All The Latest Gadgets Reviews And Tech Information is Available On This Blog
Monday, April 13, 2015
Samsung S6 Review
5.1-inch Super AMOLED 2560x1440, 577 PPI
Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core Cortex-A57/A53
32, 64, 128GB
2550mAh (2600mAh Edge)
16MP with OIS (back), 5MP (front)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
142.1 x 70.1 x 7 mm, 132g
This is finally a premium Samsung phone that feels premium.
The touch-based sensor under the home button works very well. It's worlds better than the swipe version last year.
The GS6 has a stunning 1440p AMOLED screen. Maybe all the extra pixels don't matter, but the colors, viewing angles, and brightness are fantastic either way.
Almost always blazing fast, especially with that new UFS 2.0 storage.
Includes both wireless charging and fast charging over USB.
Samsung pulled a lot of mediocre features completely and disabled others by default. It's a much cleaner, faster experience.
Super-fast launch time and excellent photos. The new Pro photo mode is nice as well.
While the themes right now aren't great, this feature has a ton of potential.
THE NOT SO GOOD
Battery life is average overall and a little shorter than the Galaxy S5
Some performance hiccups
Strange slowdowns in some places like the Briefing screen and scrolling widgets.
No removable storage / battery
You know... if that's a big deal to you.
If you didn't like TouchWiz before, you still won't. There are a few annoyances, mostly in the launcher.
Lots of slippery glass
The Gorilla Glass 4 back shouldn't break when you drop it... but it isglass. In the meantime, it will be covered with fingerprints.
Design And Build Quality
You have probably heard this from everyone who has touched a Samsung Galaxy S6, but it feels like an incredibly solid phone. It would be an impressive piece of industrial design for any OEM, but especially for Samsung, which has always seemed to take a "good enough" approach to design. I can't think of an Android phone that feels like a more premium piece of hardware than the Galaxy S6. In fact, I'd put this device up against an iPhone any day of the week.
I can't think of an Android phone that feels like a more premium piece of hardware than the Galaxy S6.
The front of the device is dominated by the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel, which I'll get into later. The bezels have been slimmed down dramatically this year, at least on the normal GS6. There essentially are no bezels on the Edge variant. The Gorilla Glass 4 front on the standard GS6 actually curves down ever so slightly at the edges to meet up with the aluminum band encircling the device (yes, it's metal instead of plastic with a chrome finish). There's zero gap between the glass and metal—it's extremely precise. I can't even slide a thin piece of paper in there.
The back panel is non-removable and made of Gorilla Glass 4, just like the screen. It also tapers to meet up with the aluminum band. Some people have very strong negative feelings about phones with a glass back. It's another thing to break, sure, but it does result in a more premium-feeling product that won't interfere with wireless charging or cellular signals like metal does. A quick aside, I'm so pleased that Samsung built wireless charging into this device. Spending $30 on wireless charging backs for past devices was mega-lame.
Also on the back are the flash, heart rate sensor, and the 16MP camera. The camera hump sticks out a few millimeters from the rest of the phone, which is common in Samsung devices. However, the completely flat glass back prevents any tapering to hide the magnitude of the camera plateau. It's probably the sloppiest part of the design in my opinion, not that it's a deal breaker or anything. Still, it irks me a little that the Galaxy S6 doesn't lay flat ever.
The flat design isn't really ergonomic, like for example the Moto X, but the GS6 is thin and light enough that it's comfortable to hold. The speaker is on the bottom next to the USB port and headphone jack. It's fine, but this is still a tiny mono speaker with no bass. It gets reasonably loud, and it is much better to have it on the bottom rather than the back.
Samsung has a track record of jiggly buttons of all sorts, but the tighter design extends to this aspect of the Galaxy S6 as well. The home, volume, and power buttons are all very stable and clicky. There's a tiny bit of rocking if you press on one end of the home button, but it doesn't feel loose. The buttons on the edge are all metal as well. My only button-related complaint is that the volume toggles are a little too high up on the left side. Well, I'm also not personally sold on Samsung's physical/capacitive button phalanx, but the company doesn't seem likely to change that. I prefer on-screen buttons because they're easier to press. Samsung could at least put the multitasking and back button on the right sides, don't you think?
One of Samsung's big innovations for the Galaxy S5 was the fingerprint reader built-into the home button, and it was kind of a dud. By "kind of," I guess what I mean is it definitely was. The swipe reader on that device was extremely awkward to use and of little use beyond the novelty factor. With the Galaxy S6, Samsung has finally gotten it right.
The fingerprint reader is so fast it almost obviates the need for Smart Lock.
All you need to do when using the fingerprint sensor is touch the home button. If you use the fingerprint screen unlock, you can literally just push the home button to wake the device and leave your finger there just a split second longer. That's enough for the phone to recognize you and unlock. The fingerprint reader is so fast it almost obviates the need for Smart Lock. The process of setting up fingerprints in the settings takes a bit longer than it did with the Galaxy S5, but you can register four fingers instead of three.
Bottom line—Samsung killed it with the design this year. You pick up this phone and it feels substantial without being heavy. It's actually a few grams lighter than the Galaxy S5 despite all the metal and glass, probably due in large part to the more svelte design and yes, the smaller battery. We'll talk about that shortly.
What about the Edge? I don't have a GS6 Edge on hand to talk about yet. We'll probably update this review or post something separately if there's anything important to report once we do get one.
This just in—Samsung makes really fantastic AMOLED panels. You probably know this, but the screen on the Galaxy S6 is truly a thing of beauty. It retains the same 5.1-inch size as last year's flagship, but the resolution has been boosted to 2560x1440. That's the same resolution as the monitor I'm writing this on, and that kind of blows me away. Samsung has slowly but surely erased all the shortcomings of AMOLED technology, and with the Galaxy S6 you can enjoy the fruits of those labors. Samsung continues to be years ahead of everyone else when it comes to displays.
The Note 4 was the first Samsung device to make the jump to a 1440p Super AMOLED in 2014, but the Galaxy S5 was still 1080p. The GS6's increase in resolution has pushed the pixel density to a whopping 577 pixels per inch. It's debatable whether that makes a real difference on a smartphone, but I lean slightly toward the "okay sure, give me more pixels because why not" side of the argument. It's not going to be a night and day difference, no matter which side of the ideological divide you're on, but the Galaxy S6 doesn't suffer from the resolution bump like some devices (cough LG cough).
Samsung continues to be years ahead of everyone else when it comes to displays.
This screen gets incredibly bright when left on auto-brightness (over 600 nits) and can drop down to incredibly dim levels for use in a dark room (under 10 nits). This is one of the few devices I don't need to install an app that artificially dims the screen past the low point for use at night. The colors also remain accurate at the lower brightness level. On the Galaxy S5, the display would become noticeably purple when turned all the way down. Being an AMOLED, it of course has perfect black levels, and the viewing angles are great.
Samsung again has several display modes on the Galaxy S6 including basic, photo, cinema, and adaptive. The basic mode does a good job of reproducing colors accurately, at least to my eye. Still, I rather like the slightly more vibrant look of AMOLED photo mode. Adaptive defaults to brighter colors with a slight blue-ish tone, then it adjusts in supported apps based on ambient light. This looks really good in bright light, but I'd say photo mode is the best one. Really, though, there is no way to make this screen look bad. It's rapturously gorgeous.
Internals And Performance
Samsung kicked up some dust with its decision to go with an in-house 64-bit Exynos chip instead of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. This was allegedly because of heat issues, which surely embarrassed Qualcomm in the run-up to spring phone season. It has been a few years since Samsung released a phone in the US with an Exynos instead of a Snapdragon, but the Exynos 7420 is a good way to bring it back.
This chip has an ARM reference big.LITTLE design with four Cortex-A57 (big) cores and four Cortex-A53 (LITTLE) cores. The chip is based on a 14nm manufacturing process that offers improved speed and thermal performance compared to most other chips on the market. The GPU is also an ARM reference design, the Mali-T760 MP8.
The Galaxy S6 feels very, very fast in virtually every situation. The healthy 3GB allotment of RAM also seems to be more than enough to keep things from falling out of memory too quickly (yes, even on Lollipop). I'll expand on this a little in the software section below.
You're looking at 32, 64, or 128GB of internal storage in the Galaxy S6, and that's it. As I'm sure you've heard, there is no microSD card slot. I'll just come out and say this doesn't bother me. I don't use a ton of internal storage on phones, and I'm actually quite happy to see Samsung ditch the 16GB base model. 32GB is more than enough for me personally, and you can pay for up to 128GB of (very fast) storage. If you need more than that, I hate to break it to you, but you're the edgiest of edge cases. You've always got another option if you truly cannot get by without removable storage...
The Snapdragon 810 is under fire for being too toasty, but it's not like the Exynos 7420 doesn't get warm. It can get uncomfortably hot when charging (especially wireless) or if the CPU has been cranking away for too long. It's not anything out of the ordinary, though. In fact, it gets less toasty than the Galaxy S5 did last year, at least in my experience. Running a few benchmarks in a row, I'm able to get the GS6 up to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since some of you are probably looking for a direct number-by-number comparison, I ran a few benchmarks on the Galaxy S6, Nexus 6, LG G3, and HTC One M9. The first three have the same resolution, but different ARM chips (Exynos 7420, Snapdragon 805, and Snapdragon 801). The M9 is 1080p and running a Snapdragon 810. Here are the numbers for AndroBench (storage), AnTuTu (total system), and 3DMark (graphics). Note, the Nexus 6 is encrypted, but none of the other devices are.