Samsung Galaxy S6 review

Now this is what we were waiting for.

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For

  • Great camera
  • Strong design
  • Excellent audio

Against

  • A little pricey
  • Battery not great

Poor sales of the Galaxy S5 meant that a brilliant new Galaxy S6 has to happen through a massive reboot… and that’s precisely what’s happened here.

When it came to the re-tooling, the Bond-esque title of 'Project Zero' was created, blank sheets of paper were pulled out left, right and centre, and presumably someone drew a rather nice phone on one of them, as that's what we've got here.

Whether it's the improved camera, the metal-and-glass chassis, the oodles of power involved (from Samsung’s own octa-core Exynos chipset running at the head) or just the fact TouchWiz is less childish, Samsung's got a lot right here.

And it has to, as the competition hasn't been standing still. The iPhone 6 set a mark in the sand that Samsung was desperate to match, and HTC has marched on with its plans to keep making the world's most beautiful handsets.

Samsung's pushed hard in every category, giving market-leading technology everywhere that you look with this phone. This does mean the cost is a little higher, but when you're getting something this smooth, it's easy to justify spending that little bit more each month.

Nothing to see here

One of the best things about the Samsung Galaxy S6 is there's nothing big to shout about. We're not going to harp on about the heart rate sensor or gesture-based control of the phone - no, this time it's all about getting the basics right.

The design has been completely overhauled to make it feel like it's worth the high premium Samsung is commanding, the camera has been stripped of the pointless modes and now just takes good pictures when you want it, and even the music player is more subtle to simply get the tunes you want into your ears at the best possible quality.

While we do love some of the crazier ideas here at T3 (who doesn't want an e-ink screen on the back of a phone, eh?) it's more important to get the basics right, and that's just what's happened here.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bland-looking phone though. The design of the Galaxy S6 is completely new in some ways, but also has flavours of older phones. The lozenge-style home button makes the front look like a Galaxy S4, although the screen is a lot more prominent on the front of the device.

Every button has been upgraded to deliver a solid click, which really helps improve the image of the handset when you're messing around with it. The power button on the left is just where we wanted it to be, and the volume keys on the other side deliver a satisfying travel when you're looking to boost the noise.

The screen on the Samsung Galaxy S6 is something to shout about, as it's got the sharpest display on the market. At QHD resolution in a 5.1-inch space, we're in love with the jaw-dropping visuals this thing can deliver. It's actually at the point of TOO much tech (although we'll never admit that's a thing) as sometimes it's hard to see what the crammed in pixels actually deliver.

However Samsung's Super AMOLED technology more than makes up for that, offering brilliant visuals thanks to an infinite contrast ratio and really rich colours.

Snapping happy

If we're talking about design, we should really pick up on the camera, as it's one of the most advanced we've seen on a mainstream phone. At 16MP it's not going to rival something like the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41MP sensor, but it doesn't need to.

The S6's snapper is insanely good at taking low light photos, even better than the 4MP Ultrapixel of the HTC One M8, which is impressive given the amount of detail you get. The shutter speed is also really cool, allowing you to get some great snaps of fast moving objects.

The Pro mode is one that caught our eye, as it allows you a lot of control for those that like to tinker to get the perfect shot. A particular favourite is the ability to manually set the focal length, as even the best autofocuses on cameras (and the S6 has a pretty good one) can misinterpret what you want.

4K, slow motion, fast recording are all there too, offering up some seriously good tricks for all kinds of videographers too, so this a camera that's almost completely got you covered.

The camera module itself does protrude a little bit from the back of the achingly thin device, a consequence of having to choose between style and function, so we're a little worried the lens will get scratched over time, despite Samsung trying to reassure the world that it's been covered with some pretty strong glass.

Power problems

If we were to point to a hole in the Galaxy S6's armour, battery life would be it. The phone has slimmed down, got a better design, taken away the removable battery pack and ultimately lost space for the power.

As a result, it can only just about last the day in normal conditions, which isn't really long enough for a market-leading smartphone. It's not going to just turn to dust in your hands daily, and for many tasks it's as good as the next phone, but the LG G3 and the Sony Xperia Z3 both offer much longer-lasting power packs.

If you're after a phone that can really take anything you can throw at it and show it to you in a lovely way, the Galaxy S6 is it. Whether it's the secret high resolution audio mode, the powerful video player or the ability to control your TV, this is a phone that can do it all and do it well.

The music player has been refined to the point where there aren't a load of gimmicks - you can't trace your finger through a square to get a recommended 'mood-based' playlist any more, which makes us sad - but does focus on giving the best audio experience it can. AdaptSound is a real favourite: go through a series of beep tests (listening for sounds, not performing shuttles up and down a lab) and the phone will work out how good your headphones / ears are and adjust the sound accordingly.

Video also looks amazing thanks to the combination of QHD resolution and Super AMOLED technology, and with Samsung's excellent format compatibility there's very little it won't play, so you can rest assured that three hour train journey will just whizz by.

And if you're at home and can't find the remote, then Samsung's chucked two remote control apps on the phone - although they're oddly the same thing. Both Peel TV and Smart Remote are built on the same app and offer identical experiences - so it really boils down to whichever colour scheme you like the most.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is a phone that the brand should rightly be proud of, and it clearly is. Why else would you release the same phone again but with curved edges in the snappily-named Galaxy S6 Edge?

The design and the power of the 'normal' S6 are the real winners here, and offer a phone that really appeals to the masses and tech-fiends alike. The loss of the microSD slot might irk some users who like being able to plug loads more storage into their phones, but with a 128GB option on board there's something for them too.

The Galaxy S6 is a device that we didn't think would be possible when the plastic fantastic S5 appeared, so we're glad that Samsung has been brave enough to reboot the brand in this way. There's still some headroom for making an even better Galaxy S7 though - the battery could definitely do with a bit of a boost - but for 2015 the S6 is a phone that's set the bar, and set it high.