The Samsung Galaxy S5 can be defined by one word: evolution. 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.
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’s 2014 flagship feels sturdier in the hand compared to its predecessor, which was prone to creaking, especially around its flimsy battery door. The back panel itself is now thicker, and accommodates a rubber gasket to seal in the battery, SIM slot and other gubbins, making the phone water and dust-resistant, rated IP67. That means it’s good for up to 30 minutes in a meter of water and it also necessitates the presence of a plastic flap to protect the microUSB port down below, a minor inconvenience when it comes time to charge the device.
The phone’s also pretty serious about reminding you to close those ports and secure that rear panel Protruding slightly through the back panel is the Galaxy S5’s 16-megapixel camera. The rear shooter uses an ISOCELL sensor, a new technology designed to produce sharper images by eliminating electrical interference between pixels. And as we’ll discuss in our camera section, this can produce fantastic-looking photos given the right conditions.
Behind the water-resistant battery door you’ll find slots for microSIM and microSD (cards up to 128GB are supported) one on top of the other, as on the Note 3, which makes removing the SIM a somewhat fiddly process involving wiggling the card free. There’s also a rather tall 2800mAh removable battery a standard feature in Samsung phones, allowing a fresh cell to be swapped in on longer days.
This year’s Galaxy S5 flagship brings some significant design changes to the series, while seeing Samsung continue its strategy of loading ever more features into the mix. It’s fitting, then, that the phone feels like a mix of old and new experiences. Though unassuming and perhaps predictable, the Galaxy S5’s physical hardware is a considerable improvement on previous models, with Samsung finally figuring out how to do plastic right. It’s not going to wow anyone like the aluminum-clad HTC One or iPhone 5s, but it’s practical and comfortable, and it does the job. Better still, the GS5 comes with the added bonus of worry-free use around water. And it can boast one of the finest displays on any smartphone, a testament to Samsung’s ever-improving AMOLED tech.