Powerful, with a fantastic camera and incredible battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was a superb smartphone flagship
The Adreno 330 graphics chip is also amongst the fastest silicon Qualcomm has to offer, and is easily capable of playing any current games in the Play Store smoothly. We could play demanding titles like Real Racing 3 smoothly and scored 57.3fps in the Unreal Engine-powered Epic Citadel. The HTC One (m8) only scored very slightly higher because its onscreen menu buttons mean it has to render fewer pixels, meaning the Galaxy S5 is among the fastest Android smartphones available today.
Depending on the model you’ll get 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, with even less actually available to customers after Android has taken its share, though Samsung has thankfully included a microSD card slot for adding extra capacity later. The Galaxy S5 supports the newest 128GB microSD cards, so you shouldn’t ever run out of space for your photos, music or videos, although you’re limited to which apps can edit or delete your files because of the new permissions changes made to Android 4.4.
Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Battery
With such huge power reserves on tap, we expected the Galaxy S5 to suffer in terms of battery life – even with its huge 2,800mAh battery. Thankfully, the energy efficient Qualcomm chip helped the handset reach a best-ever score of 17 hours and 30 minutes in our continuous video rundown test. Compared to the outgoing model, which lasted ten hours 43 minutes in the same test, the S5 should easily last you an entire day of moderate-to-heavy use – even with liberal use of 3G or 4G and that gorgeous screen.
If you’re worried about running out of power, the new Ultra Power Saving mode can help reign in the processor and screen. It limits the CPU frequency, disables all non-essential services, along with Bluetooth and NFC, then turns the screen to greyscale in order to save as much power as possible. Samsung says you can last up to 24 hours when down to 10% battery, and we’ve routinely gone whole evenings on 5% – giving us enough juice to get home and top up before waking up the next day.
There have been many complaints about the update to Android 5 ruining the battery life, but this isn’t something we’ve encountered with a UK build of Samsung’s take on Lollipop. Even with a phone that’s a year old, with the corresponding degradation in battery life, we’re still seeing a day and a half of life from the Android 5 Lollipop-equipped Galaxy S5.
Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Fingerprint sensor
Samsung has opted to stick with physical buttons rather than switch to on-screen ones, but swapping the menu key for the standard multitasking shortcut is bound to confuse anyone coming from a Samsung Galaxy S3 or S4. In doing so, however, the company has left room for a major new hardware addition: the home button now doubles as a fingerprint sensor, beefing up security and doing away with the need for passwords.
With the S5, your fingerprint can be used to unlock the device, log in to your Samsung account (used for most of Samsung’s pre-installed apps), and to pay for Paypal purchases once you download a companion app. You can also protect files and folders with a fingerprint, keeping them safe in the ‘Private’ section of the phone. It works exceptionally well, requiring a swipe downwards rather than a prolonged press like the TouchID sensor found in Apple’s iPhone 5s. Both phones unlock in less than a second, although we had more luck with the Galaxy S5 if our hands were a little wet; with the iPhone we had to dry our hands thoroughly for it to work.
It can memorise up to three digits, so you can save the fingers that suit your preferred grip style; our left-handed reviewer saved his left thumb and index, along with his right index so the phone could be unlocked in either hand.
Samsung will eventually be enabling access to the fingerprint login APIs for third-party app developers. Right now it’s more novelty than necessity, even if we loathe to return to typing in our passwords when our review unit goes back, but it has more potential than Apple’s closed TouchID system if developers get behind it.
Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Heart rate sensor
Samsung started its fitness focus last year with S Health on the Galaxy S4. The app has since become a staple of its Android smartphones, tracking steps using the accelerometer, counting calories with an interactive food diary and helping you keep up to date on your exercise regime. The S5 takes this a step further with a heart rate monitor built into the back of the phone. The heart rate sensor is light-based, using a beam of high-intensity red light to measure your pulse through your fingertip.
It takes a few seconds to get a reading through a dedicated section in the S Health app. If you hold your finger too tightly, too lightly, or not quite in the right place, however, the sensor fails to get a reading.
Although it works as advertised, we aren’t sure that the heart rate sensor is the killer feature to buy a Galaxy S5 for. Currently, it only works with the S Health app and provides a one-time reading, rather than continuous updates like the pedometer. If you’re incredibly health conscious it could prove useful, but it also becomes redundant if you invest in Samsung’s new wearables which have their own integrated HRMs.
Fitness is such an integral part of the Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit wearables that it’s silly not to keep them in mind when reviewing the Galaxy S5. Samsung clearly designed the two to be paired together, even if they do add around £200 to the cost of the phone. They put notifications, music playback controls, a pedometer and heart rate sensor on your wrist, and work flawlessly with the phone – unlike the collection of third party smartwatches and fitness bands available elsewhere.
Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Verdict
Even though it’s been replaced several times now, the Galaxy S5 is still quite a phone. Now, at less than £150 SIM-free, it’s an awful lot of handset for the price – especially if the Gear 2, Gear Fit or heartbeat sensor are of particular interest to you. It faces some pretty stiff competition from other, more modern handsets, such as the OnePlus 2 and S5 Neo, but if the idea of a microSD card slot and a user removable battery appeals, then the S5 is still one of the better choices currently available. For more recommendations, check out our Best Smartphones guide.
|Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|Android 5.0 (Lollipop)