Hardware

Samsung’s newest flagship brings all the new pieces to the table.  You have a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5 Ghz and 2GB of ram that gives you more than enough horsepower to steer this device.  Along with that we have the bumped up 16 megapixel camera with the 2 megapixel wide-angle front facing camera.  The biggest thing we have here is the heart rate sensor, which is placed next to the LED flash, and  the fingerprint sensor that is conveniently placed within the home button.  Other than that, you have a pretty familiar body compared to the previous two galaxy devices before it.

One of the bigger problems that everyone had with the Galaxy S4 was the back and how fingerprint prone it was.  It also made the phone look or appear cheap.  Samsung, somewhat, addressed this issue by changing the material of the back and adding dimples to it.  The white one has a far more slippery feel but it definitely feels better than last year, as for the black color it has a matte finish which has the most grip out of the two.  If you were looking for a major difference in the device in terms of look and feel, you’re up for a disappointment.  It still has the plastic feel that it had last year with the aluminum accents that has a familiar feel to the Note 3.

One of the ways that I think Samsung made up for this is by making the phone water resistant.  The phone is listed as being IP67 (6 meaning dust resistant and 7 meaning water resistant).  This means it can handle splashes, use in the rain, or can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.  They aren’t the first to do it and it’s not their first time doing it either.  The S4 Active was actually Samsung’s first water resistant device.  Its great to see that its becoming a standard because why not have that extra little protection.  Ironically getting stuck in the rain with no umbrella, with the need to handle emails and text messages on the go, this is extremely useful.    Hopefully, other companies can follow suite.

Fingerprint

Samsung also took a new route this time around with the added Fingerprint sensor, which is incorporated in the home button.  This is added security for unlocking the device and even verifying purchases through PayPal.  Unfortunately, this fingerprint deal is hit or miss and is more frustrating than not.  If you have a case (let’s say Otterbox) that doesn’t allow you to swipe the complete home button, fingerprint is not for you.  If you use the phone with one hand, good luck because it’ll only work 3/4th of the time.  It’s almost not worth the time you spend trying to swipe your finger perfectly across the home button versus using a pattern or pin.   It’s not as simple as placing your finger on the button like the iPhone 5s, but it is very close to the difficulty of the HTC One Max.

S Health and Heart Rate Sensor

S Health has some improvements from last year.  After getting through some personal questions, it allows you to track your calories, steps you’ve taken, and calories burned.  Its reminiscent of the Fitbit app or the Lose It app.  S Health is a bit more organized and has becoming less confusing over this past year but I’m not so sure you would use it over those other particular applications that have been around longer and are more reliable.  S Health still counts steps that I didn’t take which can be a hassle.  It could work better with any one of the gears which work harmoniously together.  Which brings me to the heart rate sensor.  This is perfect for workout genies because it allows you to track your heart rate after a quick workout or keep track of your heart rate at any point in time.  The issue here is how quiet and still you have to be in order for it to get a correct reading.  My first attempt at using the heart rate sensor should have put me in the emergency room based on its readings (I’m certain it was my fault).  Nonetheless, great to have for workout aficionados.

Display

The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1″ Super AMOLED 1080P display with a pixel density of 432 ppi.  I have to say this is the best Samsung has brought to the table yet.  Having vibrant, beautiful colors that bring anything on the screen to life topped with great viewing angles, this is nothing new to the Super AMOLED display but this one has a kick to it.  Really dark and natural blacks with such enjoyable colors makes everything such a breeze.  It also does an amazing job with really low brightness for night time reading, its pleasing and not harmful to the sleepy eye.  Samsung’s newest version of touch wiz, with its colorful, cartoony look paired with its gorgeous display, we have a top 5 phone display here.

Software

Oh, Touch Wiz.  There has always been something about Touch Wiz and its ridiculous library of features that I never really grew to love.  The look had always been plain and has had a small range of colors to please the eye.  With the new version of Touch Wiz on Android 4.4 KitKat, Samsung has refreshed the UI. Adding more vibrant colors and a fresh set of new icons, it’s definitely a more enjoyable experience.

What they didn’t hold back on is adding more features.  Samsung decided to add “My Magazine” to the home screen when you swipe to the right, much like Google Now.  My Magazine is a Flipboard-like application that brings a customized news feed for you.  As for whether its more useful than Google Now, depends on the user.  Its still too laggy and inconsistent for me to use enjoyably, so I just decided to turn it off.

Samsung brought most of its Galaxy S4 features as well, with all the air view sensors and crazy touch-less features.  Its still quicker to just touch the screen in most cases just to get to where you want to go.   This also plagues the experience.  With all these options you have a absurdly large menu of Settings.  This phone has a ton of settings to go through and I’m sure there are better ways to organize this.  It almost seems like the phone is rooted with all these customizable options and settings and toggles, it seems endless.  Fortunately for KitKat, this has very rare staggers and stutters to slow down the overall experience.

Camera

Samsung has bumped up its megapixel count since the last flagship.  You would think that jumping from 13 to 16 shouldn’t be such a drastic difference in picture quality but I beg to differ.  Using the Galaxy S5 camera has been an absolute pleasure in most common situations.  The 16 megapixels allows great and detailed shots as well as the ability to zoom in a considerable amount with minimal fuzziness compared to lets say, the HTC m8.  The camera app has also been revamped with more options, better organized and an overall easier experience.

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Some of the best shots were taken with the improved HDR shot and also the Selective Focus.  The HDR mode manage to take better pictures in more difficult lighting situations, it almost always seem to find the right lighting balance. As for Selective Focus, I had a great deal of fun using it. I decided to put it to use most my at a Mets game and compared it to that of HTC One (M8) U Focus. The result was a noticeable change in the bokeh effect as it seemed less artificial on the Galaxy S5, which uses software to add this effect versus the M8 which uses actual information to create the final product.

Battery Life

Spending several days with this device gave me some very good result concerning battery life. If your anything like me, you use a massive amount of social networking and web surfing as well as texting and using Google hangouts. With all this being said, I can vouch for the Galaxy S5s 2800 mAh battery. It almost always got me through the day, rounding it out to about 14 hours. Once you get to that point of 10 or 15%, you can turn on the Ultra Power Saving mode which makes your phone as basic as a phone from 2002. It turns off the data and you can only access the phone and text messages. It’s a great way to stretch out your last bit of juice. If your not happy with that, you can always just buy an additional battery to get you through as the S5 does have the removable battery.

Additional Notes

I used the Galaxy S5 on AT&Ts network and everything ran pretty flawlessly. I can’t go without mentioning my favorite feature of all, Download Booster. This is a new feature that allows you to use both your network and your WiFi to download any files over 30MB. Unfortunately for the AT&T version, the feature was not available at the time of use. Though you can seem to find it by creating a widget through using a different launcher like Nova or Apex. Even finding with finding it, there still seems to be. Bug and hasn’t been properly updated yet. I do know that it is working on other variants.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is another great Android phone to add to the 2014 roster. With its new features and refined UI, I’m sure plenty of people will be impressed with its changes. As for whether is it’s a huge upgrade over the Galaxy S4, probably not. Its more like a step rather than a jump or as people would say, the Galaxy S4S is an easier way to put it. I say, if you have a Galaxy S3, go for it. If you have a Galaxy S4, choose wisely. If you’re currently in a last generation of phone and looking for something fresh, this is a great option.

Mobile Review: Samsung Galaxy S5
If you're currently in a last generation of phone and looking for something fresh, this is a great option.
Build7.5
Hardware8.5
Software8.5
Camera9.5
Features9
Pros
  • Great camera
  • Gorgeous screen
  • Very good battery life
Cons
  • Fingerprint is hit/miss
  • Overloaded with features
  • Settings galore
9Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

JC Taveras
Managing Editor

A 24 year old city crawler with an ambition to try all gadgets and games. I do what I love and love what I do. Did I mention I'm a proud Audiophile? Follow me on twitter at @JC_Tav

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