Samsung Galaxy S5 review – hands on

Posted: March 9, 2014 by Khobaib Monawwar in Android, Technology
Tags: , , ,

Samsung launched its new Galaxy S5 smartphone amid much razmatazz at MWC Barcelona, and we’ve had some time with the hotly-anticipated new handset. For convenience, we’ve also included all of the official specifications on page two of this article.

Samsung Galaxy S5

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 DESIGN

 

There are a couple of headline new features. The S5 now has a fingerprint reader, which you can use to unlock the phone or to make payments; currently only PayPal is supported. The fingerprint reader can also be used to secure and unlock private storage on the phone, so you can lock down images you wish to keep especially private, for example.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Look out for the heart rate monitor below the camera

There’s also a heart rate monitor, which you activate by pressing your thumb to the sensor below the camera and pressing the corresponding button within the S Health app. We’re not convinced of its accuracy, though; the measurement oscillated between 50bpm and 103bpm, while the Gear 2 Neo smartwatch measured around 80bpm consistently.

Samsung Galaxy S5

The S5 is slightly bigger than its predecessor due to a larger screen

The phone looks similar to the S4, but has a couple of differences. It’s slightly larger, due to the bigger 5.25in compared to 4.99in screen, and the back is now soft-touch textured rather than smooth as on the S4. We were fans of the soft back, which is pleasing in the hand, but wish Samsung would improve the hard ridged plastic around the edge of the phone.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 SCREEN

Once we started to use the S5, though, we started to be seriously impressed. The first thing that strikes you is the sheer quality of the screen. It has the same 1,920×1,080 resolution as the Galaxy S4’s display, but gives a significantly better picture. The screen is brighter than the S4’s, and has significantly less grain. It also has much purer whites, without the S4’s slight yellow tinge. Text is astonishingly sharp, too. It’s one of the best screens we’ve ever seen – it’s amazing how much Samsung has managed to improve on the S4’s display in a year.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Oh my, but what a screen

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 PERFORMANCE

The S5 is astonishingly fast. The processor model is as yet unconfirmed (it’s pretty certain it’s a Snapdragon 801) and its four cores run at a huge 2.5GHz. The S5 completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in just 408ms, which makes the S5 not only by far the fastest Android phone we’ve seen, but the fastest phone of any type; the only handset that comes close is the iPhone 5S, with 416ms.

As you’d expect with a score like this, the S5 has absolutely no problem with complicated web pages, which render quickly and scroll around with not a trace of hesitation. We also ran the 3DMark benchmark on the handset in Unlimited Mode, as the normal and Extreme modes were too light for the device. Unlimited returned a score of 18,438, which is far quicker than the iPhone 5S’s 14,506, which was our previous high score. This is an astoundingly fast phone, whichever way you look at it.

Samsung Galaxy S5

The phone’s software takes up over a third of the standard storage

Be aware that out of the phone’s 16GB capacity, around 6GB is already taken up by system files and various apps, so only around 10GB is available to the user. You’ll most likely need to take advantage of the microSD card slot.

 

ULTRA POWER SAVING

The Galaxy S5 has an innovative mode to help prolong your phone’s battery life, called Ultra Power Saving. This goes further than any power saving mode we’ve seen. When you switch the mode on, which seems to take around 10 seconds, it turns the display to monochrome and restricts you to a single screen with a few vital apps.

You can select which apps you want when the phone is in the mode, to make sure you still have the functions you absolutely need until you can find a power socket. Samsung claims the phone will give you around 24 hours of battery life from just 10% charge in when in Ultra Power Saving mode, hopefully giving you enough juice for a vital call or text.

 

MY MAGAZINE

New to the Galaxy S5 is My Magazine, as seen previously on the Note 3 and Note Pro. This is a news and social feed aggregation app, in the style of HTC’s BlinkFeed, which we first saw on the HTC One. Swipe left from the homescreen and you’re presented with a picture-rich feed of things that interest you. The service is apparently based on Flipboard, and lets you choose to receive updates from social networks such as Flickr, Twitter and Google+, and information categories such as News, Style and Technology. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see any way to customise the news sources within each category.

Samsung Galaxy S5

My Magazine is a BlinkFeed-style news aggregator

 

CONCLUSION

The S5 may not look much different from the S4, but we were surprised by how much Samsung has managed to improve in a year. The fingerprint reader is useful, we’re not sure about the heart rate monitor, but the phone is incredibly fast and the screen blew us away. The S5 will be a premium-priced smartphone, and we can’t see it being anywhere else but at the front of this year’s Android pack.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 OFFICIAL SPECIFICATIONS

We’re expecting the phone to hit the shelves in early April, but at the moment there’s no firm release date. Nor is there final pricing available for the handset, either. We’ll be updating this page with the latest prices and deals as they come in. Until then, it’s safe to assume that the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t going to be priced radically differently to the existing Samsung Galaxy S4. When we reviewed that handset it was £600 SIM-free, although the networks were doing various deals if you signed up for a contract at the same time.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 SCREEN SIZE AND RESOLUTION

One of the biggest rumours going around was that the S5 was going to up screen size to 5.25in and have a massive QHD (2,560×1,440) resolution. However, this has proved to false, and the true specs are a 5.1in screen with a Full HD (1,920×1,080) resolution. While the screen is a little larger than on the Galaxy S4, which had a 4.99in display, the resolution hasn’t changed.

While that may be disappointing at a first glance, we think it’s a sensible move. On a screen this size more pixels isn’t particularly going to radically improve image quality or make things look sharper. Instead, it’s just going to give the phone more pixels to deal with, which could have had a negative impact on performance, particularly in games.

Despite the slightly larger screen, Samsung has only had to increase the size of the Galaxy S5 slightly and it measures 142×72.5×8.1mm and weighs 145g; this compares well to the Galaxy S4, which measures 136.6×69.8×7.9mm and weighs 130g.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 DESIGN

Design wise, the Galaxy S5 doesn’t look a massive amount different to the S4. It’s still made of plastic, with a ridged metal-effect band running round the side. The rear has a dimpled back. It looks great in pictures, although we’re saving final judgement for when we get our hands on the product.

More interesting is the IP67 rating, which means that the phone is both dust and water-resistant. That doesn’t mean that you can go swimming in safety, but the S5 should be safe from day-to-day spillages.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 FINGERPRINT SENSOR

Again, as widely predicted the S5 has a fingerprint sensor, built into the Home Button, catching up with the TouchID scanner in the iPhone 5S. As you’d expect, Samsung’s scanner can be used to unlock the phone with a finger swipe.

However, it can also be used for safe mobile payments. Currently, PayPal payments can be authenticated in this manner, although there’s no reason why other forms of payment or contactless can’t be authenticated via a fingerprint in the future.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 PROCESSOR

At the moment all we know is that there’s a 2.5GHz quad-core processor inside the phone. At the time of writing we didn’t have final specs or any information on the GPU. We’ll bring you the latest information as we have it.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 CAMERA

As predicted, Samsung has upped the sensor from the 13-megapixel version in the S4 to a 16-megapixel version for the Galaxy S5. Specs alone don’t tell the story, as a larger sensor doesn’t necessarily equal better image quality. However, it looks as though Samsung has worked on improving the experience.

For starters, Samsung is claiming that the Galaxy S5’s camera has the world’s fastest autofocus speed of up to 0.3 seconds. For anyone that’s tried to take a quick photo from a smartphone only to have the focus hunt for a lock, this could be a real boon.

Next, is a Selective Focus mode, which lets you focus on a specific area of the frame, blurring everything else out. It should allow for some neat depth-of-field effects.

In video mode the camera can also shoot Ultra HD 4K (3,840×2,160) video at 30fps. That’s pretty impressive for a camera, although you’re going to need a large memory card to shoot a lot of video. Fortunately, there’s a microSD card slot, which can take cards up to 128GB in size.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 BATTERY

Samsung has upped the battery in the Galaxy S5 from the 2,600mAh model in the S4 to a 2,800mAh. Given the slightly larger screen, we’d say that the new battery (which has almost an eight per cent capacity improvement) will likely even things out and we’ll see around the same battery life; we’ll have to wait until we put the smartphone through our regular tests before we know for sure, though.

If you’re worried about running out of juice, Samsung has a new power-saving mode. This switches the phone’s screen to black and white mode, shutting down all unnecessary features to minimise battery consumption. No further details were available on this at the time of writing.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 4G LTE AND WI-FI

Samsung has upgraded the wireless connectivity inside the smartphone. First, the category 4 LTE, which means that phone will be compatible with more networks. When 4G roaming starts to become more common, this could be very useful. Wi-Fi has been upgraded to 80.11ac with 2×2 MIMO.

Impressively, both wireless devices can be used together using Download Booster. This wireless bonding technology should allow for some impressive download speeds, although it’s a matter of finding services that require and support this kind of speed.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 FITNESS

From the teaser information that Samsung sent it, it was clear that fitness was going to be a big part of the phone. As well as a new version of Samsung’s fitness tracking app, S Health 3.0, the phone now has a built-in heart rate monitor. It still needs to be used with additional devices, such as a pedometer for other measurements, though.

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 RELEASE DATE AND PRICE

Samsung has said that the Galaxy S5 will go on sale in April. Pricing hasn’t been announced, although we expect to get that later on in the evening or tomorrow, as the networks announce their plans. In the meantime, anyone interested can pre-register online at www.samsung.com/uk/galaxys5.

Comments
  1. NVChad2 says:

    Nice write up. I absolutely love the Galaxy phones. I worked as a Sprint sales associate when the Galaxy S was released. I got my hands on one relatively early on and had it almost 3 years before finally upgrading to the S4 which I have now. I was blown away with how much they had improved in just a few years. Samsung never fails to impress, in my experience anyway.

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