Samsung Galaxy S5 Active Review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active Review. The new Galaxy S5 Active is the latest phone and 2nd iteration of the Galaxy Active line. The AT&T carrier branded S5 Active comes with the same IP67 dust and water resistance rating as the Galaxy S5, along with the added benefit of being U.S. military-level MIL-STD-810G rated for impact resistance as well for those accidental drops that inevitably happen when you least expect it.
The GS5 Active comes with a rugged styling, in titanium grey, ruby red and camo. The top and bottom surfaces along with the corners are reinforced with hardened plastic on top of a metal body and is equipped with the newest Gorilla Glass 3. The Galaxy S5 and S5 Active both sport the new 2.5Hz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor along with a 5.1-inch 1080p HD AMOLED display, 16MP Rear/2.1MP Front camera, heart rate sensor, expandable up to an additional 128GB with the microSD card slot and a 2,800mAh battery. The Galaxy S5 Active does not come with the hardware fingerprint sensor home button and uses a standard micro USB 2.0 port instead of the newest USB 3.0 port like on the Galaxy Note 3.
Even though it’s not often that you change the sim card, I am slightly disappointed that the micro sim slot is no longer spring loaded like it was on the Galaxy S4. The Note 3’s micro sim slot is the same, no spring load. It can be difficult to remove your sim with your fingers and not a big deal, but it’s a small detail that just feels somehow unfinished.
The 16MP camera takes beautiful pictures, the images are clear, focus is quick and automatic. The GS5 Active thrives in bright well lit areas but also seemed to be an improvement over the S4 in low lighting conditios. Like on the Galaxy S5 you can take beautiful HD video or crank it up and take some Ultra HD video at up to 2160p.
There are quite a few updates to the functionality, most of which are available on the GS5 as well. For instance, when you receive a call, you can then move onto other tasks, clicking your home button and your phone call goes into a floating window. Caller info also includes, last txt message, last call time/date and last email in a central screen when your on a call.
Design and Appearance
Our test unit was the Camo version from AT&T. I absolutely despised the aqua blue of the S4 Active and I know Camo is trendy blah blah blah, but I can’t wait till it goes out of style. I’m not a fan of camouflage for anything other than hunting or battle where it’s practical. But the camo pattern only resides on the back cover and even then it’s fairly muted so it doesn’t hurt me to look at so much. It also helps that most of the phone is either black or dark and without any plastic chrome that rubs or scratches off easily.
IP67 Dust and Water Resistance, MIL Impact Resistance
The speaker grills are water-resistant and the back cover has 18 little snap points that need to be pushed in place to ensure a tight seal. The micro USB port has a plastic hinged little tab with the rubber gasket line to keep that area clear of dust, debris and water.
I don’t care much for the micro-usb port cover design. Considering how many times over the course of a week (let alone a couple of years) you open and close that port to charge the device, it seems only a matter of time before it will not be water tight. There must be a better way to secure that port from water. There is only a little protrusion from the plastic that helps it tuck and snap in place, when that little nib wears down, I wouldn’t go sinking this phone into the water.
I’m not entirely sure how the headphone port can stay open and remain waterproof/water resistant but I’d love to see that same methodology applied to the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port on the GS5 and incorporate the Qi wireless charging ability so I can go cordless. I’m patiently waiting for the day where I can share power with other devices or charge it without the need for a cord.
You won’t find the fingerprint scanner hardware sensor button on the S5 Active but what you will find is an extra button named “the Active Key”. This key is fully mappable to whatever you’d like it to be, it is also a dedicated shutter button when your in camera mode which makes it super convenient. When not using your camera, the Active Key launches the Activity Zone Dashboard giving you some quick “Outdoor” type information such as a Barometer, Compass, Flashlight, Stopwatch. You can even add your own shortcuts to whatever apps you like to the Activity Zone menu. The Active Key is not functional when the phone is locked.
Tactile Surface and Button Placement
I find the new Active button to be quite convenient and welcome a fully mappable physical button. The reassignment of the ‘settings’ button to be ‘recent apps is taking me some time to get used to, I keep fumbling and pressing it for preferences or settings for something. As a result the volume rocker is moved slightly lower as well as the power button. I find myself accidentally hitting them frequently and cannot discern if this is due to my lack retraining my brain to hold the phone in slightly different places or not. Only time will tell.
Just as the Galaxy S4 Active, the S5 Active comes physical buttons in place of the capacitive buttons and is devoid of the fingerprint scanner. The previous settings button at the bottom left is now the “recent apps” menu and takes a little bit of getting used to. All settings previously located here have been migrated to and placed in their respective app menu’s. Personally, the button made more sense to me as a settings button and holding down the home button to get the recent list of apps wasn’t a problem.
The phone’s shape is wonderful, I prefer the shape of the GS5 Active with the reinforced plastic along the top and bottom, it makes the phone feel like I can grip it. The tactile surface however is a little less than desirable and have found on multiple occasions, when my hands are dry, lifting the phone up and it literally goes sailing out of my hand with some added velocity smashing the floor. Luckily it’s MIL impact resistant and I was indoors so no scratches. In one way it’s great to just run the phone naked as it was designed to be used, with no case; but on the other, it’s so slippery that it can easily and probably will fall out of your grip at some point. Good thing it’s MIL impact resistant. You’ve been warned.
Performance wise, the device is a bit under-impressive with regards to speed in tasks and snappiness, that does not equate to it being slow per say; the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 and 578MHz Adreno 330 GPU are able to handle memory and cpu intensive apps without problems, it seems to be only with regards to switching tasks When compared and run side by side with the Galaxy S5, the GS5 is just a tad quicker in launching. While the two bothers the GS5 and GS5 Active much the same hardware the variations in the Touchwiz UI layer and may attribute to the GS5 Active’s slightly slower performance. Either way both the GS5 and GS5 Active seem to exhibit some slight hesitation in some tasks on Kitkat 4.4.2. Personally I’d like to have seen an additional GB of RAM to make 3GB like the Note 3. You’d benefit by turning off some of the features like my magazine if you don’t use that, card stack layer effect etc.
One thing I cannot seem to get past is the UI’s overall defining color. It’s a very medicinal teal green and I can’t help but think how do I change this color every time I am presented with it. For instance it is used as the background opaque color on the recent apps menu, behind each app so you can see the list against the ghosted background. This teal UI color carries over from the Galaxy S5 but by no means a deal breaker. I’m sure that a method to customize or use presets for your theme may be included in a future firmware build.
The Galaxy S5 Active, AT&T carrier exclusive offers you a nice rugged design with the same great benefits as the Galaxy S5 sans the USB3 and Fingerprint scanner but offers a metal body with reinforced plastic, physical buttons, an extra mappable button called the Active Key that comes in super handy. The IP67 dust and water resistance rating with the military-level MIL-STD-810G shock resistance rating makes it an excellent choice for your smartphone no matter what activity you’re involved in. If you want to run your Android naked, this is the phone to do it.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active available for $199