Samsung Back to its Best

After tripping up with the underwhelming Galaxy S5, Samsung are back on top of their game with their latest flagship smartphones, the S6 and S6 Edge.

By Sadad Talhouni

Samsung’s Galaxy line has been on a downhill trajectory following the underperformance of last year’s S5. To counter this trend and capture consumer interest once again, Samsung carried out a major overhaul of their flagship smartphone range.

The tech giant decided to incorporate the unibody design concept from its Alpha series into their new S6 and S6 Edge. Samsung has done away with the plastic and encased the devices with front and back glass covers surrounded by an all-metal band.

The S6 retains the look and feel of the Samsung S line. The Edge, however, comes with unique curved edges on the side of the phone that give it a beautifully futuristic, space-age look. It’s slightly thicker than the S6 (7 mm vs. 6.8 mm) and slightly lighter (132 g vs. 148 g), but it’s not in any way obtrusive. We can’t stress enough how aesthetically pleasing the S6 Edge is.  Unfortunately, while it’s easy on the eye, it’s not easy to hold. The screen curves smoothly into the handset from the front, the back is completely flat. This, coupled with the sharp and thin metal frame, makes for an unpleasant handling experience, and requires some time to get used to.

Both devices offer a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED Quad HD screen, with 577 ppi pixel density, supposedly the best in the market. While it certainly is a stellar screen, we’ve reached a point in screen quality where improvements are barely noticeable. Samsung claims the Edge has some innovative functions for its curved side screens, but in practice that doesn’t really pan out. Features like People Edge, a quick access bar for your favorite contacts, or Information stream, which displays news feeds and quick notifications on the curves, are cute, but they’re quite limited and not game-changing. This basically means the S6 Edge differs only visually from its curve-less companion. And despite the fact that the Edge costs almost $200 extra, the beauty of its design makes it difficult not to recommend.

Internally, hardware specifications for the S6 and S6 Edge are virtually the same. They’re fitted with an Exynos 7420 chipset and Mali-T760MP8 GPU with 3 GB of RAM. They run on Android’s latest Lollipop OS with Samsung’s revamped Touchwiz interface on top of it. Samsung was wise to simplify their UI and make it run much smoother, while still retaining its visual identity.

The heart rate monitor on the back of the device is more reliable, while the fingerprint scanner has been vastly improved. You don’t need to swipe your finger for recognition anymore; simply placing it on the home button will quickly register the print. One of the unfortunate side-effects of a unibody case is the inability to switch out the battery or insert an external memory card. Without expandable storage, you have to choose the handset that suits your needs, with three options of internal memory available: 32, 64, or 128 GB.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge cameras are some of the best in the market. The 5 MP front and 16 MP rear facing cameras are extremely quick to access and snap away with, especially with the double click shortcut on the home button. Image quality is high, and we were most impressed with the clarity of photos in low light conditions. The camera features, along with the rest of the features on the phones, have been decluttered. All the Samsung bloatware has now been hidden away, and can be downloaded if needed.

Finally, battery life is a little disappointing. The S6 comes with a 2550 mAh battery, while the Edge comes with a slightly larger 2600 mAh pack, both notably smaller than the S5’s 2800 mAh, and it shows. With heavy usage, the phones struggle to last a whole working day, although when idle the phone is an excellent energy saver.

The new S6 phones have forgone interchangeable batteries, expandable storage, and waterproofing for a sleeker, more premium build. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the slick, simplified user experience, excellent cameras, and gorgeous design (particularly in the case of the Edge), make these smartphones a must-have, and prove that Samsung is still the brand to beat in the closely fought smartphone market.