With the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung faces a large new competitor in the large smartphone (or “phablet”) market.
The South Korean tech giant isn’t taking the challenge lying down, having released an update to its flagship phablet, called the Galaxy Note 4, along with a virtual reality headset for the device.
Alongside the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung released another new device called the Galaxy Note Edge.
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A key feature of the Note Edge is that it features a screen that curves around the right-hand side of the device.
This area of the screen can be used to project information separately to the rest of the display, such as shortcut icons, a ruler, or time and date information.
So is the curved-edge screen just a gimmick or is it a genuinely useful innovation? It’s time to find out.
Hardware and features
The Galaxy Note Edge is a 5.6-inch phablet with a quad HD+ Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels. The curved edge adds an additional 160 pixels.
It is powered by a 2.7 GHz quad core processor and runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
For storage, it comes with 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, and supports microSD cards up to 128GB.
For photos, the Galaxy Note Edge features a 16 megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation, along with a front 3.7 megapixel camera with both a 90 degree selfie, and 120 degree wide-angle selfie mode.
As with the Galaxy Note 4, it includes a Samsung S-Pen stylus.
It includes a range of sensors, including gesture, accelerometer, geo-magnetic, gyroscope, RGB ambient light, proximity, barometer, hall sensor, finger scanner, UV and a heart-rate monitor.
The battery is large, at 3000mAh.
What’s the consensus?
Obviously, the most noteworthy feature of the Note Edge is the curved edge. SO how does it work? Eric Limer at Engadget explains:
Essentially the curve exists as kind of its own bolt-on screen. Movies and games and whathaveyou don’t extend onto it, and when you’re just using the phone as a phone, it defaults to black and useless except for displaying a little “personal message” of your choosing in small text. It’s wasted space — at least until you swipe down on it with your finger.
When you do that, one of your “panels” — basically horizontal widgets — appear. You can have up to seven of them selected at a time and cycle through them, but right now there aren’t a whole lot to choose from. You’ll find Yahoo Sports and Finance to keep you abreast of sports scores and stock prices, and one or two silly little memory games. Maybe there will be more if developers make them — Samsung even released an SDK — but it feels dangerous to be optimistic that the Note Edge will sell enough units to tempt many of them.
At PC Mag, Eugene Kim leans towards the curved screen being more of a gimmick than a useful feature:
Beyond the striking, waterfall visual effect, Samsung did a reasonably good job at integrating the Edge screen into its already bloated software … It’s not that the Edge screen isn’t useful. I just don’t think it adds much to the experience. I’ve never found the normal notification system all that intrusive, and while quick info at a glance is nice, it’s far from a revelation—I can just as easily swipe down the notification shade and swipe it back up without leaving most apps. I also wish it did more, like offer shortcuts that launch directly into split-window mode, and I’m not convinced that enough people will buy this phone to compel Samsung or third-party developers to devote any resources to expanding functionality here. There are only 15 options for Edge panels at launch and I wouldn’t consider any of them must haves.
Richard Goodwin from Know Your Mobile liked the look and feel of the device:
Like the Galaxy Note 4, the Note EDGE is a very well put together handset. It’s slightly smaller than the Note 4, although not by much, and feels similarly robust and well weighted in the hand. Samsung knows how to do phablets, and both the Note 4 and, by proxy, the Note EDGE show just how far the company has come in the past couple of years. EVERYTHING has been refined and the end result is one of the best big smartphone experiences money can buy.
The EDGE features metallic edging just like the Alpha and measures at a respectable 151.3 x 82.4 x 8.3 mm. It feels premium in the hand and, because of its careful design attributes, is also pretty easy to use one handed. Next to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus (my daily driver), the Galaxy Note EDGE feels A LOT more manageable. For instance, I felt perfectly comfortable whipping it out my pocket while on the move and using it with one-hand (and this is definitely not the case with Apple’s phablet, as noted in our iPhone 6 Plus Review).
Aside from the curved edge, in general, Engadget’s Mat Smithwas impressed with the device’s camera and its overall performance:
Samsung didn’t cut any corners when it came to the phone’s imaging prowess. The Note Edge packs a 16-megapixel camera, with Samsung’s “smart OIS” intended to eke the light (and detail) in tougher lighting. The front-facing camera is also a top-end sensor compared to the competition, 3.7 megapixels with an f/1.9 lens. There’s also a (bizarre-sounding) selfie mode that stitches a trio of pictures together for widescreen, “best friends!” capture — when you have more than two BFFs.
Samsung’s treated the Galaxy Edge buyer to some of the best components underneath that curved display: 3GB of RAM to ensure multitask windowing runs smoothly, and a quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor to back it up. Like the Note 4, lag and slowdown simply didn’t happen.
Yahoo!’s Daniel Howley quite likes the Note 4 and the S-pen, but the similarities for him don’t overcome the lack of usability that comes with the curved edge:
Like the Note 4, the Note Edge also includes Samsung’s impressive S Pen stylus, which lets you do things like take handwritten notes, take a screenshot and write on it, and easily crop images.
Best of all, though, is the ability to select text with the S Pen the same way you would with a computer mouse. Seriously, I can’t express how helpful this feature is.
To recap, the Note Edge is essentially a Galaxy Note 4 with a curved screen that’s gimmicky, though it does add some extra usability. The Note 4 is the best big-screen smartphone on the market, and the idea that it could be even better is intriguing, but I just can’t bring myself to say that the Note Edge is a superior device.
Should I get one?
In short, the Note Edge is a Samsung Note 4 with an extra curved-edge screen.
Unfortunately, however, there aren’t many apps or widgets that take advantage of the curved edge, and there isn’t likely to be many more in the immediate future.
By most indications, the Note Edge performs quite well. But then again, so does the Note 4, without the extra cost that comes with the curved screen.
If you’re already looking at getting a Galaxy Note 4 and have the extra cash to splash, the Note Edge is likely to be nice device to show off.
But if you aren’t already looking at a Note 4, there’s little extra edge in the Note Edge.