Samsung is the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, making some of the best handsets that money can buy. The Korean firm is back with its 2014 flagship, the Galaxy S5, a device which builds on the enormous success of its predecessors and pushes things further in every area. So is this the best smartphone in the world?
- 2.5GHz quad-core processor
- 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display
- 16GB or 32GB internal storage
- 16 megapixel camera
- 8.1mm thickness
- 145g weight
- 2800mAh battery
- Android KitKat
Design and build
In a striking move that differs from earlier Galaxy handsets, the S5 has a dimpled backplate that is easier to grip than it would be were it to have a smooth, shiny finish. The chrome-effect band that surrounds the S4 and Note 3 is also in place, and the handset has a surprisingly square feel to it, considering its edges look quite rounded.
Samsung has introduced water-proofing to its range, taking on Sony by echoing one of the most distinctive features of its recent Xperia devices. While the fact that the S5’s backplate is removable means that you will have to check it thoroughly before dunking it in water, this is an extra level of protection that could be useful.
Another distinctive hardware feature is the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner, which can be operated with a downwards swiping gesture over the home button. This motion can be a little awkward and takes some getting used to, but it’s an extra level of security that keeps up with the competition.
Lastly, a heart rate monitor can also be found on the back, syncing with the S Health 3.0 app to monitor the user’s well-being and help them to stay of top of their health.
Featuring one of the best displays we’ve ever seen, it’s little surprise that the S5’s 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen is outstanding. At 432ppi, users get incredible clarity, with colours contrasting very well indeed, as they often do on Samsung’s devices.
While the screen’s size, and that of the handset overall, may be too large for some people, there is no doubt that the Galaxy S5 offers a huge visual impression to anyone using it.
Under the hood
Nothing has been spared on specs, and the S5 makes use of a quad-core, 2.5GHz processor that runs at an incredible pace. The only problem with a chip this fast is that there is little we can say about how it works – it simply performs outstandingly well under any circumstances, never leaving you wanting more from the device.
Powering that fast processor is a 2800mAh battery that ensures you have plenty of energy to play with. We did notice that charging up takes quite some time, but once the handset is full it runs for ages. We had over a day of reasonably extensive use out of the Galaxy S5, which surprised us considering the device’s screen size.
Operating system and user interface
Android KitKat is the latest and best version of Google’s OS, and the deep integration of the search giant’s services are very welcome indeed. The S5 can be operated by speech, allowing you to simply say what you want it to do, be that texting someone, opening an app or searching online.
While voice recognition isn’t always perfect it’s pretty accurate overall, and any shortcomings are more than made up for by the usefulness of this feature, especially if you’re driving or simply have your hands full.
On top of KitKat sits Samsung’s UI, which has been evolved to feature coloured icons within the settings menu in place of a list of options. Versions of these also appear within the notifications bar, which is even livelier and more feature-packed than ever before.
Swiping about the UI, it is very easy to take charge of everything you need to do, switching between the homescreens, notifications bar and various apps in no time at all. Samsung ensures that all these processes are fluid and easy, building on top of what the up-to-date Android platform offers.
Extra touches come in the form of My Magazine, ported over from the Note 3 and accessed with a swipe to the right on the main screen, bringing up a personalised list of news stories. Another useful feature is Toolkit, a tiny app folder which stays in place wherever you move within the UI, making sure your favourite apps are always to hand.
Camera and video
Samsung’s 16 megapixel sensor is excellent, with a noticeable step up in terms of clarity from the already great results we’ve seen from the firm before. The firm’s camera app is also very stripped down, giving you a more direct route to what you want to capture.
In a simple and brilliant move, the firm allows users to place any one of the multitude of settings and controls in a favourites bar on the left side of the screen, giving you what you want without other things getting in the way.
However, an even more impressive feature comes in the form of the Galaxy S5 being able to capture 4K video, heralding a new era in smartphone video recording. You can’t actually view footage in full quality on the S5’s display, but if you stream it to a high-quality TV you will no doubt be amazed at the results.
Performance and verdict
Samsung could well have created the best smartphone in the world with the Galaxy S5, a big handset that delivers incredible performance and visuals to match. The fact that its screen size is in excess of 5-inches may not suit everyone but if a large, high-end smartphone is what you’re after then there are few other choices. The Galaxy range gets bigger and better, and the S5 sits at the very top as a brilliant flagship device.