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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?

The Galaxy S6 review unit I've been using is a T-Mobile model. Calls on the device have been A-OK for me; I've had no qualms about the unit's voice quality, and those with whom I've spoken have reported being able to hear me loud and clear as well. Data speeds over T-Mobile's LTE network have also been fine and in line with what I expect to see from that network in my area.

I have noticed something unusual with the phone's Wi-Fi connectivity, though: In short, the device seems to have trouble maintaining a strong Wi-Fi connection. Speeds periodically get slow -- even when connected to a reliably stable Wi-Fi network on which other devices, including Android phones, are simultaneously connected and having no problems.

The pokiness isn't limited to any one particular app or process; I'll see it on the Web, in social media apps and even in Google Now. Pulling up pages or articles is slow, images fail to load and refreshing content takes far too long. I've discovered that disabling Wi-Fi and then re-enabling it seems to fix things for a while, but the slowness eventually returns and the cycle repeats.

On top of that, the S6 has a feature called Smart Network Switch that's supposed to detect when a Wi-Fi connection is unstable and then automatically switch you to mobile data instead. The feature has frequently caused the system to disconnect from a reliable Wi-Fi network when the phone is idle, however, which in turn has prevented notifications like new emails from getting through.

I reached out to Samsung to inquire about these issues and a representative told me the company wasn't aware of any widespread occurrences of such problems. It's possible they could be fluke defects limited to my review unit or something specific to my situation.

Photography
We can keep this section simple: The Galaxy S6's camera is really, really good. With the aid of optical image stabilization, the phone's 16-megapixel shooter takes beautifully crisp photos with great detail and vibrant, true-to-life colors.

Indoors or out, close-ups or broad landscapes, I've yet to find many scenarios where Samsung's camera stumbles. Even in low-light environments, the Galaxy S6 manages to deliver surprisingly sharp and balanced images. If there's any limitation, it's with moving objects: The S6's camera does pick up a fair amount of motion blur if a subject is moving quickly. With a small amount of motion, though -- something like a child's swing moving back and forth -- it's able to capture a sharp-looking shot.

Equally important, Samsung has made huge strides in simplifying its camera software and making it easy to use. The once cluttered and overwhelming user interface is now pleasingly minimalist, with only the few basic controls most people will need on screen by default. And most features you'd want, like HDR mode or night mode, enable themselves automatically when the environment calls for it.

 

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