Sometimes, it’s hard to decide on a verdict. I’m torn on the Galaxy Note Edge. Despite its immense promise and many useful features, I had problems. Major ones.
Really, one big one when it comes down to it. The Galaxy Note may be the best phone you still should not buy. Here’s our review of Galaxy Note Edge where we examine its various aspects closely.
Galaxy Note Edge: Hardware
The Galaxy Note Edge, like the name suggests, is closely related to Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. This is essentially a cut-down Note 4 in almost every aspect. At 5.6 inches, the screen is just 0.1 inches smaller than the Note 4.
That’s massive, and holding the Note Edge is an experience only possible with two hands. The enormous screen obliterates one-handed use. It’s really better without one-handed use. Mainstream smartphone flagships have long exceeded the maximum size anyone could be comfortable with in one hand.
The Note Edge makes a great case for going all the way and making something even bigger. At least you get a better screen that way.
The Note Edge sports one of Samsung’s AMOLED displays, and the tech is just as good as it’s always been. The screen is crisp, bright and detailed.
The screen sits in a metal frame with a removable fake plastic leather back. The whole thing seems quite sturdy.
Android super fans who prefer using removable batteries and SD cards should definitely look at the Note Edge, as it’s one of the last mainstream phones to offer those features. Even Samsung is moving away from them with the new Galaxy S6, so get them while you can.
The most defining part of the Note Edge’s hardware is not its resolution or materials, but its curve. On the right side of the phone, the display gently curves around the side.
Curving the screen like this is a marvel of engineering. The curve doesn’t flicker, doesn’t break, and isn’t fake.
Samsung really put a curved display on a phone. That’s a crazy idea and I applaud the experimentation. The Galaxy maker takes a lot of flak for following Apple’s lead, so it’s good to see it making its own way.
That said, it’s hard to talk about the curve. It doesn’t really… do anything.
The curved part usually shows a sidebar, with a stock setup of a few favorite apps. You can also set it to display the weather and your notifications.
When the screen is off, swiping in from the right across the curve shows the time and temperature. This gesture is finicky and inconsistent, and I stopped using it when it failed to consistently activate.
That’s about it. Most of the time it just says “Galaxy Note Edge” over a black bar. I dug through the settings and couldn’t find much else that was useful.
Notifications do the ticker animation along the side, though this may disappear when Samsung updates this phone to Lollipop. Google, in its infinite wisdom, has removed this feature from base Android.
There’s not not much else to the curve. The Galaxy Note Edge’s namesake feature is underwhelming.
Other than being able to launch Chrome a bit quicker, I forgot it was there most of the time.
Once again, Samsung impresses with a beautiful camera. I took the Note Edge around downtown Chicago and collected some downright gorgeous shots. Even in low light, a condition which baffled the Galaxy S5, the Note Edge’s camera stepped up. It consistently picked up a ton of great detail and produced realistic-looking images.
The camera app puts the shutter button on the curved edge in the camera app, which I’m not a fan of because it limits how you can hold the phone when taking pictures.
The camera software is even simplified down to the useful basics. I had no trouble finding what I needed and even enjoyed viewing my super-high-resolution photos on the Note Edge’s display. Apple, eat your heart out.
The software remains Samsung’s weakest point. One need look no further than the praise heaped upon the Korean manufacturer when it promised to preload less of its software on the Galaxy S6.
While less egregious than previous devices, the Galaxy Note Edge ships with everything from Google and Samsung. Things can start feeling crowded with multiple document viewers, two web browsers, a Samsung account and a Google account.
There are a few nice touches, like Swype and S Note, the only Samsung app I used regularly. The built-in stylus works beautifully, and I love S Note’s automatic syncing with Evernote.
The home screen offers a clone of HTC’s BlinkFeed, which is as unhelpful as it was on the One M8.
Other than S Note, which is nice, there’s just not a lot of compelling Samsung software. Where Motorola phones offer must-have features like Moto Display, Samsung’s biggest exclusive is a stylus.
What software there is often breaks or behaves in unwanted ways. I got constant popups like “Unfortunately, Mobile Installer has stopped” and “Unfortunately, Samsung account has stopped.” I’m used to stuff malfunctioning when I used to root my phone, but this was a stock setup.
I didn’t even change the launcher, and system apps were already crashing. This is unacceptable. If Samsung really needs to change Android firmware into TouchWiz, the least it could do is to do so competently.
Battery and Processor – 3/5
At this point, rating a phone’s processor is almost an exercise in futility. We’ve long passed the point of “good enough” performance that almost any flagship can deliver competent performance.
The Note Edge stands atop a beefy Snapdragon 805 with 3 GB of RAM. There’s more than enough juice here for me to play graphics-intensive games like Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft without dropped frames.
Again, though, Samsung’s software runs into some issues. The app switcher noticeably pauses on loading, and selecting a recent app leaves a long delay before opening.
With that much power behind it, there’s just no excuse for lagging. Other Android phones such as the Moto X and even last year’s HTC One M8 had better responsiveness than this.
Blame the poor single-core performance, a good barometer of general system responsiveness. The Note Edge scored a 1089 on Geekbench 3. That doesn’t even beat the iPhone 5S, which got 1409 on the same test.
The oddest part of the whole performance issue is the phone is definitely working hard. During system updates and graphics-heavy games like Hearthstone, the back panel heated up noticeably.
Battery life, though using a smaller pack than the one in the Note 4, is excellent. I got through each day with power to spare. No complaints there.
The Galaxy Note Edge ships with Android 4.4 KitKat, though the app switcher and interface are themed to look more like Lollipop. Lollipop is an issue for the Note Edge. The probability of this phone getting regular and quick updates is very low for several reasons.
First, Samsung is poor at Android updates in general. Re-theming updates to be TouchWiz-ified takes quite a while because of how many changes the Korean manufacturer insists on putting into its software. Some versions of the Note 4 don’t have Lollipop yet, so don’t expect it on the Note Edge anytime soon.
Second, the Note Edge is a non-flagship phone, and newer devices are already on the way. The Note 4, S6 and S6 Edge will all be standing in front of the Note Edge when it comes to updates.
Third, the Note Edge sales haven’t exactly moved mountains. Samsung is less likely to support something only a few people bought.
The lack of updates is not as big a deal as it used to be, with Google moving everything it can into Play Services. Samsung also themed everything nicely to look Lollipop-y.
However, all the good parts of Lollipop will likely not grace the Note Edge for a long, long time.
It’s hard to rate the Galaxy Note Edge. It’s a well-made and well-designed phone, and I love that Samsung is experimenting with typical smartphone form. After years of black slabs, it’s great to see something as crazy as a curved screen.
However, the Note Edge faces a massive problem in the Note 4. There’s just no real reason to buy an Edge over its bigger brother. The Note 4 has a bigger screen, bigger battery and a better chance of being updated. Cool as the curved screen is, it can’t sell the entire phone.
The software, somehow, is also still not up to snuff. Samsung feels like it’s lifelessly matching features from other devices (see its clone of BlinkFeed and Reachability) without putting effort into making those features enjoyable to use. That and releasing a device with glitchy software are just absurd.
I enjoyed using the Galaxy Note Edge – I just wish it didn’t have so many problems. There’s just nothing here that isn’t done better by the Note 4.
I would definitely recommend a Samsung phablet to a smartphone buyer – just not this one.