Editor’s Note: Adapted from T3 Malaysia June 2014
As looks go, Samsung’s new S5 is rather nondescript though its dimpled texture makes it less prone to slipping out of your hands. It does have something to one-up the competition though – it’s IP67 rated, meaning that it’s water resistant for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water and dustproof too. The only quibble with the design here is that the rear 16-MP camera portrudes out slightly, rendering it at possible risk of damage.
Compared to the S4, the GALAXY S5 is marginally thicker by 0.2mm for a still svelte 8.1mm thickness and heavier by 15g though what you get in the bargain is a larger 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, a beefed up 2.5GHz quad-core processor, an improved 16-MP camera, a heart rate sensor, a fingerprint sensor, LTE and a larger 2800mAh battery.
Under the hood is where most of the subtle changes lie. The S5 sports the latest version of their TouchWizUI overlaying Android 4.4 Kit Kat. Learning from the S4, they’ve pared most of the bundled apps down to optional downloads rather than having it take up space on your phone. What remains are the essentials barring Android’s own stock apps – Samsung’s own ChatON natter app, their S Health app, their S Voice command app and notably Smart Remote that lets you remote control Samsung tellies with the phone. The revamped TouchWiz UI offers easier to ID icons along with the addition of a new private mode that keeps content – be it music, pics or videos – hidden from prying eyes until you input the right password. The most practical addition is the inclusion of a new Ultra Power Saving Mode. This turns the screen down to grayscale and limits you to the essentials like making calls and texts, allowing a 10% charge to last you 24 hours. A full charge can last a whopping 12 plus days in this mode. With normal usage, the S5 is easily able to last through a day’s worth of aggressive use even with gaming, movie watching, web browsing and texting throughout the day with enough left over for the commute home.
Befitting its top-shelf specs, the S5 handled everything thrown at it like a champ with nary a sign of lag. Full HD movies were a treat and games like Dead Trigger 2 were silky smooth. One feature of note here is its capability to use both Wi-Fi and LTE simultaneously to download files that they’ve dubbed as the Download Booster; useful when needed.
The Super AMOLED display proved to be particularly impressive both in sharpness and clarity, with beautifully deep blacks and brilliant whites onscreen. Text is equally crisp as well. There’s even an option for you to tweak the intensity of the display with a variety of options ranging from the vivid hues in Dynamic mode to more realistic shades in Photo mode. Audio is suitably loud on the built-in speakers for otherwise general use though having them facing front would have been a nice touch.
The key area of innovation for the S5 though is its 16-MP rear camera which has a unique Samsung designed Isocell sensor for better performance. The camera also has a number of handy modes, including HDR and a Selective Focus mode that relies on software rather than hardware to tastefully blur the background so you can achieve a shallow depth of field effect like a DSLR. It’s also able to capture 4K video, albeit for 5 minutes max.
Snaps on the S5 are the best to date on any Samsung smartphone in the market and it beats quite a few competitors as well with swift focusing and great shots in auto mode even when indoors; HDR mode ensures snaps retain plenty of detail and a smorgasbord of filters are on hand to gussy up your shots. Selective Focus mode is rather exacting in how it works though – subjects need to be 50cm away and the background needs to be at least 1.5m away to obtain best results. It’s finicky though when it works, it produces pleasing results.
As a whole, the S5 is a compelling successor to the S4. While some of its new features are nice extras, it retains what made the S4 successful and improves on it even more, in particular its crisp 1080p display, better battery life and potent 16-MP camera.
Love Excellent display, superb camera, battery saving mode is a life saver, well specced
Hate Camera Selective focus mode is a bit hit and miss
T3 Says While it’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the GALAXY S5 is still a powerful smartphone that has it where it counts