9SCORE 72

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

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Few devices this year are going to receive the attention, and scrutiny, of Samsung’s newest flagship. The Galaxy S5 is the star of Samsung’s expanding smartphone lineup, and as the Korean company’s reach that grown beyond Android enthusiasts, its products have gone through a number of quiet evolutions.

Befitting the fifth product in a series, at the top of an industry settling into a comfortable middle age, the GS5 is mature, taking aim at pain points raised in previous versions. Speeds and feeds are secondary to what the phone can do, and though the company continues to look outside its walls for inspiration, the implementation of those ideas is all Samsung — for better or worse.

Coming to TELUS for $229 on a 2-year and other carriers on April 11th, the Galaxy S5 is a great Android smartphone, but is it a good buy?

Specs

  • Android 4.4.2 with TouchWIZ Flat
  • 5.1-inch 1920×1080 pixel Super AMOLED display
  • 2.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC w/ Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2GB LPDDR3 RAM / 16GB internal storage (with microSD slot)
  • 2,800mAh removable battery
  • 16MP rear 1/2.6″ sensor f/2.2 lens | 2MP front-facing camera
  • 4K video capture @30fps | 1080p video capture @60fps
  • 2×2 MIMO WiFi (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS
  • Fingerprint scanner, heart rate sensor
  • IP67 dust and water resistance
  • 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm
  • 145 grams

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Design & Display

As predictable as the seasons, Samsung’s uninspired Galaxy S5 design may seem lazy, but it’s the result of consistent user feedback, complaints and compliments. Dimpled backing aside, Samsung didn’t make a lot of changes to the phone’s outside, but that’s OK: the Galaxy S5 looks better in person than in images, and feels more solid than any of its predecessors.

Last year’s Hyperglaze back coating, that slimy plastic outrage, has been replaced by a perforated soft-touch surface that feels far nicer in the hand and slips far less. The sides are still chrome, and feel far too cheap for a $700 device, but remain the outlier in a design that has gone from awful to acceptable.

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The utilitarianism of the whole thing feels inevitable, but the Galaxy S5 is better for it. Its biggest liability has now been eliminated, so and the exterior retires to the resplendence of the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, which is far better than its predecessor’s. Brighter, more accurate, and more pleasing to the eye, the Galaxy S5′s screen makes up for its marginally lower pixel density with higher sensitivity and a wider colour gamut. (The GS5 has a high-sensitivity mode for those glove-filled winter months, too.)

Creating a better-looking version of the S4 while maintaining the same design language and seamlessly integrating new hardware into the body is impressive; unfortunately, the value of the hardware additions themselves is questionable. Taking a Synaptics-built fingerprint scanner and using the bottom of the AMOLED screen as a “beacon” of sorts, the home button functions as a swipe-based unlock and purchase mechanism.

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Unlike Apple’s Touch ID, which pairs the optical sensor with a metal ring around the home button itself, Samsung’s version is clunky and unreliable. Because it requires a vertical swipe to activate, unlocking the phone in one hand, which orients the thumb at roughly a 45-degree angle, rarely works. Instead, you’ll have to hold the phone in one hand and swipe straight down with an extended thumb of the other, making it more time-consuming than a PIN or pattern. Yes, it’s roughly more secure, but unlike iOS, which previously offered just PIN and alphanumeric password options, Android’s pattern-based unlock scheme is both quick, secure and one hand-friendly.

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Integration with PayPal, which does not work with Google Play purchases, is not enticing enough to justify the loss of functionality (nor does it work yet in Canada). It would be one thing if the scanner worked well, every time, but the number of false positives — “wipe your finger”, “readjust your position”, “sit up straight,“don’t chew gum,” — were too many, too often. The trick I learned was to register the same finger in multiple positions, making it more like that the Finger Scanner would recognize my right thumb when swiping diagonally, holding the phone in one hand. It was never perfect, nor as reliable as the iPhone 5s’s Touch ID, but it progressed from annoying to tolerable.

An advantage of the finger scanner, other than the nonexistent PayPal integration (which we hear is coming to Canada, eventually), is the ability to use it to enter Private Mode, a way to silo photos, music and other content, from prying eyes.

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The heart rate monitor, which is located next to the rear camera flash, shares a similarly ambiguous distinction: it’s just not that useful. I’m no athlete, but I enjoy a good run now and again, and the practical case for a heart rate sensor is during intense cardio activity. The practicality of having to open S Health, which is admittedly improved over last year, place your finger gingerly (and, like the finger sensor, correctly oriented) over the sensor and wait, ultimately losing your peak heart rate, is low.

Though Samsung isn’t marketing it as such, the heart rate sensor is likely more useful for fringe medical cases, like identifying panic attacks or other time-sensitive heart issues, but athletes will be far better served by a Gear Fit or TomTom Runner Cardio, which permanently affixes a heart rate sensor to ones wrist.

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The Galaxy S5 is certainly better for its new IP67 certification, which covers dust and water resistance. The latter is safe for one metre up by 60 minutes, but other reviewers have those numbers to be relatively conservative. It’s a practical and welcome addition to a phone that continues to prove its mettle in real-world application; Samsung wants this to be a phone its owners will use all day, every, regardless of weather or activity.

And that’s really the story of Samsung’s new flagship. Improvements such a fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor are of dubious usefulness because they either don’t solve a problem, or solve it poorly. But the overall package is excellent, and the tangible upsides over the Galaxy S4 are many.

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Performance & Software

We’ve done a bunch of benchmarks to gauge just how much faster the Snapdragon 801 SoC is than the previous generation, but here’s the short version: it wins in every one. Not only is each of the four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked 200Mhz faster than the HTC One M8, but its internal memory is much faster as well.

Screenshot 2014-04-10 16.28.11

The advantage over the last-generation Snapdragon 800 is between 20% and 30% depending on the category — GPU and IO gains are higher than CPU gains — but Samsung doesn’t need benchmarks to prove this is a faster device than the LG G2 or Sony Xperia Z1.

Samsung has done made important changes to the software experience on the Galaxy S5: it has improved the look of the UI, with a flatter, more accessible layout of menus, buttons and input boxes; it’s substantially beefed up performance throughout the UI, eliminating any jerkiness and app loading issues from the Galaxy S4; and, most importantly for the average person, it has obfuscated some of the more intrusive and superfluous features that resulted in such a bloated experience.

That’s not to say the GS5 is free of gimmick, but Air Gestures, Smart Pause and multitudinous Hubs for all kinds of content have been simplified, hidden and eliminated respectively. JK Shin wasn’t kidding when he said, during the device’s subdued launch, “Our consumers don’t want the most eye-popping technology, and they don’t want the most complex technology…[they] want durable design and performance… a simple yet powerful camera… faster and seamless connectivity.”

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This year’s TouchWIZ may not be the most cohesively-designed Android skin ever made, but it’s considerably more attractive than anything Samsung has accomplished before. Aside from flatter UI elements, there’s a lot less to distract users from just getting on with their lives. For example, a new opt-in feature, Toolbox, acts like a Chat Head for quick app launches, floating a customizable list of five favourites on the current screen. It’s a truly useful addition, especially for quickly accessing the camera, notepad or calculator, and goes from opaque to translucent when not in use.

Another good example of Samsung’s newfound self-restraint is the new notification shade design. It’s still chock-full of app icons, but the editable menu of quick shortcuts looks good and works well. The non-removable S Finder and Quick Connect shortcuts, while less useful, are rationally placed. S Finder is Samsung’s equivalent to Google Search, combining local and web search into a single text input. But where S Finder excels is its speed, as results are generated almost instantly, and make hunting for on-device content a non-issue. It even searches within apps like Evernote, which I use all the time, and allows for filtering specific types of information. Yes, like many aspects of TouchWIZ, it reproduces functionality already provided by Google, but S Finder is nimble and versatile, and has since become indispensable to me.

Less obviously useful is Quick Connect which, like Apple’s AirDrop, attempts to find other devices to share content with over Bluetooth and WiFi Direct. Samsung has been heavily pushing the notion of sharing files between devices in its ecosystem, and Quick Connect acts as a hub for sharing anything, be it a file between two smartphones via its proprietary AllShare service, or a song between a tablet and connected speaker. Unfortunately, due to the closed nature of the portal, Google’s Chromecast and other streaming services don’t seem to play nice with Quick Connect, but that’s not an issue unique to Samsung.

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One of Samsung’s biggest pushes this year is in health and fitness management, and its evolution of S Health is a key component of that. At once its most attractive and functional first-party app, it’s clear that it’s been developed with an ecosystem in mind. Though you’ll need the Gear Manager or Gear Fit Manager, downloaded separately from S Apps, to control the wearable accessories themselves, S Health has been tuned to work well with or without additional hardware.

Using my phone as a pedometer has never really appealed to me, not because I don’t trust the results but because the activities during which I really push myself — soccer, ultimate frisbee, etc. — are seldom paired with a phone. As HTC attempted to do with the One M8 by partnering with Fitbit, using the Galaxy S5 to gauge activity levels always feels incomplete, an approximation of one’s daily movement. The same is true of the heart rate monitor, which I used several times alongside a pulse oximeter to determine the GS5′s accuracy, and came away unimpressed. As already stated, few athletes are going to care about accumulating pulse data after the fact, and I found the data itself to be consistently 3-10bpm off the medical-grade oximeter. Of course, Samsung would never want a consumer device to be used for diagnosis or treatment purposes, but I question the soundness of increasing costs both to the BOM and, inevitably, consumers, by adding a half-baked feature like this.

As a casual tool, though, S Health is quite good. It makes it easy to track eating habits, weight, exercise, heart rate trends and more, and will eventually integrate with third-party apps with an SDK. The Galaxy S5 is also much more power-efficient than its predecessor, so using the device to track steps over a whole day will no longer consume large amounts of battery.

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Samsung has also further integrated Flipboard into its core Android experience, moving the My Magazine section from a relatively hidden spot on the Note 3 to its impossible-to-miss place on the far-left home screen. Like HTC’s BlinkFeed, My Magazine consolidates a number of topics, from tech news to politics to sports, in a single section, but it’s far less versatile, with fewer content sources and, for some inexplicable reason, no Facebook support. It is removable if desired, but I found it to be a quick-and-dirty way to catch up on daily news without opening Flipboard proper.

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Samsung has finally done away with its capacitive menu button, opting for a slightly more modern combination of physical home button, right-side back button and left-side multitasking button. This is the same layout that caused so much angst when the HTC One X was announced in February 2012, but today far fewer apps rely on the old Gingerbread-style menu layout. Samsung has wisely opted to emulate a menu press for those legacy apps by holding down the multitasking button for a second, but I rarely found it necessary.

This brings us to an important aside about Android as a platform. Samsung would love if it you purchased Amazing Alex from the Samsung Apps store, but it’s clear that widespread adoption of an alternative app store is going to be extremely difficult for the company to achieve. There are many, many apps, mainly from smaller startups, that are not yet on Android, but the vast majority of well-known companies have attractive and capable versions on the Play Store.

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It can’t be overstated that the Galaxy S5, like the HTC One M8 and Nexus 5 and Moto X and any other KitKat-running device, is hugely advantaged by the platform’s progress in general. Core experiences like Twitter, Rdio, Instagram, Evernote, Dropbox and thousands of others perform almost identically on Android to their iOS counterparts, which is a far cry from its sorry state just 18 months ago.

But in some ways, Samsung tries to undermine this progress by preferencing its inferior first-party apps. This makes sense, but it’s frustrating to users. Why are there two app stores, two gallery apps, two messaging apps, two search apps, two browsers, two music apps and two office suites? It’s impossible to expect Samsung, or any OEM for that matter, to cede these options completely to Google, but some culling would be appreciated. But the fragmentation is a result of Android’s cockamamie app associations.

For example, it’s Google’s fault there are two gallery apps: they began bundling a separate Photos app with a recent version of Google+, whereas Samsung’s Gallery app is actually a container for its camera — without it, the camera would simply not work. It also appears that Google now forces OEMs to bundle Chrome with other Play services, but Samsung’s browser continues to be far faster, and because it takes advantage of KitKat’s Immersive Mode, more suitable for the big screen. Samsung is also partly to blame here: Google Now is far more useful than S Voice, but double-tapping on the home button brings up the service, version after version, year after year.

In many ways, Android users are both lucky and disavantaged by the sheer volume of services choice. There are ecosystem pressures at every turn, from Google at the framework and content level, Samsung at the software level, and companies like Evernote and Dropbox at the client level. There are a million ways to do something, and none of them are good at everything.

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Camera

The 16MP 1/2.6” sensor bundled with the f/2.2 lens is, quite simply, amazing. Yes, the device would be better served by lowering the total pixel count and increasing the size of the individual pixels, but the GS5 takes incredible photos, with some of the fastest autofocus I’ve ever seen on a smartphone.

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The camera interface, which has always been too busy on Samsung flagships, has been considerably toned down, with the number of Modes down to six by default, with more available in the Samsung Apps store (including the excellent Surround Shot mode). While many sites are making noise about the Selective Focus feature — the ability to blur out the background or seemingly refocus the photo after the fact — the feature is simplistic and not always effective. Because the HTC One M8 actually has two sensors, it doesn’t need to take separate photos which, as you can above by the moving feet, is what the GS5 is doing.

If you’re having a tough time deciding between the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8, the camera may be your tipping point. It’s not the fact that the phone has four times the spatial resolution of the M8 — the photos aren’t four times better, you linear thinker, you — but the difference is notable. It’s not even the extra detail captured, but the accuracy of those details. The camera launches quickly, focuses quickly and nine times out of ten takes a great photo. It pulls in macro subjects with ease, solves exposure in troublesome lighting, and prevents blur with one of the best software stabilization algorithms I’ve ever used.

The Galaxy S5 falls short of the HTC One M8 when shooting in low light — the smaller individual pixels, even with Samsung’s new ISOCELL-based sensor, are the reason — but still manages to best its predecessor by a healthy margin in this regard. Fortunately, I require a great low-light camera less often than I do a consummate all-round shooter, and it’s for this reason I’d pick the Galaxy S5′s sensor over the M8′s, even if HTC’s camera experience, especially when factoring in its superior front-facing camera and Zoe movie clips, is better.

Like the Galaxy Note 3 before it, the GS5′s ability to shoot 4K video (3840×2160 pixels) is a non-starter for me. It’s too processor intensive — though fewer frames are dropped with the improved ISP and faster memory on the Snapdragon 801 compared to its immediate predecessor — and far too storage expensive to leave on by default, but it’s an interesting technology demo. The captured video is indeed beautiful, and even without hardware stabilization results impress. It comes nowhere near the smoothness of a Nokia Lumia 1020, for instance, and we’ll have to test it against the Bell-exclusive Sony Xperia Z2 when it arrives, but the GS5 provides an unparalleled shooting experience on Android at the moment.

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Battery Life & Connectivity

The final chapter in the success (or failure) of the Galaxy S5 comes in terms of battery life and connectivity, and I’m happy to say the device comports itself extremely well in both cases. Even without utilizing the strange and wonderful Ultra Power Saving Mode, which shuts off background processes, makes the screen monochrome, and limits the number of apps you can run, the Galaxy S5 sips power.

It lasted a couple of hours longer in our tests than the HTC One M8, with its higher clock speeds offset by a slightly larger 2,800mAh battery. That the cell is replaceable, too, is an advantage, especially since Samsung was able to add water and dust resistance to the device while maintaining a removable battery cover. In our video looping tests, where we take a clip at medium brightness and loop it until the battery dies, the Galaxy S5 lasted approximately 14 hours.

Subjectively, the device lasted 30-40% longer than the Snapdragon 600-powered Galaxy S4, bringing it into one day-plus territory. When we spoke to Qualcomm about how the company achieved such battery savings with faster cores, a company rep pointed to two specific advancements in this generation of SoCs: a more efficient 28nm manufacturing process, which uses comparatively less power per cycle; and envelope tracking, a feature of the baseband that matches antenna transmit and receive power to the CPU speed for higher efficiency. The device uses much less battery power staying connected to a nearby cell site when reception is good, and ramps it up when a stronger signal is needed.

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As is customary with new Samsung hardware, the Galaxy S5 excels in the connectivity department, too. It’s the first device with 2×2 MIMO 802.11ac WiFi, which boosts its theoretical maximum downlink throughput to a staggering 436Mbps. Of course, a compatible router is necessary to negotiate those speeds, and while WiFi-ac is becoming a standard on midrange models, it’s still difficult to find MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) in anything but the $150-250 range.

Being a Category 4 LTE device, the Galaxy S5 can achieve speeds of 150Mbps down and 50Mbps up over cellular networks. Of course, it’s very difficult to achieve such speeds in reality, and we were comfortably able to hit 40Mbps down in some areas of Toronto, with ping times under 50ms in most cases.

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The Galaxy S5 supports all LTE bands currently rolled out in Canada, including 2600Mhz, and as you can see above it connects to Rogers on Band 7 with 20x20Mhz channels, for a theoretical maximum speed of 150Mbps. Curiously, when limited to HSPA+, the Galaxy S5 connects to Rogers on Band 2 (1900Mhz) using the DC-HSPA+ technology, for a theoretical maximum downlink of 42Mbps.

New to the device is Download Booster, a way to combine the downlink capabilities of the WiFi and cellular connections. When enabled, downloads larger than 30MB will attempt to use both radios, though only over HTTP — anything downloaded outside of the browser is not eligible. It’s a great idea, and works quite well in practice, though Samsung acknowledges that customers with limited cellular packages may want to keep the feature disabled.

A few more thoughts:

  • The physical home button is so much better than any Samsung device before it. It’s clicky and springy and a joy to use.
  • Even though the phone is ever-so-slightly larger than the Galaxy S4, it never feels bigger, and is easily usable in one hand with almost no readjustment to reach the top of the display.
  • To ensure IP67 certification, the USB 3.0 port is covered with a plastic clip that feels quite flimsy. It’s a necessary evil, but I hope next year Samsung will figure out another method — maybe a slider.
  • Speaking of the USB 3.0 port, the device charges extremely quickly when connected to a compatible port, but achieving those higher transfer speeds requires explicitly switching to High Speed Transfer Mode, which looks like a limitation of the OS X and Windows transfer protocols.
  • Call quality was very good, with excellent dynamic range and good noise cancellation.
  • The GPS locked on quickly and accurately, both in Google Maps and other location-based apps like Transit.
  • The rear mono speaker, located in its regular bottom-left position, sounds thin, weak and sibilant, especially after reviewing the HTC One M8.
  • Even though wireless charging isn’t built into the device, Samsung sells a rather expensive $30 back cover replacement.
  • There’s an IR blaster built into the device, too, but unlike HTC’s home theatre software, which received an extensive design overhaul, Samsung’s Smart Remote software looks and functions like it was made in 2010. Just an awful experience.
  • Canadians must deal with a base 16GB model in white or black, which comes with around 10GB of user-accessible space. A microSD card is, unfortunately, almost a necessity.
  • Where’s my nano-SIM?

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Conclusions

Samsung’s fifth-generation Galaxy S flagship takes a checklist approach to improving upon its predecessors. A less slippery back cover, water resistance, a more elegant software experience, a vastly improved camera and impressive leaps in performance contrast with hardware additions of dubious merit. The fingerprint sensor is useful but often frustrating, while the heart rate sensor feels superfluous, an example of Samsung’s profligate feature creep we hoped it would leave behind.

While the Galaxy S5 boasts one of the best Android experiences currently available, Samsung can no longer claim unchecked dominance over the market; HTC has upped its game this year, while Sony, LG, Motorola and others are quickly learning from past mistakes.

If you have a Galaxy S4, there is little reason to shell out the money for its successor, but a Galaxy S3 owner approaching the two-year market in his or her contract should feel comfortable making the leap to Samsung’s latest. A great AMOLED screen, the latest processor from Qualcomm, some of the fastest connectivity in the business, and a consistently excellent camera will surely challenge the iPhone 5s in the right places, but more so than in years past the Galaxy S5 sees Samsung playing catch up.

*Disclaimer: This review was published using a TELUS-branded Galaxy S5, but some of the network-specific tests were done using other carriers.

Final Score

OVERALL

9OVERALL SCORE

The Galaxy S5 boasts one of the best Android experiences currently available, but Samsung can no longer claim unchecked dominance over the market; HTC has upped its game this year, while Sony, LG, Motorola and others are quickly learning from past mistakes. If you have a Galaxy S4, there is little reason to shell out the money for its successor, but a Galaxy S3 owner approaching the two-year market in his or her contract should feel comfortable making the leap to Samsung’s latest. A great AMOLED screen, the latest processor from Qualcomm, some of the fastest connectivity in the business, and a consistently excellent camera will surely challenge the iPhone 5s in the right places, but more so than in years past the Galaxy S5 sees Samsung playing catch up.

DETAILED BREAKDOWN

7
Design
8
Software
9.5
Display
9.5
Performance
8
Build Quality
9
Camera
9
Connectivity
9
Battery Life
  • Monit Guin

    I am sure you meant to say April 11th/2014

  • Ken K.

    Galaxy S3 SS with dimples aka S5 for the win!

  • silver_arrow

    “Curiously, when limited to HSPA+, the Galaxy S5 connects to Rogers on Band 2 (1900Mhz) using the DC-HSPA+ technology, for a theoretical maximum downlink of 42Mbps.”

    This is very interesting. Does this mean that in theory all DCHSPA+ should work on rogers and get the max 42mbps or is this something special Samsung has done.

    • wahwah

      This is a rogers thing, and not available everywhere. For example, in Waterloo Ontario there is only one location where you can achieve those speeds and connection type, and that is in the vacinity of the beer store on Weber street near Bridgeport. Also, on most phones you can’t tell if you’ve connected to the second hspa channel unless doing a speed test. Most phones will show hspap or hspa+ wherever a 3g connection is available, regardless.

  • Thomas

    Ahh no, the design killed it. It feels like a step back from where the S4 was.

    • Tyler

      I’m not a fan of the design either and as for the “creative team of samsung” there’s nothing creative about making a smaller note 3 and calling it an s5.

  • kill me

    With the dimples, it’s more aero to throw it to the trash bin. The turbulent air flow around the back cover will increase the distance of the separation point of the streamline away from the phone, creating smaller wake, and thus reducing the aerodynamic drag.

    • wahwah

      ^^this! Lol

  • jellmoo

    The sad part right now is that these flagship Android handsets are using really gimmicky features to try and differentiate themselves and attract attention. Whether it’s a half baked fingerprint sensor, a heart rate monitor or a second lens to make camera effects, the S5 and M8 have spent less time improving the core experience than they have with adding superfluous items.

    If you boil it down it comes to two things: 1) Do you prefer having a better camera or having boomsound speakers? and 2) Do you want an aluminum build (with all the associated advantaged and disadvantages) or a plastic build (with all the associated advantages and disadvantages)?

    The Z2 is on the horizon, and it looks like it has avoided the gimmick battle in an attempt to improve on the device, but it remains to be seen exactly how well it accomplishes that. We still have the next Moto X on the horizon, which will hopefully continue improving overall user experience, and the G3 which may be positioned late enough in the year to have a strong tech advantage. Both the S5 and M8 may end up facing stronger competition and looking the worse for it.

    • PreferredGeoff

      The s5 is def nice, review is bang on about the gimmicks. Heart rate and fingerprint reader are crap. They should have named it the s4s as its not a huge upgrade. The z2 you speak of is having tons of issues with the phone becoming unsealed and manufacturing becoming an issue. Why we won’t see it till may. Samsung did copy apple again here by releasing a phone that is marginally better than the last one, but really not worthy of a new number. Should just added the S at the end.

    • jellmoo

      I’m fine with the naming to be honest. Not every year requires a massive change in device. The S5 is clearly in an iterative year, rather than one of change. Honestly, if I were Samsung I would be spending less money on gimmicky features like a heart rate monitor or fingerprint scanner, and really doubling down on the software side. Not to implement new features, but to really improve the user experience and aesthetics of their software layer.

      The Z2 is having big problems, absolutely. The big one being that Sony has a lot of trouble executing on their plans and getting their device to market. Carrier exclusivity certainly doesn’t help them either.

    • J-Ro

      There is very little phones can do to improve now. All that is really left to set phones aside from each other are the gimmicks. Android phones have more gimmicks than most because of how many makers there are.

      I personally haven’t seen any big moves from Samsung since the GS3. Everything after that is just a victory lap.

    • Tom

      There is one thing phones can improve on: BATTERY LIFE.

      If you have a galaxy S3 or other best-of-2012 device like the Nexus 4, there is very little reason to upgrade to anything new. You get 1080p vs 720p (yeah right big deal on a device meant to fit in one hand…), faster specs (which don’t actually show any improvement), maybe a better camera (but a standalone point-and-shoot is still way better), etc. Cool stuff but unless my Nexus 4 is lost or damaged, I’m sticking with it even though I can well afford to get a Nexus 5.

      But if one of these new phones gets godly battery life that totally blows away what my N4 achieves… shut up and take my money!

    • J-Ro

      I completely agree. Having all these great features mean nothing if I have to be connected to an outlet to use them.

    • krazyking

      U forgot the new kid on the block. The One Plus One. I believe it will be the flagship killer this year. The specs and price point can’t be beat. The One Plus One will definitely shake things up.

    • jellmoo

      Oh, I am most definitely waiting to be wowed by the One Plus One. The first camera samples looked great. If it is everything it promises to be, it could be a serious contender. The one hurdle I see them having is distribution and execution. Will they be able to satisfy demand, and ship all over the world?

  • jellmoo

    Why? Why should it have been a 9.3 or 9.5? What exactly is the huge improvement that warrants such a high score?

    • thedosbox

      Presumably because he owns a Samsung and needs someone to validate his purchase.

    • jellmoo

      But does that net the device a higher score? I mean, a 9 is a very high score to begin with, and it is higher than what they gave the M8.

      Touchwiz has seen *some* improvement, but it still is less polished than say Sense, and still somewhat inconsistent. Design is pretty subjective, but the S5 does have a strike against it for being a fair deal larger than the S4.

    • krazyking

      He gave the M8 an unwarranted 9.2. The S5 is ugly as hell but its tiny upgrades far outweigh those of the M8. The difference between the M7 & M8 = larger screen & better processing power. That is it. Oh wait i forgot ….. Micro sd support. WOW.

    • realitycheck

      the m8 also LOST image stabalization….

    • jellmoo

      You’re absolutely right, I completely misremembered the score on the M8.

      To be fair, I’m not a big fan of either device. But if I were to boil it down, I’m less of a fan of the M8. The S5, at the very least, is an improvement over the S4. The M8, while it improves most things over the M7, actually regressed in a few areas, and made no attempt to actually improve upon its most controversial aspect (the camera).

    • krazyking

      I totally agree. Nothing on the market yet worth getting. Maybe the Z2 when it comes to Canada but it will be at least $700 + tax. That’s why I’m awaiting the announcement of the One Plus One on April 24th. Hopefully it will be the flagship killer this year.

  • alphs22

    Feel free to write your own review.

  • thedosbox

    I was wondering when the first complaint about the score would be. Congratulations! You win the prize for thinking an arbitrary number means anything.

  • Ayden Suzzivan

    Not one mention of call quality. Unreal.

    • L Joel

      “Call quality was very good, with excellent dynamic range and good noise cancellation.”

    • sharkhark

      He did mention it but literally just a tiny paragraph buried at the near bottom. Literally 90% down the page. Pretty sad that the one guaranteed feature a phone is used for is glossed over. I just had another Samsung loaner while my gs2 was out and I couldn’t hear people at all.
      Trust me call quality is important but not to reviewers….. Pretty sad.

    • Max Fireman

      Since when is call quality important anymore?

    • Ayden Suzzivan

      It’s a PHONE

  • monsterduc1000

    Best phone on the market, bar none, for the next few weeks anyway :)

  • RMT

    I love the marketing. Do they think that people don’t know that pretty much any Android smartphone can function as a heart rate monitor?

    I have been using the “Instant Heart Rate” app for years with all of my phones…

  • southerndinner

    Because the Samsung haters would spam 1 votes for everything like that cesspool at gsmarena. Phones bring out the worst in people whether they love or hate something.

  • southerndinner

    Great review. Hope this puts Sony in the ground as their mobile division deserves to be after pumping out unreliable garbage. This and the M8 mean a solid year for Android already. Can’t wait to see what the Note 4 brings to the table.

    • RMT

      Huh, my Sony Z Ultra has been the best phone I have owned and I quite literally buy (and sell) them all…

      Your personal opinion has as much weight as mine. ;-)

    • Dimitri

      You have to remember, you aren’t the only one and same with the other user.

      As much as i love Sony products, their phones are good for waterproofing and the Ultra has good battery. Other then that they have issues. Looking at the Sony community forums and Facebook looks like many are complaining about the phones.

    • RMT

      I never said the Sony doesn’t have problems. I find the screen a little too sensitive for one thing but the good points outweigh the bad by far.

      Is there such a thing as a perfect device of any sort?

      Samsung, HTC, Apple etc all have numerous complaints and problems.

    • Dimitri

      Oh I agree with you. There is no perfect phone out there. Every phone has it’s own issues.

    • Joseph

      I loved my Z1 until they updated it to 4.4 and it became the biggest piece of junk that I have ever owned and then I decided to go back to the Note series which is what I have loved for a while now :D

    • southerndinner

      My personal opinion is based on selling devices in a retail environment. Not one OEM has more devices coming back defective than Sony, especially the Z1. I sell twenty or thirty Samsung and Apple devices to every one Sony but the Sony devices come back more than anything else. This has been an on going thing, not a small sample of a month and my coworkers refuse to sell Sony to people without warning them ahead of time.

      I’ve asked our regional service manager too and he’s said they are a much higher defect rate and he sees them in as often as Samsung + Apple combined.

    • RMT

      Interesting, I own six small retail kiosks and stores in western Canada and don’t have the same experience. I’ll have to talk to my GM tomorrow for more accurate details.

  • Jeffery Smith

    Your actually nitpicking a . 3 variance for a phone?? Sheesh

  • Nick dV.

    TouchWiz….what are you doing….TouchWiz…STAHP. But seriously, I can’t fathom as to why it’s getting uglier. With every version there’s less and less consistency. Looks like a clown threw up. And people seem to be okay with this. The new settings aesthetic? AWFUL. Come on Samsung you’re better than this – I think.

  • d a

    “The trick I learned was to register the same finger in multiple positions….”
    As I understand it, all of these scanners, including the iphone’s, require doing this to work reasonably well. I don’t know which is better or if they’re both good or crap but from what I saw on a program, the Iphone can be quite crap also if you don’t register your fingerprints at different angles.

  • eszklar

    I wonder if Samsung will release a GPe version of the S5 much like they did with the S4 last year (in the US)? If you’re not a TouchWiz fan, then flash up the GPe or equivalent AOSP ROM for the S5. Don’t care about the heart rate sensor or biometric finger sensor myself so I don’t care it they don’t work.

  • Steve LeGrand

    I wanted to like the Galaxy S5 but ended up returning it less than twenty four hours after purchasing it for two reasons the first was on my unit Microsoft Exchange services kept causing applications like Contacts and email to force close constantly the other issue and one I have even noticed on every S5 that I have seen is the speaker cases the entire back plate to vibrate this can be aggravating especially if you receive and send a lot of messages as it is constantly going off.

    • Steve LeGrand

      on the two or three units I tried every time the speaker was in use, such as phone ringing, music or even notifications the entire back of the phone would vibrate, it was like an annoying buzzing feeling. First noticed it when turning it on and the touch screen clicks were causing it I thought it was just haptic feedback but even after disabling it the problem persisted.

  • Poik

    Having demo’d both the S5 and the M8 I came away with the S5 being a better phone. The water/dust thing is very nice, camera was better than the gimmicky M8, sizing was better (the M8 is really tall for no good reason), and the S5 has better batter life while being faster. The aluminum body was nice but with all that length the power button was really awkwardly placed.

    My biggest peeve with all phones thus far in 2014 is that 16GB base models should be for entry level phones. Flagships should come with a minimum 32GB or even 64GB. This is 2014. Not 2008. Yes, I know I can add an SD card but with the new Android rules that doesn’t always solve the limitations of the OS. This is why more storage space should be the default. Besides if they all went 32GB it wouldn’t end up any more expensive due to supply and demand.

  • Patrick Polish

    Overall a great review, Touches a lot on my experience with the phone. I find it disappointing that your review was based on a Rogers S5 and you totally omitted SureTap. I mean that rocks, people have been stopping me in supermarkets and gas stations and asking how tha heck did i pay with my phone. Also would have been nice to see a section that talked about the Gear 2 Neo, which most rogers customers that upgraded got for 50$. Well, if you think about it, the Neo deserves its own review. It is a MAJOR improvement over the 1st Gear in every way.

  • FlageJan1

    how did the display get a 9.5 lol? it has a worse screen than the GS4 less PPI, all they did was over expose the lighting a bit

    • Dimitri

      I wonder how u got that is the worsed yet most reviews love the screen and the S5 screen is the best in the market.

    • FlageJan1

      most reviews are opinions, for the reasons i mentioned, over exposed lighting. That does not mean the ACTUAL screen quality and resolution increased, in fact it got worse. 441 ppi for the gs4 vs 432 for the gs5. Again this doesn’t deserve a 9.5 if anything a 8.5

    • crocop24

      stop just looking at specs.

    • DorksUnlimited

      The review also considered brightness, contrast and color accuracy which are all markedly improved. The 2% decrease in resolution is not perceptible to the human eye.

    • imrangr1

      Just coz it’s less PPI doesn’t mean it’s worse. S5 toned down the saturation and screen looks more natural than b4. It might be a tad bit less bright then S4 but I prefer the screen in S5.

    • FlageJan1

      you’re right, compared the phones the other day and gotta say the 9.5 is a good rating…

      i spoke too soon

  • JBR

    I am a bit dismayed at the number of times the phrase “consumers don’t want change” or “people like familiarity” are said by the reviewer. Isn’t that EXACTLY what Android users are consistently demanding and expecting from their phones? Innovations over iterations? If Samsung continues to slightly improve each phone, then are they not exactly the Android version of an Apple device? Sure, this phone is faster, slightly larger and has a new version of TouchWiz, but what does it do that no other phone does?

    I have an S4 which I’m quite happy with, but it disappoints me to see that the consumer is actually being ignored. Most message boards are full of Android users bagging on Apple for making incremental improvements to their phones and now Samsung is travelling that same road to sameness. Is it a better phone that the S4? Sure, but how drastic a difference is it really? This is not a revolutionary phone, just marginally better. Maybe they’ve run out of ideas or perhaps they believe that they’ve achieved phone design perfection and there’s no need to innovate any further, but I would disagree.

    • crocop24

      well what do you want that is reasonable and that is missing???

    • JBR

      If I knew that then you’d be writing a comment about the awesome phone that I just designed. My point was, when it was iPhone vs a myriad of choice between Android phones, everyone criticized Apple for making the same phone over and over but now that Samsung is doing it, it’s just fine…..

  • imrangr1

    Complains regarding too similar with S4 or too many bloatware is justified, I can’t see why trying new things is bad.

    I know many Samsung users don’t like the ‘S’ applications and would like to take it out from the their phones. But I sure can understand Samsung pushing for it.
    IMO the Fingerprint scanner is a bit gimmicky whether on iPhones and SGS5. I rather not think about losing my finger and happy to memorize my passwords/pins.

    The heartrate monitor is a bit niche but can be very useful. You may personally not use it but you are in a situation where you need to take other people’s heartbeat this can be helpful. (Although it will depend how accurate it is)

    I can understand if S4 users don’t upgrade to this but S3 or other older phone users should definitely check it out. I finally upgraded to S4 from Motorola RAZR (first RAZR Android) so too me it feels very next-gen. Atleast Samsung tries to add a lot of things in their yearly iterations unlike most other companies.

  • ChristopherPape

    I looked at this phone seriously and then bought a BlackBerry z30

    To be honest, android and iOS are fine for music, videos and games but androids email options are terrible, and iphone’s keyboard is useless.

    To be fair I have an iPhone as a personal phone if I want media.

  • Stingcharger

    Please need a new phone

  • Andrew English

    SpeedTest as a test should not be used unless you have a dedicated internet connection and there are no other devices connected to it other than the wireless router and smartphone.

  • Hugo Danick Samson

    Sweet phone :)

  • Alex

    Oh dude, you should NOT ever again do voice/video reviews :( Horrible talk, chopped, repetitions, non-sense at times… Such a badly presented review!

  • Levar Rowe

    please don’t try and make nano-sims relevant

  • Rene Grondin

    I purchase the s5 2 weeks ago from Bell,the big surprise is the gpu I plugged it on my Panasonic 58” led tv with a MHL adapter ”micro-usb to hdmi”,incredible image,crisp and clear,real 1080p,,things I filmed and pictures I took are way better than blueray or my computer its like a very good mediaplayer!

  • Eluder

    Got my hands on an S5 and have to say, the screen is amazing, definitely the best screen I’ve seen on any cellphone. Comparing it to the M8 which I also have, it’s a tad slower, just not as snappy, but that’s expected since touchwiz still stinks. Battery life is exceptional, but it’s also amazing on the M8, those new snapdragon 801′s sure do sip power! I found the frequent reminders about making sure the casing/port cover is on my phone properly (for water resistance) to be quite annoying, didn’t see any option to disable those reminders, but I didn’t look much yet. It’s a great device, and a much closer race this time around vs the M8. Where last year it was clear that the M7 was the better of the two devices (vs S4), this year, it’s a wash which phone you pick as both are quite fantastic.

  • F Young

    Rereading this review a second time months later, I found it exceptionally useful and balanced, compared to many other reviews that are rah-rah, or a compilation of benchmark results or a quick overview of features.

    I would have appreciated far more emphasis on call quality and the utility of the water resistance in practice.

  • Knuckleberry Pinn

    Two types of people use non-iphones:

    1) People whose work gave them non-iphones
    2) People who can’t afford an iphone.

  • zeynepie

    can you please make a review for the galaxy s5 active!! thank you!!

  • Abdi Mohamed

    good read!

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