Flagship (mostly) fantastic: Samsung’s Galaxy S5 reviewed

SBA

And that leaves the camera, and while the increase from 13 megapixels to 16 seems pretty marginal, it’s the interface and the underlying technology where Samsung appears to really have spent some time.

For starters, the sensor size has increased and works across the widescreen size for the full 16 megapixels, which is new to us. Furthermore, the bigger sensor is a move that puts Samsung in-line with much of what the industry is doing, and Samsung has improved the technology considerably, adding its own ISOCELL concept inside.

More than just a neat name listed in caps, the technology relies on tiny barriers on the edge of each pixel that makes up the sensor, which Samsung says aids in the collection of electrons.

While that might sound like a heap of mumbo jumbo, the concept is basically like making each pixel more important and better suited for capturing light, increasing the amount of range that is possible and producing better quality images across the board.

In practice, the images in both daylight and at night appear to be better controlled, with more light seen in those shot at darker times. Detail isn’t as strong when there’s less light, and the 16 megapixel images can appear a little soft, but the lighting does feel better, even if the shots do need to go through a bit of sharpening after the fact.


Helping this is the camera interface, which seems to have been made simpler over the past year.

Rather than let you select from a variety of settings, the auto mode will take care of most things for you, with your favourite controls available to you in a user configurable side bar. And when we say “configurable,” we mean it, as you just drag out your favourite most used three settings into the bar and these will be here ready for you to use.

Some of the more playful settings from last year are still here, such as best shot — which fires lots of smaller images and lets you choose from the best one — and the object removal mode, though these are all sitting under “Shot & more,” which is a little odd, and kind of unhelpful given that you’ll probably only realise you wanted to use these features after you shot the photo to begin with.

Also not helping is the fact that you can’t seem to default which mode you automatically load the camera into, with “auto” seeming to be the only thing that will load every single time.

In the video camera department, give a big cheer because just like the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung has provided 4K camera support, making it possible to shoot videos for that 4K TV you were considering buying. They’re not going to be the most amazing quality, that said, but given how few 4K video cameras there are in general, we’re sure having one in your pocket is most appreciated.


Over on the front, you’ll find a 2 megapixel camera, which is just enough for the selfie that so many people love to take, and even a dash of video conferencing here and there. People still do that, right?

Oh, and there’s a phone.

Yes, smartphones will work like that, and Samsung is no different, making it possible to use the 5.1 inch Galaxy S5 with either one hand or two, and even providing some sound boosts for those who want their speakerphone to be a little louder.

Make no mistake, this is one of the most volume heavy smartphones you’re likely to see, and it’s clear Samsung has been working on that side of the technology in this phone, providing an easily found booster button if the speaker just isn’t loud enough.

The speaker on the back will boom it out, as will the one on the front, and while neither appear quite as good as HTC’s dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, they’re a lot better than previous Samsung smartphone speakers have been.

The Galaxy S4 on the left, the Galaxy S5 on the right.

Keeping it simple… a little too simple.

Not all Android overlays are created equal, and while the Google Nexus devices show Android the way Google intended it, the overlays afford manufacturers the chance to customise Android for their customers, making it at once easier to use and more befitting of a brand.


For instance, Sony’s Xperia overlay is like blending the look of the PlayStation and Bravia Xrossbar with that of Android, while HTC’s evolves Google’s look to be a little clearer and easier to operate for newbies, and LG’s is insanely customisable while still stickng close to what Google envisioned.

And then there’s Samsung’s TouchWiz. Where do we begin with this.

Many have thought for a while that TouchWiz was an Android interpretation of how an iPhone should be done, with an easy to understand menu system, soft icons, and no real reason to touch the settings unless you were a pro.

For many people, that’s perfect, and with an “easy mode” (below) built into this handset, that could be made even better, as you’ll just need to switch it on and start using your phone, adding the apps you want but forgetting about all the extra layers that Android can offer.