The Galaxy Note Edge is one Samsung’s first smartphones with curved display (at least it’s the first one that matters, as the Galaxy Round proved to be a fail). Whether the rounded right side is useful in everyday life is another deal. Is this feature worth the extra charge for the phablet? We have tested it, along with its high-end specs and are ready to give you our full Samsung Galaxy Note Edge review.
How useful is a curved display? There are currently two different answers, depending on which approach you choose. Unfortunately, my Samsung Galaxy Note Edge opinion and approach are not very positive. But this is a sister model to the Galaxy Note 4, which is a damn good smartphone, as I will explain to you in the following review.
Technically, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is basically 100% the normal Samsung Galaxy Note 4. We are dealing with a powerful flagship smartphone that provides fast performance with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core SoC and its four-core 2.7 GHz Krait processor and the Adreno 420 GPU, which can provide plenty of power.
The device also rocks 3 GB of RAM, 32GB of internal flash memory (with a MicroSD slot for expansion), a 16-megapixel camera with an optical image stabilizer and ultra-fast autofocus. It also has gimmicks like the fingerprint reader and the heart rate monitor. And of course, there is the LTE support for up to 300 Mbit/s and the praised Wacom stylus, otherwise known as S-Pen.
The distinctive feature here is the curve on the right side of the display, which should theoretically offer some interesting features. In practice, however, the benefits remain very limited. In addition, the curved display in some cases – like mine – can be rather annoying. We can ignore the fact it doesn’t bring benefits, but this Edge display brings other issues more related to the design.
Design: is the curved display worth paying extra cash?
Currently, Samsung demands 899 Euros (or about $800 USD) for the Galaxy Note Edge – for as much money you can already find a well-equipped laptop. You can also find it for about 800 Euros on the open market, which represents a premium of approximately 200 euros compared to the “normal” Galaxy Note 4. The 200 Euro price difference is hardly justified in my opinion.
So you are probably also aware that more than being a competitive product, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is a demonstration of Samsung’s abilities in terms of hardware design and Equipment. The mere fact that there is a curve on the side of the display in a commercial device shows what Samsung is able to accomplish. We must tip our hats to Samsung for that.
Practically, the extra panel space is only used a few times a day, but it can bring on a whole new set of distractions. The Note 4 has a 5.7-inch 2K display with a 16:9 ratio. Meanwhile, the panel in the Note Edge has a diagonal 5.6-inch display. While theoretically a bit smaller, the curved edge gives it an odd 16:10 ratio makes the unit just a bit wider. The total size of the device also has to be kept larger, as the left side of the Note Edge is also about a millimeter wider than the regular Note 4.
The overall effect is that the Galaxy Note Edge is almost four millimeters wider. Yes, it’s only 4 millimeters, but in combination with the edged right makes the device significantly bulkier. At least in my opinion, when comparing it to the “normal” sister model. I can easily manage the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with one hand, this is not the case the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. This makes the device much less safe in the hand, and it makes it impossible for me to reach the other end of the display with my thumb (and I have large hands).
This is not only because of the width, but also because the curved screen makes the edge sharp, making it just a bit harder for my thumb to reach touchscreen nirvana. Not to mention, that right edge doesn’t contribute to the comfort the device offers. It was uncomfortable to hold the device, and worlds apart from the slightly smaller note 4. This may perhaps sound extreme, but it was a fact in my experience.
Here’s another problem. The Note Edge’s software is designed so that the curved strip is not used with most apps, and therefore its susceptibility for triggering touch events will be disabled, but this is not the case when in the home screen. You will realize that the design forces you to make accidental presses on the Edge display, especially when trying to reach for the power button, which is located on the top-right section of the device.
I quickly got used to this, so I tried to keep my thumb and the palm of my hand as far as possible from the right edge of the display, but this also ensures that you will constantly need a second hand when operating the device. But though there are various disadvantages arising from the issues with the curved display, we do have some good things to say about it.
The Edge display does have some cool features, such as displaying app information in the curved strip, like weather or the clock. I believe Samsung has put too much emphasis on a feature that does not offer too much software support, but more on that will come when we cover the corresponding chapter of this review.
Metal frame with a removable cover made of plastic
Visually, you aren’t going to mistake the Galaxy Note Edge for another phone, it is truly unique. An update the classic Samsung design with a new aluminum frame that’s already in use on the Note 4 makes this device significantly higher quality than previous models that offered only a plastic housing. What we like about this version of the metal and plastic combination is that unlike the Galaxy A series that uses the same setup the back cover on the Note Edge remains removable.
The high-quality frame provides superior torsional resistance, but has a narrow gap between the glass made of Gorilla Glass front to where dirt can accumulate quite rapidly.The removable plastic back simply clicks into place and has a matte finish and a leather texture that not only feels great, but does well at remaining fingerprint free. It is of course not as good as metal, but it good enough to guard against scratches and look good when it’s been sitting around in a not so clean environment (ie bottom of a backpack or a ladies handbag for instance).
We love that Samsung continues to allow access to the battery as well as the MicroSIM card and the MicroSD card. The back cover mounts securely to the handset but having said that we don’t mind the choice of plastic cover, we do have to note that it doesn’t feel as good as an all metal handset in hand, which, even with the metal edges, do make it feel a little cheap.
There has been some questions as to whether or not that metal edge is in fact metal, it does come with a colored coating.But when we check the exposed edge of the device, there can be no doubt that this is in fact made of metal.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t sit flush with the metal edge, it actually extends about 1mm so that the handset can’t be places flat on the table. At just 8.3 millimeters thick, the Edge is relatively thin, it weighs in at 174 grams does have a pleasant feeling in hand despite it’s rather large size. The combination of LEDs on the front for the capacitive home and back button is typical of Samsung, so fans will be happy this has remained consistent. Adding to the overall level of customization, the user can choose how long the keys remain lit. The hardware buttons are convenient in that they do not feel like they add to the overall size of the device.
Samsung has made the buttons on the Edge very high quality, so they don’t really jiggle, that being said, they do have a slight wiggle and are made of metal. At first the curved side of the phone does feel strange in hand, but you quickly get over it and navigation with your thumb up and down with flicks towards the center start to feel natural. Reaching the home button also isn’t a problem, even though they’ve placed it center of the flat part of the display which technically off sets it further away from your thumb.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is very attractive and well designed. When asked about the painted metal frame and the edge, it’s easy to say that i’m impressed by the display technology employed. It’s an innovative use of the curved display, which is more then the second generation of the LG G Flex can say.
Display – same top notch Note 4 screen… only bent
The display of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is slightly wider than in Note 4. It comes with a resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels, which is a high resolution and adds an extra 160 pixels giving it a pixel density of 525 PPI versus the 515 PPI in the Note 4.
Samsung is using their Super AMOLED panel in which pixels have a diamond shape which in theory has the same level of sharpness as the stripe matrix found in RGB panels. The truth is that the theory behind either is almost irrelevant since the naked eye can’t really tell the difference, take the LG G3’s display and the Edge in terms of sharpness, both are exceptional.
The great advantage of the Note 4 display is it’s color accuracy along with excellent brightness and contrast. Samsung OLED screen have been increasing in quality and have now reached a color fidelity that is unparalleled. Previously we’d seen over-saturation which was most noticeable when watching movies or show off photos. But what we’ve got on the Edge (and Note 4) is near 100% true color fidelity.
The Galaxy Note Edge has achieved record levels in achieving true black, what is interesting is how they achieved that, they simply turned off the pixels that would show black, which is immeasurable in terms of contrast. No to mention that this is a huge battery saving measure!
The color temperature is also very close to real life, even though in my opinion they are a little bit on the cold side. Like on the Note 4, the AMOLED panel has a distinct blue hue when you tilt your device to about 30 degrees.
Samsung’s AMOLED technology also ensures that the Edge performs in terms of brightness. With nearly 500 Lumens, the device achieves very good outdoor brightness, which incidentally is higher than the peak brightness on the Note 4. At night, you can also reduce screen brightness all the way down to 1 nit, which is good for those who like to read in the dark.
In day to day usage we usually ran the phone at about 420 candela, we bascially just took random reading which I know isn’t terribly scientific, but it’s our best guess at what the brightness averaged during a normal day of indoor and outdoor use. In fact, the panel often looked a little too bright most of the time. In the end I’d usually opt to use the brigtness slider located in the quick launch notification bar. Especially at night, this controller is very convenient, because unlike most other smartphone displays Samsung’s AMOLED panel can go quite low, as we previously mentioned, all the way down to 1nit.
Taking advantage of the flexible display
The 160 extra pixels in the curved right edge offer very limited benefits.Seven apps and folders are there by default while viewing the home screen, giving you quick access to certain tasks. You can also display other toolbars. The main sellers here are messages, status updates and notifications, though.
The problem here is that using the side panel for displaying notifications is not quite a good idea. You have to read all accruing notifications in a 90-degree angle, which makes the whole thing difficult, and often very annoying.
Most supported apps hardly even us the strip. And when the strip is not in use, you will be presented with a placeholder image and no touch functions. If necessary, additional toolbars can be downloaded and functionality can be extended. It’s possible to display your own text or image in the lockscreen, for example.
What I find most attractive right now is that I can display the time and news in the edge when I have the phone in night mode, without having to have the whole screen go on. You can place the device on the bedside and easily take a quick look at the time or messages without having to actually grab the device.
Unfortunately, there is not much more to the curvature in the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge just yet. At the very least, this is a well-made, nice gimmick with a revolutionary effect, with which Samsung shows it can build a great device that can really offer another experience. The problem is it still needs some new ideas and support. In some cases, Samsung’s forces you to use the Edge display when not necessary, but I would rather talk more about that later in the review (camera).
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the stylus, and I probably don’t need to go over all the extensive capabilities of the pen and digitizer. It’s much like previous iterations, but there is one thing I do want to point out: the pen works well on the curved edge and provides the usual good performance with increased number of pressure levels and versatility. Those who use smartphones to take notes, compose small documents, work with screenshots and text sections, or just want to use handwriting, will find this to be a very powerful tool.
Amazing performance, just like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4
In most other aspects, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is identical to its older brother, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The unit has the same 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core SoC. Memory is the same, and the benchmarks also show the same results. AnTuTu results go over the 48,000-point mark, and in 3DMark Score nears 20,000 points. This puts the Galaxy note Edge above the Meizu MX4 and the Galaxy Note 4.
I did, however, happen to find some differences between the Note 4 and the Note Edge. At least in my perception. While the Galaxy Note 4 almost always works perfectly smooth, I found the Note Edge has slight delays. It was a bit confusing, as the hardware of the two devices is near identical. Could the software improvements be the cause of this slight stuttering? It certainly shouldn’t be, but I am willing to bet it is just that Samsung needs to make more adjustments with the curved display and the software involving it. Don’t worry, though, this is not usually a major issue and only happens seldom.
This phone is no slouch in terms of memory. Though we are starting to see better, 3 GB of RAM is still a great amount of multi-tasking power. The Korean manufacturer also gets brownie points for giving us a good amount of internal storage. This phone is equipped with a 32 GB flash drive.
Of course, one would be happier with more at this price, but at least the memory can be easily expanded using a MicroSD card up to 128 GB. Samsung also offers the opportunity to install many apps on the memory card. Samsung is king at memory expand-ability, and they have never stopped giving us a good amount of ports and slots.
If there is something Samsung should work harder on for upcoming devices, it is definitely their sound quality. As with pretty much all previous devices, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge will win no awards with its puny mono speaker on the bottom-left, back side. Although it is pretty loud, sound quality is going to get no one up and dancing. Add the fact that the speaker is hidden when the phone is laying on a table and you will find the experience is not optimal. Thankfully, the camera bump helps this one a bit, as it ensures some sound does escape.
I had a long layover at the Atlanta airport on the way to CES 2015, so I thought I should play around with the speakerphone. I quickly found out it at least has no problems in noisy environments. It offered a good, clear and sufficiently loud sound, so at least the speaker is good for making calls.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge sports the same 16 MP sensor with optical image stabilization that makes the Galaxy Note 4 camera so great. I especially like how fast auto-focus is on this device, as many of you also will. The camera focuses in less than half a second, allowing you to capture moments instantaneously. However, there is a hurdle that has extremely annoyed me during my time with the device.
While the Edge display would otherwise be clear, Samsung has opted to put the sutter button and all the settings in it. In addition, the trigger changes its position according to the orientation of the phone; the shutter button moves along the edge a few centimeters. I don’t believe the positioning of the buttons really help the case, and it was a bit too gimmicky for my liking.
The picture quality of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is, of course, excellent, as was the case with the Note 4. Shooting speed is astounding, the device offers amazing pictures in good lighting conditions and continuous shooting is very helpful. HDR mode is pretty good and provides good low-light results.
However, the image stabilizer does a good job, and so, makes shooting possible in situations when it would otherwise not be. The 1080p video of the Note Edge is great, and those who prefer can push the resolution up to 4K. Sound quality is actually pretty good, as it automatically optimizes itself for the environment, even in loud environments like concerts. Surprisingly, the sound is not very distorted, either.
The front 3.7 MP camera is also pretty good. It offers a decent resolution and provides pretty good photos. I did realize it’s not the best for video calls, but the front-facing camera performed pretty well with still shots.
Samsung has been tweaking and touching up its TouchWiz and they’ve gotten rid of many useless functions which has significantly streamlined its appearance. The Notification Center is much tidier which actually makes the UI less playful than before. The limited usefulness of the sidebar along the curved edge is made up for by the meaningful multi-window features especially if you start to use the stylus and it’s bevy of features.
Gathering information with the S Pen is a lot of fun, but it’s not likely a feature that’s going to be used regularly by most users. As so often in addition to our own browser that sometimes some display problems with websites, incidentally, also the Google Chrome browser on board, including the Android licensees must install it to get access to the Play. Overall the interface is indeed still relatively overloaded, but it comes with it really well through the day.
Most of the included Samsung apps are quite useful, but Flipboard integration continues to seem more like bloatware. Unfortunately, our German review unit is packed with unnecessary apps, as is the case with the Galaxy note 4. Samsung likely just wants to generate extra revenue with them. Cewe Photobooks, Pizza.de, HRS Hotels, kaufDA and Zalando (argh!) take up a lot of space. Thankfully you can easily uninstall them.
Why the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge only has a 3000 mAh battery while the Note 4 sports a 3220 mAh battery remains a mystery. Regardless, the small difference proved to be insignificant, as our tests prove battery life is still nearly identical between both Note smartphones. I am proud of the results, as the device could even withstand the harsh everyday usage I gave it during CES 2015. The phone would last all day, and by the next morning I always had over 20% left
The display was always set at about 75%, and calls never lasted over a minute. I was able to squeeze about 6 hours of screen-on time, even when I had poor wireless connectivity. When tested with the LaptopMag Battery test, in which the unit was set to full brightness, the phone ran a number of websites in a continuous refresh loop. The device lasted over 7 hours, easily moving into Galaxy Note 4 territory. To put that into perspective, my LG G3 nly managed to get about 5 hours with the same test, and it also has a 2K display and a 3000 mAh battery.
With normal usage, it should be no surprise to see the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge going for 2 days on a single charge. This would be with multiple email accounts synchronizing, using social networks for at least 30 minutes and a mixed 6 hours of screen-on time. Of course, this depends on the network quality, usage patterns and other factors, but my experience proved that a couple days of battery life is definitely possible.
Charging the device was pretty fast, especially when using Samsung’s fast charging power outlet, which pumps 18 watts of power into the battery. Thus, ensuring the battery was charged up to 50% in the first 30 minutes. Even with a normal 2A power supply, the battery was charged in less than two hours. The Ultra Power Saving mode, with its grayscale display and function reduction, is also included, so you can comfortably use your phone for several days if needed.
Yes, the fingerprint reader and the heart rate monitor are included once again, but they are as useless as they have always been. The fingerprint, like in the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4, doesn’t quite work as well as one would wish. The heart rate monitor gives the non-athletes nothing, but it does have the useful capability of being used as a shutter trigger when shooting with the front-facing camera. I would actually love to be able to use it with the rear-facing camera, too. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with the annoying shutter button in the Edge display.
Objectively speaking, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is indeed absolutely stunning and was very well made. The starting price of $800 (in many cases higher), however, is not a good incentive. The same device is available for much less – in the form of the $700 Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The added value of the curved display on the right edge is, unfortunately, not quite enough. The Note Edge is more of a showcase device, not quite the geek’s dream we all thought it was.
The Koreans have shown us how impressive their flexible display technology is. Like with the Edge display itself, this is simply a small glimpse of something that could be better applied later. The problem is that there is a lack of software and use cases for it.
However, the Note Edge continues to be one of the best smartphones available, even if it’s not far ahead of the competition. It’s is a high-end device with extraordinary power and an amazing battery life. Putting the Edge display and stylus aside, the display also happens to be impressive. The color reproduction, image quality and definition are top notch. The ergonomics and design suffer a bit, but such is the nature of this novel phone. A recommendation would be appropriate for early adopters and those who really care about their financial news. I personally lean more towards the Galaxy Note 4, though.