Samsung has been one of such brands which never took the criticism about the design of its smartphones seriously at all. It maintained the same design in the latest flagship, the Galaxy S5 which got just a new dimpled (or you could give it several names, even the band-aid band back as many suggested) back but everything else was the same.
What actually got changed, is the Interface, the camera and the pricing. The company which is known to bring together all the little things together in a single package, has done the same in the Galaxy S5, where some things which are noticeable easily, aren’t practically useful, while the ones which are embedded deeper are what we find useful many a times. But in the end, that’s Samsung and it’s flagship devices.
Let us get into the detailing part where we test the Galaxy S5 in the different parameters.
Design, Form Factor
The Galaxy S5, as said above, doesn’t take inspiration from the other brands in making a better design, and retains the same old Samsung Galaxy style with a standard bottom home button, and the same button placement. The only different here is the dimpled back, which is what Samsung changes in every flagship. The material in the end is still the same – Plastic, so you aren’t paying for the build or the design, but for the brand value and the user experience.
Thanks to the water resistance feature, you won’t notice any open slots and there’s a door provided for the MicroUSB 3.0 port in the bottom, and only the 3.5mm headset jack is open. The button on the right is for power / lock, while the one on the left is for adjusting the volume levels. The rear side has got the camera lens, flash and heart rate sensor below the lens, and the Samsung branding in metallic. The bottom side on the back area has the speaker vents. The back cover is removable, thus you can easily pop it out for the SIM and MicroSD placement, as well as for removing the battery, if there is a need anytime.
Overall, with the design part – the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t the best in the lot but you aren’t getting the worst designs in the hand, because Samsung has made millions of sales for this particular Galaxy series, and one of the appreciable part from the users was a standard design which makes it comfortable to hold and easy to use.
Display, Brightness and Viewing Angles
Samsung doesn’t disappoint with this at all. That was the case with the Galaxy S4 last year, and now the S5 which doesn’t do anything bad but maintains the same screen, the Super AMOLED display which gets an expansion by just 0.1-inch. We tested the 5.1-inch display under bright sunlight, and had to set the brightness to max, and the visibility was good. The viewing under all conditions was good till extreme side angles and the color output was brilliant.
Performance, Speed, Benchmarks
Having the latest best Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, the Galaxy S5 is expected to be in the list of top smartphones in the results page of the benchmark apps such as AnTuTu benchmark, Quadrant Standard & Nenamark 2. The phone got a score of 33,277 in the AnTuTu test, taking it to the top 5 and the Nenamark 2 score was 59.8 fps, which is quite brilliant. For the quadrant standard test, the score was around 19,000 which is again one of the best scores. But do these scores justify the performance of the phone? For me, it doesn’t totally justify what was being shown in the scoring. What is important for the end user is the ability for the phone to handle the heavy usage, multitasking and gaming.
The phone did handle the gaming very well, but while multitasking and switching between the apps in a quick pace, the speed was getting a hit. It’s not the power one would be expecting from a device having the latest best processor and configuration. To add to that, the TouchWiz should take some blame for giving the performance a hit. Overall, it’s very good at performance if you are someone looking to browse the web, play high-end games and make calls. But for heavy multitasking, especially for social network apps, camera and gaming on frequent shifting, would not be handled in the best way.
Cameras – capture samples, video recording
Samsung always provides excellent cameras and options along with it. The 16-megapixel rear shooter in the Galaxy S5 is an example of the same, as Samsung upgraded from the 13MP one in the S4 and Note 3, to this one which captures excellent photos in both, bright and low light conditions, and there are a few modes to choose from: Auto, Beauty face, Shot & more, Panorama, Virtual tour, Dual camera, Surround shot and you can download a few more.
The settings includes the toggles for Burst shots, Picture stabilization, Face detection, ISO, Metering modes, Tap to take pics, Selective focus, Video stabilization, Audio zoom, Flash, Timer, HDR mode, location tags, Review pics, Remote viewfinder, White balance, grid lines and voice control. The selective focus is a good feature for you to select the area to focus on, when you are capturing an object placed nearby, and have a far background.
The video recording is possible to a maximum of 4k resolution, and this is one of the early devices having the 4K video recording capability. But, don’t be totally happy with the decision from Samsung to include this feature – because your flagship phone won’t be able to record the 4K videos with such ease. The reason for that is the heating up of the phone, and the phone gets so much heated up that the camera app stops automatically and won’t allow you to record the video until the device cools down.
Call quality – reception and speaker quality
The call quality is good, and we found no call drops on low networks too, but that again would depend on the network carrier too. The actual volume is high and the voice is clear, thanks to the noise cancellation. For the speakers, I’m not a fan of the speaker location on the back, because that wouldn’t allow me to place the phone on any flat surface while talking on the phone with speakerphone activated, or while listening to music on speakers. The placement in the bottom would have been a better option, but Samsung has always provided the speakers on the back.
Software – OS, Interface, Ease of use and Apps
The OS is the latest one – Android 4.4.2 KitKat, but Samsung has not done the best jobs with the interface although there is a complete facelift to the TouchWiz UI where you see a completely new settings section and a lot of new stuff including the Kids Mode, S Health app having the heart rate monitor, Geo News, Ultra Power Saving mode, Download booster, Toolbox and quite a lot more. But this is the same reason why the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t the best at performance.
At least good for us, there are not many pre-installed unnecessary apps because if at all you wanted the apps for the accessories such as the Gear 2 or Gear Fit, the app can be downloaded from the Samsung apps section. The S Health app comes with the Pedometer, Exercise and Heart rate monitor. The pedometer doesn’t really eat up a lot of battery even if you have it activated all the time. The Heart Rate Sensor on the back of the phone is something new in the world of smartphones, and no other device has got this and thus, Samsung held the edge but the monitor isn’t the best at accuracy. I tried testing this alongside the Zensorium Tinke (a dedicated heart rate monitor) and the reading never matched.
There is no separate app for managing the security with the Finger scanner, but there is something in the settings section, and more than one fingerprint can be registered. We did like Samsung’s idea of including a fingerprint scanner in the home button (inspired from iPhone 5s) but this doesn’t recognize the fingerprint with ease unlike the one in the Apple iPhone 5s, which had the entire round button doing the job, but here in the S5, the rectangular button needs you to swipe the finger over it and most of the time, the recognition fails. So that’s the two features which were given by Samsung to keep itself ahead of others – but those aren’t up to the mark.
The pre-installed apps included in the Galaxy S5 are: Clock, Club Samsung, Contacts, Email, Gallery, Gmail, Google, Google+, Group camcorder, Group Play, Hangouts, Internet (default browser), Kids Mode, Maps, Memo, Messages, My Files, Optical Reader, Phone, Photos, Play Books, Play Games, Play Movies & TV, Play Music, Play Newsstand, Play Store, S Health, S Note, S Planner, S Translator, S Voice, Samsung Apps, Samsung Link, Scrapbook, Settings, Smart Remote, Video, Video Editor Voice Recorder, Voice Search and Youtube.
The Smart Remote is another good app which takes use of the IR blaster provided on the top, to make the S5 act as a universal remote for the TVs and Set top boxes.
Overall, the interface is all good with loads of settings to play around with, and a few good pre-installed apps and features, but make sure you aren’t using all of them simultaneously because the processor isn’t able to handle it that easily.
Ports, Speakers location and quality
As said above, the speaker placement is what I am not happy about. The speakers should have been in the bottom area, on the either side of the MicroUSB port, because the placement on the back panel makes it useless when the phone is lying on a flat surface. The ports are well placed through – MicroUSB port in the bottom having a door to prevent the entry of water and dust, and the 3.5mm headset jack on the top.
The speaker quality though, is quite good and the volume level is quite high for both, music and call.
Battery life (both on heavy and light usage)
We gave the battery a test and the 2800 mAh battery in the Galaxy S5 gave weird results. There was once a moment when the battery drained by 45% even on minimal usage, and when there was abundant network the phone used the maximum battery for the mobile network. The other time, we tested the battery with continuous gaming, Wi-Fi usage with web browsing and video playing, and it was able to run for about 4 hours without a break, and that is pretty neat. But again, Samsung again hasn’t optimized the interface much to make the battery life longer, except for providing the options such as the Power saving mode and Ultra power saving mode for someone who is in crisis and there is a little percentage of battery left.
Connectivity – Data network, Wi-Fi
The connectivity options are excellent. The Wi-Fi reception, 3G network data reception and the other options such as the Bluetooth, NFC etc. The issue of heating up of the device again comes up here because while on the 3G network, when we shared the connectivity via Mobile hotspot option, the phone got heated up in the first 30 minutes itself. Overall, Samsung phones have always been the best at connectivity options and the Galaxy S5 is no exception in the series.
Note: We couldn’t test the download booster feature which combines the LTE and Wi-Fi networks together to download large files in a faster pace, because the device in India has 3G connectivity, and thus, the Download booster option doesn’t come in it.
Value for Money?
In 2013, the flagship smartphone race was between the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, LG G2 and the Xperia Z1 from Sony. Samsung then had priced the S4 at a range between the different competitors, and it was well received in the market. But this time, the company had some other plans and thus, Samsung priced this quite high, although the features which were being called the USPs, were not the best at functioning.
Is the Samsung Galaxy S5 worth it? you will have to actually spend some time comparing it with the other flagship devices around, because the Galaxy S5 isn’t priced really high when you look at the benchmark set for the pricing of the phones this year, but again, the Sony Xperia Z2 has some brilliant specs and a good camera, the HTC One M8 has come in with the Duo camera and one of the best designs and thus, the Galaxy S5 faces a fierce competition.
Samsung has forced us to have mixed feelings about the Galaxy S5. The finger scanner and heart rate sensor are like a piece of cake without a topping – you don’t get the best taste out of it. The water resistance at least makes the user free of thoughts when going in weather conditions such as rain, and the camera is excellent. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a brilliant smartphone with some special features and a neat camera, but the interface is what keeps the performance a little low than what one would expect from the Snapdragon 801 device.
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