User Interface & Operating System
The Galaxy Note Edge has the Android version 4.4.4 KitKat, layered with the recent release of TouchWiz. The feature set is the same for the Galaxy Note Edge and the Galaxy Note 4, barring the use of the S Pen. The edge screen display for lock screen can be customized, with images and text. The swipe between tabs on the home screen is enabled for the edge screen.
The homescreen houses the fingerprint sensor, with the same swipe option, though it will be difficult to unlock something of this size using a single hand. On the home screen, the display is pretty much the same with the widgets and shortcuts and folders, though the dock is on the edge screen, and houses eight shortcuts, as opposed to the five in the standard smartphones. The home screen has all the basics covered, with the widgets, transitions effects, as well as the left most pane, previously My Magazine now renamed to Briefing (the creator still is Flipboard), which can also be disabled. All the features of My Magazine are present in Briefing, like categories displayed as tiles, reordering and hiding tiles, etc. The notification area is the same as that on other recent Samsung releases, with a line for quick toggles under which is the brightness slider, followed the S Find and Quick Connect, and onwards to notifications. The S Find works as a system wide search option, and searches can be run for everything, with an added option to search Google if required, appearing at the bottom – it would have been better if some of the top google results had been listed. Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth can be used for Quick Connect for mirroring display or sharing media.
An amazing upgrade brought by Samsung is the ability to detach apps into floating windows, move them about, with options to minimize apps to a circular dot-like icon and maximize into the full screen version, working in the floating windows, copying and pasting content between different apps via drag drop – these are all proprietary changes, and honestly, very cool and useful.
Settings menu is provided in a new vertical layout of apps, from which a list of apps can be selected as favorites to be displayed at the top. The legacy tabbed view can be set too, though the new display is provided by default. The task switcher has also adopted the Lollipop look, the same look Chrome uses for tab switching, and it is a cool new look – the 3D rolodex is something we like a lot, and seeing it utilized in this manner is very nice. The Kill All and Task Manager buttons are present.
In addition to the legacy implementation of multi windows use, Samsung provides an option through App Switcher to access multi window mode – against every app allowing multi-window use, in the App Switcher, an icon appears, using which splits the screen, displaying the app in one window, and the other window shows the other open apps that support multi-window, though selecting any second app from this list will only make the newly selected app appear in the first window, while the second window will stay consistently. We found this a bit strange, since occupying the second window would have been a better use – still, accessing multi-window this way is much better than the old one.
The single hand mode is available with the Galaxy Note Edge, positioning the display in a more usable layout. The single hand mode though, cannot be activated by the S Pen, nor can it work when the S Pen is out. The buttons appear at the bottom of the single hand view so that the actual buttons are not required, and the side panel can also be enabled in single hand mode, which works the same as it does in full screen normal mode.
For the edge screen, Samsung offers a variety of options with different features, packed into different panels. These panels can be enabled and disabled easily, and are a huge help – for example, one panel shows all currently open apps for easy switching, another can show notifications from selected apps, another can display eight of your favorite apps, while yet another panel displays S Health related info. And the great thing is, besides the preset panels, additional panels are present on the Galaxy Apps Store for download.
The Edge screen has an additional feature of the Night Clock, using which the night time can be defined, and during this defined time, the edge screen will display the date and time on the edge screen while keeping the screen turned off – the display of the edge screen is dimmed so as not to disturb. Users can set a display message for the edge screen. The edge screen has a bunch of tools present as shortcuts on the edge screen – and LED light toggle, shortcuts for timer and stopwatch, a ruler and a voice recorder – all the things that can be needed at any time. These tools are always accessible via the edge screen, even when locked.
The S Pen, when released, automatically launches the Air Command menu, and can be re-launched by clicking the button on the S Pen. The Action Memo app allows writing down notes using the S Pen, and an area can be selected by boxing it in while keeping the button clicked to copy the text, and then any app can be selected to send the text to – another neat trick. This includes, text, numbers, URLs, addresses among others. The text recognition has been improved as is quicker than before, while accuracy is up a notch as well. Another similar strength is extracting text from any selected area, not just text but also content. Multiple items can be selected (by boxing them in) and can be sent to the scrapbook directly, or shared.
The Screen Write and the Image clip are present, as they were in the Galaxy Note 3, as is the S Note app, where S Pen is used to the best in terms of writing and drawing, by allowing the creation of different notebooks from various templates, while sorting and tagging is also allowed. Images are allowed in notes, while basic word-like features like copy, delete, sizing, borders and basic effects are present. The Scrapbook is available, as already mentioned. The S Pen can display additional options while hovering over certain content – for example, hovering over a date in the S Planner displays the events, over a video in the video player it will silently play the movie in a pop up, in the gallery the preview is displayed, in browser it will highlight the text on which the hover is being done and gives the copy option. The S Pen settings allow for enabling or disabling any or all of the S Pen features.
The gestures, like the direct call, option to mute or pause songs and calls, capturing screenshots, and smart alert are all part of the team. The S Voice is also available, with the option to set a custom command for waking up, and can initiate calls, take dictations, play music and videos, set alarms, open apps, check weather, search the net, check local listings, among other features.
The Galaxy Note Edge brings an alternate to the Android Device Manager, which allows tracking of devices, along with control over resetting and locking your device remotely in case you have misplaced it. Reset prevents the device from being activated, and as soon as a new SIM card is inserted, a message is automatically sent.
The phone security allows for encryption on the phone, the memory card and the Private mode – all in place to secure specific data or folder, which can only be accessed once the correct fingerprint is scanned – another backup option allows storing of all data to the cloud.
The S Health app sees another addition in the form of the blood oxygen saturation sensor, which works same as the heart rate monitor. The step counter is continuously working, counting the steps, calories burnt and other relevant data – the data can be viewed from the optional panel on the edge screen or in the app. Track runs, hiking and cycling are also tracked, with the option to set distance, calories or time based goals, and third-party sports accessories can be hooked in via the Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+.
The Voice Recorder app has been given a huge upgrade, with the option to record voice memos added by an option to transcribe memos, which can currently be done for memos up to five minutes. In the meeting mode, the Voice Recorder can identify, based on the directional mics, who the speaker is, and the app can identify up to 8 different speakers in one go – in the interview mode, all noise from the environment is blocked out based on the microphones. For those with hearing problems, the Sound Detector app is a blessing – a sample of a doorbell and baby crying can be recorded, and as soon as the same sound appears, a visual is displayed on the screen to notify the user – this display can also be sent to smart watches, if those are integrated with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge.
The Smart Remote allows for AV devices in the vicinity to be controlled via the IR port, and functions as a TV guide for supported providers, additionally setting alarms for shows that you watch regularly, so that you don’t miss them. Third party apps allow control over more than TVs. The S Planner is the same solid app we saw, and now, hovering the S Pen over a date shows all appointments of the date in a pop up, while long press on any date allows for hand written notes to be accepted as appointments. The Smart Alarm is built into the clock app, and builds up the volume of the alarm from a very low sound to the full audio in a gradual manner.
In addition to the Google Play Store, the Samsung Galaxy Apps Store is present, with some very good releases and a lot of content that is exclusive to Samsung devices.
The Samsung line up has always kept the stock Android browser intact with good support from Chrome, and the Galaxy Note Edge has kept this tradition alive – though, only the stock browser allows for Air View support. The browsers both have a very similar interface and almost identical feature set. Chrome does, however, use the method introduced by Opera to use internet bandwidth in a more efficient manner, by compressing pages before sending them.
Samsung Galaxy Edge has as always, come out with a very clear and pretty decently loud call quality, with trouble free audio. The microphones used for noise cancellation seem to be working perfectly by keeping out any of the surrounding sounds. While the calls is being connected, the display shows the last time a call and message was exchanged with the contact, in case their birthday is coming up, any notes made during any of the previous calls to this contact. We were a bit surprised that the Galaxy Note Edge comes out with its stereo speaker at the back, since the speakers are coming out in the front these days for many like Sony – still, with the level of audio, we were satisfied with the quality, though audio level could have been improved a notch.
The dialer for the phone has the generic Samsung touch, and has the video call option in addition. The auto reject can decline calls from unknown numbers, specific numbers or all numbers, while the block mode provides a more detailed outlook on this area, with only those on the list of allowed contacts able to get their calls or messages through. The block feature can be enabled and disabled on time basis too, so that it doesn't have to be set every night, for instance.
The messaging is very feature rich, with all the previous features available, adding on with the shortcuts bar on the top to access regular contacts easily, with a split view available when in landscape mode. Spam protection is a built-in feature, with option to schedule messages also there – both were a part of the last upgrade. An emergency message can be set, which will be sent out once the power button is hit thrice in quick succession.
The two email clients, labeled Email and Gmail – this time around, the Gmail app now has support for third party email servers, and we like this, making this our default app.
Samsung has upgraded its keyboard, and swype is present – a row specified for numbers has been introduced to add to the comfort level. A quick-type feature is provided to set regular responses on to number keys long press – users can set phrases like “done”, “okay”, and others on to different numbers, and long pressing that number can insert the text. Keyboard can also be used in a detached, floated manner, and handwriting from the S Pen is recognizable, while snapshots of notes from S Pen can be sent as texts.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge features a gallery with images grouped as albums, and containing multiple filtering / sorting options, like on the basis of people, events, time, location, while there are more filters like Flowers, Documents, Scenery, Pets and Food, included to indulge in. Of course, social media is handled directly, and direct posts to Facebook, Picasa and Dropbox are available. DLNA is present to view additional media from the network or share media from your Galaxy Note Edge. Pinch zoom works while in the gallery, to increase or decrease the thumbnails size, and batch operations are allowed on multiple images, which includes different actions like copy, delete, rotation etc. Images can be edited from the gallery itself, or can be sent to the Studio app for more detailed editing, which includes from the very basics in image editing to managing collages and onwards to video trimming and others– allowing for post processing too.
The music player on the Galaxy Edge is packed with features, and can play a lot of formats including FLAC, and music categorization is very easy. Folder view and DLNA search and play are on board. The Music Square and Sound Alive, which came in with the Galaxy S5 are both active here as well, with the 7-band equalizer and a variety of effects are on board – the Adapt sound tests headphone performances and tunes the equalizers accordingly, and Smart Volume keeps the sound consistent across different tracks. The controls appear on the edge screen and can be used accordingly.
The video player also utilizes the edge screen for controls, giving videos an unobscured view of the video. The video player has folder view and DLNA access. Subtitle search is present, and can be automatically, or alternately, manually loaded.
Samsung Galaxy Edge has great audio quality which the same as that of the Galaxy Note 4, with perfect audio when connected to external amplifiers, and reasonably loud audio, though slightly lesser than HTC One Max. Even when connected with headphones, the crosstalk that creeps in is slightly greater than that on some of the competition, though still, it does not harm the audio all that much and the crisp output is still intact.
The latest release from Snapdragon, the 805 chipset powers the Galaxy Note Edge, containing four Krait 450 cores and Adreno 450 GPU, assisted by 3 GB of RAM – all fully utilized by the feature-rich Note Edge, with a large screen property and great multitasking options.
The Note Edge has the same 16 MP snapper as the Galaxy Note 4, using the Sony sensor, using a 16:9 ratio to produce great widescreen snaps easily viewed in the gallery and most of the computer displays. The snapper has OIS though misses the phase detection autofocus widely approved in the Galaxy S5. The front facer is 3.7MP, with a wider aperture making for better shots in low lights.
The edge screen is used for the controls, with the shutter, video record and mode options as well as camera and HDR toggles, with the complete display available for the viewfinder – the portrait mode, though, gets the controls to one side and makes it slightly difficult for image capture, especially given the size of the Galaxy Note Edge.
The Selective focus, Panorama, Rear-Cam selfie options are available, with the rear-cam option giving the ability to define a region so that when the face appears in that area, the image is snapped automatically, with an alternate option of the heart rate monitor to act as the shutter key when taking rear-cam selfies. Additional modes present are Shot & more, Dual Camera, Virtual Tour and Beauty face. More modes are present in the Galaxy Apps store, just to lighten up the camera app.
The image quality with the improved snapper is excellent, with high res images, in wider detail, sharp in view, and the noise at a very reasonable level – there is very nominal softness at the corners, though very close to the corners. There is a slight overexposure in highlights, though the shadows have pretty decent detail. The colors are slightly punchier and oversaturated, though the white balance is perfect – the autofocus can be activated by pressing and holding any area on the display. For the macro shots too, we found the Galaxy Note Edge to perform excellently – the capturing is from very close to the subject, and the background is ideally blurred.
The HDR mode is another very good performer, with reasonable addition to the details, both in the highlights and shadows, with only a slight amount of contrast sacrificed and a very slight increase in the noise levels. With the multiple shots and merging, the sharpness does degrade a bit however. The Panoramas are much better than earlier, with way better resolution, and images shot at a surprisingly high 56.6MP in portrait, while in landscape it is at 28MP. The detail and stitching are excellent, while we have already praised the resolution. The front facer has a panorama option called Wide selfie.
The Note Edge has 4K videos at 2160fps and 50Mbps, while 1080p at 30fps and 60fps, along with 1440p videos at 30 fps as options. For the 4K videos, the audio is a very clear 256Kbps. The detail is impressive, and carries on with the same classy qualities of the snapper – excellent quality, great colors, focus is very sharp, with the overexposing tendency still present.
The 1080p videos have 18Mbps bitrate with the same audio level, and while the videos are still pretty good, the difference is visible when compared to the 2160p videos – still, the positive here is that the 1080p videos can have up to 2x lossless zoom. The 1080p videos can also be captured at 60fps, which has a bitrate of 28Mbps, and the added frames make for a very smooth viewing experience the detail is slightly lower, but still pretty good.
Following in its tradition, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge has an impressive list of connectivity features to start off, all the basics–2G, 3G and 4G are all available – 3G allowed at 42.2 Mbps down and 5.76Mbps uplink, while 4G Cat. 6 going at 300Mbps down and 50Mbps uplink. are available, with only the AWS being absent. The 3G connectivity is supported by HSDPA, with a 42Mbps downlink and a 5.76Mbps uplink capability.
Dual-band Wi-Fi is available for better local internet connectivity, while DLNA, helpful for content sharing across supported devices, and Wi-Fi Direct is included. The Galaxy Note Edge provides the Quick Connect feature to identify Wi-Fi hotspots using Bluetooth, and to connect quickly. Bluetooth 4.1 is introduced, and in addition to the low energy mode and connectivity to sports sensors, it can connect to smart watches. ANT+ can be used for sports gear as an alternate.The IR-blasteron the top can control appliances, and the NFC is present for quick pairing and share.
The microUSB 2.0 port is a step back from the microUSB 3.0, but has a standard connector, and allows Quick Charge 2.0 and MHL 3.0, and 4K output can be done with the correct adapter – a 7.1 surround sound support is present, though the default player does not support it.
GPS. Beidou and GLONASS are present, with Beidou currently open to China markets, but soon to expand.
As discussed earlier, due to the taxing shape design impacted by the edge screen, the battery of the Galaxy Note Edge is slightly lesser in power than that on the Galaxy Note 4, coming out to 3,000mAh – the battery supports Quick Charge 2.0, though the speeds on the Quick Charge are more effective the more drained the battery is, slowing in speed as the battery fills up. The video-playback ran for nearly 11 hours, much lesser than the Galaxy Note 4. Talk time gave out more than 21 hours which is pretty good, however, web browsing came out only about 9 hours.
The overall rating achieved by the Note Edge of 68 hours is far below that of the Galaxy Note 4, on all accounts, and we feel this might be a case of slightly improper use of battery. Still, the overall results are better than its predecessor, and pretty good as far as competition is concerned.
As is visible from the above review, the Galaxy Note Edge does live up to many of its expectations and more. Below are some shortcomings that the device does possess:
- The edge screen suits right handers
- The back contains a mono speaker
- There is unevenness between the curved screen glass of the display and the metallic frame surrounding it
- Water or dust resistance is not provided
- Only the optional back cover enables wireless charging
Should I Have to Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge?
Samsung has come out with the Galaxy Note Edge after quite some pondering – though we were a bit skeptical of the edge screen, the Note Edge has grown on us. The notification glance that we gave the top of the screen now goes to the right, and the functions on camera and players is very helpful and accommodating. There will be more apps coming to use this area in a better manner pretty soon we guess.
Still, there were compromises made, with the grip being the most important one, followed by a smaller battery, difficulty in single hand use. The Galaxy Note Edge may not have its own range anytime soon, we fear, as there are things that have to be considered, considering the above drawbacks and the increased amount to pay as compared to the Galaxy Note 4.
Samsung can allow developers to make apps that may use the edge screen and there are very capable developers out there who might make amazing contributions – the only drawback-only Samsung has the edge screen, and that too, on only the Galaxy Note Edge. Also, being somewhat of an experiment, the Galaxy Note Edge has not been widely distributed, especially considering the Galaxy Note 4 is also in the same domain. Still, Samsung has to be applauded to work so hard and produce such a classy phablet based on a concept.
In all sincerity though, we feel Samsung released this phablet for a niche of users who need something very different and unique, while claiming the most innovative prize, and showing off its classy display and what Samsung can do with it.