Processor: Quad-core 2.1GHz & quad-core 1.5GHz Samsung Exynos 7420, Screen Size: 5.1in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 16-megapixel, Storage: 32GB / 64GB / 128GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 143x70x6.8mm, Weight: 132g, Operating system: Android 5.0
The Samsung Galaxy S5 was a great phone in terms of technology, but there's no denying it felt like just another iterative change of what had gone before rather than something a bit more revolutionary. This year, we have no such qualms with the Galaxy S6, as Samsung has gone back to the drawing board and completely redesigned its flagship handset. Building it from high-quality glass and metal, the S6 feels like the premium handset that we've always wanted.
In fact, Samsung has brought us two new handsets this year, with the Galaxy S6 Edge and its curved display sitting above the regular S6. While the Edge may the phone that most people would love to have in their pockets, the standard S6 is £160 cheaper and has almost all the same features (save for the special Edge screen tabs). For many, then, the S6 is the phone you're more likely buy, as it's the best value.
Samsung has completely revamped its phone line-up for 2015, with the incredible build quality and premium materials of the S6 proving to be a real winner. Samsung's own mobile processor is also incredibly fast and powerful, beating almost every other flagship smartphone when it comes to raw application speed, outstripping the LG G4 and HTC One M9 by miles. While the S6 Edge is the phone we'd want, this standard S6 is just as quick and has just as good a screen and camera, making it our joint-top flagship Android handset of the year; it even gives iPhone 6 readers something to think about. If this isn't the phone for you, then our best smartphone guide will have something suitable.
Excellent build quality
Battery is not replaceable
No memory card slot
Samsung Galaxy S6 battery life
With the Galaxy S6 Edge launching at the same time, the S6 isn't just competing against other flagship Android phones; it's competing against its curved-screen brother. It's not an easy decision to make between the two, either. While the Edge, in our opinion, looks a lot cooler, you do have to take into account its much higher cost and work out if it's worth paying more for. With the standard S6, you're getting a flat screen, but it's fair to say that build quality and attention to detail is just as good as with the Edge.
Design and build quality
The Galaxy S6 is a big improvement on the S5, with the glass and metal design bringing the phone up to the quality we think its price demands. That's not to say that everything is perfect: as much as we love the phone's metal design, its smooth, rounded corners make it feel extremely slippery to hold, and it constantly felt like it was about to fall out of our hand.
Image 6 of 9Samsung Galaxy S6 screen
It doesn't help that the S6 has a glass back either, as this provides very little purchase when you're using the phone single-handed. The S6 Edge, on the other hand, skirts around this issue by having a thinner, more angular frame to accommodate its curved screen, making it much easier and more comfortable to grip. We never thought we'd miss Samsung's faux-leather back panels, but we did like the amount grip they provided.
The phone's rounded edges also have the strange effect of making the S6 appear considerably fatter in your hand compared to the S6 Edge, despite the fact the S6 is actually 0.2mm slimmer, measuring 6.8mm compared to the 7mm on the Edge. It's a minor quibble, but it nevertheless serves as a reminder that the S6 Edge feels like the more premium product.
Image 5 of 9Samsung Galaxy S6 USB port
There's not much in it in terms of weight, as the S6 weighs 138g while the S6 Edge weighs 132g. Either way, both trump the HTC One M9 and LG G4, as the One M9 measures 9.6mm thick and weighs a heftier 157g while the G4 measures 8.9mm and weighs 155g. Some will no doubt prefer the added bulk of the One M9 and G4, particularly if you're a little nervous about dropping it, but the S6 definitely feels more comfortable in your pocket.
Fortunately, the S6 makes up for its small design issues with its stunning 5.1in Super AMOLED display. With a resolution of 2,560x1,440, the phone has the highest pixel density (577ppi) of any handset, beating the LG G3, which has the same resolution and a larger 5.5in screen. As we've come to expect from Samsung's AMOLED displays, colour accuracy and contrast were through the roof, as our colour calibrator returned an sRGB colour gamut score of 100% and a contrast ratio of Infinity:1. Likewise, blacks were a perfect 0.00cd/m2, so text and black backgrounds are as deep and inky as they come.
Screen brightness was a rather more contentious issue, as Samsung claims the screen can reach as high as 600cd/m2, which is higher than even most LCD screens are capable of producing. The HTC One M9, for instance, managed just 478.50cd/m2 on its highest brightness setting. AMOLED screens, on the other hand, are usually much dimmer, and our usual maximum brightness tests were very much in line with what we'd normally expect to see from this type of screen technology.
Image 1 of 9Samsung Galaxy S6 OLED display
Here, we measured a peak brightness of 346.49cd/m2, which is nigh on identical to our readings from the S6 Edge. This is fine for using the phone outside, but it still pales in comparison to what an LCD can achieve. However, it seems Samsung has finally addressed this issue of outdoor usability, as our live brightness readings shot up to a massive 577cd/m2 when we took the phone outside and switched back to automatic brightness.
This is the first time we've seen this kind of brightness level on an AMOLED phone, and it really helps boost the clarity of the screen and keeps colours looking punchy when you're out and about. This will be good news for anyone who travels a lot or primarily uses their phone outside, as it effectively combines the best features of both AMOLED and LCD screen technology. We like that it's only available on Auto mode as well, as this should help keep the screen's power drain in check so you don't end up running out of battery so often.
We only run our battery tests at 170cd/m2, which is just over half brightness when auto's turned off, but you should still get a full working day's use out of the S6 regardless of how much you use it. The S6's 2,550mAh battery isn't quite as large as the Galaxy S5's 2,800mAh battery, or indeed the one in the S6 Edge, which is 50mAh bigger, but we still managed a respectable 13h 37m in our continuous video playback test.
Admittedly, we were a little disappointed it couldn't match the S5's 17-and-a-half-hour battery life, or even the S6 Edge, which managed another two hours under the same conditions. However, this is still pretty good compared to the rest of the competition, as the HTC One M9 only lasted just over 9 hours, the LG G4 just two minutes shy of 12 hours and the iPhone 6 last just under 13 hours.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs HTC One M9 battery life graph
Of course, some will be upset that the battery is no longer removable, but thankfully Samsung's added in wireless charging for extra convenience. It supports both the WPC1.1 and PMA 1.0 standards, so it should work on practically any charging mat. There's also a fast charging mode, with 10 minutes on the mains providing four hours of use.
It's worth noting that the S6 has a discrete IR emitter on its top edge. This works with Peel's Smart Remote app for controlling all the kit in your living room. The app is easy to setup and we quickly got it working with all the key devices in our lounge. Our Panasonic TV, Virgin Media Tivo box and Onkyo amp were all set up quickly, with the appropriate controls assigned to each device.
The app lets you use your phone as a traditional remote, navigating the menus, adjusting the volume and turning stuff on-and-off. It also has a thumbnail view for all the programmes that are currently airing on the channels you have access to (there’s an editable list to remove content you don’t have, such as Sky Movies). You just tap a thumbnail and the remote brings up that channel. It’s a much easier way to browse the guide, essentially more Netflix and less Sky+.
It’s not a must-have feature admittedly, but it’s very handy when you’ve misplaced the remote, don’t want to have to juggle three remotes to get the TV on, or even save you fighting for the remote control with your family. If you watch TV then it’s a definite plus point over the competition.