Introduction

Choose one word to describe the Samsung Galaxy S6. Gorgeous. Powerful. Special. Different. Thank you. That will do. Now, which of these will be true for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and does not start with a p? Exactly.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is not the next big thing. It's "project zero". The reboot. But was there really anything wrong with the S-line - the standard-setter, the home of the super droids? OK, design needed looking at for sure. But hey, other brands do facelifts - Samsung goes for a complete overhaul.

This must've been the message they wanted to send.

And if it means giving up the memory card slot, the removable battery and the waterproofing, so be it. That's part of the message too.

Anyway, the Galaxy S6 was redone from scratch and bids farewell to plastic. Glass and metal is a critically acclaimed combination. Another way of saying it is - depending on how upset you are with the missing card slot and sealed battery - they're copying Apple and Sony. Alright, memory, battery and waterproofing are easy things to get upset about, so let's see what the Samsung Galaxy S6 offers in exchange.

The new look is impressive and exciting and Samsung's trademark AMOLED is the perfect match. It's an immersive 5.1" incher of QHD resolution, for the amazing 577ppi - though "amazing" doesn't work for Samsung. They'll call it "the best ever" - and will be right. And that's just the beginning.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 official pictures: black sapphire, blue topaz, gold platinum, white pearl

For the first time in a couple of generations, Samsung is relying solely on its own Exynos platform. This seemed like of nick-of-time decision amid rumors of cooling issues and thermal throttling plaguing the Snapdragon 810 chipset but the fact is the Exynos 7420 (7 Octa) is simply better. The only reason Qualcomm were in the story at all was the uncertainty whether Samsung would be ready for mass production with its own chipset.

Built on a 14nm process, Samsung's chipset allows similar or higher clockspeeds (hence performance) with less power consumption, which by the way means it's easier to cool as well. In the end, the Galaxy S6 is powered by a beastly octa-core processor with four Cortex-A57 cores ticking at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A53 "efficiency" cores at 1.5GHz. An octa-core Mali-T760 GPU and 3GB of RAM complete the tally.

Samsung worked on the camera department too, equipping the Galaxy S6 with a 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilization and a wide f/1.9 aperture. The 5MP selfie cam also got a f/1.9 aperture for superior low-light capabilities.

The connectivity package is better than ever with dual-standard wireless charging support out of the box, Samsung Pay, a better and faster fingerprint scanner and LTE Cat.6 connectivity. Let's get into the detail, shall we?

Key features

  • Thin (6.8mm) profile, premium dual-glass design reinforced by a metal frame
  • 5.1" Super AMOLED of QHD (1440 x 2560) resolution, class-leading ~577ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Exynos 7420 64-bit chipset, octa core processor with four 2.1GHz Cortex-A57's and four 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores, Mali-T760 MP8 GPU, 3GB of RAM
  • Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with TouchWiz and Samsung Pay
  • 16MP camera, f/1.9 aperture, 4K video recording, LED flash, optical image stabilization
  • 5MP front-facing camera, f/1.9 aperture, 1080p video, HDR
  • 32/64/128 GB of built-in storage
  • Active noise cancellation via dedicated mic
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • LTE Cat.6, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC, IR port, Bluetooth 4.1, ANT+
  • Heart-rate sensor, barometer, SpO2
  • Wireless charging (Qi/PMA)
  • 2,550mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No water or dust protection
  • Rather pricey at launch, including really steep memory upgrade premiums
  • No user-replaceable battery
  • No microSD slot
  • No FM radio
  • No stereo speakers

Last season, the water and dust protection was a direct response to Sony's Xperia Z line. The Galaxy S6 gives it up, defying a natural Samsung instinct to match and beat every feature a potential rival may have. A Galaxy S6 Active will likely quell some of the disappointment.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 live pictures

But will there be an S6 version with a removable battery and one with a microSD card slot? Of course, Samsung will tell you the Galaxy S6 has the new UFS 2.0 storage, with the "Command Queue" tech used in SSDs. The end-result is 2.7x faster response than that memory found in the previous crop of flagships. A microSD card, regardless of specs, would have compromised the user experience. Plus, the base model starts at 32GB, the other options being 64GB and 128GB.

So, Samsung gave up features that used to give them a competitive edge and decided not to necessarily compete for every spec. Over-confidence or lack thereof? New deal or a knee jerk reaction? There are so many things to discover about the new Galaxy S6 and we are done teasing.

Unboxing the Galaxy S6

The Samsung Galaxy S6's retail package only contains the essential accessories. The solid, white box packs a microUSB cable, a fast-charging-capable A/C adapter and the company's latest set of headphones. All these are white to match the color of the handset itself.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Unboxing the Galaxy S6

There is no wireless charging plate - these are a rare catch in _phone_ bundles (the Lumia 930 is the only one that comes to mind). Fast chargers are a bit more common but by no means widespread. The Galaxy S6 has one in the box so you don't have to spend extra.

Samsung Galaxy S6 360-degree view

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a brand new design but the same screen size as its predecessor. Keeping the same level of comfort of handling and portability aside, the 5.1" diagonal allowed them to get the highest ppi on the market. The lack of enhanced protection and the new materials employed helped a much thinner profile than the predecessor. The Galaxy S6 is just 6.8mm thin against the 8.1mm of the Galaxy S5. It's hardly a coincidence either that it's a fraction of a millimeter slimmer than the iPhone 6.

The overall size of the Galaxy S6 is very close to the previous generation: 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm, and 8g lighter at 138g. Not much bigger than the iPhone either considering the difference in screen size.

Design and build quality

Samsung went way beyond its comfort zone to design an entirely new Galaxy species from scratch. And this time around, saving some money wasn't on the agenda. We don't know if that's the change everyone was hoping for but the S6 is the sexiest flagship yet.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Samsung Galaxy S6 body consists of a brushed metal frame holding together a pair of glass panels. This doesn't even begin to tell the story. You can read anyone's impressions but you will only know what it's all about if you get to unbox one.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Plastic is durable while glass cracks and metal dents. There's more value in a removable battery than premium design. A memory card slot... All that. The Galaxy S6 will not try and deny the facts. We call them facts - to the Galaxy S6 they're the predecessors' excuses for not quite looking their best.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The sides of the Galaxy S6

Samsung introduces glass to the Galaxy S series for the first time - two sheets of Corning Gorilla Glass 4, front and rear. It's not a combination Samsung invented but we are glad they ditched the plastic and kept the trademark shape and look.

Arguably it's the easiest way to achieve the upmarket feel while keeping weight down. Adding to the high-quality appeal, the body is a mere 6.8mm for a proper balance between handling, appearance and battery capacity.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 flanked by the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S5

Such a sea-change came at a cost and indeed the Galaxy S6 is losing the removable battery for good. What's odd is the lack of water and dust protection, which was a key selling feature for the previous generation Galaxy S5.

There is the camera hump too, which was just inevitable - Samsung added so much tech and yet trimmed the body down. The new sensor, lens and optical image stabilization more than make up for it.

Samsung Galaxy S6

The camera hump

Handling the Galaxy S6 is nothing short of pleasure and it isn't compromised by the dual-glass design. The metal frame and its flattened sides improve the grip and the glass is not terribly slippery either - it gets smudged though. Sure, the Galaxy S6 doesn't offer the most secure grip, but it does get the best out of the combination of materials.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Handling the Galaxy S6

Controls

Above the gorgeous 5.1" Super AMOLED display we find the earpiece, a couple of sensors and the 5MP F/1.9 selfie cam.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

A peek above and below the screen

The ever-present home key remains a key point in the interaction with the smartphone and doubles as a fingerprint scanner. At its sides are the capacitive Task Switcher and Back buttons.

The left side of the Galaxy S6 has the two metal volume keys, while on the right there are the power/lock key and the pop-out SIM tray.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The sides of the Galaxy S6

The bottom on the Galaxy S6 is pretty crowded featuring the USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and speaker. The top is cleaner, with only an IR blaster and a pinhole for a secondary microphone.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 bottom and top

The back of the _phone_ is where the slightly protruding 16MP f/1.9 main camera/4K camcorder resides. It features optical image stabilization, so the expectations for its low light performance are high. Next to the lens you'll notice the LED flash and the heartrate sensor.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The 16MP camera lens at the back

The rear panel is not removable and doesn't allow access to the 2,550 mAh battery. There is no microSD slot either.

Quad HD display

The display of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the highlight feature alongside the new design and chipset. The diagonal remains unchanged at 5.1", but the resolution got a massive boost to QHD - 2560 x 1440 pixels. This means that despite its ample surface, the Super AMOLED panel offers a mind-blowing 577ppi.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung has again went for the diamond-shaped PenTile matrix, although given the sheer number of pixels the sub-pixel arrangement will hardly affect the perceivable sharpness of the screen.

Here's how the layout looks under a microscope. The diamond-shaped PenTile uses OLED sub-pixels of different sizes as each color has different levels of power efficiency and longevity. Sub-pixel rendering is employed to properly distribute each of the primary colors.

Samsung Galaxy S6

The default screen mode comes to underline the Super AMOLED panel's key strength, high contrast, by producing overly saturated colors that make every image look like it's about to pop out of the frame. Yet if you are a professional that requires the color accuracy or simply dislike the unrealistic images, the professional photo mode gets colors as true to life as possible.

The Samsung AMOLED panels have been improving with each new generation and this latest effort is further proof of that. Giving you a choice between saturation and accuracy, and comfortably beating its rivals at either end is an impressive achievement, but with the inherent AMOLED strengths in the equation, you get arguably the most impressive screen in the market.

Yep, the practically infinite native contrast and the low reflectivity that makes sure you enjoy most of it in brighter environments are still here, alongside the impeccable viewing angles. There isn't much else one can wish for.

But enough words, let's look at the numbers. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a practically unlimited contrast ratio, as it's capable of displaying black by simply turning off individual pixels - AMOLEDs light up only the parts of the screen that display a color different than black.

The Super AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S6 isn't particularly bright, especially compared to some LCDs, but it can go higher than the Galaxy Note 4.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S6 208 473
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 291 399
LG G Flex2 152 398
Meizu MX4 Pro - - - 0.69 775 1127
Xiaomi Mi Note 0.09 130 1450 0.43 626 1453
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789


Under direct sunlight, the Galaxy S6 is retains excellent contrast and stay legible even in the most brightly lit environments.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can find all about our display testing routines here.

Battery life

The battery life was a bit of a question mark hanging over the Samsung Galaxy S6, considering the screen resolution has nearly doubled and the battery capacity was downgraded to 2,550 mAh. It still sounds like a pretty ample battery, but we were curious how it compares to the stellar Lollipop endurance of its predecessor.

As it turns out, we were right to be worried as the Galaxy S6 posted lesser performance on all of our test compared to the Galaxy S5.

The battery scores aren't that bad and are in fact higher than average. The S6's battery had enough juice to last 17 and a half hours on 3G calls, almost 9 hours on non-stop web browsing and 10 and a half hours on looped video playback. The stand-by endurance is slightly above average too.

In the end the new flagship managed to achieve of respectable rating of 64h, which might not be as impressive as the 83h mark of Galaxy S5, but it still means your Galaxy S6 will last at least two and a half days if you are using it for an hour of calls, web and video playback each day.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Our testing procedure includes a standby battery endurance test, which is not shown in the scorecard above, but is a part of the overall rating. You can learn more about our standardized routine here.

Connectivity

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is armed to the teeth in connectivity terms. The mandatory 2G/3G/4G LTE is present with Cat. 6 downlinks thanks to Samsung's latest Exynos 7420 chipset. This gives you download speeds of up to 300Mbps, with 50Mbps worth of uploads. If you missed it in the specs section, the Galaxy S6 uses nano-SIM cards.

In terms of local connectivity, there's dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, so you can make the best of your home's Internet connection. DLNA is supported in multimedia apps for sharing content across compatible devices.

Speaking of, the Galaxy S6 makes it easy to share the Wi-Fi hotspot info with nearby devices (detected via Bluetooth) using the Quick Connect feature. This saves you the trouble of typing in the Wi-Fi password.

Bluetooth has been bumped up to version 4.1. There aren't any easily noticeable changes since 4.0 but, among the more important ones, Low Energy mode is now supported for connecting to smart watches and some sport sensors. ANT+ is available for such sensors too, so the Galaxy S6 will happily talk to whatever sports sensor you have.

NFC is on board for quick pairing and sharing and there's an IR blaster for controlling home appliances. Samsung's default app mostly handles your AV setup, but third party apps can be used for a wider range of devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 features a microUSB 2.0 port. It's slower at transferring data than the USB 3.0 port used in a few Samsung devices, but it has a standard size plug and it offers Quick Charge 2.0 and MHL 3.0. With the right adapter, you get 2160p@30fps output so you can watch videos you shot with the phone in their full resolution. There's 7.1 surround sound output, if the video player supports it (sadly, the pre-installed one does not).

Finally, there's a GPS/GLONASS/Beidou SatNav receiver on board. GPS alone is enough on its own but GLONASS provides extra precision, especially in dense urban settings as it also uses Russian satellites. Beidou is currently available only in China and neighboring regions, but China is an important market for Samsung so it's a nice thing to have on board.

Samsung Pay is available by default on the Galaxy S6. The new service works with NFC and a newly developed technology called MST - Magnetic Secure Transmission. The MST will allow the Galaxy S6 owners to use their phones on most of the existing terminals and merchants won't need to upgrade their payment solution.

Samsung has acknowledged the mobile wallet adoption is going very slowly and the company has built-in a new solution to this problem inside the Galaxy S6 with the MST tech that requires little to no upgrade from current card readers already installed at retailers.

Samsung Pay has already been certified by Visa and MasterCard. Samsung is teaming up with key financial institutions around the world such as American Express, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and U.S. Bank, in order to provide more flexible services and coverage.

Samsung Pay is KNOX-secured, which means the Galaxy S6 users should be getting government-grade protection of their personal data.

User interface

Samsung Galaxy S6 comes with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and the latest incarnation of TouchWiz.

Samsung has been on a mission to simplify its software recently, but there are brand new features too. Most of the new stuff is now available to the Galaxy S5 as well via the recent update to Android Lollipop, but there are still features available only on the Galaxy S6.

We've highlighted the exclusive features in orange throughout the text, so it's easier for you to spot them.

You can have a look at the user interface in action on the video below:

One thing's for sure, the lockscreen is quite busy. It shows two notifications, any more get collapsed and you only see their icons. You can tap the down arrow to see the full list. If an app gets too pushy, you can hide its notifications from the lockscreen. There is also a weather information for your location and pedometer stats.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The lockscreen shows notifications, but can hide them from prying eyes too

Both a dialer and camera shortcuts are available, but we prefer the other camera shortcut - double-tap the Home key from anywhere in the UI and the camera launches within a second.

Private mode returns and this time the fingerprint reader is much better. After you've trained it, you only need to place your finger for half a second to activate. It's quite lax when it comes to finger positions too, no more struggling to swipe just the right way.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Private mode is best protected with a fingerprint

Private mode creates a secure folder that disappears when the mode is disabled. You can have Private mode automatically disabled every time you lock the phone.

The lockscreen can also use the fingerprint reader as a locking mechanism. It's quicker and more convenient than swiping and more secure than simple patterns and PINs too.

A nice feature allows you to hide the content of the lockscreen notifications or disable them altogether so people can't snoop on your received messages and emails.

Smart Lock disables the secure locking options when a trusted device is connected (Bluetooth smartwatch or car stereo or an NFC sticker) or when the phone is in a trusted location. Unfortunately, that's determined by geo-positioning only, you can' add a trusted Wi-Fi network.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Smart lock disables the secure locking features if a trusted device is nearby or you're home

We're finally past the lockscreen and we arrive to see much improved theming support, which the Galaxy S5 lacks altogether. We only got three preinstalled on the Galaxy S6, but for the first time, you can download more in the Galaxy Apps store, including an Avengers theme (Samsung is the supplier of lots of Avengers movie props). Themes can change the wallpaper and icons, but also some Samsung apps (dialer, contacts, messages) and the notification area.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Extensive theme support

Themes are not just graphical either, a theme can add new ringtones, notification tones, alarm sounds and more.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The Avengers theme modifies TouchWiz complete

The homescreen itself is quite normal. You get the optional Briefing pane on the left, which pulls info from a selection of news sources on topics you find interesting. There's an option to change the screen grid between 4x4, 4x5 and 5x5, the smallest one is the default.

The wallpaper now has a subtle parallax effect that we didn't notice at first. Then we did and just felt too similar to the iPhone wallpaper.

The notification area hasn't changed much, but it has lost the view that shows all quick toggles - neither a second pull nor a two-finger pull works. You just get one scrollable row of quick toggles, but now some have text underneath, like the name of the Wi-Fi network you are connected to.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The notification area looks the same but doesn't work the same • changing the brightness

The brightness slider is below that and then the S Finder and Quick connect buttons. One cool feature is that while adjusting the slider, the notification area fades away so you can see the app you were using before.

None of these elements can be disabled, but you can rearrange the quick toggles by tapping the Edit button. This screen shows all quick toggles and you can tap them to enable/disable, but the old way felt more intuitive.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 comes with a page and a half of icons in its app drawer, but several folders conceal the actual number of pre-installed apps. There's a Social folder with Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and more interestingly the Microsoft folder.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Pre-installed apps

Samsung has partnered with Microsoft so you get OneDrive (instead of Dropbox), OneNote and Skype out of the box. These apps cannot be uninstalled, but merely disabled. We'll cover the app package in more detail later.

Multi Window is now part of the app switcher. TouchWiz uses the Lollipop-style 3D rolodex of apps, but next to the X button is a button that opens the app across half the screen. The other half is filled in with a similar rolodex with only apps that support Multi Window.

Not all work with it, but the three social networking apps, the two browsers and several other key apps work just fine.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

App switcher • Multi Window • launching apps into Multi Window

Another way to launch Multi Window is to long press the App switcher key. If the current app supports Multi Window it will shrink to half the screen, the other half will be taken up by the icons of supported apps. If not, you just get the list of apps.

The Setting menu features Quick settings - a selection of the most used options you can use. Below that is the full list, though we prefer using the search function as the extensive features that Samsung has provided can be hard to track down among menus and submenus.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The Setting menu makes it easy to navigate the many options it offers

The TouchWiz software on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 is silky smooth with no slowdowns. TouchWiz gets a lot of hate over perceived lag, but there is none on the Galaxy S6 and it features smooth Lollipop-like animated transitions, which makes the experience even better.

Samsung Galaxy S6 performance

With the Samsung Galaxy S6 the company went its own way, meaning it used the in-house Exynos 7420. It's the first mobile chipset to be built on a 14nm fabrication process (Snapdragon 810 is on 20nm), which should reduce power usage. That in turn reduces the dreaded thermal throttling that was a major issue in the Exynos vs. Snapdragon debate recently.

The Exynos 7420 and Snapdragon 810 are not that different in terms of processor, both use a big.LITTLE setup with four Cortex-A57 cores at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.5GHz. The GPU is a Mali-T760 from ARM and it shares 3GB of RAM with the processor.

The Galaxy S6 runs a 64-bit version of Android 5.0.2 and all eight of its cores are 64-bit capable. This is good for the future, but for now 32-bit apps run just fine - in fact, AnTuTu 5 offered both options. It returned equal scores in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes, crushing the Snapdragon opposition (805 for the Nexus 6 and Galaxy Note 4, 810 for the LG G Flex2).

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    68896
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    49803
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    49273
  • LG G Flex2
    47680
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    45660
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    45348

Basemark OS 2.0 tips the scales the other way and gives the win to the LG G Flex2, with the Galaxy S6 trailing by around 5%.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • LG G Flex2
    1726
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1641
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    1267
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1267
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    1176
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    1160

Looking at just the CPU performance at GeekBench 3, we see a massive advantage in multicore performance. The Snapdragon 810 runs its CPU cores a little slower (0.1GHz), but that's far too little to account for the difference. Basemark OS 2.0 confirms the multi-core difference, however, it puts individual core performance as similar to the Krait 450 cores in the Snapdragon 805.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4916
  • LG G Flex2
    3604
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    3394
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3285
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3120
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    2970
  • Apple iPhone 6
    2924

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    6165
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    5977
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5689
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    5624
  • LG G Flex2
    5597
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    5557

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    25549
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    21841
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    21026
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    19237
  • LG G Flex2
    18856
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18386

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a QHD screen - 1,440 x 2,560px - which is around 80% more pixels than a 1080p screen (like the LG G Flex2 and Moto X have). Offscreen tests normalize resolution at 1080p so you can compare raw performance, while on-screen tests predict real-world gaming performance.

The Mali-T760 is slightly faster in general than the Adreno 430 found in the curved LG phone and even the beefy PowerVR GX6450 in the Apple iPhone 6. Playable framerates at full resolution, however, are no-go for complicated 3D games so we're guessing game makers will stick to 1080p for now.

Basemark X considers only off-screen results and predictably gives the win to the Galaxy S6.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    49
  • LG G Flex2
    49
  • Apple iPhone 6
    42.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    40
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    38.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    27
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    27

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    23
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18
  • Apple iPhone 6
    17.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    51
  • LG G Flex2
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    35
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    28
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    27.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    26

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    29.2
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    16
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    11

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    22752
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    20901
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    20043
  • LG G Flex2
    19360
  • Apple iPhone 6
    17054
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12190
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    11798

For web browsing performance we used the Internet app as Samsung sprinkles proprietary optimization magic that's not available in Chrome or the vanilla Android browser. The Galaxy S6 wins the JavaScript race in Kraken 1.1 with a slim margin, less than we expected from the large lead in CPU performance.

For general web browsing BrowserMark 2.1 puts the Samsung flagship on par with Apple's iPhone 6 (and far ahead of the rest) despite having to render pages at QHD while the iPhone screen is barely over 720p.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4323
  • LG G Flex2
    4621
  • Apple iPhone 6
    4710
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    5181
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    5968
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    6088
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    6260

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    3153
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    3146
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    2232
  • LG G Flex2
    2086
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    2066
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    1562
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1447

The Samsung Galaxy S6 (and S6 edge for that matter) is the fastest mobile phone you can have at the moment and with 64-bit support in place this should remain the case for some time to come. The flagship offers top notch performance for any use case and may not be surpassed in 2015, looking at just the 5" size (obviously the Note 5 is coming and should be a bit faster).

Phonebook and telephony

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a strong reception and good in-call audio. If you run the Adapt sound feature you it can tune the call sound when you use a headset. The in-call equalizer for the phone's earpiece is gone though.

The dialer has a Material Design paintjob. Smart dialing (searching through contacts by using the keypad) and speed dialing (assigning a contact to a number on the keypad) are on board. Video calling is also natively supported, not that many people use it.

Additional tabs in the app show the call log, favorite contacts and a list of all contacts. You can use the separate Phonebook app for that.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Dialer • call log • favorites

The Phonebook is a list of contacts with a search field and an alphabet index. The contact info card has been cleaned up and shows the contact image (you can swipe down to view it fully), below that are the phones and emails with quick buttons to call/send message.

Here you'll also find the latest messages and calls with that contact. The View more toggle displays all the additional info. You can swipe left to call a contact straight from the list, right to send them a message.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The phonebook reminds you the last chat you had with a contact

The built-in call rejection feature lets you block calls from certain numbers or all numbers not in your phonebook. Do not disturb mode can be scheduled on select days and during certain periods of the day. You can set tit to make an exception for certain notifications, including allowing only calls from your favorite contacts.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Blocking spam calls • Do not disturb mode

Samsung is sticking to a single loudspeaker with this generation of the Galaxy S flagship, but it has audibly improved in quality. It's not very loud though, overall a bit quieter than the Galaxy S5, but it falls under the Average category with similar results as the dual-speaker HTC One (M8).

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPhone 5 66.8 66.1 67.7 Below Average
Samsung Galaxy S6 66.9 65.7 69.3 Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
Apple iPhone 6 66.6 65.7 72.8 Average
HTC One (M8) 65.8 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active 73.1 69.3 76.7 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 74.7 73.5 81.6 Excellent


Messaging

By default the Messages app has a clean looking UI, but you can customize font size, backgrounds and speech bubble style. The app shows a row of priority contacts, below that is the list of all conversation threads. You can use pinch zoom to change the font size in a conversation thread.

The Album option collects all photos and videos shared in the given conversation thread. The Attach button shows the most recent photos and videos so you can pick them easily, but below that are additional options for other multimedia.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The Messages app handles multimedia attachments per thread

A built-in spam filter weeds out messages from select numbers or containing certain phrases. You can also schedule messages to be automatically sent later (so you don't forget).

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Customizing the look • fighting spam

The Samsung-modified Email app looks almost identical. The top row is a shortcut to show emails only from just priority contacts or you can view a combined inbox if you have multiple accounts added.

The Gmail app also handles multiple accounts - even ones not on Gmail - and adheres more strictly to Material design principles. Add push notifications and we end up using it more often than the Email app.

The Samsung keyboard features a dedicated numbers row. You can tweak the size of the keyboard slightly, making it taller or shorter and if you are okay with a tiny keyboard, you can use the small floating one. You can add text shortcuts (so 'brb' gets replaced with 'be right back') and there's predictive text.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Setting up text shortcuts • teaching predictive text • resizing the keyboard

It can update its database with popular words weekly and learn from your messages and contacts. Swiping can be set to move the text cursor or as an input method.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The Samsung keyboard

Gallery

The latest TouchWiz gallery app draws inspiration from Apple's iOS and HTC's Sense. The default view shows photos grouped based on time. Thumbnails are shown on a clean white background and you can change their size with a pinch zoom.

Events uses time and location to group photos and automatically create "Video highlights," a slideshow accompanied with music. You can export that to a video to share on your social network of choice.

Speaking of, the Gallery app can view your Picasa online folders but not Facebook.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Gallery sorts photos and creates Video highlights

The Categories view groups multimedia by type - pictures, videos, slow-mo videos, Virtual shots and so on. The People category groups photos based on the faces in them. There's also a Documents category. You can use the Search shortcut to look for photos based on category, people, time, event, location and so on.

Batch operations are gone, but you can easily move photos to Private mode (this requires activating the mode). Editing tools include simple things like Auto adjust, crop and rotate, but you can also do collages and go into the Photo editor, which is the usual Android editor with more advanced crop and rotate tools, color adjustment, effects and dedicated portrait enhancements (slim face, large eyes, you get the idea).

The Share button allows you to send a photo to a device over DLNA, to a TV using screen mirroring or to a wireless printer. Samsung also has a special feature to send profile photos and high-resolution images to your contacts as a sort of mini social network. For non-Samsung devices, recipients get a link over text message, the link expires after a certain period.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Editing a photo • sharing a photo

Music player

Samsung's TouchWiz music player was one of the most feature-rich apps, but the company has done some work to trim the fat. The app looks very clean now, essentially it has just two screens.

One lets you browse tracks and playlists, with a dropdown menu to switch between views including Folder view. The Music square is gone. The other screen is the Now playing with album art and a few playback controls. You can transfer playback to a Bluetooth or a DLNA device.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The music player interface has been greatly simplified

SoundAlive has gotten rid of the square view too, now it has two dials - one changes the balance between bass and treble, the other between instrumental and vocals. You can tap the Details button for a manual 7-band equalizer. Audiophiles should know 16-bit and 24-bit FLAC audio works out of the box.

Adapt Sound is available to automatically tune the equalizer based on your headphones and your hearing. Additional options include SoundAlive+ (creates a surround sound effect) and Tube Amp. There's also Smart volume to balance the volume between tracks and playback speed if you want to slow down or speed up the playback (useful for audio books we guess).

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The new, simlper SoundAlive • 7-band equalizer • Adapt Sound and other options

Video player

The video player has been simplified too and the DLNA view is gone. You can still send video files to DLNA players or use screen mirroring. Alternative you can beam just the audio over Bluetooth, the Play audio only option is useful for music videos - playback continues, while you use the phone as normal.

The video player supports all kinds of video file types and codecs, up to 4K 2160p encoded with the new H.265/HEVC codec. As usual multi-channel audio (AC-3, DTS) is not supported. Pop up mode puts the video in a small floating window so you can keep watching while using the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Playing videos

There are extensive subtitle settings with adjustable font and text size, text color, edge and background. Multiple presets are available and you can make your own.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Subtitles and other settings

There are built-in video editing options including trimming, video color effects and adding background music (with sliders to control the audio volume from both the video and the background music). A more advanced video editor can be downloaded. It can assemble multiple videos and audio tracks together.

Top-notch audio quality

The Samsung Galaxy S6 audio output is easily among the cleanest we have seen a smartphone produce. Posting excellent scores top to bottom in the first part of our test, the Samsung flagship barely let its stereo crosstalk spike in the second one. In fact the stereo quality with headphones is the best in the class as you can see from the result table below.

Overall this is some of the most accurate audio reproduction you can find on the market and one that should be good enough for even the most demanding audiophiles.

On the other hand volume levels, while good, are not quite among the best we've encountered. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is still going to be loud enough for the majority of users, but the HTC lineup holds a lead in that department.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy S6 +0.01, -0.04 -95.6 92.8 0.0024 0.0094 -94.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 (headphones) +0.02, -0.05 -92.6 91.9 0.0025 0.042 -83.4
Samsung Galaxy S5 +0.02, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0017 0.0089 -95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones) +0.01, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0095 0.018 -61.9
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1
Sony Xperia Z3 +0.02, -0.08 -86.4 86.4 0.014 0.021 -86.6
Sony Xperia Z3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.10 -85.7 85.7 0.035 0.064 -50.8
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7

Samsung Galaxy S6 frequency response

Samsung Galaxy S6 response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Still camera

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S6 borrows the 16MP Sony IMX240 sensor that the Galaxy Note 4 uses, but puts it behind a lens with a wider, f/1.9 aperture. This lets more light in and makes for much improved bokeh effects. The camera software is highly sophisticated too.

Samsung Galaxy S6

One of our favorite features is the quick launch - double tap the Home key from anywhere in the UI and the camera pops up in less than a second.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Updated, simplified camera UI

The UI is pretty simple, most settings are available on the viewfinder. The selection changes as you go between the different shooting modes. You can download new shooting modes, but currently only Sports shot is available.

The mode that deserves the most attention is Pro mode. It lets you control the focus manually, adjust exposure compensation and ISO, white balance too. You can save the current manual settings into a preset for easy recall later.

The color adjustments are very advanced - you get several presets (like color effects), but you can make your own. There are sliders to boost shadows and reign in highlights, adjust the contrast and saturation, the temperature and tint. With these you can create Instagram-y filters or make the best of the camera's dynamic range.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Pro mode's sliders offer a live preview of your adjustments

Casual users can just let tap on the HDR icon in Auto mode. There's an auto HDR option so you don't have to turn it on and off each time.

There's also an automatic night mode that fights handshake in the dark. Several color effects are available with a few more in the download section.

Tracking autofocus automatically follows moving subjects, making sure they stay in focus. This can't be used in for 2160p video though.

Selective focus makes a comeback - it snaps two photos and then lets you chose near focus, far focus or everything in focus. The Galaxy S6 camera is quite good at macro shots and creates a great soft focus on its own, so with some experience you don't need this software trickery.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Selective focus: near focus • far focus • everything in focus

The software guesswork is not particularly accurate, so we tried some macro shots. The wide f/1.9 aperture creates a great lens bokeh in macro shots to begin with. The Selective focus mode lets you soften the background even further, but the quality doesn't do the camera justice.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Macro shots come out with a lovely bokeh, no software gimmicks needed

Virtual shot has been redefined. It now lets you pick an object and rotate the phone around it. After, the phone can use its motion sensors to replay the object, rotating it along with the phone as if it's still in front of the camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Virtual shot • camera settings

Samsung improved the optics since the Galaxy Note 4, but also the image processing. As a result the Samsung Galaxy S6 photos are impressively sharp. Noise is kept in check, while processing artifacts from noise reduction are hard to spot, foliage in particular looks great. Software sharpening is moderate too, Samsung has been known to dial it up in the past.

White balance is spot on even in tricky conditions and the color saturation has been brought down from the already toned down setting in the 2014 generation. In Pro mode you can bring up the shadows and reign in bright areas of the image, but the automatic mode does a solid job too.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera samples

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 camera indoor samples

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 camera out in the open

The dynamic range is quite wide and you can improve it further with HDR mode. It's very fast so you can just leave it on auto without slowing down the shot to shot time. The HDR mode has a light touch, brightening shadows and recovering highlights, but the changes might be too small for some.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Left: HDR off • Right: HDR on

The Samsung Galaxy S6 shoots panoramas with very high resolution - 3,200px tall if you hold the phone upright, 1,800px if you hold it on its side. The software and fast chipset make shooting very simple, you just start panning in one direction.

The resulting images are rich in detail and aside from the moving cars and the ledge that was too close, there are no major stitching artifacts.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Portrait panorama • landscape panorama

The selfie camera can also take HDR photos (good when the sun is at your back) and can do Virtual shot. The wide selfie mode works kind of like a panorama - it stitches three photos for a wider field of view. You get instructions (e.g. tilt phone forward) to keep you on track.

The 5MP selfie camera is of pretty good quality and captures photos with plenty of detail and little noise. Color rendering is comparable to the main camera, slightly less saturated. It's a 4:3 camera though, unlike the 16:9 main camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Selfie • HDR selfie

You can enable Wide selfie to make a photo more suitable for widescreens. The stitching is as good as panoramas shot with the main camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Wide selfie

Finally, Interval shot is a like a photo booth, snapping four shots with a few seconds between each.

Here's the Samsung Galaxy S6 in our Photo quality comparison tool, where you can pit it against its predecessor , the Galaxy S5, and the 20.7MP shooter of the Sony Xperia Z3.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Samsung Galaxy S6 in our Photo comparison tool

Video camera

There's no dedicated video mode because most settings work for videos too. Even Pro mode, though you can't adjust the settings during recording and the autofocus will override your setting as soon as the video starts.

Anyway, the Samsung Galaxy S6 tops out at 2160p resolution, but it can also do 1080p at both 30fps and 60fps and 720p video at up to 120fps (that's handled by the Slow Motion mode). The front camera shoots only at 30fps, but goes over 1080p - it maxes out at QHD video to match the phone's screen.

HDR and color effects are available for video, though 2160p disables them, taking pictures while shooting video, the tracking autofocus and the additional software stabilization.

The 2160p videos are shot at the usual 48Mpbs total bitrate, all videos from the Galaxy S6 have 256Kbps/48kHz audio. The videos nail 30fps and a still frame has a good enough quality to pass for an 8MP photo. The videos are sharp, have practically no noise and accurate colors, good dynamic range too.

Moving on to 1080p at 30fps, we drop to 17Mbps bitrate. The quality remains high and there's as much detail as possible at this resolution. There's HDR mode at this resolution, which brings in more detail in the shadows and improves the highlights. Again, it's a slight effect.

We're not done with 1080p, the Galaxy S6 can go up to 60fps. This takes up more storage (28Mbps bitrate) and causes a slight drop in sharpness, but it's worth it for the smoother motion. 30fps has inherent limitations when shooting fast-moving objects and while 4K UHD TVs are still fairly rare (but quickly growing in popularity), practically all TVs can handle 60fps.

Finally, in Slow motion mode the camera goes back up to 48Mbps but is now shooting 720p @ 120fps. Videos are actually recorded at 120fps, but you can edit them on the phone - trim beginning and end and choose between half, quarter and eighth playback speed. Here's how it looks when we drop to 30fps (playing at a quarter of real time speed).

As usual you can check the untouched 2160p@30fps video sample, 1080p@60fps video and a 1080p@30fps video sample straight off the device.

If you want to compare still frames from the videos, our Video quality comparison tool makes that easy. Here's how the Samsung Galaxy S6 compares against other 2160p shooters.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Samsung Galaxy S6 4K in our Video comparison tool

And here's another similar comparison, but this time for the 1080p video.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Samsung Galaxy S6 1080p in our Video comparison tool

Browser and Chrome

The Internet app is the Android browser modified by Samsung. It supports multiple tabs (including incognito ones) and if you sign into your Samsung account, it will sync open tabs and bookmarks with other devices on that account.

A cool features lets you use your fingerprints to sign into web sites. The first time you enter username and password as normal and then select the option to remember the login using fingerprints. Then when the website asks for a login the phone will prompt you to put your finger on the Home key and a second later the info is filled in and submitted. We found that this doesn't work with all types of login pages, but it should work on most.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The Internet app • syncing tabs • singing into web sites using a fingerprint

Chrome comes on all Androids as part of the Play Services package. It can sync tabs too (based on your Google account) and has the data-saving option of compressing pages before they are sent to the device. It will even automatically detect foreign language sites and offer to translate them.

Both the Internet app and Chrome support Multi Window.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Chrome • syncing tabs with other devices • reducing data usage • Multi Window

Other preinstalled apps

Samsung has partnered with Microsoft and offers three preinstalled apps (that you can't uninstall either). There's OneDrive to handle cloud-syncing needs (including photo backup). You get a free 100GB with your phone. There's also OneNote for a more advanced note taking and syncing experience than the Memo app offers and finally Skype.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

OneDrive, OneNote and Skype come preinstalled

There are also WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger and no ChatOn. Samsung has eased off on doing everything itself and with three apps has covered the majority of social networking users. Not that you can't install those apps yourself, but it sends a message that the Galaxy S6 is a phone for the hundreds of millions that use those apps.

Smart Manager shows even more collaboration and is a one-stop shop for maintenance of your device. It's divided into four parts. Battery shows estimated battery life remaining/time until charged and will warn you of abnormal battery usage. The Power saving and Ultra power saving modes can be activated from here.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Smart Manager • Battery use • Ultra power saving mode

The Storage section leans on Clean Master to free up some storage by deleting unnecessary files. RAM closes running apps to free up RAM. Other than misbehaving apps, we can't think of a reason to manually close apps on a 3GB device.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Cleaning up the storage • freeing up RAM

The fourth section is Device security. It offers My KNOX, which create separate working spaces for personal and work apps (think BlackBerry's Balance). KNOX Active Protection promises to safeguard you against hacks - it's disabled by default for casual users and enabled for enterprise users.

It slows down performance a bit and adds 1 second to the boot time. What you get is verification that the system apps haven't been tampered with and real-time kernel protection to avoid unauthorized access from apps to the core of the operating system. There's also a McAfee-powered malware scanner on board.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

KNOX can balance work and personal apps, protect you from malware and hacks

S Health has been polished. It can sync your health data with your Samsung Account (optionally via Wi-Fi only). The new UI uses simple cards that count your steps, offer to measure your heart rate, track what you eat and drink, your sleep and various exercises.

The phone has the hardware to do spot measurements of your heart rate and blood oxygen saturation and estimate stress. You can add external sensors for continuous tracking. The app comes with three built-in programs that will train you, building up to a 10K run. It's not all about exercise, S Health can help you eat healthier or make sure you get proper rest.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

S Health tracks your health, exercise and rest

The Voice recorder app has Interview mode, which uses the mic array to suppress sounds from the sides. You can also mute one side of the conversation so only the answers of your interviewee are audible. The other mode is Voice memo, which automatically transcribes the note into text.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Voice memo can record interviews and take down notes

The Peel Smart Remote app uses the IR blaster on the top of the Samsung Galaxy S6 to control your TV and media setup. It also doubles as a TV Guide so you can see what's on, flip directly to that channel or set a reminder if it airs later. The app can handle TVs, disc players, AV receivers, streaming boxes (Apple TV and Roku) as well as air conditioners.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Remote control and TV guide in one

S Planner is the familiar Samsung replacement for the Google calendar. It defaults to a Month and agenda view, and has a clean Material Design interface. You can add a 7-day weather forecast and multiple calendars.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

S Planner

The My Files app is the built-in file browser. It's beginner friendly with its Category view (e.g. view all photos), but you can browse the whole internal storage). The app also integrates Google Drive so you can seamlessly handle files in the Google cloud.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

My Files handles local and cloud (Google Drive) files

S Voice is still on board, even though it had to relinquish its traditional shortcut. It can handle a wide variety of voice commands - call or text someone, take down memos and calendar notes, check the weather or read the news, answer spoken questions and so on.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

S Voice is still on board

The app has no UI, it just needs an initial training (you say an activation phrase four times). Then from anywhere in the UI you speak the phrase and your command, all you'll see is a small graphical equalizer at the bottom of the screen as you speak. Google Now can do plenty of these things (even if it's not as conversational).

Conclusion

If you are not sure what to think and how to feel about the Samsung Galaxy S6, you came to the right place. We'll do it for you. Here's the deal. You're free to feel any way you like. Impressed. Upset. Confused? Sounds familiar.

Samsung Galaxy S6

We've come to take it for granted that every new Galaxy S generation will add new features and beef up specs. The Galaxy S6 takes away. It's been encoded in Samsung's DNA to try and beat every spec of any rival. The Galaxy S6 omits the very features that, presumably, kept Samsung at the top.

Is this their way of saying we'll beat you even with one arm tied behind our back? We didn't become the market leader because the competition was stupid enough to not care about memory expansion and removable batteries.

Who knows, they may be this arrogant. Or maybe the Galaxy S6 is trying to say that the S-line can change and still be better than most.

But can it be the best Galaxy S smartphone yet without a memory card slot, removable battery and water-proofing? The best screen and chipset in business might as well help.

Key test findings

  • Excellent build quality, premium finish, very good grip, size easily pocketable.
  • Best in-class Quad HD Super AMOLED display with the highest pixel-per-inch density to date. Its contrast ratio, viewing angles, and sunlight legibility are all chart-toppers.
  • Battery life is above average but turned out noticeably worse than the S5.
  • TouchWiz has gotten leaner and more customizable (theme downloads), less features, but also less clutter
  • Excellent overall performance, probably the fastest Android smartphone around
  • The loudspeaker is average in loudness and quieter than the Galaxy S5
  • Excellent multimedia package out of the box
  • Solid audio quality
  • 16MP main camera is among the best in terms of resolved detail, noise and sharpness, as well as features, but our test charts show that the Galaxy Note 4 is still ever so slightly better
  • Video quality is excellent both in 2160p and 1080p resolution, but again, the Galaxy Note 4 video feed is marginally sharper

Last couple of seasons, the Galaxy S to get was the one powered by a Snapdragon chipset. The Galaxy S6 leaves nothing to chance... and goes all out with Exynos. The 14nm Octa 7 is quite a feat and the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 is months away at best.

Samsung has always insisted on the best available hardware for the Galaxy S-line and that's one thing that hopefully will never change. The QHD AMOLED screen and the Exynos 7420 chip are Samsung-made components, the 16MP sensor with optical image stabilization courtesy of Sony.

Wireless charging support right out of the box, LTE Cat.6, a much improved fingerprint scanner and heart-rate monitor round of a proper flagship package. The simplified and polished TouchWiz adds better theming support to the familiar solid multi-tasking features. The Galaxy S6 comes with 32, 64 or 128 GB of the super-fast UFC 2.0 storage and 3GB of new generation LPDDR4 RAM. You will be also getting 115GB of OneDrive storage out of the box, which is great. Other Microsoft goodies are OneNote and Skype.

The bad? Well, no memory expansion and no access to the battery are big no's in our book and that won't change overnight. The lack of water-proofing isn't a deal-breaker, but even if it was, Samsung would kindly point you to the Galaxy S6 Active, which is just around the corner.

Very few real competitors offer a user-replaceable battery. Expandable memory is a different story - probably the biggest risk the Galaxy S6 is undertaking. If that steers more customers to the Note 4 though we don't think Samsung will mind.

The Snapdragon 805-powered Galaxy Note 4 also offers a Quad HD Super AMOLED screen, just bigger. It has the same camera sensor but the old-gen fingerprint scanner. The S-Pen and its dedicated apps are hard to say no to at about €150 less than the expected launch price of the Galaxy S6.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

That said, the Galaxy S6 Edge is probably the toughest in-house competitor - if you're on an unlimited budget. That curved display makes an already premium phone absolutely unique and we understand those who think it should've been the one and only flagship. Yep, we've seen it and if it doesn't help you get over the missing card slot we don't know what will. It's an extra €150 for the double-edged screen, take it or leave it.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

The HTC One M9 is the only flagship by a major manufacturer that debuted right along the Galaxy S6 - and may even beat it to market. It's stuck at a 1080p screen - but the probable upside is faster performance by the S810 chip. It has the familiar all-metal unibody, graced with BoomSound speakers and the camera sounds quite promising on paper. It omits a fingerprint scanner but has expandable memory and costs about the same as the Galaxy S6, which we don't think is doing the M9 any favors.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

The LG G Flex2 with its curved P-OLED 1080p display, self-healing rear cover and Snapdragon 810 chip is worth checking out, especially considering it costs less than the Galaxy S6. The unique design is complemented by a capable OIS 13MP camera and although the curved body rules out a removable battery, a microSD card slot is available.

LG G Flex2

LG G Flex2

Finally, Apple. The most likely rival to push Samsung out of their comfort zone. The one to prove a point to. The one that does not compete for specs and benchmarks - and therefore the one that's hardest to beat. The Galaxy S6 is a couple of generations ahead in the numbers game but clearly learning from Apple in terms of design. So much so that if it wasn't for the Edge, Samsung would've had trouble responding to allegations of copying this time around.

Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 • Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Anyway, another pair of flagships will make things even more interesting. The Sony Xperia Z4 and the LG G4 will eventually challenge the Samsung Galaxy S6 for the Android top spot. Sounds just like last season. But it's different. It almost looks like Samsung are breaking their own rules just to make it more exciting. Wrong. They darn sure want to win again.

Unboxing the Galaxy S6

The Samsung Galaxy S6's retail package only contains the essential accessories. The solid, white box packs a microUSB cable, a fast-charging-capable A/C adapter and the company's latest set of headphones. All these are white to match the color of the handset itself.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Unboxing the Galaxy S6

There is no wireless charging plate - these are a rare catch in phone bundles (the Lumia 930 is the only one that comes to mind). Fast chargers are a bit more common but by no means widespread. The Galaxy S6 has one in the box so you don't have to spend extra.

Samsung Galaxy S6 360-degree view

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a brand new design but the same screen size as its predecessor. Keeping the same level of comfort of handling and portability aside, the 5.1" diagonal allowed them to get the highest ppi on the market. The lack of enhanced protection and the new materials employed helped a much thinner profile than the predecessor. The Galaxy S6 is just 6.8mm thin against the 8.1mm of the Galaxy S5. It's hardly a coincidence either that it's a fraction of a millimeter slimmer than the iPhone 6.

The overall size of the Galaxy S6 is very close to the previous generation: 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm, and 8g lighter at 138g. Not much bigger than the iPhone either considering the difference in screen size.

Design and build quality

Samsung went way beyond its comfort zone to design an entirely new Galaxy species from scratch. And this time around, saving some money wasn't on the agenda. We don't know if that's the change everyone was hoping for but the S6 is the sexiest flagship yet.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Samsung Galaxy S6 body consists of a brushed metal frame holding together a pair of glass panels. This doesn't even begin to tell the story. You can read anyone's impressions but you will only know what it's all about if you get to unbox one.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Plastic is durable while glass cracks and metal dents. There's more value in a removable battery than premium design. A memory card slot... All that. The Galaxy S6 will not try and deny the facts. We call them facts - to the Galaxy S6 they're the predecessors' excuses for not quite looking their best.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The sides of the Galaxy S6

Samsung introduces glass to the Galaxy S series for the first time - two sheets of Corning Gorilla Glass 4, front and rear. It's not a combination Samsung invented but we are glad they ditched the plastic and kept the trademark shape and look.

Arguably it's the easiest way to achieve the upmarket feel while keeping weight down. Adding to the high-quality appeal, the body is a mere 6.8mm for a proper balance between handling, appearance and battery capacity.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 flanked by the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S5

Such a sea-change came at a cost and indeed the Galaxy S6 is losing the removable battery for good. What's odd is the lack of water and dust protection, which was a key selling feature for the previous generation Galaxy S5.

There is the camera hump too, which was just inevitable - Samsung added so much tech and yet trimmed the body down. The new sensor, lens and optical image stabilization more than make up for it.

Samsung Galaxy S6

The camera hump

Handling the Galaxy S6 is nothing short of pleasure and it isn't compromised by the dual-glass design. The metal frame and its flattened sides improve the grip and the glass is not terribly slippery either - it gets smudged though. Sure, the Galaxy S6 doesn't offer the most secure grip, but it does get the best out of the combination of materials.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Handling the Galaxy S6

Controls

Above the gorgeous 5.1" Super AMOLED display we find the earpiece, a couple of sensors and the 5MP F/1.9 selfie cam.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

A peek above and below the screen

The ever-present home key remains a key point in the interaction with the smartphone and doubles as a fingerprint scanner. At its sides are the capacitive Task Switcher and Back buttons.

The left side of the Galaxy S6 has the two metal volume keys, while on the right there are the power/lock key and the pop-out SIM tray.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The sides of the Galaxy S6

The bottom on the Galaxy S6 is pretty crowded featuring the USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and speaker. The top is cleaner, with only an IR blaster and a pinhole for a secondary microphone.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 bottom and top

The back of the phone is where the slightly protruding 16MP f/1.9 main camera/4K camcorder resides. It features optical image stabilization, so the expectations for its low light performance are high. Next to the lens you'll notice the LED flash and the heartrate sensor.

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6

The 16MP camera lens at the back

The rear panel is not removable and doesn't allow access to the 2,550 mAh battery. There is no microSD slot either.

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