We're still working on our Samsung Galaxy S5 review, but to tease your palate, see below for a smörgåsbord of thoughts from the first wave of reviews for Samsung's latest flagship.
Despite the fact Samsung is probably going to sell a record number of Galaxy S5 units, I can't help but think it's missed a massive trick by popping out another phone clad in plastic. Spin it however you want, the S5 feels cheap and if it came from a no-mark smartphone brand would be dismissed as uninspiring -- it's only because the adverts everywhere ram it down our throat do we discuss it.
There's got to be something better here - when, for the same price, HTC and Sony are able to bring out appreciably superior designs, Samsung needs to step up.
That said, the Galaxy S5 is simpler, more refined and more enjoyable to use than any Samsung device I've tested so far. Between the camera, that brilliant 5.1-inch display, and the smoother software, the Galaxy S5 is one of the best phones you can buy.
The GS5 sees upgrades across the board compared to its predecessor. The underlying silicon is both faster and more power efficient. The battery is larger, and battery life has improved dramatically thanks to silicon and display upgrades. Much like the gains we saw with HTC's M7 to M8 transition, anyone who is on a Snapdragon 600 based device today is going to be incredibly happy upgrading to a Snapdragon 801 platform like the GS5.
Much of what's new in the S5 isn't all that inventive, but involves stuff that every smartphone owner cares about, such as physical durability, display and camera quality and battery life. And though the overall experience doesn't reach Apple-esque levels of polish--it melds Google's Android 4.4 KitKat operating system with a bevy of Samsung's own customizations--there's less of the cacophony and clutter which has marred many a past Galaxy device.
At first we didn't get on with the Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner because much of the device assumes you're using it two handed...Rarely do we have the luxury of having two free hands to interact with a phone.
The point is that the Samsung's fingerprint scanner suggests a full straight swipe with a finger or thumb in setup. In reality you'll be gripping your phone and swiping your thumb sideways down it in an attempt to unlock it. Fortunately, that works. The orientation of the unlocking finger doesn't matter, as long as you register that print in the same way then you'll actually unlock the phone.
The camera's continuous autofocus is as eyeblink-quick as Samsung claims (0.3-second), which gives you a greater chance of nailing that action shot. Of course, most of the rushed-around world isn't going to wait for you to pull out your camera, so expect that you'll still shoot a healthy percentage of blurry dogs, babies, and unsuspecting passersby. Still, I do think fast focus raises your odds of success.
Low light has been a weak point for Samsung in the past, and the Galaxy S5 seems to have indeed improved photos taken without a flash in dim environments. They weren't quite as blurry, grainy, or dark as you'd get on the Galaxy S4.
The settings menu is somewhat over-stocked with options, to the extent that we gave up scrolling the icons and used the search tool. All the familiar Samsung innovations are here if you want them, including last year's motion gestures (eye tracking, touchless scrolling, etc) neatly tucked away in their own section. It's worth noting that none of these are as useful and intuitive day-to-day as the One (M8)'s swipe- and tap-to-unlock gestures.
The waterproofing -- which Samsung calls "dust and water resistance" -- works well, provided you use the included plug to seal the charging port. The phone helpfully warns you on screen if part of the case is open or vulnerable. It passed all the torture tests I could cook up, but you shouldn't deliberately try such high jinks. Samsung says the waterproofing is really just for accidents.
So the S5 is a largely incremental improvement. But if anything it suffers from the scale of its ambition -- that fingerprint sensor isn't quite ready for primetime, and flashy animations on openings folders are slightly slow. The camera's supposed ability to refocus pictures after they've been taken is temperamental, and far surpassed by LG and HTC. All these features would be great if they worked better.
The smartphone posted an impressive endurance rating of 72h, handily beating the achievement of its predecessor. In the individual tests, the new Samsung flagship beat the Galaxy S4 by three hours more of talking and two hours more of web browsing, but scored an hour less for video playback. Still, considering that the screen is notably brighter at 50%, it really shows that Samsung has really improved its efficiency.
[The heart rate sensor] works well, and takes about eight seconds, but there are two obvious questions -- is it actually useful, and can you get this functionality elsewhere? At present, you can only use the Galaxy S5's heart rate sensor in the S Health app (although it appears to be part of the Samsung Bluetooth LE SDK, so should be able to be used in third-party apps), where it makes a graph of your previous results.
In truth, you can already get a very similar experience with most other Android phones (and iPhones) too. Apps like Runtastic Heart Rate use your phone's LED flash and camera sensor in much the same way.
Image Credit: TechRadar
While this isn't the most impressively-specced screen on the market, it's definitely among the best, if not the best, we've used. Thanks to its Super AMOLED display, colours are incredibly vibrant, and everything is extremely crisp and sharp. Viewing angles are excellent, and despite the large size of the screen, we found ourselves able to operate it with one hand comfortably.
Our only criticism with the screen, which isn't really a criticism at all, is that it can often be too bright. We found that with the screen cranked up to full brightness, colours often were a little too vibrant to use the screen comfortably, although this came in handy when we used the Galaxy S5 outdoors.