Galaxy S6 Edge review: Innovative, impressive -- and impractical

The curved-screen version of Samsung's Galaxy S6 has looks to kill, but you may want to think twice before pulling the trigger.

Let this serve as a lesson: Looks can be deceiving.

Samsung has introduced two new phones in its Galaxy line, and it's interesting to compare the two. Samsung's Galaxy S6 is a gorgeous phone that's both beautiful and brimming with top-notch technology. It really is an impressive device. The Galaxy S6 Edge is essentially the same phone with an added curve to its display that makes it even more striking.

On paper and in pictures, the Edge seems like the phone to own. But after using it alongside the regular S6 for the past several days, I'm not convinced it is.

The Galaxy S6 Edge costs about $100 more than the regular Galaxy S6, both on contract and outright. Depending on where you buy it and what type of payment plan you select, you're looking at $300 with a two-year contract or $700 to $815 outright for the base 32GB model.

A clash of form and function

In the simplest possible terms, the Galaxy S6 Edge is a Galaxy S6 whose screen slopes subtly over on both sides instead of laying flat. That creates a cool visual effect and is a wonderful technological demonstration -- but practically speaking, it doesn't add much value and actually makes the phone harder to use.

The problem is that the form doesn't match the function. First of all, the Edge's sloped screen eliminates much of the phone's frame -- leaving you with a small and sharper-feeling perimeter that's harder to grab and less comfortable in the hand than the regular Galaxy S6 model.

Then there's the issue of interacting with the phone: When you're looking at text on the Edge, parts of words frequently fall along the curved areas of the glass and end up being more difficult to read than if they were on a regular flat surface. The same sort of effect happens with photos and videos. After hours of staring at content on the Edge, going back to the standard screen of the regular S6 felt like a relief.

02 galaxy s6 edge curve

On-screen elements can fall into the curved part of the display.

And it's not just a visual problem: The Edge also makes tapping and typing on the phone more challenging. Buttons and keys stretch over onto the sloped sections of the screen, where pressing them becomes awkward. It's most apparent when you're using the phone's on-screen keyboard; with parts of some letters sitting on a slope, inputting text is quite unnatural and unnecessarily laborious.

Perks that fall flat

Samsung does provide a handful of supplementary features specific to the Edge's hardware, but the features feel like a stretch -- like Samsung was really struggling to come up with a way to justify the curved screen's existence. That's a contrast from last year's Galaxy Note Edge phone, where the curved part of the display was limited to one side of the device and thus significantly larger, allowing for more robust and relevant functionality.

On the S6 Edge, the only feature present when the screen is on is the ability to swipe over from the edge of the display to see a stack of starred contacts on your home screen. You can then view any missed notifications from those contacts or tap any of their faces to call, text or email them directly. It's nothing you couldn't accomplish with any number of widgets -- or, heck, even with the same exact setup on a traditional phone. (The curve itself really has nothing to do with the feature's execution.)

03 galaxy s6 edge news ticker

The edge of the Edge can be used as a notification/news/weather bar.

While the Edge's screen is off, you can swipe along the curved part of the screen to activate a tiny bar that shows your current notifications and optionally news or weather information. It's a weird way to consume that kind of content when you could more quickly turn your screen on all the way and see the same info in an easier-to-read format.

Finally, the Edge can show the time in a tiny side-of-screen bar while the display is off -- and if you want to keep your phone face-down on a table, it can light up the curved part of the screen to create a "glow" effect that lets you know when you have a missed call or message. It's hard to think of a scenario where either option would be particularly useful.

Aside from its curve-related components, however, the Galaxy S6 Edge has essentially the same hardware, software and performance as the regular Galaxy S6 -- and that device is one that's well worth considering. Check out my in-depth Galaxy S6 review for a detailed look at the main flagship model and why it might be the Samsung smartphone you've been waiting for.

Bottom line

Between the physical effects of its form and the usage-related quirks of its display, the Galaxy S6 Edge requires a lot of sacrifice just to get something that looks cool. Consequently, tempting as it may be, the device just isn't an advisable purchase for most people.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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