Thursday, December 31, 2015

Samsung Galaxy G6 Long Term Review

After disappointing sales of the Galaxy S5, Samsung had to make a big turnaround with its next Galaxy phone. Introducing the fruit of its project zero, the new Galaxy S6.

An aluminum framed phone powered with Samsung's own Exynos 7420 processor sandwiched between two slabs of Gorilla glass 4, the Galaxy S6 lives up to its flagship status with 3GB of RAM, Quad HD Super AMOLED display, 16MP F1.9 aperture rear camera, 5MP front camera, IR blaster, Quick Charge 2.0, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11ac WiFi support, wireless charging, fingerprint scanner, biometric reader, and GPS/GLONASS support to name a few. The downside is the lack of microSD support, switch to the smaller nano SIM, and smallish battery (2559mAH) that's non-removable.

There's been many reviews by now that have covered the Lollipop software released at launch with the Galaxy S6 so I'll wait to do one after the Marshmallow update. 

Look, Touch, and Feel

Color
The Galaxy S6 comes in white, black, light gold, and blue (topaz).  The white looks very flat while blue and black shine under light and reflects back a slightly different hue depending on the angle.  Black will appear very dark blue while blue will shine cyan.  Since black and blue can reflect different hues, their center bottom, which is not reflective, looks flat and stands out darker than the body of the phone. 

Feel
The touch of glass on both the front and rear of the phone is a welcome change to the usual plastic.  It provides a solid feel with no creaking or body bend.  But it's also a fingerprint magnet but less noticeable on the white version.  The side edges of the phones are chamfered at the very top and bottom where it meets the glass but the sides are matte finished and not shiny.  The camera bump and home key edges have the shiny chamfer too.  The wider sides provide comfortable grip compared to the Edge and Note 5.

The power key placed on the right side is just a bit above the middle and is comfortable for one hand-right handed use.  The left placed volume keys are ear the top and easy to reach when holding the phone up to your ear.  Buttons feel good and provide good clicky feedback. 

Fingerprint Sensor
The press your finger down finger print scanner on the home key is a vast improvement to the previous finger swipe scanner on the Galaxy S5.  It accurately reads my left and right finger on most occasions and reads fairly quickly (faster than the iPhone 6 but slower than the iPhone 6S).  The times the scanner doesn't read properly only because the finger print reader software doesn't store enough scans of the finger so it missed the sides of my thumb.  It can store at most 4 fingers.

Camera

As reported a few months ago, the Galaxy S6 and its many variants use either Sony's IMX240 or Samsung's ISOCELL S5K2P2 16MP OIS camera.  They do produce different results with the Sony having a larger file size, more detail, but more noise and more sharpening.  Color reproduction on both sensors are similar but the ISOCELL tends to be darker.  You can see it for yourself in the photos below that were taken in auto mode, auto focusing, HDR and flash off, and hand held.

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Sony IMX240
Photo
File Size3,679,210 bytes4,930,718 bytes
ISO8080
Explosure1/301/33
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9G925XXXU1AOD7_LLK
Image IDA16LLIC08VMA16LSIA00VM

Close up Samsung vs Sony

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Sony IMX240
Photo
File Size4,956,371 bytes5,748,852 bytes
ISO80100
Explosure3030
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9G925PVPU1AOC9
Image IDA16LLIC08VMA16LSIA00VM

Close up Samsung vs Sony

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Sony IMX240
Photo
File Size2,371,108 bytes5,681,084 bytes
ISO8080
Explosure1/301/100
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9G920XXXU1BOH2_LLK
Image IDA16LLIC08VMA16LSIA00VM

Close up Samsung vs Sony

So you've seen all the photos showing differences between Samsung's and Sony's sensor but what about between Samsung's own ISOCELL sensors?  Yes, they behave differently as well.

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Samsung S5K2P2
Photo
File Size4,609,581 bytes4,955,990 bytes
ISO10064
Explosure1/331/30
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9G920AUCU2AOF4
Image IDA16LLIC08VMA16LLIC08SM

Close up Samsung G920F vs Samsung G920A

Comparing the ISOCELL to the Lumia 950 with Rich capture enabled
The Galaxy S6 focused on the closer objects while the Lumia focused on the distant objects.  Colors are cooler on the Lumia.  The Lumia captured more details as you can see in the wooden floor but I overall preferred the Galaxy S6 photo with the more accurate color reproduction.  I'll have to go back and take another photo with specific object focused.

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Nokia
Photo
File Size5,168,641 bytes6,220,786 bytes
ISO4064
Explosure1/331/40
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9
Image IDA16LLIC08VM

Comparing the ISOCELL to the Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 can capture much more details than the Galaxy S6 if you have time to set up the shot.  Slow and troublesome focusing and slow photo capture are the main problems with the Lumia 1020.  Colors are also more accurate on the Galaxy S6 where the Lumia 1020 would de-saturate colors.  So if it's a quick point a shoot you want, the Galaxy S6 is the much better camera.  If it's still landscape with a tripod or night photos with flash then the Lumia 1020 is still the king of cameras.

SensorSamsung S5K2P2Nokia
Photo
File Size5,380,466 bytes1,389,087 bytes (down sampled 5MP from 41MP)
ISO250640
Explosure1/1001/14
Program NameG920FXXU3COI9
Image IDA16LLIC08VM

Close up of Samsung vs Lumia 1020

Lumia 1020 vs Samsung Galaxy S6

Silence Galaxy S6 Shutter Sound
A few variants of the Galaxy S6 do not let you disable the shutter sound unless you silent your phone.  A workaround is to install "SilentCam Switch" (it'll switch your phone to silent mode when it detects the camera app in the foreground and disable silent mode after closing the camera app - it doesn't work so well when you task away), install "KeepRunning" to keep "SilentCam Switch" running in the background, and "AutoStart - No root" to start "SilentCam Switch" when you reboot your phone (you can uninstall "AutoStart - No root" after you set up "SilentCam Switch" to start on boot)

Display
The Samsung AMOLED 5 inch Quad-HD display is very impressive.  There is no problems with reading or taking photos under or behind direct sunlight where it'll turn super bright in auto mode.  The viewing angle is equally impressive allowing you to read it legibly all the way up to 90 degrees off center.  At 577ppi (pixel per inch), it'll be difficult to spot pixels at normal reading distance.  It is the best display on a phone today.  But if you're using it with the Samsung Gear VR, the resolution is not high enough for an up-to-your-face display so you'll experience the "seeing through a fly stopper mesh" sensation.

White Balance Variance
Compared to the display on the HTC One M7, the Samsung display is, by default, very saturated on its default setting of Adaptive Display. By switching the Display Screen mode to Basic you get a more accurate color saturation but you'll immediately see whites become warmer. And this is when you notice a problem across various Galaxy 6 devices, the white balance is calibrated differently on each device with some devices warmer and some closer to real white. From many of the demo units at stores, Galaxy 6 Edge devices were much more consistently close to white than the non-edge devices.

Burn-in
The problem is real.  While comparing white balance across devices from in-store demo units, there was significant display burn ins on a majority of non-Samsung Experience Center units.  Try to avoid continuously keeping the device on with a status screen such as persistent icons (such as soft keys on a third party launcher).  It's not likely to happen to personal devices if their display is set to time out.
This is from a Galaxy S6 Edge but both S6 and S6 Edge share the same display technology.  Note the yellow square with the "Explore" text burned into the center and home screen icons burned in at the bottom of the screen.

Sound
The speakerphone comes from the bottom of the phone.  It is loud but tinny.

IR Blaster

I've been able to use the IR blaster up to 5 meters away.  I'll update this review later with the angle but I've been able to use it at 45 degree angle.  Sadly the IR blaster isn't included in the Note 5, S6 Edge Plus, or the upcoming S7 

Battery
As everyone says, it's small and it's non-removable.  Without playing games, which will drain any phone's battery very fast, a typical day of usage for me drains the battery at 2% every hour. With low usage of some WiFi connections, a few phone calls, and GPS usage, I've been able to extend my battery to 5 days on a single charge. I've noticed that roaming causing noticeable battery drain at 1% per hour rather than 0.5% per hour when the S6 is on standby.

Charging the phone is a pleasure to charge with Quick Charge 2.0 support that can charge the battery from near empty to full in 1.25 hours. If you can't wait that long, a short 15 minute charge can get you 30% or more. The battery charges faster in the beginning then slows down as it gets closer to full.  Wireless charging is a lot slower and it doesn't support the Wireless Quick Charge like Samsung's newer Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Galaxy Note 5 but does support both Qi and Powermat.

Last Thoughts
Amazing display, good battery life, great camera, better hardware feel in hand, support for numerous technologies such as wireless charging, fingerprint scanner, and 802.11ac creates a true winner for Samsung.  For those that have a bigger hand, the Note 5 is a great phone but if you prefer the fancy curved screen (I didn't like the glare and color distortion) then the Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge Plus.

But buying a Galaxy S6 is really a lottery.  You only know after you buy it whether the display and camera are really the best being offered.  Someone at Samsung is definitely asleep at the wheel in quality control or the quality tolerance is really loose - which is what I think is the case.

Apart from these set backs, the build quality of the phone is superb.  The glass and aluminum frame fit well, software is quick and I haven't experienced software crashes but RAM usage could be better optimized, and the camera is quick and produces good photos.  For me, it was the phone of the year that earned my money.

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