There is no question that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will become one the best selling phones of this year. Samsung has, over the years, solidified it’s position as the largest player in the Android market. The Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3 helped shape that path. Compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy S5 is faster, bigger and more powerful. The Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived in our offices along with the Galaxy Gear Fit band and the Galaxy Gear 2 smart-watch. Since this review is focused towards the S5, we will be looking at the wearables another day.
Design and Construction
Just like an iPhone is instantly recognised as an iPhone, so is the Samsung Galaxy series. One look and you know that you’re looking at a Samsung phone. The Galaxy S5 sits between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 3 is both size and design. It measures 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm and weighs 145 grams which is noticeably larger and heavier than the Galaxy S4 but still much smaller and lighter than the Note 3. The edges are neither as rounded as the S4 nor as angular as the Note 3.
You have the 3.5mm jack as well as the IR Blaster on the top, the power button on the right and the volume keys on the left. The front of the device continues with the home button placed between two capacitive keys. This is the first Galaxy phone I’ve come across where Samsung has ditched the menu button and replaced it with app switching. Also new to the Galaxy S5 is a fingerprint sensor on the home button which lets you unlock the phone and make purchases with PayPal. Although fingerprint sensing works well, you need to use both your hands to use it.
At the bottom you see the USB 3.0 port that is covered by a flap which helps the phone against water damage. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is IP67 certified which means that you should be able to use it in the pool as well as take pictures underwater. Weighing just 145 g, the Galaxy S5 is lighter and smaller than the HTC One M8 or the Sony Xperia Z2. The new back cover has what Samsung calls a ‘glam look’ and is available in black, white blue and gold. I received the white version of the phone for review which is not as striking as some of the other colours as far as the “glam factor” is concerned.
On the back, right below the camera, Samsung has added a heart rate monitor which works with the S-Health application to measure your heart rate. I’m not really sure if you need a heart rate monitor on your phone- especially since it requires you to be still and silent when it is measuring your vitals. The Galaxy Gear Fit also features this and in my opinion, it’s much better suited to the Fit.
Specs and Performance
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is available in 3G and LTE versions. The 3G version uses the Samsung Exynos 5422 chip which has eight cores while the LTE version is based on the quad core Snapdragon 801 processor. I received the LTE version which is powered by the same processor as the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8. However, Samsung has managed to get the faster speed 2.5GHz variant from Qualcomm vs the 2.3GHz models that the other two handsets are running. We ran the AnTuTu X Benchmark on the Galaxy S5 and compared it to the HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Tablet Z2 (We haven’t received the Z2 phone from Sony until now.) Sure enough, it proved to be faster than the two competing devices.
|Samsung Galaxy S5||HTC One (M8)||Sony Tablet Z2|
|UX – Runtime||3513||3532||3506|
Screen and Interface
On specs the 0.1-inch larger screen on the Galaxy S5 does not seem like a massive bump from last year’s Galaxy S4. But then you power up the screen- everything else just fades away. The Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S5 is stunning and ranks amongst the best I’ve seen on a phone with vibrant colours that pop out of the screen. I don’t have any scientific means of conducting tests on the display, but the website DisplayMate does and here is what they have to say about the display on the Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5 is the Best performing Smartphone display that we have ever tested. It has a long list of new records for best Smartphone display performance including: Highest Brightness, Lowest Reflectance, Highest Color Accuracy, Infinite Contrast Ratio, Highest Contrast Rating in Ambient Light, and smallest Brightness Variation with Viewing Angle. The Galaxy S5 has raised the bar for top display performance up by another notch.
My only complaint with the Galaxy S5’s display is that the screen can be hard to read in bright sunlight. I tried using it in the middle of the afternoon and the Dubai sun made it difficult to see what was on the screen.
Coming to the UI, the latest version of Touchwiz by Samsung goes for a more flatter look with newer icons that certainly adds to the eye candy. However at times it can also be overwhelming such as scrolling through phone options which seem to go on forever.
Samsung has put some effort on the Galaxy S5′s camera which can take some incredibly amazing shots at 16MP. Day light performance is superb but you need to take your time with lower-lit shots. The camera app has downloadable effects so expect new features to roll in over updates. One thing that needs fixing is that randomly the phone would take a good 4-5 seconds to save a picture which stops you from taking subsequent shots – something I do all the time. As mentioned earlier the Galaxy S5 is water-proofed which allows you to not only take the phone with you in a pool but also take pictures underwater. I tried that on a weekend break with the family and it worked great. Here are some sample shots from the camera on the Galaxy S5.
Another aspect of the phone that Samsung has worked on is increasing the battery life on the Galaxy S5. The bundled battery of the Galaxy S5 has a capacity of 2800mAh which is good enough to last an entire day of moderate to heavy usage. I used the S5 extensively during my two weeks of testing and there was not a single day where the phone died on me. Even if you forget to charge the phone over night, Samsung has built an Ultra Power Saving Mode which lets you use your phone for 24 hours at just 10% charge remaining.
The way Samsung accomplishes this is by shutting down two processor cores and capping the other two at 1.5GHz and shifting the display to greyscale with a refresh rates of 30Hz. Samsung also blocks apps from running in the background and only gives you access to the clock, phone, messaging, the stock Samsung browser and ChatOn.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is surely an upgrade over the Galaxy S5 is almost every single way- better screen, better camera, longer lasting battery and a faster processor. That being said, I think the Galaxy S4 continues to be a great phone, especially after the KitKat update. So if you already own the S4, I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to buy the S5. However, if you have anything older and are looking to upgrade I would definitely suggest going down to the store and playing with the Galaxy S5. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you walk out with one.