Samsung Galaxy S5 teardown proves it’s a lot more than just a bigger S4

Daniel Bader

April 2, 2014 8:15pm

You would be forgiven for mistaking the Galaxy S5 for a minor upgrade over last year’s S4. It’s only slightly bigger, nominally faster (on paper, at least) and similarly styled.

But underneath, Samsung has revitalized the device’s internals, drastically improving the quality of the display, the antenna and baseband architecture, and the camera, while offering new integrated components like a fingerprint sensor and heart rate scanner.

Chipworks, an Ottawa-based company, takes a “rip-it-apart” approach to new phones, unlike iFixit, which does it more holistically (but equally damaging). Chipworks quickly took apart the Korean variant of the Galaxy S5 and found it to sport some interesting chips, including the latest Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC processor — the fastest currently available from Qualcomm — and a brand new Samsung-designed 16MP camera sensor.

It’s that 16MP camera sensor that continues to be the star of the show, as all previous Samsung Galaxy S flagships to date have sported sensors from other companies. In recent years, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4/Note 3 sported Sony IMX stacked chips, similar to those found in the high-end Xperia line (though Sony has since saved its best sensors for its own chips). Now, as we reported last year, Samsung’s own ISOCELL technology has found its way into a shipping product, and it “reportedly enables a 30% reduction in crosstalk and 30% increase in full well capacity,” according to Chipworks’ report.

Screenshot 2014-04-02 17.43.52

This is the “next key image sensor technology after back-illuminated (BSI) sensor technology,” says Samsung, and should provide better quality, faster autofocus and an overall improved camera experience than traditional backside-illuminated sensors.

Chipworks also found the fingerprint sensor to be sourced from Synaptics, the same company behind many Windows and Mac trackpads. According to the report, Samsung is using a technology from Synaptics called “Natural ID” technology, which combines a portion of the touchscreen, which has a higher-resolution digitizer than the rest of the display, with a fingerprint sensor itself for security validation, to ensure accuracy. This process is very different to Apple’s Touch ID, as it requires a vertical swipe down from the touchscreen onto the home button, and one cannot be activated without the other.

Screenshot 2014-04-02 17.42.31

In all, Samsung’s done quite a nice job repackaging and improving on the Galaxy S4 while incorporating “the best performing smartphone display ever” along with a few core hardware improvements.

  • blzd

    Estimated Bill of Materials?

    • Michael Licht

      Not cheap, if you want the water and dust proofing to keep it’s going to be a lot of new parts every time you open the phone.

    • Matt

      Between $220 and $250 I’m guessing.

    • blzd

      Sounds about right. Maybe even a bit closer to $300 as that’s a lot of tech crammed into an airtight package. Latest OLED screens certainly can’t be cheap.

  • Bob Wilson

    I really WANT this phone. Gotta buy off contract. Any sellers? IS it april 11th yet?

    • Dimitri

      Do not know if you both are trolling or not BUT I will answer either way.

      The LTE model will be released April 11th so in 9 days as of today ( Tuesday April 2nd.). All models you will see are going to be 3G Octa Core ones & most likely $900+ to get one which i rather pay $900 to my credit cards or bills.

      So you have 9 more days until the carriers & Samsung release the S5 LTE model.

  • Michael Licht

    It seems Samsung is hating technicians more and more lately.

  • Noah Roesler

    For a second, I was wondering how the screen was still working…

  • Ryan

    I’ve always wondered how they continually ramp up the specs on these phones without the chipset melting, there’s no cooling and very little space for air to get in.

    • Fafa

      It’s quite obvious, the S4 had overheating issues at launch. Even after the update fix, it still wasn’t cool compared to a nexus 5, htc one or even an iphone 5s.

  • OMFCody

    Broken biosensor means you need a whole motherboard. Ouch. But love sammy simplicity, so easy to repair, although not cheap (looking at you, AMOLED)

  • goolger


  • hunkyleepickle

    Played with one in a future shop the other day…. And it still lags. Totally unacceptable.

    • cartfan88

      If it still lags is it better or worse than before? Given the specs thrown at this device…is lag just going to be a part of any device on Android? There was mention of lag on the Samsung Pro tablets threads. Wonder why the lag exists at this stage of the game?

    • HatInTheRing

      Lag has nothing to do with Android. It has to do with skins. It’s Touchwiz that’s the problem. The Moto X and Nexus 5 are lightening fast and remain that way after months of use.

    • iKrontologist

      BullCrApple!!! lol…. Touchwiz has never been the problem and here’s why. Originally it was task management just wasn’t the job done and because Android uses a JIT application layer in older Android versions, it must start up a VM player for each time you open an App up. This is now no longer true if you have ART opened. Instead of using a new VM for every App instance, all Apps are now compiled at install. This eliminates the need for a JIT compiler and being forced to run them in a VM Player.

      Thus Android will now not be bogged down by these processes. With a far better task manager in Touchwiz to go with that, there will be no lag over time as they convert to ART over Dalvik VM and APK Apps!

      Plus Touchwiz runs a LIVE Desktop constantly to enable it’s myriad more features. While Apple persists on running static desktops, canned transitions and animations that cover these processes all up! ART Apps open 30% faster and are actually faster on Android than the same App on iOS 7!!!

      Reality is the Hunkyleepickle is a perverted iCrAppleholic totally brain washed by their Applewellian Thought Police sworn to diss on Samsung at all cost. I hear Apple gives them Apple Logos for when they succeed in spreading all this lame lag propaganda!!!

    • Neater75

      Lag is likely just associated with Samsung bloat. The Nexus 5 doesn’t lag AT ALL.. just as smooth as an iPhone.. Root it and put KitKat on there and this thing will probably fly.. or get a Nexus. Stock Android is amazing.. no need for all the touchwiz stuff..

  • Josh Brown

    It looks like the Micro SD and Micro SIM are stacked that is a really cool Idea to save space.

    • Lion5

      The Note 3 has the micro SD and SIM slots stacked too.

  • Theo

    The size of the battery area looks smaller than S4… Anyone know battery stats for S5?

    • AlphaEdge

      S5: Li-Ion 2800 mAh battery
      S4: Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
      S3: Li-Ion 2100 mAh battery

    • Dimitri

      The S5 has a Li-Ion 2800 mAh Battery. You also need to know that a picture sometimes makes things look smaller then they appear.

    • Domino67

      Thats what I keep telling her 😉