Editors' note: This review has been updated to include information about Samsung's newest Galaxy models, the S7 and S7 Edge, which were introduced at Mobile World Congress in March 2016. It also contains updated information about the Note 5, S6 Edge+, Apple's iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and the February 2016 release of Android Marshmallow 6.0.
When the Galaxy S6 and 6S Edge debuted in the Spring of 2015, they represented a dramatic departure for Samsung. Gone was the utilitarian plastic build of every Galaxy S past; in its place, glass and aluminum alloy, and, in the case of the S6 Edge, a uniquely curved screen. CNET designated the Galaxy S6 "first great smartphone of 2015," awarding it an Editor's Choice. The Galaxy S6 Edge is an even higher-end, "designer" version of the S6 -- and you'll pay a premium for it.
The Galaxy S6 Edge's innovative, rounded-side display has earned a reputation as one of the best screens on a smartphone. And though the S6 and S6 Edge are close siblings with similar specs -- attractive aesthetics, first class components, and a few features (like wireless charging support) that cannot be found on any iPhone -- the S6 Edge certainly boasts the more premium look and feel. That noted, in the US, the S6 Edge costs $100 more than the S6 on contract, and about $100 to $130 more off-contract, with $100 bumps for each storage size. Given their nearly identical specs, the Galaxy S6 remains the better value.
In March 2016, Samsung introduced newer versions of its flagship Galaxy, the S7 and S7 Edge, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While it has many of the same specs as the S7 -- a 12-megapixel camera, water resistance, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, and a microSD slot -- the S7 Edge has a larger, 5.5-inch screen versus the S7's 5.1-incher. Also noteworthy is the S7 Edge's 3,600mAh battery -- rated for longer run time that the S7, the Edge 6+ and even the Galaxy Note 5, which is a real marathon runner.
If you already own an S6 Edge or even a newer S6 Edge+, the upgrade to an S7 or S7 Edge may not be worth it. That noted, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge remain affordable, competent, full-featured Samsung phones and represent some of the best values in Samsung's lineup.
Editors' note: This review has been updated extensively since its original publication on March 26, with additions including battery testing results and additional comparisons to the standard Galaxy S6. Ratings have also been added.
The S6 Edge: Like the S6, in a far prettier package
Releasing multiple variants of its Galaxy phones is old hat with Samsung. But 2015's Galaxy S6 line is the first time the company has announced and released two sibling models simultaneously. Make no mistake, though: the hardware differences between the two handsets are mostly skin-deep.
Where the S6 has straight sides, the S6 Edge tapers on its right and left sides, where the curved portion of the screens arc to meet the back. Though it feels slimmer, the Edge is a hair thicker in its fattest part, but also a tad lighter. The power button and nano-SIM card slot also move up top on this variant.
Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge dimensions
|Galaxy S6||Galaxy S6 Edge|
|Dimensions (inches)||5.6 x 2.8 x 0.27||5.6 x 2.8 x 0.28|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8||142.1 x 70.1 x 7.0|
The Edge also has a slightly higher capacity battery, presumably to work with night mode on the Edge display: 2,600mAh on the Edge versus 2,550mAh for the standard S6. The Edge gives us an average of 13.5 hours of battery run time in our looping-video tests, an hour over the S6's 12.4-hour average. Keep in mind that these tests don't take into account real-world longevity, especially if you're constantly using the Edge screen features, like night mode.
While both the S6 and S6 Edge are available in gold, black and white, Samsung throws in some color to each lineup. The Edge's portfolio gets jewel-toned emerald green, while the S6 springs for topaz blue.
Besides the unique screen and the few subtle distinctions listed above, the S6 Edge is otherwise identical to the standard S6. That includes the same 1440p ultra-HD screen, 16-megapixel camera and Exynos octa-core processor.
for more details on how that translates into performance and everyday usage, and rest assured that the Edge delivers the same experience. (Except for the screen features and design flair -- which are, in fact, pretty cool.)
Design: Two curves really are better than none
Rounded glass on the left and right sides of the 5.1-inch metal-wrought Galaxy S6 Edge give this phone its name. The curved portions of screen meet the phone's back to form symmetrical ridges on either side and a kind of flattened bubble effect on the glass itself.
This actually works out better than it sounds. Its unique shape pops, giving it plenty of in-hand appeal. The phone feels aggressively slim, yet balanced, and the sharper sides provide a surprisingly solid grip.
While I had no problem fumbling the device, all that slim glass gives it a much more petite and delicate look and feel than a lot of other phones. You may feel more comfortable protecting all that investment in a case. Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of options at the time of this writing (but I'm getting in a gaggle of cases to find my favorite, and will update y'all soon.)
Compared with the S6's familiar rectangular shape, the S6 Edge is palpably modern and chic. If you're wondering, the Note Edge felt the same way despite its asymmetry, though I like the way this Edge looks even more.
The curved display isn't only an aesthetic affectation, either. Navigating around the S6 and the Edge side-by-side in real life produces more lifelike icons and images than when viewing them on the flat S6 display. (Alas, this doesn't translate well in a photo.)