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Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Gone but not forgotten

Our Rating :
£135.57 from
Price when reviewed : £600
inc VAT (SIM-free)

The Galaxy S6 was once the Android standard bearer, but its legacy lives on

The Galaxy S6 is a big improvement on the S5, with the glass and metal design bringing the phone up to the quality we think its price demands. That’s not to say that everything is perfect: as much as we love the phone’s metal design, its smooth, rounded corners make it feel extremely slippery to hold, and it constantly felt like it was about to fall out of our hand.

It doesn’t help that the S6 has a glass back either, as this provides very little purchase when you’re using the phone single-handed. The S6 Edge, on the other hand, skirts around this issue by having a thinner, more angular frame to accommodate its curved screen, making it much easier and more comfortable to grip. We never thought we’d miss Samsung’s faux-leather back panels, but we did like the amount grip they provided.

The phone’s rounded edges also have the strange effect of making the S6 appear considerably fatter in your hand compared to the S6 Edge, despite the fact the S6 is actually 0.2mm slimmer, measuring 6.8mm compared to the 7mm on the Edge. It’s a minor quibble, but it nevertheless serves as a reminder that the S6 Edge feels like the more premium product.

There’s not much in it in terms of weight, as the S6 weighs 138g while the S6 Edge weighs 132g. Either way, both trump the HTC One M9 and LG G4, as the One M9 measures 9.6mm thick and weighs a heftier 157g while the G4 measures 8.9mm and weighs 155g. Some will no doubt prefer the added bulk of the One M9 and G4, particularly if you’re a little nervous about dropping it, but the S6 definitely feels more comfortable in your pocket.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Display

Fortunately, the S6 makes up for its small design issues with its stunning 5.1in Super AMOLED display. With a resolution of 2,560×1,440, the phone has the highest pixel density (577ppi) of any handset, beating the LG G3, which has the same resolution and a larger 5.5in screen.

As we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s AMOLED displays, colour accuracy and contrast were through the roof, as our colour calibrator returned an sRGB colour gamut score of 100% and a contrast ratio of Infinity:1. Likewise, blacks were a perfect 0.00cd/m2, so text and black backgrounds are as deep and inky as they come.

Screen brightness was a rather more contentious issue, as Samsung claims the screen can reach as high as 600cd/m2, which is higher than even most LCD screens are capable of producing. The HTC One M9, for instance, managed just 478.50cd/m2 on its highest brightness setting. AMOLED screens, on the other hand, are usually much dimmer, and our usual maximum brightness tests were very much in line with what we’d normally expect to see from this type of screen technology.

Here, we measured a peak brightness of 346.49cd/m2, which is nigh on identical to our readings from the S6 Edge. This is fine for using the phone outside, but it still pales in comparison to what an LCD can achieve. However, it seems Samsung has finally addressed this issue of outdoor usability, as our live brightness readings shot up to a massive 577cd/m2 when we took the phone outside and switched back to automatic brightness.

This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of brightness level on an AMOLED phone, and it really helps boost the clarity of the screen and keeps colours looking punchy when you’re out and about. This will be good news for anyone who travels a lot or primarily uses their phone outside, as it effectively combines the best features of both AMOLED and LCD screen technology. We like that it’s only available on Auto mode as well, as this should help keep the screen’s power drain in check so you don’t end up running out of battery so often.

Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Android 6.0 and TouchWiz

Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on the S6 was more streamlined than ever before, with fewer pre-installed apps and widgets cluttering up your home screens. In fact, there were only two pages of pre-installed apps when we first turned it on, which will be welcome news to anyone who’s suffered through the mountains of Samsung bloatware it used to install on its previous smartphones.

But that’s enough about that, as Samsung has finally started rolling out Android 6.0 for its current flagship smartphones. It’s taken a while to get here, but the update is finally available to download free of charge. The interface has been brought up-to-date with some smart new icons and more use of white in menus, you can also switch the colour palette easily with new themes.

It includes all the latest features, such as Google’s clever Now on Tap, which scans whatever’s on your phone’s screen and then provides useful additional information. For example, scan an email asking if you’d like to go and see a film that night and Now on Tap will automatically find the nearest screenings. There’s also the hugely improved permissions system, which asks for permission to access your phone’s system when required and lets you refuse access to individual parts (such as the camera) while still running the app.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Android TouchWiz multiscreen

Regardless of whether you have Android 5.0 or 6.0, you’ll still find apps for S Health, S Planner, S Voice and Samsung’s Smart Manager apps pre-installed, as well as Samsung’s Galaxy App store and Microsoft’s OneDrive and OneNote apps, but others such as Skype and WhatsApp are mere placeholder icons that act as shortcuts to the full download page on the Google Play Store, freeing up a bit more space on your phone while providing a gentle reminder about other useful services you might want to install. All of Microsoft’s apps can be removed from the home screen and disabled in the app tray; this makes the icons disappear, although the apps are still technically installed and are still listed under Apps in the Settings menu.

Buy preowned Samsung Galaxy S6

Of course, as the screen on the S6 is flat, you won’t find any of the extra features that the S6 Edge has, such as People Edge, the Information Stream or the Night Clock. To be honest, none of these are really must-have features anyway, so you’re certainly not missing out on anything if you’d rather save the extra money.

Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Battery life

We only run our battery tests at 170cd/m2, which is just over half brightness when auto’s turned off, but you should still get a full working day’s use out of the S6 regardless of how much you use it. The S6’s 2,550mAh battery isn’t quite as large as the Galaxy S5’s 2,800mAh battery, or indeed the one in the S6 Edge, which is 50mAh bigger, but we still managed a respectable 13h 37m in our continuous video playback test.

Admittedly, we were a little disappointed it couldn’t match the S5’s 17-and-a-half-hour battery life, or even the S6 Edge, which managed another two hours under the same conditions. However, this is still pretty good compared to the rest of the competition, as the HTC One M9 only lasted just over 9 hours, the LG G4 just two minutes shy of 12 hours and the iPhone 6 last just under 13 hours.

Of course, some will be upset that the battery is no longer removable, but thankfully Samsung’s added in wireless charging for extra convenience. It supports both the WPC1.1 and PMA 1.0 standards, so it should work on practically any charging mat. There’s also a fast charging mode, with 10 minutes on the mains providing four hours of use.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Performance

With a brand-new 64-bit Samsung Exynos 7420 CPU inside, the S6 is very snappy indeed. The performance increase over the S5, in particular, is impressive, as apps load in a heartbeat with hardly any signs of lag or delay. This is partly down to the processor’s 14nm fabrication process, which means it will run cooler and use less power than the S5’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip, or indeed any other Qualcomm-based rival, such as the One M9 and LG G4. Along with the S6 Edge, it’s the first smartphone chip to use this fabrication process, so it should maintain a comfortable lead over the rest of the competition throughout the rest of the year.

The processor also uses ARM’s big.LITTLE technology, as it has four cores running at 2.1GHz for high-intensity tasks and another four running at a slightly slower 1.5GHz for more low-powered jobs, which should help save battery life when the phone doesn’t need to run at full speed. Finally, the chip is 64-bit, making the most of the 64-bit Android 5.0 OS.

Either way, the S6 is considerably faster than almost any other Android phone out there, as it managed a huge score of 1,427 in the single-core test of Geekbench 3 and 4,501 in the multi-core test. Both of these scores are way out in front of the HTC One M9, which scored 945 and 3,649 respectively, and even further ahead of the LG G4, whose slower hexa-core processor only managed 692 and 2,547. In practice, though, we’re talking mere milliseconds of difference in app loading times, so it’s not something you’re likely to notice on a day to day basis.

Buy preowned Samsung Galaxy S6

Web browsing speed was also largely identical, at least between the Galaxy S6 and One M9. For instance, in Futuremark’s Peacekeeper browser test, the Galaxy S6’s score of 1,257 was only a fraction faster than the One M9’s score of 1,257, translating into roughly similar performance when we browsed the same websites on both phones side by side. Pages loaded in an instant, and scrolling was judder-free. The LG G4 wasn’t quite as smooth, which was reflected in its slower Peacekeeper score of just 818, but it’s still more than acceptable for a top-end handset.

The S6 was back out in front when it came to our graphics benchmarks, though, as its Mali-T760 GPU produced an outstanding 1,429 frames in the offscreen Manhattan test in GFX Bench GL, which renders at 1,080p. This translates to roughly 23fps, which is impressive considering how demanding the test is. By way of comparison, the One M9 managed 1,220 frames (roughly 20fps), while the G4 lagged behind with 921 frames (or 15fps). However, much like its day-to-day performance, the S6’s extra horsepower is likely to go unappreciated by the vast majority of users, as there are currently very few games which require this much speed.

Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Camera

Samsung has used the same 16-megapixel camera here as in the S6 Edge. This is the same resolution as on the S5, but this time around there’s a brighter f/1.9 aperture lens, which Samsung claims lets in 34% more light than the f/2.2 lens on the S5. There’s also Optical Image Stabilisation to reduce blur in low-light shooting, and a double clock of the home button/ fingerprint sensor will automatically fire up the camera in less than 0.7ms, ensuring you’ll never miss an important shot again.

Just like the S6 Edge, we were very pleased with the quality of our test photos, as colours were bright and vibrant with plenty of fine detail on show. There were a few patches of bright sky that it couldn’t quite handle in some of our shots, but turning on HDR mode instantly fixed it. What’s more, HDR left the rest of the picture intact, keeping the high level of detail and accurate colours we saw in Auto mode without making it seem unnaturally harsh or artificial.

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera test

^ Our test photos looked great on the Galaxy S6. The only overexposed area was a bright patch of sky to the far left of the picture.

^ Fortunately, HDR sorted this out in no time at all and gave the surrounding clouds even more shadow detail

Some new modes have been introduced as well, including Virtual Shot. This lets you move the camera around an object so that you’ve got a 3D shot you can rotate around later. There’s also a new time-lapse setting alongside the returning 240fps slow-motion mode. We’ll be testing these out in the coming weeks, so we’ll update this review once we’ve had a chance to test them properly.


Samsung no longer provides a microSD card slot for the S6, instead relying on the phone’s internal storage only. While this may make the handset more expensive, we can understand why Samsung has gone down this route. Without it, Samsung can use an all-encompassing chassis which not only makes the phone a more sturdy product, but it also means you don’t need a cheap flap to cover it up on the outside.

Buy preowned Samsung Galaxy S6

With 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions available you should be able to find the version that matches your storage requirements. Just bear in mind that the S6 Edge doesn’t have a 32GB version, as the base model starts at 64GB.

Wireless, sensors and mobile payments

You get all of the latest wireless technologies, including LTE Cat6 (up to 300Mbit/s), 802.11ac Wi-Fi (up to 620Mbit/s), and Bluetooth 4.1 (LE). There are also all of the sensors you’d expect, including an accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope and heart rate monitor.

As with the S5, Samsung has incorporated a fingerprint reader into the home button, only this time you simply hold your thumb on the button rather than swipe across it. It’s much more accurate and faster to respond too, so there’s no reason not to secure the phone with a digit.

As well as being used to unlock the handset, it will also be used with Samsung’s upcoming mobile payments system, Samsung Pay, which will compete with Apple Pay. We’re told that this will launch later in the year for people in the US and South Korea, but we don’t have a UK launch date yet.

Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Verdict

There’s no doubting that the S6 is a much better phone, both in terms of features and build quality than the original S5. It also out-performs the HTC One M9 and LG G4, and gives iPhone 6 users something to look at. However, as good as the S6 is, we don’t really like the way it feels in our hand and there’s one phone that just demands more attention: the S6 Edge. Identical in features to the S6, bar the curved screen, the Edge is not only more attractive, but it also has better battery life and slightly better performance, leaving the normal S6 feeling a bit lacklustre by comparison.

While the S6 is cheaper SIM-free, especially after its recent price cut from £600 to just £400. If we bought the S6, we’d constantly be regretting that we didn’t spend that little bit extra on the S6 Edge.

Buy preowned Samsung Galaxy S6

In this sense, it would almost have been better if Samsung had just released the S6 Edge and said ‘This is the S6’, instead of having this flat option that sits awkwardly underneath the top phone. However, we understand that not everyone wants to pay through the roof for a fancy display. If you’re not bothered about the curve and want to save money, the Galaxy S6 is still one of the best Android phones you can buy today, so for that reason, it wins a Recommended award.

ProcessorQuad-core 2.1GHz & quad-core 1.5GHz Samsung Exynos 7420
Screen size5.1in
Screen resolution2,560×1,440
Screen typeSuper AMOLED
Front camera5-megapixel
Rear camera16-megapixel
Storage32GB / 64GB / 128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)N/A
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.0
Battery size2,550mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£600
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £43-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
Part codeSM-G920F

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