• Our Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Review


    Right now if I had to choose, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 would be my pick for favorite Android phone. You can imagine how pumped I was when I found out that the Samsung Galaxy Edge was coming here to North America.

    Itís just like the Note 4 but the display has been swapped out for a curved, slightly higher resolution display that spills over the right side of the phone. If youíve never seen one before, the effect is quite striking. Letís check it out:
    Availability:

    In Canada, the Edge is available on Rogers and Bell for around $400 on-contract and $900 off which makes it more expensive than the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus.

    Canada Off Contract Contract
    Rogers $899.99 $399.99
    Bell $899.95 $399.95

    In the US, AT&T has it for $945.99 straight up, $399.99 US or $31.54 for 30 months. Verizon has it for $399.99, $33.33 for 24 months or $799.99 off-contract. T-Mobile has it for $870 or $36.25 for 24 months. Itís $35 for 24 months on Sprint, $840 off-contract or $429.99 on a 2 year.

    US Off Contract Payment Plan On Contract
    AT&T $945.99 $31.54 x 30 $399.99
    Verizon $799.99 $33.33 x 24 $399.99
    T-Mobile $870 $36.25 x 24
    Sprint $840 $35 x 24 $429.99

    What about the Samsung Galaxy Note 4?



    Is the Edge really worth an extra $100 or so over the Note 4? The quick answer is definitely not.

    The only reason to buy the Edge is if you can appreciate the techo lust that the curved screen inspires. I mean when people see it, theyíre definitely impressed. Still, once they get past it, the next question is ďWhat does the curved screen do?Ē

    Unfortunately, it doesnít do much and worse yet, it makes the Edge harder to use than the Note 4. Samsung has tried their best to utilize the curve sideís extra space by migrating the notifications and app drawer there. Itís a sound idea in theory, but in practice, I found those 2 features constantly fighting over the same space. Worse yet, since I usually use my phone in portrait mode, the landscape-oriented notifications are always at a 90 degree angle.

    If thatís not enough you can also put all sorts of other information on the side to clutter things even more.



    One other problem that I didnít think about is that the Edgeís extra width over the Note 4 means it wonít fit in most car cup holders. I guess the Nexus 6, Passport and even the Note 4 in a case have this problem too so Iím not sure how big a deal this really is.

    Another problem is that the Edge has a slightly larger display than the Note 4 but it comes with a smaller battery. While I do think that most users will find the Edgeís battery sufficient to make it through the day, I did notice that it drains a little faster than the Note 4.

    Really, thereís no reason to pick up the Edge unless you absolutely, positively must have a phone with a curved display at all costs and can overlook the problems that it causes.

    What about the Google Nexus 6?

    In my Nexus 6 review, I said that the Note 4 is a better phone than the Nexus 6. While I still think than the Nexus 6ís display needs to be brighter, I think that the Edgeís inconvenient curved screen and smaller battery are enough to tip things in the Nexus 6ís favor even when you consider the 6ís lack of a memory card and removable battery.

    While itís no deal, the Nexus 6 32GB is also $150 less than the Edge.

    What about the iPhone 6 Plus?

    When Apple introduced the iPhone 6 Plus with itís plus-sized price tag, it sort of raised the ceiling on what manufacturers can charge for their phones.

    Love or hate Apple, their products usually dictate the most that a company can charge for their for non-niche products.

    While the Edge has a more powerful speaker, removable battery, removable storage and itís Wacom powered S-pen stylus, the curved display is awkward to use which makes it a worse device. If youíre looking at dropping 900 bucks on a phone do yourself a favour, spend a little more and pick up the 6 Plus 64GB.

    Specs:

    No surprises here, with the exception of the curved screen, dimensions and smaller battery, the Note Edge shares most of the Note 4ís guts:


    • 5.6Ē SuperAMOLED display
    • 2560x1600 display
    • 3GB RAM
    • 32GB storage
    • 2.66Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC
    • Adreno 420 graphics
    • 3000mAh battery
    • 16 MP rear-facing camera
    • 4K video recording
    • 3.7 MP front-facing camera
    • MicroSD
    • Removable storage
    • S-Pen stylus support
    • Heart rate monitor
    • Fingerprint reader
    • UV Sensor
    • 151.3 x 82.4 x 8.3mm
    • 174g
    • LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/17/29
    • carrier aggregation for 4/7 (among others)


    Body:



    The body is pretty similar to the Note 4ís. Screen aside, the Edge is missing some of the fine details on the 4. For example; the chamfering isnít as pronounced on the Note Edge plus is lacks the built-up corners.

    Speaking of the curved screen, I donít know about you but the non-symmetrical design creates some tension when you look at it. Itís not a harmonious look. Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so you can decide whether it makes the Edge more striking or just kind of strange.

    I usually use my phones by holding them in my right hand than using my thumb to interact with the screen. The problem is that when I hold the Edge like this, my palm is all over the right side.



    Samsung has done a good job of knowing when I have my palm on the side of the screen but occasionally it gets fooled and unexpected things happen.

    Since the design is asymmetrical I also found that I made more typos than I would on a Note 4 - then again, maybe I just need to get used to it more.



    The back cover has a faux leather finish. Itís not a bad attempt.



    Since the right side has the curved portion of the screen, the power button that Samsung typically puts there has been relocated to the top. This really annoyed me because a) having a right-mounted power button is a Samsung paradigm b) my finger has to make its way to the top since the Edge is a large phone.



    Further, the power button feels cheap and doesnít stick out as much as the one on the Note 4ís.

    Iím not going to go too in-depth but the fingerprint reader works well. You do have to swipe it which makes it less convenient to use, but your finger can be at any angle so itís still usable.

    I donít imagine most people use the rear-facing UV sensor and heart-rate monitor but if you do then youíll be happy to know that there arenít many other phones which have this feature.

    The MicroUSB and S-Pen silo are at the bottom:



    Volume buttons are where they're supposed to be on the left side:



    Notice that the battery cover doesn't cover the entire back:



    The included battery has a capacity of 3000mAh vs the 3220mAh included with the Note 4.



    Display:

    I have no idea if the Edge has a glass or plastic display but it feels different from the Note 4ís.

    While most phones including the Note 4 have 16:9 ratio screens, the Edgeís has a more square 16:10 aspect ratio. What this means is even though the Edgeís screen measures only 5.6Ē diagonally, itís actually larger than the Note 4ís 5.7Ē, 16:9 display.

    The resolution is also slightly higher, 2560x1600 vs a mere 2560x1440 on the regular Note 4. Thatís about an extra 11% more pixels.

    Since the right-most part of the curved display is harder to see when youíre using the phone straight on - that area of the screen is reserved for the dock and notifications. The idea is that you can now fit more icons and widgets on your home screens plus the notifications no longer pop up at the top.

    The problem with moving the notifications on the side is that now you have to read them at a 90 degree angle. Further, when you get notifications, the pop up sometimes covers up the rightmost part of the screen. Talk about a horrible answer to a question that no one asked. Then again, I guess some would say that pretty much sums up Touch-wiz in general at this point in time.

    As for the dock, it sometimes fights the notifications for the same space. That meanís itís actually worse than just having the dock at the bottom like every other Android phone.

    Viewing angles are very good - just like the Note 4, but the problem is that the display turns blue unless youíre looking at it straight on. The curved display really accentuates this problem.

    As for the display itself, itís quite similar to the Note 4ís. Itís really, really bright. Itís so bright that even though itís an AMOLED display (which normally struggle outdoors), it kind of works in bright sunlight.

    Blacks are extremely deep so contrast is off the charts.

    Aside from the off-angle colour shift, I have no complaints about the display itself - itís top notch.

    Camera:

    The camera is similar to the one in the Note 4. I compared some shots side-by-side and I think the Edge has a slightly improved sensor. Itís a tiny bit cleaner.

    I found that it sometimes wonít focus, itís not because the sensor isnít capable of finding focus but itís some sort of bug.

    Samsung has moved the shutter button to the curved part of the screen. I think the idea is that by moving the shutter button out of the way, itís no longer blocking your view. The problem with this is that generally speaking, shutter buttons are usually placed where they are so that you can trigger the shutter without causing your phone to shake too much. I had a much harder time holding the Edge still while triggering the shutter.

    The location of the shutter button also makes it virtually impossible to take shots while holding the Edge with just one hand.

    I found that the Edge tends to take worse pictures because I got more blurry shots because of the shutter button placement.

    Software:

    Like the Note 4, the Edge ships with Android 4.4 and Not Android 5 - At least in Canada as of February 18th 2015. Since Lollipop has been available for a few months now and given that itís a cutting edge device, Iím a little disappointed they didnít toss Android 5 in the mix.

    In terms of software, the Edge is similar to the Note 4 with a few key differences. First off, you know how I go on and on about how great Samsungís multi-window feature is in each Samsung review I write? Before you had to launch it by pressing and holding the back button and then selecting which windows you want.

    While you can still do this, now you can pop windows out by just swiping from the top left diagonally onto the screen. Itís a much more intuitive way to hover windows - just remember that itís not support by most apps.



    Since the Edge has a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the more traditional 16:9 ratio, itís screen is Ďwiderí. Since part of the screen goes over the edge, the Edge never uses the right part for apps. That area is reserved for what Samsung calls their ďpanelsĒ features.

    Normally, the right side shows panels for the notification area along with icons from the dock. In case youíre wondering, you can still pull down from the top of the screen to access your switches and to view notifications, itís just that notification toasts show up on the right side.

    You can cycle between the panels by swiping left or right. If thatís not enough, you can also add more panels. Included are panels for the weather, stocks, how many steps youíve taken today, twitter feeds, sports scores, quick dials and even a game. If thatís not enough, you can download another 12 from Google Play.

    The problem with all this is that the panels themselves are quite small so they canít display too much information. It can also get very cluttered if youíre trying to use more than one or two panels.



    However, the worst thing about the panels is that I tend to use my phones in portrait mode and the panels themselves are landscape so you have to read everything at a 90 degree angle which is much more annoying that I thought it would be.

    Donít get me wrong, the panels are very cool but the problem is that theyíre not particularly useful.

    Certain built-in apps like the video player also use the panel to show the video scrubber and controls. Again, it sounds like a cool idea since you donít have controls overlaying what youíre watching but in practice, it makes the Edge awkward to use.

    The rest of the software including Samsungís S-Pen apps are present on the Edge.

    Performance:

    No surprises here, the Edgeís performance is very similar to the Note 4ís and is in the same ballpark as the Nexus 6 too.



    Media Capabilities:

    Media capabilities are identical to the Note 4. The headphone jack sounds great and is powerful. The built-in speaker doesnít sound as nice as the Nexus 6ís speakers but they are quite loud.

    If 32GB (GB usable) isnít enough storage for you can add a MicroSD.

    As a Phone:

    If you're wondering how it handles as a phone itís just like the Note 4 meaning it has a powerful, above average earpiece, good sound quality and strong RF performance.

    Where the Edge sets itself apart is that Bell and Rogers are marketing it as the first phone sold by either that supports their carrier aggregation which theyíre calling LTE Advanced.

    This means that the Edge supports speeds of up to 225Mbps on Rogers and 183Mbps on Bell. Rogers was kind enough to send me a demo SIM to use with the Edge. Oh and in case you're wondering, I don't think you need a special SIM card to use carrier aggregation. All you need is one that supports LTE.

    In order to get speeds of 150Mbps, Rogers has to use their 20Mhz of spectrum on band 7. To get 75Mbps they have to use 10Mhz of their band 4 spectrum. With carrier aggregation theyíre able to combine the 2 bands for a total speed of 225Mbps (150 + 75).

    Hereís what Iím talking about. While carrier aggregation didnít appear to be on everywhere, HC ďno - iĒ figured out a way to force it on the Edge. I found a decent spot and ran these tests:

    Hereís the result on band 4:


    The result on band 7:


    And hereís the result with carrier aggregation turned on (notice the ďLTE+Ē).


    Yup, the result is more-or-less the sum of the first two tests. By the way, if you look closely youíll notice the time stamp for the CA test is earlier in the day, rest assured I was getting similar results when I ran the separate tests at night, I just forgot to take a screen grab then.

    225Mbps is a mighty impressive number and great for marketing purposes but some of you are probably wondering what use this is in the real world. I gave it a lot of thought and marketing aside, one scenario where carrier aggregation would be useful is if both bands are congested and youíre only able to get 2Mbps on one and 2 on the other, well with CA you could get a usable 4Mbps.

    Hereís another more interesting observation: If you look carefully, while the download speed is very high, the upload speed is not aggregated and just appears to be using band 4 only.

    If you look at the Band 7 upload speeds youíll notice that theyíre much faster. So, if youíre uploading videos from your phone, this is one scenario where carrier aggregation would actually cause things to run more slowly - at least until theyíre able to aggregate the uplink also.

    Conclusion:



    While Samsung deserves praise for bringing such an interesting device to the market, itís really too bad they werenít able to make the curved screen useful. Technology for the sake of technology is cool but in the case of the Edge, it doesnít make it a better phone.

    While I gave the Note 4, 4.5 Howies, Iím taking off 0.5 Howies from the Edgeís score because itís a actually worse phone.

    Pros:

    • Curve screen is cool
    • Snappy performance
    • Well specíd
    • Carrier aggregation yields impressive numbers


    Cons:

    • Curved screen isnít useful
    • Curve screen makes phone harder to use
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Review started by howard View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. TheSteve's Avatar
      TheSteve -
      Probably a phone that shouldn't have made it past the concept stage.
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -
      TheSteve,

      Yeah, it is more gimmicky than substance for many people.

      My thought is that GALAXY Note series has always been "pushing" the limits, more bells and whistles. Then the next GALAXY S series comes, it will incorporate some of the designs from the Note, e.g. more RAM, better camera, USB3.0 connector. Not all of them are practical but it is still a push.