Hands on with Samsung's Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S5 last year, the handset made a surprisingly good impression, thanks to its blazing performance, outstanding battery life, and a stunning Super AMOLED screen. We liked its thin, light and water-resistant build too - but the plastics used in its construction weren't exactly pleasant.

Indeed, however capable the Galaxy S5 was, it always felt like there was some magic and sparkle missing from it. It didn't feel as high-end as an HTC One, or as effortlessly beautiful as an iPhone, or even as rock-solid as a flagship Lumia.

With the Galaxy S6, Samsung is hoping that it has addressed many of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor. We had the opportunity to play with both the S6, and its new S6 Edge sibling, at their launch today, to gauge a few first impressions from the very briefest of hands-on time with the two new handsets.

The two devices share near-identical specs, the key differentiator between them being the Edge's unusual display which curves slightly around both the left and right edges of the device.

Curiously, while the S6 Edge goes one better than Samsung's own Galaxy Note Edge, released last year - which has a display that curves around just one edge of the device - the display 'overhangs' on the new device appear to be considerably less functional than on the Note Edge.

The curves are there - but you'll be focusing on the 'flat' bit of the screen for most of the time

Indeed, after asking several Samsung representatives what benefits those twin overhangs offer, the only answer I got highlighted the ability to perform some very pretty 'swipe in' gestures from these edges. Swipe in from one point, for example, and you'll get an overlay of your five favorite contacts, each one matched to a specific color. When one of these contacts calls you, the curved edges of the display will glow in their designated color.

This is stylish stuff, but entirely superfluous - this seems like the very definition of form over function, providing a very nice addition, but hardly a necessary one, and it's hard to imagine consumers considering this a killer feature.

And yet, that weird and totally unnecessary curved display makes the S6 Edge look like nothing else on the market. The Galaxy Note Edge looked fairly awkward with its display 'drooping' off one side of the handset; the S6 Edge looks far more attractive with the symmetry of its double-curves, and its aesthetic is helped considerably by the fact that those overhangs aren't quite as deep as on the Note Edge.

Indeed, there's no getting around the fact that the Galaxy S6 Edge looks utterly lovely in the flesh, and much, much prettier than the comparatively unremarkable 'standard' Galaxy S6 model.

In fact, for all of Samsung's noise during its press conference about the S6 having been designed from the ground-up, it's hard to get over the fact that it looks an awful lot like the Galaxy S5 and, to some degree, the Galaxy S4 - albeit quite a lot shinier. The S6 isn't a bad looking handset at all, though - it just feels like it's stomping over very familiar ground.

The Galaxy S6 incorporates both metal and plastic in its construction, and it feels fairly pleasant to hold - although its ultra-shiny, super-reflective bodywork will leave it completely covered in horrible fingerprints and smudges in no time. This is one handset that you'll want to buy a cover for.

Hope you like fingerprints and greasy smudges!

The S6 Edge manages to hide the marks of greasy fingers with a little more discretion, but the bigger achievement is how natural it feels to hold it. I can't quite explain it - rationally, my mind tells me, it shouldn't feel that much different from holding any other handset. But the comfort of holding the new Edge, and of reaching over to tap targets on its display while holding it with the same hand, are really quite remarkable.

Its display appears more beautiful than the standard S6 too, although I suspect this is down to the extra pixels of the Edge display rather than a genuine difference in quality, as the 'flat' S6 showed off a display that oozed rich color and deep contrasts with all the flair and beauty of its predecessor, and then some. Frankly, Samsung's display technology is outstanding, and its latest handsets are a fitting showcase for this, with a stunning pixel density figure of 577ppi.

After a pretty short period in which to assess both devices, it would be somewhat foolish to discuss the details of either handset's performance. Suffice it to say both the S6 and S6 Edge felt effortlessly speedy with ultra-smooth transitions and animations throughout the UI, and not a hint of lag or a pause for breath when launching multiple apps. But with such limited time, and only a handful of apps available on the test devices, it would be foolish to draw any conclusions about either handset's performance until we get more time with a full review unit.

A couple of quick photos taken with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge weren't terribly impressive, but again, we're keen to reserve judgement on the performance of both cameras until we can more roundly assess their full range of capabilities. The low-light performance of both the front and rear cameras will be an area of particular interest when we come to review the handsets, given Samsung's proud boast of their extraordinary abilities in this area.

With only the briefest of opportunities to get to grips with the new handsets, it's tough to get a clear read on them both. On the face of it, the S6 looks like a warmed over S5, and the S6 Edge looks like a silly indulgence.

But in reality, the Galaxy S6 is one of the most powerful handsets ever, and the Galaxy S6 Edge takes the promise of that fearsome performance and packs it into an intriguing form factor that also happens to be a delight both to hold, and to behold.

So will we love them or hate them? Only time - and a comprehensive review - can tell. But if there's one thing today's event demonstrated, it's that Samsung can still make phones worth talking about.

What do you think of the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge? Are you won over by the promise of kick-ass performance, or by that oddball display? Or are you lusting after a Lumia, or wishing for a One M9 instead? Be sure to share your thoughts with us below!

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