The Samsung Galaxy S5 is no doubt an excellent smartphone. Better camera, faster performance, and a gorgeous display—these are just but a few things offered by the Korean giant’s latest flagship.
In this Galaxy S5 review, we cover several improvements and new features that the phone introduces. We’ve already mentioned the big three, but there are still some more that beg these questions: are these new features truly innovative or just pure gimmick? Is the S5 really a huge jump over the Galaxy S4 or just an incremental update to an already incredible device?
Samsung Galaxy S5 Specs
■ Android 4.4.2 KitKat, TouchWiz
■ 5.1-inch Super AMOLED (1080×1920 Full HD), ~432ppi
■ 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
■ Adreno 330 GPU
■ 2GB RAM
■ 16GB internal storage
■ microSD support up to 128GB
■ 16-megapixel rear camera, with autofocus and LED flash
■ 2-megapixel front camera
■ Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
■ 3G, HSDPA, LTE
■ Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
■ GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, NFC
■ Dimensions: 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
■ Weight: 145g
■ Li-Ion 2800mAh battery
■ SRP: Php34,990
Hardware and Design
Not much has changed in the design of the Galaxy S5 in comparison to the Galaxy S4, so much so that you can’t easily tell both devices apart from the front. Dimensions have increased but only for a fraction due to the slight increase in screen size and thickness. Despite its slightly taller and heavier body, one-handed operations with the S5 are just as comfortable as it were in the S4, especially with the one-hand operation feature, which lets you shrink the screen display instead of the full 5.1-inch.
In contrast to the minimal changes to the front side, the rear cover sports a new dimpled pattern with a matte texture. The rougher and subdued feel helps conceal the fingerprints and give a tighter grip. Also, it gives a better feel in the hand than the S4’s glossy plastic.
Physical buttons are still a thing in the Galaxy S5. On-screen navigation buttons may appeal to some, but I personally prefer them conveniently placed below the screen. Fingerprint scanning has also been added as a fast yet reliable way to secure the phone, and it’s smartly incorporated into the home button. The capacitive button to the home button’s left now handles multitasking (invoking the menu now requires a long press), whereas the capacitive back button remains as such. Meanwhile, the power button stays put on the right-hand side of the phone and volume controls on the left.
Once again, plastic remains to be Samsung’s choice of material for its latest flagship smartphone. On the plus side, Samsung’s choice of a removable plastic back cover allows for a feature that the competition doesn’t have: replaceable batteries—which we’ll cover shortly.
Build quality may have been littered with compromises, but the Samsung Galaxy S5’s display makes up for it. Measuring 5.1 inches diagonally, the Super AMOLED display produces vivid colors and great contrast. It has a wide viewing angle and looks great in sunlight. The screen resolution here is still 1080p, and the 0.1 inch increase in screen size translates that to a slightly lower pixel density of 432ppi. Nevertheless, the images and text are crisp and clear. You’ll even find watching HD videos a delight with the S5.
AMOLED was often criticized for its unnatural colors and saturation, but Samsung included 5 screen modes: Adapt display, Dynamic, Standard, Professional photo, and Cinema – so you can choose which type of mode suits you best. For me, I prefer standard because I love the screen’s great color reproduction.
The brightness control was also vastly improved. Now I can use my phone at night without hurting my eye of the extreme brightness even at the lowest level, and that’s without an external 3rd party app. I really like this change and right now I only set the level to under 50% (which is already good) while my Galaxy S4 is often 50-100%.
Software and the new TouchWiz
Samsung’s new TouchWiz skin on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat is meant to streamline all the clutter of previous versions. On one hand, the new icons and menus do have a fresh, unified look and feel. Changes here and there range from minor to extreme overhauls to offer a more intuitive experience. Software services that made the S4 unnecessarily bloated have been either combined with other apps or removed altogether.
The Galaxy S series of devices has long been synonymous with performance, and in this department the S5 delivers once again. It employs the undeniably powerful quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, along with Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Expect this combination of innards to put the S5 among the top-scoring handsets in any benchmark test you dare it to undergo.
Despite the modified user interface and processes running in the background, the S5’s performance guarantees smooth movie playback, fast loading times for apps and games, and snappy animations. It doesn’t necessarily all that faster than the previous iteration, but it does feel a lot smoother than before.
We’ve ran the AnTuTu benchmarking app and here’s the result we got.
We tested several games—ranging from the casual to the hard-core racing and shooter games with heavy graphics—on the Galaxy S5, and it ran them exceptionally well at very smooth frame rates. We did enjoy the games very well because there are no lowered frame rates from time to time, which we often experienced in other quad-core smartphones. In the end, the experience is generally fast thanks to the awesome graphics.
We also downloaded a couple more of benchmarking tests that measure both pure GPU and overall performances and put the Galaxy S5 through its paces. Unsurprisingly, the phone excelled in these tests, even earning scores double that of its predecessor in certain areas.
Besides performance and the display, Samsung put a lot of effort into another significant aspect of the Galaxy S5—the camera. In fact, the 16-megapixel shooter (up from 13 megapixels) on its back is one of the better choices available on the market today. Shooting in auto mode can already give you a fantastic snap of the moment, complete with rich, accurate colors especially in decent natural lighting.
But settling with just the automatic mode is an insult to the potent power of the S5’s camera, for it has this Isocell sensor that introduces more capabilities in smartphone photography. For one, you’re now more likely to get a good shot of an action with the speedy autofocus only taking up to 0.3 seconds to put things into focus. For another, taking pictures in low light has improved a lot over the S4.
One of the new software features is the selective focus, which lets you capture a photo and edit which part gets the blur, so you can focus or change the subject after the shot. Another is Virtual Tour, a mode where you can shoot multiple photos and the device will stitch it together and make it appear to be a tour of a place.
When it comes to video recording, the default 1080p Full HD resolution more than suffices for capturing the moment. If you want to kick it up a notch, there’s even ultra-HD (4K video) recording hidden in the settings. Other shooting modes and filters are also hidden, with more choices downloadable through the camera app.
Heart rate monitor and IP67 protection
Of the new features found in the Galaxy S5, the heart rate monitor and IP67 certification have been heavily promoted as ones that differentiate the handset from the rest of the Android smartphone army. The former sits neatly on the back under the camera and is designed to complement the S Health app, which now tracks more data to appease the fitness buff and diet aficionado. By placing your index finger at the sensor (remember to activate it first through S Health), the phone keeps a record of your vitals. The results are accumulated for, say, checking the changes in your blood pressure over time.
What’s actually more useful is the IP67 rating, which means the Galaxy S5 is resistant to dust and can stay underwater for up to half an hour and in up to a meter. In fact, this is my favorite feature of the S5 because it fits my lifestyle. I’m always on the go and I rely on my phone a lot to accomplish things. The other day I was able to use it while raining and it’s incredibly good. I no longer need to worry if my phone’s going to get wet so I was just focused on doing my stuff. At first it seems a bit gimmicky, but this feature is pretty much legit.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 has the capability to get ultra fast internet speeds because of its category 4 LTE which can offer up to 150/50Mbps. Together with a strong Wi-Fi connection, you can download files extremely fast thanks to Galaxy S5’s built in download booster. It’s also capable of combining your LTE and Wi-Fi connection to get even better speed. Samsung’s web browser was also revamped, making it look like a simpler version of Chrome for Android. It has also improved in speed, that’s why I use it a lot now than I previously do on my S4.
Browsing the web is such a pleasure with the Galaxy S5. The texts are crisps, scrolling is smooth, and the pages load really fast. The hands-free eye scrolling is still available and fun to use at times, but thankfully it’s not pre-enabled like on the S4.
The Galaxy S5 comes with a bigger battery life is a welcome improvement. The one we get is a 2800mAh battery pack that allows the device to last up to two days with light usage and even a full day with heavy usage. The phone, like its siblings, comes with its own take on a power-saving mode to keep it running for some hours more before requiring a recharge. They also included an Ultra Power Saving Mode which makes the display black and white and making only the wanted features to work, leaving everything else disabled. This way, you can preserve energy and make it last 5-10 more hours.
The 200mAh difference may not look that big to you, but it’s been godsend for me. Samsung and Google did a really great job with their software optimizations to make it last this long. I can easily get up to 4-5 hours screen on time with heavy usage and up to 6 hours on moderate. In comparison, my S4 barely lasts for 3-4 hours of screen on. Check out my battery stats below. Impressive, eh?
Despite the bigger capacity, the Galaxy S5 charges extremely fast and gets to full charge in less than 2 hours. If charged at around 20%, it’ll be good to go in as low as an hour and a half. This is simply the fastest charging smartphone I’ve seen.
#GlobeGalaxyS5 – 5 reasons why you should get it
- You can get free access to Spotify Premium (my favorite music streaming service!) for 6 months if you get a GoSurf 299 and up subscription. With that, you can enjoy mobile internet and unlimited access to Spotify’s huge music library.
- It will come with free 1 month Gadget Care which means you get complete protection from theft, accidental damage, and up to Php 40,000 coverage on top of that. When you’re getting a smartphone like this, it’s important to take extra care so you won’t lose it.
- Charge App Purchases to Bill: Yes, this is something like the GCash AMEX where you can buy apps from Google Play and App store. If you subscribe on a Globe postpaid plan, you can purchase apps and games with ease.
- Flexibility: Interested customers can choose from a number of plans to get the Galaxy S5. You can get it for as low as Php1,799 which includes 5GB of GoSurf mobile data and free calls and texts to all networks.
- Fast LTE network: Enjoy fast mobile data connectivity with Globe’s LTE.
What we liked best about the Samsung Galaxy S5 is its gorgeous display—and that’s quite a big thing, given that this part of the phone is where our faces are stuck for hours as we do our mobile things. Boost in performance is to be expected of a sequel device, and thus the S5 doesn’t disappoint. Having a bigger battery life and better camera only makes us appreciate the handset more.
On the other hand, we would have like to see the Samsung Galaxy S5 with true innovations for the price we’re paying for it. Water and dust resistance are exceptional, making it one of the best devices in the market today. The new design language is also a huge step forward, as the Galaxy S5 clearly trumped its predecessor on this key area.
The Galaxy S5 is Samsung’s best flagship smartphone yet. If you think this is your next device, you can get for only Php1,799 per month on Globe’s MySuperPlan. Check out more details here.