Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is probably the most anticipated refresh of a flagship Android device this year. How has it changed from the S4? First, the new Galaxy S5 comes with a redefined style: its new soft-touch dimpled plastic back with a variety of fresh colors replaces the more bland, thin hard glossy plastic of the S4. Not just that, the whole device is now water- and dust-resistant (IP67), a level of protection that is reassuring. A faster, Snapdragon 801 system chip ticks under the hood, and Samsung claims to have made a small breakthrough in mobile camera technology with its new ISOCELL sensor. Samsung has also redesigned the TouchWiz Android user interface making it more user-friendly, and added a fingerprint scanner and a heart-rate monitor, two features that were not present in the Galaxy S4.
How does that all work out in real life, and is the Galaxy S5 a change big enough to convince you to upgrade from the Galaxy S4? We look at the evolution of Samsung’s latest Galaxy to answer all these questions. Stay with us.
Samsung brings a brand new design with the Galaxy S5 with perforated back and fresh new colors. It's also gotten water and dust-resistant properties. However, the S5 is also noticeably larger and bulkier.
Last year's S4 was almost identical to its predecessor design-wise and sparked an outcry among many because of its too small of an evolution in style. This year, with the Galaxy S5, different has arrived. Samsung’s 2014 flagship is still made out of plastic, but its looks have undergone a big change, and the S5 features a dimpled soft-touch plastic back, whereas the preceding S4 had a slightly more bland, glossy plastic body. The S5 also arrives in a variety of fresh colors right out the gate - you can pick between ‘electric blue’, ‘copper gold’, ‘shimmer white’, and ‘charcoal black’.
In terms of size, though, the S4 was a more or less compact 5-inch phone, while the same cannot be said about the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s newest Galaxy is not gigantic - it’s certainly much smaller than phablets - but it’s not compact either. The Galaxy S5 has grown bigger in all aspects: it’s wider (2.85” vs 2.75” on the S4), taller (5.59” vs 5.38”), thicker (0.32” vs 0.31”), and heavier (145oz vs 130oz), while at the same time it's 5.1” screen is just marginally larger than the 5” display of the S4.
Samsung is clearly willing to trade this added bulkiness for newly acquired water and dust resistant properties of the S5. Samsung’s new Galaxy is IP67-certified, which means that it’s dust protected and can withstand being submerged in water up to 30 minutes in a depth of up to 1 meter (3.3 feet).
In terms of buttons, the Galaxy S5 retains the signature for Samsung physical home key below the display with a back and menu buttons around it. Just as on the S4, there is also a lock key on the right, and a volume rocker on the left. The buttons are equally clicky and easy to press on both. On the bottom, the S5 features a lid-protected microUSB 3.0 port, a change over the unprotected microUSB 2.0 port on the S4. Both devices also feature infra-red transmitters located on the top, a feature that allows you to use the phone as a remote control for your TV.
However, the S5 also adds two new elements over the S4: a fingerprint scanner and a heart-rate monitor.
The fingerprint scanner is a feature that has appeared every once in a while in notebooks and phones, but it seems that it was Apple that led the push for massive adoption of the feature by including a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5s. The fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S5, however, is different from the one on the iPhone 5s. In the S5, you have to swipe in an almost straight line from the bottom of the screen and through the home key, while in the iPhone 5s authenticating is simpler - you just need to touch the home key (no need to actually press it, or swipe through it). We found the fingerprint scanner on the S5 to be a bit finicky, requiring us to swipe again and again when we hit it from even a slight angle, and the swiping gesture is also hard to use with a single hand. On the flip side of things, though, you can use the fingerprint reader on the S5 for things that you cannot do on competing devices, like authenticating PayPal payments.
The other new feature of the Galaxy S5 is its heart-rate (pulse) monitor, located on the back of the phone, right below the camera. It’s the first time we see such a scanner in a smartphone. It requires you to put your finger on it, so that it can beam up infra-red light and monitor the change in the resulting reflections to come with a reading of your heart-rate. Our experience shows that it gets accurate readings, but it requires some patience: you need to be silent when you measure your pulse and wait for a few seconds for a correct result. It’s definitely not a gimmick, but you have to understand that it provides single-time readings, and might not be a perfect fit for athletes who want to measure the continuous change of their pulse during work out.
The Galaxy S5 has just a slightly larger 5.1” AMOLED display with the same 1080p resolution as on the Galaxy S4. We, however, have bad news for those wishing for accurate colors on the S5 – colors on it are overblown to an even larger extent than on the S4.
The Galaxy S5 comes with a 5.1-inch display, just faintly larger than the 5-inch screen of the Galaxy S4. The resolution on both is 1080 x 1920-pixels, but due to the slightly different screen size, pixel density is a bit higher on last year’s S4: 441ppi on it versus 432ppi on the S5. This slight variance is practically impossible to notice, and both screens look very sharp, rendering even smaller text fonts very clearly, and you won’t notice any pixelization either.
The screens on both handsets are of the Super AMOLED kind. Samsung has been working on AMOLED displays for years, and in the S5 it brings some big improvements to brightness and power efficiency. Maximum brightness in regular conditions on the S5 has increased by nearly 20% in comparison with the S4 (Samsung claims 351 nits on the S5 vs 287 nits on the S4), and that – along with lower screen reflectance – makes the S5 much easier to use outdoors. Not just that, Samsung has also lowered the minimum brightness threshold, so that the S5 can get down to very dim 2 nits. This is great for night use when such low level that is less disturbing to the eyes than traditionally higher minimum brightness adjustments.
Switching over to color, Samsung is known for calibrating its displays to eye-popping, but way overblown, unrealistic colors. The Galaxy S4 was such a phone – it conformed to the Adobe RGB standard, a much wider color gamut than the industry-standard sRGB, but it also was poorly calibrated with a greenish white point and oversaturated tones in the Standard viewing mode. With the Galaxy S5, Samsung continues walking that territory of wild, unrealistic colors. In Standard mode, colors on the S5 appear noticeably cold and greenish, and the color temperature hits nearly 8000K, way above the 6500K gold standard. In Professional Photo mode, colors appear better tempered with slightly colder than perfect, 7270K color temperature. Still, the display gives preference to colder, blue and green tonalities, and it's not very accurate.
Finally, AMOLED screens traditionally have great viewing angles, and that’s also the case in both the S5 and the S4.