Samsung Galaxy S6 review

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We rather liked the Samsung Galaxy S5 – it was packed with some of the best tech and had a great screen and battery life; however, it didn’t feel like that much of a step forwards from the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the plastic case was slightly disappointing.

Realising these issues, Samsung has gone back to the drawing board and come back brighter and stronger with the all-metal Samsung Galaxy S6 and the curved and, in our opinion, even cooler Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Here we’ve got our hands-on opinion of the phone, but read our Samsung Galaxy S6 release date, price and specs article for the nitty-gritty; likewise, we have the similar Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge release date, price and specs article for that handset.

Build quality and finish

Moving to a metal case is the best thing that Samsung could have done for its handset, and it’s done a brilliant job with the build quality of the S6. Stylistically, the new S6 has enough design cues from the S5 so that you can tell that this is an evolution of the phone, but the new model is so much better built. As soon as you pick it up, you realise how the new phone has the premium build quality to match the price and specifications.

As with the S6 Edge, Samsung has made the S6 available in four different colours: White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz (Galaxy S6 exclusive). The handset uses a brand-new finish, which gives a slightly transparent and jewelled appearance to the phone. It’s hard to show this off in pictures, but when you see it in the flesh, you notice that Samsung has managed to pull off a look and finish that’s completely different to every other handset’s.

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Although made of metal and with the same size 5.1in display, the S6 at 143.4×70.5×6.8mm and 138g is both smaller and lighter than the S5 (142×72.5×8.1mm, 145g). In fact, it’s closer in size to the impressive 4.7in iPhone 6.

Display

Samsung’s known for producing high-quality displays, and the 5.1in Super AMOLED display in the S6 is one of its best yet. With a resolution of 2,560×1,440, the phone has the highest pixel density (577ppi) of any handset, beating the LG G3, which has the same resolution and a larger screen. Samsung has also boosted brightness to 600cd/m2, which should make the screen easier to read outside. When we saw the display, it was certainly bright, detailed and capable of producing vibrant colours; we can’t wait to get our review sample so that we can test the screen properly.

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Android Lollipop

Samsung has installed Android Lollipop, the latest version of Google’s operating system. As usual, Samsung has installed its TouchWiz interface, although it’s promising a more streamlined experience this time around. As the screen on the S6 is flat, you don’t get the extra features that the S6 Edge gets, including Information Stream and People Edge. To be honest, neither of these features are must-haves.

More importantly, Samsung has reduced clutter and pre-installed apps by 40%, which means a cleaner Android installation. You can install any apps that have been removed manually, and you also have the choice to install a selection of Microsoft Apps: OneNote, OneDrive and Skype.

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Performance

With a brand-new quad-core 2.1GHz Samsung Exynos CPU inside, the handset is certainly extremely snappy. As this is a 64bit CPU running a 64bit OS, the performance increase over the S5 should be impressive; we’ve not had chance to run any 2D or 3D benchmarks yet to see just how quick the phone is. This is the first smartphone chip to use a 14nm fabrication process, which means that it will run cooler and use less power than the S5’s chip, or indeed the smartphone competition.

The processor uses ARM’s big.LITTLE technology, with a low-power 1.5GHz quad-core processor helping to save battery life when the phone doesn’t need to run at full power.

Battery life

Samsung has fitted a 2,550mAh battery in the S6, down from 2,800mAh in the S5 and 50mAh less than the battery in the S6 Edge. The immediate thought is that this will mean shorter battery life, but don’t panic: the more efficient CPU means that the battery should last longer. We’ll test this to find out for sure when we get the phone in for review.

Charging is either via the USB port on the bottom of the phone, or wirelessly. Samsung has built in WPC and WMA wireless charging support into the S6, which means that the phone should work on practically any charging mat.

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Camera

Samsung has used the same 16-megapixel camera here as in the S6 Edge. This is the same resolution as on the S5, but this time around there’s a brighter f/1.9 aperture lens (this lets in 34% more light than the f/2.2 lens on the S5). There’s also Optical Image Stabilisation to reduce blur in low-light shooting. To make sure that you don’t miss an important shot, a double-click of the fingerprint sensor fires up the camera up in less than 0.7ms – it was certainly too fast to time when we tested it.

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Some new modes are introduced, including Virtual Shot. This lets you move the camera around an object so that you’ve got a 3D shot you can rotate around later. Real-time HDR processing is turned on to help boost the dynamic range of the photos and certainly seemed to work well in the test shots that we were shown. We’ll reserve final judgement on the camera when we get the S6 in for review.

Conclusion

There’s no doubting that the S6 is a much better phone, both in terms of features and build quality than the original S5. It also looks set to completely out-do the HTC One (m9), while giving iPhone 6 users something to look at. However, as good as the S6 is, there’s one phone that’s just demanding more attention: the S6 Edge. Identical in features to the S6, bar the curved screen, the Edge is even more attractive and one of the best-looking handsets that we’ve ever seen.


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