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Samsung Galaxy S5 Smartphone Review

Will the gravity well from Galaxy S5 capture your interest, or will you streak past with escape velocity?

Our Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S5 fails to impress and is easy to overlook considering other flagship phones have similar hardware and features

For

  • Great hardware, fingerprint scanner, IP67

Against

  • Ugly, screen has issues with color accuracy and grayscale banding, poor NAND performance

Does Samsung's Star Still Shine Bright?

Samsung’s Galaxy S line of smartphones employs cutting-edge hardware and more features than any human can remember to use, making it one of the most anticipated flagship phones every year. The Galaxy S5 was no exception, generating a lot of hype amidst swirling rumors regarding new hardware and features.

The prelaunch S5 certainly sounded spectacular, with rumored features including a larger than five-inch display, QHD resolution, a 64-bit Exynos or Snapdragon 805 SoC, 4GB RAM, a 16MP camera with optical image stabilization, fingerprint scanner, metal body, a larger and faster-charging battery, along with some top secret alien technology. However, the actual Galaxy S5 that Samsung produced wasn’t nearly that otherworldly, and many of Samsung’s fans were disappointed.

While some of those features did find their way into the Galaxy S5 LTE-A variant released later in the year, the original Galaxy S5 still includes with some great hardware. Screen size increases slightly to 5.1 inches, compared to the S4's five-inch screen, but maintains the same HD resolution. The new SAMOLED panel delivers better peak brightness and color accuracy, however, than the S4's previous-generation display.

The S5’s rear camera uses Samsung's own 16MP ISOCELL sensor, which improves color fidelity and reduces noise at higher ISO settings by limiting crosstalk between adjacent pixels. The S5 is also the first smartphone to use phase detection autofocus (PDAF), vastly improving autofocus performance.

Apple’s Touch ID feature in the iPhone 5s, though not the first smartphone to use a fingerprint sensor, seems to have sparked a new trend, with several flagship devices now using them. Samsung, unwilling to cede features to Apple, also includes a fingerprint scanner in the S5, a first for its mobile devices.

Another interesting addition, one that carries over from the Galaxy S4 Active, is IP67 dust and water resistance. While Sony has included ingress protection on its Xperia phones for some time, the S5 is the first non-specialized, flagship model from Samsung to include it. This is definitely a feature that makes sense for a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Tech Specs

While the S5 didn't receive the newer Snapdragon 805 SoC, Qualcomm's 801 is a significant upgrade over the Snapdragon 600 its predecessor came with. Its 2GB of RAM is standard for five-inch flagship phones, as is the maximum internal storage of 32GB. The S5 does support microSD cards up to 128GB if your storage needs grow beyond the S5's internal NAND.

Along with the bigger screen, the S5 grows slightly in all three dimensions, resulting in a 12% weight gain over the S4. While smaller and lighter overall than the HTC One (M8), it's roughly equivalent to the Motorola Moto X in size and weight, despite the Moto's larger screen.

More internal volume creates space for a bigger battery, which should give the S5 more longevity than the S4 and newer Moto X, and be comparable to other current-gen five-inch phones.

Availability And Options

The Galaxy S5 is selling in 125 countries from a large number of retailers. It's available for all four major U.S. carriers and almost every national and regional carrier in Canada, including Bell, Eastlink, Fido, Koodoo, MTS, Rogers, Sasktel, Telus, Videotron, Virgin Mobile and Wind.

AT&TT-MobileSprintVerizon
LTE1/2/3/4/5/7/171/2/3/4/5/7/8/1725/26/414/13
GSM850/900/1800/1900MHz850/900/1800/1900MHz850/900/1800/1900MHz850/900/1800/1900MHz
CDMA800/1900MHz800/1900MHz
WCDMA850/1900/2100MHz850/1700/1900/2100MHz850/900/1900/2100MHz850/900/1900/2100MHz

Besides the choice between 16 or 32GB of internal storage, the S5 is available in four different color options (from left to right): Copper Gold, Electric Blue, Charcoal Black and Shimmery White. Unfortunately, most carriers only offer the Charcoal Black and/or Shimmery White variants.

Accessories

Included with the Galaxy S5 is a 2.0A wall charger, USB 3.0 cable and stereo headphones with inline controls and extra silicone ear tips.

In terms of hardware, the S5 struggles to float to the surface in a rising sea of Android-based smartphones. Its most compelling feature is dust and water resistance, which it'll need if Samsung's fingerprint scanner, new 16MP ISOCELL camera sensor or software additions don't provide some buoyancy.

  • Agera One
    A one year late review?
    Reply
  • grumpigeek
    My Galaxy S5 in in an Urban Armor Gear case that looks great and protects the phone, so I don't really care what it looks like.

    The device is 100% reliable and I have found the battery life to be excellent - way better than any smartphone I have had previously.

    Reply
  • implantedcaries
    Guys you are reviewing a mobile which was released a year and then calling it average compared to competiti
    Reply
  • firefoxx04
    I have an s5. This review would have been welcomed a year ago.

    The phone is top notch. I've known this for a while.
    Reply
  • implantedcaries
    Guys you are reviewing a mobile which was released a year back and then calling it average compared to competition?? Seriously? Yes I agree S5 is not the most exciting prospect out there for new mobile buyers now, but it wasn't so in 2014 when it was actually launched. Also its one of the very few mobiles already receiving lollipop updates.. No mention of that.. Any hidden agenda against Samsung?
    Reply
  • Porcodio
    Temperature and humidity sensor? Is that correct?
    Reply
  • FritzEiv
    Folks, you're right. This review is quite late. We began testing the S5 a long time ago, but we've had a bit of a backlog of smartphones to review since Matt (our senior mobile editor) started on staff and we're just catching up. We aren't trying to pretend it's a new phone, thus we haven't put it up in our main feature carousel; but we did want to publish this and others just to have them for archival and future referral and comparison purposes. We are working on other smartphones that are little more current and then we hope to be "on time" as new ones arrive. Hence, for example, Matt's performance preview of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 earlier this week. We've been a bit more timely on devices like the OnePlus and the iPhone reviews as well. But hey, continue your sarcasm, because we probably deserve it. Just want you to know why we are doing this, that we're not trying to fool anyone, and that we'll be caught up in short order. Thanks for your patience.

    - Fritz (Editor-in-chief)
    Reply
  • Mac266
    One thing in this review irritated me: the whole "it's ugly" thing. It might not suit you, but lots of people like the way it looks. Aesthetics are purely subjective, and should definitely not be judged a con on one mans opinion.
    Reply
  • peterf28
    Iam not buying a smartphone again where the chipset drivers are not open source. Like what samsung did with the S3, it is stuck on Android 4.3, and there is nothing you can do. All the custom roms are unstable crap because there are no up to date drivers For current kernels. It is like buying a PC without the possibility to update the OS . Would you buy that ?
    Reply
  • jdrch
    FYI phone speakers are placed on the back of phones to take advantage of acoustics when the phone is laying on a surface. The surface spreads and reflects the sounds back to the user much better than the speaker itself would. Try it yourself.
    Reply