It is not everyday that we – at SA Vibe – get a hands-on on a new device on the day of its launch. But we saw with the launch of the Note 3 in Cape Town yesteryear, you never know who you might share a cab to the launch event with. With the Galaxy S5 it was no different, but there was no cab involved, the guys at Vodacom were kind enough to arrange this beaut for us.
Galaxy smartphones are known for going big: on screens, specs, software tricks and, of course, sales. The S5 is no exception, but the small stuff can be just as exciting as the headline features, and that’s what the S5 will need to get right if it’s to become the very best. If there’s one obvious way that Samsung still falls behind its rivals, it’s industrial design.
The Galaxy S4’s clammy, all-plastic build didn’t feel particularly nice to hold – the kind of smartphone you really don’t mind putting a case on. While the S5 is instantly recognisable as a Galaxy, Samsung has tweaked the design by adding a dimpled polycarbonate (still removable) back panel to give your fingers something to adhere to. In that regard it works. This is a big, wide phone but that new texture combines with Note 3-style metal-look ridges to make this the grippiest Galaxy yet. It’s just as light as the S4 (OK, 15g heavier) and is also more solidly built that its predecessor, which was prone to the odd creak.
At 5.1 inches, the screen on the Galaxy S5 is just a bit larger than the Galaxy S4. It packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM. The internal storage is 16GB, but you can supplement that with a microSD card. The rear camera snaps images at 16-megapixel resolution, and impressively, it can capture 4K (3,840 x 2,160) footage. The front camera is 2.1 megapixels
Fortunately the screen will more than distract you from the S5’s divisive aesthetics. At 5.1in, it’s only just bigger than the S4’s – but it’s now a dazzling Super AMOLED display. It’s still full HD resolution, so there’s a slight drop to 432ppi from the S4’s 441ppi, but you really won’t notice. What you will notice is how bright it is, how easy it is to read outdoors and how vibrant the colours are. Unlike many other Android manufacturers, Samsung opts for a home button on its Galaxy phone, and the S5 follows that pattern. It must because it needs the button for one of its marquee features: a fingerprint sensor.
Samsung’s fingerprint sensor — the first time the company has offered the feature on a smartphone — is conceptually the same as the one on the iPhone 5S. You can store multiple fingerprints, and their primary purpose is to ease the oft-repeated task of unlocking your phone 30-odd times a day, potentially saving time and hassle. Some reviews aren’t particularly friendly about the S5′s fingerprint scanner, saying that it works — but its placement at the bottom of (a very large) screen makes it difficult to use effectively. This is exactly what we found in our own hands-on testing. Kudos for the effort.
Most reviews speak positively about the Galaxy S5′s rear-facing 16-megapixel camera, but it’s far from perfect. In good lighting, those 16 megapixels really shine, providing excellent image quality and detail resolution. In low light, though, those tiny pixels can’t compete with the larger pixels on the HTC One M8′s sensor, and the lack of a dual-color LED flash makes matters even worse.
BUT, should you actually buy the S5?
The Samsung Galaxy S5 will be available from all of the major carriers from tomorrow, at premium prices for their 2-year contracts, which is usually R349. The prepaid version (16GB) is said to be at R10200.
And so, there you have it, an in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S5. Looking at many of the comments following the launch of this smartphone, some people felt like it wasn’t a worthy successor to the Galaxy S4. In a lot of ways, this impression may be somewhat accurate. While there were additions such as the heart rate monitor or the fingerprint scanner, they don’t feel ultimately useful to me, and the novelty will likely fade quite fast. It also might not be the best looking phone out there, and some may consider the GS5 too similar to its predecessor.
But for every finger scanner, there is an ISOCELL camera. For every design choice you may not like, there is new IP certification. And for every point lost for lack of freshness, there are points for familiarity. Half of you will like this phone and the other half will not, and that’s the unfortunate reality of the Galaxy S5 at this point. The good news is the Galaxy S5 is an honest phone, and if you are swayed by its charms now, you’ll likely have a good time using it for a long time. For everyone else, I would still encourage you to give this phone a shot without completely writing it off, and you might just end up liking what you see.
For Galaxy S5 Accessories click here