Samsung Galaxy S5 Has Bright Display but Won't Please All

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-04-23 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

REVIEW: Most people have developed some opinions about smartphones. You prefer the Android platform, or you don't. You're a Samsung user, or you're not. Possibly the most helpful information to offer, then, about Samsung's newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, is that if you're already a Samsung Galaxy device user, you'll love the GS5 when you upgrade. If you like the Android platform, this is a phone you should consider. If you haven't found Samsung Galaxy phones compelling in the past, the GS5 likely isn't the phone that's going to change your mind. Certainly, it's not going to pull Apple lovers away from their iPhones. To that audience for whom Samsung has developed the GS5, the key takeaways are this: The GS5 has a beautiful, bright display that brings extra pleasure to everything from Instagram to streaming video. The rear camera is fantastic, and in outdoor sunlight can capture lusciously rich photos (that look great even when opened on other displays). Some new features, though—like the fingerprint reader and the heart-rate monitor—are easy to shrug off. And, as ever, there's the feeling of too much furniture in the room—Samsung has again included every feature it could dream up. But for the Samsung devoted, that may feel right.

 
 
 
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Has Bright Display but Won't Please All

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - Samsung Galaxy S5 Has Bright Display but Won't Please All
  • Samsung Galaxy S5

    Samsung's newest flagship smartphone features a 5.1-inch full-HD Super AMOLED (Super active-matrix organic LED) display with 432 pixels per inch and a resolution of 1920 by 1080. It's easy to appreciate every one of those pixels—the richness of the display positively colors a user's experience, from video watching to games and apps.
    2 - Samsung Galaxy S5
  • New Materials

    The Galaxy S5 measures 5.51 by 2.85 by 0.32 inches and weighs 0.32 pounds—in a world of 5-plus-inch phones, it doesn't feel particularly large. More notable is Samsung's change in materials. The plastic on the back of the S4 has been replaced with a padded, perforated faux leather. I found it less warm and more comfortable to hold.
    3 - New Materials
  • In Profile

    The sides of the GS5 are rimmed in a plastic pretending to metal. The ridges likely make the phone easier to grip, but they also give it a cheaper look. A flagship device is an aspirational device; it should surprise us by outdoing our own ideas about what's beautiful or good design. Nothing about the materials or the look of the GS5, however, feels very high end. In the hand, it feels like the option that comes before the top-shelf version.
    4 - In Profile
  • Samsung's Tight Ship

    The GS5 is dust- and water-resistant. Samsung doesn't say waterproof—as it doesn't want anyone treating it like an underwater camera—but it can take some splashes, as long as the little door protecting the microUSB slot is in place. Overall, too, it feels sturdy. It's not the kind of phone you worry about putting in a case.
    5 - Samsung's Tight Ship
  • About That Little Door …

    A little, flexible rubbery bit attaches the little door to the phone. It seems so unlikely that the rubber bit will last as long as the phone, and I found myself a little nervous about ripping it off each time I went to charge the phone—though surely it has undergone stress tests. Time will tell. Working in its favor is that the GS5 gets good battery life.
    6 - About That Little Door …
  • Health Apps

    Samsung is moving into the health and fitness space with more apps to complement users' workouts and encourage healthy lifestyles. Below the camera is a heart-rate monitor that's very easy to use. A user just holds her fingertip over it, after launching the S Health app.
    7 - Health Apps
  • The Usefulness Factor

    The GS5 also includes a pedometer that ties to S Health. But I found neither features very useful, since the phone is too big to hold while I run and too big to put in a pocket while exercising. Even walking with it in the back pocket of my jeans, I felt nervous about it staying put.
    8 - The Usefulness Factor
  • Good Health

    Likely, there's an accessory that can strap the GS5 to one's arm—which would still be unwieldy—or better, one's bike. Still, these features may be best left to Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatches.
    9 - Good Health
  • Fingerprint Reader

    Like the Apple iPhone 5S, the Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint reader integrated into its home button—and part of its display. Like the iPhone's fingerprint reader, I found the S5's to work maybe half the time, if not less, and quickly disabled it.
    10 - Fingerprint Reader
  • Taking on Siri

    The GS5 includes S Voice, a voice-based assistant that can perform the expected, Siri-style tasks. One supposedly activates it by announcing, "Hi, Galaxy." This didn't work for me—much easier was to double-tap the home button to open S Voice. Yet I found Google's voice-activated search—accessible from the phone's home page—did a better job of finding what I needed the first time I asked.
    11 - Taking on Siri
  • The Camera

    The features that really make the GS5 are its display and its back camera, which is 16 megapixels. It takes enormous photos, and an upside of this is that, when you share them, they still look great. Some other smartphones take photos that look beautiful on the phone's display but are more lackluster when pulled up on a less-great screen.
    12 - The Camera
  • The Camera

    At times, I did wish the camera shutter was a little quicker, but there were no complaints when it came to capturing color and gradations of light.
    13 - The Camera
  • In Summary

    If you're a Samsung fan, prefer the Android platform and want a phone with a beautiful, saturated display that makes even Instagram feel like cinema, the Galaxy S5 is a good option. Just be prepared for windows to pop up that you didn't mean to open, tips to be suggested and for the overall un-edited, nothing-left-out feeling that has become a Samsung trademark.
    14 - In Summary
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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