The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is essentially the Note 4 with one peculiar addition, a curved screen. Bizarrely, though, it’s only curved on the right side of the phone and the reason isn’t really clear. Samsung hasn’t explained why it’s there and after the time we have spent with it, we aren’t sure either.
Priced at an expensive £650, the Note 4 could well give us a glimpse of phone design in the future, in its current state though, we can’t really see the benefits of the Edge to make you want to spend your money on it.[divider]Design[/divider]
It doesn’t take long to realise how the curved edge changes the way you handle this phone. Unlike the Note 4, which comfortably balances its large frame with the slightly curved back and raised corners, wrapping your fingers around to grip in one hand has a slightly pinching effect. It’s not as comfortable to hold as the Note 4 or the iPhone 6 Plus. That’s down to the fact that it now replaces the anodized aluminium trim on that side, creating a more unbalanced feel.
Surprisingly, though, the extra screen segment doesn’t make the Note Edge much heavier. The Edge weighs in at just 174g, with the Note 4 a couple of grams heavier at 176g. It’s only a fraction thicker, too – 8.5mm vs 8.3mm on the Note 4. Everything apart from that second screen is the same.
That means the Edge retains many of things that made us love the Note 4. The faux-leather plastic back – minus the horrible fake stitching of the Note 3 – gives the Edge a nice, assured grip and the back is removable so you can get to battery, the micro SD card slot and of course get your micro SIM card in place. Disappointingly, however, the slightly raised corners, which gave the Note 4 an extra degree of protection, are gone.
The buttons are largely in the same place and the home button packs in Samsung’s improved Touch ID-rivalling fingerprint recognition sensor. The exception is the standby button, which is now at the top of the phone to accommodate the curved screen. That makes it more of a stretch reaching a finger up to it, which is irritating
For S-Pen users, the Wacom-powered stylus is still intact of course, housed in the same compartment. Around the back you’ll find the same small speaker and camera sensor with heart rate sensor just below.[divider]Screen[/divider]
If you cover up that second screen, this is the same outstanding display from the the Note 4. It’s a slightly smaller 5.6-inch Super AMOLED panel with the same Gorilla Glass 4 protection that Samsung sneakily unveiled without telling anyone.
It has a 1600 x 2560 screen resolution, so you get an extra 160 pixels courtesy of the curved edge. The 524ppi (pixels per inch) pixel density is less than the LG G3 (534ppi), but what really matters here is that clarity is still exceptionally impressive. This is one of the best smartphone displays available.
You get the same immensely bright, vibrant and sharp results as the Note 4 and can enjoy those fantastic black levels when watching films watching. Colours are punchy and perhaps out of the box a little too colourful, which is easily solved in the display mode options found inside the Screen settings.
Most are unlikely to appreciate the jump from a Full HD 1080p display to a 2K QHD one, but having dropped down to a Galaxy S5 since, picking up the Edge really hammers home the big improvements Samsung is making with its smartphone displays.
So, what happens when you add an extra curved screen to an otherwise great one? Well, aside from working independently from the main display from a software point of a view, not a great deal. There’s no discernible difference between the two.[divider]Camera[/divider]
The Note Edge matches the Note 4’s camera setup, which means it includes one of the best all-round smartphone cameras we’ve used this year. The same 16-megapixel sensor found inside the Galaxy S5 is backed up excellent with optical image stabilization to boost low-light and evening shooting performance.
For video recording, you can still shoot at a maximum 4K, but we’d still recommend opting for Full HD 1080p shooting, where you’ll have the benefit of the most useful video-related features and the optical video stabilization really comes to the rescue when you are shooting at night.
Again, Samsung has stripped away some of the features and camera modes left at your disposal, keeping hold of the elements inside the easy-to-use camera app to pick up and shoot good quality images without any performance issues getting in the way.
The curved screen changes the camera setup slightly. For landscape shooting, the Edge moves all of the camera app settings to the curved screen, which makes them slightly easier to reach. When you move to portrait mode or shooting selfies, the same options do not in fact re-position themselves making it a little more awkward for those selfies or profile shots.
It’s a shame because in well-lit conditions, up close for macro-style images or from afar, the Note Edge produces sharp, detailed images with lovely, punchy colours. Background detail is still lacking, but this is a solid performer.[divider]Battery[/divider]
The Note Edge relies on the same battery as the Note 3 and not the Note 4. That’s a 3,000 mAh battery instead of a 3,200mAh one, which is something of a surprise especially when you factor in the ‘extra’ screen is likely to be more of a drain on the battery.
In day-to-day use, it shows. You will have to work harder to get close to two days, something the Note 4 manages easily. During a normal day, checking in on Facebook, Twitter, streaming music and browsing the web during commutes, it can drop to around 30% at 11pm – a safe buffer.
A night out will see you initiating the ultra power saving mode, which will restrict features like the camera. That battery life showing is roughly around what we found with the Note 4 prior to a pre-release firmware update, which did improve performance.
If you stick to standard definition video you can get 11 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi off and the screen at 50 per cent brightness. That’s two hours shy of what the Note 4 managed and an hour less than the iPhone 6 Plus..
While the battery performance might not be class-leading, the Note Edge is a fast charger. Thanks to support for Snapdragon’s Quick Charge technology, we found a 30-minute charge added 40 per cent, so an hour charge should last you most of the day.[divider]Is it for me, though?[/divider]
Probably not. The Note Edge is a strange phone to sum up. We loved the Note 4, but for all their similarities the Note Edge doesn’t deliver. We struggled to find a real use for the curved edge. Maybe one day it will have more compelling uses and we appreciate Samsung trying something different, but it’s not there yet.
There’s some minor issues that let down the Note Edge, too, like having to sacrifice battery life and button placement to accommodate the unique design. Perhaps worst of all is the price. SIM-free, the Note Edge costs £50 more than the £600 Note 4 and that’s expensive for a feature that is yet to convince.
If you have to go for a big phone, we still say the Note 4 is king here with the iPhone 6 Plus a close second. The Note Edge is an interesting idea but Samsung has a way to go before we are sold on it.[divider]Verdict[/divider]
The Note Edge ultimately fails to sell the concept of a curved screen smartphone. Maybe one day we will love it, but right now it’s well wide of the mark.
Thanks to Vodafone UK for sending out the Note Edge for us to review. Please consider a pay-monthly contract with Vodafone when purchasing your new smartphone, with some of the cheapest prices matched with the latest smartphones they’re one of the best and idyllic providers you could go for.