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Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung goes for evolution over revolution... again.

The one thing that writing this review has left me thinking is this: Samsung HAS to be making another premium model to show us later in the year.

I've been hearing a number of underground rumblings that the upgraded model is in the works (or is at least being tested), and will come with a metallic chassis and high-res 2K display (yes, I know that the current screen is technically 2K, but I mean the iteration below 4K).

Samsung's mobile head, JK Shin, has said such a thing isn't going to happen, but the very fact that people are so excited by the prospect should tell you all you need to know about this phone.

We liked

The Samsung staples are still here, and that's excellent. That means that the screen is powerful, bright and a joy to watch movies on, be they HD or SD quality.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

The sound output is also excellent, bringing you the best from your tunes and making it easy to follow dialogue and hear effects even when on noisy public transport. While I wouldn't recommend whacking up the volume all the time, in certain instances it's excellent.

The 16MP Isocell camera is a step forward for the brand - maybe not offering stunning pictures each time, but on the whole delivering very attractive snaps, especially when you take the time to set the scene.

I'll never tire of highlighting the microSD slot and removable battery as good things to have, if nothing else for peace of mind, and I'm impressed by Samsung for sticking to its guns there.

The battery life is also, once again, excellent, and if you're after something that will keep chugging along no matter what, this is a top smartphone to check out.

We disliked

Despite the fact Samsung is probably going to sell a record number of Galaxy S5 units, I can't help but think it's missed a massive trick by popping out another phone clad in plastic. Spin it however you want, the S5 feels cheap and if it came from a no-mark smartphone brand would be dismissed as uninspiring - it's only because the adverts everywhere ram it down our throat do we discuss it.

There's got to be something better here - when, for the same price, HTC and Sony are able to bring out appreciably superior designs, Samsung needs to step up.

I wasn't always impressed by the speed of the phone either - the camera could take a while to load, games sometimes showed lag and opening the gallery will always be a sticking point for me.

Also, Samsung needs to stop locking down that bottom dock on its homescreen for Australian S5 users. It's just an arbitrary, rubbish decision that makes using the phone a frustrating experience.

Aside from that, there's not a lot that's particularly wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S5, but it feels like the Galaxy S3-S-S... another iterative design and power boost when it needed a reboot after the S4 didn't add much to the Galaxy mix.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a great phone - the problem is we're now in a world where stunning smartphones are becoming the norm.

Samsung seems to banking on the fact it knows there will be some people out there who will buy its devices no matter what, else it would have jumped to a more premium design.

Some might think I'm overstating my disappointment in how the S5 looks, but this is a critical part of the buying cycle. You can't rely on brand recognition and loyalty for long if competitors are making something that can cause design envy.

And there's the divide in terms of how to deliver a verdict on the best Samsung phone ever: if you're excited about what Samsung does, you'll love this phone. The brand has definitely done a lot to make it more useable and deliver things you'll actually use, such as a better, faster camera and health info.

But if you're on the fence, or in the iPhone camp, it would be easy to decry this as a mere update to what came before, offering uninspiring design and a feature set that doesn't mark it out well enough from the competition.

Samsung has done enough with the Galaxy S5 to still be one of the top smartphones of 2014, and I would still recommend it as a solid, if unspectacular, smartphone that ticks the boxes it needs to and very little more.

If you're a Samsung fan, this is the phone you should buy without question. If you're more agnostic, there's better out there.

First reviewed: April 2014

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported128 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy S5
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 800, LTE 850, LTE 900, LTE 1800, LTE 2100, LTE 2600
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution16 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time21 Hour
Product ModelSM-G900F
Screen Size13 cm (5.1")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)145 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.4.2 KitKat
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
USB StandardUSB 3.0
Pixel Density432 ppi
Front Camera Resolution2 Megapixel
SIM Size SupportedNano
Height142 mm
Width72.5 mm
Depth8.1 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time390 Hour
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S5 SM-G900F Smartphone
Processor Speed2.50 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon 800
Product LineGalaxy S5
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Barometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Fingerprint Sensor, Health Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberSM-G900FZWABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing InformationStriking design
The first thing Will noticed about the latest Galaxy smartphone is its new striking design, which comes in a choice of colours - Charcoal Black, Electric Blue and Shimmery White. However, beneath the perforated exterior are more eye-catching features; like the new camera. It has the world's fastest autofocus speed, at only 0.3 seconds, and Selective Focus, which allows you to focus on what's important and blur everything else.

Capture the moments that matter
Being able to capture and save precious memories is one of the most important features that a smartphone can have. The new Galaxy S5 has superior camera functionality, featuring a 16 megapixel camera with an enhanced menu and user interface so you can effortlessly take, edit and share photos.

The Galaxy S5 has the world's fastest autofocus speed up to 0.3 seconds and the advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR), so it is possible to reproduce natural light and colour with striking intensity at any time. Also new is a Selective Focus feature which means you can focus on a specific area of an object while simultaneously blurring out the background. With this capability, you no longer need a special lens kit to create a shallow depth of field (DOF) effect.

Tap into the fastest connections
The Galaxy S5 offers the most advanced LTE experience and Wi-Fi performance available today, ensuring blazing fast data speeds for unrivaled media consumption and productivity.

The Galaxy S5 supports the fifth generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac and 2X2 MiMo, and the largest LTE frequency supporting Category 4. If that wasn't enough, for anyone looking for an even faster connection, the Galaxy S5 also features Download Booster, a Wi-Fi technology designed to boost data speed by bonding Wi-Fi and LTE simultaneously. No matter where you are, you are guaranteed to have the fastest available connection.

Be more fit and active
With the enhanced S Health 3.0, the new Galaxy S5 offers more tools to help you stay fit and well. It provides a comprehensive personal fitness tracker to help you monitor and manage your behaviour, along with additional tools including a pedometer, diet and exercise records, and a new, built-in heart rate monitor. You can further customise your experience with an enriched third party app ecosystem and the ability to pair with next generation Gear products for real-time fitness coaching.

Essential device protection
The Galaxy S5 is IP67 dust and water resistant. It also offers a Finger Scanner, providing a secure, biometric screen locking feature and a seamless and safe mobile payment experience. The Ultra Power Saving Mode turns the display to black and white, and shuts down all unnecessary features to minimize the battery consumption.
Limited Warranty2 Year
Standard Memory2 GB