Samsung is famous for their Galaxy S lineup, each year coming out with another iteration that has more features and a slightly new design to entice buyers to upgrade to the newest model or switch from another OEM. This year Samsung changed up the design by using premium metal and glass materials for the body, and focusing more on giving users a back-to-basics approach when it comes to the software and features. We previously reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S6 shortly after launch, so this will serve as more of a "second look" perspective of the device with my experiences in using it. How does Samsung's Galaxy S6 stack up? Let's take a look at the specs.
Samsung spared no expense here when it comes to hardware specifications, and what you'll find are a collection of top-tier components which aim to give users the very best of an experience. This comes through with the price tag that Samsung is charging for the Galaxy S6.
- 5.1-inch Quad HD SuperAMOLED display (2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi)
- Exynos 7420 64-bit octa-core processor
- Mali-T760MP8 GPU
- 3GB of DDR4 RAM
- 32GB/64GB/128GB of internal storage/No microSD card support
- 2550mAh battery
- Android 5.0 Lollipop/TouchWiz UI
- 16MP rear-facing camera with OIS and f1.9 aperture
- 5MP front-facing camera with f1.9 aperture
- 143.4mm tall x 70.5mm wide x 6.8mm thick
Hardware and Design
There's no doubting that the Samsung Galaxy S6 is Samsung's most well-designed phone. Not just in the Galaxy S lineup, but of any device they have ever built. It shows through with the use of the materials as well as the attention to detail this time around, like with the flat surface that runs up the sides just before rounding with a slight curvature at the corners. Personally this felt like it made the phone a little easier to hold and a little more comfortable to grip. As with any device that has a glass front and back, holding it by the glass can feel a bit slippery at times. This doesn't take away from the great design though, and it doesn't truly affect the overall nature of holding the phone. The front in many ways appears just the same as any other Galaxy S phone. The familiar Samsung logo sits up top, the ever so persistent home button is there too. This time though it plays more of a crucial role because it serves as placement for the incorporation of the fingerprint sensor. Over on the back things are a little more unfamiliar (aside from the camera and sensor placement) here because of the use with glass, but it's a good unfamiliar feeling. On the sides the buttons for the volume rocker and power key are elegantly designed sitting near flush with the frame, protruding just enough to make them easy to push but not sticking out unnecessarily far. On the top things are rather bare and simplistic with no buttons or ports, just the mic and the IR sensor are present with the charging port and audio port sitting on the bottom with the single speaker which, leads me into the next detail. Audio.
After using the device for a little while I could tell the audio was pretty good, but not great. To most people the audio may not sound any different, but the use of a single speaker as opposed to dual stereo speakers just doesn't sound like it stacks up against devices which have a two speaker setup. In most cases the audio was very pleasant, but when you turn the volume up during things like songs or games, which is most of what I used in conjunction with the speaker, it just didn't sound as good as on other devices like the HTC One M9, or the Sony Xperia Z3 for that matter. Having said this, the audio is by no means subpar and everyone should be pleased with the results that Samsung has achieved, because it's certainly an advancement over previous models in this area.
The software here was much better than I had expected. I am no fan of the TouchWiz UI, and I make no claims to be, but what Samsung has done with the UI this time around while blending it with Lollipop is a nice experience, and far nicer than past devices. They stripped away much of the unnecessary software but have still managed to leave what makes it undoubtedly a Samsung. Things were also easier to navigate and the UI feels more streamlined and intuitive. Most importantly, the entire experience with the UI feels snappier and more fluid than anything Samsung has put out in a while. No doubt some of that is due to the Exynos 7420 octa-core CPU, but the UI doesn't seem to bog down the system really at all, which has been a big pain point for many Samsung device users on older models. I never once entered a situation where using the phone felt sluggish which was quite surprising. TouchWiz is still not my favorite UI as I prefer things a little more bare than what the Galaxy S6 offers, but Samsung has done a top notch job at getting even someone who quite frankly used to despise TouchWiz to like it to some degree, and that is saying something.
I will not claim to be a photography expert, in fact I am far from it. I am however aware of when a smartphone camera is capable of producing images with excellent quality, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 is definitely a capable device for the mobile photographer. Samsung's use of the f1.9 aperture definitely made a difference in lower light situations. Photos also captured quickly which is a big thing. Picture worthy moments don't always sit there and wait till you're ready tap the button. Sometimes the image you want is nothing more than a fleeting moment which could be possible to miss if the camera isn't capable of reacting quick enough, leaving things potentially blurry or completely out of focus. I barely if ever experienced this issue because the camera snaps off photos rather fast, and blur was counteracted nearly every time by the optical image stabilization. As for quality, the 16MP sensor Samsung uses is no slouch, and things appeared crisp and sharp with plenty of detail while having top-notch color reproduction. Is it the best smartphone camera on the market? It's hard to say. It's definitely towards the top, and there aren't many devices I've used that feel that way. Needless to say anyone taking pictures with the Galaxy S6 would be proud to show off what they've captured.
When it comes to performance, for me the only thing that matters, which also happens to be an excellent way to test the limits of the RAM and CPU, is that the phone is not only capable of gaming, but goes above and beyond what other devices are able to achieve with high-end games. The Galaxy S6 is easily one of the best phones I've had the pleasure of playing games on. It had no trouble whatsoever handling the games with high-end graphics at high frame rates. Things felt smooth, and games like Implosion - Never Lose Hope, Marvel Future Fight, and Hearthstone which are all very graphics heavy with loads of special effects, performed exemplary without issues of slow down that I had experienced with the Galaxy S5 playing equally graphics intensive games. If gaming is going to be a main feature you look forward to with the Galaxy S6, then you won't be disappointed. If you aren't planning on playing any mobile games, that's OK as any multitasking should be more than simple with the processing power that the device is carrying inside.
From my personal experience with the battery life, the Galaxy S6 was among the best of any phone I have used recently. I had no issues with using the phone for at least a day with average use, sometimes more than a day before I would need to plug it in. During days with heavier use in which I used social media and streaming music throughout the day as well as an hour or two of games, battery life lasted me probably around 8am in the morning till about 9pm at night before it dropped below 10% and would need a charge soon. Whether you're a power user or an average user, the Galaxy S6 battery will likely hold up to whatever you throw at it. During the days with extremely heavy use, you can always utilize the power saver to turn off some of your power hungry features and only use the bare minimum, which will help to extend your battery life, which is something I had to do only once. Even then, I was able to plug it in and in only 20 minutes I had more than enough battery to last me through the rest of the day.
Overall, there is no denying the Samsung Galaxy S6 is a pretty excellent smartphone. The days of Samsung being pegged as having a less than premium build on their flagship are over thanks to the metal and glass design, which not only looks amazing, but feels great in the hand too. The software has been tightened up to a point which no longer feels sluggish or over populated with apps or features you'll never need or use, although admittedly not everyone is going to use every single thing the Galaxy S6 offers. Past the build quality and the software, the phone is quick, it performs insanely well during games and multi-tasking and the pictures are easily some of the best any smartphone camera can produce. The screen is also vivid and lush with colors and a brightness which generally only a SuperAMOLED screen feels like it can provide.
Sure, the battery is no longer removable, and the storage is now internal only, but these are things that are easy to look past. 32GB is more than enough storage for even some heavy users, and should it not be you can always step up to the higher internal space models of 64GB or even 128GB. As for the battery, with it being capable of lasting a long time thanks to better battery management of the software and optimization which help to manage the consumption of apps and other features, a removable battery isn't really needed. Also take into consideration it charges much quicker than plenty of other phones, so should the battery ever reach a critical low, you can replenish a decent amount of it in no time at all. If you aren't a Samsung fan, even you could find appreciation with this device. If Samsung is your OEM of choice however, you're going to absolutely love it. This is truly Samsung's best.