SAMSUNG GALAXY S5
Back to Basics Meets Kitchen Sink
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.