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Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Android 7 Nougat Update FINALLY Lands

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Update: A new software patch has begun rolling out to the Galaxy S6, as of July 5. Firmware version G920FXXU5EQFC is currently landing on unlocked handsets in Europe. It includes security updates and Android fixes, as well as some improvements to performance. The same update should also be hitting the Galaxy S6 EDGE as build G925FXXU5EQFC.

So 2014 wasn’t the best year for Samsung, it did ok with the Galaxy Note 4, but that was after the critical and commercial ass-paddling that came from the Galaxy S5, the firm’s then flagship. That was pretty much the first time a major Samsung device had been roundly greeted with a sharp inhalation of breath through gritted teeth. It didn’t sell well; people didn’t like it. The era of the plastic fantastic smartphone had come to an end, and for some reason Samsung hadn’t clocked it.

That meant something radical was needed – Project Zero. That’s what Samsung called the Galaxy S6 internally when it was in development; the firm was literally going back to the drawing board. Clunky, generic design made from plastic was to be replaced with something sleek and stylish, fashioned in metal and glass.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 launch is just around the corner, so if you’re in the market for some big savings, you’d be wise to look at Samsung’s older handsets, as these new handsets will retail for around £800 for the base model.

Latest Samsung Galaxy S6 deals:

Samsung has now begun rolling out Android Nougat to its Galaxy S6 handsets. Not all phones have received it just yet, but the rollout is underway nonetheless.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect inside the Android 7 Nougat update:

  • JIT compiler: The new JIT compiler improves runtime device performance, reduces the amount of storage space required for apps and makes app and system updates much faster.
  • VR mode: With VR mode, Android Nougat is ready to transport you to new worlds. Coming soon with Daydream and Daydream-ready phones.
  • Vulkan™ API: Vulkan API is a real game changer with high-performance 3D graphics. See apps spring to life with sharper graphics and eye candy effects.
  • Doze: Doze is now dozier, with your device going into lower power usage when you’re on the move. That means your Android device will conserve battery even when it’s jostling around in your pocket.
  • Data saver: Limit how much data your device uses with Data Saver. When Data Saver is turned on, apps in the background won’t be able to access mobile data
  • Direct boot: When restarting your device, Direct Boot helps it start up faster and ensures that important communications still run. So before you even put in your password, you’ll still get that important text message and hear your alarm clock ring.
  • Seamless software updates: On select, new devices running Android Nougat, OS updates can download in the background, so you can go on with your day while your device syncs with the latest OS.
  • File-based encryption: Building on top of our security platform, Android Nougat introduces file-based encryption. By encrypting at the file level instead of the block level, Android can better isolate and protect files for individual users on your device.
  • Scoped folder access: Apps can request access to specific folders that you can allow or deny access to (just like app runtime permissions). This is a reduced-scope version of the Storage permission for Apps that only need access to certain folders. It can also allow Apps to request direct access to removable media (on devices with that hardware).
  • Trusted face: Trusted face, a part of Smart Lock, makes unlocking even easier thanks to a new face recogniser. The new recogniser is less sensitive to conditions like lighting, facial decorations (eyewear, facial hair, etc.), and how you hold your phone. Available on selected devices.

You can now pick up a Samsung Galaxy S6 for just £359 as well. Talk about a MEGA bargain!

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Design 

Samsung is one of the world’s most popular brands, next to Apple and Google. But the thing about Samsung is that it didn’t really get there on merit –– it sort of bought its way in with INSANE levels of spending on marketing and advertising (reportedly $12 billion in 2012). It has always made excellent handsets, a prime example would be the Galaxy Note which gave birth to the whole phablet scene, but more recently it has fallen on tough times (sales dropped, the Galaxy S5 flopped) because people got sick of the company drumming out the same old crap year after year. 

And then something happened in late 2014… 

Samsung began to pump out great looking handsets. The Galaxy Note 4 was, of course, brilliant –– Note updates always are. But for me it was the Galaxy Alpha that really showed a change in the way Samsung built and designed phones; it was just stunning to behold. For this reason, I began (for the first time in a very long while) to actually get excited about the prospect of a new Galaxy S flagship. 

The Galaxy S6 takes everything that was great about the Alpha, its gorgeous shape, sleek profile and excellent contouring, and takes it several steps further. The result is a brilliantly realised handset that sits perfectly in your hand and pocket. The Galaxy S6 is a goldilocks handset if ever there was one, being just the right size. Handy if phablets aren’t your thing and you want a phone with the very best specs and hardware currently available. 

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The front and back of the Galaxy S6 are constructed from glass which looks nice but means two very important things: 1) it smudges like a mother trucker, and 2) if you drop the handset, even from a small hit, it will almost certainly crack or, worse, shatter. This means you WILL need a case. Aside from these issues, though, the look and finish of the handset is superb. I love the metal trim around the edges too, which aids grip and ties the whole aesthetic together very nicely. 

The Galaxy S6 is available in four, very fetching colour schemes: White Pearl, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz and Black Sapphire. The handset itself is also exceptionally thin at 6.8mm and super light too, pushing the scales at just 138g. For me, this handset represents the perfect compromise between modern, phablet-sized handsets like the Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and more traditionally sized units like the HTC One M9, iPhone 6 and Moto X. But in an odd twist of fate, Samsung now makes the best looking handset on market; not even the HTC One M9 or iPhone 6 can hold a candle to this baby. It truly is stunning and then some, as the saying goes. 

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All this stunning design innovation does come at a cost, however, as the handset no longer supports microSD cards and you can no longer remove the battery. Both of these things have been staple features on Galaxy S units since day one, so their omission this time around will almost certainly set a few handbags in motion amongst Samsung’s old faithful. 

This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, if I’m honest. I don’t use cards and I never carry a spare battery around with me. But I do get why some users may be a little cheesed off about this switcharoo; nobody likes building up year’s worth of media on cards and then not being able to use them on their shiny, brand new handset.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Display 

I’ve been pretty vocal about my disdain for QHD panels in recent months and the main reason for this was battery life; QHD panels simple require too much power and, as a result, need HUGE battery cells to run them which in turn require a huge chassis to house them. Hence every QHD phone to date being a phablet. 

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This is where the Galaxy S6 is different, however. It uses a 5.1in QHD panel in a normal sized chassis with a normal sized battery, and yet by some form of voodoo it manages to last longer than both the HTC One M9 (a 1080p handset) and the Google Nexus 6 –– more on this later though.

The screen itself is stunning. There really is no other word for it. This is the best screen I have ever used. Period. Everything looks wonderfully vibrant; colours are precise, yet pop right off the display; TouchWiz looks sublime, almost like paper; detail is off the charts; videos look immense; NOTHING has been left to chance here. The panel itself surpasses even the Galaxy Note 4’s impressive QHD setup, paying testament to just how much effort and resources Samsung puts into making its displays. I really cannot say enough good things about this panel, so I’ll simply relay to you its pertinent details: the Galaxy S6 uses a 5.1in Quad HD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 and a pixel density of 576ppi. 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: TouchWiz and Operating System 

The Galaxy S6 is of course running Android Lollipop out the box and benefits from all of its excellent and well executed optimisations and tweaks. Most Android handsets these days run pretty damn smoothly, but it is clear some firms –– notably HTC and Samsung –– are better at tying their software in with Google’s world-beating mobile OS. Sense and TouchWiz are both liquid-smooth these days, running with the same level of performance that was once usually only reserved for iPhones. 

I recently tested the HTC One M9 and found it rather lacking as an upgrade from last year’s model. Part of the reason for this was because I just couldn’t find anything to really get excited about, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the EXACT opposite; there is almost too much going on here –– everything has been tweaked and upgraded, so much so the experience of using it feels completely different from last year’s model, which is exactly how a flagship experience should feel.

Samsung has also done A LOT of work to TouchWiz. It still looks bloody awful, mind, but the software runs smoother than ever and the multitasking carousal is off the charts –– it is insanely fast, unlike anything else I’ve experienced this year in the Android space. This “lean-down” has been a long time coming, however, so while I am glad Samsung has FINALLY listened to its customers, I’m also sort of peeved that it took this long to happen!

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Less is definitely more here, though. Everything looks and feels great, refreshed almost –– despite the fact it still looks god-awful compared to stock Android. It’s not all sunshine and cider, however, as there are still plenty of dubious apps onboard the handset like Samsung Apps, S Voice (you know, the Siri alternative that only six people have ever used), and “Briefing” which is sort of like HTC’s BlinkFeed, meaning it is largely pointless and you only ever open it by accident.

The BIG takeaways here for me, though, are the speed and general performance of TouchWiz, its stripped down nature and the fact that it now kind of gets out of the way and lets you get on with what you want to do. This is a BIG change from previous Samsung handsets and I am very pleased that Samsung has finally listened to what people have been saying for donkey’s years. It’s not perfect. Not by a ling stretch. But it is a HUGE improvement over what shipped aboard the Galaxy S5.

By and large, though, the torrent of crap that we once knew as TouchWiz is a far more subtle and useful beast these days, almost as if it’s grownup from an annoying teenager into a lovely, well-rounded 20-something. The software itself takes up less room on your device, is less intrusive and –– best of all –– it doesn’t constantly ask you to sign in to Samsung Apps or to start tilting the device to read webpages, which I might add was one of the worse ideas EVER devised for a phone.

Now, if Samsung could finally get around to making it look a bit less rubbish… 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Android Nougat Update Shows Up In Benchmark Tests

It’s already been established that Samsung is working on an Android Nougat update for last year’s Galaxy S6 flagship, but now, as of November 22, a set of benchmark data has emerged which hints the software may soon be ready to land. A Galaxy S6 running Android Nougat was spotted running on both the GFXBench and Geekbench databases, suggesting that these are test units being put through their paces; this sort of thing tends to happen in the final phases of testing a new build just before it is rolled out to punters.

On January 23 a Galaxy S6 has been spotted running Android Nougat while getting its Wi-Fi certification. A handset with the model number SM-G920V running Android Nougat 7.0 has been certificed by the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), likely meaning that, rather than a whole new model, this is a re-designation for purposes of certification of the new Android build before it rolls out to existing handsets.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Specs –– CPU, RAM, GPU and Storage

Like everything else in this handset, Samsung has pulled zero punches when it comes to the Galaxy S6’s power unit. Inside you’ll find the insanely powerful, 64-bit 14nm OctaCore Exynos 7420 CPU running alongside 3GB of RAM and a Mali-T760 GPU. As you’d expect the results of all this grunt are pretty startling and I’m willing to wager this handset is the most powerful smartphone ever created. 

That Exynos 7420, which comprises twin quad-core CPUs (one running at a frequency of 2.1GHz and one at 1.5GHz), will devour everything and anything you can throw at it. TouchWiz runs smoother than ever before, intensive games run without a hiccup and even things like photo and video editing are taken well inside the Exynos’ stride. Benchmarks tell a similar story, though we won’t bore you with those, as the performance on show here requires zero pomp or ceremony; nothing else in the Android space comes close to what’s going on inside this handset. No wonder Qualcomm is getting Samsung to build its next-generation Snapdragon 820! 

Beyond this the most impressive thing about the Galaxy S6 is just how reserved it is; the handset doesn’t feel showy. It just does what it does in a very satisfying and efficient manner. Yes, the omission of SD-support is a pain, but the handset is outfitted in three storage versions (32/64/128GB) alongside 100GB of free Drive storage, so even those running on the lowest storage version should have more than enough space to play with. 

The Galaxy S6 supports CAT 6 LTE, meaning 300 Mbits/sec download, 50 Mbits/sec upload, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO) and Bluetooth 4.0 as well as all the usual bells and whistles –– NFC, wireless charging, etc –– you’d expect on a top flight Android handset. Pound for pound, the Galaxy S6 offers up perhaps the best array of specs and hardware we’ve seen on a phone so far this year. All that could change with the launch of the LG G4 and Galaxy Note 5 later this year, obviously, but for now the Galaxy S6 really does look, feel and perform like a flagship in every sense of the word. 

Latest Samsung Galaxy S6 deals:

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Camera 

Samsung, even back in the days of the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5, has a very good pedigree when it comes to imaging technology. The Galaxy Note 3’s imaging unit was exceptional. Ditto for the Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4, so it’s no surprise the imaging aboard the Galaxy S6 is yet another step forward for the company.

This isn’t a dramatic overhaul of what came before; rather, it is a refinement (a la Apple’s style with the iPhone) of what came before, aboard the Galaxy S5, just with a few key tweaks in the exact right places. You have the same 16MP sensor onboard, for instance, only this time it is backed up by Optical Image Stabilisation and a wider aperture which allows for more light and, in the end, better shots regardless of the setting you’re shooting in. 

The results of this tune-up are VERY impressive indeed, as you can see below. 

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The addition of Live HDR, the quick launch mode, accessed via a double tap of the home button, an improved 5MP front facing camera with an aperture of f/1.9, and Samsung’s already awesome, but now simpler camera application make for a thoroughly satisfying user experience. 

Video, again, is very decent and benefits from an array of new features like object-tracking auto-focus, a first on a smartphone in my experience, as well as having the chops to shoot crystal clear 4K video, 1080p, and lower. The only downside to this new mode is that it cannot be used in conjunction with OIS… 

KYM’s go-to recommendation for the best imaging experience on offer always used to be the Galaxy Note 4. Pound for pound, nothing else really equaled that handset for ease of use, features and picture quality. However, there’s a new sheriff in town these days, one with all the prowess and power of the Note 4 and quite a bit extra, and it goes by the name of the Samsung Galaxy S6. 

It’ll be very interesting to see how the LG G4’s setup compares to what’s on offer aboard the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 EDGE because as it stands right now –– early-Q2, 2015 –– Samsung is a good country mile or so ahead of the competition in this regard. 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Battery 

QHD panels and battery performance do not go hand in hand; that’s been my position of them since day one. Every QHD device I’ve tested so far had a shocking battery life and struggled to get through a full day (and a night on the town) with heavy usage. The Galaxy S6 is the exception to the rule, however, as its battery –– a mere shrimp at just 2,550mAh –– just keeps on going and going and going. And even when it does want to conk out you can switch on Power Saving mode and eke out another full day’s worth of usage. 

The only explanation I can think of is Samsung’s Exynos 7420 CPU; it must be a seriously efficient mother trucker. I never had to worry about the handset running out of juice, unlike with the HTC One M9, Google Nexus 6 and iPhone 6. Nope, not once –– this thing goes all day long. And, in the event you do manage to max it out, you have the Power Saving mode to save your ass and keep the phone’s vital systems running for upwards of 10 hours. 

Couple this with the Galaxy S6’s rapid charging abilities –– it’ll go from dead to 70% in 30 minutes –– and you’re looking at one of the best performers in the business. Impressed is an understatement; Samsung has just proved you CAN do QHD without hurting the battery life detrimentally (providing, of course, you use an Exynos CPU). 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Verdict 

Impressed. Very, very impressed. This is the handset Samsung fans have been waiting for… an actual contender that surpasses Apple’s iPhone in almost every regard. Samsung might have made some erroneous mistakes in the past but all is forgiven now because the Galaxy S6 is easily one of the finest handsets I’ve ever tested. It’s great at imaging. It performs great. It looks great. Hell, it’s even got a decent battery life AND a QHD display. 

And it is this latter point which makes the Galaxy S6 so damn compelling. I’ve never tested a QHD handset with decent battery life, even the one’s with HUGE 3000mAh+ setups. This is a HUGE USP for Samsung and one it will likely continue to exploit in 2015 with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which is tipped to feature an even more powerful screen –– not that you need one. 

Samsung hasn’t produced a handset this compelling since, well, as long as I can remember. Like all good things, it is difficult to pin down exactly what makes this device so good, because it isn’t just one thing by itself. It’s more like a symphony of attributes, engineered perfectly, which combine to create a truly brilliant smartphone experience across the board. The Galaxy S6 does EVERYTHING and, best of all, it feels like it has plenty more in the tank should you need it. 

The only thing it’s missing is microSD and the ability to remove its battery –– that’s literally it. And if you’re bothered about that, well, just go and get the Galaxy S5 because I don’t think Samsung will miss your business. This –– along with the Galaxy S6 EDGE –– is going to sell by the truck load. 

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