Initial Thoughts

With the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge Samsung claimed that they wanted to completely rethink how they designed and made smartphones. On the surface, it seems that Samsung has delivered on this promise as the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are unlikely any other Galaxy S phone they have made previously. There is no removable battery, no microSD slot, or even a removable back cover. I would’ve liked to see a microSD slot, but I personally wouldn’t be affected by being limited to 32GB of internal storage. The removable battery issue is a bit concerning for me though, as it’s likely that disassembling this phone to replace the battery will require extensive use of a heat gun to loosen glue that may not adhere properly when reassembled. The materials are now aluminum and glass, which dramatically affect in-hand feel. I definitely like the move to the aluminum and glass design for the improved look and feel of the phone, but the use of the glass back is a bit annoying as the phones have a tendency to slide off pretty much any table. The edge variant of the phone also feels quite sharp in the hand and almost too thin to hold, but this is generally quite subjective.

Outside of design, there is a lot to talk about in the SoC and display. The Exynos 7420 SoC appears to be class-leading in performance, although there is the obvious question of power consumption that still has to be answered. Samsung’s first 14LPE SoC seems promising, although we’ve yet to validate whether big.LITTLE is more efficient than when we last tested it in the Exynos 5433. The GPU is generally quite close to the Adreno 430, with about a 10-20% advantage in performance depending upon the workload, although at the same clock speed it probably wouldn’t have any advantage. The 1440p display can also reduce performance compared to a 1080p display.

Speaking of displays, Samsung has integrated an incredible display into both versions of the Galaxy S6. I’m really blown away at how far AMOLED has come in the past few years, as the Galaxy S6 is one of the best displays we’ve tested for luminance and overall color accuracy. The only real problems I can see are color shifts with viewing angles, and white point tending to be a bit green depending upon the unit we’re looking at. There are some edge-specific issues, namely uneven luminance and odd color shifting towards green hues on white at the edge of the display. Other than this, the display of the Galaxy S6 is relatively perfect with its dark, inky blacks and amazing color.

Obviously an SoC and display aren’t the only issues to discuss in a smartphone, but given the limited time that we’ve had with the device this was all that could be tested. We hope to have our full review for both devices completed in the near future, and to be able to provide the full picture of the Galaxy S6 line at that time. Pre-orders for the US Galaxy S6 variants will begin on March 27th, and the phone will go on sale on April 10th throughout the US with 32, 64, and 128 GB SKUs in Black Sapphire, White Pearl, and Gold Platinum. The S6 edge and S6 will be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and US Cellular, but on Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS only the S6 will be available.

GPU Performance and Display
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  • cknobman - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Higher resolution screen.
    More RAM
    Smaller non removable battery

    I'm scared to see the battery life benchmarks.

    For me the performance does not seem that great. Its OK but not class leading necessarily.

    Battery degradation is my main concern. My wifes S5 battery was so bad after 1.5 years it would not last 3 hours. At least with the S5 we could easily buy a replacement and get her phone back to lasting a day without a charge.

    This new S6 means users will be screwed when the battery goes bad.
  • cknobman - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    I meantt S4 for my wifes phone, sorry typo.
  • blanarahul - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Impressed so far. But like you said I am worried about battery life. Samsung has usually done well in this regard but I am still quite skeptical. After all, the best SoC and display are useless if the phone doesn't last even 1 day of moderate use 1 year down the line. We really need more companies to follow THL, Motorola's lead and put very large batteries in phones.
  • lilmoe - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    People need to put into account that Android 5.0.x is significantly worst in battery life than 4.4.x. It's only being fixed in 5.1.
    They'll have to do another battery test for the GS5 with the Lollipop update then compare it to the GS6.

    That said, I'm hearing that Nexus devices are getting anywhere between 20-50% more battery life with 5.1 with different use cases. So I believe it's save to assume that the GS6 will get better in a couple of months when it gets the update.
  • robertkoa - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Honestly I doubt if the Physics and heat created ( wasted energy) by all the Pixels will be overcome by Software.
    And we haven't seen the real world on a Network usage reports from users yet which are always lower SOTs than web scripts and Tests.
    It's thin and beautiful and a little underpowered like Alpha was...
    Some of us need thicker Note-like 8mm thick devices but in various screen sizes like Note 5 and Note 5 Compact.

    To me 8mm can still be beautiful especially with a 4.7" screen and 3000 Mah Battery.
    No miracles at 6.7mm or 6.8mm thin AND the Camera is protruding too far IMO ...fragile.
    Still Samsung did extremely well on these and will sell huge and if the Camera is great I may even get one lol.
  • lilmoe - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    I'm not one of the supporters of unnecessarily huge resolutions on screens that small. The GS6's hardware as a whole is faster and more power efficient than the GS5, but yes, i believe it would have been even faster, more fluid and more power efficient if they stuck with 1080p on that higher quality, more power efficient panel.

    That said, it's undeniable that software plays a huge role in battery life. That's a fact. So, i believe we need to be fair in our comparisons.
  • blue_urban_sky - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    It just struck me and I'm probably wrong but if you have a brightness level / area then the power requirement is separate to the number of pixels you have. The difference then would be the power to drive the computing needed put things on the display and that would be effected by software.
  • gyrocoptic - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    You are not wrong. For some reason people seem to believe that 100 x 10W light bulbs use more power than 10 x 100W light bulbs. The S6 display is actually more energy efficient than the S5 display at the same brightness. The only battery concern would be that the GPU has to render a higher resolution image if, and only if, a game supports 2k resolution AND at the same frame rate. This is a highly unlikely scenario. In normal use the S6 will provide the best display ever seen on a smartphone at a power consumption equal to or less than that of the S5.
  • lilmoe - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    This perception that only games rendered at 1440p affect performance and battery life is very far from the truth. Even the simplest things as text and UI rendering at unnecessarily high resolutions have a dramatic effect, not to mention Web browsing.
    To make it short, take a look at the Dell XPS 13 review and look at the dramatic difference in battery life between both SKUs. Smartphones are basically computers with GSM modems. I don't see how the same won't apply.
    The GPU is NOT the only part doing extra work, the platform as a whole takes quite a significant hit.
  • jospoortvliet - Sunday, March 29, 2015 - link

    With LCD higher resolutions make it harder to reach the same brightness due to more circuitry blocking light. This harms the DELL XPS 13. I am not sure if this is the case with amoled - it has no backlight but pixels give light by themselves. It might very well not Make a difference so the battery impact will be far less than on LCD.

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