Galaxy S6 Edge vs Huawei P8 – hands on

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Every year, Android manufacturers are faced with attempting to produce the best handset possible at the cheapest price possible in a bid to gain market share at the expense of the market leaders, Apple and Samsung. Normally this is a somewhat easy enough task as Samsung generally introduces evolutionary designs of previous handsets but as the Galaxy S5 failed to meet the company’s ambitious sales targets, Samsung were forced to rethink the Galaxy S range.

At MWC 2015, the company released both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, which completely revolutionises their flagship smartphone line. Instead of the boring same design, we have a new cutting edge look which poses a much tougher challenge for rival manufacturers. A couple of days ago, Huawei introduced the handset they are hoping will successfully challenge the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the Huawei P8, but how does it compare to the best of Samsung? Let’s take a closer look.

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The front of the Galaxy S6 Edge has a 5.2-inch Super AMOLED Quad HD display offering 577 pixels per inch density, while the Huawei P8 has a 5.2 inch IPS-Neo display with Full HD resolution which offers 424 pixels per inch density. The two displays themselves are definitely vastly different with the Galaxy S6 Edge sporting the best mobile display on a smartphone to date – although, Sharp’s rumoured 4k Ultra HD panel will set a new benchmark for mobile screens.

Beneath the display, the Galaxy S6 Edge has a redesigned home button that houses a one-touch fingerprint sensor (akin to that on the Ascend Mate 7). Despite being a flagship, the Huawei P8 doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor, as Huawei have reserved this for the Mate phablet range only, and it’s a shame as the Mate 7 has one of the finest fingerprint sensors on a smartphone to-date.

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Above the display, the Galaxy S6 Edge has a 5MP front facing camera supporting 1440p video recording and auto HDR, while the P8’s 8MP front snapper is arguably slightly superior due to its higher megapixel count and wide-angle capabilities. Although there’s very little to separate the two front cameras, the P8 comes with Huawei’s Beauty Level feature that can be used to accentuate your best features when taking selfies.

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When designing the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Huawei P8, both manufacturers have sought to redefine the design of a smartphone. The Galaxy S6 Edge shows that curved displays can be used in a truly tasteful way – even if they’re not the most functional when using a small dropped edge – while with the P8, Huawei are showing that you can deliver excellent performance in a super thin body.

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Previous Samsung flagships have usually been on the thicker side but the Galaxy S6 Edge seeks to change this, sporting a body that is just 7mm thick. Given that the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S4 were 8.1 mm and 7.9 mm thick respectively, Samsung has done extremely well to shave over an inch off the profile of last year’s flagship. In comparison, Huawei have done even better by packing a fully featured specs list into a body that is one of the slimmest on the market at 6.4mm.

The P8 camera sits completely flush with the 6.4mm thin body

The key reason for Huawei to gloat about the thickness of the P8 is the rear camera, and this is a point they focused on during the launch. The Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 and even the iPhone 6 all feature rear cameras that stick out a little from the back of the phone but with the P8, Huawei have managed to make the 13MP camera sit completely flush. When you consider the handset comes with Optical Image Stabilisation as well, it’s a crowning achievement.

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The Galaxy S6 Edge camera picks up where the Galaxy Note 4 camera left off by offering the best camera ever on a Samsung flagship. The 16MP sensor is incredibly quick to launch, focus and capture images while the colour reproduction and vibrancy is simply superb. The Galaxy S6 Edge camera also has Optical Image Stabilisation, but the key thing is that the camera does protrude a significant amount from the back. It’s not enough to hamper the design and is usually hidden by a case but if you carry your phone without a case, you’ll need to be careful when placing it on a surface on its back.

The Galaxy S6 is one of the nicest looking handsets ever made

The back is another area where the Galaxy S6 Edge is in stark contrast to any other Samsung handset ever made. Instead of the plastic we’ve come to expect from Samsung, the back of the Galaxy S6 Edge is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and the result is one of the nicest looking handsets ever made, even if it is a fingerprint-magnet. In comparison, the Huawei P8 picks up from the Ascend P7 in that it offers an aluminium rear but on the P8, the colouring on the rear is now much more pronounced, which produces a handset that looks much more premium.

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An area where both Samsung and Huawei agree is in the processor department, as each company has opted for their in-house processor over a chip from Qualcomm. Both 64-bit processors feature eight Cortex-A53 cores arranged in a big.LITTLE formation with the Galaxy S6 Edge using four cores at 2.1GHz and four at 1.5GHz while the Huawei P8 has four cores clocked at 2GHz and also has four clocked at 1.5GHz. The Galaxy S6 Edge uses Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor while the P8 uses Huawei’s own-brand HiSilicon Kirin 930 processor.

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On paper there’s very little difference in the performance as both handsets come with 3GB RAM and a range of storage options (but the P8 is the only one with expandable storage). However, the key to a super fast performance is in software optimisation and both manufacturers have made an attempt to optimise their software to provide the best possible experience.

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Huawei’s EMUI v3.1 on the P8 offers a refined experience designed to be smooth, despite the heavy interface, but the biggest improvement (over past flagships) comes from Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on the Galaxy S6 Edge. Prior to the Galaxy S6 Edge, each Samsung flagship traditionally had more and more software features – otherwise known as bloatware – than the previous year (up to and including the Galaxy S5) but with their latest flagships, Samsung has made a complete u-turn.

Related: Are the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge overpriced?

Instead of lots of bloatware, the new TouchWiz is incredibly slick with only a handful of pre-installed apps, which can all be disabled. The latest TouchWiz UI is a complete revamp of Samsung’s philosophy and the results speak for themselves; instead of slowing down pretty quickly, the Galaxy S6 Edge is still as fast as it was out of the box, even after installing all of my apps and data.

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Quite possibly the biggest change for Samsung is the switch to a non-removable back cover and hence, a non-removable battery. Samsung devices have always been known for the ability to swap out the battery for a spare to ensure you remain powered up throughout the day, but the Galaxy S6 Edge puts an end to all of this.

Samsung claims the non-removable 2600mAh battery on the Galaxy S6 Edge offers all-day battery life but we wanted to see if this was actually true; so far, we’ve published two sets of battery results with more to follow so do check them out for all the details. The Huawei P8 packs a similarly sized 2680mAh battery, which they claim will last more than two days on average usage.

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These are bold claims from both manufacturers but given the incredible battery life on the Ascend Mate 7, we’re inclined to believe Huawei. Samsung on the other hand has no pedigree for us to rank these claims against and while the jury is still out, there’s definitely something to be said for our battery life so far.

For the times when you need a fast charge, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers just this; incorporating both types of Wireless charging (PMA + Qi) and Quick Charge 2.0, there are several ways to keep your S6 Edge battery topped up and Samsung claim that you can add 50 percent battery life in just 30 minutes using the quick charger in the box.

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Overall, the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Huawei P8 both have enough enhancements to offer an impressive flagship performance but while the P8 wins awards for the style and design, the Galaxy S6 Edge wins for its incredible specs list and innovative design. The key fact however, is the price: the Huawei P8 is over half the price of the Galaxy S6 Edge.

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Huawei’s flagship comes with a recommended price tag of €499 before taxes and subsidies – the premium version costs €100 more in two alternative colours with 64GB storage instead of 16GB – which equates to around $ 529 (£350). In comparison, the Galaxy S6 Edge starts at $ 849 for the 32GB, which equates to around €785 (£567).

With a price tag that is approximately 57 percent higher than the Huawei P8, the Galaxy S6 Edge won’t appeal to all users mainly due to the price barrier. In comparison, Huawei is able to price the Huawei P8 aggressively to gain market traction and with the new Huawei VIP same-day replacement support service, may have a key after-market service to tempt customers.

Which of these two handsets is the better? It all depends upon your usage: the Huawei P8 is ideal if you want a truly premium flagship experience without requiring a re-mortgage of your home but the Galaxy S6 Edge is perfect if you want a phone like no other that pushes the boundaries of modern smartphones.

Which do you think is better and would you buy either? Let us know your thoughts guys!