Review by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday May 06, 2014.
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There are only so many times that The Next Big Thing can get bigger. A screen can be marginally improved and a processor can make things marginally faster than its predecessor. However, margins are where technology most excels. The difference between a phone's screen being brighter in the sun to the point that it is more legible, or longer-lasting to the point that you're able to place that final phone call or navigate home matters. Samsung has been accused of making its phones too similar, but the Galaxy S5 might be a phone that proves similar does not mean the same. How much better are the margins this time around?
Hardware and Design
The Galaxy S5's design is a Venn Diagram of the Galaxy S 4 and the Galaxy Note 3. It has roughly the same shape as the S 4 and more in common with the Note thanks to its multilayered plastic rim. While the Galaxy S 4 had the overly smooth glossy plastic, the back of the phone now has a dryer and more pleasant surface. The material is the same plastic blend found on the Note 3, but it's been texturized in a way that feels better than the pleather we've seen in the past. Despite the many dimples in the back of the S5 making the phone look silly in white, the blue model that I tested looks fine; more importantly, it feels like something I don't have a problem reaching for dozens of times each day.
The Galaxy S5 is slightly taller, wider, thicker, and heavier than the S 4; however, the increase in dimensions (73 x 142 x 8.1mm) and weight (145g) are insignificant. Adding an extra millimeter or two is well worth the tradeoff considering what the S5 adds. The S5 has IP 67 water and dust resistance, meaning it can be left in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes and still emerge without showing any side effects provided that the charge port is properly sealed. The adjustable seal is easy to manage and on-screen prompts warn users when the USB 3.0 port, which enables faster charging and file transfers, is not covered.
Samsung continues its include-everything-possible approach by adding an IR blaster to control television, a proximity sensor to control browsing with gestures, and even a heart rate sensor on the back of the device. Though I'm sure there will be some people who find the fingerprint sensor useful, it has more friction than most will care to combat. The same could be said for Fingerprint Scanner that requires slow swipes from just above and then over the home button. The sensor can be inconsistent unless the user takes very slow swipes, and even then you might get an error. Those who choose to use the scanner can register multiple fingers and register with PayPal for payment authentication. That kind of connection shows that Samsung wants to do more for consumers; now let's see if they can manage to do more and actually be useful and consistent.
The stunning 5.1-inch display of the Galaxy S5 is by far the most encouraging aspect of the device. Experts have called it the greatest smartphone display ever and I can present no argument against the 1080p HD resolution and bright colors of the Super AMOLED panel getting those superlatives. During my first weekend with the Galaxy S5, people around me at the Penn Relays took notice of how bright and stunning the phone looked outside. Samsung also includes multiple display modes that change the colors settings so it is better suited for the activity. That may be reading, watching videos, or the adaptive display that fits all modes. I don't have the mountain of data and quantified comparisons at the disposal of Display Mate, but I can say with comfort that the Galaxy S5 is an incredible screen.
Performance and Key Specs
Qualcomm's 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor is a slight improvement over the already impressive processor that powers the flagships of 2013. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise anyone to know that the Galaxy S5 is a fast-moving and responsive device. Almost everything it does is fast. The only thing I wish would be faster is that the home screen doesn't load very quickly when pressing the home button. I was more satisfied with how quickly the S5 loads images from Picasa in the Gallery app or how Run Bot and Riptide looked seamless when racing through hours of gaming. Aside from the speed benefits, the processor is more efficient, as evidenced by the stellar battery life.
- 2.5 GHz quad-core processor
- 2 GB RAM, 16/32GB storage, 128GB microSD slot
- 5.1-inch Super AMOELD 1080p HD display (432ppi)
- 2,800 mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2 KitKat software
- 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm (5.6 x 2.9 x 0.32in)
- Weight: 145g (5.11oz)
- USB 3.0, IR LED, Bluetooth 4.0 BLE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
- IP 67 water/dust resistance (stay in 3 ft of water up to 30 minutes)
- 16-megapixel rear camera with 4K video recording
- 2-megapixel front-facing, wide-angle camera
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.