NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Samsung's (SSNLF) Galaxy Note Edge is basically an updated version of the terrific Galaxy Note 4 "phablet" with an unusual twist. The right-hand side of the big touchscreen wraps around the edge of the phone to create a second display of sorts. Yes, it's a gimmick, but as it turns out, it's a great gimmick.
The Edge actually has a new type of secondary scrolling display in additional to the what all smartphone users have become used to, as seen in the picture above. That long, narrow, rounded strip can handle small amounts of useful information (such as the local weather, sports scores, stock quotes, notifications) as well as tiny icons and shortcuts leading directly to your most accessed apps.
When you first pick up the device, you won't be sure what to make of the feature, as it seems slightly odd. Once you start using the phone in earnest, the situation quickly begins to change. All of a sudden, the Edge begins to make perfect sense. Even though the phone is quite large, you can hold it in one hand and your fingers won't hit those new, little icons on the additional portion of the screen by accident.
The Edge is a fourth-generation Galaxy Note device that has a 5.6-inch, quad-HD, Super AMOLED touchscreen with 2560 by 1440 pixels with an additional 160 pixels for the new, curved display. It also comes with a top-of-the-line, 2.7 GHz, quad-core Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 805 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal memory, a 16MP camera on the back and a 3.7 MP shooter facing forward, both of which are capable of shooting HD video. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery inside measures 3,000 mAh, which lasts more than a day on a full charge. The phone runs Google's (GOOG) Android 4.4.4, codenamed KitKat, though it expected to receive an update to Google's latest Android, Lollipop, early in the first quarter of next year.
Since the Edge is a Galaxy Note phablet, it also comes with a slide-out S-Pen stylus and a matching suite of productivity apps to take advantage of that. I've used earlier versions of the Galaxy Note and found that the stylus does come in handy for certain tasks, including being able to compose and send notes and messages in my own handwriting.
Though the Note Edge is very similar to the Note 4, the inclusion of the smartphone's notification strip from its usual position at the top of the screen to a new location on the side of the device is a major advantage. Adding those extra 160 pixels turns out to be a great technological feat and makes a lot of sense. For instance, in the past, if you were using your phone to watch a full-screen video, you might hear an audio notification about an incoming message but any visual warning would be blocked by that full-screen video. On the Note Edge, you can watch the video and receive the notification on the secondary display at the same time.
Samsung should also be commended for its newly introduced restraint when it comes to featuring its own apps. Samsung still offers dozens of its own, branded apps but it offers less than in the past and these programs no longer seem to dominate the internal memory. While nowhere near a pure Android experience as found in rivals like the new Nexus 6, the Edge shows that Samsung is willing to help alleviate the problem.
The Edge has great hand feel. Despite being a large phone, we found it easy to hold and deceptively lighter in weight than it looks in the photos or in person. The camera took terrific-looking snapshots and videos. We found the phone consistently found very high-speed cellular and Wi-fi connections on our AT&T (T) review sample.
The Galaxy Note Edge is (or will soon become) available from all four major U.S. carriers. AT&T lists the actual price of the phone as a whopping $946 but offers a payout plan of $31.54 spread out over 30 months. Sprint (S) is offering the phone for $35/month for 24 months or $430 with a service agreement. T-Mobile (TMUS) lists the full retail price as $870 or $36.25/month for 24 months (with good credit). On its Website, Verizon (VZ) says its version of the Galaxy Note Edge is "coming soon".
The latest Galaxy Note 4 made it into our Top 5 list of the best Android phones you can buy, but the Galaxy Note Edge is even better. The Edge expands upon all the good qualities of the Note 4 (great screen, fast processor, sophisticated fit and feel and overall, a smooth operator) and adds a new level of smartphone interaction.
Overall Score: 8.9/10
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