Samsung Galaxy S5 Review
Samsung Galaxy S5 Review. Samsung’s new Flagship phone, the Galaxy S5 is out and about along with their new Galaxy S5 Active, Gear 2, Gear Fit, Gear Neo and Gear Live smartwatches. After living with the GS5 for a few weeks we review some highlights of the new feature rich Flagship smartphone from Samsung.
Specs and Design
We’ll be taking a look at the new Samsung Galaxy S5 Verizon wireless branded version, which totes the latest 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core CPU, 578MHz Adreno 330 GPU, 16GB of onboard memory, 2GB of RAM and micro SD expandable to an additional 128GB of storage. Equipped with a beautiful 5.1 inch Super AMOLED HD 1920×1080 pixel screen is able to display 432 PPI and video at 1080p and 4K resolutions; protected by Gorilla Glass 3. There’s a front side 2.1MP and 16MP rear firing camera. The S5 measures 5.59″ x 2.85″ x 0.32″ and weighs approx 5.11oz or 145g with it’s 2800 mAh Li-ION battery. The S5 also comes complete with a new speedy USB 3.0 port, Fingerprint Scanner and Heart Rate sensor.
Design wise, it still feels solid, though after seeing what my S4 looks like after a year I am warming back up to the idea of a metal phone. My iPhone 4 still looks practically brand new after all these years being used as an MP3 player. The S5 is only slightly larger than the S4 and a tad smaller than the Note 3; the Galaxy S5 still fits in your hand pretty well with it’s slightly increased body size from the S4. The dimpled back cover plastic is a bit underwhelming, in black it reminds me of an office chair, in white either a golf ball or a bandaid comes to mind. The back cover IS slightly grippy unlike the S5 Active which is a quite slippery. The bezel is the same as on the Galaxy Note 3, a ridged plastic chrome.
Bloat, well you still get plenty of that with Verizon, on our 16GB device we begin with about 10GB of space, it would be nice if the smallest storage model was 32GB, the 16GB just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Luckily even with the new security features in Android KitKat, you are able to store your photos and videos taken by the camera on your external microSD card.
Camera Features and Performance
There’s vastly improved performance in the camera and features credited to the new Isocell Sensor and Co-Processing power. The new camera allows for autofocus as quick as 0.3 seconds and gives much better performance in low lighting conditions than in the past. Features a 4.8mm focal length, f/2.2 aperature and up to 800 ISO. Shooting Ultra-HD video is beautiful, the results are smooth, wonderfully detailed and balanced footage. With enough light the 16MP camera performs very well and autofocus is super quick. The camera also performed admirably under less than ideal lighting conditions and a noticeable improvement over the S4’s camera.
The option to shoot pictures in HDR becomes real-time HDR with the GS5, giving you the ability to toggle the HDR view on and off prior to committing to a picture. Addtionally you are able to utilize Selective Focus mode allowing you to shift focal points from foreground to background or pan focus after you’ve already snapped the shot.
Features like Virtual Tour Mode allows you to stitch together a panoramic 360 degree scene and share it in video or still shot formats. Additional modes are downloadable via Google PlayStore.
Switching from camera mode to mode is very quick; a tap of the mode icon brings up a film strip style slide window of effects to choose from. The settings menu on the other hand, takes a moment to pop up. You are however, able to designate 3 shortcuts for quick access from your settings menu, which helps a bit.
IP67 Dust and Water Resistance
Everything seems to be going IP67 and the Galaxy S5’s ability to remain water-resistant is certainly a welcome feature. You can submerge your phone up to 3 meters for 30 min but I wouldn’t go swimming with it repeatedly or anything. Treat it gently as you normally would and have confidence that if you do happen to have an oops, that you’re just a little better protected than you were before. The back cover has a multitude of snap points that you must secure to ensure a tight seal as well as a cover for your USB 3.0 port at the bottom.
While the design works, I’m not a huge fan of having to clip and unclip the port cover every day several times a day (if you use the phone as much as I do) to charge the phone although the S5’s cover seems slightly more durable than the port cover on the S5 Active. You are able to, with your fingernail, sink the cover backwards a bit to clear the plastic nib and lift up. Still it’s a wonderful thing to have an IP67 Dust & Water Resistance rating as a standard on your smartphone.
Fingerprints and Heart Rate Sensors
The fingerprint sensor works quite well recognizing thumbprints. When you set up the fingerprint recognition in your settings panel, the device will ask you to swipe your thumb 8 times and stores the information only locally on your device; You are able to store up to 3 which doesn’t seem like enough, 5 would be better. The fingerprint sensor hardware is inside the physical home button and you must swipe in a downward motion but I didn’t find that I necessarily needed to swipe my entire thumb perfectly for the phone to recognize it. After a short time I was able to easily, unlock the phone without any problems using either hand. If you fail after 5 attempts which never happened to me unless I forced the issue, you are prompted to enter a password which you set. There’s also a new Reactivation lock feature under your Security settings allowing you to Lock your phone preventing anyone from re-activating your phone after it has been reset in the event it was stolen.
The heart rate sensor located near the camera’s flash seems fairly consistent after a couple of weeks of resting and active heart rate measurements. However consistency doesn’t account for accuracy and the built-in heart rate sensor is only meant for general information for casual monitoring lets call it. If you’ve got a medical condition or need super accurate numbers, there’s probably a better more specific stand-alone heart rate monitoring device you should be using.
There’s been a nice improvement in wireless performance on the GS5 with the introduction of two WiFi antennas. Along with many others I had major issues with the WiFi connection on the S4 maintaining a WiFi connection, so just having the stability alone on the GS5 is a welcome sigh of relief. Download Booster also gives you the option to use both the LTE connection along with your WiFi connection simultaneously to download files double-time! Utilizing 5th generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac and MIMO 2×2 technology the GS5 utilizes dual WiFi antennas to double the connection speed over WiFi. You may experience data overage charges if you abuse this option, so use it sparingly for now.
The 2,800 mAh battery is sufficient to get through a day or two with normal to light usage but with such a robust palatte of functionality options at your fingertips, if you keep them running you’ll certainly notice some battery drain especially if you’re using a Gear 2 smartwatch and running Bluetooth 24/7. However, in addition to being able to simply turn off services, great new addition is Ultra Power Saving Mode which allows you to dumb your phone down to save on power. The new Ultra Power Saving Mode will switch the GS5 into a Black and White interface extending the battery life when you’re running seriously low. Additionally you can choose which basic apps to enable so you can maintain some sort of connectivity with the world. You can even show a general readout of the estimated maximum standby time remaining until the phone dies.
Additional Functionality Highlights
It’s nearly impossible to go into every aspect of the features at your disposal on the Galaxy S5 but Samsung’s been piling in the functionality and you now get a floating collapsing toolbar called Toolbox. The ghosted button will persist across any screen and allow you quick access to those apps. A touch of the floating icon expands the menu giving you access to preset shortcuts. Toolbox is preset with shortcuts for Camera, Internet, Voice Recorder, SMemo and Calculator but you can place whatever shortcuts you want there in Settings under Toolbox.
When receiving phone calls you’ll find a rectangular floating window that appears on your screen. When making calls, you can hit the home button and do what you need to do, while your phone call gets reduced to a floating contact icon window which you can move around and tap to get back to the phone interface when you’re ready. I love this feature!
Kids Mode profile gives you some basic power over little prying hands. Now you can set up a kids mode with similar control to the Galaxy Tab for Kids. Kids Mode reduces access to the GS5 to 5 apps; rear camera, drawing, voice recorder, picture gallery and video player app for kids. You can allow access to any app you want in the settings and they will automatically show up on your Kids mode home screen. Additionally you are able to set time limitations, choose which media they can see, check how much time a child used a particular app and is pincode locked. You can also feel safe knowing that they will only be allowed to see what you allow them to see or what they themselves generated in Kids Mode; pictures, videos, recordings, drawings etc.
If there’s a major complaint to be made, it’s the lag. It’s nothing that isn’t fixable though update and no doubt an optimization issue with the Touchwiz UI layer but not a good thing when it lags right out of the box. The phone runs anything you can throw at it just fine, they run great (though personally I’d love to have seen 3GB of RAM instead of 2GB) it’s not a matter of it being underpowered but launching apps, switching apps, there’s some noticeable delay, even more so on the Galaxy S5 Active that we experienced. Still there are some things you can do to lighten the load until Samsung corrects the issue, like turning off your card stack effect on your home screen, keep multi-window off unless you need it, keep floating toolbar off.
The New UI dons this wonderfully medicinal teal/ocean green which I can’t stand. It’s a muted color and understand why they chose it, but I find myself being annoyed by it at every screen. I’d love to be able to adjust the theme’s colors.
Last notable quirk in general daily use, I’ve heard others mention the GS5’s super sensitivity, I didn’t have much issue with typing, I thought it was very fast actually, but I did notice I am doing much more pocket dialing with this phone than on the S3, S4 or Note 3.
In the End
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a powerhouse of functionality and features offering a standard IP67 Dust & Water Resistance rating. Some optimization and tweaking is undoubtedly on the way from Samsung and the slight lag should not sway you from taking a look at the Galaxy S5. The 5.1 inch Super AMOLED screen is beautiful to look at and the 16MP camera takes beautiful pictures and even better 4k HD video. You probably won’t utilize all of it’s features but it’s nice to have that power under-foot when you need it. If you’re new to Samsung you’ll be impressed with the feature rich device and if you’re already a fan, I think you’ll be happy with the improvements over the S4 overall.
Samsung Galaxy S5 is available for $199 with a 2-year contract on Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy S5 Active review