Samsung Galaxy S5 review – hands on
Posted on 5 Mar 2014 at 10:32, by Chris Finnamore
Updated on the 5th March 2014 with more hands-on impressions and a second page containing all of the official specifications
Samsung launched its new Galaxy S5 smartphone amid much razmatazz at MWC Barcelona, and we've had some time with the hotly-anticipated new handset. For convenience, we've also included all of the official specifications on page two of this article.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 DESIGN
There are a couple of headline new features. The S5 now has a fingerprint reader, which you can use to unlock the phone or to make payments; currently only PayPal is supported. The fingerprint reader can also be used to secure and unlock private storage on the phone, so you can lock down images you wish to keep especially private, for example.
Look out for the heart rate monitor below the camera
There's also a heart rate monitor, which you activate by pressing your thumb to the sensor below the camera and pressing the corresponding button within the S Health app. We're not convinced of its accuracy, though; the measurement oscillated between 50bpm and 103bpm, while the Gear 2 Neo smartwatch measured around 80bpm consistently.
The S5 is slightly bigger than its predecessor due to a larger screen
The phone looks similar to the S4, but has a couple of differences. It's slightly larger, due to the bigger 5.25in compared to 4.99in screen, and the back is now soft-touch textured rather than smooth as on the S4. We were fans of the soft back, which is pleasing in the hand, but wish Samsung would improve the hard ridged plastic around the edge of the phone.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 SCREEN
Once we started to use the S5, though, we started to be seriously impressed. The first thing that strikes you is the sheer quality of the screen. It has the same 1,920x1,080 resolution as the Galaxy S4's display, but gives a significantly better picture. The screen is brighter than the S4's, and has significantly less grain. It also has much purer whites, without the S4's slight yellow tinge. Text is astonishingly sharp, too. It's one of the best screens we've ever seen – it's amazing how much Samsung has managed to improve on the S4's display in a year.
Oh my, but what a screen
SAMSUNG GALAXY S5 PERFORMANCE
As you'd expect with a score like this, the S5 has absolutely no problem with complicated web pages, which render quickly and scroll around with not a trace of hesitation. We also ran the 3DMark benchmark on the handset in Unlimited Mode, as the normal and Extreme modes were too light for the device. Unlimited returned a score of 18,438, which is far quicker than the iPhone 5S's 14,506, which was our previous high score. This is an astoundingly fast phone, whichever way you look at it.
The phone's software takes up over a third of the standard storage
Be aware that out of the phone's 16GB capacity, around 6GB is already taken up by system files and various apps, so only around 10GB is available to the user. You'll most likely need to take advantage of the microSD card slot.
ULTRA POWER SAVING
The Galaxy S5 has an innovative mode to help prolong your phone's battery life, called Ultra Power Saving. This goes further than any power saving mode we've seen. When you switch the mode on, which seems to take around 10 seconds, it turns the display to monochrome and restricts you to a single screen with a few vital apps.
You can select which apps you want when the phone is in the mode, to make sure you still have the functions you absolutely need until you can find a power socket. Samsung claims the phone will give you around 24 hours of battery life from just 10% charge in when in Ultra Power Saving mode, hopefully giving you enough juice for a vital call or text.
New to the Galaxy S5 is My Magazine, as seen previously on the Note 3 and Note Pro. This is a news and social feed aggregation app, in the style of HTC's BlinkFeed, which we first saw on the HTC One. Swipe left from the homescreen and you're presented with a picture-rich feed of things that interest you. The service is apparently based on Flipboard, and lets you choose to receive updates from social networks such as Flickr, Twitter and Google+, and information categories such as News, Style and Technology. Unfortunately, we couldn't see any way to customise the news sources within each category.
My Magazine is a BlinkFeed-style news aggregator
The S5 may not look much different from the S4, but we were surprised by how much Samsung has managed to improve in a year. The fingerprint reader is useful, we're not sure about the heart rate monitor, but the phone is incredibly fast and the screen blew us away. The S5 will be a premium-priced smartphone, and we can't see it being anywhere else but at the front of this year's Android pack.
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