Samsung Galaxy S5 review

The best and worst smartphone you can buy

Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Fantastic screen
  • Great camera
  • Waterproof (IP67)
  • Biometrics

Cons

  • TouchWiz
  • Big

Bottom Line

Samsung's new flagship just bristles with features. Some are undeniably innovative and useful - like the waterproofing and the camera - but the entire smartphone is let down by one of the heaviest, ugliest and most annoying Android overlays yet.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 929.00 (AUD)

Faster downloads, Biometric security

Samsung has tried to differentiate its flagship with a slew of innovative features.

The ability to improve download speeds with Download booster — which works by coupling Wi-Fi with 4G — would be a fantastic addition. Unfortunately restrictions limit when you can put it to work: files have to be larger than 30MB, must be downloaded from apps, and don’t work within Google and Samsung's app stores.

TouchWiz is unequivocally the worst thing about Samsung’s Galaxy S5

A celebrated addition is the Samsung Galaxy’s finger scanner. Although Apple reintroduced fingerprint scanners in smartphones, Samsung has taken the feature one step further by allowing PayPal payments to be processed with the swipe of a finger.

Registering your finger is a matter of repeatedly swiping. Three fingers can be stored.
Registering your finger is a matter of repeatedly swiping. Three fingers can be stored.

Peace of mind is what a fingerprint scanner should offer, but we found ourselves agitated with Samsung’s finger scanner at times. There is little margin for error as you have to hold the smartphone upright for it to work correctly. In comparison, Apple’s TouchID is quicker, will register your input no matter how you hold the smartphone and is more accurate.

Another biometric tool featured on the Galaxy S5 is a heart monitor. Samsung tout the Galaxy S5 is the only smartphone in the world to feature a heart monitor, and we’re not surprised given the additive will appeal to a niche.

Recording your heart rate is a matter of launching the S-Health application and placing a thumb over the sensor, which is situated alongside the single LED flash. Background noise must be kept to a minimum if the glowing-red sensor is to calculate your beats-per-minute.

Final thought

“With the Galaxy S5, Samsung is going back to basics to focus on delivering the capabilities that matter most to our customers.”

Those words were spoken by Samsung president and chief executive, JK Shin, at the Galaxy S5’s global unveiling. In his introductory speech he recognised the need to simplify Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Samsung's software isn't simplistic enough

Read more: The banks behind smartphone payments in Australia

In some ways Samsung has achieved this, but not in enough ways. Some of the applications on the smartphone are easy to use — aesthetic even — but Samsung’s software itself isn’t simplistic enough to make the experience enjoyable.

TouchWiz is unequivocally the worst thing about Samsung’s Galaxy S5. It constantly badgers users to sign up to other Samsung services; services I simply don’t want my smartphone telling me to use.

The plethora of unique Samsung features, such as the heart monitor, finger scanner and digital wallet, would’ve been welcomed if the Galaxy S5 had gotten the basics right. Their validity is undermined by the software. The waterproofing is a great feature, but it too has come at the expense of a chic design.

President Shin was right, Samsung does need to go back to the basics. The software used on the Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 were far more enjoyable. The colour scheme was predominantly a simple black on white; buttons were big and legible; and the entire operating system was spiffy on hardware far less advanced. These early Galaxys found a healthy balance between software, power and functionality. With the Galaxy S5, Samsung is too busy focusing on the latter two.

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Read more on these topics: Apple, Android, htc, samsung, TouchWiz, One, galaxy, iphone 5s, galaxy s, ip67, KitKat, 4.4, S5, M8
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