Samsung Galaxy S6 Review

October 12, 2015 | Jack Baker | |

Introduction

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung’s flagship smartphone and boasts an eight-core, 2.1GHz processor paired with 3GB of RAM. Its camera has the same 16MP resolution as the Galaxy S5, but the S6 gets a new lens with optical image stabilisation, a larger f/1.9 maximum aperture and a wider 28mm-equivalent focal length.

There’s also an improved, wide-angle front-facing camera to capture group shots without a selfie stick, and the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen’s resolution is now 2560 x 1440 pixels. The only thing that can trump these figures is the S6’s Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video recording ability.

Samsung has also given the design of the S6 a makeover compared to the S5, but if you really want to stand out, then there’s always the Galaxy S6 Edge. This is almost the same as a regular S6, but features a screen with curved edges for more wow factor and a few extra screen features. However, both the S6 and the S6 Edge are no longer IP67 water and dust resistant like the Galaxy S5.

Ease of Use

First impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 are very good. Past S-series phones have been unashamedly plastic, and whilst still well built, were nevertheless a bit of a let-down given the premium price and more upmarket feel of rival Apple and HTC products. But with the S6, Samsung has finally given in and produced a unibody design with glass front and rear panels and an aluminium bezel. Place the S6 face-up alongside an iPhone 6 and the two designs are so similar they could kick of another round of Apple vs. Samsung copyright wars. The result is a Galaxy S-series phone that finally feels like it’s a halo product and not just a jumped-up midrange model.

Around the back things look a little different from the Cupertino competition, as there’s only so much camera lens you can fit into a 6.8mm-thick body. Consequently, the camera lens bulges around 1mm for the rest of the rear panel, but you’ll need to be wearing the most skin-tight, painted-on jeans for this to be a problem, and if you’re a male sporting such legwear, you’d be better off worrying about an entirely different sort of bulge. In fact, it’s the 5.1 inch screen size and resulting 143.4 x 70.5mm length and width that are trickier to pocket, though a 138g weight is impressively light for such a large slate.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6

The slim, yet increasingly long wide smartphone form factor has been the norm for many years. Trouble is, whilst this is great for getting maximum screen size and resolution into the smallest possible package, such slim designs like the Samsung Galaxy S6 simply aren’t ergonomic when used as a camera. Samsung’s satin-smooth bezel is too slim and slippery to grip with much security, and with a front panel covered mostly in touch-sensitive screen, there’s little space to rest your thumb/s without inadvertently activating a screen control. Of course, you can get round these issues by fitting a grippy case, providing you’re happy to hide the S6’s svelte lines.

Apart from their aesthetic drawbacks, phone cases can often restrict battery and memory card access, but you needn’t worry about that with the Samsung Galaxy S6. That unibody design means the battery is no longer user-accessible, and just to add insult to injury, Samsung has ditched a Micro SD slot so you can’t expand the phone’s storage. The latter doesn’t just force you into splashing out more money for larger-capacity product (the S6 comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions), but it also means you can’t simply use a memory card to transfer photos between the S6 and your computer. At least the S6 uses a standard Micro USB data connector though, and accessing photos is as easy as navigating to the phone’s DCIM-titled photo folder via Windows Explorer or Apple Finder.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S6

One area where the Samsung Galaxy S6 has been improved from the S5 is its screen quality. Samsung has stuck with its Super AMOLED screen tech for its superb contrast and colour vibrancy, and screen brightness (traditionally a weakness of AMOLED screens) has been improved. This may be true, though in our testing the S6’s screen is still harder to view in sunny conditions than a decent traditional LCD monitor on a standard camera. However, the latter is thoroughly trounced by the S6 when it comes to screen size and resolution. Composing and reviewing images on the S6’s 5.1-inch display is an absolute joy when compared to the 3.0 and 3.2-inch screens on most regular cameras. The S6 screen’s colour vibrancy is stunning, as are its black depth levels, and even without these advantages, the sheer screen size alone is enough to show off your shots like no other compact camera can. The screen also sports a colossal 2560 x 1440 resolution – up from the GalaxyS5’s 1920 x 1080 figure – so even the finest details in your photos will be visible and with 557 pixels per inch, you’ll never see any individual pixels. However, the same could already be said for the Galaxy S5’s 432ppi pixel density.

When you want snap a photo, you can either double press the Samsung Galaxy S6’s front panel home button, or wake the lock screen and drag the camera icon upward. The volume buttons on the side of the S6 can also control different aspects of the camera including firing the shutter, zooming in and out, or starting video capture. But the majority of the S6’s camera controls use the touchscreen. In the top right (when viewing in portrait orientation) there’s a small arrow which accesses flash settings, the self-timer (2, 5 and 10-second delays), HDR options and the S6 camera app’s seven effect filters. This quick-access menu also includes a cog icon that reveals the rest of the S6’s camera settings. These include a focus tracking option, various picture and video resolution choices, and even voice control settings.

Samsung Galaxy S6
The Samsung Galaxy S6 - Image Displayed

Back to the main preview screen on the camera app and you’ll see a few touch icons at the bottom flanking the shutter release icon. On the far left is a mode selector, which reveals various mode options. As well as the default Auto mode, there’s also ‘Pro’, which is like the Program Auto mode on a regular camera. In this mode, the Samsung Galaxy S6 lets you alter exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, white balance, focus distance and colour intensity. The quick-access settings menu at the top of the screen now features a metering mode icon, letting you switch between centre-weighted, matrix and spot metering options. Finally, Pro mode includes three custom settings where you can save your own configuration set-ups for fast recall.

In addition to Pro mode, there’s also a Selective Focus mode which works similarly to a macro mode, though seems to offer little if any additional functionality over the standard touch-focussing in Auto mode. Panorama mode is far more useful though (more on this in the image quality section) and so too is the Virtual Shot mode. This enables you to create an interactive wraparound image of a nearby object. Simply move the Samsung Galaxy S6 around your subject and it automatically captures consecutive images and compiles them into a seamless wraparound photo. The result can only be viewed on the S6 itself, however. The final shooting modes are Slow motion and Fast motion, which capture video clips that can then be replayed faster or slower than real time.

Samsung Galaxy S6
The Samsung Galaxy S6 In-hand

Next to the mode icon on the camera home screen is the icon to switch to the font-facing selfie camera. This 5MP secondary camera also has some modes of its own, including a Wide Selfie mode that utilises the front-facing camera’s full 120-degree field of view to fit more people into a shot and reduce the need to present your valuable smartphone on a selfie stick to opportunist thieves. Also in the front camera modes is Interval shot, which takes four selfies continuously with 2-second intervals. What’s more, there are several ways to capture a selfie. Tapping the shutter release icon is most obvious, but there’s also a sensor below the flash on the rear panel which will trigger a photo if you tap it with your finger. If that’s still too inconvenient, then activate Gesture Control from within the camera settings, hold your palm in front of the selfie camera and it’ll snap a shot after two seconds.

Lastly, the Samsung Galaxy S6 incorporates a 2550mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery, which though a drop in capacity compared to the 2800mAh cell in the Galaxy S5, actually provides the same 13-hour video playback time, thanks to improved power efficiency. How well this translates into the amount of photographs you can snap per charge of course depends on all the other elements of the phone that are sharing the power pack, but avoid internet browsing and using GPS and you should find the S6 can easily snap as many shots per charge as a typical compact camera.

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