Samsung Galaxy S5 Review
For a few years now, Samsung has been the dominant player on the Android smartphone market. Ever since the Galaxy S II, the giant from South Korea has established itself as a relentless alpha that is in no way willing to share the prey with others. Instead, other companies have been left fighting over the leftovers, fighting for survival in this Samsung world.
Such is the market landscape in early 2014, but it seems like we're starting to see the first signs indicating that this unbalanced status quo may be coming to an end. Some of the major Android competitors, like Sony or HTC, for example, are beginning to gain momentum with consistently strong offerings such as the Xperia Z2 and the One (M8), while it feels like the announcement of Samsung's Galaxy S5 earlier this year couldn't really spark the massive media and consumer hysteria that usually accompanies Galaxy S phone launches. Could 2014 really be the beginning of the end for Samsung's Android hegemony? Has the company finally grown weary, to the point that it can no longer keep the comfortable lead it's been enjoying thus far?
Hardly. Enter the Galaxy S5 – Samsung's 'back-to-basics' flagship smartphone, designed to rethink the company's whole concept when it comes to the look, feel and features of its top offering. Sure, the phone's introduction didn't cause a tsunami of enthusiasm, but it seems like the Galaxy S5 is one of those products that actually has to be experienced in order to be rated correctly. Indeed, this time around, Samsung isn't trying to impress users with its traditional 'everything plus the kitchen sink' approach. Instead, the company has tried to pack fewer, but more meaningful goodies – features designed to actually benefit your experience with the phone, not complicate it.
Has the company succeeded in this heavy task? Is there enough to be loved in the Samsung Galaxy S5 for it to preserve its leading position? All of this shall be answered in the following lines!
With its new Glam look, the Galaxy S5 tries to keep the warmth and approachability of Samsung's typical design language, while adding a touch of class.
To be honest, appearance has never been a strong characteristic of Samsung's Android-powered products. As if the company realizes that, the South Koreans have been tweaking and changing the exteriors of their top smartphones with almost every new generation. Last year, the Galaxy S4 launched with a glossy plastic design, but the Note 3 brought forth a different take on that style – a faux leather look for the plastic back cover. That new design language made its way to some of the other phones and tablets of the company, but thankfully, with the Galaxy S5, Samsung is once again looking for that new visual style that would give its flagship phone a much-needed boost in the design department.
Behold, the Glam look! Samsung's new design for the Galaxy S5 ditches the faux leather for a new rubbery plastic finish with a nice, dotted pattern. It's an inviting design with a warm and comfortable feel. Moreover, it's a design that actually looks quite good and eye-catchy, especially in the more expressive blue and gold color variants (besides those, the Galaxy S5 is also available in black and white). In terms of grip, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is pretty decent – it's by no means as slippery as some of its metal competitors (hello, HTC One (M8)).
Size-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has grown quite a bit from the relatively compact footprint that its predecessor had. While the display has only grown by 0.1 inches, the dimensions have increased from 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches (136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm) in the Galaxy S4 to 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches (142 x 72.5 x 8.1) in the GS5. All in all, the phone has become significantly bigger, but it's still comfortable to work with, as it sits nicely in the hand. In terms of weight, the Galaxy S5 tips the scales at 5.11 oz (145 g) – a bit heavier than the 4.59 oz (130 g) of the GS4, but oh well, we guess all the new goodies hiding under the hood are to blame for the bigger dimensions and added heft. Even then, however, the Galaxy S5 remains lighter than some of its top competitors, like the HTC One (M8) (5.64 oz (160 g)), and the Sony Xperia Z2 (5.75 oz (163 g)).
Besides the sizable 5.1" display, the front side of the Samsung Galaxy S5 houses the earpiece and Samsung's logo, positioned near the top edge. Below the screen, there are the physical Home key (doubling as a fingerprint scanner), and the touch-sensitive Multitasking and Back keys. In contrast to most other Android makers out there, Samsung is refraining from using on-screen navigation buttons, leaving the entire 5.1" display available to system and third-party. We actually tend to appreciate this, since we don't like it when there's a thick, black bar taking up precious screen space, as it is on the new Nexus, One and Xperia smartphones. Of course, this benefit will become less important in the future, when more and more applications begin to take advantage of Android 4.4 KitKat's Immersive Mode, but at the current time, having every pixel of your screen available to your content is definitely a good thing. But back to the physical keys and their execution – the home button, as well as the volume rocker and the power/lock key all function really well. They are easy to find by touch alone (the power key could be a bit better in this respect), while they also have that nice, clicky feel, making them pleasant to use.
The volume rocker of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is occupying its traditional place on the left hand side of the phone. The same goes for the power/lock key that's found on the right hand side. The top edge is where you'll find the 3.5 mm headphone jack, as well as the IR blaster, while the bottom side houses the securely covered microUSB 3.0 port.
So, the Galaxy S5 features a microUSB 3.0 port – that's all very cool, but why does it have to be so tightly closed? Well, that's because the Galaxy S5 is water- and dust-resistant! With its IP 67 certification, Samsung's new flagship is completely protected against dust particles, while immersing it in water of up to 1 meter deep, for up to about 30 minutes, shouldn't cause any damage to the phone's internals. The GS5's main rival in this area is the Sony Xperia Z2, which sports IP 58 certification. What this means is that Sony's phone is not as perfectly secure as the GS5 when it comes to dust (although it still has a considerable degree of protection), but it can go deeper than 1 meter of water, and for longer periods at that. Still, we here at PhoneArena want you to know that we are in no way suggesting that you give these features a try! Just enjoy the comfort of knowing that you can safely put your phone on the table, with no danger of it being rendered useless, should you accidentally spill a glass of water (or something else) over it...
The back side of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is where the new, 16 MP camera resides. Naturally, the slightly protruding camera is accompanied by an LED flash, as well as the Samsung logo and the loudspeaker, but there's also something else... Right next to the LED flash is where we find a brand new feature – a dedicated heartrate sensor! Whether it works well and if it's more beneficial than all those apps claiming to detect your heartrate accurately, though, you'll get to know in the software section of the review.
As a whole, we commend Samsung for coming up with the so-called Glam design of the Galaxy S5. It's both a practical and good-looking solution that retains the main virtues of the company's traditional design, while giving a nice boost to the appearance aspect as well. And, when we factor in the added benefit of water- and dust-resistance, the Samsung Galaxy S5 shapes up as a truly-compelling offering from a design standpoint.
142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm
5.11 oz (145 g)
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)
146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
5.64 oz (160 g)
151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)
144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)
138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)
137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59 mm
4.59 oz (130 g)
Super AMOLED screen technology gets better; remains just as flashy as before.
Ah, these Super AMOLED screens... so controversial, yet so well-received. Yes, they are off. Yes, they are relatively dim... but when it comes to their vibrant colors and perfect black levels, these attributes seem to be enticing enough to make consumers want to hop on Sammy's bandwagon and enjoy those flashy visuals.
Well, the good news is that it seems Samsung is perfectly aware of all the weaknesses of its display technology, as the company is continuing to evolve and enhance the Super AMOLED panels it puts on its high-end smartphones with each new proposition. Thankfully, we're once again witnessing a step in the right direction, as the Galaxy S5 sports the best AMOLED display on a mobile phone we've seen to date.
Further increasing its brightness, the GS5's Super AMOLED screen now enters LCD territory, with maximum brightness reaching about 440 nits, as long as you have the 'Auto adjust screen tone' option activated. That's still a bit dimmer than the best LCD screens out there, which successfully surpass 500 nits, but it's still a rather big improvement over the Galaxy S4. As a result, outdoor visibility is actually pretty decent with this phone. However, while most manufacturers are mainly focusing their efforts on getting as much brightness as possible out of their screens, Samsung has also thought about the opposite thing, which is how dim its display can get. With the iPhone being an exception, the screens of most contemporary smartphones can't really get super-dark, making them not-so-pleasant to view in the dark (while in bed, for example). Well, the Samsung Galaxy S5's Super AMOLED screen has been designed in such a way that its brightness can go to an extremely low level – as low as just 2 nits! This makes the GS5 more than comfortable to view in the dark, even for longer periods of time, so you can easily read a book or watch some video without irritating your eyes.
Luckily, the Samsung Galaxy S5's display also has improved color balance and accuracy compared to its predecessor. Sadly, it's still far from being a well-balanced display. Once again, there are different display modes that you can choose between, all of which being more or less off from the reference values specified in the sRGB colorspace. To start with, this is yet another bluish AMOLED display, with blue and green colors having substantially more presence compared to red. In Standard display mode, the color temperature reaches around 8000 K (kelvin), which suggests some rather cold visuals. Switching to the Professional Photo display mode, things get substantially better, with the average temperature dropping to 7200 K, which is a decent figure, but still not close enough to the reference value of 6500 K. Typically, Delta E is also quite high. Measured using a grayscale, Delta E is about 7 in Standard mode and 6.1 in Professional Photo. When it comes to Delta E (represents the average color error / inaccuracy), the lower, the better. Basically, figures of up to 2 are considered awesome, figures of up to 5 are considered acceptable, though close to the danger zone, and, as you can guess – figures that are north of 5 suggest a considerable inaccuracy. So, you can imagine what this means for the Galaxy S5's Delta E values – things aren't looking very good, or rather – very accurate. At the same time, gamma gravitates around 2.25 - 2.3 (reference is 2.2), meaning that most things will appear just a tad darker tan they should – there's no other way, having in mind that both the blue and green colors are close to their reference levels, while red is lacking. Activating the so-called Cinema display mode makes the measured numbers just a bit better, but the display starts to look lifeless with its unfortunate lack of red color.
As usual with Super AMOLED displays, viewing angles are superb. Yes, there's some visible color alteration happening as you start tilting the display, but brightness and contrast barely budge. This is especially convenient if you have a bunch of friends alongside you and you're all watching a video or something else on your phone. Of course, having good viewing angles is also helpful in a variety of other cases, such as reading.
Display measurements and quality
|Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better||Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better||Contrast Higher is better||Color temperature (Kelvins)||Gamma||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Sony Xperia Z1||495
|HTC One (M8)||490
|Google Nexus 5||485
|Samsung Galaxy S5||442
|Samsung Galaxy Note 3||360
|Samsung Galaxy S4||289
The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.
|Maximum brightness Lower is better||Minimum brightness Lower is better||Contrast Lower is better||Color temperature Lower is better||Gamma Lower is better||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 3||56.1%
|Samsung Galaxy S4||58.5%
|Samsung Galaxy S5||62.7%
|Sony Xperia Z1||78.2%
|HTC One (M8)||79.6%
|Google Nexus 5||85.6%
The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
Samsung Galaxy S5 360-Degrees View:
Drag the picture or use the keyboard arrows to rotate the phone.
Double click or press keyboard Space to zoom in/out
1. abdane (Posts: 476; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)
The S5 gets 9.1 and the M8 gets 8.8 ? M8 > S5
2. jellmoo (Posts: 667; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)
Gotta agree with PA on this one. The better camera, ergonomics and use of space but the S5 ahead of the M8.
43. sgodsell (Posts: 1235; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)
The S5 display is suppose to be the most accurate screen to date.
55. Krjal (Posts: 61; Member since: 19 Dec 2013)
Yep. With all due respect to PA for their articles, I trust Display Mate a lot more when it comes to display specifics.
Using any other colour mode than default on the s5 seems to produce equivalent accuracy to the best LCD smart phone screens.
71. HansGoneInsane (Posts: 382; Member since: 09 Aug 2013)
Question: Why doesn't make Samsung then one of the other display modes default?
84. joey_sfb (Posts: 2919; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
Because, most consumer don't give a rat ass about color accuracy they buy what catches their eye first.
Putting an color accurate screen next to an vibrant not so accurate screen is suicide.
Samsung is smart to make vibrant screen as default while putting a lot of effort on the color accurate mode and pay million to advertise its existence.
97. RuiBacelar (Posts: 134; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)
These results are inacurate, M8 was reviewed after a proper battery test, S5 wasnt.
Between the 2 i would choose M8 no doubt, S5 is ugly and priced at 750€ and M8 650€, Camera is the real draw back on M8 but S5 is a plastic device, worth 400€ tops.
If you guys want a good all around device go for Z2
100. almostdone (Posts: 115; Member since: 25 Sep 2012)
No thanks the Z2 bezel is even bigger than the M8 making another phablet size phone with only a 5" screen.
102. RuiBacelar (Posts: 134; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)
In those bezels you get twin front facing speakers, but it's up to you to decide if having bezels and twin speakers isnt worth it.
Enjoy your piece of plastic ;)
53. PunyPoop (Posts: 718; Member since: 18 Jan 2013)
80. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4035; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)
Plus the phone is Water/Dust proof, something the HTC One (M8) can't say...
5. rkoforever90 (Posts: 83; Member since: 03 Dec 2011)
atleast an 8mp ultra pixel camera should have gotten htc an 9.5/10
42. Droiderr (Posts: 32; Member since: 05 Mar 2013)
If u are not aware.. ultrapixel was one of the biggest fails of 2013. I would not count on it.
10. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3239; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
8.8 is pretty high score for a 4mp ultragimmickpixel camera lol
56. Onami (Posts: 9; Member since: 29 Mar 2014)
8.8 for metal uni-body, new sense, balanced display, boomsound, great battery life... if M8 had a better camera, it cound win S5 IMHO. BTW I dont like both of them design, I prefer Z2 ...
103. RuiBacelar (Posts: 134; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)
Yes, the only flaw on M8 it's the camera, again...but a bigger bat and water and dust prof would make the M8 a total killer!
24. true1984 (Posts: 590; Member since: 23 May 2012)
meh, why do you care? does iteffect how you see the m8?
113. walnuttt (Posts: 57; Member since: 11 Apr 2014)
still S5 wins over the useless M8 with gimmicky dual camera.
120. AnukulVcool (Posts: 123; Member since: 02 Jun 2012)
camera on galaxy s5 kills the poor camera on htc one m8
126. sanopa (Posts: 2; Member since: 16 May 2014)
Its all about marketing budgets and who pays more. I have the S5 right now and hate it. I wish I had never got rid of my Nexus 5. It had far better performance and battery life.
127. kbreeze415 (Posts: 13; Member since: 21 Jul 2012)
You must have a faulty one as far as battery life is concerned. The nexus 5 battery is terrible.
128. bestmvno (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Mar 2014)
The nexus 5 battery life is really good given the specifics of the phone. You must have some bad apps installed or something constantly trying to fetch location or even a weak cellular network connection. Are you using location reporting/services? What colors are present under battery stats for "mobile network signal?" The battery should last all day no problem unless you spend your entire day streaming videos and music.
4. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3239; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Man when is PA going to understand. Nobody gives a F to color accuracy. Its the most practical display.
20. vincelongman (Posts: 1174; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)
Also if you want color accuracy, just change it to Cinema Mode, according to DisplayMate and AnandTech its just as accurate as LCDs now
101. almostdone (Posts: 115; Member since: 25 Sep 2012)
S5 vs M8 Screen
"Although the S5 screen looks blown out, this is the fault of the camera (/photographer). The real points to note are the S5's faultless black levels and the masses of extra shadow detail. Just look at how much clearer the bushes in the window are compared to the HTC One M8."
6. cheeseycheeser (Posts: 384; Member since: 24 Mar 2011)
Seeing the M8 and S5 in person, the M8 was a major throwback to my thunderbolt. It photographs fairly well, but was overall disappointing. The S5 is nice in person and a very, very well balanced offering.
7. ysk79 (Posts: 19; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)
besides camera, HTC One 8 is better than S5. Looks like its the most important feature when it comes to scoring by PA
14. jellmoo (Posts: 667; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)
Could you explain why? What about the M8 makes it objectively *better*?
26. pocketbook (Posts: 20; Member since: 26 Mar 2014)
Of course he can't explain it, blanket statements are everywhere.
35. SleepingOz (unregistered)
He forgot "IMNSHO" at the end of his comment.
45. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3239; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Have to Agree on Sense though. Sense is beautiful and consistent. Crapwiz is inconsistent and ugly.
41. zachattack (Posts: 565; Member since: 31 Jul 2013)
Well it's metal for one, the internals are the same. Sense looks better than touchwiz. Sense always ran better than touchwiz. The cameras are the same. So really, no phone is marginally better than the other. It comes down to, do you want plastic, or do you want metal. Waterproofing alone couldn't make me buy a samsung phone
44. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3239; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
the cameras are same??????
Better have a mug of coffee
81. jellmoo (Posts: 667; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)
They're not quite the same as the S5 is in fact clocked higher. Plus cameras being the same is... um... no.
The S5 has made some pretty big changes to their camera to improve overall performance. The M8 reallllllly didn't.
16. iushnt (Posts: 650; Member since: 06 Feb 2013)
i don't think so..besides camera, HTC has to do a lot of homework to be able to catch up with s5.. Big bezels, USB 2.0 are some other letdowns as well..
50. ToxiD (Posts: 41; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)
USB 2.0 is really big deal lol, would never buy a phone with less than USB 3.0.... lolz
105. RuiBacelar (Posts: 134; Member since: 25 Feb 2014)
You're kidding, right?
Of all the things M8 rocks the competition you had to point out its achiles weak spot??
11. g2a5b0e (Posts: 2182; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)
"Below the screen, there are the physical Home key (doubling as a fingerprint scanner), and the touch-sensitive Menu and Back keys. In contrast to most other Android makers out there..."
I know you guys at PA are so used to saying menu & back when it comes to Samsung phones, but please keep in mind that the menu button has been replaced with a multitasking button on all the newest Galaxies.
12. NoFanboy (Posts: 222; Member since: 18 Nov 2013)
Of course PA is gonna give Samsung and Apple phones good scores. Probably should have waited for legit battery life numbers to review the phone...... Not just review it the first day you get it.
27. pocketbook (Posts: 20; Member since: 26 Mar 2014)
Anandtech has battery numbers if that's your thing. Spoiler: the S5 is hella efficient.
13. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3012; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)
"...more than enough for any high-end smartphone right now, even though the Sony Xperia Z2 has that number upped to 3 GB."
If S5 had the 3 Gigs of RAM, you would say something like, "It has a whooping 3 Gigs or RAM unlike any other flagship".
36. SleepingOz (unregistered)
3GB of RAM would've definitely made this device better but it's surely not a must. Especially with the efficiency of Kitkat.
77. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3012; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)
And I quote from the review of Note 3
"Multitasking is also silky smooth, which comes as no surprise given the whopping 3GB of RAM tucked under the phone's hood"
I'm sure they already know how KitKat works when they thought of Note 3 too...
17. pwnarena (Posts: 902; Member since: 15 Feb 2013)
Phonearena, can you just give us direct download links for the photos so we can stop everything from loading and just download what we want to see. your photo galleries really suck. nothing gets loaded after even half an hour.
21. Anshulonweb (Posts: 315; Member since: 07 Feb 2014)
waiting for xperia z2 review and comparison with s5
22. zachattack (Posts: 565; Member since: 31 Jul 2013)
Phone arena has some biased people, so take the 9.1 and 8.8 of the HTC with a grain of salt.
83. alrightihatepickingusernames (Posts: 362; Member since: 29 Dec 2013)
And PA reviews flagships the day they're released, I find it funny that anybody takes their reviews seriously.
30. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3239; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Did anybody noticed that a phone with mediocre screen and sky high price got 9.3.
33. Chris_Bakke (Posts: 202; Member since: 23 Jan 2013)
This is a upgrade in almost every aspect to the GS4. I would love to get one if it were not that my upgrade will come in December. I might hang on for the Note 4 or the "F" series, or whatever it's called. This phone will sell millions just like every other S series phone.
37. guidoconrad (Posts: 11; Member since: 19 Nov 2012)
I don't get how this phone can get a 9.1 when the HTC One gives you a better experience with no lag. I'm aware the S5 still lags. TouchWiz looks damn dated by now and the speakers may be louder but the sound quality sucks. I'm also aware that the One M8 when Boomsound is disabled it's way louder but the sound gets worse. I'm sure they compared the S5 to the One with blinkfeed on. Though it came as no surprise I still can't believe that it's 2014 and PhoneArena remains biased
|Display||5.1 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (432 ppi) Super AMOLED|
Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974-AC, Quad core, 2500 MHz, Krait 400 processor
2048 MB RAM
|Size||5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches|
(142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm)
5.11 oz (145 g)
|Battery||2800 mAh, 21 hours talk time|