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Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review: Striking curved design makes this the S6 to crave

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.)

The concave Galaxy Round, which is sold only in South Korea, had some of this effect, too. When reviewing that phone, the screen's deeper bend occasionally caused a parallax problem, one that the S6 Edge seems to avoid since most of its surface is flat.

Edge display: Cute, but only a little useful

Think of the S6 Edge's sidebar, called the Edge screen, as a specialized communications hub.

If you're familiar with this region on the Note Edge -- the 2014 phablet that offered a similar wraparound screen, albeit on only one side -- it's time to reflash that image. Gone is the always-on strip of interface for launching apps and sometimes viewing alerts. Here, the optional Edge screen slides out from the left or right when you want it, but otherwise remains hidden from view. You can even disable it.

The only downside here is that if you want to open the Edge screen, you have to first locate and then slide out a thin gray tab in the upper third of your display, which is easy to miss.

The Edge display gives Samsung an excuse to play around with new experiences. Sarah Tew/CNET

Mostly, you'll use the Edge screen to view notifications for email, texts, missed calls and app activity (you'll customize this in the settings). These notices flash on the sidebar strip without you having to check on them. Yes, it can be a little redundant alongside the notification shade up top, but you'll be able to read more of the message on the Edge display, which I do find convenient.

Five favorite friends

The Edge screen also serves as a color-coded hub for five of your favorite contacts. Select one, and you can fast-track a call or message. If you miss an Edge-friend's correspondence, a slim tab in their designated color appears on the side of the display to alert you, like a personalized sticky note. Slide that tab open to start the process of calling or texting them back.

There's one other very specific activity. Say you have the phone upside-down on the table during dinner. If one of your five besties calls or texts, the edge of the phone will glow with their associated color. If you can't pick up the phone, you can press a sensor near the camera module to send a preprogrammed message.

Night mode and display-on-demand

Although Samsung has shed most of the Note Edge's original functionality, it did carry over two features to the S6 Edge. My favorite, night mode, displays the time during your designated sleeping hours while the rest of the screen stays off. It's just bright enough to read if you wake up in the middle of the night, but dim enough to help you reclaim those z's.

You can actually swipe the sleeping Edge display at any time (so long as the phone is on) to pull up the date and time, weather and a badge for missed or unread messages. There's a little lag here that Samsung should fix, but it works well enough.

The new crowned king

Yes, Samsung largely created the Galaxy S6 Edge's dual-curved screen not because of what it can do for you, but because the company could.

I'm glad it did. It was a bit of a gamble, but the industry is better for it. The Edge's rounded edges are so successful because the phone's smoothness draws you in the minute you hold it in your hands and behold its slightly convex screen.

A curved left edge gives this one-of-a-kind phone instant recognition. Sarah Tew/CNET

Versus the iPhone

There are so many similarities between the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S6, that their Android or iOS operating system becomes the most distinguishing factor between the two. Until you consider the Edge. Apple hasn't tried anything like a curved-screen phone, and Samsung's efforts both look fantastic and also suck you right in.

Samsung's points for creativity tip it over the (ahem) edge.

Versus the Galaxy S6

Compared to the Edge, the base model Galaxy S6 is the everyman's phone, and it carries its well-rounded features and high-performing hardware to the Edge as well.

If you're feeling flush, the Edge is the phone to buy, mostly because of its design aesthetics and also the smattering of practical functionality applied to the Edge screen. I still believe that these tricks are too limited to be "killer" apps, so your decision really comes down to where you stand on design aesthetics.

Fiscal conservatives will want to spend that extra money on stepping up to the regular S6's 64GB, or 128GB capacities, unless they're tempted by the Edge's supple shape. You can't go wrong either way: that's a decision that you and your wallet are going to have to wrestle over.

But make sure you check out both phones in person. Once you get a real-life look at the Edge, you may find that premium a lot easier to justify.

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