[blockquote right=”pull-right”] [/blockquote]
It’s the well known phrase that has kicked off every major Samsung launch for the past three years, but this year, the next big thing is actually worth the hype and has come in two variants, the regular Samsung Galaxy S6 and its curvaceous brother the Galaxy S6 Edge. Every so often, a product comes along that you pick up and don’t ever want to put down the Galaxy S6 and even better the S6 Edge is one of these. Picking the Galaxy S6 is important because without the context of touch it is easy to confuse the S6 for one of its predecessors since they are all slightly rounded rectangles with a big screen and big home button. It’s only by holding the Galaxy s6 that you grasp its significance. This is like no other Samsung that has come before it, not the industrial Alpha that we reviewed a while back nor the leatherette Note 3. These two phones are something entirely different and we believe Samsung has finally hit the jackpot.
The Galaxy S6 is a slim sandwich of Gorilla glass 4 and aluminum less than 7 mm thick and much more substantial in the hand than its 138 gm would suggest. There is not a trace of compromise to be found in the fit and finish department, everything from the corner seams to the button travel and feedback is top-notch. The phone is available in several colors, and we got the “white pearl” version, for those who will go in for the “black sapphire” (not the real sapphire material), should get ready for a finger print mess at the back of the phone every-so often. The glass is smooth, slick, and cool to the touch – and it’s usually got more fingerprints than a crime scene. Also regardless of color it’s a slippery phone so we would caution those with clumsy or butterfingers to keep away from it or get a phone casing, especially we’ve so rarely been able to say that about Samsung phones in the recent past.
While upping its game in industrial design, the company hasn’t forgotten to play with its main strength, which is display manufacturing. This year’s 5.1 inch Quad-HD super AMOLED panel is sharper than ever, at 2560X1440 resolution giving 577 ppi (pixels per inch) its black levels are excellent , its saturation rich and adjustable based on your preferences. It can be over powered to about 800 nits in bright sunlight or cranked way down to 2nits or almost nothing in a dark room. Annoyingly this time round, the dim setting is sabotaged by the two bright capacitive keys at the bottom for some reason the time-out controls have been removed meaning they always light up with every screen interaction and there is nothing you can do about it.
Put your thumb at the home button in the middle and you will see another of Samsung’s many improvements — the new finger print sensor — is leaps and bounds better than the cumbersome swipe jobs that we’ve seen on earlier Samsung flagships. It will get you past the lock screen just as quickly as the best of the competition (think iPhone). Other hardware specs include an IR blaster for remote TV control, the heart rate monitor that doubles as a shutter button for selfies, the support for not one but two wireless charging standards, the insanely fast new processor, the 16-megapixel optically stabilized camera, and even a super loud-speaker.
The S6 Edge has the same size screen as the standard S6, just with that slight curve and the tradeoff is that the sides of the phone are thinner and feel sharper.
The other side of the lock screen is where Samsung has fallen short for the past few years, spending more time on useless or half-finished features while letting its interface stagnate. It’s the new 40% cut back Samsung user interface sitting on top of Android 5.0 lollipop. And, at first glanced with its goofy icons and garish colors, the new software doesn’t seem all that different. But, shaking things up is just a long press away. Like HTC, Samsung has introduced full theming capability to its latest flagship allowing you to change everything from icon packs to system sounds, to wallpapers, to accent colors with a swipe of a finger. At the moment, the theme store is pretty barren but you may not fail to find a couple that work with your particular sense of style. And I really like the fact that the theme changes are made to every corner of the OS. Including places like the notification shade and SMS chat windows.
Whether you run a custom theme or not, there is a massive improvement in responsiveness and a more intelligent layout overall. Continuing a trend that began last year, Samsung has curled or buried many of the extraneous features resulting in a faster experience in day-to-day use. The last out-of-place elements from the old Nature UX, have been removed and you can now swipe on the stock keyboard for precision cursor placements.
Multi-window, one of Samsung’s biggest standouts is still better here than on any competitor phone, although we feel it’s more suited for the Note series. It now supports a long list of apps capable of running side by side.
With its direct access to the phone’s on board blood oxygen and heart-rate sensor, S-health is more capable than ever and better laid out too. Even the Flipboard powered news reader is snappier than it once was. Not every changes will be welcome, such as the replacement of overflow icons with the word “More” takes some getting used to. That, and some other hardware industrial design choices especially at the bottom of the phone, will scream iPhone 6 copycat all the way. The S6 Edge’s software add-ons are more gimmicky than practical and we believe Samsung could have found a better way to utilize the edges.
To wrap -up the software section, we can’t go forward without mentioning this cool feature. With a double-click on the home button, you will find yourself almost instantly in camera viewfinder.
That viewfinder is a welcome improvement over the earlier mess. It is simple even for a first time user. Automatic settings are available so it can decide for its self it if needs to turn on the night mode or activate HDR (High Dynamic Range), and you can also preview HDR effects before taking a photo. A handful of shooting modes are also available out of the box with others available to download, and there is a pro setting for manual adjustments too.
One of my favorite camera fun feature is the virtual shot which allows you to combine multiple angles of an object into one full 3D photo. The best thing about this new camera is that it doesn’t reply on gimmicks to take beautiful photos. The 16 Megapixel sensor delivers outstanding pictures, whether the subjects are hundreds of meters away or mere millimeters away. The HDR effect brings highlights to the dark-zones with only a minimum of color washout.
SAMPLE CAMERA SHOTS
[carousel arrows=”display” buttons=”display” caption=”display”]
[blockquote right=”pull-left”] [/blockquote]
Back in standard mode, colors are sometimes a little punched up, a little on the warm side but, we find that the saturation boosts helps more often than it hurts. Importantly, it doesn’t mean blues and greens are lost. On the contrary, the S6 has no trouble rendering the cooler side of the spectrum. In low-light situations, this camera’s f/ 1.9 aperture and Optical image stabilization combined are designed to pull out a lot of light from the scene without the need for the harsh LED flash.
Color reproduction wonders further into the yellow-green area of the spectrum the darker the scene gets. But, this is still one of the best low-light performing cameras we’ve seen on Android. Combine that with the front-facing camera, and its wide-angle lens the still side of the scene is pretty well covered. The Galaxy S6 brings a lot of its capabilities to its camcorder mode too, you must try it out to believe it.
Elsewhere, Samsung’s in-house silicon is powered by an Exynos 7420, Octacore (1.5 GHz Cortex A53 & 2.9 GHz Cortex A 57) processor backed up with 3GB of RAM. It comes in 32, 64 and 128 GB storage options, ours was the 32GB version. It was able to run heavy games like Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8 about as well as the latest Snapdragon 810 does. You just have to be careful not to squeeze the s6 too hard in those stressful moments otherwise your palm will activate the capacitive keys and kick you out of the game. Also in the same portrait mode, you are more than likely to muffle the phone’s speakers placed at the bottom resulting in a poor sound experience. We still prefer HTC’s boom sound implementation over this.
The lack of removable battery and expandable memory slot will definitely be missed by many. Expandable storage has been increasingly marginalized by other Android OEMs and by Google itself and with the S6 available up to 128 Gigs of admittedly price on-board storage, we don’ think many people will miss micro-SD.
On the other hand it would have been really nice for Samsung to retain a swappable battery so that we could be able to carry a spare around. Carriers like Airtel Uganda will be giving away the S6 with an external battery charger to take care of the low capacity 2,550 mAh battery. That’s smaller than the S5’s 2600mAh battery, yet it needs to power many more pixels — so we suppose it’s a testament to both Lollipop and Samsung’s processor that it lasts as long as it does.
Despite usually lasting me through the day, the Galaxy S6 never managed to last me more than 4 hours of screen-on time between charges. But the phone does include support for both leading wireless charging standards and it’s also one of the fastest charging smartphones we’ve tested with an adaptive quick charger right in the box that juices it up from dead to a half charge in about a half hour. So whether you can live with its endurance depends on how often you have to top up.
Finally, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge is also a phone of course, its antennas were able to hang onto Vodafone Uganda’s 2G and 3G signal where it existed and its ear piece adroitly walking the line between loudness and clarity. Browsing on the s6 was also a breeze with support for all wireless standards including 4G LTE and the latest WiFi standard.
Photography Shot on location at White Room.