Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ Review

Samsung’s entertainment-focused phablet has plenty of power and a stunning look, although the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is still searching for a real application reason for that fancy edge.
It’s a fascinating time in premium smartphones. Everyone has a large screen phone, sometimes referred to as a phablet. Everyone’s premium phablets have high speed processors and fast cameras in them. Pricing varies from somewhere around $700 up into the $1,000+ space, which is where the two largest selling brands, Apple and Samsung play.
If everyone’s got all the expected premium tools, how do you make your phablet stand out?
In Samsung’s case, it’s by reinventing it twice, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which I’ve only had a brief bit of hands-on use with, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, an on-steroids upsizing of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge it first announced in Barcelona. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the Galaxy S6 Edge and its buying proposition relative to the regular (and still excellent) Samsung Galaxy S6.

Design’s The Thing

The key way that premium handsets stand out is through their design, which is meant to justify their higher asking price by using more premium materials, smoother finishes and quirky design ideas not found in the cheaper crowd. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ definitely takes inspiration from quirky, using the dual-edge approach of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and scaling it up to a 1440 x 2560 pixel (518ppi) 5.7 inch display screen with a curve at both sides.
I couldn’t quite see the argument for the S6 Edge over the regular S6, but curiously when you scale it up, the effect is magnified and what you end up with is a phone that’s a real eye catcher. The smaller curve on the S6 Edge, when magnified, looks a lot better and goes a lot further to justifying the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s premium asking price.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ measures in at 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm with a carrying weight of 153 grams. It’s a big phone, and there’s no getting around that, but its curve somewhat belies how this is a phone that feels a little lighter in the hand than you might expect. About my only concern with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s design is the decision to throw the speakers at the base of the handset. If you’re holding it in your hand and want to broadcast audio, the odds are high you’ll accidentally muffle it at first.

This is slightly dumb speaker placement.
This is slightly dumb speaker placement.

Under The Curved Hood

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 ostensibly share the same core specifications save for the curve on the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, which is transferred to a curve on the rear of the Galaxy Note 5, and of course the omission of the S-Pen stylus. Samsung’s added a few new tricks to the S-Pen on the Note 5, including drawing up quick notes on the blank Note 5 screen, but at the same time it also made a major design error, as it’s apparently possible to screw up the S-Pen functionality on the Note 5 entirely simply by putting it in back to front.
That aside, both phablets run on Exynos 7420 octa-core (quad 2.1GHz + quad 1.5GHz) processors with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage, at least if you’re looking the full scope of the device. For its own reasons, you can only buy the 32GB version of the Note 5 in Australia, whereas both the 32GB and 64GB versions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ will go on sale here.

Want a 64GB Note 5? Tough luck, says Samsung Australia. It's almost like they want folks to go the direct import route.
Want a 64GB Note 5? Tough luck, says Samsung Australia. It’s almost like they want folks to go the direct import route.

They’re both completely sealed units, which means no exchangeable batteries or expandable memory. Samsung’s pitch is that we’re all using data in the cloud so much that it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not entirely sold on that proposition, but it seems that at the very top of the premium tree, you don’t get expandable memory. It certainly hasn’t done Apple any harm.
Samsung’s also done significant work on the fingerprint sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, which is to say that it’s absolutely the equal of those found on Apple’s very popular iPhone line. If I had one minor criticism to make here, it’s that the flattened home button is a little trickier to cover with your finger when reading a new fingerprint into the system the first time. Once it’s done, however, it’s a simple and quick unlock mechanism that simply works, which is exactly as it should be.
The fingerprint sensor works quickly and very well indeed.
The fingerprint sensor works quickly and very well indeed.

You should expect a premium device to deliver premium performance, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ didn’t disappoint, delivering the strongest Android benchmark performance of any device I’ve tested this year, hands down.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ Benchmarks,
PCMark, 5107,
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, 24490,
Geekbench 3, 1492/4893
Antutu, 67677
Quadrant, 33318
Benchmarks aren’t the final arbiter of performance, but in the couple of weeks I’ve had to test out the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ it really hasn’t slipped up once, happily browsing, running games, watching videos and playing music without issues. Again, you should absolutely expect this from a premium priced smartphone.
The other area of note (pun not intended) with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus is that it’s CAT9 capable, which means on a compatible network — in Australia, that’s going to be Telstra and Optus, and only in very limited areas right now — you should be able to hit up to 450Mbps download speeds. Leaving aside the issue of how you’ll afford the data at those speeds, the reality right now is that you’ll probably struggle to find a pocket of CAT9 network to actually test with. My own Speedtest results varied anywhere from 2Mbps down, which is very ordinary, up to a best figure of 146Mbps down, and that was in Sydney’s outskirts, where I’d be surprised to find any genuine CAT9 connectivity. CAT9 offers decent potential futureproofing, but it’ll be a while before it’s widespread enough to be a real selling point.

Cutting Edge look, but what’s it for?

I love the look of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, but Samsung’s still struggling to come up with a good application hook for its existence beyond looking pretty. Like the Galaxy S6 Edge, there’s a swipe-across “People Edge” where you can store five contacts for quick access and assign them a colour so you can tell if they’re calling or texting. New on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is the secondary Apps Edge, which allows you to store five favourite apps. You’re not limited to only Samsung’s apps, but it’s still a pretty useless feature. If they’re your favourite apps, why wouldn’t you have them on your homescreen where they’re a tap away, rather than hiding them behind a couple of swipes and a tap?

I don't think I've ever seen a clearer demonstration of a solution in search of a problem. Who needed this?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clearer demonstration of a solution in search of a problem. Who needed this?

Sadly, that leaves the Edge part of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ as best served as an overnight clock, where it displays the time only on the Edge section of the phone. My own sleep is a little fractured at the moment, and it’s very handy to be able to lean across and check the time in the dark of night this way.

Samsung Finally Gets Cameras

For the longest time, the weak chink in Samsung’s armour was its cameras. They promised the world but under-delivered relative to their premium status. The Galaxy S6/S6 Edge had excellent cameras, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (and Note 5) 16MP rear and 5MP front cameras continue this trend. The use of double tap on the home button to launch the camera at any time is invaluable, because it makes it very easy to grab even those fleeting shots you may have otherwise missed. Here’s some sample shots I’ve taken with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+.
The front camera features the “Beauty” mode that Samsung’s had on its phones for some time. All I’ll say is that it makes me look like some kind of alien potato. Is that beauty? I don’t think so.


Big Phone, Big Battery

The sealed battery on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is rated at 3000mAh, which isn’t spectacular for such a large phone. Again, we’re all paying a price for the race to be the thinnest, when I suspect many would sacrifice a millimetre or two in order to gain a bit more battery life.
In entirely anecdotal testing over a couple of weeks, I found it easy to run the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ into two days, although it was rare for it to last a full two days with my personal workload. If you’re a more moderate user, I could easily see it lasting two days.
In a more formal benchmark setting, Geekbench 3’s BatteryMark test saw the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s battery exhausted in 8:24:10 for a final battery score of 5041. To give that some comparative context, the Samsung Galaxy S6’s 2550mAh battery managed 6:51:30 and a battery score of 4115.
Samsung provides a fast charger for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ which is a welcome addition, although you can use any given microUSB charger to supply the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ with power. The same isn’t always true in reverse though, with a number of other gadgets I’ve tested concurrently having issues drawing power from Samsung’s provided charger. If you like only having one microUSB charger for your gadgets this could be problematic.

Premium Device, Premium Price

The collapse of the Australian dollar and the attack of quite decent mid-range phones hasn’t been kind to the premium space, which sits rather solidly in the “expensive” category. If you want a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ in Australia, it’ll cost you $1,199 for the 32GB version, while the 64GB version will cost $1,299. The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is a little cheaper at $1,099, but that’s only for the 32GB version. Both phones go on sale officially in Australia on September 4th.
It’s also available on contract from all three major carriers. Telstra has it on plans starting at $92/month (minimum 24 month cost of $2208), while Optus will contract one for you starting at $70/month (minimum 24 month cost of $1680) and finally Vodafone will offer them from $100/month with a $13 handset copayment (minimum $2712), although at the time of writing Vodafone doesn’t appear to be listing them online — that pricing is via Ausdroid.

Does The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ Have That Killer Edge?

In order for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ to make sense for you, you’d have to be in the market for a large screen phone, and there’s plenty of evidence that a lot of people are. In the straight Android space, there’s really nothing that touches it in performance terms, so if you’re after the best Android phablet, it’s a costly but ultimately fairly worthwhile buy.
If, however — and the timing isn’t coincidental — you’re relatively agnostic on your smartphone OS choices, Apple’s expected to announce new iPhone models on September 9th in the US, which should mean Australian availability before the end of September. It may be worth waiting simply to see what your premium dollar can buy. The challenge that the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ poses is a compelling one, however, and everyone else will have their work cut out for them simply keeping up.

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