The last Samsung phone I owned was a red, bejeweled Samsung T500 flip phone, which earned huge brownie points with my mom when I passed it on to her. That was over a decade ago and I must confess that when I decided to get on the Android bandwagon, the smartphone I got did not start with an S. However, this latest flagship offering intrigued me enough to take it for a two-week spin.
DESIGN – 4 / 5
There are no dramatic changes to the Galaxy S5. It is slightly bigger and heavier, with less rounded corners, than its predecessor, but possibly the most distinctive design cue is the dimpled pattern on the removable plastic back cover, which has a nice matte finish. A major, but not so visible, design upgrade is its IP67 rating, which means it is totally protected against dust, and water resistant up to depths of 1-meter. To achieve this, the rear cover is sealed with silicon gaskets, and the USB 3.0 charging port is covered with a hinged flap. While appreciating the added protection, having to constantly open the charger flap is inconvenient and worrisome, and I’m afraid the flap hinge might one day break off. Wireless charging would have offered an elegant, if more expensive, solution. Underneath the back cover is the removable 2800mAh lithium-ion battery as well as the overlapping microSIM and microSD tray.
HARDWARE – 4.5 / 5
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is powered by the latest Snapdragon 801 chipset, with a 2.5GHz quad-core processor that delivers speedy, fluid performance even for the most demanding tasks. The 2GB memory makes multi-tasking a breeze, and its multi-window feature allows you to run two apps on the screen at the same time. On-board storage is 16GB; a microSD slot brings in extra capacity of up to 64GB.
The Galaxy S5 has a Full HD 1080×1920 display, measuring 5.1-inch in diagonal, for a 432ppi pixel density, resulting in a bright, vivid screen with outstanding clarity even in bright sunlight. The Super AMOLED display can be configured to various screen modes, or you can turn on Adapt Display to let the phone choose the best setting.
The one area where I found the Galaxy S5 truly outstanding was its blazing fast internet speed, thanks to two innovations: Download Booster, which uses LTE and WiFi simultaneously; and 2×2 MIMO (multi-input, multi-output) that uses two internal WiFi antennas. While downloading the same file, the Galaxy S5 left an iPad Air in the dust, finishing in mere seconds what took the iPad at least a minute to complete.
The main camera on the Galaxy S5 has received a major upgrade to 16MP, with faster auto-focus and rich HDR (high dynamic range) imaging. The camera app also has a host of settings and modes, to capture beautiful snapshots. My only gripe is the absence of optical image stabilization so my shaky hands produced a few blurred photos. The Gallery app also crashed randomly on me.
A much-touted feature is the fingerprint scanner, located on the physical Home button below the screen. You are supposed to slide your finger over the lower part of the screen, down over the Home key. In practice, I found the process to be something of a hit-or-miss, and eventually just turned it off.
USER EXPERIENCE – 4 / 5
Possibly the single thing that has prevented me from getting a Samsung smartphone in the past was its user interface, which I found too “gimmicky” and not very intuitive. The new TouchWiz interface on the Galaxy S5 comes as a very pleasant surprise, and I find it simpler, cleaner, and easier to use.
In the two weeks that I had the Galaxy S5 with me, I must confess that the function I used most extensively was Screen Mirroring. Normally, I stream videos wirelessly from my NAS to my Samsung Smart TV, but often experience playback and buffering problems. The Galaxy S5 delivered faster and more stable video streaming, which I enjoyed on the large TV screen via Screen Mirroring.
Another useful tweak that Samsung introduces in the Galaxy S5 is its ultra power saving mode. The battery itself is a 2800mAh Li-Ion brick, which could go for around 12-hours of moderate use. In extreme cases where you don’t have access to a power source, the ultra power saving feature turns the display to black and white and shuts down everything except the phone, SMS, and the browser so you can stay on the grid for up to 12 days.
Data usage settings allow you to set your mobile data limit, keep track of your usage, and automatically disable the mobile data connection when the specified limit is reached, thus ensuring that you don’t get bill shock from unexpected data charges.
VALUE – 3.5 / 5
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is flagship-priced at PHP 34,990. Even with subsidized plans from the two major telcos offering more attractive pricing options, it is definitely targeted at the premium market. This is a feature-rich, multi-functional device that is a perfect match for the diverse lifestyle needs of smart trendsetters who want only the best and the latest. For those who don’t mind shelling out the cash, the Galaxy S5 can be considered an investment, since its superior technical specifications will keep it future-proof and current for the next 2-3 years, or even longer.
- Very fast, relatively stable network speeds
- Ultra power saving mode
- Dust and water resistant
- Bright and vivid display
- Fingerprint scanner is slow and inconsistent
- Camera does not have built-in optical image stabililzation
It is not surprising that Samsung is the dominant player in the Android ecosystem. With the Galaxy S5’s superior hardware and feature-rich functionalities, there is no doubt that it will continue to top sales charts. And while it does not elicit the “wow” response of previous models, the Galaxy S5 nevertheless deserves its flagship status, with overall excellent build quality and future-proof specifications.
- OS : Android Kitkat 4.4.2
- Network: LTE
- CPU: 2.5GHz quad core krait 400 processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset
- Display: 5.1” Super AMOLED capacitive touch screen, 1080×1920 resolution, 432ppi
- Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, microSD slot up to 16GB
- Camera: Rear 16MP phase-detection AF, front 2MP wide-angle lens
- Connectivity: WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) MIMO 2×2, Download Booster (simultaneous LTE+WiFi), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB 3.0, IrLED, GPS with GLONASS
- Dimensions: 142×72.5×8.1mm
- Weight: 145g
- Battery: removable 2800mAh Li-Ion
First published in GADGETS Magazine, May 2014.