The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ is a stunning phone to look at, one that has literally turned heads in our 10 days of daily use. Its curved screen edges make its design stand out from the crowd, so if ever you wanted a phone to get tongues wagging then, well, this is the one.
But just because it's attractive does that justify its £749 price tag? As the larger 5.7-inch version of the earlier 5.1-inch S6 edge model, the S6 edge+ fails to truly capitalise on that curved edge design in terms of software functionality, with many accusing its curves as being mere vacuous aesthetic. Maybe, but just look at it.
Without the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 coming to the UK (for now), though, we think Samsung has made an interesting play on these shores: pushing the S6 edge+ into its top tier position with few competitive distractions. If you have the cash to cover the price of this Plus size flagship is it as thrilling and radical as the original edge model?
SGS6 edge Plus review: Why the curved screen edge?
Having a phone with a curved screen that partially displays to both left and right sides isn't just about looking good. The S6 edge+ continues with the "People edge" feature, used to quickly access up to five individual favourite contacts, but also adds a second "Apps edge" for quick-access to up to five personally selected apps. Juggling between these two screens is as simple as a sideward swipe from the edge of the phone.
That's the main use for the curved edge, with an information stream – accessed by, somewhat strangely, rubbing the edge up and down – available to show off alerts, Yahoo! news, Twitter trends, and some other limited options. It's a nice idea, but one we rarely used, as the usual Android alerts at the top of the screen continue to appear and are altogether more familiar. If the phone is face down it will emit a colourful illumination for alerts if active too.
At night the option for a night clock is great though, as the Super AMOLED panel of the phone means only the necessary pixels illuminate for a non-distracting display. It's easily visible from a horizontal sleeping position thanks to that curved edge. It's subtle features like this that add to the edge+'s appeal.
However, compared to the original Note Edge from 2014 – which had just the one right-hand curved edge rather than both sides like the edge+ – there's simply not the same depth of functionality in the Apps edge feature. There's been time for Samsung to forge forward and integrate the edge app concepts yet more, but in the edge+ it feels ultimately the same as before. We feel that there's more potential to be unlocked yet.
SGS edge Plus review: Plus size design
The S6 edge+ is roughly the same phone as the S6 edge, but in a supersize format (154.4 x 75.8mm vs 142.1 x 70.1mm respectively). It's still marginally smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus is in every dimension, though, so if you've seen one of those and think it's big then the edge+ isn't far behind.
And you know what, we don't like the edge+ as much as the original S6 edge. It's largely down to preference, but there's just something better suited to that edge design in the smaller phone (plus, as we'll come to, we're less convinced by the screen at this larger scale).
But let's not fall off the wagon: the S6 edge+ is a visual design masterpiece. Just look at it. As we said of the S6 edge, there's no faux stitching or mock leather, instead it's all metal frame and Gorilla Glass 4 both front and rear.
Which all looks great if you, um, don't touch it. Such visual design appeal isn't always practical: after a week of use the fingerprint smeared rear glass doesn't exactly look its best, so a regular microfibre cloth clean-down won't hurt. Plenty of other flagship devices suffer such pains too, though, so it's not a Samsung only issue.
However, there are other ceilings imposed on functionality that may wind up the general public. Unlike earlier Samsung Galaxy phones (from the SGS5 era) there's no removable battery, no additional microSD storage options (32GB is £749, 64GB is £829 for the edge+) and no waterproofing (something even the mirror-like Sony Xperia Z5 manages).
With curved edges there's less space for such ports, we suppose, as the antenna and ample battery have to be squeezed into the edge+'s 7mm body without compromising performance. And we've not had any issues with call quality during testing.
SGS6 edge Plus review: Screen pros and cons
The 5.7-inch panel in the S6 edge+ might sound huge, but we've found it to fit well in the hand. The placement of the fingerprint scanner (more on that later) makes it a breeze to sign in without a PIN and fire-up the bright and colourful Super AMOLED panel.
It's packed full of detail at 2560 x 1440 pixels too, making video playback and images look exceptional, encased in minimal edge bezel that almost appears to disappear because of the design. That's the real appeal of this phone and what a number of passers-by have commented on the most.
But at this scale the edge+'s curved edges exaggerate a falloff in colour. On our review handset a vignette to the outer edges brings a slight blue cast that's visible over whites, an issue which appears more prevalent than in the smaller S6 edge. However, and unlike the LG G Flex 2 and its fully curved screen, we've not noticed prohibitive grain to the curved edges.
It's a glossy panel in the edge+ too, so if the screen brightness is dipped too low and the sun is out you may find issues with excessive reflections, particularly to those curved edges. Fortunately available brightness is considerable, so even during testing during a sun-soaked Berlin heatwave it's never been an issue to read the panel.
SGS6 edge Plus review: First finger forward
Lots of flagship phones now adopt fingerprint scanners, with even those on the likes of the affordable OnePlus 2 being exceptionally good. The S6 edge+ holds up well, delivering a press-to-access fingerprint scanner that's on par with the best competition, including Apple TouchID.
Whether you like the look of Samsung's protruding home button or not (where the scanner is houses), it does mean you'll know exactly where to pop your thumb or finger in order to sign into the device. As there's no need for physical movement the home button placement also makes perfect sense, even for one-handed sign-in. The main vulnerability of the system is when a finger is wet, so rain and sweat can cause repeat sign-in attempts to fail.
When assigning a fingerprint the S6 edge+ (and you can assign up to four), the software asks for multiple repeat presses per digit in order to build up an accurate profile rather than gauging the print from a single assumed press position. A 0-100 per cent progress report updates with each press and instructs you to remove the finger if you're doing anything wrong. It's easy to understand and works really well.
SGS6 edge Plus review: Software experience
With a screen of the edge+'s scale it's good to find some multi-tasking functionality, such as dual window, to spread a couple of apps across the panel in a 50-50 split. The ability to use this to interact between apps – such as clicking and dragging a gallery image into an email – is certainly useful, although it's been pretty rare we've needed it. There's even a miniature screen-within-the-screen should the 5.7-inch scale prove too much for one-handed use.
Unlike the Note series, the edge+ lacks a stylus so some of the finger-based corner swiping to drag down apps into pop-up view (not available for all apps) isn't always successful on first try. At least Samsung is doing more than some manufacturers to utilise screen space and resolution though, but at this scale we find ourselves thinking "where's the Note 5?"
Samsung has often been guilty of going in heavy when it comes to additional apps via its TouchWiz user interface (which is skinned over the top of Google's Android 5.1). In the S6 edge+ it's not over the top: there are the obvious edge app integrations, along with a side swipe to access the Flipboard-Powered My Magazine news section (shame its sources are still limited rather than truly personal).
Pre-loaded apps include less bloat, but a full spectrum of useful Microsoft Apps: OneDrive with 100GB free online storage in the cloud; OneNote for notes and ideas (similar to Google Docs); Skype for online chat and calls (although we can't seem to deactivate it from background use once signed in, there's no Force Stop option); and Word, Excel and PowerPoint for those work tasks (all three of which lacked from the earlier edge model).
Other small changes such as the calendar becoming S Calendar make little practical difference, as it can still be integrated with your Google Calendar source. So the user interface is typical Samsung, largely aesthetic, and, actually, it's rather good.
SGS6 edge Plus review: Hardware performance
The software runs silky smooth thanks to the hardware under the hood. The S6 edge+ is very similar to the earlier edge in this regard, squeezing in Samsung's own octa-core Exynos processor and ditching the Qualcomm chipset it's often used in UK handsets.
That's a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53, paired with a quad-core 2.1GHz Cortext-A57, alongside 4GB RAM. The extra 1GB RAM over the smaller S6 edge gives a little more breathing room, allowing the phone to handle multiple apps running at a time without issues. Only once did we have TouchWiz glitch out on us, otherwise it's been a swift and easy-to-use experience.
Gaming performs well, with obvious high frame-rates in playback and minimal loading times, whether you're a Fallout Shelter, Candy Crush or Real Racing fan. Perhaps most interesting is that playing through five lives in Candy Crush doesn't cause the edge+ to get hyper hot like some competitor devices can.
Indeed the edge+ doesn't kick out excessive heat from our experience, which helps with longevity per charge. A casual 16-hour day saw us getting to bed with around 15 per cent battery remaining, the 3,000mAh cell holding out even longer than on the smaller S6 edge model.
Go heavier with more gaming, Skype and WhatsApp and the battery will be stretched somewhat more. But here's where the Power saving mode comes in handy, by limiting screen brightness, CPU performance, and so forth. We prefer the full fat S6 edge+ experience so have tended to avoid this option, but if you need a couple of extra hours in a day then it can certainly help.
Fortunately the addition of fast charge means you can go from a near-empty battery to a full one with under 90-minutes plugged into the wall. A 15-minute top-up can reap around 25 per cent charge. And there's even wireless charging, but Samsung doesn't include a wireless charger in the box, it's microUSB only.
SGS6 edge Plus review: Camera
One area that we've been really impressed with Samsung Galaxy device of late is with camera performance. The S6 edge+ is no different, doing a grand job in a variety of light thanks to a fast f/1.9 aperture that can let lots of light in for shots in daylight or low-light.
The interface, too, is lightning quick, snapping a shot the moment you press on the screen. Take one shot, take stacks of shots one after the other, there's no letup in capture performance, while autofocus and face-detection work extremely well. Shame the edge screen isn't used to house a virtual camera shutter like on the Note Edge though.
To match great performance are great images from the 16-megapixel sensor. Sharp and packed full of detail, even low-light scenes fare well. We've taken the edge+ to dinners, parties, dinner parties, outdoor twilight gigs and all have been eaten up by this device's performance.
Our only real qualm is the camera's automatic assumption of using a low shutter speed rather than raising the sensitivity, which can result in blur. Sure there's decent on-board optical image stabilisation, but that can't always counteract subject movement. As a workaround there is a Pro mode where the ISO sensitivity can be set (forcing the shutter speed to be faster, at the sake of final quality), but there's still no direct control over the shutter speed (an issue we levied at the earlier S6 edge).
Elsewhere there are stacks of options, from HDR (high dynamic range) to balance shadow and highlight detail, through to GPS tagging, composition grid lines, and filter effects. Video can be captured at up to 4K resolution.
As the big brother to the already excellent S6 edge, the edge+ gets off to a flying start, showing off visual design flair like no other.
But in this larger form we're a little less convinced by the screen curves, due to vignetting and reflections from its glossy exterior. The lack of microSD will continue to frustrate too, especially when considering the 64GB model's eye-watering £829 price tag. And, yes, those curved edges might be pushing the edge of reason, but by pushing beyond the traditional design bounds the edge+ is a show-off phone on a grand scale.
Expensive though it is, the edge+ also performs wonderfully. Better battery life than its smaller sibling, a great fingerprint scanner, and an octa-core processor that can munch through apps without overheating all add up to an impressive flagship experience.
It's radical, it's a head-turner, and it's certainly not for everyone. As much as we love the S6 edge+, it kind of leaves us instead pining for a Note 5 at this scale, with the 5.1-inch S6 edge being our preferred of the two edge models.