Samsung has pulled back the veil on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, a supersized phablet version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Taking the original smartphone's unique curved screen design and applying it to a gargantuan 5.7in display, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is Samsung's sternly-worded response to the iPhone 6 Plus.
We had a chance to go hands-on at the Samsung Unpacked event in London, and found an absolute top-spec device with plenty of features to give Apple cause for concern.
The tapered screen on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, which curves halfway around either side of the handset, is just as distinctive as it is on the Galaxy S6 Edge. This is paired with a thoroughly premium-feeling glass case, with a reinforcing strip of metal running around the edges, ending up with a classy but durable handset.
The whole thing measures 154x76x6.9mm, which is surprisingly modest by phablet standards; in fact, it's a fraction of a millimetre thinner than the smartphone it was based on. At 153g, it's also a lot lighter than we expected, and we had no problem using it one-handed.
As for connectivity, there's a single microUSB port but no microSD slot. The latter is one of our few disappointments with the Galaxy S6 Edge+, as it's a common inclusion even on certain budget smartphones, and internal storage is limited to 32GB or 64GB. There was no microSD support on the original Galaxy S6 Edge either, but this feels like a missed opportunity for an upgrade rather than a logical continuation of features.
Wireless charging wins back some favour. The Galaxy S6 Edge+ can be recharged, supposedly from empty to full in 90 minutes, simply by laying it on a compatible charging pad. We didn't get to test this, and the pads must be purchased separately, but it's a still a convenient cable-cutting feature.
The 5.7in screen is set to a QHD resolution of 2560x1440, resulting in 518ppi. This is actually lower than the Galaxy S6 Edge, which features the same resolution on a smaller screen, but in practice the phablet version still looks razor-sharp. Samsung's Super AMOLED tech also ensures that colours appear beautifully vivid, with some extremely deep blacks.
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ also introduces new uses for the tapered sections, which were somewhat under-used on the original. An expanding menu of contacts and apps is now accessible from one of the edges, allowing users to create shortcuts that can be reached at any time and without taking up space on the main section of the screen. It's a simple addition, but one that goes a long way in making the curved screen seem more like a handy innovation than a cosmetic gimmick.
Operating system and software
Unlike Samsung's smartphones, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ doesn't require an OS upgrade as it comes running Android 5.1 Lollipop, the most up-to-date version available. Samsung has added its TouchWiz custom skin which, despite its clean looks, we're not generally fond of owing to a tendency to delay Android updates as well as its propensity for bloatware.
As might therefore be expected, there was no shortage of pre-installed applications on the model we tested, not much of it interesting. The main exception was a suite of Microsoft Office apps, including the mobile editions of Word and Excel. These can be downloaded for free on most decent Android devices, but we've got to commend Samsung for including this industry-standard productivity software straight out of the box.
Happily, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is equipped with a few more security features than the average smartphone. The Home button, for instance, doubles as a fingerprint sensor, allowing for authentication via biometrics just like on the original Galaxy S6 Edge. There's no complicated process for setting this up, as new fingerprints are easily registered via the main Settings menu.
In addition to Android 5.1's built-in encryption, the Samsung Knox service has been added for setting up secure work areas. These password-protected areas, besides keeping work and personal data separate, run in their own separate sandbox, so they're protected from infection in the event that the main system suffers a malware attack.
The lack of an internet connection thwarted our attempts to run benchmarks, but we couldn't fault the Galaxy S6 Edge+'s performance otherwise. Apps and menus open instantly, while navigation feels slick and responsive.
This won't come as a shock to anyone who's aware of the phablet's muscular internals: a 64-bit octa-core processor, including four 2.1GHz cores and four 1.5GHz cores, alongside 4GB of RAM. While that's the same amount of processing power as the rest of Samsung's range, the 4GB of RAM is a noted improvement, up from 3GB on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
Once again, hardware from the Galaxy S6 Edge has been copied over into the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and this time it's the 16MP rear camera and 5MP front camera.
However, we can forgive this feature recycling, as the Galaxy S6 Edge+ takes some excellent pictures and video. The shots we took on the main rear-facing camera looked richly detailed - on the device's 5.7in screen, at least - and, while the front camera's snaps weren't as sharp, they captured plenty of colour, which 'selfie' cameras often fail to do. We also noticed that the rear camera in particular benefited from a very rapid shutter speed.
We also captured some video on the rear camera, and it was easily among the best-quality footage we've ever seen on a mobile device. Crisp, bright and smooth, there wasn't a hint of visual noise or screen tearing.
Short of building it from solid gold, there's not much Samsung could have done with the Galaxy S6 Edge+ to make it look like, feel like or perform at the highest of the high-end. The extra RAM gives it a real chance of being the best-performing mobile device on the market and, despite its increased proportions, it's as thin and light as a well-designed smartphone, setting a new standard for phablet portability. On top of that, it comes with the kind of security features and productivity aids that make for a serious contender in the business space, despite early marketing pitching it as a consumer device.
Does this mean that Apple, Sony, LG and the like should pack up and go back to sub-5in phones? As much as we enjoyed our hands-on, not quite. Price details have yet to be announced, but the Galaxy S6 Edge+ has appeared for pre-order on a third-party retail site with an eye-watering £699.99 price tag. That kind of cost will stop many buyers in their tracks, and all but nullifies the device's usefulness as a mass-rollout device for all but the biggest, richest firms.
We think the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is great, but we're undecided as to whether it's £700 worth of great. With any luck, we'll have a better idea closer to the UK launch on 4 September.
Watch our video hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ below.
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