Samsung Galaxy S6 review: Subject Zero

Orlin Milinov, 13 March 2015.

Quad HD display

The display of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is the highlight feature alongside the new design and chipset. The diagonal remains unchanged at 5.1", but the resolution got a massive boost to QHD - 2560 x 1440 pixels. This means that despite its ample surface, the Super AMOLED panel offers a mind-blowing 577ppi.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung has again went for the diamond-shaped PenTile matrix, although given the sheer number of pixels the sub-pixel arrangement will hardly affect the perceivable sharpness of the screen.

Here's how the layout looks under a microscope. The diamond-shaped PenTile uses OLED sub-pixels of different sizes as each color has different levels of power efficiency and longevity. Sub-pixel rendering is employed to properly distribute each of the primary colors.

Samsung Galaxy S6

The default screen mode comes to underline the Super AMOLED panel's key strength, high contrast, by producing overly saturated colors that make every image look like it's about to pop out of the frame. Yet if you are a professional that requires the color accuracy or simply dislike the unrealistic images, the professional photo mode gets colors as true to life as possible.

The Samsung AMOLED panels have been improving with each new generation and this latest effort is further proof of that. Giving you a choice between saturation and accuracy, and comfortably beating its rivals at either end is an impressive achievement, but with the inherent AMOLED strengths in the equation, you get arguably the most impressive screen in the market.

Yep, the practically infinite native contrast and the low reflectivity that makes sure you enjoy most of it in brighter environments are still here, alongside the impeccable viewing angles. There isn't much else one can wish for.

But enough words, let's look at the numbers. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a practically unlimited contrast ratio, as it's capable of displaying black by simply turning off individual pixels - AMOLEDs light up only the parts of the screen that display a color different than black.

The Super AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S6 isn't particularly bright, especially compared to some LCDs, but it can go higher than the Galaxy Note 4.

Update, March 16: As it turns out the Auto Brightness mode can push the brightness higher than manually adjusting the brightness slider would allow you to. It's not something limited to the Galaxy S6 but it's customary for Galaxy smartphones with AMOLED screens. We confirmed that under bright light the Galaxy S6 display can light up to 70% brighter than the maximum allowed by the slider.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S6 (Manual brightness) 0 208 0 363
Samsung Galaxy S6 (Auto brightness) - - - 0 619
Samsung Galaxy S5 (Manual brightness) 0 274 0 529
Samsung Galaxy S5 (Auto brightness) 0 274 0 617
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 0 291 0 399
LG G Flex2 0 152 0 398
Meizu MX4 Pro - - - 0.69 775 1127
Xiaomi Mi Note 0.09 130 1450 0.43 626 1453
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789


Under direct sunlight, the Galaxy S6 retains excellent contrast and stays legible even in the most brightly lit environments.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can find all about our display testing routines here.

Battery life

The battery life was a bit of a question mark hanging over the Samsung Galaxy S6, considering the screen resolution has nearly doubled and the battery capacity was downgraded to 2,550 mAh. It still sounds like a pretty ample battery, but we were curious how it compares to the stellar Lollipop endurance of its predecessor.

As it turns out, we were right to be worried as the Galaxy S6 posted lesser performance on all of our test compared to the Galaxy S5.

The battery scores aren't that bad and are in fact higher than average. The S6's battery had enough juice to last just under 20 hours on 3G calls. That's less than the Galaxy S5 managed, however the new model beats it at both web browsing and video playback.

In the end the new flagship managed to achieve of respectable rating of 73h, which might not be as impressive as the 83h mark of Galaxy S5, but it still means your Galaxy S6 will last three days if you are using it for an hour of calls, web and video playback each day.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Our testing procedure includes a standby battery endurance test, which is not shown in the scorecard above, but is a part of the overall rating. You can learn more about our standardized routine here.

Update, April 3: We received a retail unit and re-ran the benchmark. The numbers improved noticeably compared to the initial tests with the pre-production unit.

Connectivity

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is armed to the teeth in connectivity terms. The mandatory 2G/3G/4G LTE is present with Cat. 6 downlinks thanks to Samsung's latest Exynos 7420 chipset. This gives you download speeds of up to 300Mbps, with 50Mbps worth of uploads. If you missed it in the specs section, the Galaxy S6 uses nano-SIM cards.

In terms of local connectivity, there's dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, so you can make the best of your home's Internet connection. DLNA is supported in multimedia apps for sharing content across compatible devices.

Speaking of, the Galaxy S6 makes it easy to share the Wi-Fi hotspot info with nearby devices (detected via Bluetooth) using the Quick Connect feature. This saves you the trouble of typing in the Wi-Fi password.

Bluetooth has been bumped up to version 4.1. There aren't any easily noticeable changes since 4.0 but, among the more important ones, Low Energy mode is now supported for connecting to smart watches and some sport sensors. ANT+ is available for such sensors too, so the Galaxy S6 will happily talk to whatever sports sensor you have.

NFC is on board for quick pairing and sharing and there's an IR blaster for controlling home appliances. Samsung's default app mostly handles your AV setup, but third party apps can be used for a wider range of devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 features a microUSB 2.0 port. It's slower at transferring data than the USB 3.0 port used in a few Samsung devices, but it has a standard size plug and it offers Quick Charge 2.0 and MHL 3.0. With the right adapter, you get 2160p@30fps output so you can watch videos you shot with the phone in their full resolution. There's 7.1 surround sound output, if the video player supports it (sadly, the pre-installed one does not).

Finally, there's a GPS/GLONASS/Beidou SatNav receiver on board. GPS alone is enough on its own but GLONASS provides extra precision, especially in dense urban settings as it also uses Russian satellites. Beidou is currently available only in China and neighboring regions, but China is an important market for Samsung so it's a nice thing to have on board.

Samsung Pay is available by default on the Galaxy S6. The new service works with NFC and a newly developed technology called MST - Magnetic Secure Transmission. The MST will allow the Galaxy S6 owners to use their phones on most of the existing terminals and merchants won't need to upgrade their payment solution.

Samsung has acknowledged the mobile wallet adoption is going very slowly and the company has built-in a new solution to this problem inside the Galaxy S6 with the MST tech that requires little to no upgrade from current card readers already installed at retailers.

Samsung Pay has already been certified by Visa and MasterCard. Samsung is teaming up with key financial institutions around the world such as American Express, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and U.S. Bank, in order to provide more flexible services and coverage.

Samsung Pay is KNOX-secured, which means the Galaxy S6 users should be getting government-grade protection of their personal data.