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Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined

Posted: , by Ray S.

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Finally, after a lot of long, painful waiting, the Galaxy S5 is here. Samsung has unpacked its newest flagship Android smartphone, and as you can imagine, the excitement is just electrifying! However, getting unpacked was the easy part for the Galaxy S5. What remains to be seen now is if the gigantic expectations for this ambitious smartphone are going to be fulfilled.

The reality in the Android industry right now is that Samsung is pretty much the king of the hill, but it can easily be seen that the competition has started to slowly and surely catch up with the South Korean giant. It's also not a secret that the company's last flagship, the Galaxy S4, could hardly live up to the success and hype surrounding its predecessor. And so, here it is, a bit earlier than usual, but still accompanied by tremendous fanfare - the Samsung Galaxy S5 has come to seize the throne and attempt to keep it safe for yet another year.

Design


Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on: a winning formula gets refined
Let's face it - appearance has never been a particularly strong feature of the Galaxy series, and it looks like this trend isn't going to end with the Samsung Galaxy S5. That's not to say that the Galaxy S5 is an unattractive phone, though. Quite the contrary - the newest Samsung flagship has a certain level of charm added on top of what was already present with the GS4.

The front side of the phone is just typical Samsung - you cannot mistake that uninspired, but quite approachable design language.The back cover is where the fun starts, as the manufacturer has gone for a rather different material than was present with the GS4 and GS3. Instead of the usual smooth and glossy plastic, the Samsung Galaxy S5 utilizes more of a matte finish that's decorated with a nice, dotted pattern. It's a warm design - one that doesn't really stand out from the crowd, but one that's also nicely-refined and having a nice and inviting feel. It's not the typical soft-touch coating that you may be familiar with from many other Android smartphones, such as the Nexus 5. Instead, it's a cleaner and a little bit more sophisticated finish that adds a certain bit of character to the exterior of the Samsung Galaxy S5.

If you thought that Samsung is going to switch to using on-screen navigation keys, instead of its usual combination of a physical home button and capacitive manu and back ones - you were wrong. The same configuration is available on the Galaxy S5, and we don't really mind it, seeing that most third-party applications are yet to be updated with support for KitKat's Immersive Mode (a mode that allows third-party apps to occupy the full screen space, hiding the otherwise ever-present on-screen navigation keys). The interesting thing about the home key is that it has an integrated fingerprint scanner, which is of the swipe type. This means that you'll now be able to unlock your phone by swiping your finger through the home key. That's similar to what you can already do with the iPhone 5s, but also different, because the iPhone's fingerprint scanner only requires you to touch it, whereas the Galaxy S5's one needs you to do a swipe gesture. Whether this type of unlocking mechanism is going to work as nicely as on the 5s remains to be seen.

In addition to the above-mentioned dotted pattern, the back side also houses the new, 16 MP camera with LED flash and - surprise, surprise - an integrated heart-rate monitor. Yep, the Galaxy S5 enables you to check your heart-rate just by putting your finger next to its camera, but more on that later. Last, but certainly not least, the Galaxy S5 comes touting an IP67 certification. It's water- and dust-proof!

Display


So, Samsung would have probably made a great mistake if it didn't upgrade the screen on this new Galaxy S smartphone, and we guess that's why it did! The GS5 comes with a slightly larger, 5.1" screen (vs 5" for the GS4), which, however, still sports a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. To tell you the truth, we aren't at all disappointed by this fact, seeing that the 1080p resolution already manages to deliver an exceptional image clarity and pixel density on this screen size. Besides, this also means that users are going to be able to siphon more juice out of the 2800mAh battery, not to mention that system performance will also be better, as opposed to if it had a QHD screen. Indeed, everything is extremely easy and comfortable to read and view on this display, so no worries here, as far as resolution goes.

A major disadvantage of Samsung's Super AMOLED panels has been their relative color inaccuracy. Admittedly, the company has worked to improve the color balance and other quality parameters of the AMOLED screens that it has been gracing its smartphones with, but there's still room for improvement. Now, we can't really draw any conclusions here as far as the Galaxy S5's screen quality is concerned, due to the fact that we haven't done any scientific measurements, and the handset has probably been running a non-final version of the software, but we do believe that the Galaxy S5's display is going to be visibly better compared to the one of its predecessor. We're fairly confident that color accuracy has been significantly improved, although it can still be seen that those otherwise attractive colors are somewhat unnaturally vibrant. What's fairly impressive about the screen, however, is the fact that it can get really bright or dim, depending on the situation -- the massive range spans from 2 nits all the way up to 500 nits, which is darn impressive. Viewing angles are just as excellent as they have always been on Samsung's Super AMOLED displays.

Interface and Functionality


Samsung's TouchWiz user interface has always been a controversial part of its Galaxy smartphones, due to its overly colorful appearance and relative lack of polish and consistency. Well, we're happy to report that the Galaxy S5 is introducing a new and improved version of TouchWiz, and while it won't put an end to inconsistency and some other issues, it's definitely a much-appreciated improvement over what we had in the previous TouchWiz version.

Coming straight with Android 4.4 KitKat, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is running a flatter and more simplified version of the familiar UI. Icons, buttons and other interface elements have all been simplified, in order to make the software look more modern. Colors have also been toned down, so while still appearing fresh and all, TouchWiz is now having a slightly more grown-up look to it. It's obviously a bit more polished as well, seeing that it finally has stuff like icon tap effects (that's the visual effect that let you know that you've actually tapped an icon). Other than that, though, the interface seems to be working quite similarly to what we know from the Galaxy S4. You have your numerous homescreen pages where you can put all your stuff, but now there's also a new homescreen page that basically houses the My Magazine functionality that we already know from other Samsung devices. In short, it is a news and social media aggregator, similar to HTC's BlinkFeed and other Flipboard-style applications. The main menu (app launcher) is pretty similar to the old one, though it does feel slightly refined, while core applications, such as phone and messaging, have their traditional layout - so no breakthrough changes there.

There are some major new additions to the software features of the Galaxy S4. For example, there's the new fingerprint sensor, which is built right into the home button, similarly to Apple's implementation with the iPhone 5s. However, the GS5's fingerprint sensor is of the swipe type, meaning that you have to swipe, instead of touch it. For the time being, unlocking your phone is pretty much all that you can use the fingerprint scanner for, but Samsung notes that it's currently working with PayPal to enable easy payment authorisation using the fingerprint sensor. We aren't told exactly when we should expect that functionality to become commercially available.

Processor and memory



The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with a much improved processor in the form of the Snapdragon 801. That's no typo right there -- we're, indeed, talking about a new Qualcomm chip. The new chipset is still based on quad Krait 400 cores and an Adreno 330 GPU, but both have seen some noteworthy improvements. According to the manufacturer, we're talking a 14% increase in performance the case of the Krait cores (over the Snapdragon 800), and a pretty significant, 28% boost in graphical oomph. Last, but not least, the new chip brings forth a 45% improvement in camera sensor processing speed. There's only other device in the world with this chip as of this writing -- the newly-announced Sony Xperia Z2. Anyway...

In terms of memory, there are 2 gigs of RAM in the GS5, which is pretty much enough for each and every task that you may need to accomplish with your phone, at this time at least. But judging by how things are moving, 2 gigs will be able to deliver a sufficient experience for at least another year.

Camera



Packing a 16 MP camera, the Samsung Galaxy S5 will aim to step up its photography game even further. Of course, the Galaxy S4 was among the finest camera phones around when it came out, and it managed to retain this status for a whole year! We were hoping for an even more exceptional camera performance out of the S5. Well, with a 16MP shooter, the "fastest ever auto focus in a smartphone" and the borrowing of phase focus (faster) from DSLRs, along with a new companion chip for image processing that will allow for extremely low capture times, it sure sounds like Samsung's new flagship can deliver.

Complementing the new hardware are some pretty cool new software features. In addition to the must-have shooting modes and settings, for example, there's a new feature that lets you snap a picture, and then change the focus later on – similarly to what Nokia is doing with its high-end camera phones. Additionally, there's a pretty cool new real-time HDR mode, which gives you a live preview of the image you're about to take and the effect that HDR is going to have on it. What's more, you can even take HDR photos in burst mode, so there you have it – taking great and highly-dynamic shots has never been easier. 

As far as video capture goes, the Galaxy S5 adds the ability to shoot 4K video – so we guess that's a must-have feature now with mobile cameras. Sadly, we aren't able to comment on the image and video quality right now, but we'll be sure to do so as soon as possible. Another handy feature that the Galaxy S5 puts on the table is HDR video, and there's also a new 'selective focus' feature that we're interested in testing out. On paper, what it does is snap several images with different focus setting, and then fuse them together to create more artsy stills in which the background is blurred.

Expectations


So, this is it then. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has finally been announced, and as we said in the beginning, it seems to be successfully building upon the already winning formula of the Galaxy S line. With a bigger and better display, faster and incredibly powerful processor, as well as a substantioally upgraded camera, the Galaxy S5 is set to become the dominant species on the high-end Android smartphone market.

But, there is one but. It seems like we're starting to see Samsung grow a bit tired, and we guess that's what happens when you're in lead for a long time. Make no mistake, the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be an amazing smartphone, but we can see its competitors becoming stronger and stronger by the hour.

Until any of those gets powerful enough in order to challenge Samsung's market excellence, though, it looks like the Galaxy S5 wll continue to be the trend-setter in the industry.



216 Comments
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posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:04 10

1. xq10xa (Posts: 121; Member since: 07 Dec 2010)


Hmmm. They will sell much of this stuff.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:09 19

16. PunyPoop (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)


Look at the back, yuck! LOL. Just 2gigs of ram?

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:39 8

88. desniper9 (Posts: 37; Member since: 30 Oct 2012)


THe back is like the OG Nexus 7. Though I wonder how it has a removable back and is also waterproof

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:54

120. kalloud (Posts: 89; Member since: 21 Jun 2012)


Yes it has a removable back

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 18:37

168. Darkhell (Posts: 26; Member since: 03 Nov 2013)


Lots of glue sealing everything in place minus the SD, SIM, and battery.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 05:36 2

191. PunyPoop (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)


Smurf will definitely like this band-aid s5, he's a MED STUDENT! LOL

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 06:01

202. lao11 (Posts: 1; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)


Xperia V had a removable back cover, and was also waterproof too!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:40 3

92. akki20892 (Posts: 3259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


Looks like sammy got decease from apple.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:03 4

138. akki20892 (Posts: 3259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


>Disease< my mistake.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:57 5

127. jcdz89 (Posts: 62; Member since: 01 Mar 2013)


Well biggest disappointment ever. So much for QHD screen, battery & edge to edge screen.. I think z2 better

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:24 2

150. wilsong17 (Posts: 736; Member since: 10 Mar 2013)


how many phone right now has 3 gb of ram

trolll\

note 3 ftw

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 16:02 1

156. nokia12 (Posts: 278; Member since: 19 Nov 2013)


troll..
samsung already has 4gb ram ready for smartphones they produce it themselves..

if sony xperia z2 can have it there is no reason for s5 to have 2gb especially when note 3 has 3 gb...

also htc One 2 will also have 3gb ram

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 17:45

162. fireblade (Posts: 634; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


vivo xplay 3s
sony xperia Z2

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 01:08

179. fireblade (Posts: 634; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


Vivo Xplay 3S
Sony Xperia Z2
Oppo Find 7
Gionee Elife E7L
Lenovo K7T

posted on 22 Mar 2014, 15:26

218. Neo_Huang (Posts: 291; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)


Samsung Galaxy Round, Vivo Xplay 3s, LG G Pro 2, Oppo Find 7, Gionee Elife E7L, ZTE Nubia X6, Lenovo KT7, Nokia Lumia 1525 and Nokia Lumia 1820. (Note that some are unnanounced)

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 13:15

195. Solun (Posts: 4; Member since: 18 Nov 2013)


Most computer have 4 gigs on average. Does it seem like to few RAM for a smartphone?

posted on 04 Mar 2014, 20:58

210. downphoenix (Posts: 2267; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


4GB is a small amount for a computer now, usually a computer under $500 would have that amount.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:12 21

25. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)


This is sh*t really and PA says a winning formula gets refined....no way!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 18:05 5

167. GTR722 (Posts: 222; Member since: 20 Oct 2012)


If people are smart....the Sony Z2 will own this plastic toy....it is better in every way possible.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 20:46 2

174. remtothemax (Posts: 210; Member since: 02 May 2012)


the problem with the z2 is that it is just so big

posted on 26 Feb 2014, 10:16

198. paynekiller (Posts: 139; Member since: 24 May 2010)


the Z2 is massive, if its anything like the Z1S I've seen

posted on 04 Mar 2014, 20:59

211. downphoenix (Posts: 2267; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


It's on Sony to be smart as well, and target mass carrier penetration instead of releasing their phones only on like 1 or 2 carriers. They need to start putting more phones on Sprint and Verizon, they havent offered much on the Verizon front and it has been years since they've had a Sprint phone. I'd gladly buy a Sony phone if I could use it.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:12 12

27. Ashoaib (Posts: 1217; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


Hmm... its not that ugly in black. Infact looking quite fine...

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:14 24

34. PunyPoop (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)


Are you okay man? LOL

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:16 9

40. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


It really isn't though troll.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:18 7

43. PunyPoop (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)


LOL Smurf!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:20 7

50. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Don't even bother mentioning the Z2 since that's the biggest fail of an announcement I've seen yet.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:23 20

56. PunyPoop (Posts: 714; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)


Really? LOL. The S5 looks like a band-aid!http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/band-aid.jpg LOL

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:27 6

65. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


.... Were you trying to be funny? Was I suppose to laugh? Damn this site is dying with trolls.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:27 20

64. hboy857 (Posts: 151; Member since: 03 Jun 2013)


You sound like a sore loser. Crack your head smurf ? Z2 is billion times better than this piece of s**t.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:29 9

69. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Sounds like you're a hater. Z2 is essentially the Z1 so please enlighten me how it's 1 billion times better.

posted on 27 Feb 2014, 10:19

203. salaal (Posts: 65; Member since: 08 Dec 2013)


PapaSmurf Galaxy s5 is also a S4 minus only added the 1.9GHz overclocked to 2.5GHz in 1 year they only added a finger print scanner and a heart rate sensor That is probably it! Now look at the People who will be upgrading from the first Z to the Z2.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:29 2

71. androiphone20 (Posts: 1394; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)


what? that guy IS a loser >:}

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:34 5

83. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Definitely not surprised you're here. My #1 hater has to do something with his life, right?

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:40 5

89. androiphone20 (Posts: 1394; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)


You're my number one hater, I'm just happy that today's the day that everyone sees you for the true fanboy that you are. Did you think trolling on people (like xperiaDROID) would go unnoticed? haha stay geeky my friend

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:43 9

97. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Lol you're delusional aren't you? Clearly I said it's not worth upgrading from the S4 below, but isn't a terrible phone itself.

Stay petty my friend.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:46 5

105. androiphone20 (Posts: 1394; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)


do you want a cookie?

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:48 5

109. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Oatmeal with raisins or chocolate chip please. Oh and a glass of milk while you're at it.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:56 3

125. androiphone20 (Posts: 1394; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)


coming right up, sometimes all you need a cookie when you feel like sheet.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:30 3

74. Astoni (Posts: 429; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)


z2 is almost identical except screen and 10% preformance boost..

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:32 2

79. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Don't tell him that. It'll only make him hate Sony even more for rehashing the same phone with the same design again.

posted on 25 Feb 2014, 01:10 2

180. fireblade (Posts: 634; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


3 GB of RAM?
3200 mAh battery?
dual speaker?

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:43 4

98. akki20892 (Posts: 3259; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


Dude it's call blind fan.
I know Z2 is much better than S5

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:49 2

113. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


I did not agree not deny either were a better phone. Learn to read please thanks.

posted on 01 Mar 2014, 07:50

205. Adlanaufar (Posts: 3; Member since: 01 Mar 2014)


Hey just keep your mouth and wait s5 prime

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:48 3

111. Gaurav008 (Posts: 271; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


You know I just said what a disappointment, the moment I read the hands-on. Now, when I watch the livestream and Samsung continues introducing the features of S5 and other stuff, it now seems to me a nice little upgrade from S4, like the Z2 is to the Z1. Just perfecting the S4, I think.
Anyway, I will wait for the Note 4.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:51 3

118. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Same. Great to see a logical unbiased post on this article.

+1

posted on 26 Feb 2014, 08:48

196. keari (Posts: 16; Member since: 02 Jul 2013)


Do you have a website/blog i wanna follow it just like seeing your critics/posts

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:57

126. techspace (Posts: 530; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


the s5 is worse...since they have already made the note 3 with 3 gb ram
the z2 is announced 5 months after the z1 and it has 3 gb ram
and no one expected anything more from sony,but people have expected a lot more from samsung
the other oems have a good opportunity this year.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:02

136. Gaurav008 (Posts: 271; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


Like I said, this is just a solid incremental upgrade from the Galaxy S4. I think Samsung will come all guns blazing at IFA with Note 4. Now to see, what HTC has to offer!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:16 1

147. techspace (Posts: 530; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)


people were expecting better specs and looks....maybe they could compromise with the specs, but the s5 looks old and boring.
you may like it, that's your personal choice, but this phone didn't even come close to the expectations.
the note 4 may be good, the note 3 was a good upgrade from the note 2...but samsung's s series phones are its biggest strength.
now everything depends on the price.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:02

137. Gaurav008 (Posts: 271; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


Like I said, this is just a solid incremental upgrade from the Galaxy S4. I think Samsung will come all guns blazing at IFA with Note 4. Now to see, what HTC has to offer!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:29 3

72. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)


he must be an animal from samsung forest

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:34 1

81. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7388; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Or you know, someone who just loves tech?

-Sent from my iPad Mini w/ Retina Display

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:44 1

100. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)


he's trying to make us laugh...

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:59 2

132. sarge77 (Posts: 202; Member since: 14 Mar 2013)


Doesnt matter how ugly a phone is if its going to wrapped around a case anyway truth be told sammy has a winning formula its name sells... Still love to see what the LG G3 has..

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 17:45

163. fireblade (Posts: 634; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


Are you a Samsung salesperson ?

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:18 2

44. andro. (Posts: 1936; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)


Its a galaxy s3 yet again basically with a different back cover,poor showing really from samsung. A faster processor and slightly better camera and a few gimmicks apps,is that a year or r&d?!

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:57 2

128. fzacek (Posts: 1242; Member since: 26 Jan 2014)


There wasn't much that needed improving...

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:32

80. Credo (Posts: 685; Member since: 19 Apr 2012)


Jup, they have good marketing, but they have copied a lot, waterproof, fingerprint, etc etc, come on, and PA still calls it trend setter??? Hahahaha i bet they couldn't wait for april 1. I'm not hating, i just hate fanboyism. Sure it will be a good device, but this is the same consumers already can buy .... And i'm not a fan of fingerprintsensors, the government is controlling us too much already, i have that feature too on my notebook but i deleted the drivers for it right away.

PS, i don't hate Android!!! But if i would go with it then i would sure pick the Sony Xperia Z2, i don't mind the bezels, the design is just awesome.

Peace

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