Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

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Gizmag reviews the better-looking version of the best phone you can buy, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

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In our review, we picked the Galaxy S6 as the best smartphone you can buy today. But how does its curved-screen sibling fit into the picture? Join Gizmag, as we walk you through the minor – but stunning – differences in the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge.

The Galaxy S6 edge is almost exactly the same phone as the Galaxy S6. Nearly all their specs are the same, and we have the same outstanding display, performance, camera and glass/aluminum build. It does have a slightly larger battery, which leads to slightly longer battery life (in our video streaming test, it dropped 10 percent per hour, compared to 11 percent per hour for the regular Galaxy S6).

We aren't going to repeat ourselves too much, so when you're done here we'd recommend you hop on over to our Galaxy S6 review for a more in-depth look at the features that are identical on both phones.

The big difference with the Galaxy S6 edge is its dual curved screen, or, as Samsung calls it, "Edge Screen." Both sides of that 5.1-in display taper off and bleed into the sides of the phone.

If this sounds familiar, that's because Samsung did something similar with last year's Galaxy Note Edge. Only with the Note version, the screen only curved off on one side, leading to this odd asymmetrical look (it also had a sharper curve than the GS6 edge has). Samsung was also selling the Note's Edge Display as more of a functional advantage, for things like launching apps, viewing notifications and scrolling news feeds. It was a tough sell.

With the Galaxy S6 edge, it's more about looks. And we're just fine with that.

When companies try to sell customers on the supposed practical advantages of curved displays, whether in TVs or smartphones, we find that it rings a little hollow. It's a bit like a solution in search of a problem. Based on our experience, today's curved screens have some novelty appeal, but aren't going to change your life in any significant way.

Galaxy S6 edge (bottom), beneath the Galaxy S6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

So we have no problem when companies cut to the chase and use curved screens to do one simple thing: make their products look cool. There's no shame in that, so why not embrace it? Samsung has done more of that this time around, and the result is a stunning smartphone.

When you're holding the Galaxy S6 edge, the curves feel smooth in hand – taking an already slick design to a new level of polish. But the screen itself also looks incredibly sharp, with that dense Quad HD display (right now, the best phone display in the business) jumping out even more when it tapers off into those sloped edges.

The Galaxy S6 edge is unapologetic mobile eye candy taken to the extreme. If you've ever wondered what the point of curved displays is, this is the best answer we've found. When they look this good, that's all the justification you need.

Samsung hasn't, however, completely given up on trying to turn the curved display into something practical and innovative. You do have the option of swiping over from the edge to launch shortcuts to message or call your favorite contacts. It also lets you use the edge as a color-coded notification light (it can glow a specific color for each contact while the phone is flipped upside down). The edge can even scroll social media alerts or turn into a little nighttime desk clock when the phone is sleeping.

We tried these features and they were all … fine. Did we see much of an advantage over using it like we'd use any other phone? Not really. Will you find them more useful? Eh, it's possible.

Either way, these features are all optional and can easily be turned off. And even if you're like us and find the "practical" aspect to be a little forced, we still think the phone's design is good enough to (potentially) justify the added cost.

That's the big question we're looking at here. Do you go with the Galaxy S6 – basically the same phone minus curved edges – for US$100 less? Or do you hand over that extra Benjamin for a little more visual and visceral appeal?

With the Note Edge, we found that premium hard to justify – mostly because the phone didn't look much (if at all) better than the regular Galaxy Note 4. It also had a smaller screen than the Note 4, with the Edge Display isolated from normal app content (on the Galaxy S6 edge, meanwhile, your app content uses the curve, which we think looks much better).

With the Galaxy S6 version, we think the Edge variant is worth considering. And, again, it simply comes down to gadget sex appeal.

If you're looking to get the most practical bang for your buck, then the standard Galaxy S6 is the one to buy. But if you're drawn to bold and beautiful designs, then the Galaxy S6 edge is going to do its best to seduce you, as it perches on the store shelf next to its flat-screened sibling. It doesn't have much (if any) more substance, but some of us don't mind paying a little extra for something that looks a little sharper, feels a little smoother.

As long as you know that's what your extra $100 is getting you – and not some meaningful innovation that's going to change how you use a smartphone – then we say roll up your sleeves and dig in. Both phones' features make them the best phones you can buy, but the Edge stands alone as (probably) the best-looking smartphone we've seen.

The Galaxy S6 edge launches this Friday, April 10, for around $750 full retail (that part varies from carrier to carrier) and $300 on-contract. Just be sure to jump into Gizmag's standard Galaxy S6 review for a much deeper look at both phones' features.

Product page: Samsung

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