Samsung Galaxy S5 Review
Samsung has maintained its reputation as leader in the smartphone market. In the time to come, I don’t see Samsung waiver from this strongly held position though the competition is trying hard and heavy to match up. With all manufacturers going head on with their flagship devices, Samsung is now out with its latest flagship and probably one of the most awaited devices of 2014, the Samsung Galaxy S5!
Build Quality and Design
The talks on Galaxy S5 had started long back with the rumor mill churning out jibber jabber about S5’s metallic body, 2k screen resolution and water/dust resistance. However, most of it did not come to reality, but we still saw some interesting deviation from the norm. The first thing I’d like to highlight would the rear panel of the Galaxy S5. I have to admit, it’s different! A perforated plastic polycarbonate rear panel with a matt finish – I think it’s attractive. And the soft feel provides for a better grip too. The S5 weighs 15 gms more than the S4 at 145 gms and the thickness clocks at 8.1 mm which is again about 0.2 mm thicker than the S4. Quite honestly, I have held both the devices and you can barely tell the difference. In fact, the difference is so less pronounced, that I almost that the S5 was lighter.
The second most awesome thing about the S5 is the water and dust resistant body. So, it’s IP67 certified which basically signifies that the device is completely dust resistant and it can withstand 1 m under water for up to 30 minutes. I honestly think that water resistance is a must have features especially for devices so premium and expensive. It’s sort of an insurance policy against water damage. Now, most water and dust resistant devices do not offer the option to remove the rear panel. However, the S5 still offers the flexibility of opening the battery door and removing/replacing the 2,800 mAh battery and provides you slots for micro SIM card and microSD card.
Samsung seems to be the only phone manufacturer to date who integrate a USB 3.0 data syncing and charging port as opposed to the entire Android smartphone universe that come with a USB 2.0 port. Essentially, the USB 3 port lets you charge quicker and transfers data much faster. But as you unbox, you’d notice that the phone ships with a USB 2.0 cable which, quite honestly, makes little sense to me as to why Samsung would not provide you with a USB 3 cable as they do with the Galaxy Note 3.
The S5 is rocking two Quad Core processors, one clocked at 1.9 GHz and the other at 1.3 GHz. Samsung claims that unlike its predecessor, the Galaxy S5 has both the quad cores running simultaneously thereby giving you the experience of a true octa processor. The lighter applications are handled by the 1.3 GHz Quad core whereas the more power intensive apps (HD games, HD video playback) are taken care of by the 1.9 GHz Quad Core processor. 2 GB RAM is what supports the processors in the Galaxy S5. However, this is quite disappointing, since I’d really expect the S5 to carry forward the Note 3 legacy with 3 GB RAM. This now seems like a step down from the Note 3. But regardless, the device still is capable of running multiple apps simultaneously and lets you seamlessly switch between various apps without any hiccups.
The home key at the center is also a fingerprint scanner which you would mostly use to unlock the device as of now. However, it is certified from Paypal, which means you can also use it as a means to make payments at certain merchants. But this is a feature ahead of it time as of now, especially for developing countries where payments are made primarily using cash, online transactions and credit/debit cards. The S5 comes fitted with a 16 MP ISOCELL camera with autofocus and LED flash. The ISOCELL technology ensures more light enters the lens resulting into higher detailed pictures and much better contrast specially compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy S4.
Samsung has been considerate enough to give the Exynos variants the capability to record 4K videos, however, limited to at most 5 minutes of simultaneous recording. Needless to say, you have a Full HD video recording mode too which should also be your preferred mode of recording videos. Why, you ask? Because there aren’t enough 4k displays out there for you to truly experience 4k quality. So you’d end up creating really heavy video files without much use. Also, when you are in 4k recording mode, you can’t use any special mode or color filter and you are restricted to 5 minutes only as mentioned above. At the front is a 2 MP camera capable of Full HD video recording.
Galaxy S5 features a 5.1 inch Full HD super AMOLED display. In terms of size, it’s only 0.1 inches more than the S4, but if I were to comment on the brightness and colour reproduction, the S5 definitely stands out farther ahead of the S4. More brightness means you have much better visibility in broad day light which I believe is one of the most important feature of a good display technology. Samsung has also re-engineered its pixel arrangement to deliver a richer and more accurate colour reproduction. At the top you have the IR LED blaster that lets you control almost any television or set top box.
While Samsung has attempted to remove most gimmicks, a plethora of which were present in the Galaxy S4, they have still gone ahead and added a heart rate monitor. It really just works by simply placing your thumb in a strictly vertical manner while you remain calm, and the S Health app would throw up a number that is indicative of your BPM count. I don’t see any obvious use of this, but I guess it makes sense only if you had the Galaxy Fit or the Gear 2 which also have the same mechanism to report your heart beat rate. In the rear panel, you’d see a gasket that seals away any possibility of water trickling inside.
The S5 is powered by a 2,800 mAh battery that would barely last you one whole day. And this poor battery performance is certainly not expected from a flagship device such as the S5 which should have promised on a better battery life over its predecessor as a default.
The Galaxy S5 ships with the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat. As with all Samsung flagship devices, the S5 features TouchWiz interface and it has undergone a significant design change especially when compared to the previous Galaxy flagship devices such as the S4 and the Note 3. The changes are more significant in terms of icons, use of colours and a bit of functionality. The icons used are simple, minimalist and round with use of bright colours that give it a very fresh “youthy” feel.
The Galaxy S5 comes with a 16 MP ISOCELL camera capable of ultra-high definition video recording, ultra-fast autofocus capability and a bright LED to help you take great shots even in the dark. The device can record UHD and Full HD videos. However, the UHD can only record 5 minutes in one go and then you have to start a new recording to record more. The ISOCELL technology has definitely added more value to the whole picture taking experience with more light and better contrast. The fact that the lens can take more light in, helps the S5 deliver pictures that are more detailed.
The camera app interface has been redesigned and makes it easier to switch between various settings. The modes no more present themselves in a cyclic fashion, instead shows up as a simple list. There are now lesser number of shooting modes that the device ships with. However, there is an option to download more of these. The settings menu is not categorized anymore, instead is a straight off list of all the setting toggles. There are also a bunch of live filter effects that you can choose from to add more glam to your pictures. Again, you can download additional filter effects if you wished to.
Two features that are primarily a new addition in the Galaxy S5 camera app are Selective Focus and Real Time HDR. With Selective Focus enabled, you can go close to an object and take a macro shot. You can then choose to focus either on the subject or the background or both within the gallery. This feature works best if your subject and the background have a clear color distinction. At the end of the day, its always great to have one of those pictures with diffused backgrounds and a heavy focus on the subject.
The second one is the Real time HDR feature. This feature comes handy whenever you are in a condition with poor lighting or against bright light that make your picture look either dull or over exposed. With HDR enabled, the camera makes the best out of the low lit areas and bright lit areas, to give a compensated image with best output.
Samsung claims that taking a picture is extremely quick – it takes only 0.3 seconds to click a picture. But, whenever you click, irrespective of whether your subject is in focus or not, the camera would take a picture. So there is a possibility of getting a blurred picture even if you were to click a picture instantly. A solution to this is to go into settings and turn ‘tap to take pictures’ on. This way you can always tap to focus and take a picture the instant the focus is established.
It is clear that the Galaxy S5 is not a huge departure from its predecessor in most ways. The key differences really lie in an upgraded processor set, 16 MP ISOCELL camera and the water/dust resistant body. Other than that, the software features are not something that are much of a concern, because sooner or later Samsung might just roll out to the S4 as well. Even with a 2,800 mAh battery, which is 200 mAh more than the S4, the battery life is quite disappointing. It would barely make it through the entire day with moderate usage and that’s not something that you expect from the latest flagship.
If you are still using a last generation flagship, the price difference might not be justified. But if you are someone who wants to keep up with technology and/or of the opinion that water & dust resistance is of importance the S5 can be an easy choice. With phones like the HTC One M8 and Xperia Z2 around the corner, you might want to consider twice before the final decision.
- True octa-core performace
- 16MP ISOCELL camera
- Water/Dust Resistant Body
- UHD 4K Video Recoding
- 1080p Super AMOLED Display
- USB 3.0 Port
- Ease of Single Hand Operations
- Removable Battery/microSD Storage
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- High Price Point
- Poor Battery Performance
- No Use of Heart Rate Monitor
- No Use of Fingerprint Scanner
- No Capacity to Add Widgets to Lock Screen