Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Form Over Function? Samsung Changes Game

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge
Samsung ditches its old design philosophy by going the unibody route with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Samsung

When folks say that Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 smartphones serve up the biggest change yet for the electronics giant’s flagship line, it isn’t simple marketing speak. As someone who has used a Galaxy phone as my personal smartphone of choice since the very first one came out, I can confidently say that the S6 and S6 Edge marks the biggest departure from the design philosophy that Samsung has espoused with this particular line of devices to date.

The question now is whether those changes are for the good or if they alienate longtime fans instead.

As with many things in life, however, the answer depends. For the most part, the S6 and S6 Edge are two sides of the same coin albeit with just a few differences, so I’ve decided to review them together. First let’s go over what both phones do really well.

Display Spoils Owners

At the top of the list is the display. Samsung has always spoiled owners of the Galaxy line with excellent screens and it outdoes itself again with both phones’ gorgeous 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display. I’m talking colors that pop plus crisp detail thanks to a resolution of 2,560 by 1,440. That equates to a pixel density of 551 pixels per inch, which trumps the iPhone 6’s 326 ppi and the iPhone 6 Plus’ 401 ppi. Let’s just say watching high-definition video on this puppy will make you want to lick the screen. Performance is also zippy all around thanks to an extra heaping of computing muscle.

Then again, all my Samsung phones started out of the gate fast before slowing down and exhibiting input lag after several months — and many app installs later — so it remains to be seen what long-term performance will be like.

Camera Phone Improvements

The camera, long my biggest pet peeve about the Galaxy line, is improved as well.

Photos taken under natural light look vibrant and are also sharper than images I took with my iPhone 6. It’s also better at stabilizing shots than my older Galaxy phones, which sometimes struggled with with just the slightest bit of movement. The S6’s fast charging capability, which gives you for hours of battery life with just a 10 minute charge, is a welcome feature for power users.

Fingerprint Scanner Improvements

The fingerprint sensor is also much improved. In the previous model, you had to rub your fingers against the sensor, which isn't as convenient and even made my fingers a bit sore after frequent use. Apparently, I’ve got delicate metrosexual hands. This time, the sensor requires a simple touch just like its competitor, the iPhone 6, which works out much better. Being an Android phone, the ability to change themes is another neat feature, which is apparently a very popular feature with women both young and older in my family. Seriously.

Unibody Design

The biggest change that the S6 and S6 Edge bring to the table, however, is the switch to a unibody design. Gone is the cheap plastic back that used to be one of the calling cards of the Galaxy design. Instead, Samsung gets rid of the removable back still espoused by Android phones like the LG G Flex 2 and opts for the same completely enclosed structure used by the iPhone and the HTC One line.

In fact, the look evokes the style of the iPhone 4’s back and the iPhone 6’s overall profile. Regardless, it’s arguably the best looking Galaxy phone yet. Call quality and data speeds were also good on the Verizon models I tested, even when I didn’t have full bars.

Removal Of Familiar Features

The new design, however, will also alienate some longtime fans. Taking out the waterproofing of the Galaxy S5 is one thing but the phone also ditches the replaceable battery and microSD card that has been a time-tested tradition for Galaxy phone. The good news is that you can still replace the SIM card but the removal of familiar features won’t please everyone.

I also had times when both S6’s would just eat up battery life, making me miss the ability to use spare batteries even more, though it admittedly did not happen all the time.

Bloatware remains an issue, too, and some features like certain motion gestures were more annoying than helpful. As far as the S6 Edge, the literally edgy design is certainly eye-catching and looks great but the extra software seem more like gimmicks than must-have features, especially for the higher price tag.

Ultimately, I have a feeling that the big changes represented by the S6 will be polarizing. Some folks will absolutely love the new buttoned-up design while some loyal users will decry the ditching of the removable back and the features that came with that. In the end, whether or not the S6 or S6 Edge will be the best option for you depends on which of these two camps you fall under.

Rating: 4 out of 5