Samsung Galaxy S6 review
|Review: March 2015|
Last updated March 2015
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy S6 brings premium metal-and-glass looks to Samsung's winning formula of a high-spec Android smartphone. The S6 features a stunning quad-HD AMOLED screen, an 8-core processor, enhanced cameras, Android Lollipop and a wealth of other features. The only things holding it back are the lack of expandable memory, and the rather average battery life.
Samsung launched its flagship phone for 2015, the Galaxy S6, at MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona in March 2015. As expected, the S6 closely follows the design of the Galaxy Alpha, with a metal chassis instead of the all-plastic design of previous S series phones. The company also announced the Galaxy S6 Edge, a version with curved edges to its screen, based on the Galaxy Note Edge phablet.
A new style for Samsung
The Galaxy S6 is the thinnest Samsung smartphone ever - just 6.8mm thick. Made with a seamless metal and glass body, it's clear that Samsung is trying to emulate the success that Apple has achieved with its iconic iPhone design.
The S6 is a good-looking phone, and much nicer than the plasticky S5. The rear of the phone is glass, and the frame and edges are metal. Samsung has finally delivered a premium look, while retaining the signature Samsung style. We adore its slimness, its light weight and its sleekness, and the design is a welcome move forward, but we're not 100% happy. We don't like the way that the camera lens projects from the rear of the case, and we still don't think that Samsung has caught up with the iPhone 6, the HTC One M9, or even the Sony Xperia Z3 on style. The S6 Edge adds more, but a quick show of hands at S21 still ranked it behind the iPhone 6 and the M9 for looks.
The phone features a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED screen with an amazing quad-HD resolution, and this screen is a key selling point of the phone. The 1440 x 2560 resolution produces an incredibly high pixel density of 577ppi. It's an unbelievably sharp display, that's also richly saturated and with the exceptional dynamic range that we've come to expect from Samsung's AMOLED screens. The screen is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. It's one of the most impressive screens you'll see on any smartphone this year.
Like the Galaxy S5, the S6 supports fingerprint recognition (enhanced to make it simpler and more reliable to use), and includes a heart rate monitor too. A new speaker position, on the bottom of the phone, improves the audio experience compared with the S5.
The phone will be available in a choice of Black, White, Gold and Blue.
The cameras used in the phone are exceptional too. The rear camera uses a 16 megapixel sensor with auto HDR, and includes optical image stabilisation and a very large f/1.9 aperture for markedly improved low light performance. The 5 megapixel front camera is perfect for the selfie trend.
Digital Versus conducted a series of tests, comparing the S6 against the iPhone 6 Plus, and concluded that the Samsung was the clear winner for indoor photos, while the iPhone had a slight edge in outdoor tests.
The S6 launches with the latest version of Google Android - version 5.0.2, codenamed Lollipop. This brings a wealth of updates to the user interface appearance.
The phone also incorporates Samsung's own TouchWiz user interface enhancements, which will be familiar to anyone who's used a Galaxy phone previously. Touchwiz has been made less intrusive in this release, and that's a welcome change. The S-Voice system supports voice control through natural language commands.
Quad-core was so 2014. A flagship phone for 2015 must be fitted with an 8-core processor. The Galaxy S6 uses Samsung's own 64-bit Exynos 7420 processor, which has a twin quad-core configuration and is a match for the Snapdragon 810 used in the HTC One M9. Four cores run at 2.1GHz and four at 1.5GHz. There's also a Mali-T760 GPU and a huge 3GB of RAM available. This set-up produces blindingly fast responses and gives the phone the power to run the most demanding 3D games that will be released this year.
There's been a significant change when it comes to memory. The S6 has dropped the ability to add a microSD memory card. Instead the storage capacity is fixed, and the phone comes in three versions - 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. This is a problem, as 32GB may prove to be limiting for some users, while the higher capacity versions cost significantly more. HTC made this mistake with the original One, and quickly corrected it with the One M8 and One M9. We wouldn't be surprised if Samsung turn out to regret this particular design decision.
Samsung hasn't missed anything out when it comes to connectivity. The S6 is a 4G phone, with support for 3G and 2G networks too. For positioning, it supports GPS, Glonass and Beidou. You'll also find support for Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. The device has a micro USB port, a 3.5mm audio jack, an infrared port, and support for MHL and ANT+.
As well as the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, the phone includes a huge array of sensors - an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, compass and barometer.
The battery in the S6 is actually slightly smaller than that in the S5, and smaller than rival phones from other manufacturers. This can't be a good thing, even with the energy-saving promise of the Exynos processor and the AMOLED display. We think that battery life will be around a day for many users, and that might prove to be frustrating. The battery is not replaceable either.
Samsung is pushing the wireless charging capabilities of the phone, which it sees as the future. Fast charging enables the phones to last for up to 4 hours from just 10 minutes of charging.
Release date & pricing
The Black and White versions of the 32GB model will be the first to launch, shipping from 10th April 2015. The Gold Platinum version will ship from April 15, with the Blue Topaz version coming later. The 64GB and 128GB models will also ship later.
The sim-free price for the basic 32GB model is £600, and it's available free on contracts from around £43 per month, which is the same as the HTC One M9. We expect this price to fall as the year progresses.
Conclusion - the best Samsung yet
Make no mistake. We love the new Galaxy S6. It's the best in the Galaxy S series so far. The move away from an all-plastic design is the right move, and we love the superslim form factor. But Samsung is playing catch-up to Apple and HTC and hasn't caught up yet. Both the iPhone 6 and HTC One M9 beat the S6 when it comes to looks, although in different ways. The iPhone beats the S6 when it comes to superslim minimalism, and the M9 beats it with macho metallic oomph.
Inside, the Galaxy S6 offers all the best that tech can offer - Android Lollipop with Samsung's TouchWiz and S-Voice enhancements, a superb camera, an extraordinary screen, and an ultrafast 8-core processor.
We're less happy with the 32GB of memory. The 64GB and 128GB versions will be released later and will cost more, and we'd much rather have had a microSD card slot, thank you.
But taking all these things into account, we'd still pick the S6 over the HTC One M9 or the iPhone 6. Why? It's not one single thing, but the whole package. We think it has the edge over the competition. But only just.
Samsung Galaxy S6 features include:
- OS: Android Lollipop with TouchWiz user interface
- 16 megapixel camera with LED flash, f1.9, autofocus, optical image stabilisation, digital zoom, UHD 4K video recording
- 5 megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video recording
- Display: Super AMOLED, 16 million colours, 1440 x 2560 pixels (5.1 inches) capacitive touchscreen
- Music player
- Integrated handsfree speaker
- S-Voice natural language commands and dictation
- GPS, Glonass, Beidou positioning
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, instant messaging, email
- Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57
- Memory: 32GB, 64GB or 128GB, plus 3GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, micro USB, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, infrared, MHL, ANT+
- Sensors: Gesture Sensor, Fingerprint Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Hall Sensor, Accelerometer, Geomagnetic Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Light Sensor, Barometer, Proximity Sensor
- LTE 4G, HSPA+, EDGE / GPRS
- Size: 143 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
- Weight: 138g
- Battery: 2550mAh battery with wireless charging
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