Ratings in depth

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

The Samsung Galaxy S5 can be defined by one word: evolution.

The camera has evolved to give clearer, faster snaps. The fitness-tracking abilities of the S5 are enhanced over the Galaxy S4 by packing in a more powerful S Health app and a dedicated heart rate monitor on the rear. A fingerprint scanner adds to the most secure Galaxy phone ever made.

The battery is larger, the screen bigger and brighter, the processor quicker and the design altered.

The spec sheet certainly doesn't let it down: a 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 2800mAh (removable) battery, 16 / 32GB of memory (with up to 128GB extra through microSD), one of the world's most vibrant screens that's been extended to 5.1-inches and added biometrics.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Mud still penetrated the casing

However, it's hard to point to one stand out feature that will grab the prospective user when they handle the Galaxy S5 for the first time.

To many, that won't matter, as Samsung's built a fan-base that only Apple can rival, and a number will be picking up the new Galaxy without a second thought over whether it competes adequately with its rivals.

Price-wise, if you're shocked by the cost of the Samsung Galaxy S5 then you've not really been paying attention to the previous flagship models. It's actually a little cheaper than previous years in some territories, and has been dropped around more recently, coming in at around £400-£500 these days SIM free in the UK

As you can imagine contract offers are flying all over the place at the moment, but the Galaxy S5 is being offered for a near identical price to the HTC One M8, and cheaper than the iPhone 6, give or take a few dollarpounds.

The messaging around the launch of the Galaxy S5 was that Samsung had listened to the consumers and dialled down the gimmicks, focusing instead on what makes a phone special to the consumer.

It promised a 'fashionable' and 'glam' design, a camera that works in the way you'd want it to and strength through being water resistant.

There's also the small notion of an improved version - I was told that it was very likely the Galaxy S5 was going to launch with a Samsung Galaxy S5 Prime version in February, with oodles more RAM, a faster processor and QHD screen on board.

However, that was pushed back (likely to do with issues in creating the screen in high enough volumes) and has since appeared in the South Korea-only Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-A version. This one has a Snapdragon 805 CPU, a WQHD screen and all the high end features you can wish for. In short, it's the amazing phone I wish Samsung had announced a few months ago and sold all over the world.

And now we have the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, a smaller phone with equal power to the main Galaxy S5, but with a lower-res 720p screen. That's offset by a metal design, although only around the edge of the phone - and Samsung has once again for a light weight, rather than making it feel weighty and ergonomic in the hand.

That phone has a premium design fused with power under the hood - but with a sky high price and the lower-res screen it's clearly designed to compete with the all new iPhone 6.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha
The new Galaxy Alpha, with a metal frame

And if you want something a little smaller, then the Galaxy S5 Mini is here now as well. It's a lot like the bigger brother, and the specs have only been dialled down slightly. It's not quite got the raw power but the design aesthetic is there and the heartbeat monitor as well - well worth checking out if you don't want to spend as much.

But enough of the competition: let's look at one of the key questions that Samsung needed to answer with the Galaxy S5: is it good enough in market that's becoming saturated with decent high-end handsets?

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
The water resistance will make a splash with a few buyers

The simple answer, from the second you hold it in the hand, is no – because the design simply isn't up to the same level as the likes of Apple and HTC.

That's only a small part of the story though, and underneath the hood Samsung has continued its play of stuffing all the latest specs in and optimising them in a way that doesn't suck down oodles of battery.

Is this phone good enough to keep Samsung fighting with Apple at the top of the sales charts? Yes, but that's mostly through the impressive marketing machine that rolls out in every territory - and even that hasn't led to the greatest sales for the new phone.

Samsung needs this to be the last phone that rolls with such design language (the Alpha and Note 4 show that this is the case and should continue) - the Galaxy S6 needs to be the dawn of a new age for the South Korean company, something to give consumers real lust for the way it looks.

And with the new iPhone 6 being a real winner in the design stakes, if customers aren't wedded to the larger S5 screen then the lure of Apple has just grown stronger (although you should be looking at the myriad excellent Android phones first).

Critically, it feels like there's very little to shout about with the Galaxy S5 – but perhaps that's no bad thing for a brand that was accused of bringing pointless innovation with last year's model.