Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Security updates come to an end

£600
Price when reviewed

Samsung Galaxy S6: Display

Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge have a 5.1in Quad HD Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 and a phenomenal pixel density of 576ppi, but while we’re still not convinced this sort of resolution is necessary on a screen so small (it’s only useful if you make extensive use of a Samsung Gear VR headset), there’s absolutely no doubt that it delivers an incredibly sharp image.

Colour accuracy, brightness and contrast, however, are more important than sheer pixel count, and on this front, the S6 delivers a knockout blow. In manual brightness mode, the screen ramps up to only 347cd/m2, which is what we’d expect of an AMOLED display. Typically, this sort of panel is a lot less bright than its IPS rivals, which measure at anything between 450cd/m2 and 600cd/m2.

Unlike other manufacturers’ AMOLED screens, however, Samsung’s does go up a little higher than this. It’s a hidden trick that you only get to see if you enable the phone’s auto-brightness mode and take the phone out it bright sunlight. I simulated this by shining a torch at the light sensor above the screen, and saw the maximum brightness reading soar to 560cd/m2. That’s an improvement on the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge, which reached just below 500cd/m2 in the same test, and should mean the screen is a lot more readable when the sun is out.

samsung_galaxy_s6_front_16x9

Turn down the brightness slider to minimum and white tones on the screen will dim to 1.92cd/m2. That’s much lower than the 5.84cd/m2 the iPhone 6 is capable of, and means the S6 won’t blind you when you’re using it in the dark. Contrast is perfect, which helps movies, TV programmes and photos really pop out of the screen.

What’s most impressive about the S6’s screen, though, is its outstanding colour reproduction. In Basic (sRGB) mode it reproduces 98.5% of the sRGB colour gamut. And it’s highly colour-accurate, too, with an average Delta E of 1.47 and a maximum of 4.13. In AMOLED Photo mode (equivalent to a professional monitor’s Adobe RGB mode), it covers 98.7% of the colour gamut, and gained average colour-accuracy scores of 1.57 and a maximum of 4.29.

These are the sorts of scores we’re more used to seeing on professional monitors than a smartphone – it’s a truly stunning display.

Samsung Galaxy S6: Specs and performance

In terms of the performance-critical elements, Samsung is really pushing the boat out. Both the S6 and the S6 Edge employ its octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC, which comprises twin quad-core CPUs (one running at a frequency of 2.1GHz and one at 1.5GHz) and a Mali-T760 GPU. There’s 3GB of RAM to accompany this, and storage runs to 32GB, 64Gb or 128GB on the S6 and 64GB or 128GB on the S6 Edge.

It’s a lineup that makes for a very snappy-feeling phone. Nothing we threw at it caused it to slow down significantly, from hefty web pages to browsing Google Maps – everything feels supremely responsive, and even under load it doesn’t get too warm.

geek_bench_3_single-core_chartbuilder_2

geekbench_3_multi-core_chartbuilder_3

It outperforms most of its rivals in the benchmarks, too, still going strong nearly a year since its original launch, outstripping many more newly released models. Single- and multi-core results in Geekbench 3 of 1,427 and 4,501 remain among the best we’ve seen, only falling behind the Apple iPhone 6s in the single-core test.

It beats the iPhone 6s in the multi-core part of that test, however, and it’s only in the native resolution GFXBench gaming benchmark that it lags behind Apple’s current flagships with an average frame rate of 38fps in the onscreen test and 23fps in the offscreen test, which is run at a lower resolution of 1,080 x 1,920.

gfxbench_manhattan_offscreen_1080p_chartbuilder

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is clearly a fast phone, but the Exynos 7420 is about more than sheer speed. Just like Intel’s new Broadwell generation of CPUs, it’s a 14nm part, which should mean greater efficiency and better battery life. And with Samsung reducing the size of the battery by 200mAh to 2,600mAh, it needs to deliver.

In testing it did just that. Playing a 720p video in flight mode with the screen set to a brightness of 120cd/m2, we saw capacity fall at a rate of 6% – a figure bested only by the iPhone 6 Plus. With the screen off, the S6 used up its battery capacity at 2.8% – less impressive, but that still places it among the most frugal smartphones we’ve tested.

As with most high-end smartphones, the S6 struggles to keep up this performance when playing games, with capacity diving at a much faster rate. After running the GFXBench battery test, which loops a 3D scene at half brightness for around half an hour, then extrapolates to provide a total projected runtime, the S6 hit 134 minutes. While not great, this result is fairly typical of most high-powered smartphones we see.

Even then, though, we found that on a normal day – using the phone intensively on our morning and evening commute and more lightly during the day – the S6 would normally have capacity to spare at bedtime.

Samsung Galaxy S6 - home button

As if to compensate for the lack of microSD expansion, the S6 also comes with a “new type of flash storage”. According to Samsung’s marketing materials, this is a fusion of the eMMC used in smartphones and tablets and the SSDs deployed in laptops.

Dubbed UFS (Universal Flash Storage) 2, the new storage technology employs a serial interface instead of the 8-bit parallel interface used by the eMMC storage typically used in rival smartphones, and this boosts performance dramatically. According to Samsung, UFS 2 can carry out 19,000 IOPS (input/ouput operations per second) for random reads, which is “2.7 times faster” than eMMC 5.

It’s certainly very quick. Testing with the Androbench app, we saw sequential read and write speeds of 319MB/sec and 142MB/sec and 4K read and write speeds of 71MB/sec and 19MB/sec – impressive, and much faster than the HTC One M9’s performance in these tests.

Other specifications are a touch more humdrum, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Cat6 4G, NFC and Bluetooth 4 all present and correct. At close range, a large file copied to the S6’s internal storage at around 12MB/sec, which is about the same speed as we saw with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

The phone also retains most of the core features of the Galaxy S5, with a barometer, and heart rate monitor on the rear of the device, plus wireless charging and ANT+ compatibility. What’s new is support for both the WPC (Qi) and PMA wireless charging standards.

And Samsung has even found time to upgrade the fingerprint sensor. You no longer need to swipe your finger over the button, which we’ve found to be quite awkward with previous Galaxy S handsets. Instead, it’s now possible to simply rest a digit on the sensor, just as with Apple’s iPhone 6, 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3

Samsung Galaxy S6 specifications

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge specifications

vs HTC One M9 specifications

ProcessorOctacore (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Samsung Exynos SoCOctacore (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Samsung Exynos SoCOctacore (quad 2GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC
RAM3GB LPDDR43GB LPDDR43GB
Screen size5.1in5.1in5in
Screen resolution1,440 x 2560, 576ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)1,440 x 2560, 576ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)1,080 x 1,920, 441ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)
Screen typeSuper AMOLEDSuper AMOLEDSuper LCD3 (IPS)
Front camera5MP5MP4MP
Rear camera16MP (f/1.9, phase detect autofocus, OIS)16MP (f/1.9, phase detect autofocus, OIS)20.7MP (f/2.2)
FlashDual LEDDual LEDDual LED
GPSYesYesYes
CompassYesYesYes
Storage64/128GB (UFS 2 flash)32/64/128GB (UFS 2 flash)32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)NoNoMicroSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac (2x2 MIMO)802.11ac (2x2 MIMO)802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP, apt-X, ANT+Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, apt-X
NFCYesYesYes
Wireless data4G, Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)4G, Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)4G
Size (WDH)71 x 6.8 x 143mm70 x 7 x 142mm70 x 9.6 x 145mm
Weight138g132g157g
Operating systemAndroid 5 LollipopAndroid 5 Lollipop with Sense 7
Battery size2,550mAh2,600mAh2,840mAh

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