5.1 inch HD screen
Excellent 16 megapixel camera
Water and dust resistant
Heart monitor with health and fitness apps
Samsung Galaxy S5 Review
Another year, another Galaxy S flagship. We find out what the S5 is all about.
Introduced February 2014
by Jim Monroe
As well as water resistance and fingerprint recognition, other noticeable and notable upgrades setting the Galaxy S5 aside from its predecessor include new IP67 certification, which to you and me means it is now water and dust resistant, though notably not actually waterproof like the Sony Xperia Z1 and Z2
There are much improved camera functions including the aforementioned fast focus - the world's fastest autofocus on a mobile phone in fact - and HDR, which brightens shots when the subject matter is in shade or low light.
Samsung are also making loud noises about the improved S Health functions which include a fitness program suite that links to their Gear Fit accessory and also includes a built in heart monitor and pedometer. The other feature of note is the download booster which speeds up file transfers by combining your 4G and Wi-Fi signals - assuming you can get anywhere near a 4G signal of course.
Further improvements over the Galaxy S4 include a slightly increased screen size of 0.1 inch to 5.1 inches, while the 1080 x 1920 pixels means that the density is down a fraction from 441 to 432 pixels per inch, though in the real world your eyes will not be capable of detecting this slight drop.
The excellent Super AMOLED 16 million colour screen is retained - unsurprising as it is hard to better. Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 protects Samsung's TouchWiz interface.
Samsung Galaxy smartphone fans will know that the design usually takes one of two forms, a more curved, rounded shape or a more squared off look. Samsung seem to alternate the two and this time they have gone for the latter.
The back is also flatter than before and has a raised dotted matte panel which looks a little industrial but will make it easier to hold. You will also note the interesting device which is the heart rate sensor, which sits next to the flash below the camera aperture.
The overall casing is still plastic but now does at least have a more premium feel to it with an attractive chrome bezel and unmistakeable design cues. The front panel is typical Samsung Galaxy design consisting mostly of screen of course, and doesn't differ much from the Galaxy S4 but the main difference isn't visible to the naked eye as such.
We refer to the famous Samsung physical Home button which now doubles as a fingerprint sensor with which you can unlock the phone. This is of course in direct response to the same feature being introduced on iPhone 5s, but Samsung include an app from which you can log into your PayPal account which we think is a genuinely useful tool. But then we would - our very own checkout uses secure Paypal payments!
Powerful new processor
Beneath the screen, power is the key to ensuring that the raft of high specification features run smoothly and the Galaxy S5 duly obliges with a massive 2.5 GHz Qualcomm snapdragon processor - that's more power than many desktop PCs have - and this is backed up with 2GB of RAM memory.
Built-in storage is offered in 16 and 32GB variants, though no sign yet of the rumoured 64GB version hitting the streets and we will probably never see one in the UK if it materialises at all. Still, if 32GB isn't enough for you then you can add a MicroSD memory card with a capacity right up to 128GB.
16 megapixel HDR camera
On to that 16 megapixel camera. The specs are simply stunning. The fast focus feature, called phase detection focus, will close in on your subject in just 0.3 of a second, so even action shots are captured in glorious vivid colour.
Meanwhile, HDR mode enhances the brightness of subjects in shade so you can take pictures of friends and family in bright backlit situations without their faces becoming just a dark patch on your pictures.
The feature we really like is selective focus, which allows to take a clear, sharp photo of your subject while blurring out the background. We're not sure there is a real need to keep ramping up the megapixels unless you print out posters on a regular basis but there is no denying the outstanding quality of the resulting photos produced by the Galaxy S5.
4K Ultra HD video recording
The video recorder goes to the next level too, capturing 4K Ultra HD movies which is 4 times sharper than HD, but you will need a 4K UHD display to view them in their full resolution glory, which at the moment means you will need very deep pockets - Samsung's own 55" 4K Smart TV will currently set you back something in the region of £4,000.
You can buy a 4K UHD TV for under £3,000 but until prices start to fall dramatically we can only consider this to be a little gimmicky, particularly bearing in mind that hardly any TV programming is broadcast in UHD anyway, although it does help to illustrate just how powerful this camera is.
Speaking of gimmicks, Samsung were heavily criticised for some of the overly-gimmicky and often pointless features of the Galaxy S4, in particular Air Gesture and scrolling features which used hand and eye movement to flip pages, scroll screens and eat into memory space.
These haven't been completely dismissed but have been largely replaced by "healthy options", including the heart rate monitor, pedometer and fitness apps which link to the Samsung Gear fit device.
Is it a watch?...is it a?...well Samsung prefer to refer to the 1.8 inch-screened device as "The world’s first curved Super AMOLED wearable device". Genuinely useful? Ask a bloke like me in his 50's with dodgy back and gammy leg and you might get a different answer to that of your average jogger in the park!
It's not exactly new and innovative either. Back in 2008 Samsung linked up with Adidas to produce SGH-F110 miCoach mobile phone with built-in fitness trainer which offered similar functions. Here's what the Adidas vice-President had to say about that device back then:
"miCoach is the most advanced interactive training system in the marketplace, blending sophisticated mobile technology with the most advanced in sport innovation and training. The uniqueness of miCoach is that it collects and analyzes personal data and then customizes training plans based on your fitness level and specific goals, while giving you real-time feedback during your workout via the miCoach phone.
The miCoach phone, equipped with a stride sensor and heart rate monitor, provides a comprehensive on-the-go personal training system. The phone provides training tips and time updates, and encourages users with music tailored to the workout. With one click, users can connect to the stride sensor and heart rate monitor and begin a workout that suits the user. A personal coach advises runners to "Speed up to power zone" or tells them that “15 minutes is completed". Tapping the phone twice produces instant updates on the workout"
Eric Liedtke, Vice President, Adidas Brand Marketing
So it's a revamp of an old idea rather than a new and innovative one. Still, the Health and Fitness suite is a useful inclusion on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and we think it is a good use of the technology. There is no denying that anything that helps you to stay fit and healthy is a good thing especially if you have a busy, but not necessarily healthy, lifestyle so it gets our vote.
Samsung have produced another superb handset with the Galaxy S5 and the plus points for you are not so much the new features but good old fashioned ones like the memory card slot and replaceable battery. After the handsets themselves, batteries are one of the biggest selling accessories so it's clear that the general public - that's you and me - clearly think this is important.
And we personally still prefer the Old Skool idea of being able to swap memory cards. We think it makes a lot of sense because you don't need a connection to transfer files and listen to and watch such as music and video.
For a flagship handset we still feel at least the rear cover should be metal clad, but that and the price tag aside this is a fabulous new handset from Samsung and is no doubt destined to be another best seller.
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