With the Galaxy Note 5 currently missing in action in the UK, those after a big screen Samsung phone now only have one handset to turn to: the Galaxy S6 Edge+. As the name suggests, it’s essentially a larger version of Samsung’s existing curvy flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, adding a sizeable 5.7in display that towers over the smaller phone’s 5.1in screen.
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Big screen phones don’t suit everyone, of course, but the double edged curves do make the Edge+ one of the more manageable phablets I’ve used in quite some time. It’s smaller than the iPhone 6 plus, despite having a larger display. It’s more comfortable than the Galaxy Note 4, too, as its slender, narrower frame provides a lot more purchase and grip. I’ve got fairly small hands, but even someone like me can hold it firmly in one hand without feeling like they’re about to drop it – one of my main problems with the Galaxy S6.
The glass back is still a touch slippery for my tastes, but there’s no denying that the S6 Edge+ is a stylish looking handset. It uses the same premium materials as the S6 Edge, and it demands attention whenever I get it out of my pocket. Samsung claims it’s almost twice as strong this time round, which should make it less prone to accidental bends and cracks. It’s difficult to prove these claims without long term testing, of course, but if true it should help bring some added durability to the top class design.
As desirable as the S6 Edge+ is, though, there’s very little to set it apart from the rest of the S6 family. It uses the same camera sensor and Exynos processor as the S6 and S6 Edge, and the lack of microSD card slot on the unibody design means you have to choose either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The latter of which adds a hefty £80 premium onto the overall cost of the phone when bought SIM-free, and an extra £10-per-month on contract.
It also shares the same 2,560×1,440 resolution as the smaller phone. With the same number of pixels stretched over a larger screen size, this means pixel density is actually a fraction lower on the S6 Edge+, at 515ppi compared to the S6’s 576ppi. However, this is still incredibly sharp even for a big screen handset, and you’ll be hard pressed to notice the difference in day-to-day use.
As a result, the S6 Edge+ is essentially a carbon copy of the S6 Edge, making the 0.5in larger screen its main distinguishing feature. That might not seem enough to justify forking out another £130 over the regular S6 Edge, which can now be bought for around £470 SIM-free, but a large display does have its uses. It gives more room to read when browsing the internet, or using two apps simultaneously in Samsung’s Multi-Screen mode. This is vital when the sloping edges take away some of the screen’s prime real estate, and I often felt the original S6 Edge could feel quite narrow as a result.
Samsung has also introduced a secondary Edge Screen interface to the S6 Edge+, allowing you to add up to five app shortcuts as well as five contacts. Sliding out the small translucent tab at the top of the screen and swiping anywhere will switch between the two Edge tabs. It can be a bit fiddly to open first time, as I often ended up opening the weather widget accidentally instead or swiping to the next home screen altogether. After a bit of practice, though, it soon becomes easier to open consistently and it certainly beats having to hit the home button or dive into the app tray every time you want to open a new app or get in touch with someone.
Much like the original S6 Edge, you can colour code your favourite Edge contacts so the phone’s sides will light up in that particular colour when they call you. However, this still only works when the phone is face down, which just isn’t something I’m confident about doing, especially on such an expensive handset. It’s not very practical either, as the light effect is relatively subtle and very easy to miss if the phone’s set to silent.
^ Displayed flat here, but these menus appear on the curve of the handset in use
More practical is the returning night clock, which uses the curved edge to display the time and date during for up to 12 hours every day. This is one of my favourite features, as it means you don’t have to pick up your phone just to glance at the clock when you wake up. It works well with Samsung’s Super AMOLED display, too, as it only illuminates the necessary pixels instead of the whole screen like an LCD display, saving on power.
As useful as some of these features are, I’m not yet convinced they’re compelling enough reasons to choose this, or indeed the standard S6 Edge, over the regular S6, especially when both of Samsung’s six-month old flagships have just had a huge price drop. When you can pick up as S6 for £410, paying £600 SIM-free or upwards of £40-per-month on contract for the S6 Edge+ seems a lot for what essentially amounts to a relatively middling set of minor software tweaks and some serious style points.
That’s not to say the S6 Edge Plus is necessarily a bad handset, as it’s still one of the best Android phones around. The 5.7in, 2,560×1,440 display is unsurprisingly excellent, with the Super AMOLED panel hitting a full 100% sRGB colour gamut coverage in our colour calibration tests. Contrast is also exceedingly high, returning a ratio of infinity:1, while peak black levels are a perfect 0.00cd/m2.
Admittedly a peak brightness of 388.7cd/m2 isn’t huge, and AMOLED panels are traditionally much dimmer than their LCD counterparts, but as I discovered with the S6 and S6 Edge, that brightness shoots up to around 600cd/m2 when you’re outside to help combat screen glare. It’s good that this is only available on Auto Brightness, too, as it means anyone setting the brightness manually won’t accidentally drain their battery when it’s on max brightness.
Thankfully, the larger screen doesn’t impact the phone’s battery life too greatly, as its large 3,000mAh battery managed a respectable 13h 23m in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2. While this is almost two hours less than the standard S6 Edge, it’s only ten minutes behind the regular S6, so you should still get more than a full day’s use out of it even if you’re a heavy media user.
The S6 Edge+ continues Samsung’s streak of best-in-class performance, too, as I’ve yet to see another Android phone beat its octa-core Exynos 7420 chipset in the Expert Reviews benchmark suite. This processor is made up of two quad-core chips, with one running at 2.1GHz for more intensive tasks while the other runs at 1.5GHz to save on power when the phone is idle.
The S6 Edge+ also has the benefit of 4GB of RAM over the S6 and S6 Edge’s 3GB, giving it an extra boost while web browsing. Its huge score of 1,549 in Futuremark’s Peacekeeper test is the highest I’ve ever seen, beating both the S6 and S6 Edge by a clear 300 points. Naturally, surfing the web was as smooth as could be, with no signs of stutter or jerky animations whatsoever.
The extra 1GB of RAM made less difference in Geekbench 3, though, as its respective scores of 1,463 and 4,934 in the single and multicore tests are more or less identical to those of the S6 Edge. It also didn’t fare any better in GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan test, with 1,514 frames (roughly 24fps) putting it just behind the smaller Edge’s score of 1,537 (or 25fps). In real terms, though, the S6 Edge+ is still a highly competent gaming machine, as its large screen was perfect for playing more demanding games like Hearthstone as well as simpler games like Threes and Alphabear.
The S6 Edge+ uses the same 16-megapixel sensor as the S6 and S6 Edge. I was hoping to see Samsung’s 1-um pixel sensor, which is meant to cut down the overall sensor size, paving the way for flush sensors without compromising image quality. The reappearing sensor is a small complaint overall, though, as this is still one of the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used.
It can produce clear, bright-looking photos even in relatively cloudy, overcast weather conditions, and it banishes the gloom to make sure your photos still look great even when the sun’s not shining. My test shots all had plenty of detail on show, and Samsung’s excellent noise reduction effectively eliminates all traces of noise and grainy artefacts.
Low light performance is equally brilliant, and I was able to capture every last detail of our indoor still life diorama with crisp, pinpoint precision. Noise was practically non-existent, and colours remained rich and vibrant throughout. The flash can be a little harsh at times, as the warm colours in our non-flash shots all but disappeared when we switched it on, but at least it doesn’t make photos look too green as I’ve found on other smartphone cameras.
With its top class performance and superb camera, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ rightly deserves its title as the best Android phablet since the Note 4. However, when its specs are nigh-on identical to the regular S6 Edge, it can’t help but feel like a rather lazy update, especially when it costs so much more for what essentially boils down to a difference of 0.5in. In this sense, it falls into the same trap as the Sony Xperia Z3+, as it simply doesn’t do enough to make it stand out from the rest of the S6 family or bring anything new to the table to justify its eye-watering price.
Likewise, when the S6 and S6 Edge have just received a substantial price cut after only six months on shop shelves, I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung pulled a similar trick with the S6 Edge+ further down the line, making any purchase now a bit of a gamble. The S6 Edge+ may be the best Android phablet you can buy today, but at its current price it simply isn’t good value.