- Premium finish
- Spectacular QHD display
- Exceptionally fast performance
- One of the best main cameras around
- No water or dust resistance
- Battery life is average for this class
- Front-facing camera is too
- A little too liberal with its inspirations
The Galaxy S6 is a stunning leap forward for Samsung's mobile juggernaut. Its marked design improvements combine with a top-notch chipset, display, and camera to create a smartphone that is supremely well-rounded in its quality.
It wasn’t long ago that build and design was a secondary concern to smartphone shoppers. Just a couple of years back, a high-end phone could be considered as such if it came through on the spec sheet, regardless of how the body that held those materials actually felt in your hand. But as the jump from generations of internal hardware has grown more incremental, the emphasis placed on external hardware has grown by leaps and bounds. As this shift has taken place, some manufacturers have been quick to get on top of the trend, while others have not. Samsung, with its yearly barrage of plastic Galaxy phones, has long been one of the latter.
Until now, that is. The company’s latest flagship, the Galaxy S6, is a substantial shift forward for the look and feel of its popular smartphone franchise, making over its critically and financially underwhelming predecessor with an all-new coat of metal and glass. It’s still powerful, like Galaxy phones have always been, but the tangible, physical aspect of it now resembles something that’s worth your $650. As a result, it feels like the first Samsung phone that genuinely tries to be top-class in every regard. Let’s take a closer look at the device, which is available now on all four of the major carriers.
Build and Design
When it comes to its appearance, the Galaxy S6 resembles its forebears while still leaving a unique impression. Finally, we have a Galaxy with a premium finish, thanks to the Gorilla Glass 4 on its front and back and the aluminum trim around its edges. Together, it gives the phone a new level of solidity and robustness in the hand. The glass and metal combination also runs cold by default, and that chilly effect helps contribute the more expensive feel.
Still, it’s impossible to not address the elephant in the room: The Galaxy S6 looks a great deal like the iPhone 6. Between the curved edges and the design of the bottom half—which includes the microUSB port, audio jack, microphone, and speaker perforations—it’s clear that Samsung has taken at least some inspiration from its biggest market rival. The two are practically indistinguishable if you only look at them from the bottom. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—everyone borrows from each other, and it’s taking after a design that’s been loved for years—but it does take some of the shine off an otherwise excellent build.
Taking a tour around the device, the Galaxy’s upper edge only includes an infrared transmitter (for TV remote functionality) and the secondary microphone, while the left side has the volume rocker. The right side has the Power key at a comfortable thumb height, as well as the nanoSIM card slot.
The back includes a 16-megapixel camera, LED flash and a returning heart rate monitor from the Galaxy S5. It also introduces the one major negative of Samsung’s design makeover: Everything here is static. The tight mix of glass and metal makes this the first Galaxy phone in some time to have a non-replaceable battery, a fact that’ll make the S6 less appealing to power users and longtime Galaxy fans. On the plus side, the phone does support wireless charging, and it’s economical enough with its battery life to make the whole issue a little less dramatic than it seems. Ultimately, the positives of an improved feel outweigh the negatives of lessened flexibility.
The front of the device looks more or less like every Galaxy phone that’s come before it, which is to say it’s bland but inoffensive. It includes a line of sensors situated above the display, where there is also a speaker and a 5-megapixel selfie-camera. The Home, Back, and Tasks keys once again sit on the phone’s bottom bezel, conveniently leaving more screen space for the screen itself. Less convenient is the placement of those Back and Tasks keys—putting the former before the latter when every other Android phone does otherwise just feels stubborn at this point.
We’re used to top-of-the-line displays from the Galaxy S series, but the Super AMOLED panel here takes it to a whole new level. Measuring 5.1 inches, the Galaxy S6’s screen has a 2560 x 1440 resolution, resulting in an absurd pixel density of 577 ppi. It’s a bit unnecessary for the average user, but it means that text and images will always be crisp and clear, even during trickier animations.
The rest of the display is just as impressive—the OLED tech, combined with Samsung’s diamond-shaped PenTile matrix, make for consistently luscious colors. Images on screen almost look like they were printed on glossy paper. It has a tendency to oversaturate to give that livelier look, but if that’s not your cup of tea Samsung includes a “natural” color option that isn’t quite as vibrant but saves power.
Per usual with OLED displays, the contrast ratios here are superb, with intense whites and truly dark black tones complementing each other nicely. The screen can get very bright if needed, and it holds up well both in direct sunlight and when viewed from a wider angle.
The glass itself is composed of Gorilla Glass 4, which is still exceptionally smooth, sturdy, and responsive to finger movements. All told, this is a screen that more than lives up to the Galaxy line’s already high standards.