We stack Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge up against HTC’s sexy One M9, to see which flagship phone is the best. Check out our full comparison review for the results…
Glance at the One M9 and you’d be more than forgiven for thinking that it’s the One M8. It looks great in the hand, it feels pretty sturdy and it’s impressively lightweight too, but it’s not much of an update if you’re thinking of jumping ship from the One M8.
Samsung meanwhile veered in a completely different design direction, hopefully for the best. The S6 and S6 Edge are the first Galaxy S flagships to join the company’s growing family of metal-bodied phones, along with uber-tough glass panels on the front and back. They’re a definite improvement over the plasticky designs of old, but those glass surfaces are also serious fingerprint magnets.
Which design you’ll prefer is down to your own personal tastes, but both the Galaxy S6 and the One M9 should put up with a fair bit of abuse and are beautiful in their own right.
Neither of these phones are water-resistant, nor can you open them up to access their batteries. However, the One M9 does have the advantage of a microSD memory card slot to expand the built-in storage, up to 128GB.
Media and movies
The HTC One M9 packs an almost identical display to last year’s M8, i.e. a 5-inch Full HD LCD. It’s a beautiful screen in the flesh, but Samsung once again wowed us with some of the highest pixel density-toting screens we’ve ever seen. Both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge rock 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED panels, the sharpest phone screens we’ve experienced.
To be honest, movie fans will be happy with either device, which more than do justice to high-def videos. However, if you want some truly jaw-dropping visuals, the Galaxy S6 is a giant amongst men.
The Edge sports what Samsung calls a dual-edge display: that is to say it’s curved on both sides so that the pixels actually flow over the sides of the device. It’s more of a gimmick than anything else, and adds nothing to your movies or general everyday use, although there are some supported apps which use those edges to house menu options, or stream info like a ticker tape.
When it comes to audio, the tables are turned. While Samsung seems to care little for speaker tech on its phones, HTC has improved the already fantastic BoomSound speakers slapped on the front of the One M8 with Dolby Audio support. You also get full compatibility with Harman Kardon’s Blackfire multi-room speaker technology, with an exclusive portable speaker set to launch alongside the M9.
User experience and features
HTC’s Sense 7 is a subtle upgrade over Sense 6, featuring new elements like a theme chooser for greater personalisation, plus auto-customisation of your homescreen with different apps depending on your location and the time of day.
Samsung hasn’t gone for quite the same level of innovation, instead concentrating on tidying up its Android interface – a much better strategy than simply adding tons of pointless features like before. The simple colour-based theme running between native apps gives better context, similar to the likes of Asus’ Zen UI.
That said, Samsung Pay is an entirely new ecosystem that should help the S6 twins standout in the mobile payment space. It’s a feature that’s well backed up by the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge’s fingerprint scanner, something missing on the One M9.
It’s an interesting battle on the performance front too, with HTC taking the more conventional route with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, backed by 3GB of DDR3 RAM. Meanwhile, both S6 handsets rock a very different chipset: Samsung’s brand-new 14nm Exynos octa-core processor and faster DDR4 RAM. Both pack offer plenty of power, but early indications are that Samsung’s chip is the more powerful, offering incredible performance.
Samsung has also ploughed lots of attention into its battery technology, and whilst the M9 packs a respectable 2840mAh cell, the S6 and the S6 Edge’s marginally smaller but smarter batteries feature fast charging and multi-standard wireless charging built in.
Finally, the cameras. HTC has made a concerted effort to change the perceptions of its camera technology after last year’s UltraPixel sensor failed to wow fans. The same tech now resides on the front-facer whilst the back packs a more conventional and significantly larger 20-megapixel sensor, backed with a dual-tone LED flash. 4K video recording is now a part of the experience too.
However, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge now sport f/1.9 aperture lenses on both the front and back cameras, for improved low-light photography. You get a 5-megapixel front-facer with the option of real-time HDR and a 16-megapixel rear snapper that can launch in just 0.7 seconds. Unlike the M9, the rear camera also possesses optical image stabilisation and Object Tracking OIS, meaning subjects should stay sharp even when they’re moving.
In this battle, Samsung appears to have the upper hand – something we can confirm after spending more time with these phones.
HTC’s One M9 is a slick and sexy handset, but Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have the edge when it comes to features (fingerprint scanner, Samsung Pay, camera tech) and also boast sharper screens for your HD content. Check back soon for our full reviews, where we’ll see if the S6 and Edge can prove themselves as the best new smartphones of 2015 (so far).