• A Worthy Upgrade or a Compromise? Our Galaxy S6 Review

    When you think of phones, each manufacturer has carefully created a set of expectations that customers like us can look forward to in their devices. HTC tries to make phones that are all metal with no gaps and an emphasis on the camera and multimedia experience. Sonyís are all about their water resistant with glass and metal bodies and integration with their media services. That sort of thing.

    Samsung is all about lots of features - they try to give you as much choice as possible. 2 years ago, when the industry trend was to move away from memory cards, Samsung stood firm and had one of the only flagships that still included this useful feature. Ditto for removable batteries.

    However, that was then and now, Samsung seems set on redefining their brand. Witness their newest flagship, the Galaxy S6 which is quite a departure from previous Galaxy S models.

    The removable battery and memory card slots are now a thing of the past as is the practical plastic body. Those have been traded in for an elegant glass and metal body.
    Edge or Flat?

    This time around, there are 2 Galaxy S6ís. One is the regular GS6, which weíll call the flat in this section, and a variant called, the GS6 Edge, which has a screen that curves into the Edges.

    While phones with curved glass are nothing new, the Edgeís screen actually bends over the sides. Pictures donít do it justice, itís quite striking in person. Otherwise, aside from the Edge having a slightly larger battery, the GS6 and GS6 Edge are more or less identical.

    If you want the Edge, youíll need to pay an extra $100.

    The GS6 Edge is really cool in person but if youíre a power user youíll probably prefer the flat version. After getting over the curved sides, you may get tired/annoyed of having a screen that curves over the edges. Donít forget that that your palm is going to be touching the screen all the time with the Edge. While it has decent palm rejection software, it doesnít always work.

    Yes, the Edge comes with a little bit of extra functionality but if you ask me, the functionality falls in the gimmick category - the only reason why you should get the Edge is because you think the curved sides are cool.

    Do you want function over form (and save $100) or form over function?


    The S6 and S6 Edge each come in 3 different storage configurations; 32, 64 and 128GB. Kudos to Samsung for making 32GB the lowest configuration. Itís much more generous and usable than the stingy 16GB you get with the most basic iPhone 6 and 6 Plus configurations.

    Since the GS6 doesnít come with a MicroSD slot, you canít get out of buying a fancier configuration if you want more space down the road.

    Itís hard to put a price on extra storage. As Iím writing this in March 2015, a Samsung or SanDisk brand 128GB microSD goes for around $120 CDN while a 64GB is $50. Granted, built-in storage tends to be higher quality and faster but for most, once you go past a certain amount, youíre probably just using it to store stuff that doesnít require huge amounts of speed. You do the math.

    Still, 32GB is enough to hold 1000ís of photos, a bunch of videos and 100ís of apps. It should be enough for almost everyone.

    The 64 and 128GB configurations are probably more for users who want to actually store videos from their computer on the phone, those who want to use the GS6 has a very expensive flash drive or those who want to futureproof and think that coming versions of Touchwiz will consume 30GB+.

    The only way you can really get around that is to pick up an OTG flash drive or maybe use a flash drive with an OTG adapter. Remember, 32GB gives you enough breathing room that you probably wonít have to rely on the drive constantly.

    What about the Galaxy S5?

    While each new Galaxy S generation brings improvements, one thing that hasnít really changed much is the price tag of around $650-$700 CDN. Along with the Edge variant, the S6 brings more than one storage configuration which approach and breach the psychological $1000 barrier.

    The worst thing about the Galaxy S5 is that it only comes with 16GB of storage. Sure, you can add MicroSD cards but out of the box, youíre almost at single digits of free space. Considering that flagships are all about not making compromises, the stingy amount of storage is a pretty horrible compromise. The GS6 fixes this by coming with a minimum of 32GB of storage.

    However, if youíre coming from a GS5, youíll need to make some compromises too.

    First off, as Iíve already mentioned, you lose the MicroSD slot which was previously one of Samsungís signature features. Pretty much everyone from LG (the Optimus G), to Sony (Xperia S), Motorola (Moto X) to HTC (HTC One M7) have all experimented with losing the MicroSD but until now, not Samsung. While not everyone feels the need to pop in a MicroSD, itís nice to have that option.

    Secondly, another Samsung signature feature; a removable battery is also MIA from the GS6. Again, everyone else has already ditched it or experimented with it but until now, not Samsung. The removable battery was a great feature if you kept your phone for a few years (battery life usually starts to shorten after 2 years) or if you plan on handing the phone to a family member or a friend after youíre done with it. To make matters worse, the GS6 doesnít have any screws on the exterior so swapping out the battery will not be a trivial matter.

    The battery is almost 10% smaller than the GS6 so itís probably going to see more cycles (wear out faster) than the GS5 one.

    You also lose the GS5ís water resistance. With the exception of Sony, water resistance is not very common feature but losing this feature is losing something that gives users peace-of-mind. Still, losing this feature also means that you wonít have to deal with the GS5ís annoying USB port cover.

    While the GS6 screen pixel count has almost doubled, it doesnít really look any sharper than the GS5. The only difference is that blocks of solid colour on the GS6 screen looks\ slightly cleaner because the graininess from the PenTile arrangement are less noticeable.

    One thing that is improved is the colour which has been reigned in a little so itís even more natural looking. However, the screen has gotten worse because it turns blue when you view it off-angle. All screens have some shifting when you view them off-angle but the GS6ís is very noticeable because it happens even at Ďnormalí viewing angles.

    One more minus with the GS6 is that it runs hot. Iím not sure if itís the pre-production unit Iím using or what but it always get noticeably warm after I use it for a minute. This doesnít happen with my other phones - even the LG Optimus G takes a while.

    Fortunately, everything else about the GS6 is an upgrade from the GS5. Both front and rear cameras are noticeable better, you get more RAM, about 25% more performance, the speaker is more powerful and sounds better, but the best thing about the GS6 is its glass and metal body. From a tactile standpoint, it just takes the Galaxy line to another level.

    What about the Galaxy Note 4/Note Edge?

    In a way, I think one reason why Samsung backed off on the GS6ís battery size is to create more breathing room for the Note series - they reached a point where adding larger screens would start to cause trade-offs with regards to portability.

    If youíre someone who likes how Samsungs have always come with a removable battery and memory card, then youíll want to stick with the Note 4 and the Edge.

    While their screens arenít exactly the same, itís hard to pick one over the other. The Note 4 looks like it has purer whites, but I noticed it also has some banding in the yellow area of the screen mode page - itís very minor so Iím not sure if you can really see it.

    Both have a powerful built-in speaker but the GS6ís sounds much better. The cameras on both are quite similar. The GS6 has a newer, more powerful SoC. Both have fingerprint readers but the GS6ís is much easier to use.

    The GS6ís glass and metal body is scrumptious but the Note 4ís metal frame is no slouch.

    You get Samsungís S-Pen stylus with the Note 4.

    If you can handle the larger size, Iíd say removable battery and memory card make the Note 4 smarter choice - especially if you want to add storage down the road.

    What about the iPhone 6/6 Plus?

    Not surprisingly, the first question you have to ask is: ďDo want Coke or Pepsi, I mean, do I want Android or iOS?Ē or if for many; ďGalaxy or iPhone?Ē.

    If you plan on buying lots of accessories, then the iPhone is unmatched in this regard. Still, out of all the non-iPhone devices out there, the GS6 will be the next best choice.

    Then thereís the app question, both Android and iOS have lots of apps and both will probably have all the popular ones. Some may disagree but I usually prefer the iOS app store to Google Play when it comes to gaming. I also find that you can buy more iOS games, in case youíre allergic to freemium type games or ads. Of course, if donít have a buck or two to spare and are allergic to paying for apps, than Android is probably a better choice.

    After that, thereís the hacking and customization question. Itís generally easier to do deep customizations to Android phones. The GS6 is probably going to be very popular so there will probably be many custom ROMs for it. With iOS, you need to make sure you can jailbreak and if you want to stay jailbroken, you need to keep on top of the scene.

    Once you get past all that, thereís also the user interface question. Do you like Androidís widgets, home screens and app drawers or do you like Appleís flatter interface?

    If you still donít have a preference then itís time to move on to the the GS6/GS6 Edge vs iPhone 6/6 Plus question.

    Looks matter and if you ask me, all 4 phones are lookers. If thatís the only thing that matters to you, you might find the GS6 Edgeís curved screen interesting. In a way, it will make your phone unique but then again, Samsung will probably sell millions of Edges so you really won'tí be.

    Out of all 4 phones, the GS6 has the sharpest screen though I think the 6 Plus has the cleanest looking display. The GS6 and GS5 both have PenTile displays and while you donít really notice it normally, theyíre slightly graining looking if you look at them closely.

    At 326PPI, the iPhone 6 is still very sharp, but you can see itís individual pixels clearly if you look closely.

    The Samsungs have much deeper blacks which makes their colour pop. Colour is a really personal thing - Iíll just say that all 4 are fairly natural looking so you canít go wrong with any of them.

    All 4 phones lack a removable battery and storage. However, if you have to change the iPhoneís batteries itís important to point out that itís relatively easy because there are screws on the bottom of the phones which makes opening them easier. The GS6 has no screws so itís probably glued together and will probably be difficult to open.

    The GS6ís have 16 megapixel imagers which capture 16:9 ratio photos so theyíre quite bit wider than the 6/6 Plus. Their sensors are noticeably less sensitive than the iPhoneís so indoors, the iPhoneís pictures tend to be cleaner looking.

    I prefer the iPhoneís cameras and tend to get more keepers with them.

    That being said, I love how fast the GS6ís can launch their cameras. Itís only a fraction of a second faster than the iPhoneís but when you have kids, those fractions of a second can make all the difference.

    Out of the bunch, the iPhone 6 is the only one without image stabilization. Youíll notice this when youíre shooting static objects or video.

    Speaking of video, the iPhones only record video with the center of their displays so things will look more Ďzoomed iní. This way, they can use the extra pixels on the edges to help stabilize video further. The GS6 doesnít do this as much so videos will be more Ďzoomed outí. Both approaches have their merit - there are times I wish the the iPhones didnít zoom in and there are times I wish the GS6 was a little tighter.

    The GS6 can also record 4K/UHD video while the iPhones only record at full HD. Then again, the iPhones can record at 240 frames per second plus their sensors are sensitive enough to actually pull this off.

    One area where the GS6 clearly wins is the built-in speaker. Itís much louder than either iPhone and sounds just as good as the 6 Plusí which in term makes it better than the 6.

    Despite the smaller battery, Iíd say battery life on the 6 is similar to the GS6. The 6 Plus however, is on another level and should last quite a bit longer than the GS6.

    I also noticed that the iPhones run quite a bit cooler than the GS6. It could just be my pre-production GS6 but I find it heats up very quickly. Some may find it alarming and may not appreciate the sweaty palms it might cause in the summer.

    I do like how the GS6 base model comes with a generous 32GB of storage. The iPhoneís base models come with a really stingy, heck Iíd say irresponsible, 16GB of storage. It fills up really quickly.

    All in all, you canít go wrong with either of them. Both of them cost more than the competition but as usual, the Apple tax is a higher than the Samsung tax.


    In past Galaxy S reviews, this is the part where I tell you about how the cheesy plastics Samsung used to make make their latest flagship do a decent job of not looking like plastic. My recent Galaxy S reviews usually had a paragraph where Iíd inadvertently become a Samsung apologist for their decision to use plastic instead of metal.

    With that in mind, Iím happy to say that the first thing youíll notice about the GS6 is its aluminum frame and the glass back.

    Some metal phones like the Note 4 and last yearís Sony Xperia Z1 also had metal frames but they had hard edges which emphasize the fact that theyíre not plastic but also make them uncomfortable to hold.

    The frame is unmistakably metal yet at the same time, it is sculpted such that itís comfortable to hold.

    Thereís a very small chamfered edge where the metal frame transitions to glass on the front to the back. The glass has a very gentle curve so that it appears to go underneath the frame. The execution is just fantastic.

    One thing I didnít expect is that the GS6 runs pretty hot and that it heats up very quickly. It can go from normal to hot in less than a minute. Is this because Samsung underestimated how much heat a 64 bit, octa-core SoC would put out? Or is the metal frame just very efficient at cooling the processor?

    I did do a bit of stress testing and found that even though the GS6 can get worrisomely hot, I didnít notice any throttling the speed of the SoC due to heat

    In my hand, the GS6 curved edges make it feel quite a bit smaller than the GS5 - more so than the dimensions say. If you opt for the GS6 Edge, then the curved sides make it feel dramatically smaller.

    I love how the glass on the back has a slick satin effect when you look at it from an angle. It adds a bit of flare to the design without making it gaudy.

    Samsung has ditched the removable back cover which allows it to be slightly thinner than the GS5. Its minimalist back cover (as opposed to the GS5ís overdesign cover) makes the camera bulge more noticeable pronounced.

    Of course, since the back cover is now fixed that means the battery is not user removable.

    Behind the back is support for both Qi and PMA charging standards.

    Speaking of charging, if you opt for a regular USB charger, the GS6 supports charge rates of up to 14.67 watts. This is a bit faster than the competition which usually top out 10 to 12 watts.

    Good riddance to the GS5ís cheap, mushy buttons. All of the GS6ís buttons have been upgraded so that they have a nice click when you press them. After using the GS6, youíll swear that the GS5ís buttons are broken.

    The home button still doubles as a fingerprint reader but now all you have to do is place your finger on it to unlock. You donít have to slide your finger anymore. It works well most of the time and is just as easy and intuitive to use as Appleís fingerprint reader. I like how it unlocks the GS6 faster than the reader on the iPhone 6 does.

    I noticed that the home button protrudes out quite a bit. Most people wonít encounter this problem but what happened to me was I was double carrying the GS6 in my pocket with an iPhone 6 Plus. Since the home button sticks out, a lot of the time the screen would turn on because my iPhone 6 kept pressing it in.

    By default, the GS6 has a fairly bright colour scheme and a super bright, power-sucking Super AMOLED screen. This combination along with the constant button pressing had a devastating effect on the GS6ís battery life.

    While the build quality is top-notch, I couldnít help but notice that like the HTC One M7 and M8, the GS6 has no screws on the exterior. Does this mean that the GS6ís is glued together and that the battery is virtually impossible to replace like the HTC Oneís or Microsoft Surface Pro or is it just difficult?

    Thanks to Andrew for pointing out this link. Turns out swapping the battery is somewhat of an ordeal:
    1. heat front to soften glue
    2. pry the sides loose
    3. pull screen off with a suction cup
    4. remove screws
    5. remove buttons (Iím not joking)
    6. remove wireless charging coil
    7. remove motherboard (Iím serious)

    Then you can get to the battery.

    Just in case youíre not aware, removing the GS5 battery goes something like this:
    1. remove battery cover
    2. remove battery

    Iím just sayiní.

    Another thing to consider is that unlike the GS5, the GS6 isnít dust and water resistant. You could argue that most users are careful enough that their GS5 has never even gotten wet but the water resistance is more about piece of mind. If your phone ever does have an accident and gets wet it has a higher chance of survival.

    Iím not shattered that the GS6 loses the water resistance but I am mildly disappointed.

    On the bright side, you also donít have to deal with the GS5ís annoying USB port cover anymore.


    The screen resolution has had a substantial bump from 1920x1080 to 2560x1440. While the resolution on the GS6 is much higher, after spending a lot of time with the GS6 I can safely say that thereís no difference in sharpness unless you look really, really closely and are extremely nearsighted like me.

    Text looks identical on both even when theyíre so small that theyíre barely legible like results page after you run the sunspider benchmark using Chrome. Here the text is so small I canít read it unless Iím standing still and even then, thereís no difference is sharpness.

    Itís easy to get caught up in numbers the what gets lost is that the GS5 already has an extremely high PPI display.

    If PPI were cheeseburgers then the GS5 would have 5 patties while the GS6, 10. No oneís gonna notice the extra meat.

    The difference is so small, I have to wonder whether itís worth the graphics performance and battery life hit, having such a high resolution screen brings. In a way, PPI is analogous to megapixels or horsepower, itís important to have enough as opposed to having as much as possible.

    Donít forget that the GS6 runs hot and has a smaller battery than the GS5 so the price to paid may be higher than we realize.

    Initially, the GS6 display really reminded me of the GS5ís but after comparing them side-by-side, I can see some minor differences.

    While some AMOLED displays are criticized for being over-saturated, the GS5 wasnít too bad in this regard. That said, Samsung has reigned in the GS6 even more so that itís even more natural looking and isnít annoying to look at. The reds have been pulled in a little more and whites are cleaner looking.

    Blacks are just as deep as ever. Maximum brightness is about the same as the GS5 as is outdoor performance (itís acceptable).

    The only area where the screen is worse than the GS5 is that it turns blue at moderate angles like the Note 4 does. Itís especially noticeable if you have a white background. I have talked to a few Note 4 owners about this and they either donít notice it or get used. To me, itís dramatic and just shouldnít happen on such an expensive device - especially since the GS5 doesnít do this.

    I think the reason why I notice this so much is because I rarely look at my phones straight on. I donít want to bend my neck too much while at the same time, I donít want to hold my phone right in front of me. Call me crazy but my phones are usually at a 15 or 20 degree angle from my line of sight.

    Overall, the GS6 screen has more pleasing colour than the GS5 but it introduces noticeable off-angle colour shift so all in all, itís just a mild upgrade - resolution isnít the end all be all of screen performance.


    Thankfully, Samsung has resisted the temptation to increase the pixel count so the camera still only has 16 megapixels. More megapixels are great for marketing but as many consumers realize, packing extra pixels into the same space usually results in noisier pictures, reduced dynamic range and generally speaking, worse looking pictures.

    It now has optical image stabilization which is a boon if you take a lot of video or photograph a lot of still subjects in low light. The lens is also a little bit wider than the GS5.

    The best thing about the camera isnít the camera itself but the fact that you can now launch it by double pressing the home button. Previously, double pressing the home button would launch S-Voice which I donít think anyone actually used so this is a much better use of this function.

    It gets better, most of the time the camera launches extremely fast - noticeably faster than the GS5 and the iPhone 6. This is awesome if youíre like me and use your camera mostly to chase your kids around.

    The optical image stabilization, slightly bigger (f/1.9 vs f/2.2) lens and wider angle lens means the GS6 doesnít rely as heavily on itís low light mode as much as the GS5.

    Since you canít turn the OIS off itís hard to compare, but it looks like the GS6 sensor is also slightly more advanced. Shadows are a bit cleaner with more detail:

    The GS6 and GS5 look very similar here but if you look closely, the GS6 captures a lot more detail. Look at the seat:

    Colour is nice and accurate - no complaints here. The GS6 is very well behaved in this regard.

    The GS6 has a special low light mode which does a lot of processing to bring details out. I suspect it also snaps multiple exposures. Itís a good compromise.

    If you take a lot of close-ups, the GS6 has an outstanding macro mode able to focus on an area approximate 68 x 36mm. To compare, the iPhone 6 Plus can only manage around 75 x 55mm. I tested these areas by hand so I might be off by a few mm and keep in mind that the GS6 captures a wider 16:9 aspect ratio so even though the horizontal measurement is only off by 7mm, vertically the difference is close to 20mm so itís a big difference..

    At 5 megapixels, the front-facing camera has received a big bump in resolution from the GS5ís 2. Asides from the resolution, the new sensor and lens are a big improvement. Itís noticeably more sensitive and cleaner.

    That said, while the sensor can record 5 megapixels of information, the effective resolution (the actual detail captured) is no where near 5. It barely captures more information than the iPhone 6ís 1MP front-facing camera. A lot of this may be due to how the GS6 processes images from the front camera. Since selfies are all the rage now, having a camera which reveals every blemish on your face isnít. So, the GS6 will always try to smooth things out which results in weird looking images (and happy owners).

    The angle of the lens is noticeably wider so you can capture more - if you need more it also has a panorama feature so that you can move it side-to-side to capture even more. This feature has one big caveat - while you can now fit more friends in your selfies, it also has a tendency to stretch things out on the sides if you hold it close. So, while the GS6ís front camera can capture more, it can sometimes also add 10lbs to your pictures.

    Video quality is very good. Donít forget that thereís a 4K video mode which is capped at 5 mins per clip. The optical image stabilization is really useful if you shoot 4K since it disables the digital stabilization. I donít have a way to test the effectiveness of OIS but my feeling is that itís more effective than the stabilizer on the iPhone 6 Plus though this probably just an effect of the GS6ís much wider angle when capturing video.

    The microphone is excellent. It sounds great and doesnít pick up any handling noise.

    Samsung has over-hauled the camera app on the GS6. Gone is the giant Ďchartí of camera options. Instead thereís now an Auto mode and Pro mode (along with selective focus, panorama, slow motion video, fast motion video and virtual shot).

    Hereís a list of functions:

    • Flash
    • Self Timer
    • HDR
    • Effect

    Pro has the same features as Auto plus:
    • Metering (center weighted, matrix, spot)
    • Exposure (-2 to +2 in 0.1 increments)
    • ISO (auto, 100 - 800)
    • White balance (auto, cloud, incandescent, fluorescent)
    • Focus (Macro to Infinity)
    • Colour modes

    The selective focus only works if the subject you want to be in focus is fairly close.

    You can download other camera modes - this feature is also available for older Samsung phones.

    Overall, Iím happy with the camera app though I wish it would remember that I was using Pro mode last rather than always starting up in Auto mode. I also wish there was a way to disable the night mode. Sometimes I donít want my shadows to be dark.


    Out of the box, you get Android 5.0 Lollipop.

    It used to be that Samsungís Touchwiz software gave them an advantage over the competition. Back then Android was really raw and lacked a lot of polish. However, that was 5 or 6 years ago and since then, Android has slowly matured to the point that it doesnít need heavy customization.

    In fact, for some people, Touchwiz is now just a vestigial feature that serves little purpose.

    I have one very gripe that annoys me to no end. It used to be that one of my favorite Touchwiz features was that you could scroll through when you were moving between pages of apps. Back then, Android wouldnít do this. However, in the GS6, Samsung has actually removed this feature.

    I like how stock Android now lets you pull down once to see your notifications and twice to see your switches (or you can pull down with two fingers). The GS6 still insists on showing your switches and keeping them at the top so they eat up about 25% of the screen space. Then again, I love how the notification area disappears when you adjust the brightness.

    One new feature is that Samsung has taken a lot of the icons in the user interface and either labelled them or replaced them completely with text.

    I like how you can press backspace on the keyboard to un-autocorrect what the phone thinks is a typo. Sometimes I want to intentionally misspell a word without having to add it to the dictionary.

    Thereís a lot of duplication of built-in programs because Google and Samsung are sort of fighting over which one they want you to use. You get 2 browsers, 2 picture galleries, 2 email apps, 2 music players, 2 video players, 2 app stores and 2 voice recognition programs.

    These days, Samsungís emphasis is less on trying to add little nicknacks to Android - remember Air view or whatever-the-heck Samsung called it? Neither do it. Now their they spend a lot more time talking about how well their phones play with business. Iím no expert in this regard so Iíll just leave it at that.

    Samsung is also has a payment system for the GS6. While itís compatible with NFC payment systems like the competition, you can also use it on magnetic swipers. Iím not sure how much of this functionality is coming to North America.

    Overall, while itís not perfect, Touchwiz doesnít feel as top heavy as it used to be. Indeed, with 25.4GB of free space, the GS6 isnít too bad an offender. Hereís a random sample of how much space you get with some other 32GB phones I have lying around:

    • Note 4 (KitKat) 24.2GB
    • Note 3 (KitKat) 24.2GB
    • LG G2 (KitKat) 24.1GB
    • LG G3 (Lollipop) 24.7GB
    • Galaxy S6 (Lollipop) 25.4GB
    • Nexus 6 (Lollipop) 25.9GB


    Starting with the Galaxy S3, North American Galaxy Sí all used Qualcomm SoCís so many people were a little surprised that the GS6 didnít use Qualcommís Snapdragon 810 SoC. The rumor is that the Snapdragon 810 had some heat issue so Samsung opted for their own SoC instead.

    If the rumor is true, then part of the fault may lie with the GS6ís design. Even with their own SoC, the GS6 can get pretty hot. According to my infrared thermometer, the back can reach 120F. While thatís not hot enough to burn, it can be alarming. I guess the GS6 would have been handy this past winter.

    The GS6 does really well in the Peacekeeper, besting all Android phones Iíve tested by a comfortable margin and approaching the iPhone 6.

    It also does well in graphics benchmarks, itís able to edge out the Note 4 by quite a bit.

    And hereís the Antutu score if you just want to compare a single meaningless number.

    Now if you know me, youíll know that I hate benchmarks because they donít really tell us anything useful.

    The way I see it, I want a fast device so that I donít have to wait as much. For me, I want a phone to launch my camera as fast as possible and in the case of the GS6, itís able to launch the camera super fast. Iím talking noticeably faster than an iPhone 6 and itís predecessor, the GS5.


    Previous Samsung phones like the GS5 and Note 4ís have powerful built-in speakers that donít sound very good. The GS6 has a single, really powerful speaker that may be the loudest I have ever tested. Sound quality is an improvement too though it overdrives the treble a little - in that sense the Moto X and HTC One M8 sound a little better. I guess thatís usually the compromise, do you want extra volume or do you want to trade it for better sound quality.

    The headphone amp is pretty awesome. By default it sounds incredible. Bass is strong without sounding bloated with clear highs. I donít have a HTC One M8 around to compare but the GS5 amp may be even more powerful. Itís so ear-burstingly loud that it can overdrive many headphones easily so take it easy with the volume.

    Thereís a ďSound AliveĒ feature which allows you to destroy sound quality by adjusting an equalizer or by adding horrible effects like 3D or a tube amp feature. Sound Alive is off by default for a reason.

    One great thing about Galaxy Sí is that they always came with a MicroSD card slot. Even when the industry trend was to ditch the MicroSD card Samsung still stuck with this awesome feature.

    Unfortunately, the Galaxy S6 breaks this tradition by ditching the MicroSD. You have to decide, ahead of time, how much storage you need and be prepared, itís going to cost you.

    Still, the base GS6 comes with 32GB of storage which is by no means, skimpy. It does mean though that a) you canít expand the storage after the fact and b) you wonít be able to use your existing memory card unless you get an inconvenient OTG reader.

    You do get faster built-in storage on the GS6 but thatís more to benefit performance (programs load faster) rather than multimedia which doesnít typically require insanely fast speeds.

    If you like copy a lot of multimedia to and from the GS6, youíre probably disappointed that the GS6 downgrades the GS5ís USB 3.0 connector to a 2.0 one. Donít worry though, while not slow, the GS5ís 3.0 port was no faster than a good 2.0 port - that includes the GS6ís 2.0 port. So while the physical connector is a downgrade, you donít lose any performance at all.

    As a Phone:

    Incoming sound quality is very clean. The noise reduction on the GS6ís incoming is very effective.

    The earpiece is one of the loudest on the market. Ditto for the speakerphone. Both also have a volume boost feature which is very useful if youíre in a noisy environment.

    RF performance is excellent.

    Previously, each new Galaxy S would bring a larger removable battery. The original had a 1500mAh battery, next came a 1650mAh in the II, and then 2100mAh, 2600mAh while the 5 got a fairly large 2800mAh battery.

    So, itís very puzzling that the GS6/GS6 Edge bucks this trend. The 6 comes with a fixed 2550mAh (smaller than even the GS4!) while the 6 Edgeís fixed battery only matches the GS4ís 2600mAh. Donít forget that while the GS6 has many power saving features, it has a larger, and brighter screen.

    While the GS6 will last most users the day, people who were hoping that the GS6 would come with a battery that seems to last forever, like the OnePlus One, will be disappointed. Iíve seen GS6 advertising talking about how quickly it charges but to be honest, it almost feels like an apology for downsizing the battery.

    I already mentioned this earlier, but itís worth repeating. The GS6ís battery is smaller and not removable - that means the battery is going to see more charging cycles than a larger one. So, what happens when the GS6ís battery wears out and needs replacing? The GS6 doesnít have any visible screws on the outside (or in the SIM card holder slot) so Iím guessing that opening it is going to be quite an ordeal.

    Like the Note Edge, the GS6 and GS6 Edge both support the carrier aggregation (CA) and Rogers and Bell (TELUS doesnít have this feature at this time) are using. CA allows you to combine the resources of 2 LTE bands.

    On Rogers, you can combine their band 4 (up to 75Mbps download) and band 7 (up to 150Mbps) for speeds of up to 225Mbps. While you could point out that no one really needs such high speeds, Iím guessing that marketing aside, CA could be useful if youíre experiencing low speeds on both LTE bands. Indeed thatís the case in my subterranean lair, I mean basement office where I have almost no signal.

    I did notice one problem with CA. Right now, CA only works on the downlink (it doesnít combine upload speeds) and indeed, it appears that that the GS6 wonít support CA on the uplink even if Rogers and Bell add that to their networks. The problem is that on Rogers, the uplink on their Band 7 is quite a bit faster than on Band 4. However, when CA is active, it only uses the uplink on Band 4. So, if youíre uploading something large (like a bunch of photos or videos), youíll actually get slower speeds with CA. Is it carrier aggregation or carrier aggravation?

    It costs how much?!

    Another big change is the price, the top spec GS6 Edge commands a 50% price premium over the GS5. It used to be that flagships had a ceiling of around $700 CAN before subsidy. There are 3 reasons why the GS6 costs dramatically more than the GS5.

    First off, the GS6 is just packed with cutting edge hardware; a 64bit octa-core processor, stabilized lens, DDR4 RAM, at least 32GB of storage, etc. Donít forget that you now get a slick metal and glass body. Sure, itís no longer water resistant but my guess is that the GS6 costs a little more to make than a GS5 did when it first came out.

    Secondly, after several years of being around par, the US dollar has appreciated dramatically in a short period of time. After hovering around par for a few years, the Canadian dollar is now worth 25% less. Last year, it was perfectly acceptable to price a $700 USD phone at $700 CAN even though after conversion, it $700 USD is actually $735 CDN. Now, a $700 USD phone is worth $875 CDN so something has got to give. Donít forget, many of a phoneís components are priced in USD.

    Generally speaking, whether you love or hate Apple, their products usually indicate the maximum a company can charge for that type of product. There arenít a lot of Android tablets that cost more than an iPad, there arenít many PC notebooks which cost more than a MacBook Pro, that sort of thing. So, when Apple raised prices for the latest generation of iPhones it gave other companies breathing room to raise their prices too.

    Do you want to get sued?

    You know whatís funny? When Samsung introduced the original Galaxy S, it was criticized by many for being a copy of the iPhone. Since then Samsung has refined their Galaxy S line and given it its own identity.

    However, the Galaxy S6, moves back in the direction of the iPhone and embraces some of the iPhoneís strengths (metal body) and weaknesses (built-in battery, no memory card, different storage points, higher price).

    Heck, the other day I woke up and was confused for a split second when I saw the bottom of the GS6 - it really reminds me of an iPhone 6 with the speaker holes of a 5s.


    No doubt about it, the most important upgrade that the GS6 brings to the table is its wonderful glass and metal body. However, the price to pay for the new body is high; the GS6 lacks the removable battery and storage that the Galaxy S line was previously known for plus it loses itís predecessorís water resistance along with the piece of mind that it brings.

    Since it no longer has removable storage, you have to figure out how much space you need ahead of time and you have to pay an Apple-like tax to get it.

    However, the GS6 brings some other improvements including a powerful speaker that finally sounds good. The processor is quite a bit more powerful though some of that is wasted on driving the much higher resolution screen which doesnít look any sharper.

    3GB of RAM is an incremental upgrade - I doubt most users will notice it over 2GB but it does add some piece of mind from a future-proofing perspective.

    Having support for both wireless charging standards is another nice extra but you still have to go out and pick up a wireless charger if you want to use this. Then again, TELUS and Rogers are giving away wireless chargers if you pre-order and upgrade to one of their newer over-priced plans.

    In the end, the GS6 is a great phone and a worthy upgrade to the GS5. Just be aware that it also forces you to make some compromises.

    4.5 Howies out of 5.

    Metal frame
    Glass back
    Nice display
    Support for both wireless charging standards
    Powerful earpiece
    Effective OIS
    Powerful speaker
    Speaker sound quality
    Strong RF performance

    Runs hot
    might be difficult to repair
    Fixed battery
    Lower capacity battery
    No MicroSD
    Not water resistant like predecessor
    More expensive
    This article was originally published in forum thread: A Worthy Upgrade or a Compromise? Our Galaxy S6 Review started by howard View original post
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Tampa8's Avatar
      Tampa8 -
      Best article I have read on the S6 and comparing to previous models. I have an S4 and for my money the SD card and exchangeable battery (I keep two spares) makes it a phone we will keep instead of getting the S6. In addition we needed a new phone and just went with the Note 4 instead of the 6. Anyone looking at an S6 I urge to look closely at the Note 4.
      If the S6 is the road Samsung is going down my opinion is they are going to lose customers as that loses what makes them different and better - sd storage and ability to change batteries. If not for the Note 4 I would have looked closely at other companies such as HTC and compared.
    1. Frankie500's Avatar
      Frankie500 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tampa8 View Post
      Best article I have read on the S6 and comparing to previous models. I have an S4 and for my money the SD card and exchangeable battery (I keep two spares) makes it a phone we will keep instead of getting the S6. In addition we needed a new phone and just went with the Note 4 instead of the 6. Anyone looking at an S6 I urge to look closely at the Note 4.
      If the S6 is the road Samsung is going down my opinion is they are going to lose customers as that loses what makes them different and better - sd storage and ability to change batteries. If not for the Note 4 I would have looked closely at other companies such as HTC and compared.
      If pre-orders are any indication the S6 will be Samsung's best selling phone ever. I must admit, I never understood the whole battery thing and I honestly don't think the average customer cares at all. First all all most phones get you through at least a day no problem, some two or more days. We can plug our phones in at home, at work, in the car at the cafe, and use battery packs if all that isn't enough. That being said, don't most people work 8 hours a day and/or go to school and study? Where are people getting all this time to be on their phones all day long to the point battery drain is a problem? I mean I think they average person checks their phone a few times throughout the day, but other than that they are.. working! I just do not see how battery drain would be an issue for most people. You literately have to use your phone for hours at a time AND not charge it during or in between to run out of battery by the end of the day. I don't get it.
    1. JP4R's Avatar
      JP4R -
      Great review!!
    1. dragon2knight's Avatar
      dragon2knight -
      Great review, Howard! The battery will only be an issue if you plan on keeping the phone more than 2 or so years, otherwise it's a non issue. I used to believe that you needed to have a replaceable battery, but found that to be just my own paranoia about having the battery go flat. There are plenty of ways to get extended battery life these days, with external battery packs leading the way. Yes it's one more thing to carry around, but at least it works. My biggest peeve about the S6 is the all glass back....hasn't anyone learned how horrible that works out in real life yet(millions of broken iphones anyone??) Anyway, looks like Samsung is back on track to get more sales again, and having a major competitor to Apple doing well is never a bad thing for both choice and advancement.
    1. danny4u's Avatar
      danny4u -
      Good Review Hopefully People Won't Pre - Judge The Samsung Galaxy S6 Until They Have Bought And Used it!
    1. kel3ler's Avatar
      kel3ler -
      Quote Originally Posted by Frankie500 View Post
      If pre-orders are any indication the S6 will be Samsung's best selling phone ever. I must admit, I never understood the whole battery thing and I honestly don't think the average customer cares at all. First all all most phones get you through at least a day no problem, some two or more days. We can plug our phones in at home, at work, in the car at the cafe, and use battery packs if all that isn't enough. That being said, don't most people work 8 hours a day and/or go to school and study? Where are people getting all this time to be on their phones all day long to the point battery drain is a problem? I mean I think they average person checks their phone a few times throughout the day, but other than that they are.. working! I just do not see how battery drain would be an issue for most people. You literately have to use your phone for hours at a time AND not charge it during or in between to run out of battery by the end of the day. I don't get it.
      I'm not so much concerned with replacing the battery during the day. I want to be able to replace it when it no longer holds a charge. If people want to replace their phones after a year or so when the battery craps out, fine (if you consider a $650-850 device disposable). But I don't upgrade to a new phone that often. The alternative is to pay a big replacement fee plus be without the phone for some time. I am on my third extended capacity battery for my old Samsung Galaxy S2, which has served me well. I awaited the S6 to upgrade, but the built-in battery is a deal killer. I'll see what the S6 Plus looks like, or else I'll go with a Note 4 or an LG G4. But in my book, Samsung screwed the pooch on the S6.
    1. Verhouzen's Avatar
      Verhouzen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tampa8 View Post
      Best article I have read on the S6 and comparing to previous models. I have an S4 and for my money the SD card and exchangeable battery (I keep two spares) makes it a phone we will keep instead of getting the S6. In addition we needed a new phone and just went with the Note 4 instead of the 6. Anyone looking at an S6 I urge to look closely at the Note 4.
      If the S6 is the road Samsung is going down my opinion is they are going to lose customers as that loses what makes them different and better - sd storage and ability to change batteries. If not for the Note 4 I would have looked closely at other companies such as HTC and compared.
      I agree with everything you said. I just bought a Note 4 after waiting for the S6 and am very happy with my choice. I LOVE the Note 4 more than any phone I have ever had. Hoping Samsung does not screw up the line.
    1. mackie08's Avatar
      mackie08 -
      Detailed review with comparison. This is what I'm looking for. Thanks dude!