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Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung goes for evolution over revolution... again.

Our Verdict

Powerful, competent and with a whole new UI, it's a shame that Samsung hasn't progressed further with the look of its new challenger.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 16 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 21 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 1920 x 1080
  • Processor Core : Quad-core (4 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Amazing screen
  • Great battery life
  • Hugely powerful

Against

  • Creaky design
  • Unnecessary heart rate monitor
  • Slow background de-focus
Ratings in depth

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Samsung Galaxy S5 review

The Samsung Galaxy S5 can be defined by one word: evolution.

The camera has evolved to give clearer, faster snaps. The fitness-tracking abilities of the S5 are enhanced over the Galaxy S4 by packing in a more powerful S Health app and a dedicated heart rate monitor on the rear. A fingerprint scanner adds to the most secure Galaxy phone ever made.

The battery is larger, the screen bigger and brighter, the processor quicker and the design altered.

The spec sheet certainly doesn't let it down: a 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 2800mAh (removable) battery, 16 / 32GB of memory (with up to 128GB extra through microSD), one of the world's most vibrant screens that's been extended to 5.1-inches and added biometrics.

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Mud still penetrated the casing

However, it's hard to point to one stand out feature that will grab the prospective user when they handle the Galaxy S5 for the first time.

To many, that won't matter, as Samsung's built a fan-base that only Apple can rival, and a number will be picking up the new Galaxy without a second thought over whether it competes adequately with its rivals.

Price-wise, if you're shocked by the cost of the Samsung Galaxy S5 then you've not really been paying attention to the previous flagship models. It's actually a little cheaper than previous years in some territories, and has been dropped around more recently, coming in at around £400-£500 these days SIM free in the UK

As you can imagine contract offers are flying all over the place at the moment, but the Galaxy S5 is being offered for a near identical price to the HTC One M8, and cheaper than the iPhone 6, give or take a few dollarpounds.

The messaging around the launch of the Galaxy S5 was that Samsung had listened to the consumers and dialled down the gimmicks, focusing instead on what makes a phone special to the consumer.

It promised a 'fashionable' and 'glam' design, a camera that works in the way you'd want it to and strength through being water resistant.

There's also the small notion of an improved version - I was told that it was very likely the Galaxy S5 was going to launch with a Samsung Galaxy S5 Prime version in February, with oodles more RAM, a faster processor and QHD screen on board.

However, that was pushed back (likely to do with issues in creating the screen in high enough volumes) and has since appeared in the South Korea-only Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE-A version. This one has a Snapdragon 805 CPU, a WQHD screen and all the high end features you can wish for. In short, it's the amazing phone I wish Samsung had announced a few months ago and sold all over the world.

And now we have the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, a smaller phone with equal power to the main Galaxy S5, but with a lower-res 720p screen. That's offset by a metal design, although only around the edge of the phone - and Samsung has once again for a light weight, rather than making it feel weighty and ergonomic in the hand.

That phone has a premium design fused with power under the hood - but with a sky high price and the lower-res screen it's clearly designed to compete with the all new iPhone 6.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha
The new Galaxy Alpha, with a metal frame

And if you want something a little smaller, then the Galaxy S5 Mini is here now as well. It's a lot like the bigger brother, and the specs have only been dialled down slightly. It's not quite got the raw power but the design aesthetic is there and the heartbeat monitor as well - well worth checking out if you don't want to spend as much.

But enough of the competition: let's look at one of the key questions that Samsung needed to answer with the Galaxy S5: is it good enough in market that's becoming saturated with decent high-end handsets?

Samsung Galaxy S5 review
The water resistance will make a splash with a few buyers

The simple answer, from the second you hold it in the hand, is no – because the design simply isn't up to the same level as the likes of Apple and HTC.

That's only a small part of the story though, and underneath the hood Samsung has continued its play of stuffing all the latest specs in and optimising them in a way that doesn't suck down oodles of battery.

Is this phone good enough to keep Samsung fighting with Apple at the top of the sales charts? Yes, but that's mostly through the impressive marketing machine that rolls out in every territory - and even that hasn't led to the greatest sales for the new phone.

Samsung needs this to be the last phone that rolls with such design language (the Alpha and Note 4 show that this is the case and should continue) - the Galaxy S6 needs to be the dawn of a new age for the South Korean company, something to give consumers real lust for the way it looks.

And with the new iPhone 6 being a real winner in the design stakes, if customers aren't wedded to the larger S5 screen then the lure of Apple has just grown stronger (although you should be looking at the myriad excellent Android phones first).

Critically, it feels like there's very little to shout about with the Galaxy S5 – but perhaps that's no bad thing for a brand that was accused of bringing pointless innovation with last year's model.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported128 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy S5
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 800, LTE 850, LTE 900, LTE 1800, LTE 2100, LTE 2600
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution16 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time21 Hour
Product ModelSM-G900F
Screen Size13 cm (5.1")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)145 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.4.2 KitKat
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density432 ppi
SIM Size SupportedNano
Height142 mm
Width72.5 mm
Depth8.1 mm
Radio TunerNo
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S5 SM-G900F Smartphone
Processor Speed2.50 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon 800
Product LineGalaxy S5
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Barometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Fingerprint Sensor, Health Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberSM-G900FZWABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing InformationStriking design
The first thing Will noticed about the latest Galaxy smartphone is its new striking design, which comes in a choice of colours - Charcoal Black, Electric Blue and Shimmery White. However, beneath the perforated exterior are more eye-catching features; like the new camera. It has the world's fastest autofocus speed, at only 0.3 seconds, and Selective Focus, which allows you to focus on what's important and blur everything else.

Capture the moments that matter
Being able to capture and save precious memories is one of the most important features that a smartphone can have. The new Galaxy S5 has superior camera functionality, featuring a 16 megapixel camera with an enhanced menu and user interface so you can effortlessly take, edit and share photos.

The Galaxy S5 has the world's fastest autofocus speed up to 0.3 seconds and the advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR), so it is possible to reproduce natural light and colour with striking intensity at any time. Also new is a Selective Focus feature which means you can focus on a specific area of an object while simultaneously blurring out the background. With this capability, you no longer need a special lens kit to create a shallow depth of field (DOF) effect.

Tap into the fastest connections
The Galaxy S5 offers the most advanced LTE experience and Wi-Fi performance available today, ensuring blazing fast data speeds for unrivaled media consumption and productivity.

The Galaxy S5 supports the fifth generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac and 2X2 MiMo, and the largest LTE frequency supporting Category 4. If that wasn't enough, for anyone looking for an even faster connection, the Galaxy S5 also features Download Booster, a Wi-Fi technology designed to boost data speed by bonding Wi-Fi and LTE simultaneously. No matter where you are, you are guaranteed to have the fastest available connection.

Be more fit and active
With the enhanced S Health 3.0, the new Galaxy S5 offers more tools to help you stay fit and well. It provides a comprehensive personal fitness tracker to help you monitor and manage your behaviour, along with additional tools including a pedometer, diet and exercise records, and a new, built-in heart rate monitor. You can further customise your experience with an enriched third party app ecosystem and the ability to pair with next generation Gear products for real-time fitness coaching.

Essential device protection
The Galaxy S5 is IP67 dust and water resistant. It also offers a Finger Scanner, providing a secure, biometric screen locking feature and a seamless and safe mobile payment experience. The Ultra Power Saving Mode turns the display to black and white, and shuts down all unnecessary features to minimize the battery consumption.
Limited Warranty2 Year
Standard Memory2 GB