve over along both sides, but of those curved segments perhaps only half of the width is actually occupied by screen with the rest being bezel. Call it a by-product of the engineering process this is a small point that most won’t care about.

OS: How many edges can one phone have?

The burning question then is what can the phone’s curved display actually do? Well not a huge amount just yet, but it offers some useful benefits over the vanilla Galaxy S6 and developers will undoubtedly expand that functionality during its lifetime.

A voyage into the phone’s Settings menu calls up the current feature set of the DCD with Edge Lighting being the most notable addition. Should an incoming call or notification hit the S6 Edge whilst it’s face down, the elected edge display (you can only specify one, not both edges) will pulse with a white light, informing you that action is required – it’s great for meetings or family occasions where you don’t want to or can’t politely check your phone but can still silently be alerted to how popular you are.

With People Edge, the Edge Lighting feature is taken one step further to include five elected favourite contacts, each of which you can assign a colour (from a palette of eight in total). People Edge will then let you know when those specific five might be trying to contact you amidst all your other mobile traffic. Flipping the phone over also grants you access to those five contacts with a swipe from the edge of the UI and any missed actions relating to your People Edge contacts gets its own organically animated tab too.

A feature that we originally met on the Note Edge also reappears here, letting you wake an Edge Screen whilst the main body of the display is switched off in order to check sports scores, trending Twitter topics, news headlines or the time, date and weather. You can download additional feeds to scroll through too, although right now it’s reserved to an additional pair of stocks and RSS streams.

S6 Edge People Edge Alex Todd

There’s also a night clock, which dimly displays the time for a maximum of 12 hours, designed to consume minimal power and beyond that we’re still waiting to see what else users will be able to do.

Unlike the Note Edge, there’s little you can actually do from within the user interface that’s actually Edge Screen specific, with the experience near enough identical to the stock Galaxy S6 experience. Speaking of which, for a full rundown of the Lollipop experience that both the phones share, read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 here.

Performance: Leaving its elders in the dust

There’s a new octa-core processor in town and this one isn’t made by Qualcomm. The new Exynos 7420 blazes a trail when it comes to raw performance. The new, lightweight Samsung interface never stutters and runs at a rock solid frame rate. Actions like app switching and multitasking don’t seem to bother the silicon either. The 3GB of snappy DDR4 RAM don’t go amiss either and performance-benchmarking software like AnTuTu places it head and shoulders above the previous top contender – the Galaxy Note 4.

Connectivity-wise you’re spoilt for choice with Cat 6 LTE 4G support, WiFi, NFC and multiple wireless charging standards packed into the phone’s intelligent fast-charging 2600mAh battery. Also to counter the backlash that’s rising from the phone’s lack of expandable storage, the S6 Edge can be had in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB configurations with an additional 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage bundled on top, which seems fair by our calculations.

The phone's fast charging ability means you get 16% of battery life from just ten minutes plugged in, which is a respectable effort. The S6 Edge will fully charge in just over an hour if you keep it switched off, which beats most rival handsets.

Camera: No light? No problem

Samsung talked a big game when it unveiled the camera tech both the S6 and the S6 Edge were supposedly packing. In the flesh, neither the back nor the front cameras disappoint with outstanding low light performance being their most notable strength, but excellent quality in all manner of environments is offered up in spades too.

Click here to see the low light comparison shots at 100% scale.

We dragged the S6 Edge’s camera through everything from a near-pitch black bathroom to filming fast moving traffic in 4K and it all came out looking great. The over-processed, over-saturated shots that the Galaxy S4 and to some extent, the S5 doled out are far more balanced in this incarnation of Sammy’s camera tech and with 16-megapixels to play with, there’s plenty of detail to zoom in on too.

For selfie fans, you’ll appreciate the simplified beauty mode and the great real-time HDR, which had a significant improvement on our snaps. In fact, like the rest of the UI the camera experience on the whole is cleaner and simpler, with a number of clearly signposted modes and a concise text-driven settings menu for switching aspects like image stability and video resolution.

Click here to see our full Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge video playlist.

The speed and convenience offered up by this phone’s snapper should have the iPhone worried, particularly with when you add in the extra pixels it pushes too. 

Verdict: Shut up and take my money

Every year I’m persuaded by the combination of beauty and performance that HTC offers up to side with their latest handset over Samsung’s top smartphone of the moment, but for the first time I’ve found myself on the other side of that divide. Whilst we still haven’t had a chance to put the One M9 under the microscope, everything the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge offers has convinced me that it is the smartphone to beat in 2015 and I want one, badly.

S6 Edge handheld

Some may see little use for that Dual Curve Display and if you think it’s too much of a gimmick there’s a vanilla S6 with your name on waiting for your money instead. If you want a device that looks and feels like it’s on the bleeding edge (no pun intended) of mobile technology, this is that product.

Read Next: Our full Samsung Galaxy S6 review

Key Specs

  • 5.1-inches
  • QHD (2560x1440)
  • 132 grams
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 16-megapixel w/ single LED flash, F1.9 aperture and OIS
  • 5-megapixel w/ F1.9 aperture
  • 2.1GHz/1.5GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 7420
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB/64GB/128GB (non-expandable)
  • Yes
  • Heart rate sensor, fingerprint sensor, Samsung KNOX security, optical image stabilisation, download booster, People Edge

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