Samsung Galaxy S5 Review: Big Step Up from the S4

Samsung Galaxy S5 Review: Big Step Up from the S4

Galaxy S5 in Aqua Blue!
Galaxy S5 in Aqua Blue!

Better Late Than Never!

We’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S5 as one of our daily drivers for well over 2 months now and we can say without a doubt that this isn’t just a small step up from the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Samsung Galaxy S5 does have similarities with the S4 but that’s only on the front-facing part of the hardware. Everything else, especially the software and the new ecosystem, truly makes it a strong contender against the other Android flagships offered by LG and Sony.

To jog your memories on the capabilities of the S5, here’s a quick rundown of the tech specs.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Spec Sheet

  • 2.5GHz quad-core processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 5.1-inch FHD Super AMOLED, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 16GB internal storage, expandable up to 64GB
  • 16-megapixel camera
  • 2.1-megapixel front camera
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80, MIMO(2×2), Bluetooth 4,0, BLE / ANT+, NFC, IR Remote
  • IP67 Dust and water resistance
  • 2800mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

As you can see we get all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a flagship. However the proof of the eating is in the pudding so let’s jump right into the review!

Hardware: Durable, Easy to Grip, and Very Samsung

The Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5

When it comes to the hardware, the Galaxy S5 is a Samsung device through and through. Up front you cannot mistake it for anything but a Samsung smartphone. The rounded corners, the physical home button, and the chrome band running along the sides are constitute the Samsung hardware design philosophy.

The biggest change with the Galaxy S5’s chassis is the back plate. Gone is the glossy plastic finish that Samsung has relied on for the last decade. Now we have what some tech pundits call the “dimple back”. Why is it called that? Well the name speaks for itself, hehe.

Comes in different colors! We're definitely loving this blue one.
Comes in different colors! We’re definitely loving this blue one.

Fortunately this isn’t all bad. While it’s still made from plastic, it has a more textured finish making it much easier to grip and hold. It’s not like the Galaxy S4 which had a tendency from slipping from one’s hand because of the glossy plastic back plate.

If you pop open the back plate you’ll find the usual internals: slots for the battery (2,800mAh), micro SD card, and the micro SIM card.

At the bottom of the phone we have the all familiar (and annoying) flap that covers the micro USB port. This is an essential part of the device since Samsung is boasting that the phone is IP67 certified (dust and water resistance). Just be careful when opening it since it feels and looks very fragile.

That annoying flap. Ugh.
That annoying flap. Ugh.

Display: Gorgeous as Usual

If there’s one thing that Samsung has consistently done right, it’s the display of their devices. That holds true with the Galaxy S5. The Super AMOLED screen is simply breathtaking and the contrast levels just makes the icons and images pop out. Colors are more vibrant and warm making it pleasing to the eye and simply a joy to look at (especially at high brightness settings).

Beautiful display
Beautiful display

A good display is absolutely critical for any flagship and Samsung has that covered here. The only other better display we can think of is the one that the LG G3 is currently rocking (gotta love those super thin bezels and the big 5.5-inch screen).

Software: Fastest and Smoothest Galaxy Yet

Scorching Fast
Scorching Fast

Now here’s the awesome news: the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the best Touchwiz experience we’ve ever had. The lag and delays are very manageable. To minimize it greatly just turn off the window transition animations in the Developer Options and you might also want to get a different launcher from Google Play. Our favorite has always been Nova Pro.

Speaking of launchers, if you haven’t used one yet, please make sure that you try it out! One of the best features of Android is that you can customize the hell out of it. If you’re just rocking the custom Samsung TouchWiz, believe me when I say that you are missing out!

Gaming Beast
Gaming Beast

With a rip-roaring score of 35k on Antutu, the Galaxy S5 is simply a gaming beast! We tried a variety of games on it, including our favorite tester, Dead Trigger 2 on High graphics settings, and the S5 handled it beautifully. Barely any lags or delays even if we have a live wallpaper and a bunch of widgets all running on the background. The only time we actually felt slowdowns was when we were switching in between several games.

The quality and size of the display makes the Galaxy S5 a great device for content consumption! The expandable storage also assures users that they can stuff as many videos that they want in this device. In all honesty we kinda prefer to watch big ticket videos on a large TV (especially movies and TV series) so for the most part we only watched videos on the Galaxy S5 via YouTube.

Perfect for Media Consumption
Perfect for Media Consumption

If you don’t want to leave Touchwiz and go for the custom launchers, you’ll still find the new Touchwiz delightful! Samsung changed most of their logos and shifted to a more spherical design style for their icons (can be seen the most in the Settings/Notifications).

Samsung did take their software skillz a step higher though with the introduction of two very useable new features: the Ultra Power Saving mode and the Download Booster.

Ultra Power Saving Mode: Go the Distaaaaaaannnnceeeeeee


The Ultra Power Saving Mode basically lowers the energy consumption of the device by shifting to black and white for colors and restricting users to just 6 core apps (messaging, calls obviously included). Samsung claims that you can get up to 5x more standby time and battery life if you have this turned on.

The good news? It actually WORKS. Since we’ve been using the S5 we’ve taken full advantage of this feature by switching it on when we weren’t using the “smart” features of the device. This habit greatly extended the battery level of the device! There was even one instance where we got past three days of usage and we still had 20%-25% left.

If you want to maximize your Galaxy S5, learn how to use this feature because it can totally eliminate the need for power banks!

Download Booster and Toolbox

The other two new features are Download Booster and Toolbox. Download Booster basically uses your WiFi connection and mobile internet connection (4G/LTE) to significantly increase download speeds. Just make sure you have unlimited data plan though so you don’t get charged like crazy.

The Toolbox, on the other hand, is a persistent optional menu that you can float around the display. It’s useful if you commonly use just a few apps and you want access to them wherever you are on the phone without having to go back to the home screen.

The New Galaxy Ecosystem: Flip Covers, Wearable Tech, Wireless Charging

Lots of new and improved accessories!
Lots of new and improved accessories!

While the hardware and software are quite impressive, what really makes the Galaxy S5 shine is the ecosystem of other gadgets you can use with it! Samsung has made giant strides in building an accessories and peripherals business for their devices and it shows the most with the Galaxy S5!

A must-have, in our opinon, is either the Galaxy Fit or the Galaxy Gear 2 (or Neo). The Gear Fit has a curved LED display which shows the time, notifications (messages, calls, etc.), and fitness statistics. You can actually reply to SMS messages using the pre-made templates (which you can change). The health stats are connected to your S-Health App on your Galaxy S5 making it easy to track your progress.

Other accessories that you can get include the ff:

  • Wireless Charging Pad and Case: You’ll need to buy Qi-enabled S View Flip Cover and this gives the S5 the ability to charge wirelessly with a charging pad. You can but both from Samsung concept stores in malls (we got ours in Megamall).
  • Galaxy Gear II/Neo: Smart watches are going to be big. They’re actually very useful. The Gear II has even more functionalities including a camera and speakers/microphones for calls.
  • Galaxy S5 Battery Kit: This was first introduced in the first Galaxy Note. It’s a charging kit which has an extra 2,800mAh battery. This is VERY useful since you can have an extra 100% charged battery with you all the time. Again this can eliminate the need for bulky external battery packs/chargers.

There’s also some sort of AllShare device which you can plug into your LED TV via HDMI so that you can easily stream content from your phone to your big TV.

Samsung is on the right track when it comes to their accessories. They’ve actually been leading the charge on this but from the looks of things their competitors are quickly catching up. Innovate or die.

Camera: Can Go Toe-to-Toe with the Best

The Galaxy S5’s camera is definitely one of the better ones in Android flagship devices out there. The image quality, color reproduction, and level of detail is amazing especially when you take photos with good lighting (great for outdoors).

As with any other mobile device though it kinda struggles in low lighting conditions. Yes, there’s and HDR mode but that’s not really something we like using because it greatly increases the noise of a photo (becomes much more grainy).

Here are some sample shots for your reference.

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We didn’t include it anymore but the Galaxy S5 also has a bevy of smart camera features including Panorama, Burst Shots, Selective Focus, Remote Viewfinder, Voice Control, HDR, Effects, Face Detection, and Picture Stabilization.

Verdict: Samsung’s Best Yet

Two Thumbs Up!
Two Thumbs Up!

Everything considered, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a good step up from the Galaxy S4. It’s better both on the hardware and software sides and the accessory ecosystem is just fantastic! That said, you will need to invest on the accessories as well as make time to learn how to use and maximize the new software features if you want to maximize and make the most out of the Galaxy S5. If you don’t then it’s probably no better than the Galaxy S4 (which the differences only being the over-all speed, water/dust resistance, and the stylish back plate).

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is now available via the two telcos and the gadget shops around the country.

Again, don’t forget — ACCESSORIZE. It’s more fun if you do. We’re loooving the Gear II and the Wireless Charging. Gives a whole new dimension to the smartphone experience. 🙂



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