Samsung’s latest phablet is a modified Galaxy Note 4, but the Note Edge’s has one crucial difference: a screen that curves around the edge on the right hand side.
It isn’t the first curved screen phone that Samsung has produced – the bowed screen Galaxy Round had that honour – but it is the first smartphone with a rounded edge that increases functionality and displays useful information – such as news tickers or app controls, acting in effect as a second screen.
Note 4 plus curve
Almost everything about the Note Edge matches the Note 4. It has Samsung’s much-improved metal frames, solid build quality and keeps the fake leather plastic back.
At 5.6in versus 5.7in for the Note 4, the Edge has a slightly smaller screen. The display has the same resolution and looks just as crisp, bright and colourful as the Note 4, making it one of the best available at the moment.
The Note Edge is 2.2mm shorter, 3.8mm wider, 0.2mm thinner and 2g lighter than the Note 4. The dimensions make the smartphone difficult to hold and use with one hand, as with any large phablet, but the hard metal edges provide a solid grip for fingers and thumbs.
The curved screen on the right hand side is smooth and seamless with the main screen, forming a pleasant-feeling part of the grip area where a thumb or fingers rest. The stylus docks in the back of the device just left of the curved screen.
- Screen: 5.6in quad HD Super AMOLED + a 160 pixel curved screen
- Processor: 2.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
- RAM: 3GB of RAM
- Storage: 32GB plus microSD slot supporting up to 128GB cards
- Operating system: Android 4.4.4 with Samsung TouchWiz
- Camera: 16-megapixel rear camera, 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE, IR and GPS
- Dimensions: 151.3 x 82.4 x 8.3mm
- Weight: 174g
The internal components of the Note Edge are equally similar to the Note 4. The Edge has the same processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage with a micro SD card slot, which means it performs equally as well.
The Note Edge is a very capable smartphone, running smoothly even with two apps side-by-side on screen. The battery, however, doesn’t last quite as long as the Note 4. The Note Edge will easily see out a day with heavy use, but not two.
The Note Edge runs the same customised TouchWiz version of Android 4.4.4 KitKat – not the latest Android 5 Lollipop – as the Note 4, but has additions for the curved screen including a left-handed mode that flips the screen and provides virtual Android buttons to replace the hardware buttons.
The edge is used for a variety of functions. It can run apps, including a word game, a Twitter ticker and some apps from Yahoo for sports scores, stocks and news. Samsung bundles 12 pre-installed edge apps, but more can be downloaded from the Galaxy app store. Swiping left or right on the screen switches the app.
When not running an app, the pane can be used as a dock for apps, a multi-tasking switcher, or a notification tray with calendar appointments and the weather. The rolling ticker notifications normally displayed at the top of the screen on an ordinary Android phone roll down the side.
Most apps ignore the screen, which shrinks a little, turns black and displays “Galaxy Note Edge” in white text. The pane also gives quick access to a ruler, stopwatch, timer, torch and voice recorder.
Some of Samsung’s apps use the edge as a place to display icons. In the camera app, for instance, the shutter button and settings buttons sit on the edge out of the way of the viewfinder. It’s a useful addition, but not something totally revolutionary – a two-stage physical shutter button would have been better.
Stylus, camera, heart rate sensor and fingerprint scanner
The Note Edge’s “S Pen” stylus and camera are the same as the Note 4. The stylus is decent, providing as good as a writing experience as can be had on a relatively small screen. It docks neatly in the back and can be safely ignored until the odd occasion where scribbling a note or drawing on a photo is required.
The camera is equally solid. Images are sharp with good detail, with decent low-light performance and the interesting rear camera and wide selfie modes. A heart-rate sensor sits just under the camera lens, which works well for occasional use.
The fingerprint scanner, like the Note 4’s, is very good with an accuracy of around 95% in my testing, making unlocking the phablet easier. It can also be used to secure apps like LastPass, and authenticate purchases through Samsung’s app store.
The Note Edge costs approximately £650 without a mobile phone contract, which is £20 more than the Note 4 and £30 more than the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is one of the best phablets available, which makes the Note Edge a very solid, well made and powerful device.
The edge screen is interesting, and I’m glad Samsung is trying something innovative. Having virtual buttons and quick-access apps, tickers and notifications is handy, but it isn’t the next evolution of smartphone design just yet. It does show what’s possible with alternative screen technology, though, and one day soon phone screens could bend around both sides, possibly even the back too.
If you’re looking for a smartphone that draws attention and is unique, the Note Edge is a great phone. But most people should buy the excellent Note 4 instead, if you’re looking for a phablet.
Pros: fast, powerful, great screen, unique curved edge screen, great camera, good fingerprint scanner
Cons: too big for comfortable one-handed use, battery life not as good as competition, left-handed use is awkward
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