Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung goes for evolution over revolution... again.

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I've always played it safe when talking about the design of a Samsung phone. The Galaxy S2, the brand's first big hitter, was made mostly of plastic and still was one of our very few five star phones, after all.

That said, year after year, Samsung has failed to bring out something that wows where the rest of the competition has seen this as a key battleground.

HTC is the frontrunner here with the metal unibody design of the One M8, and Apple has maintained its position at the sharp end of design ever since the launch of the iPhone 4 - and has jumped forward again with the iPhone 6.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Happy as a phone in mud

Sony's efforts with its Z range have culminated in the industrially-designed Xperia Z3 and even Nokia has been toying with aluminium to make things feel a little more premium.

All of this makes me curious: why is Samsung refusing to give the consumers what they want… namely, a metal chassis?

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
It's plastic, not metal

There are a few possible reasons: cost of manufacture could be too high, especially at the volume Samsung spits them out at, Samsung likes to keep things lighter, waterproofing with a metal shell could have been trickier.

However, none of these arguments really holds water, given Apple does the same with a metallic phone, balanced handsets are better than lighter ones and Sony's Xperia Z range has combined metal and water without a problem.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
A bright and clear screen

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a more solid phone than the Galaxy S4, that's for sure, and looks more well-packaged thanks to the wider back and the grippier, pock-marked battery cover.

However, it doesn't look like a cutting edge smartphone. It seems more akin to the product of a Galaxy Note 3 and the S4, with the metal-effect band around the outside subconsciously making me search for an S Pen.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is an interesting proposition, following Nokia's lead of encasing a polycarbonate body in a metallic rim, a la the Nokia Lumia 930. It seems odd Samsung didn't think to do the same with the S5 - it's hardly a new concept - and would have given the phone a much bigger selling point.

The rear of the phone isn't something that wows either. While I think the comparisons to a sticking plaster are a little cruel, it does share a more 'medical' feel, especially in the white colour.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Gold, white, black and blue

The blue and copper options are more attractive, but still don't have anywhere near the appeal of the likes of the HTC One M8.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
White is particularly uninspiring, looking quite medical

With the larger screen on board, Samsung's still managed to keep things well in proportion. Although the chassis is larger, it's not unmanageably so, although if you're coming from an older iPhone, you might find it a little tricky to move up.

Those that have previously been fans of the Samsung Galaxy range before will find a lot to like here though. The home button – which now houses the fingerprint scanner, remember – is solid and easy to press, and the power key remains on the right-hand side of the phone, raised slightly and very easy to hit.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
The screen is clear even in daylight

The same can be said of the volume key on the right, although as the handset has increased in height I found it a little harder to get to this area when I wanted to change the level on music when walking along.

One of the key changes to the Galaxy S5 is the fact that it's now water-resistant, with IP67 rating meaning you can dunk it water for a short while, although going swimming with it isn't advised.

It's also dust resistant too, which makes the uncovered headphone port all the more impressive as it makes the S5 much easier to use without having to pull open a flap to listen to some tunes.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
The water and dust cover is tricky to open

The USB 3.0 connection – which will look odd to some, but is the same used in the Galaxy Note 3 to give more power quickly while still allowing standard microUSB cables to be used – is covered to facilitate this IP rating, and it's a little stiff to get off.

The groove to get your nail in to open it is quite small, and might be the only thing that irks those looking to get their hands on the best Galaxy phone and don't care much about it being waterproof.

The capacitive buttons still flank the home key as before, but are slightly different now. Gone is the menu key, replaced by the multi-tasking button that seems to be Google's new favourite in Android 4.4.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
The capacitive buttons have been tweaked

You can still use this as the menu key with a long press, but it doesn't work intuitively and the distance from the right-hand side, where the right-handed will predominantly have their digits, is a little too far.

It's not a bad system though, and the presence of a physical home button, while less necessary than before, still provides welcome tactility.

The other big design win Samsung still maintains with the Galaxy S5 is a removable battery. This is mostly for peace of mind nowadays, given that the battery life is so good on the S5, but if you're worried about failure then this is a good option.

It also means the ugly FCC regulation stamp can be hidden from view, and you won't need a SIM tool to get your card out – plus it's easier to pop in a microSD card too.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Muddy water still got in under the cover, but not into the port

The cover does give me slight cause for concern when you consider it from a water-resistant point of view, as it can be hard to make sure all the clips are securely fastened when snapping it back on.

A warning message does come up on the screen to remind you of this, but it can take a couple of passes to make sure it's completely fixed on.

If you look under the battery cover, you'll see that the battery is protected by a tight ring of rubber - if you've just dunked it in water, it's a little disconcerting to see how much fluid is in the phone already... but this seems to be fine.

I did worryingly notice some grit got into the home key, but after an hour or two it seemed to dislodge itself, although it doesn't make me think this phone is really that dustproof.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Put it on stones, drizzle it in water. It'll be fine.

Overall, the design of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is likely to be the area that receives the most criticism, and for good reason.

It doesn't command a premium feel in the hand like so many other high-end phones on the market, and while some will point to how strong and high-quality the polycarbonate used is, it still pales in comparison to the competition.

Yes, it's lighter and probably more hard-wearing (you're much less likely to need a case with the Galaxy S5, for instance) but this is the biggest pain point for Samsung and it's one that it needs to improve with the Galaxy S6.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
Wireless LANYes
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
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
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 Address
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