Review: Samsung Galaxy S5, a month later

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I decided to do thing differently this time around. Instead of rushing to write a review about the Galaxy S5, I decided to spend some quality time with it and report back with my thoughts. This review is basically going to showcase the pros and cons of the handset. I know most of the tech readers are busy folks. So I will try to make this a short and straight to the point review of the Galaxy S5.

Display

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The Galaxy S5 packs a really nice 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1080 x 1920 resolution (441 ppi). Compared to the S4, the screen of the S5 is definitely brighter and better. You can appreciate that when you hold the phone in direct sunlight. Auto-brightness seemed to be okay in my tests. There were few times where it struggled to adjust when used indoors. I’d suggest that you switch to the manual setting and adjust the brightness to your liking. Compared with the HTC One M8 IPS LCD display, i’d say that it is a close call and that both are nice in their own way.

Hardware & Specs

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A quick reminder of what’s under the hood of the Galaxy S5. It sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 5.1-inch Super AMOLED FHD display, Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, 2GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of internal storage-expandable to 128GB via microSD, 16-megapixel rear camera (auto focus, ƒ/2.2), 2-megapixel front camera, 2,800 mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, LTE Cat.4 and an IR blaster. It measures 8.1mm thick (0.8mm less than the LG G3) and weighs 145 grams.

As far as design is concerned, the overall look of the S5 is in the same lines as the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 phones. It really doesn’t look that bad at all. The S5 is not all aluminum like the M8 but it is more durable and resistant to shocks. The M8 is easy to scratch and dent (dropped it one). The dimpled back cover feels like some type of leather. It makes the phone less slippery and easy to hold. It is not as bad as you think.

One the newest additions in the S5 is that it is a waterproof handset. Thanks to the IP67 certification, it can be immersed in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes and not get damaged. The microUSB 3.0 port on the bottom of the device is now covered by a flap that has rubber sealing. The back cover also has a rubber gasket to help with the waterproofing.

Fingerprint Scanner

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The fingerprint scanner is an added security feature that allows Galaxy S5 users to unlock their devices. this can be done by swiping your finger on the scanner built into the home button. You turn on the feature by going to the setting menu and doing a bunch of swiping until the phone registers your fingerprint data. You have five attempts with this method. Once the phone doesn’t recognize you, you will be asked to enter an alternative password (which you have setup during in settings). Another thing you could do is make payments via Paypal and access a private mode.

Using this feature was okay at best for me. I found myself swiping numerous times to get it to unlock. It definitely isn’t for everyone-at least not for me. I’ll stick to good old code unlocking.

Heart Rate Monitor

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Situated right under the camera in the back of the Galaxy S5 is the heath monitor sensor. All you have to do is place your finger on it and “keep still.” If you don’t do it the right way, you will get prompted to “not press too hard”, keep quiet and not move. The readings I was able to get were close (not all the time)to what you get with a Fitbit.

Software

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The Galaxy S5 runs on Android 4.4.2 Kitkat with TouchWiz on top of it. TouchWiz is still the same TouchWiz. Samsung basically changed the appearance of the settings menus, including the icons. It is easy to navigate. Other than that, I believe that the mojority of the Android community wants to see the Korean company cleaning the UI. A good example of that would be HTC’s Sense UI. It is as close to stock Android as it gets.

The TouchWiz launcher is another story, especially if you like to customize your homescreen. I installed Nova and the difference was very noticeable.

Camera

This is where the Galaxy S5 shines in my opinion. Samsung packed it with a 16-megapixel camera using image sharpening technology called ISOCELL. the aperture of f/2.2 is the same as the one in the S4.

My favorite update is how Sammy got rid of the slew of camera menus present in the GS4. You will have a few to play with and in case, you want to make a GIF using the “Animated Photo” feature, you’ll need to head to the Samsung appstore to download it along with other ones. I think Samsung should do that for all of their proprietary apps, giving the user the choice to do whatever they want.

The quality of pictures are just great when taken outdoors, even at night. The Galaxy S5’s camera is definitely one the best you could get in an Android phone.

Performance & Battery Life

The S5 is no chimp when it comes to performance. That is thanks to 801 Snapdragon processor Adreno 330 GPU and the 2GB of RAM. I would say that it performed well and the whole experience with the phone was good. However, the S5 was not prone to some occasional lag which led to doing a few reboots. Could this be related to TouChwiz? Maybe.

Thanks to a 2,800 mAh battery, the Galaxy S5’s battery life wasn’t bad at all. The phone lasted me a good 12-13 hours on moderate to heavy use on wi-Fi and LTE. My use included Internet browsing, some gaming, streaming music, taking pictures and using S Health.

Recharging the phone is definitely faster than last year’s Galaxy phone. It takes me about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to fully charge it. Fans of wireless charging would have to grab the wireless charging cover for about $30 from Samsung (you need to buy the charging pad separately).

Final Thoughts

The Good

  • The Galaxy S5 display is simply gorgeous. The colors are crisp and most importantly, you can read see what’s on it in direct sunlight.
  • Adding water resistance was a good move. The design and weight did not have to suffer from that.
  • The camera is one of the best you can find in the market right now. Real-time HDR preview is awesome
  • Overall performance was solid

The Bad

  • TouchWiz is one the first things I think about. Although Samsung is trying to make the UI appealing, the amount of unnecessary bloat needs to go.
  • Heart monitor needs to be tweaked for better accuracy
  • Off-contract pricing could be better

conclusion

I am hoping that we’ll see a more refined TouchWiz in the near future. Maybe an “à la carte” TouchWiz where users can actually pick the Samsung apps they want to use and not be forced to have them on their devices. Here is to hoping..

With that said, the Galaxy S5 is one of Samsung’s best Android phones to date. It’s up there with the Galaxy Note 3, HTC One M8 and LG G3. Don’t let the few negatives fool you because this device is top notch and will not disappoint. I highly recommend it!

Zack has always been a fan of anything with the tag "Gadget" on it, he has had used almost every phone brand except for the Palm and owns a Pixel XL as his daily driver. His favorite camera is the Olympus EM-1 Mark II. He is a full-time father of two great boys and happily married to his wife. Did we mention the Zack loves Video games? Add him to you circles: Google+

  • Amir Sibboni

    A good phone?

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