We’ve just seen Samsung launch its fresh new flagship, the Galaxy S6, boasting a gorgeous 5.1-inch Quad HD screen, impressive new camera tech and a fast-charge battery, not to mention a glassy new design. Now we go hands-on to see if it really is as special as promised.
Since the glorious Galaxy S2 I’ve been a big fan of Samsung’s flagship phones, but in recent times the cheap-looking plasticky design and abundance of pointless features was starting to stamp all over my love.
When I first grasped the Samsung Galaxy S6, I couldn’t help but feel a little conflicted. Those sleek metallic edges continue the good work started by the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy A-range, while the all-new glass front and back blend in seamlessly, but I couldn’t help think of the Xperia Z3 which sports similar glossy panels and a silver edging, not to mention rounded corners. Also, perhaps it was just the heavily-palmed review units, but those glossy surfaces really are fingerprint magnets, attracting smudges as well as general grime.
However, I’m glad that Samsung has scaled back the screen size to just 5.1-inches, which helps to make the Galaxy S6 a pleasure to fondle. The thin bezels surrounding the screen mean it fits nicely in the average hand and the 145g weight is perfect – the thing won’t weigh you down but it doesn’t feel cheap either. Both the S6 and the Edge are the slimmest Galaxies I remember clutching, easily slipping into a pocket (to the chagrin of Samsung security staff).
Screen and media
Both the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge sport Quad HD screens to rival the LG G3. There’s no question, they’re incredibly sharp, vibrant (without overdoing it) and beautiful to gaze upon.
The Edge of course has that curved edging, with the main display’s image continuing around the edges, even when watching video. You can also assign one of the edges to be the ‘active’ edge, which can then be used as a ticker-tape-style news/social/notification feed, or for a dozen other features such as assigning shortcuts.
It’s no real difference over the Note Edge as far as we can see, but we’ll be sure to test out more fully for our in-depth review to see if it really can be useful rather than a gimmick.
Android Lollipop has been tarted up with Samsung’s latest TouchWiz, which is now more streamlined than ever. Gone is the million and twelve new features that were packed without any real care into every Touchwiz before now. This new Touchwiz just concentrates on making the basics as simple as possible, which is definitely a good thing.
You get a fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone, which once again is buried inside the home button. However, this time you don’t need to swipe – just press your print to the surface like the iPhone 6. Considering it’s still a thin button, it seems to work impressively well. And you also get a heartrate monitor on the back as usual.
Samsung Pay is also on-board, which as previously discussed is compatible with 90% of US retailers and uses the Galaxy S6’s fingerprint scanner. Here’s hoping it comes to the UK a bit faster than Apple Pay.
And if you plan on using the Galaxy S6 for business, Samsung’s excellent Knox security software is also on-board.
The Exonys processor packed inside the Galaxy S6 is of Samsung’s own construction, and it seems to handle Lollipop and Touchwiz effortlessly. I didn’t see any jitters or pauses even when deliberately skimming around through the desktops and menus, although I’ll need to spend more time with the handset to judge the performance.
And I can’t speak for the new super-fast charging battery either, which will apparently give four hours of use from just a quick ten minute charge and power up to full in just 80 minutes. I’ll cover that in the final review.
One of the most exciting parts of the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge for me is the new f/1.9 camera tech, with real-time HDR for low-light shots. This seems to react impressively well to dim conditions if the demo is anything to go by, and I can’t wait to test both the 16-megapixel rear cam and 5-megapixel front-facer, both of which sport the HDR tech.
Double-click the home button and the camera will launch in around 0.7-seconds, no matter what you’re doing. That’s a cool feature, akin to holding down the shutter button on some other phones, but here it’s impressively rapid.
Object-tracking auto-focus helps to keep your subject sharp if they’re prancing about like a demented leprechaun. Just tap on them and the shutter will automatically track them, so all you have to do is push the shutter button to take a snap. The shutter reacts quickly, taking a photo almost instantly and allowing you to push over and over to take lots of shots.
It’s good to see Samsung cutting down on the number of modes too, for simplicity’s sake (whoever actually used the S5 to take a 360-degree panorama for chuff’s sake?). There are eight available here and they’re all pretty standard, such as slow and fast motion.
The results of my quick hands-on snapping session were impressive. My photos were crisp and detailed and boasted natural colours, even under the intense demo room lighting. I’m looking forward to taking the S6 on the road to get some real-life photos and see how it really handles night and pub shots.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge should hit the UK on April 10th, although exact pricing isn’t known just yet. So far we’re impressed and we’re looking forward to playing with what should be the best Samsung flagship since the Galaxy SII, although we’re still not sold on the Edge’s curved screen and the design might not be the right direction for Samsung, after some promising metallic monsters recently.