Today we will be reviewing Samsung’s latest flagship device for 2014, the Galaxy S5. The S5 was available in NZ last month on the 11th of April and in another 149 other countries. Of course, the S5 and Gear 2 are supposed to pick up from where the S4 and original Gear smart watch left off…
Unboxing and First Impressions
When these bad boys landed at my house, thanks to Telecom NZ, I was eager to unwrap them in their respective “wood-like” boxes. Taking out the S5 out of the box, I immediately noticed how it was slightly bigger, and getting into the XL sizes of phones. Compared this to my now defunct Galaxy Note 1, it actually wasn’t that much bigger! The dimensions of the S5 are as follows: 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm and weighs 145 grams.
The back cover of the S5 is now a soft-ish, leather-like texture, and it is a slight step-up to their previous plastic backs, and the charging port at the bottom now has a cover, to prepare itself for being dunked in water! In the rest of the box was the usual charger and USB cable and manuals for the device. What I was slightly disappointed with was that the S5 did not come with a micro USB 3.0 cable, whereas the S5 supports micro USB 3.0. The main benefit of a micro USB 3.0 cable is the faster speeds it offers compares to its predecessor. It should theoretically be 10 times faster than micro USB 2.0. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let this minor issue protrude from the rest of the review. You can always go and buy a micro USB 3.0 cable.
When I first turned on the S5’s display I was greeted with the Telecom logo. It then proceeded to ask me to set up the phone, as most phones would do. It has the standard Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen and is 5.1 inches with a pixel density of ~432. It is also a Full HD display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. The display is also protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
The Galaxy S5 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor chipset and is quad-core with a clock speed of 2.5GHz. It also has a Adreno 330 GPU. While using the S5, I noticed there was a slight lag in nearly everything I tried to do. For example, clicking the camera app to it fully launching, ready to take a picture or video, would be around 2-3 seconds. Switching apps from the multi-tasking menu would also take 1-2 seconds before it responded after the click to switch to the new app. To me, this was unacceptable, and I think Samsung should really get this sorted in the future. Plus, I hadn’t even installed more than 10 of my own apps on there yet!
The 16MP camera on the S5 was not particularly pleasing, especially the photos taken in low light. Even with the flash on the photos were not properly imposed as compared to other smartphone cameras. However, the photos taken in the daytime were more pleasing to see.
Because of the disappointing photos in low light, using HDR mode slightly improved the quality of those photos.
The S5 also has the ability to record in 4K as well, so if you were looking for Ultra HD footage, this feature would be good for you.
The front-facing camera is 2MP and again was only marginally OK.
It really does seem that Samsung has skimped down on the camera quality for this phone; hopefully they will improve this in their next flagship.
The Galaxy S5 will probably be known as the phone with lots and lots of software features, and a bit of hardware features too. It now has a heart rate sensor, a fingerprint scanner and water-resistance that its predecessor didn’t have. Unlike on the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor – Touch ID where you can just hold your finger on the home button to get it to activate, on the S5 you had to swipe slightly above the home button and swipe down. This meant that there was an excessive amount of grime on that part of the screen where you could see your fingers had been.. not that my hands are THAT dirty!
Another feature is the IP 67 water and dust resistance. Water resistant and water-proof are two different things with the latter being only able to “resist” light water sprays etc. Basically it’s not supposed to be immersed in water for a long period of time. However, as you can see in the above photo, both the water-resistant smartphone and smart watch were immersed in shallow water for a very short period of time, just for testing.
The heart rate sensor is great for people who like to check up on their heart condition (by referring to the amount of beats-per-minute). The sensor requires the user to place their fingertip on a sensor just below the camera of the S5, and it also requires you to try as best as you can to be still and quiet – it will not work in noisy environments I can tell you right now! After a few seconds, it will then tell you your heart rate.
Samsung has also added a new power-saving mode called Ultra Power Saving Mode. This supposedly doubles battery life and it changes the S5’s display into grey-scale mode, and prevents the use of other less important features such as apps, only allowing calling, messaging and the essential apps.
Now the S5 may have a slightly different textured back compared to its predecessor, it is not a huge step up from the S4 in order to justify an upgrade in my opinion. The camera is seriously lacking in its department and the amount of bloatware that Samsung includes on its phones are just appalling. However, it’s nice to see some additional minor features like the heart-rate sensor and the Ultra Power Saving Mode baked into the S5, so hopefully Samsung will be able to flatten out its problems before the next round of Galaxy devices show.