Back to Ba­sics Meets Kitchen Sink

HWM (Singapore) - - Front Page - by JamesLu

While Sam­sung have said they’re “go­ing back to ba­sics” with the Galaxy S5, its spec sheet sug­gests other­wise. In fact, the S5 is un­doubt­edly Sam­sung’s most ad­vanced de­vice, boast­ing an IP67 dust and wa­ter re­sis­tant build, fin­ger­print scan­ner, heart rate sen­sor and a cam­era with phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus.

One area that hasn’t ad­vanced is Sam­sung’s de­sign aes­thetic. Look­ing al­most iden­ti­cal to the S4 - and look­ing back fur­ther, the Galaxy S3 too - the S5 is en­tirely plas­tic and in­cludes the usual rounded cor­ners and chromed ridged edges. The one area that is dif­fer­ent is the rear bat­tery cover, which sports a dim­pled pat­tern that was rather fa­mously com­pared to a band-aid. On the plus side, the dim­pled rear does give the S5 a rather nice tex­ture and feel, and it’s more grippy and fin­ger­print re­sis­tant than the glossy plas­tic of pre­vi­ous Sam­sung phones.

Sam­sung has bumped up the screen size on the S5, which grows to 5.1-inches. How­ever, it comes with a cost, as the S5 is longer, thicker and heav­ier than its pre­de­ces­sor, com­ing in at 145g - 15g heav­ier than the S4. While the ex­tra thick­ness isn’t re­ally no­tice­able - it’s only 0.2mm - the ex­tra length and weight is. The only other change to the S5’s de­sign is a cover over the mi­cro-USB port to keep out wa­ter.

While the S5’s dis­play has grown larger, the screen res­o­lu­tion hasn’t, re­sult­ing in a slightly lower 432 pix­els per inch (ppi) screen den­sity than the 441 ppi of the S4. In all other ar­eas how­ever, the S5 dis­play has im­proved. Max­i­mum bright­ness is quite a bit higher than the S4, which makes view­ing un­der even bright over­head sun­light com­fort­able and col­ors look more nat­u­ral than pre­vi­ous AMOLED dis­plays. Con­trast, as usual, is top notch, with su­per deep blacks.

An ex­cit­ing new fea­ture is the in­clu­sion of a fin­ger­print scan­ner on the Home but­ton. The S5 scan­ner is quite dif­fer­ent from the one found on Ap­ple’s iPhone 5S, and re­quires a ver­ti­cal swip­ing mo­tion, mean­ing it’s not as fast or con­ve­nient to use as the iPhone 5S, al­though still sig­nif­i­cantly faster than a pat­tern or num­ber un­lock. One ad­van­tage the S5 does have over Ap­ple is that

De­spite its IP67 build, the Galaxy S5 has a re­mov­able bat­tery cover. En­sure the cover is tightly sealed all the way around, or it won’t be pro­tected against wa­ter.

CON­CLU­SION The S5 is a wor­thy up­grade over the S4 with great bat­tery life and over­all per­for­mance, but some of its new fea­tures could have been bet­ter im­ple­mented.

Sam­sung has opened up the fin­ger­print scan­ner SDK to de­vel­op­ers, let­ting it be in­cor­po­rated into apps.

The S5 is also fit­ted with a heart rate sen­sor, lo­cated at the rear, just next to the LED flash. Like the fin­ger­print scan­ner it’s not the best im­ple­men­ta­tion, as you need to make sure your fin­ger fully cov­ers the sen­sor, and that you don’t press too lightly or too hard to get a read­ing. To com­ple­ment the heart rate sen­sor, the S5 comes pre-loaded with Sam­sung’s S Health per­sonal fit­ness tracker, which of­fers per­son­al­ized fit­ness work­outs and can help track your fit­ness stats, from calo­ries burned to steps taken. It will also sug­gest work­out rou­tines and goals, and there’s even an in­cen­tive-based medal sys­tem for hit­ting cer­tain mile­stones.

The Galaxy S5 is armed with a 16MP rear cam­era with a 1/2.6-inch sen­sor and an f/2.2 aper­ture lens. While that may not sound that im­pres­sive, the S5 is also the only smart­phone cam­era armed with phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus. Most smart­phone cam­eras, as well as many com­pact point-and-shoots, use only con­trast de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, which works by mea­sur­ing the con­trast be­tween nearby pix­els, and ad­justs the cam­era lens un­til this con­trast is max­i­mized. It’s okay if you’re shoot­ing a scene with clearly de­fined edges but it’s not as good if there’s not a lot of con­trast (or light) to be­gin with. Phase de­tec­tion is used in some mir­ror­less cam­eras and on most DSLRs, and is a hy­brid sys­tem that uses con­trast de­tect to get you close to fo­cus, and then phase de­tec­tion, which com­pares the ac­tual light re­ceived by the sen­sor to fine-tune the fo­cus.

In our tests, aut­o­fo­cus on the S5 wasn’t al­ways per­fect, and it some­times opted to fo­cus on ob­jects in the back­ground un­til we selected the cor­rect fo­cal point, but once it was fo­cus­ing on the cor­rect ob­ject, it was very ac­cu­rate and fast, even in low-light sit­u­a­tions.

In our per­for­mance bench­mark tests, the S5’s Qual­comm Snap­dragon 801 pro­ces­sor per­formed well, al­though it fell slightly short of the HTC One M8 on most tests. It did how­ever score very well in the bat­tery life bench­mark, where it lasted eight hours and 36 min­utes in our video loop­ing test, which is con­ducted at max­i­mum bright­ness and au­dio. The S5 also boasts a new Ul­tra Power Sav­ing Mode, which dis­ables al­most all un­nec­es­sary func­tion­al­ity in ex­change for much in­creased bat­tery life. Sam­sung claims that in this mode the S5 can last an im­pres­sive 24 hours on as lit­tle as 10% re­main­ing bat­tery life.

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