I've reviewed a huge number of Samsung phones over the years, and they've all had one thing in common: an excellent ability to play back your media.

It's almost getting to the point where there's very little point in making a big deal about what can be done with the phone in terms of playing back music, watching video and playing games.

However, ever the professional, I'll do my best.

Music

Samsung's not got the same hardware as HTC or Apple in terms of dedicated amplification of the sound output, meaning your headphones have to work less hard to output noise to your ears.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

That said, the volume on the Galaxy S5 is such that I'd be surprised if there's not something similar, even on the software side, working hard to compensate.

The output, especially when combined with a decent pair of headphones, is excellent. I could make out every note and bass was punchy enough without being overbearing.

The music player interface is simple and easy to understand - the ability to see all the music the S5 can gather throughout the handset. You can select by album, track and playlist - plus the music mood square makes a welcome return.

It's never been something that I've used properly - nobody ever wants a playlist that goes from 'moody' to 'energetic' - but it's a nice way to get a random look through your tunes with a semblance of progression.

The sound output from the single speaker on the back of the phone isn't as powerful, obviously, as the Boomsound speakers from HTC, nor the front-facing options on the Xperia Z3, but it's acceptable for most things when placed down on the table to let the sound spread out.

In short, the music output of the Galaxy S5, whether it be through a streaming service or the inbuilt music player, is great, and the ability to slip through tracks in the notification bar or lock screen never fails to be a decent trick.

Video

The Samsung Galaxy range has historically always been one of the best for watching movies on. Every year the Note comes out, makes things even better, and the following S version appears to make that a more mainstream technology.

Samsung Galaxy S5

I used to have to apologise for the higher colour saturation of the S range, as it was something that I personally enjoyed but others found intolerable (not all, but some).

Since the S3, things have been a lot better, and DisplayMate has found that in cinema mode, the S5 is almost perfect in its colour and white balance - and I'm inclined to agree.

That same analysis has concluded that the iPhone 6 is equal to the S5 in terms of colour and screen quality, and the Note 4, with its QHD screen, simply blows it out of the water when it comes to sharpness. But that doesn't mean the S5 has a poor display by any means.

Thanks to the infinite contrast ratio of the Super AMOLED Full HD screen everything looks deep and rich, and if you're into watching Netflix on the train to work, the bright mornings won't ruin your daily cinema fix as there's no washout even in direct light.

Given OLED screens used to be terrible for this, it's a tremendous experience from Samsung and should be applauded.

The video player is simplicity itself: showing your videos in small thumbnails that play automatically to show you what's on offer before tapping to get the full experience.

The only issue is if you've got Multi-Window enabled, as I mentioned earlier: the split screen is annoying and can't be removed unless you take the option away.

Also make sure you only show local content - if you add in Dropbox you'll be given access to far too many movies that can be hard to sort through if you've uploaded all your content.

It would be nice to see a social element here, something that aggregates all the video your friends post to Twitter and Facebook - anything to see more content on this screen.

Gaming

The gaming experience on the Galaxy S5 should be excellent, but as I said earlier (starting to worry I'm repeating myself a little) the higher-power games seem to struggle at times.

Clearing out the cache by restarting the phone seems to remove the problem somewhat, and if you're only going to be a casual gamer, the S5 has that lovely large screen which is a great place to check it out on.

But beware of pushing the GPU, especially just out of sleep mode, as the experience can be marred by low frame rates.

Gallery

Samsung's continued with its trick of letting you see content from Picasa / Google+, Facebook and Dropbox from the gallery, and this sadly seems to slow things down badly as well as filling up the internal storage.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Opening the gallery with more than a modicum of content already in there or a microSD card inserted will slow things down terribly, to the point where you're waiting seconds just to see the snap you just took.

This is something that I've been mentioning for a couple of years now, and Samsung's still not nailed it. It might not sound like a big thing, but not being able to see your photos with ease really irks.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a phone to be reckoned with, that's for sure - but how does it stack up with the competition? Remember, you're going to be paying a pretty penny to own it, so does it have the power to match the best of the rest?

HTC One M8

HTC One M8

The obvious threat to the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the HTC One M8 - critically, at least. The two are locked together in terms of specs, with both having the same Snapdragon 801 CPU, a microSD slot, 2GB of RAM, a Full HD screen and rocking Android 4.4.2 (soon to be updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop).

However, there are a couple of key differences: the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a much more powerful camera, albeit one that doesn't perform as well as you'd expect it to in day to day snapping.

The One M8 takes photos more snappily, and more in focus, but offers lower quality if you're sharing to a larger screen.

HTC's effort is packing a much, much nicer design though - it's almost bewildering how the aluminium chassis can feel so nice in the hand and yet Samsung continues with the same boring plastic. Even the fact that it's water-resistant doesn't make up for the fact that I feel a little unimpressed each time I pick it up.

Read our review of the HTC One M8.

iPhone 6

iPhone 6

What does the iPhone 6 offer that its predecessors didn't? Quite a lot, in fact. Better design. Faster processor. Better battery, larger screen, higher resolution - in short, answering a lot of the issues older iPhones had.

But is it better than the Samsung Galaxy S5? It depends what you're looking for. The S5 is hardier, thanks to the IP67 rating, and with a larger and more impressive screen that's greater for colour reproduction and sharpness.

However, it's not got the build quality of the iPhone, and while the iOS vs Android debate will never be answered, the iPhone 6 has a simpler OS that doesn't have the overbearing nature of TouchWiz (and we won't get into the weird Magazine home screen). Other Android versions, such as those on the LG G3, are kinder and worth taking a look at.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony's been doing well in the smartphone world: from the Xperia Arc (admittedly from the +Ericsson era) to the current Xperia Z3, there's been a strong upward trajectory.

The same Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU is on offer (despite being seen in the Z2 as well), a microSD slot pervades, and it's also much more water- and dust-resistant. This is a lot better than the Z2 and while it's rather irrelevant to 99% of users, it does give greater confidence in the hardiness of the phone.

Both can also record in 4K, which is still a mostly useless feature, and both have a large and vibrant screen. The design, once again, splits the two, with the industrial chassis of the Xperia Z3 covered in solid metal where Samsung's opted for plastic.

The upgraded Z3 has a stronger battery and a brighter screen than its predecessor,and costs roughly the same as the S5 on contract, so it really depends on whether you like Sony's thicker styling or not.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung has now followed up the Galaxy S5 with you guessed it, the Galaxy S6. And spoiler warning: we loved it. A lot of the criticisms you've seen in this review have been addressed in the newest handset, especially in terms of the design with a new look slathered all over it.

The handset comes with a new home produced Exynos 7420 processor clocked at 1.4GHz and 2.1GHz alongside an impressive 3GB of RAM.

MicroSD has been dropped in favour of larger storage sizes of 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. Plus the display is an impressive 5.1-inch Super AMOLED with a 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution and 577 pixels-per-inch.

On the back is one of the key features – the 16MP rear camera is truly stunning churning out some impressive shots no matter where you are.

Samsung made a strange choice to drop the waterproof design of the Galaxy S5 but the company has managed to sort out the problems with the fingerprint scanner making for an all round better purchase than the Galaxy S5.

That said, it's quite a bit heavier on the wallet. You're going to be parting with £559.99 for a 32GB version or £640 for the 64GB.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Global Phones, Tablets and Wearables Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been in charge of phones, tablets and wearables at TechRadar for the best part of a decade. He can instantly recommend the best phone for you, or can be found running around the nearest park with the latest fitness tech strapped to his wrist, head or any other applicable body part.