Samsung Galaxy S6 Review

October 12, 2015 | Jack Baker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


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.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S6’s 1/2.6-inch camera sensor is playing catch-up to the larger 1/2.3-inch devices inside the majority of compact cameras. The bigger the sensor, the larger the individual light receptors (at a given resolution). That in turn increases the light-sensitivity of those receptors, which consequently helps reduce image noise and improve clarity.

Well, that’s the theory. Somehow, Samsung’s technical wizards have managed to defy logic and produce a sensor that not only matches the performance of larger 1/2.3-inch designs; it also outperforms many of them. In good light, you’d need to switch to a camera with a much bigger 1-inch sensor to get noticeably better results.

Resolved detail from close-range subjects is nothing short of phenomenal, so much so that when viewed at 75% image size, many of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s macro photos could pass for having been taken on a DSLR. This is helped by the large f/1.9 maximum aperture of the S6’s lens, which does a remarkably good job of producing attractive background bokeh blur when capturing macro shots.

Snap a more distant scene like a landscape and the Samsung Galaxy S6 maintains this high image quality. There’s barely any evidence of detail smoothing in fine foliage and certainly no sign of the painterly appearance that some compact cameras can produce when capturing such scenes. What’s more, many small-sensor compact cameras often cover even daytime, low ISO shots in a subtle film of grain, but the S6’s images display no such noise.

Colour reproduction is also top notch, and that isn’t just down to the Samsung Galaxy S6’s screen technology. When viewed on a computer, images retain the same impressive vibrancy. Photos of very colourful objects may look slightly oversaturated for some tastes, but could be easily toned down if required.

However, whilst the Samsung Galaxy S6 produces incredible results in good light, the limitations of its small sensor are apparent in dimmer conditions. In Pro mode, the S6’s sensitivity scale tops out at only ISO 800, but even at this sensitivity there’s plenty of visible grain and detail is becoming blotchy. Dynamic range is also quite poor, though this is easily improved by activating the highly-effective multi-shot HDR feature. You’ll also find that S6’s optical image stabilisation and wide aperture lens reduce the need for shooting at higher sensitivities in low light.

The lens itself doesn’t let the side down, either. It’s 28mm-equivaent focal length is great for capturing wide-angle shots, and the effect is heightened by the native 16:9 aspect ratio of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s sensor. Centre sharpness is excellent, and detail only softens slightly as you reach the corners of frame. The lens also manages to avoid much chromatic aberration, with only occasional fringing visible on very high-contrast edges.

Autofocussing is usually reliable, but given the ease at which you can just tap your own focus point, you rarely have to rely on the Samsung Galaxy S6 determining its own point of interest. Occasionally you will need to tap several times to force the camera to focus on a very close subject, however.


The Samsung Galaxy S6 has four manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 100 and ISO 800.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400.jpg

Focal Range

The Samsung Galaxy S6’s fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm camera terms. Digital zoom is available, but with a corresponding reduction in image sharpness.



File Quality

No image file compression options are available, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 can shoot at various resolutions and aspect ratios. These include: 16MP (16:9), 12MP (4:3), 8.9MP (1:1), 8MP (4:3), 6MP (16:9) and 2.4MP (16:9).

16MP (16:9)

12MP (4:3)

ratio_16x9.jpg ratio_4x3.jpg

8.9MP (1:1)

8MP (4:3)

ratio_square.jpg ratio_8mp_4x3.jpg

6MP (16:9)

2.4MP (16:9)

ratio_6mp_16x9.jpg ratio_2048_4x3.jpg


Samsung has improved the macro focussing ability of the Galaxy S6 compared to the S5, and it’s able to focus as close as 5cm from a subject. We found this claim to be accurate, though autofocussing does occasionally struggle to lock on at this kind of range.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S6 uses an LED flash, and as usual for this technology, it gives a much weaker flash burst than a standard xenon camera flash. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5 metres reveals the flash is unable to properly light the scene and there’s significant vignetting.

Flash Off

Flash On

This is still a problem when using the flash at closer range, though red-eye is rarely an issue.

Flash On

Flash On (100% crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Image Stabilisation

Where the Galaxy S5 only had a software-substituted image stabilisation system, the Samsung Galaxy S6 gets full optical image stabilisation. With such a wide-angle lens, it’s not really required during daytime shooting, but it enables the camera to use slower shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities in low light with less risk of blur from camera shake.


Thanks to optical image stabilisation and a wide f/1.9 maximum aperture, the Samsung Galaxy S6 performs fairly well at night. This image was taken at the camera’s maximum ISO 800 sensitivity, and though there’s some noise and detail smoothing, the result is still comparable to what a typical compact camera would produce.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg


Dynamic range isn’t the most impressive aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S6’s sensor, but its HDR feature does a great job of boosting this. It’s easy to use and the results are seamless and natural-looking.



hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S6’s camera app includes seven filter effects: Vignette, Vintage, Tint, Greyscale, Faded colour, Moody, and Cartoon. But this being a smartphone, extra effects are only an app away.



effect_01.jpg effect_02.jpg



effect_03.jpg effect_04.jpg


Faded Color

effect_05.jpg effect_06.jpg



effect_07.jpg effect_08.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S6’s automatic sweep panorama mode works well and lets you stop panning at will. The results aren’t always perfect, but ghosting is rare. Unlike most regular camera panorama modes which produce significantly downsized images, the S6 has the processing power to capture at high resolutions, so panoramas are usually around 3000 vertical pixels.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung Galaxy S6 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 9 second movie is 53.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung Galaxy S6

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6 / Image Displayed

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6 / Camera Settings Menu

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Top of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Bottom of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Samsung Galaxy S6 In-hand


Whilst the Samsung Galaxy S6 is not just designed to be a camera, in many crucial ways it can easily hold its own against the best small-sensor compact cameras on the market. Image quality – in good light, at least – is exceptional for a sensor of the S6’s size, with top-notch detail levels, colour reproduction and noise control. Low light performance is less convincing, but it’s not bad and the lens’ effective optical image stabilisation and fast aperture really help in dim environments.

Whilst there’s a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy S6’s image quality, its build and handling are more of a mixed bag. The new, Apple-esque unibody design and its resulting lack of battery access trades practicality for style, and that won’t appeal to everyone. But far more people are likely to feel exploited by Samsung omitting a Micro SD card slot and therefore forcing buyers to part with more cash to get increased storage. If this tactic grinds your gears, then you may want to check out the HTC One M9 or Sony Xperia Z3+ instead.

The Galaxy S6’s sleek design also compromises the device’s ergonomics when used as a camera, though the terrific screen does help compensate. Its size, resolution, vibrancy and touch control put regular cameras to shame. The same also goes for the S6’s slick Ultra HD video recording ability, panorama and Virtual Shot modes, massive battery capacity and its selfie-taking abilities.

All this doesn’t come cheap, however, especially considering you could get an entry-level DSLR kit for the same money and have change left over. At the time of writing, the 32GB S6 will set you back £559 sim-free, with the 64GB and 128GB versions coming in at £639 and £719 respectively. But with the 32GB model set to drop to £499 imminently, the S6 does at least compare well with the cost of an iPhone 6, HTC One M9 or Sony Xperia Z3+.

It’s also worth remembering the Galaxy S6 Edge, which is the same as a regular S6, but features a redesigned body and a screen with curved edges, plus a slightly larger battery capacity. Whilst the Edge will get you more admiring glances than a standard S6, its screen is bordering on being gimmicky and yet it’ll set you back an extra £110, which just doesn’t add up on the value front.

Ultimately, providing you can live with the Samsung Galaxy S6’s smartphone-related camera compromises and accept such a slim design can never give you optical zoom, then its image quality, shooting performance and sensational screen render most compact cameras obsolete.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Samsung Galaxy S6.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is the largest ever version of the most popular flagship smartphones of all time. Find out what it has to offer photographers by reading our Apple iPhone 6 Plus review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

Google Nexus 5

The new Google Nexus 5 is one of the cheapest flagship smartphones on the market, but also one of the most powerful and full-featured too, running the latest KitKat version of Android. But what kind of experience does it offer photographers? Read our Google Nexus 5 review to find out...

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) is a new flagship smartphone with not one, but two cameras, using the second one as a depth sensor that allows you to change the point of focus after taking a photo and achieve DSLR-like shallow depth-of field effects. Does this make the HTC One (M8) the best smartphone for avid photographers? Read our HTC One (M8) review to find out..


The LG4 is a smartphone that focuses on image quality, with a 16 megapixel sensor and f/1.8 lens onboard, along with Raw format support and even a manual shooting mode. Is this the smartphone that every photographer has been waiting for? Read our LG4 review to find out...

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? No, it's the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, which is bravely offering both in one device. Can the Panasonic CM1 replace a high-end camera and a premium smartphone? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 review now to find out...

Sony Xperia Z3

The Sony Xperia Z3 is a new flagship waterproof smartphone that features a lot of cutting-edge camera technologies. The Xperia Z3 has a 20 megapixel sensor, 25mm fixed lens with fast f/2 aperture, 4K and 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and Timeshift burst shooting. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia Z3 review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S6 from around the web. »

It's no secret that Samsung needed to do something big with its new phone, to unleash something to stop the rot that the Galaxy S4 began two years ago. I just didn't expect the Samsung Galaxy S6 to be this good.
Read the full review » »

Though interest may have since passed to Samsung’s newly unveiled Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 phablets, the Galaxy S6 remains one of 2015’s most interesting smartphones.
Read the full review » »

Samsung has a lot riding on its 2015 flagship, and this time it's put its best foot forward. With its super-fast, homebrew processor, a pair of great cameras and a surprisingly clean version of TouchWiz, the S6 is the finest Galaxy Samsung has ever made. Now, if only it were waterproof.
Read the full review »



  • CPU Speed

    2.1GHz, 1.5GHz

  • CPU Type



  • Size (Main Display)

    5.1" (129.2 mm)

  • Resolution (Main Display)

    2560 x 1440 (Quad HD)

  • Technology (Main Display)

    Super AMOLED

  • Color Depth (Main Display)


  • S Pen Support



  • Video Recording Resolution

    UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) @30fps

  • Main Camera - Resolution

    CMOS 16.0 MP

  • Front Camera - Resolution

    CMOS 5.0 MP

  • Main Camera - Flash


  • Main Camera - Auto Focus



  • RAM Size (GB)

    3 GB

  • ROM Size (GB)

    32 GB

  • Available Memory (GB)

    25.3 GB


  • Multi-SIM


  • SIM size

    Nano-SIM (4FF)

  • Infra


  • 2G GSM

    GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900

  • 3G UMTS

    B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850), B8(900)

  • 4G FDD LTE

    B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B17(700), B18(800), B19(800), B20(800), B26(800)


  • ANT+


  • USB Version

    USB 2.0

  • Location Technology

    GPS, Glonass, Beidou

  • Earjack

    3.5mm Stereo

  • MHL


  • Wi-Fi

    802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, VHT80 MIMO

  • Wi-Fi Direct


  • DLNA Support


  • Bluetooth Version

    Bluetooth v4.1

  • NFC


  • Bluetooth Profiles


  • PC Sync.

    Smart Switch (PC version)


  • OS


General Information

  • Form Factor

    Touchscreen Bar


  • Sensors

    Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, HR Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor

Physical specification

  • Dimension (HxWxD, mm)

    143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8

  • Weight (g)



  • Internet Usage Time(3G) (Hours)

    Up to 10

  • Internet Usage Time(LTE) (Hours)

    Up to 11

  • Internet Usage Time(Wi-Fi) (Hours)

    Up to 12

  • Video Playback Time (Hours)

    Up to 13

  • Standard Battery Capacity (mAh)


  • Removable


  • Audio Playback Time (Hours)

    Up to 49

  • Talk Time (3G WCDMA) (Hours)

    Up to 17

Audio and Video

  • Video Playing Format

    MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM

  • Video Playing Resolution

    UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) @30fps

  • Audio Playing Format


Services and Applications

  • Wearable Device Support

    Gear Circle (Manager Support), Gear Fit, Gear

  • S-Voice


  • Mobile TV


Memory size - User memory is less than the total memory due to storage of the operating system and software used to operate the phones features.
Actual user memory will vary depending on the mobile phone operator and may change after software upgrades are performed.

Your Comments

Loading comments…