Flagship (mostly) fantastic: Samsung’s Galaxy S5 reviewed
Samsung’s fifth Galaxy model is here, and poised to take on whatever Apple has next, as well as anything else from the other manufacturers. For the new model, Samsung has revised the look, the hardware, and so much more. Is this Samsung’s best phone yet?
The smartphone race is heating up, and as Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, and even Nokia all have founds ways to show that they too can make award winning smartphones that appeal to customers more than just the humble Apple iPhone, it’s time for Samsung to show the world what it can do in the new year with a new phone.
New to the Galaxy range, it’s the fifth model of the flagship handset, though it’s certainly not the fifth Galaxy altogether. Ever since Samsung started pushing more than just the flagship models, the Galaxy phones have really taken off, and there are models in the budget category, mid-range, camera-specific, phablet-size, and of course, the high-end flagship.
Taking over from last year’s Galaxy S4 is the aptly named S5, with new specs, a refined design, better camera, and a few more things added for good measure.
Let’s start with the specs, because that’s where most of the change is, with last year’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor jumping to a top of the line Snapdragon 801 chip, a slight variant on the model out in the Galaxy Note 3 last year with improved performance and faster clock-speed, rated at 2.5GHz and working alongside the Adreno 330 graphics chip.
This new processor works alongside 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, though the latter of these can be expanded to support as much as 128GB of microSD extra storage if you have it.
Google’s latest version of Android runs here, with version 4.4.2, also known as “KitKat” and making it truly up to date. Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay runs atop this, providing a newer look, and access to all of Samsung’s extra features. Those extra features include a heart rate monitor, TV remote, air gestures, multi-window, fingerprint reading, and more.
Cameras are part and parcel of smartphones these days, and the Galaxy S5 is no different, with a new 16 megapixel shooter on the back capable of quick HDR shooting, low-light images, 4K UHD video capture, and taking advantage of Samsung’s new ISOCELL technology (more on that later).
The front-facing camera sits at 2 megapixels, capable of recording 1080p Full HD videos too, which the rear camera can also do.
Connecting this phone up to the world are some pretty high end standards, with Category 4 4G LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 with support for LE (Low Energy), Near-Field Communication (NFC), GPS, and infrared, with wired support handled through a microUSB 3.0 port at the bottom for faster transfers.
This sits under a new 5.1 inch Full HD (1920×1080) screen, capable of showing 432 pixels per inch, and protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 strengthened glass.
Buttons are relatively standard for Samsung phones, with the front centre home button here, flanked on either side by the new multitask button (which replaces the menu button) and the back button. The power button and volume rocker occupy identical spaces, with the volume on the left edge and power on the right.
The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top as per usual, though it’s now on the right side, compared with the left side it was in on the Galaxy S4.
Samsung has kept removable backs part of the equation in the S5, and you’ll find the back can be taken off, revealing the battery, and microSIM and microSD slots.
The battery is rated at 2800 mAh.
Every April, we’ve come to expect as new phone from Samsung, and 2014 is no different.
Last year, the Galaxy S4 greeted the world, bringing with it a whole host of neat new features inspiring customers to ditch their old product and buy something new. And the Galaxy S4 was an excellent product, bringing with it a lot of performance in a slim and slick package, resulting in one of last year’s better phones.
But that was a year ago, and now Samsung has something ready for consumption in the form of the Galaxy S5.
Are you ready?
From a design point of view, there are minor refinements though it’s pretty much more of the same. If you like the look of the Galaxy S4 and even the GS3 before it, prepared to be happy because it’s more of that design.
The front is simple and inoffensive, with a plastic silver trim, while the back receives a different treatment from either the slick glossy plastic of the S3, and a totally different look from the fake leather stitching of late last year’s Galaxy Note 3.
That difference is a plastic dotted rubberised back, which manages to not just feel better than the fake leather Note 3, but also makes it really hard to slip and fall out of your hands.
We can’t fault Samsung for constantly choosing plastic, either: we may prefer the feel of HTC’s metal bodies and Sony’s choice of glass and aluminium, but Nokia and LG haver both produced superb plastic smartphones, and Samsung is no different in this way.