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Galaxy S6 deep-dive review: Samsung's shining star

JR Raphael | April 6, 2015
With its Galaxy S6, Samsung finally delivers a phone that's both powerful and premium. Could it be the device for you?

Of course, holding isn't the only consideration: When I placed the Galaxy S6 near the edge of a shiny coffee table one night, it shimmied along on its own and eventually slid off onto the (thankfully carpeted) floor. It gave me a flash back to other times I've used glass-backed phones and experienced similar challenges. And while I lucked out with this particular tumble, a glass back -- even one that uses strengthened material like Gorilla Glass 4, as this device does -- is inherently more prone to cracking and shattering than other materials. Like every glass phone before it, the Galaxy S6 has the potential to be somewhat fragile.

Decorative surfaces aside, the Galaxy S6's 5.1-in. Quad HD display is downright stunning. The 577ppi Super AMOLED screen is bright and crystal clear, with deep blacks, pure whites and brilliant colors that look fantastic without venturing into unrealistically oversaturated terrain. The display is easy to see even in direct sunlight. It's truly a treat for the eyes; smartphone screens don't get much better than this.

On a slightly less positive note, Samsung has stuck with its typical hybrid button configuration on the Galaxy S6 -- an Apple-reminiscent physical Home button flanked by old-school capacitive keys for Android's Overview (a.k.a. Recent Apps) and Back functions. While that setup will feel familiar to anyone accustomed to Samsung devices, it remains awkward and unnatural compared to the virtual on-screen buttons that have been standard on Android since 2011 (and are now used by nearly all other Android manufacturers). In terms of usability, it's probably the biggest remaining downside to a Samsung Android device.

One interesting element of the approach, however, is the fact that it's allowed Samsung to build a fingerprint scanner into the phone's Home button. And the Galaxy S6's scanner is light-years better than the one on last year's Galaxy S5: You can now simply touch and hold your finger to the surface to identify yourself instead of having to swipe along it, as you did with the S5 (usually numerous times before it'd work).

The S6's sensor was frustratingly finicky during my first few days with the phone, but ever since a pre-release software update was sent to the device on Saturday, it's worked impressively well. I'll occasionally have to touch my finger to the button twice before it'll recognize me -- and once in a great while, if my hand is damp or sweaty, I'll have to resort to using a backup password to get in -- but 90% of the time, my print is recognized almost instantly on the first try and I'm into the system within about a second.

 

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