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printed October 20, 2017
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 Active for AT&T

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  

Screen

The S6 Active sports a 5.1-inch quad HD screen, just like the S6 and S6 Edge. The screen relies on Samsung's OLED technology and it's very bright. Colors are perhaps not quite as accurate as I'd like, but that's only because Samsung likes to boost them to appear more intense. The size and resolution are a match made in heaven. The pixel density is incredible; everything on the screen is razor sharp. I found the display quite easy to read outdoors, even under sunny skies. You can't ask for a much nicer display in a modern smartphone.

Signal

The S6 Active did well on AT&T's network in the greater New York area. The phone was always quick to connect calls, but did miss one in a poor coverage area. The Active did not drop any calls, even when moving at highway speeds. Data speeds were best under strong LTE conditions, but didn't slow down too much if the signal was weak. I was easily able to upload photos to Facebook and Twitter while updating apps in the background. I can't say there's anything to complain about as far as the cellular radio is concerned.

Sound

The Active is a fine voice phone. Standard voice calls sounded great via the earpiece speaker, which produced a decent amount of volume. It's not loud enough to overcome extremely noisy spaces, but it will suffice in most places. Voices had a pleasant tone to them, and those I spoke to via the Active said I sounded loud and clear.

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The speakerphone is quite good. It works best when placed on a flat, hard surface, but works quite well on its own. The speaker offered plenty of volume and it didn't distort even when set all the way up. You can easily use the Active for speakerphone calls in the office, the car, or at home.

Ringers and alerts are generally loud enough to get your attention as long as you are in the vicinity of the S6 Active. The vibrate alert offers plenty of buzz.

Battery

Samsung gave the S6 Active a significant advantage over the S6 and S6 Edge thanks to its larger battery. Where the S6 and Edge have 2,550 mAh-2,600 mAh batteries, the Active has a 3,500 mAh battery. The larger battery powers the Active through a full day with ease. It performs markedly better than the S6 and S6 Edge, which often gave out at about 15 or 16 hours. The Active managed to squeeze out 20 to 24 hours of actual usage time. If battery life is a top concern, the S6 Active delivers.

Samsung included its Power Saver and Ultra Power Saver modes. These do make a difference if you run into trouble. The first option tones down a few features and doesn't crimp the phone's performance too much. For example, it will limit the CPU a bit, turn down brightness, turn off the key backlights, and put the display to sleep faster. The second takes a more aggressive approach and kills off all but the basics. It strips the UI down to the bare essentials, goes grey-scale, and prioritizes only key functions, such as calling and messaging. These will help you save power, but the Active's larger battery means you shouldn't have to worry about it.

I tested the Active on two different wireless charging pads I have. It worked with both. It charged slowly, but it had no problem switching between the two different standards used by the pads. The phone is quick to charge when plugged into the supplied wired charger.

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