Samsung Galaxy S5 is the big dog - review

2014-05-16 09:50
Samsung has set a new benchmark with the Galaxy S5. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Samsung has set a new benchmark with the Galaxy S5. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - It’s very difficult to improve on a hit, but Samsung is making the effort with the Galaxy S5.

The latest device from the South Korean firm comes loaded with a specific theme, while at the same time trying to appeal to mass market.

The S5 wants you to exercise and Samsung has built its S-Health software and hardware into the slick, yet familiar shape that has become a cultural norm.

From the moment you slide your finger over the reader to access the device, you get the sense that it wants to know that you're at the top of your game – just like the phone.

It’s powered by a 2.5GHz quad core processor which is mated to 2GB of RAM, so it’s almost redundant to look for slowdowns in applications.

Heart rate monitor

In fact, the top end processor is well exploited by games like Beach Buggy Blitz and Cricket T20 Fever where you’ll find they’re noticeably smoother than underpowered smartphones.

On the rear of the device is the heart rate monitor which works in conjunction with the health application.

You simply place your finger over the reader to get a heart rate and the software also keeps a record of you readings in the application which you can personalise.  Samsung goes further by have the device recommend and record your footsteps for the day.

The Samsung Galaxy Fit encourages exercise and biometrics monitoring. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

For lazy smartphones reviewers though, it feels a little judgemental. It's only 10 footsteps to the fridge after all.

However, while technology that exploits biometrics does give you the bragging rights on a device that costs over R10 000, it’s not yet perfect.

The heart rate monitor on the Galaxy S5 worked about 70% of the time - which is frustrating - which spikes that heart rate - which gives a poor score - when it does work. You get the idea.

The optional Gear Fit is an elegant addition to the S5 and on the face of it, seems more capable than the Galaxy Gear smart watch.

Brand recognition

The device connects to the phone via Blue Tooth and measures biometric details, including sleep patterns which it displays or relays to the phone. But it suffered a lower success rate at being able to accurately measure heart rate than the phone, though it easily went three days on one charge.

Does the Galaxy S5 stand out from the pack? Samsung has such brand recognition now that people instantly know the S device, but the only clues that it’s the big dog are the pleather back cover and the heart rate monitor place adjacent to the camera.

It is time that the flagship Samsung model comes with an aluminium cover. It would add an elegant touch while looking at that brilliant 13cm display.

The pleather back cover of the Samsung Galaxy S5 does not do the device justice. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Taking pictures with the S5 is slightly more finicky than on the S4, with the device requiring a fraction more time to focus, though picture quality is good, and Samsung has refined the accuracy of the lens for 360° panoramic shots.

The 16 megapixel main camera is much more forgiving for unsteady hands and like the S4, the device instantly picks up which way you are rotating for a panorama so that the image works.

As a bonus, the low light photography is slightly better, but more work could be done on the selfie secondary camera which produces images with noticeable grain.

Bragging rights

The fingerprint reader is a cool addition to the S5, and contrary to some reports, it performed well over the review period, even with hands that were damp or slightly dusty. You have to slide you finger vertically to ensure that the device recognises it and, as a failsafe, you are required to punch in an alternative password after a number of failed attempts.

Is the Galaxy S5 the best smartphone you can buy? If you want the bragging rights, this is definitely for you, but if you are shopping for value, the S4 comes in at a better deal.

The Galaxy S5 is available on contract at around R449 per month, and has a recommended retail price of R10 299 and the Galaxy Gear Fit is at R2 299.

Check our News24 first look video:

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