- Amazing display
- Strong Note 4 internals
- Curve has a few neat tricks
- Curve is largely underutilized
- Some sluggish spots
- Pricier than Note 4
Samsung's inventive spin on its flagship phablet impresses with its dynamic, partially curved display and high-end power, but the actual edge's functionality is minor and there are other small drawbacks in tow.
Samsung’s grip on the mobile world is waning, partially because it’s continued to play things safe with its Galaxy S line while its competitors shake things up. So kudos to the Korean giant for taking a shot at something truly new and different with the Galaxy Note Edge, a delightfully odd concept phone that somehow made it into stores.
Sure, it’s essentially a Galaxy Note 4 variant at heart, with the same powerful internals and core functionality, but the difference is right there in the name: This 5.6-inch phablet screen doesn’t stop when it hits the usual right border, instead pouring over to form a curved edge on the side of the phone. That’s definitely weird, especially for a very large and expensive flagship device, but is it wonderful?
Yes and no. Actually, most of the time, we just felt ambivalence towards the extra space and its minor added functionality. There’s promise here, and some of it is realized, but the addition of another 160 pixels over the side doesn’t seriously change the smartphone experience. Not yet, at least.
Build and Design
As mentioned, the Galaxy Note Edge begins with the same design as the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung’s more traditional phablet wonder, but there are notable differences beyond the lack of a traditional border on one side. Namely, while the Note 4 impresses with its metal frame, the Note Edge is stuck with matte plastic along the sides. That’s likely a trade-off due to the odd screen dimensions, although you still get a slim metal border around the display panel. Also, the display loses a tenth of an inch in size, dipping from 5.7 inches on the Note 4 to 5.6 inches here, but as you’ll see at a glance, that’s obviously not the whole story with the screen.
Despite those shifts, the Note Edge still feels like a premium device, and looks the part as well—beyond the gorgeous display. The hardware itself is quite sharp, with an attractive and subtle horizontal line pattern along the bezel, and a faux leather backing that may not convince you upon touch, but it looks higher-end than the rubbery texture seen on many Samsung devices.
The Note Edge is a very large phone, so unless you’ve got gargantuan paws, it’s a tricky device to use one handed. And that’s especially true with the Edge, which does change the way you’ll want to hold it. It’s naturally tricky to hold in your right hand, because there’s a good chance your palm will activate an edge command while reaching across the screen with your thumb. Furthermore, not having a typical side right there just feels odd. It’s not a flaw, but it is a foreign consideration.
No surprise here if you’re familiar with the Note 4: This screen is a stunner. It’s a Quad HD+ Super AMOLED panel coming in at 2560×1440 across the bulk of the screen, although the curve adds the aforementioned 160 pixels of extra width (so it’s 2560×1600, technically). While it’s a seamless display over the edge, that extra space is often treated differently by apps and the UI, so it’s no surprise to see that distinction notated in the specs, as well.
Wherever you’re looking on the display, the image is remarkably crisp and colorful. And because it’s just a bit smaller than the Note 4’s display, it’s actually sharper at 525ppi, although at that pixel density, you shouldn’t notice a difference anyway. What is quite apparent is just how vibrant everything looks on this beauty, and how detailed higher-resolution photos or videos can appear on the screen.
Because it’s not a fully flat surface, the Note Edge is more susceptible to glare, and you may notice that the content along the curve looks distorted at certain angles. In other moments, the curve seemed to give that part of the image the odd illusion of depth. Maybe that’s just part of the process of getting used to a new kind of display design and technology, although we’re curious if a successor might be able to deliver more consistent views along the edge from any angle.
Keep in mind that the Note Edge defaults to Samsung’s Adaptive display mode, which pumps up the contrast and saturation. The resulting effect is almost intoxicating, really showing off the richness of the display — but it also makes for unnatural looking coloring and overblown effects. You can always switch down to the basic setting, which looks flat by comparison but is much more accurate.