Zachary Powell

Software Programmer

Zachary Powell

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Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – One Strange but loveable device

Zachary Powell - 01/01/2016

Intro

I change my device pretty often, at least yearly if not more often. I have in the past, owned a number of Samsung devices as well as phones from other various brands. From memory, my order of devices owed to my main day to day device:

  • HTC Magic
  • HTC Desire S
  • Samsung Note
  • Nexus 4
  • Samsung Note 3
  • Nexus 5
  • Samsung Note 4
  • Samsung S6 Edge

I have also owned, and have, a range of other devices for testing and development work, but these above have been my devices used as the day to day phone, not just a development tool. In this review, I will look over the Edge S6 as both a day to day device, and a development tool. For me, both are important. I want a phone that will keep up with my daily usage, many phone calls, text, emails, skype and also something that can be used to test new software.

Hardware

Lets first look at the device itself. Without solid hardware, a device simply wont keep up, no matter how good the software is. I am a heavy multi tasking user and have in the past found devices struggle to keep up and keep apps running.

The device itself has a glass front and rear, with the thin metal strip around the edge. If it was not for this strip, I think the device would be very difficult to hold. The glass is pretty slippery, and when holding it in your hand you really do feel like it could just slide out. Of course Samsung have now turned to the ‘darkside’. This phone is completely sealed – no replacing batteries or actually anything without a lot of time and heat pads (https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Samsung+Galaxy+S6+Edge+Teardown/39158). We also no longer get a SDcard slot. This sucks, but at 32GB, the phone has more than enough memory for me.

The front of the device has the normal Samsung layout of a hardware ‘home’ button, which this time round also doubles up as the finger print reader, along with two touch buttons, a back and a recent apps button. Personally, I like having the hardware keys, leaving all the screen free for apps etc, which on a smaller phone helps a lot.

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On the left side we have the volume rocker and on the right the power button. When holding the phone in your right hand, these positions are perfect – the volume rocker is easily reached with my index finger and the power button my thumb. This might be because of having larger phones in the past, but the general size of the phone seems perfect in my hand, small enough to hold and use one handed, but still big enough for the screen high resolution to be worth it.

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On the top we find the SIM card slot, IR transmitter and a microphone. This might seem like quite an odd position for the SIM card slot, but because of the curved screen we are not left with very much thickness on either side. The top side is really the only location it could now fit.

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Finally along the bottom we have the 3.5 headphone jack, micro USB (no USB-C here) port, another microphone and one lone speaker.

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Spec

The specs of the Edge S6 has the same internal hardware as the S6, the only real difference being the funky curved screen. I will look at this more shortly but first the devices complete spec:

  • Screen – Curved 5.1 inch screen with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels (~577 ppi pixel density)
  • Chipset – Exynos 7420
  • Storage – 32GB
  • RAM – 3GB

For the complete spec check out

http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s6_edge-7079.php

Nothing hugely different here to most flagships, although this is the first Exynos device I have used. It will be very interesting to see how far Samsung have come with their own SoC (System on Chip).

A quick run of some bench marks have given the below results. While benchmarks are not always a good example of real world performance, they are a great place to start!

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That Screen!

Of course the main selling point of the S6 Edge is its curved screen. Other than this, it is just the S6 after all, but what a screen it is! While the curve itself has little use in terms of functionality, it does change the shape of the phone in a way ,that I feel, makes the phone much easier to hold and gives the effect that its much thinner than it actually is.

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Other than the curve, the screen is a beautiful AMOLED panel, which produces an amazing colour range, and of course perfect blacks. The viewing angles are pretty damn perfect as well. This honestly has to be the best screen I have ever seen on a device.

Camera

As with every years flagship phones from Samsung, they have bumped the cameras spec, producing some really lovely images. The front camera is not really anything to write home about. It works and produces OK images in low light, but is just a standard front facing camera. If you’re a selfie lover, this might not be a selling point for you.

Personally, one of the points I look for in a new daily use phone is a good rear camera. As you may have noticed from the (pretty awful) photos of the phone in this post, I do not own a stand alone camera. I am by no means a photographer and never justified buying one. I am glad (for your sake as well as mine) that this phone lives up to that goal. Although its very dark and pretty miserable outside, the phone does a pretty good job at capturing detailed images both in low light and well lit areas.

BB-8 in a well lit room before his next advantage freaking out the dogs

BB-8 in a well lit room before his next advantage freaking out the dogs

Blaine in a dim room who does not stay still for more than a few seconds!

Blaine in a dim room who does not stay still for more than a few seconds!

The depressing weather outside...

The depressing weather outside…

Fingerprint Reader

I just wanted to stop by that other interesting hardware point of this years Samsung flagship phones, the fingerprint reader. I have used a number of readers in the past, all the way back to the Motorola Atrix, but this is the first one that actually works more times than doesn’t. Setting up new fingers is very easy to do and just involves pressing the finger on the home button a number of times so it can record from all angles. The more angles you do, the better the final result. To unlock the phone all you now have to do is press down the home button (to wake it) and hold your finger on the button for a few seconds to allow the reader to pick up your finger.

While from time to time it does fail to pick up the finger it does a pretty good job, and is finally to a point where fingerprint readers are a viable and useful method for locking and securing a phone.

Software

Over the years, Samsung have been slated for their Android “skin” TouchWiz and the large amount of extra apps they preload on devices, causing many of their older flagship phones to struggle with multi tasking due to a lack of any free RAM. After picking up my S6 Edge, Samsung announced on twitter that they where doing an open beta test of the new Android 6.0 update for all UK owners. Of course, I jumped at the chance to give marshmallow a go and updated right away.

This does mean that the software I am reviewing is very much subject to change, although even as a beta I have struggled to find any crashes or slow-downs.

Android 6.0

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Above is the current build my phone is running. We are looking at Android 6.0 (interestingly not 6.0.1) with all the normal Samsung extras (KNOX etc).

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Over the years, Samsung have slowly dialed back the bloat that is including on their devices, and the newest version of TouchWiz is no different. Now only a handful of “S” apps are included by default and, like with the last generation, while you can not uninstall these apps, you can “disable” them, which stops them running and removes them from your app launcher.

I do hope Samsung makes some final adjustments to their skin before it launches, as stable as above is, an example of a couple of points where they have really missed the mark on design. The White background with Blue highlights for the notification draw looks really bad. It might be a personal thing, but I really don’t like it. The same can be said for the “bubbles” around app icons that are not Samsung apps. Again,  what is going on here !?!  OK, it does say a lot about how far they have come.

TouchWiz growing up

But I do feel that the newest version is a step back from their Android 5.0/1 software originally shipped with the device.

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This reduction of “bloatware” really can be felt. Along with the Android 6.0 improvements we now get about 1.1GB of free RAM for apps to gobble up – still not as great as other more stock android devices, but its not a bad result by Samsung and the phone really does fly. Many of the apps have also be updated with a new colour pallet which overall I do really like. It is strange to me that they can come up with some really nice simple design work for the apps like the above Phone and “Smart Manager” apps, but then miss the boat by so much with the launcher.

The Camera app itself also get a nice bump in features, with all the normal features but now with the option to shoot in RAW. Again, a great feature for someone like me who doesn’t have a DLSR, but may well want to use the added benefits of the RAW file format.

Wrap up

The Samsung S6 Edge is certainly a strange device. Does the curved screen really bring much to the game? I am not convinced, but what it does do, is allow the device to feel much thinner and I like that.

Other than that this is the same device as the S6, but that is not a bad thing at all. The hardware is solid and well built as you expect from Samsung and the new addiction of Android 6.0 brings some really nice extra features and an always welcome speed boost.

This is a phone that I would certainly recommend to anyone looking to get a new flagship phone and of cause, the S7 will be just around the corner and likely bring even more improvements, but in the fast moving world of phone hardware you can not stand waiting around because a new device will always be around the corner.

As always, please comment below with any questions.

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Happy Christmas from Me!

Zachary Powell - 23/12/2015

Well, this will be the last post I make before Christmas, so I wanted to take a second out of the normal posting to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Personally, I have already got my main present from my wife, because she knows me so well that I can never wait until the day for presents!

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So I know what I will be playing with non stop for a good while! I will at some point in the next few weeks also post a device review. I have often been a fan of Samsung hardware, but not their software (normally opting to Root past devices). Can the newest iteration change this?

I must admit this year I have not been feeling very ‘Christmasy’. There have been far less lights on houses and people just don’t seem to have many decorations up in general. I guess it has alot to do with the weather as well, it has been so mild it has not felt like Christmas at all!

In fact, so much so. that this year I have not even bothered to put any decorations up, although I do have a new Christmas tree!!

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“ Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand. ”

-Martin Fowler