The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest iteration of the now venerable line of Android smartphones from the giant Korean company. It features all the typical Samsung flair for features and razzle dazzle, but underneath the glitz there’s a pretty solid piece of phone engineering that works as well as you’d expect from a flagship handset.
The phone comes in the trademark Samsung packaging with the routine set of accessories, including the power block, USB charge cable, headset and spare eartips. The specifications of the handset are stellar as you’d expect, with a 2.5GHz quad core processor, a 5.1 inch touchscreen, 1920×1080 resolution, with 2GB RAM and 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage. It also supports a massive 128 GB of microSD support, and has a 16 megapixel rear camera and 2 mp up front.
As you can tell from the video above, while the phone does share a lot of similarities with its Galaxy S4 predecessor, there are also some interesting new features and functions which are quite cool. Overall the handset continues the Samsung tradition of trying to shoe-horn as much tech into your pocket as possible, ranging from emergency assistance services, to a heart rate monitor and a neat shortcuts feature which makes data entry a breeze.
A surprising number of the new features of the phone relate to saving power, which is hardly surprising when you get to this level of processing power and functionality. Keeping the phone working all day is getting harder and harder for these superphones, hence the need to include things like ‘Ultra Power Saving Mode’ and similar. Even though the handset features a 2800mAh battery, it’s still a problem keeping it alive for a decent amount of time.
It’s also nice to see the inclusion of waterproofing, with seals offering up to 30 minutes protection at up to 1 meter. It’s not quite as good as handsets from Sony, but it’s a good effort nonetheless. A cute touch is the fact that after charging the phone, or removing the back, you get an on-screen warning to replace all the seals properly to ensure the waterproofing stays intact.
The phone is packed with sensors, as you would imagine, since they’re needed to perform most of the magic from the packed on-board software features. Many of these have been seen before, such as the gesture and motion functions from the Galaxy S4, but there are still some surprises, including a Private Mode, a beefed up one handed mode and a cute little Crying Baby Detector. Oh and of course, the famous heart rate monitor which is situated next to the flash unit on the rear of the device.
Reports suggest that it’s not as accurate as it should be, and in our tests we found it difficult to get a reliable consistent reading, which is probably why there’s a warning not to use it as a medical indication. It’s easy to dismiss these Samsung sensor functions as marketing gimmicks, but it’s clear that the company’s plans for the Galaxy are to move it beyond mere phone calls, and turn it into some sort of general lifestyle aid, maybe eventually like the Star Trek Tricorder. It’s an ambitious goal if that’s the case.
While we’re talking about ambition, we have to say that the camera is also something of a precocious beast in every way. The features and settings available to the camera user are seriously impressive, with things like a voice activated shutter, a virtual tour mode which lets you create Google Street View type panoramas, and even a full on slow motion feature. But the whole is sadly let down by a camera that seems to have gone backwards since the Galaxy S4 days. In general shooting we found images to be softer and not as impressive as its predecessor, which is strange. You can see our short comparison of the Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S5 video in the clip below.
There was a huge amount of expectation revolving around the release of this smartphone, and in some ways the product has matched that excitement. It’s nicely built, feels solid in the hand, and features superb performance and a gorgeous screen. However in most other ways, it’s definitely more of an incremental, rather than a revolutionary advance, which probably reflects the fact that it’s hard to move forward when you’re already at the cutting edge.
Is it worth the price or an upgrade? Definitely, if you’re in the market for a new phone, you absolutely have to consider this product, since it’s a market leader, and comes with a fully fledged accessories market which delivers bags of add-ons to improve your phone experience. However, there are other alternatives out there, both from named brands such as Sony, HTC and Motorola, as well as cheaper Chinese brands which offer a decent experience for a fraction of the price.
At the end of the day, though, this Samsung model still remains the Android phone to beat, and so far no-one has managed to unseat the champion for all round versatility and power for your money.
[Thanks to Vodafone for the supply of the review unit]
Technology (Main Display) Super AMOLED
Size (Main Display) 5.1″ (129.4mm)
Resolution (Main Display) 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
Color Depth (Main Display) 16M
S Pen Support No
CPU Speed 2.5GHz
CPU Type Quad-Core
Color Charcoal Black, Copper Gold, Electric Blue, Shimmery White
RAM Size (GB) 2GB
ROM Size (GB) 16 or 32**
External Memory Support MicroSD (up to 128GB)***
Video Recording Resolution UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) @30fps
Main Camera – ResolutionCMOS, 16MP
Front Camera – ResolutionCMOS, 2MP
Main Camera – FlashYes
Main Camera – Auto FocusYes
Sensors Gesture Sensor, Fingerprint Sensor, HR Sensor, Hall Sensor, Accelerometer, Geomagnetic Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Light Sensor, Barometer, Proximity Sensor
USB Version USB 3.0*
Location Technology GPS, Glonass, Beidou
Earjack 3.5mm Stereo
MHL MHL 2.1
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G + 5GHz, VHT80 MIMO
Wi-Fi Direct Yes
DLNA Support No
Bluetooth Version Bluetooth v4.0
Bluetooth Profiles DI, MAP, PBAP, HOGP, PAN, A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, OPP, SAP, HID
Dimension (HxWxD)142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm