Samsung Galaxy S6 Phone Review

Hands on with the new Samsung Galaxy S6

Finally, the new flagship Samsung Galaxy S6 has been unpacked – and despite an unholy series of leaks, the announcement still had a couple of surprises.

The Galaxy S5 was a great phone overall, but it fell short on materials and design. This year’s flagship looks familiar, but it feels more like the premium phone its price demands and answers those criticisms that we had of last year’s phone.

Is it enough after the great success of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the competition from the upcoming HTC One M9? Read on for a closer look.
 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Release Date and Price

The Samsung Galaxy S6 will be available from April the 10th in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. Pricing is still to be confirmed.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – All-new design

Samsung has moved away from the heavily criticised plastic, cheap-feeling design of the S5 in favour of a crafted metal bezel around a thinner 6.8mm body covered in Gorilla Glass. Forgive me if the phrase ‘more premium’ becomes a repetitive phrase, but it’s an apt one. This isn’t a phone for those with an aversion for fingerprints, though, as that glass rear picks up greasy prints very easily.

The five colours available at launch – Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz, White Pearl and Black Sapphire – have a translucent dual tone to them. For example, the gold model has a hint of platinum in it, depending on the angle from which you look at it. It’s an unusual, eye-catching effect, albeit one that will divide opinion.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge: What’s different?

 
Looking closely at the S6’s slightly bevelled edge, it seems to have been influenced by the Galaxy Alpha, but some will undoubtedly say it looks too much like an iPhone. I don’t necessarily agree, though. The fine detail on the S6 is on another level.
 
In the hand it’s more ergonomic than the S6 Edge, fitting more comfortably in the palm. The camera protrudes ever so slightly from the back, but I found that it added to the comfort of holding the phone.

Samsung has also reworked the fingerprint scanner, which no longer requires you to swipe your finger across it. Instead, you just hold your finger over it a la iPhone and voila! the phone is unlocked. This can also be used for security verification when using Samsung Pay.

I like the look of the S6, but the refined design comes at a cost. It’s official, Samsung has finally ditched the removable battery, thrown out the microSD card slot and no longer seems to care about water resistance. These sacrifices may just be deal breakers for some – I’m particularly disappointed about the move away from water resistance.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Exynos Replaces Snapdragon

The Galaxy S6 is powered by a Samsung designed octa-core Exynos 7420 chipset, designed to compete with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor featured in the new HTC One M9. One of the main reasons for this departure from Snapdragon appears to be the power efficiency of the Exynos 7420 chip.
 
The Exynos is the world’s first 14nm SoC (System on Chip) and Samsung claims it’s 20% faster and 35% more efficient than the 20nm chip in the Galaxy Note 4. It’s supported by 3GB of RAM. Some might have hoped for 4GB, but any disappointment is tempered by the fact it’s faster DDR4 memory compared to the DDR3 of previous phones.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge First Impressions

Samsung claims DDR4 is 80% faster than DDR3. That’s likely a theoretical number, but faster memory is bound to improve responsiveness so it’s clearly a good thing.

The overall result is that the S6 should deliver more power whilst reducing the demand on the phone’s battery. Less drain for more gain. We look forward to seeing if this is genuinely the case when it comes to the full review.

 
Samsung Galaxy S6 – Trimmed-down TouchWiz UI

The new Galaxy S6 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box – no surprise there. Samsung gave us a more stripped-down version of its TouchWiz UI in the Note 4, and it’s gone a step further and delivered a highly simplified version of its Android skin for the S6.

Many of the in-app icons have been replaced with simplified words, such as “send” instead of an arrow for example. This is good, sensible design that makes it easier to get to grips with new and old features.
 
It’s a clean user experience overall, too, with colour coding to help differentiate between sections such as contacts and gallery. After many wrong turns, Samsung appears to be on the right track again with TouchWiz.

Related: All the news from MWC 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 – QHD AMOLED Screen

As many predicted, the Galaxy S6 features a 5.1-inch 2K/QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) Super AMOLED display with an impressive pixel density of 577 pixels per inch. That’s 77% more pixels than the Galaxy S5. The numbers are increasingly meaningless these days, but it’s impressive all the same.

And, as with any Super AMOLED display, the S6 impresses with the brightness of its colours and outstanding contrast evident in videos and photos. I didn’t notice any discernible difference between the S6 screen and the QHD effort in the Note 4, but that’s hardly a criticism. Samsung also claims an impressive 600nits peak brightness, though this wasn’t in clear evidence on the test unit I saw.

Finally, Corning Gorilla Glass 4 covers the front (as well as the rear) of the S6 to protect all those precious pixels.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Upgraded Cameras

The S6 features a 16-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilisation and a 5–megapixel front-facing camera, both with bright f/1.9 apertures.
 
Samsung has designed both cameras to excel in all lighting conditions, but especially in low light. Features developed to help the S6 deliver on that aim include a real-time HDR mode and a low-light shot feature, which works likes night mode on digital compact cameras.

From the comparison shots shared at MWC, the low-light features blow the competition out of the water, but we’ll be putting it to the test ourselves before we make up our minds.

Photography is a big focus for Samsung as a business right now – evidenced by the innovative NX1 and NX500 camera releases from its Imaging division – featuring the world’s first back-side-illuminated APS-C sensors, so it’s no surprise to see the S6’s cameras boasting some potentially class-leading capabilities, particularly when the lights go down.

Related: Best Android Apps

Samsung Galaxy S6 – Battery & Wireless Charging

On the power front, the S6 has a non-removable 2,550mAh battery that features wireless charging. I’m happy to see that it’ll be compatible with both the WPC and PMA wireless charging standards. This means the S6 will work with a large variety of wireless charging plates, not just the one that you can buy from Samsung.

Even though the capacity has been lowered from the S5’s 2,800mAh battery, it still promises to deliver class-leading performance, and improved quick-charging. Hopefully the 14nm Exynos processor will ensure there’s no decrease in overall battery life, though that needs to be tested.
 
Samsung claims that 10 minutes of charging should deliver enough battery for four hours of regular use. The South Korean tech giant also cheekily claims that the S6 can acquire a full charge from 0% in half the time of the iPhone 6.

Related: Android 5.0 Tips and Tricks

Early Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S6 was the hotly anticipated star of MWC 2015, and its specs sheet makes a cracking first impression – especially if it delivers on its speed and power-efficiency claims.

The processing and design improvements to the S6 may give it some potential advantages over its rivals. But the headline features that make the S6 really stand out are the much-improved camera, the impressive charging options and (provided you live in the US or Korea) the Samsung Pay contactless payment system.

It’s an impressive start, though it remains to be seen if ardent Samsung fans can forgive the loss of coveted features like microSD support and water resistance.

Happy with the new S6? Let us know what you think in the comments

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Samsung Galaxy S6 Phone Review | TechNina | 4.5

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