“Powerful, weather-proof, feature-rich, and lightweight. Is this what the Galaxy S5 is all about?”
The S series of premium Android smartphones from Samsung have managed to garner a cult fan following over the years, something that only the Apple iPhone could boast of earlier. Each iteration in the S series has offered a mouth-watering blend of performance and features, becoming extremely successful globally despite the criticism most devices in the range received for their plastic construction. The Galaxy S5 is the latest and the greatest from the brand, and as expected, comes with a smorgasbord of features to awe the world. However, it stubbornly sticks to use of plastics for the body, and with its price going beyond the psychological barrier of Rs 50,000, an extensive evaluation of its capabilities would be well worth your while before you dole out the dough.
But what makes the Galaxy S5 so noteworthy? While many might have the opinion that it’s just an incremental upgrade to the older Galaxy S4, Samsung has done a fair bit of work on the device and has offered a host of new features and functionality that not only makes the Galaxy S5 loaded, but useful as well. However, how well the Samsung Galaxy S5 justify its massive price tag of Rs 51,500, let’s find out with a more in-depth review.
Good-looking, lightweight and flaunts innovations in design
In terms of form factor, there is only so much that can be done with the candy bar design that most smartphones flaunt these days and the Galaxy S5 is no exception to this as well. From the front, it’s difficult to distinguish between the Galaxy S5 and the older Galaxy S4, but the S5 does get its own set of unique characteristics.
The front of the device is flush and flaunts the same colour scheme as the device. The S5 has been made available in a choice of four colour options, covering blue and gold too apart from the staple black and white hues. On the front, there are three hardware keys that have been used as usual – two of them are of capacitive type while one is the physical push type key, which acts as the home key for the device and houses the biometric fingerprint scanner.
At the back, Samsung has done some good work by offering a matte finish to the device, along with a special dimpled pattern that also enhances the grip. At the top, there is the 16-megapixel camera along with the flash and the heart rate sensor module. On the sides, the Galaxy S5 features a signature chrome finish that adds a touch of class to the device and enhances its looks as well.
Samsung has provided a mono loudspeaker at the back of the device, and for wired connectivity, the S5 features a USB 3.0 connector at the bottom of the device, which has been covered with a watertight tab for protection.
In all, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has an overall weight of just 147grams that includes the weight of a 2,800mAh battery pack as well. The company has managed the weight of the device really well as making a device waterproof requires use of additional materials such as synthetic rubber and all this adds to the overall weight of the device. What still sticks out as a sore thumb is of course, its all-plastic body that may leave a tad to be desired when it comes to justifying its price tag.
It’s weather-proof and has a host of other features too
Despite being constructed entirely out of plastic, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is water-proof and dust-proof as well, and conforms to IP67 (Ingress Protection) standards. The back of the device is removable, which gives access to the user-replaceable battery as well as the SIM and the memory card slots, which have all been protected using a rubber gasket that has been adhered to the back cover. One thing to be noted is that its audio socket is open, yet still can be fully submerged in water without risk of damage to the device. However, the IP67 rating does not mean that the device is completely impervious to water, as it can only be submerged up to a depth of 1 meter and that too for a maximum of 30 minutes.
To make the camera sensor and heart rate monitor waterproof on the Galaxy S5, Samsung has isolated the sensors in their own airtight compartments, so if you look closely the camera unit is one separate compartment and the heart rate sensor along with the flash module are another separate compartment completely sealed off with scratch-resistant glass.
There’s a cover on top of the micro-USB port which must be kept closed at all times in order to keep the device immune from damage from dust and water. To remind users of this, the device also prompts the users when the battery of the device is removed, and also when the charging cycle is competed and the device has been taken off charging.
The S5’s biometric fingerprint scanner mainly enables device access and protects personal data. Even with its functionality being limited, the sensor is a bit of a nuisance at times as it’s slow and it requires a very precise thumb or finger swipe to act. Users can register up to three fingerprints on the same device which can be used to unlock the device.
Samsung has used the power saving property of the AMOLED display to the max and has incorporated an Ultra Power Saving Mode in the Galaxy S5. This mode turns the display to black and white and switches off all features that consume battery. This offers massive power savings to users, and can make the device last for up to a day with just 10 percent of battery remaining.
AMOLED displays consume lower power to produce blacks and whites as compared to displaying coloured images. Along with changing the display to black and white, the feature also reduces the processor clock speed in order to conserve battery in addition to revoking access to apps and only offering access to essential apps such as messaging, calling and web browser to name a few.
Check out the Galaxy S5’s highlight features in action here:
And then there is the heart rate sensor at the back of the device, which is basically a combination of a high-definition close-range camera along with a high intensity light, and using this, you can get an approximate reading about your current heart rate. This is a great feature to have for anyone who wishes to monitor their heart beats several times a day in general, and also for highly active people like athletes and those with heart-related ailments.
For added convenience, Samsung has added the smart remote functionality to the Galaxy S5 as well, so you can control other electronic appliances such as TVs, DVRs, air-conditioners etc with it too. The feature isn’t really new and we’ve seen it on the older Galaxy S4 as well as on devices like the HTC One and the LG G2. However, Samsung has improved the software side of things on the Galaxy S5 a bit. The Smart Remote app now showcases ongoing and upcoming programs though your DTH operator and based on that, offers suggestions right inside the app. It’s quite handy and even helps save some money in case you want a universal remote or even replacement remote controls.
Use of plastic as its construction material has its own advantages and surely, Samsung has used it to its full potential. The device gets smooth edges which make it extremely easy and comfortable to use even for long hours, the back panel is scratch resistant thanks to the matte finish and the keys have been carved out of metal which will ensure longevity of the device.
A vibrant 5.1-inch display with Air view and glove mode
Samsung as a brand is known for making brilliant displays and the Galaxy S5 is no stranger to this fact. Despite the same Super AMOLED display as the older Galaxy S4, Samsung has improved the display on several aspects making it better and brighter.
In terms of overall brightness, the display certainly looks better as compared to the one on the Galaxy S4. In terms of pixel density, the S5’s 5.1-inch display is a tad lower than the S4’s 5-inch screen, but not enough to result in any noticeable difference. The screen on the Galaxy S5 looks crisp, and visuals come out to be lively and enjoyable.
As far as colour reproduction is concerned, most flagship devices from Samsung have highly saturated colours and the same is the case with the display on the Galaxy S5 as well. The colour reproduction is slightly more biased towards the higher side, which makes the colours come out to be stronger than neutral or natural colours. However, this saturated display is particularly commendable for multimedia and gaming but not so much for web browsing.
In addition to the brilliant display, the Galaxy S5 also features an ultra-sensitive touch screen mode as well. During this mode, the device increases the sensitivity of the touchscreen and allows the device to recognise touches and actions from users even if they are wearing gloves. This offers better utility for users residing in colder climates and they do not need to expose their hands to use their smartphone.
In addition to this, the Galaxy S5 also features the Air view functionality as well. With his functionality, users can simply hover their finger over the display of the device and without even touching the images, messages and even their scheduler they can have a peek at the information or can see the preview of the image.
A camera that is a cut above the rest
The ISOCELL camera that Samsung has used in the Galaxy S5 is a leap in terms of camera technology, but everything depends on how well the developers and designers utilise its true potential. And on the Samsung Galaxy S5, this new sensor technology has been used well, as a resulting images captured by the device turn out great.
In terms of colour capture, the camera displays noticeable differences between a regular 16-megapixel camera sensor and the ISOCELL sensor. In addition, the contrast and the level of detail captured by the Galaxy S5 are also very high. One slight downside comes from the saturated display, which tends to show the colours and contrast of the images on the higher end of the range, but viewing the images captured on a computer monitor shows the real thing.
In addition to the ISOCELL sensor, Samsung has also incorporated the use of phase detection autofocus technology on the Galaxy S5. Outrightly, it would be difficult to differentiate between this and the conventional technology, but the differences come out clearly when capturing images of fast-moving objects, which are focussed by the camera on the Galaxy S5 faster resulting in clearer images.
The ISOCELL sensor technology allows camera sensors to capture more detail and offer better sensitivity to light, therefore resulting in sharper looking pictures that offer greater variance in colours as well. And in the Galaxy S5, the same technology has been used in order to offer better pictures with the help of the phase detection autofocus.
The 4K resolution video capture mode provided on the device is good but the fact that neither the device nor your average flat screen television would be able to play that video, sours the deal a bit. For future, having 4K or UHD video recording functionality is great but in reality the 4K video consumes massive storage, and even the device would not be able to show the full potential of the video.
Have a break with KitKat and the new TouchWiz user interface
The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes preloaded with Android KitKat 4.4.2 out of the box, on top of which Samsung has layered the TouchWiz user interface with a ton of features for added functionality.
The most talked about feature of the Galaxy S5 is the ability to secure the phone using your fingerprint. Yes, there is a biometric fingerprint scanner embedded under the home key on the device. With this new functionality users can register up to three fingerprints to be used for unlocking the device. In case the device fails to recognise the fingerprint, there is a backup password to get access to the device.
In terms of added utility, Samsung has replaced the options key with a recent apps key, choosing retain the options menu as provided by various apps on their own, the same way it works on stock Android. The benefit of this functionality comes in form of convenient multitasking capabilities. In addition, the Samsung Galaxy S5 also gets the Multi Window feature, which allows users to run two apps simultaneously on the device without being required to switch between the two.
In terms of preloaded apps, the Galaxy S5 features the My Magazine feed aggregator. It’s powered by Flipboard and displays both news and social networking updates in one place. Users can also customise it as per need.
Additionally, the Galaxy S5 comes preloaded with the all-new S Health app, which gives users access to several health and fitness-related functions of the device, and ties in with the sensors such as the heart rate monitor that Samsung has added to the Galaxy S5. Users can simply create their profile by entering in data related to their age, height, weight and the app takes charge of minitoring health by updating information it gathers through the pedometer functionality, the heart rate sensor etc in providing a holistic view of user’s heath.
To top it all up, Samsung has also added a private mode on the Galaxy S5 as well. This mode enables functionality to hide apps such as gallery, messages, voice recorder, video and more from other users and put them behind a lock, accessible via the fingerprint scanner or a password.
A V8 engine under the hood for serious performance
For India, Samsung has powered the Galaxy S5 with theoOcta-core Exynos 5244 SoC. It consists of two separate quad-core processing clusters running at 1.9Ghz and 1.3Ghz respectively. However, Samsung has improved the performance of the device with one simple trick and this is by enabling the processor to use all the eight cores simultaneously to boost the performance of the device considerably.
Now with this simultaneous utility of all the cores available for the device, Galaxy S5 offer better performance and super battery life with a not-so beefy battery pack as well.
On the Galaxy S5, the Exynos 5244 is coupled with 2GB of RAM, which seems healthy on paper but is too low according to the native task manager. At any point, the TouchWiz user interface consumer more than 75 percent of RAM, that too without having any active apps running in the background. Nevertheless, the performance of the Galaxy S5 is smooth, and application load times and execution remain buttery smooth.
We tried playing both casual and intensive games on the device and there was hardly any noticeable difference between the two as the Galaxy S5 has ample computing and graphical muscle to take care of most HD and even THD games available on Android.
The Air View mode however quite surprisingly puts the Galaxy S5 in a bit of a fix. On two devices, we tried using Air view and it caused the device to freeze up without any heavy task or activity going on. The remedy to this was simple and the device came back to life after turning off and turning the display back on. However, on the performance front, the Samsung Galaxy S5 gets full marks.
When talking about battery, most would think that a high performance device like the Galaxy S5 would be poor at battery conservation, but as odd as it might sound, it’s not so much of a battery hog. When we say this, we aren’t referring to any special mode either. So in general, the Galaxy S5 returns about a day with all-round usage including cellular data, Wi-Fi and multimedia usage. For light users, this can be increased to about a day and a half between recharges.
The Galaxy S5 returned a total time of 10 hours and 40 minutes in our video playback test with a 720p video being played in a loop at about 50 percent brightness and volume levels. HD gaming takes its toll on the device though, and it dies out within four hours while playing graphic and memory intensive games such as MC4 and Asphalt 8.
Now here comes the difficult part – summing up everything about the Samsung Galaxy S5 in a few words. To begin with, the Galaxy S5 is a reasonably good-looking device with a host of innovations done on the on the features and functionality side of things. Then there is the biometric fingerprint security, which feels like a half-baked product as it’s almost useless when you’re a hurry, failing to recognise finger swipes unless they’re done at a specific angle and at a certain speed.
In terms of hardware additions, the ISOCELL camera is certainly a huge welcome even though it misses image stabilisation as its phase shift focus makes up for it. The heart rate sensor is also a good addition as users can now keep a check on their heath on the go. And in addition there is this huge difference in performance made by the Exynos 5244 chip, which now enables all the eight available cores to work simultaneously offering superb performance.
However the TouchWiz user interface consumes a large chunk of the available RAM and we felt that there’s a bug with the Air View feature as it caused two of the devices to freeze up without any tasks running at the background.
Half a lakh isn’t a small amount to pay for a phone, and at that price, you basically have all options open to you. The most notable one of course, is the HTC One (M8) that recently went on sale in the country. While we’re yet to review it, the HTC One (M8) is certainly a gorgeous-looking device and stands out thanks to its all-metal body, though it may not be as loaded in terms of features as the Galaxy S5. Sony’s upcoming flagship, Xperia Z2 could also be worth waiting for, as it’s waterproof and flaunts top-notch specs, including 3GB of RAM and a 20-megapixel snapper.
As a package though, the Samsung Galaxy S5 comes out as a premium performance-oriented device with features that will not get obsolete in the near future. It does lack something when it comes to a flaunt-worthy design and uber premium feel, but it certainly won’t disappoint you if you’re after a loaded flagship.
Price: Rs 51,500
Editor’s rating: 8 / 10
• Great display
• Good battery life
• Sturdy build and IP67-certified
• Good performance
• Amazing camera
• Integrated heart rate sensor and biometric fingerprint reader
• Lacks premium feel because of its plastic body
• Using the fingerprint scanner to unlock requires patience and multiple attempts