Samsung Galaxy S5 review - more practical than an S6

Powerful, with a fantastic camera and incredible battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a superb all-round smartphone

8 Jun 2015
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Processor: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Screen size: 5.1in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 16-megapixel, Storage: 16GB, Wireless data: 4G, Size: 142x72.5x8.1 mm , Weight: 145g, Operating system: Android 5.0 (Lollipop)

The Samsung Galaxy S5 will now largely be remembered as the last of Samsung's flagship phones with a plastic chassis. The handset has a powerful specification and a brilliant screen, but the Galaxy range was starting to suffer from a design point of view, with each yearly update strongly resembling the last model.

Samsung smashed that routine with the new metal chassis of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and went further still in the appearance stakes with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge with its curved screen. The new phones are a big step up design-wise, but the Galaxy S5 still has its advantages.

The big loss of the new designs is that they're sealed. There's no removable back panel, so you can't replace the battery as it starts to wane with time; there's memory card slot either, so you can't cheaply upgrade your internal storage to store lots of movies or music. The new phones aren't waterproof either, while the S5 is. You can read all the differences in Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6.

If you're still thinking you're after an S5 then there's good news. Prices have fallen off rapidly since the launch of its successors and you can now pick up a Galaxy S5 for as little as £25 a month. That's a two-year contract with no upfront cost, 1000 UK minutes, unlimited texts and a respectable 1GB of data, from Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone. That's around £350 less than the S6 will cost you over two years. It's now bang up to date, too, as Samsung has recently updated the operating system to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Design

The Galaxy S5 is best seen as a refinement of the Galaxy S4, as both share a very similar outward appearance. The S5 has slightly bolder curves than the S4's flowing corners, but sat side-by-side they look almost identical. A metal effect bezel surrounds both handsets, although the dimpled, rubberised rear cover on the S5 feels classier than the S4's glossy finish. 

Samsung Galaxy S5 home screen 2

It looks sleek, and at 8.1mm thick it's also very thin, but we can't help feel a little disappointed that Samsung has stuck with an all-plastic construction. Now that the almost entirely metal HTC One (m8) is on sale, the Galaxy S5 feels a little cheap by comparison. On the plus side, the Galaxy S5 is now IP67 water- and dust-resistant, meaning it is completely protected against the effects of dust and can survive a dunking in up to 1m of water. This should hopefully put an end to dead handsets after dropping them into drinks, toilets or puddles, and gives Sony's Xperia Z2 one less killer feature to draw away potential customers. You won't be able to take underwater photos using the touchscreen, as it can't detect any inputs when under water, but you can use the volume key as a physical shutter button instead.

Unfortunately, in making the phone IP67 compliant, Samsung has been forced to add a flap over the USB port to protect it from water damage. It can be a little fiddly to remove for charging, and is held in place with a piece of rubberised plastic; should that snap off the phone would lose its weatherproof abilities. The port itself uses the faster USB3 standard, but Samsung bafflingly doesn't include a USB3 cable in the box. That means you're stuck transferring data from a PC or Mac at USB2 speeds until you buy the right cable, which costs a few pounds.

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