During the course of the past few weeks, FoS features all three of the recently released flagships and premium smartphones for Q1, that being the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, as well as the HTC One M9. The trouble for some, even at this stage, is choosing which device of the 3 to opt for, and it’s not something all that easy to do.
While we each have our own preferences, there’s still a few undeniable aspects to each. And that’s what I wish to get across when comparing these aspects like for like, and coming up with some sort of empirical proof to motivate.
Build and Design
Despite having a premium build of its own, we can immediately exclude the likes of the SGS6 from this comparison, simply because it’s not in the same league. This then leaving only the Edge and M9 to compete. Comparing the two, then, isn’t as straightforward either. Overall, the M9 has an extremely beautiful finish, and still feels good in your hand. On the other hand, while the Edge does not feel as easy grip, and the rest of its build lets it down somewhat, it’s the curved screen that brings all the appeal. And why shouldn’t it? Samsung invested large amounts of capital, most of which was to re-develop the manufacturing processes to produce the curved screen in bulk, even with all the backlog in stocks around the world. Still in its infancy, after having first appeared on the like of the Note Edge, the screen isn’t largely useful as yet. But I digress…the screen is as beautiful to look at as it is to touch when sliding your hands across it to perform any function.
Although not as outright winner as expected over the M9, but the Edge is definitely the one to beat here.
Even with its 1080p display, the M9 doesn’t come close to either of the SGS6 and Edge. While we can debate that the Note 4 may have a better offering with its version of the 1440x2560px resolution display, the 577ppi density on both of the SGS6 and Edge makes it the highest seen on a smartphone, which a pretty impressive feat. To be honest, most of us viewing any of the Samsung displays won’t be able to tell much of a difference, having myself lined up the 3 alongside each other requesting onlookers to pick up said differences. Not forthcoming as it turns out. The only standout difference between them, then, has nothing to do with the resolution, but rather how the Edge’s display looks with the curved screen. And again, it proves to make all the difference yet again.
All puns aside, the Edge quite literally edges this one.
Performance can be divided into a number of characteristics, most importantly that being the battery life, processing and camera.
Let the battle of the Octa-core CPUs commence. With their very public fallout last year, Samsung switched to running solely with their own chipset, as opposed to the LTE variant sporting the Qualcomm unit, simply because of claims of overheating. The SGS6 and Edge, then, fitted with the 64-bit Exynos 7420, with a Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57, whereas the M9 is fitted with a 64-bit Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810, also with a Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57 ARM architecture. On pure benchmarks alone, Qualcomm’s variant of the architecture proves the better option, but it isn’t as straightforward with a very close finish. The Exynos chipset outperforms on 3D graphics by almost 20%, whereas Qualcomm’s chipset has clear daylight in terms of its CPU integer processing and RAM speed. What this means is that if you’re one for hardcore mobile games, Samsung’s offering will be favoured, but for multitasking and other computational tasks, you’re better off with the M9.
This was the tightest comparison of all, but, due to overall scores, I’ll have to give it to the M9.
Samsung’s popular duo have not been without their fair share of criticism, mostly due to the poor battery performance. While the company has released numerous, small firmware fixes, the problem has still persisted over the past 40 days of its availability. Having experienced this first hand, both devices were incapable of making it through a full day, and if it did, just barely did so.
And without needing to prove much, the M9 wins this section just by making it through a complete day on more than one occasion during the review period.
HTC’s UltraPixel offering on last year’s M8 was much talked about, and much criticised. Thankfully, this time around, they’ve switched it back to the industry standard, and fitting a 20MP camera to the rear, and moving the UltraPixel tech to the front. Both Samsung’s smartphones are fitted with a 16MP rear-facing camera, so looking at the numbers you’ll expect the M9 to shade it. If you’re all about the pixels, then there’s no arguing with you, and we’ll just leave it at that. But if you’re looking for something that more substantial, then it’s worth looking into. Samsung’s pair is fitted with Sony’s IMX240 sensor, as with the Note 4. Compared against the 20MP variant on the M9, the IMX240 has better contrast, colour representation, less pixilation on night photos, more clarity on indoor/low-light photos, better close-ups and focus, better landscape imagery, and pretty much everything else you can think of comparing.
So the SGS6 and Edge have this one in the bag. Unless, interestingly enough, you’re one of the unlucky few who have Samsung’s own ISOCELL tech fitted on the rear. As a means to keep up with the demand, Samsung has been forced to switch out some orders with their own sensors, with early comparisons indicating Sony’s IMX240 the much better of the two. Not what some of you would have wanted to hear.
So there you have it, my proof that there is no outright confirmation of which smartphone is best, but rather which is best at individual tasks. If you’re all about your snaps, then the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are your obvious choice, but if you’re one for better performance in terms of its processing while still making it through the day with some battery left, the HTC One M9 is surely what you’d go for. But as a whole package, none of these devices have made a case as an overall winner.
I will admit, before having started this article, I had an inkling of which handset would be the winner, but upon closer inspection, I’ve had to re-examine those preconceptions. There are also the cases whereby experienced techies would argue that certain extremes aren’t truly noticeable, such as the 1440x2560px compared to the 1080x1920px resolution, or processing power differences, but I would argue that, even though quite miniscule, these are noticeable differences. It often also comes down to how much of your hard-earned monies you’re willing part with on a monthly basis, or even upfront.