Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review
The double curved screen is the least interesting thing about Samsung’s latest Android phone
We've already reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Korean giant's latest flagship Android phone, but despite being nearly identical in almost every respect the Galaxy S6 Edge is a different kettle of fish. It has a curved screen, so it costs around 120 more than the non-curved S6. Unlike the Galaxy Note 4 Edge, which was only curved on the right hand edge of the screen, the screen here is curved on both the left and right hand sides.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: curved screen
The curve of the S6 Edge's screen is noticeably less pronounced than it is on the Note Edge. It droops barely half a millimetre over the edges this is less half the size of the curve on the Note Edge. In spite of this, the S6 Edge has the same curved screen features as its phablet counterpart. You can have notifications, stock and news tickers and a night-time beside clock appear on one of the edges, but we didn't find any of these features to be particularly useful.
Samsung hasn't stopped there though. You can now swipe in from the curved edge to see a list of your five favourite speed dial contacts. Tap an icon for one and you'll see buttons for calling and texting your contact as well as reaching out to them on whatever social networks they're members of. Even though you can only use this feature from the home screen, it's still handy to have. Less useful is the option to assign each contact a different colour the curved sides will then light up in that colour whenever they contact you. Despite this frippery, we wish Samsung had added similar swipe-from-the-curve controls in other commonly used apps such as Chrome this would make the large 5.1in screen a lot easier to use for people with small hands.
Regardless of its curved edges, the screen is still top-notch. It's very bright with wide viewing angles and good contrast and colour accuracy. Its 2560x1440 pixel resolution is more than enough to make text look razor sharp. Its touch sensitivity was almost flawless in our experience, with barely any lag or slowdown.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: build quality and casing
Even discounting the curved screen, the S6 Edge (and its curveless variant) are still a radical departure from previous Galaxy S phones. The creaky, cheap-looking plastic builds of previous models has now been superceded by a glass and metal casing that not only looks classy but feels sturdy too. Although it looks very iPhone-ish from certain angles, it's by no means a complete Cupertino knock-off. The white coloured variant has an ivory-like pearlescent sheen that's distinctive and attractive.
The downside is that the battery is now sealed in place and thus no longer easily replaceable. There's no micro SD slot either, so there's no way to add extra storage beyond using the cloud. At least you can buy this phone with 64 and 128GB of storage built-in, with each leap in storage adding an almost reasonable 50 markup. These two features helped set previous Galaxy S phones apart from the iPhone without them, the S6 Edge and the current Galaxy S range as a whole feels more Apple-y than ever before.
Samsung Galaxy S6 review: battery life and performance
The battery may no longer be replaceable, but at least you can recharge it quickly using the included fast charging' power adapter. Charging for just ten minutes provided enough juice to play a video for two hours. Battery life itself was a mixed bag. The S6 Edge fared well in our formal benchmarks, lasting 15 hours and 18 minutes playing a H.264 video on a loop and just under 11 hours when browsing the web connected to a 802.11n WiFi network. It was less impressive in our informal real world test. When connected to O2's 3G network and used for calls, photography, web browsing and Google Maps, it only lasted 18 hours and 32 minutes, which is below average.
The performance of the octocore Exynos 7420 processor was consistently excellent. Compared to phones equipped with Qualcomm's rival eight core chip, the Snapdragon 810, it was a little faster in both single core and multi core Geekbench tests, but a tad slower in the Sunspider HTML 5 rendering test. The Mali graphics chip paired with the 7420 was a little slower than the Adreno 430 paired with the 810 in our 3DMark benchmark, but the difference in practice was slight. The S6 Edge is a very fast phone.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: camera and fingerprint reader
We were incredibly impressed by the 16 megapixel rear camera. Apart from a handful of colours that looked slightly off in bright daylight, we couldn't fault its image quality. Shots taken in low light were sharp and well-lit with plenty of detail and noise kept to a minimum. It was so good, it captured a few fine details missed by the iPhone 6's camera.
The fingerprint reader on older Galaxy phones, phablets and tablets was infuriatingly fiddly to use and slow at recognising fingerprints. That's thankfully no longer case with the S6 Edge. Its fingerprint reader quickly and accurately recognised our fingerprints, making it a very handy alternative to a passcode for unlocking the phone.
The only situation where it failed to work reliably was when our skin was wrinkled after a long soak in the bath. It's a shame that the fingerprint reader can't be used in conjunction with a passcode for two-factor authentication. Plus, third party app support for the fingerprint reader is still limited.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: Android Lollipop, TouchWiz and Knox
Android Lollipop 5.0.2 is pre-installed on the S6 Edge with Samsung's TouchWiz interface on top. TouchWiz is thankfully far less irritating than it was in previous versions, with less clutter. A simple example is enabling flight mode doing so in previous versions would prompt an annoying and needless confirmation dialog box which is now mercifully gone.
There are also far fewer pre-installed apps which means less junk for you to remove. Some of the casualties of this housecleaning, however, are Samsung's useful Knox apps for segregating your work apps and content from your personal ones and for enabling mobile device management. These can still be downloaded from Google Play though, and you might not miss them anyway, especially if your company already uses alternative enterprise management apps and services.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: conclusions
Despite its largely gimmicky curved screen and so-so battery life, there's a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Its camera is incredibly impressive, while performance, responsiveness and screen quality are all very good. However, you get all these benefits in the curve-less and therefore cheaper Galaxy S6. If you need to buy a high-end Android phone, the standard S6 is far better value.
The S6 Edge's gimmicky curved screen isn't enough to justify the price premium over the otherwise identical Galaxy S6
Processor: 2.1 + 1.5 GHz Samsung Exynos 7420
GPU: Mali T760MP8
Screen: 2560x1440 pixels
Memory: 3GB RAM
Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB on-board, non-expandable
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G, IR
Ports: MicroUSB 2.0, headphone jack, nano SIM
Dimensions: (WxDxH): 142 x 70 x 7mm