The Samsung Galaxy S6 is arguably the best smartphone Samsung has ever made. Not to mention that unlike previous incarnations of the Galaxy S range of devices, Samsung made two this year - the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Last month, when the two devices were released, we did review them both as a joint review. However, with the seemingly insatiable demand for the Galaxy S6 Edge in particular, it seemed appropriate to give this smartphone another once over, as a standalone review. As the last review covered many aspects in detail, to avoid too much overlap, some aspects will only be touched upon briefly.
Hardware & Design
For a number of reasons, it seems the design element of the Galaxy S6 Edge is what everyone mostly cares about. This is somewhat contradictory to what you would expect with a smartphone, but it does seem to be the case. In spite of the S6 Edge coming with top of the range specs, it is the build of the latest Galaxy device which has attracted all the headlines. And with good reason too. The Galaxy S6 is built differently. First up, there is no escaping the obvious. There is no plastic here. Gone (for now) are the days in which a Galaxy smartphone could be criticized for its 'plasticky' feel. The S6 Edge contains metal and glass everywhere. Surrounding the device is the new metal frame, which similar to the Note 4 (but different) feels strong and adds a feeling to the device when held in the hand.
Moving to the back of the S6 Edge and there is the newly added glass back, along with the 16-megapixel camera and heart-rate monitor. This is where the biggest change is felt with this year's Galaxy offering. The Galaxy S6 Edge feels sleek and sophisticated and the glass back is largely responsible for this. The device feels smooths and reflects almost any light, adding an additional alluring aspect to the device. That said, this is where the first problem with the hardware becomes evident. In spite of the reported strength of the S6 Edge, the premium feel of the device adds a slight vulnerability feel to the smartphone. It may be built to withstand a drop, but under no circumstances do you want to drop it or throw it down on the bed, chair or table. This is not one of those devices. Not to mention, there is a significant case of fingerprint marks with the S6 Edge. Due to the glass back, it literally asks for your fingerprints and very quickly the device can become covered. In spite of the attraction of the back, all the glass is really doing is now ensuring you do need to buy a case for it. The feeling of vulnerability coupled with how easily it marks leaves very little doubt about whether to buy a case or not.
Moving to the front of the device and this is where slight elements of d©j vu return. Looking at the device face on and the S6 Edge does not seem to have differed that much from the predecessor Galaxy S range. It is a Galaxy device and as such contains a very familiar front facing view (albeit a much shinier one). However, it is then when you look from any other angle when the S6 Edge comes to life. In fact, this is exactly why the Edge is attracting more attention than the standard S6. Taking away the Edge(s) and suddenly the Galaxy S6 would not look all that different or improved. In fact, if Samsung had not brought to market the Edge version, then chances are, the outlook for the S6 might have been very different.
Either way though, Samsung did and the Edge is here and with it, comes those highly reported dual edges which run down the side of the device. Unlike the Note Edge, the edges on the S6 are far more natural. In short, they do not feel as acute as the edge did on the Note Edge. The drop of the edges is not as steep and instead the edges more wrap around the corners of the screen, taking away the sharpness of the sides on the standard Galaxy S6.
Moving around the outsides of the device and little feels or looks differently here with the bulk of the buttons and the likes remaining in the same position.
Now, when it comes to software and especially when it comes to Samsung, the first line of any review of the software will always highlight TouchWiz. And with good reason. TouchWiz is one of the most divisive aspects of Samsung devices and does split opinion widely. Regardless though, TouchWiz is at the heart of Samsung's smartphone options and the Galaxy S6 Edge is no different. That said, this is the S6 and Samsung did make it clear some time ago that that they were done with offering a more in-depth and heavy version of TouchWiz and instead, was going to bring to the Galaxy S6 a much lighter and refined version of the android skin. That is exactly what has happened now. TouchWiz is here, alive and kicking and for those that like the look and style of TW, you will not be disappointed. For those that were not so keen on TW, the changes are likely to be welcomed ones for you. The Samsung Quick Settings are in use and with a much cleaner, flatter and more Material Design look and presentation. The toggles are, as you would expect also much more lively and come with the ability to customizable via the full toggle menu. In fact, the whole approach to TouchWiz now feels incredibly refreshed and one of the benefits of such a refresh, is that the software now runs much quicker and with no noticeable lag at all.
One of the reported ways in which Samsung was planning on toning down TouchWiz was with the removal of bloatware and apps you probably never used. This does seem to be the case and now the S6 does feel much lighter in this respect. However, this is Samsung and that does mean that not all of the bloatware has gone. As had been previous rumored, it seems the majority of the Samsung apps are still available although compared to previous Galaxy devices, they are mostly resigned to being downloadable apps and not preinstalled on the system. A few do still make it to your internal memory, although, these are at least most likely to be the ones you want you will want like Milk, S-Voice and S-Health. There are also some Microsoft offerings which are coming preinstalled, although again, these are minimal in numbers and are once more, likely to be the offerings you would want from Microsoft, like OneNote and Skype. Lastly, the device tested was an AT&T device, therefore it is worth pointing out that there was a number of AT&T offerings included as well. Unfortunately, unlike the Samsung and Microsoft offerings, these are less likely to be content you would want and there were a few more than what was included from Samsung or Microsoft. However, it is at least less than on previous Galaxy devices on AT&T.
Another interesting element which has come to the Galaxy S6 software is the ability to theme your device. In recent times, theming has become increasingly popular and we first saw the theming elements from Samsung arriving last year on a couple of their devices. However, with the Galaxy S6, theming is far more prevalent and easy to use. A theme icon is present on the quick launch customization control (holding down on the screen of the device) and once opened, users can choose from a number of themes. That said, the number of themes that you can choose from is a little limited at the moment, although the process of installing the themes was easy enough. Just download and apply the theme. The function is straightforward, easy to use and does change up the look of the device quite nicely.
Of course, this is an Edge, and that means it comes with some additional software features that you are not going to find on other devices, including the standard Galaxy S6. In terms of the features, like what was seen with the Note Edge, the software is still in its infancy and therefore, is not the magical element you might be hoping for. That said, the features which are included like 'People Edge' and 'Edge Lighting' are nice additions and do make the overall software experience more novel. The Edge lighting feature has been widely publicized and includes the ability for the device to illuminate on the side edges when an incoming notification is received. The feature works well and does do what it is supposed to do. Although, in all honestly, was less used than you might think. In contrast, the People Edge is much more of a useful feature and allows for quick access to your most frequently used contacts. These are chosen by you during the People Edge setup.
Overall, the Edge specific features are worthy features and certainly do highlight the direction Samsung are likely to take in the future with the Edge based devices.
Battery Life And Performance
This is Samsung's leading flagship device and one which has taken the industry by storm so far. As such, if there were any major issues with the performance of the device then it would have problem become publicly known by now. Therefore, you can rest assured that there were no major issues in this respect when testing. The Galaxy S6 Edge was a joy to use in terms of performance and was considerably fast, compared to the previous renditions. Of course, by now, it is widely known that Samsung opted to forgo the Snapdragon 810 by Qualcomm and instead opt for their own in-house Exynos processor. Whether or not the 810 does have any issues, does not seem to matter as the Exynos processor run smooth and with no overwhelming overheating issues. That said the device device did occasionally run a little hot after sustained use, but nothing to worry about.
In terms of battery life, this is likely to be much more of a sticking point for some users. The Galaxy S6 Edge does come with a smaller battery than everyone had expected (2,600mAh). As such, battery life is not great. It was fine and there were no major issues in getting through the day on either WiFi or LTE, but the battery did not last as long as what is probably offered with some of the other flagship devices. Although, the upside and counter argument for the S6 Edge is the inbuilt turbo charging, which does result in quicker recharge times. The claimed four hours of usage after a ten-minute charge is a little debatable, although, within an hour charge the device was good to go for the day (on average use).
With each smartphone that comes to the market, it seems the camera abilities (or lack thereof) is always one of the biggest talking points. Well, in terms of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, there is little to criticize in terms of the camera. This is an excellent camera and is certainly one of the best on offer from a smartphone on the market today. The 16-Megapixel offering resulted in excellent shots being taken. Not to mention, the device held up surprisingly well in low-light conditions. The automatic focus is another major selling point with the S6 Edge and seemed to far more often than not, take the perfect image, first time around. As a result, the pro elements of the camera were thought to be very rarely needed. That said, for those who want or need them, they are there and actually offer more advanced elements than you might expect, such as the ability to adjust the White Balance.
The camera on the S6 Edge is certainly one which will take care of most of your camera shooting needs and with little tweaking or adjusting. In fact, you can see some examples of the type of content you can expect in the images below. For clarification, all the images below were taken using the standard automatic mode.
Overall, the big point Samsung tried to make when they announced the Galaxy S6 Edge (and the standard S6) was that the Galaxy S6 was a different smartphone. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were built differently to their predecessors and were designed to represent a fresher, more modern and premium Samsung. From the design and feel of the device to the stripped down software to the performance of the device. Well, this seems to be exactly what Samsung has now achieved. The Galaxy S6 Edge is a breath of fresh air, in what is quickly becoming a crowded flagship smartphone market. From the moment, the S6 Edge is held, there is very little to criticize about the device. Yes, it does attract too many fingerprints (it seriously does) and yes, this is still TouchWiz, but these are minor grievances with what is otherwise a seriously good phone. The performance of the S6 Edge is second-to-none. The device is fast and smooth and with the added unique benefits of the Edge features, there are no devices you can compare to the S6 Edge to. The camera is excellent and one which will certainly be one of the most popular aspects of the Galaxy S6 Edge. Not to mention, the look of the Edge is just pure premium. In fact, if anything, it feels a little too premium. You will want to be careful with this one. Is this the best smartphone Samsung have made so far? Yes! Is it the best smartphone currently out there? Most likely!