Living with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, week 3: Beauty takes time

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Hello, hello, and welcome to week 3 of our long-term review for Samsung's edgy phablet. Now, we already had week 1, when we were getting a feel for the device, and week 2 when we took a very detailed look at how the Edge Screen handles and functions. So, the Note Edge is still a Note, and this week, let's focus on its "regular" feats and functionality – most of which it even shares with its sibling – the Galaxy Note 4.

So, without further ado...

Week 3: Praises and gripes

I've been using the Note Edge for 3 weeks now and gotten used to its interface – addicted to some of its functions, while resenting others – you know how it is with TouchWiz. Still, thanks to the phone in my hands, I haven't used my tablet for a while, and my home PC is used strictly when serious work needs to be done, as the Note Edge seems to successfully cover all my lightweight needs. So yes – I am glad to be using it as a daily driver, though, there are just a few things about the device that rub me the wrong way.

The Super AMOLED screen is finally Super

So, something that was a big deal a few months ago was that Samsung managed to equip its Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Galaxy Tab S 10.5 with Super AMOLED panel that, for once, exhibited fairly accurate color reproduction. This is rather uncommon in AMOLED screens, as they happen to oversaturate and overblow colors, giving off a very punchy, vivid, and bright image that you may either like or resent.

So, Sammy obviously made strides in “normalizing” the picture of its Super AMOLED tech and, after it was praised for the Galaxy Tab S series, it naturally went ahead and made the Note 4 and Note Edge's panels to be even more color-accurate.

How does that transfer into real-world experience? Well, I've been using the Note Edge, set in Basic (color setting) mode, for the past three weeks and I can say – quite good! To be perfectly honest – I still cannot get used to the whites of the display. Apparently, there may be some truth to what Sony said about consumer devices around us having predominantly bluish displays, as I can truly say that my eye “expects” the Note Edge to have a bit more blue in its white screen than it does. Instead, it looks, to me, like a “dirty”, yellow-ish white.

Still, if I neglect the rare instances when I am faced with a fully whited-out page, I've got nothing but praise for the display's colors. Tame, mature, and mellow – the glow from the Note Edge's panel is nothing but inviting, and working on a 5.6” display with such easy colors and a 525 PPI density is nothing short of a pleasing experience.

TouchWiz, are you out of breath again?

In week 1, I noted that Sammy has slightly lightened the load of TouchWiz, maybe even optimized it better, allowing the software to at least not stutter when scrolling through home screens / the app drawer. This still holds true, however, now that I've installed all my apps, synced all my accounts, and generally “filled up” the phone (9.8 GB free), the good old lagmonster reared its unsightly head.

It presents itself at random times, usually at app launch, but can also prevent an app from instantly minimizing / closing at rare occasions, freezing it for a short(ish) duration. I wouldn't even have as much of a beef with it if it didn't slow down the Action Memo launch as much as it does – the S Pen's signature “mini”-app which is supposed to allow you to take quick notes by just pulling the stylus out and tapping on the screen sometimes takes 2-3 seconds to load up, which can get annoying. Browsing through your list of S Note notebooks can sometimes test your nerves as well.

It's not a gamebreaker, but I definitely feel envious when I get my hands on one of the more snappier phones in the office. Samsung is rumored to have recently said that 2015's TouchWiz will be almost vanilla Android-like in terms amount of features crammed in there, so here is hoping that's true.

I've also encountered the need to restart the phone on a couple of occasions thus far. The first time, home screen scrolling got very choppy, despite the fact that I closed all background apps. At this point, the phone had ran for maybe 2 weeks without a reboot, so a simple off-and-on fixed it. The second time, Chrome was refusing to load up webpages, but that could have been either TouchWiz (a wacky mixture of processes resulting in a buggy performance) or Chrome's fault – a reboot still fixed it.

Bells and whistles

There are a lot of bells and whistles attached to Sammy's interface, some of them useful, others – not as much. Some are very specific and you may find out they exist only on certain occasions – for example, if you take an Action Memo while in a call, once you end the conversation, TouchWiz will give you a little list of “notes taken during call”. Pretty nifty, though one would argue – unneeded, as the user would probably remember that they made a note during the call – this function just acts as a shortcut to it.

While on the subject of doing stuff during calls – you can “minimize” the conversation by pressing the home button. The portrait of the other caller will be pinned at the top-left of the screen, acting as a shortcut to the in-call menu, leaving you to operate your smartphone at will. On the Note Edge specifically – the call can be minimized to the Edge Screen – something I described in detail last week.

Gestures are still here, still hidden in different parts of the settings menu, and still have questionable uses. For example – Air wake up tends to wake up the phone whenever any random object comes near it, which forced me to disable it, due to battery drainage concerns. Smart stay is back – the feature that forces the screen to stay on if the phone detects that the user is still looking at it. I found it to be next to useless in medium-to-low lighting, as the phone's camera couldn't “see” my eyes properly and would turn the display off as I am reading. Muting the device by placing my palm on it also didn't look like a must-have option – if my palm is already there, I can just decline the call; same goes for flipping the phone around. Basically – I do not find gesture recognition to be among the most useful features of this phone and would generally suggest to any owner to turn them off, unless a very specific situation dictates that they need any of them.

And as long as we are in the “bells and whistles” section – let's give the fingerprint scanner a brief mention. Unfortunately, nothing about it has changed since the Galaxy S5; ergo – it is terrible. Sammy's fingerprint scanner needs the user to slide their finger across the home button, instead of placing it statically. The finger needs to slide right through the center of the pad, at an angle, similar to the angle it was registered at, not too slow, nor too fast, and a band of elven jazz musicians need to be playing in the background, in order for the scanner to unlock your device from the first try. Otherwise – it takes three attempts on average. “Please, swipe entire pad”, “Please, swipe faster”, “Please, swipe slower”, “Please, clean up sensor and try again” (when you happen to be touching the device with hot and / or slightly moisty hands) are the messages that will greet your attempts to unlock your phone. Basically, if security is that important to you – better use the good old PIN or Pattern locks.

All that said – the Galaxy Note Edge's productivity is exceptional. No, you will not be writing novels on the phone, but many light, web-related tasks can be effortlessly performed on the phablet. The split-screen and floating app features make for a slightly PC(ish) experience and I often use the phone with full confidence, when something must be done on the fly. Be it paying bills by using a local retailer's heavy and half-baked website, buying video games, which includes entering credit card information and often calculating currencies / discounts, making and sharing lists on different projects, or even making small edits to my PhoneArena articles – the Note Edge's powerful hardware, the S Pen, and the Multi Window features are its extreme strength and are capable of making one forget a few hiccups and stutters from the TouchWiz interface. Check out this article for a few ways that we found multitasking to be effective and helpful.

The fact that Samsung has partnered up with Evernote and syncs all your S Note files and Action Memos automatically to your Evernote account encourages you to just jot and write whatever comes to mind, and do so in confidence that your scribbles will be immediately available in your cloud. It may sound like a simple thing, yet, you will be surprised how many drafts per day you may end up taking, once the process has been streamlined as it is on a Galaxy Note 4 / Edge.

Almost there

Speaking of the S Pen – we will be taking a look of it next week, together with S Voice, and a treat that I've been saving for last – the Note Edge's camera. Stay tuned for week 4 and a full long-term review article after.

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