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Samsung Galaxy S5 Review

Vodafone a few weeks back kindly sent me the latest Flagship device from Samsung i.e. the Galaxy S5 and by all accounts this is a beast of a Smartphone in more ways than one!

First off I remember getting this out the box and you can see from the unboxing video (below post in media section) I was quite surprised by just how big the handset was, it’s a whopper!

I have to admit though I wasn't sure if I would get on with the size, but like most things in life if you use it for long enough it’s something you get used to!

The front of the display is mainly screen real-estate with a small Home button at the base that doubles as the new fingerprint sensor.

To the left/right of this button are your standard back and recently accessed touch-sensitive buttons.

At the top front of the phone is the 2MP video call camera and to the side of this you get a light sensor.

The sides of the S5 provide the standard volume controls and power button, while the back of the phone contains several additions.

Alongside the speaker grill, camera lens and led flash, there is the new heart rate sensor monitor. This works alongside the new Samsung Fitness app and measures your heart rate when you apply slight pressure to it with your finger (more on this later).

Additionally at the top of the phone you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microphone pickup and an infrared sensor which is used in conjunction with the TV app that comes shipped with the phone. Interestingly at the bottom of the phone you get a further microphone pickup and this is a new feature of the S5 in that it allows two-way directional voice recording (ideal for interviews!).

Next to this is a cover which reveals a new USB 3.0 connector (supports the included microUSB cable as well) and while some may question the cover, the reason for its inclusion is to comply with the phones IP67 -dust, water and scratch proof - rating. Please note while you get a microUSB cable in the box, the USB 3.0 cable is not included, you will need to purchase this separately.

Sadly while the device earns itself this rating, once gain Samsung’s massive R & D funding is wasted by the inclusion of a back cover which is so thin I could use it to scrape ice of a car (though it would probably break before it even gets chance to accomplish this task!).

Back when my S2 was about there was a similar problem, so you would think that Samsung would up the quality of this by now!

On the flipside when the back comes together with the casing it feels more robust and you do get the benefit of a removable battery, microSD card slot (this now supports up to 128GB cards) and sim card slot. So I suppose you can’t have everything.

My only gripe is that due to the flimsiness of the back cover I found - when the volume was raised higher (which is pretty loud/clear) - I could feel the vibrations emanating from the phone when it was sitting in my hands and I didn't like this in particular. 

Weight wise the device is as light as a feather without the battery, but with the latter included (which is quite big given that it has a 2800mAh rating) the two combined does generate additional weight. Not that 145g is heavy by any means, it just gives you the illusion that the build quality is better than it generally is.

Interface

Powering up the Android 4.4.2 Kitkat Interface takes a while in the beginning because you have to go through all the initial setup routines (there is quite a bit to do) which also incorporates the optional signup/login to a Samsung account.

Then I had to download a quick update - which is said to improve the performance.

Not like it needs improving a great deal because the S5 has blistering pace! The initial Touch Wiz interface scrolling was smooth as silk and to be honest, apart from a few Vodafone only apps, the pre-installed Bloatware seems reduced compared to what I could remember on previous devices.

However there are some nifty apps and an absolute wealth of settings to delve into which opens up a whole host of features that the S5 brings to the table. Most of them puts the large 5.1” screen to better use!

Before I go into these there is no question that the screen looks fantastic, it’s Full HD resolution emanates colour/vibrancy and deep blacks! Mind you the problem with AMOLED screens is that when you tilt the phone at a flatter angle you can see a slight colour discolouration (a green tint), but as I was mainly using the phone head on, it was not a major problem for me.

Dual-App Display

Anyway back to the new features. One of the new ones I particular liked was the option to use the screen in a dual display format. For example once activated this brings up a slide-out tab on the left hand side and you can then drag compatible apps into the top and bottom panes to run the apps (i.e. a browser and camera app) simultaneously – it works a bit like Snap view on the Windows 8/Xbox One Platform.

The 2.5 GHz processor and 2GB RAM really does make mincemeat out of the above operations and there is no slow down whatsoever!

Dual Microphone

Another neat feature is the ability to tap into the dual microphone for 2-way conversation recording. Thus if you are in an interview the mic can pick up both your voice and your recipients voice a lot clearer!

TV Remote

I also particularly liked the TV remote app which uses the data connection/infrared sensor at the top of the phone so you can control your TV using your S5. The function to control the TV is also available via the lock screen.

Screen Capturing

While not a major feature the process of taking screen grabs is a little tricky using the standard method of pressing the Home and power button down at the same time. However, to make life easier I noticed Samsung have provided a new gesture system. So for example by moving the palm of your hand from one side of the screen to the other you can take screen grabs.

There are plenty more features which would require a lot more space to fill, but alongside the Video app's picture-in-picture function (which works like the new YouTube App), various motion controls for muting calls etc and a floating menu icon that provides quick access to apps from any other app, the major additions to the S5’s arsenal lies with its finger print and heart rate sensors.

Finger Print Sensor

This works in a similar way to the iPhone5s in that you can setup your fingerprint to lock the handset. However the process of using the sensor is a little hit and miss in my opinion. You see the problem is you don’t place your finger on the sensor, you literally have to slide your finger down it and because the Home button is quite small it can take a few goes to get the sensor to work! 

Heart Rate Sensor

Samsung are making a big deal of their integrated Fitness app and the main benefit is it can be used as a training aid by monitoring your heart, number of steps and running distance.

The heart rate sensor is cleverly positioned at the back next to the flash and it works by placing your finger lightly on the sensor while keeping as quiet as possible.

I’m not sure how accurate it is without comparing the feature to say a heart monitor from Garmin, but the feature seemed to work after a fashion (but the noise aspect can interfere). Likewise the app could also measure my steps (pretty accurately I must admit), which for those who walk a lot will find it a useful feature. Then again as the phone is so large I'm not so sure it is as practical as it could be!


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