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Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ for AT&T

Hardware Software Wrap-up Comments  

Sep 8, 2015, 5:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a bigger and better version of the Galaxy S6 Edge. We were pleased with the larger display and improved battery life. Moreover, AT&T's version has a small leg up on the Verizon variant. Here is Phone Scoop's full report about this powerful Android smartphone.

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Is It Your Type?

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ is simply a larger S6 Edge. If the S6 Edge wasn't big enough for you and you're anxious for more screen real estate, the Edge+ fits the bill. This ultra-premium handset is an attractive option if the Note 5, with its stylus, isn't quite your style.

Note: Since the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is practically identical between carriers, significant portions of this review have been carried over from our earlier review of the Galaxy S6 Edge+ for Verizon. Of course we did fully test this AT&T version and update the relevant sections.

Body

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is an ambitious smartphone from Samsung, but only slightly more so than the original S6 Edge. The Edge+ takes the dual-curved screen of the Edge and expands the display from 5.1 inches to 5.7 inches. It embodies the phrase "there's more of it to love." It shares almost every feature with the Note 5, save for the curvy glass and stylus.

The design features a metal frame sandwiched between two glass panels. The materials and build quality are second-to-none. I appreciate the attention to detail that's evident in the shape of the aluminum sides as well as the curves of the glass. The seams are fitted together flawlessly. The S6 Edge+ exudes style and class in every way, and will be a fine companion if you're dressed up for a night on the town.

Of course, it's darned big. The S6 Edge+'s dimensions are nearly identical to those of the Note 5. It's 1mm taller, but 0.7mm thinner. The Edge+ is significantly lighter than the Note 5 (5.4 ounces compared to 6.03 ounces), perhaps because the frame is thinner and the Edge+ doesn't have a stylus. I noticed immediately how much lighter it is. It should go without saying the Edge+ is significantly taller and wider than the normal S6 Edge.

Given its size, Samsung did as well as it could to make the phone comfortable to hold and use. When comparing the Note 5 to the Edge+, I'd swear to you Samsung simply reversed the frame. Where the Note 5 has a flat front and curved back, the Edge+ has a flat back and curved front. The effect is to make the Edge+ feel wider than the Note 5, even when it is technically 0.02 inches narrower. The aluminum frame is thin along the side edges and digs into your skin a bit. The Note 5 is more comfortable to hold and use, in my opinion.

The entire phone is slippery as hell; the finish on the Gorilla Glass 4 panels is smooth, which means the phone will easily slip into — and out of — your pockets. Some people may worry enough about the glass to protect it with a case. Adding a case will hide the phone's pleasing design and make the phone even larger.

Body  

The front of the phone carries forward design traits we've seen on Samsung phones for years. The panel is mostly display with thin side bezels and thicker top and bottom bezels to house the usual set of components. Above the screen, for example, are two sensors, the chrome-accented speaker grille, and the user-facing camera. Below the screen, you'll see the oblong home screen button / fingerprint reader, which is flanked by capacitive multi-tasking and back keys. The home button has an accented rim, which helps it stand out visually, and the physical profile is excellent. I found the button easy to find and use.

The volume buttons are on the left. They are two separate keys, rather than a single toggle. They have excellent profiles, travel, and feedback. The screen lock button, on the right, has similarly pleasing characteristics. I do wish the S6 Edge+ had a dedicated camera button, but there's not much room for one.

The SIM card tray is on the top edge. The bottom edge holds the stereo headphone jack, the micro USB port, and the grill for the speakerphone. There's no IR port, unlike the smaller S6 Edge. The Edge+ does not have a stylus either; that's reserved for the Note 5.

The camera module protrudes noticeably from the rear panel. It has not one, but two (!) chrome accents, which, oddly, draw attention to the camera bump and its size. The flash and heart rate sensor are packaged together in a separate module to the right of the camera, but they are flush with the surface.

Many Samsung fans were not happy with the company's decision to dump removable rear covers, swappable batteries, and swappable memory cards on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Unfortunately, Samsung made the same decision (mistake?) with the S6 Edge+. The battery is sealed in tight, and there's no memory card slot. To help offset that loss a bit, the S6 Edge+ is compatible with most wireless charging pads thanks to support for multiple wireless charging standards. What's more, it includes rapid charging and rapid wireless charging, with the proper (Samsung) pad.

The S6 Edge+ is an incredible piece of hardware, despite its shortcomings, and stands near the top of the big-screened smartphone mountain. It may be somewhat less comfortable to use than the Note 5, but the design is more appealing to me, and the drop in weight is welcome indeed. It's an impressive smartphone.

Screen

What's not to love about a 5.7-inch quad-HD display? Damn, the S6 Edge+'s screen kicks butt. It's amazing in every way. Samsung uses Super AMOLED tech for its screens (as opposed to LCD), and the S6 Edge+'s display is a winner across the board. It's pixel-rich, bright, colorful, contrasty, and flat-out incredible. I was able to use it indoors and out with no problem. I saw minimal brightness drop when the phone was tilted side to side, and colors remained accurate. Quite honestly, the S6 Edge+'s screen is the best available on a smartphone right now.

The only issue might be viewing angles. Where the Note 5's screen is flat, the Edge+'s screen is curved along the sides. The curves reduce the percentage of the screen you can see when the phone is held at an angle; you cannot see what's on the far edge, which curves out of sight. It's not severe, but it is noticeable. Moreover, there's a bit of optical distortion on the side edges when the screen is viewed head-on. It's only noticeable when you're looking at a fully white screen; you'll see the side edges look a wee bit bluer than the rest of the screen.

Signal

I tested the S6 Edge+ on AT&T's network throughout New Jersey and New York City. It performed on par with other handsets I've tested in the region. The phone did a good job connecting to AT&T's signal. Most times the phone showed several bars of 4G LTE coverage and only dropped to HSPA in weak signal areas. Importantly, I was able to connect calls no matter how strong or weak the signal, and the phone didn't drop or miss any calls while I reviewed it. Data speeds across AT&T's LTE service were solid. I was impressed with web page load times, app downloads, and Instagram refresh rates, which all felt speedy.

Sound

Like the Note 5, I was not particularly impressed with the S6 Edge+ as a voice phone. I had hoped the AT&T version would sound better than the Verizon version, but it didn't; they are on par. The S6 Edge+ is just barely loud enough with everything at the maximum level. Loud environments, like busy city streets, made it rather difficult to hear calls. Holding conversations in moving cars was difficult. Quality was also lacking. Voices sounded only fractionally clearer in the S6 Edge+ on AT&T's network when compared to Verizon's.

Switching to the speakerphone helped alleviate these problems a bit. The speakerphone on the AT&T Edge+ was noticeably louder than the Verizon model, and it delivered clearer audio, too.

Ringtones and alerts were able to get my attention the majority of the time. The vibrate alert delivered a satisfying jolt when inbound messages arrived.

Whether you use Google's Play Music app, Samsung's Milk Music app, or the stand-alone MP3 player, music sounds good when pumped through the S6 Edge+'s stereo headphone jack. I have no complaints on that front.

Battery

The S6 Edge+'s glassy design necessitated that the 3,000 mAh battery be sealed inside. I thought it performed a bit better than the battery in the Note 5 (which is the same capacity). It never delivered 36 - 48 hours of uptime like the iPhone 6 Plus, for example, but it still pushed through an entire working day with some room to spare at the end of the day.

Samsung sort of makes up for the power-hungry nature of the phone with rapid charging and rapid wireless charging. I tested the rapid charging via USB and found the 3,000 mAh battery could ramp up from 0% charge to 100% charge in less than 90 minutes. That's pretty quick. Of course, the more you charge it, the sooner the battery will lose its ability to hold a charge.

The S6 Edge+ also includes Samsung's 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 definitely help you save power in a pinch.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

I was very pleased with the S6 Edge+'s wireless performance all around. The Bluetooth radio did a great job as far as pairing with other devices was concerned. Call quality was not the best, especially via my car's hands-free system. I'd call the experience noisy. Music pushed to aptX-compatible Bluetooth headsets sounded fantastic.

The GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios all functioned perfectly, I didn't have any problems with them. I was impressed with the speed of the GPS radio, which pinpointed me to within 10 feet in just a couple of seconds on a consistent basis. The NFC radio allowed me to quickly pair the phone with other hardware and the WiFi radio was speedy for use in browsing the web.

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