Life on the Edge: Hands-on review with Samsung’s Galaxy Edge
Samsung generate truckloads of hype when launching new Galaxy devices, but I'd wager that even they weren’t prepared for sheer amount of hype surrounding the Galaxy S6 Edge.
So what’s the buzz? The edge has a sleek curved screen that wraps around the sides of the phone, and is now crafted from alloy rather than Tupperware.
The multi-billion dollar question is this: Is the S6 Edge going to be enough to give Samsung an edge over Sony, HTC, LG and Apple?
After a week’s use, I’ve grown to like the Edge’s premium design and feel. The result of this design rethink by Samsung is a phone that looks good and feels great in the hand - even if there are some gotchas along the way.
Look and feel
Shifting to an all alloy and glass design is one of the best moves Sammy could have made. Where the Galaxy S5 felt plasticy, the Edge sports a premium look and build that’s got more in common with a high end mount Blanc pen than a phone.
Unfortunately the Edge becomes edgy (pun intended) around water as it no longer has the waterproofing of the Galaxy S5.
The most talked about aspect of the edge is its curved display, which provides more screen real-estate by curving over the sides of the phone to meet its alloy side bezels. It’s a clever move that gives the Edge a particularly comfy feel in the hand.
It isn’t like the edge is a chunky monkey either. At just 7mm thick and weighing in at 132g, the edge is comparable to the current crop of flagship smartphones.
Both the back and front of the Edge are Gorilla glass. This helps give the Edge an upmarket look and feel.
This said, where the dimpled plastic of the S5 made it more grippy, the Edge’s glass rear and curved sides make it a slippery customer. A protective case for the Edge is a must if avoiding damage from involuntary drop tests is high on your list.
Design-wise the edge is right up there with classics such as the Mercedes S300 gull wing or the Rolex Submariner and Dualit toaster. Sammy have got the design right and produced a smartphone that matches Apple, HTC and Sony on build quality.
Under the hood
Striking design aside, Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the Edge is its stunning 5.1” quad HD AMOLED screen. It is gorgeous.
Powering up the phone shows off the Edge’s high pixel (577 PPI) density, its ultra-vibrant colours plus deep contrast levels.
Like the S6, the S6 Edge also packs Samsung’s in house developed Exynos processor. It’s clever silicon that balances grunt and battery life by mating two quad-core CPUs together. One is a less power hungry 1.5GHz CPU that performs undemanding tasks but uses less juice. It is paired with a more powerful (and more power hungry) 2.1GHz chip that can do all the heavy lifting needed.
This clever silicon makes the Edge a great mobile gaming rig. Throwing demanding games such as GTA at the Edge and cranking settings to max delivers few lags, stutters or glitches.
Pushing the phone with demanding apps does involve a trade-off - battery life.
After a 25 minute gaming session (ok so I slacked off and procrastinated), I noticed battery levels had dropped from 95% to just under 70% - quite a drop.
Luckily Exynos silicon is pretty efficient in day to day use, and I often managed just over 24 hours.
Battery life has also been a focus for Sammy’s engineers and they’ve pulled off a few handy tricks. For a start, the edge has a fast charge feature – plugging the Edge into its adaptor for 15 minutes added 10% to its battery life.
It also has wireless charging which is far more convenient than fiddling about with micro USB cables.
Two key specs that are noticeable by their absence are the lack of a microSD card slot and a removable battery.
The lack of a swappable battery is irritating. But battery cases and a fast charge feature make a non-issue for most. That said, users with large media collections may find no SD slot an annoyance. This will depend on which model they have (32GB, 64GB or 128GB).
A particularly pleasing feature is the removal of the bloat and cruft found on previous Galaxy handsets.
Samsung have also stripped back their TouchWiz UI which looks and feels a lot more like stock Android and in use was pretty zippy.
Android Lollipop shines through and the entire phone feels a whole lot smoother in use.
The Edge’s curved screen generated a lot of hype. I was somewhat surprised by how little extra functionality it bought to the table.
I liked the Halo effect. This is where contacts can be colour-coded and the Edge’s sides will glow with their colour should they call and the Edge is face down.
Additionally, sliding a finger along the edge when in standby sees a ticker tape of social media feeds stream.
As nifty as these were, I couldn’t help but feel that the curved screen was a wasted opportunity that added less functionality than I’d imagined.
I'm hoping future software updates will bring more edgy trickery to the fore.
Another killer feature on the Edge is its excellent rear camera. Samsung appear to have put a lot of thought into the Edge’s cameras and the camera app.
The Edge’s 16-megapixel rear shooter did an excellent job of reproducing rich detailed pictures. There was little over processing or pixel noise - even when lighting conditions were sub-optimal.
Optical image stabilisation also smoothed out camera wobble when shooting video (and camera shake with photos). The actual camera app has had an overhaul and is now less cluttered and far more intuitive in use.
Where the Edge shines is with a feature whose utility, once used is so obvious that you’ll find yourself uttering “why didn’t I think of this?”
Performing a double press on the home button launches the camera – even when the phone is off or in standby. This makes capturing moments that’d be missed fumbling about for a camera app just so much easier.
Samsung have also included a 5-megapixel front camera. It can shoot wide mode to cram even more duck faces into selfie shots. It also sports all the usual selfie modes.
The front camera can also be activated using the heart beat sensor on the back of the Edge too.
As with the S5, The oblong pill-shaped home button also doubles as a fingerprint sensor. This time it works. Now users can touch a finger to it instead of performing a clumsy swipe gesture over the button. The upshot of this is that it is far more accurate.
There’s a hell of a lot to like with the Edge. By taking on board user feedback, Samsung have crafted the single biggest leap in a Galaxy handset for some time.
It not only looks and feels like a million bucks, but also has incorporates some well thought out features. I was particularly taken with the two tap home button camera and improved fingerprint sensor.
The curved screen is one of the more eye-popping displays I’ve seen on a smartphone and its curved edges also feel good in the hand.
Praise aside, some more thought around adding functionality into it could have allowed Samsung to sharpen their competitive edge.
As it stands the curved screen is a missed opportunity that awaits more cleverness in the form of future software updates.
All said and done, Samsung have raised the bar on the smartphone market. The Edge is definitely a smartphone that is well worth checking out.
RRP: $1349 (32GB) Screen: 5.1” quad HD AMOLED (577ppi) CPU: 8-core Samsung Exynos 7420 RAM: 3GB Storage: 32, 64, 128GB SD card: No OS: Android 5.0.2 “Lollipop” with TouchWiz Camera: 16MP (rear) camera with OIS, (front) 5MP Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, wireless charging, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS Dimensions: 142.1 x 70.1 x 7mm Weight: 132g