Samsung is now the undisputed king of the Android smartphone space. It was only a few years ago that the general public referred to every Android phone as a “Droid”. Now, it’s not uncommon for people to refer to every Android device as a “Galaxy”, and it speaks to the level of market penetration that Samsung has achieved with their Galaxy line-up. The Galaxy S series has been a sales hit, and with the initial impressions piece, it was said that the average consumer lives and dies by what’s familiar. Samsung continues to iterate with their Galaxy S line with consistent improvement and little, if no regression from generation to generation. This is where Samsung dominates, as the Galaxy S5 is clear evolution of the Galaxy S3 and S4, but made more mature.

The inspiration of the Galaxy Note 3 is also evident in the Galaxy S5’s design. Like the Note 3, the sides of the phone have the same ribbed chrome-colored plastic, which helps with gripping the phone. The front, like the Note 3, also has a subtle pattern beneath the glass. The same layout that has been used since the original Galaxy S is still mostly unchanged here. 

There’s a single rectangular home button, with two capacitive buttons on the side and an earpiece on top, with holes for the sensors. There’s also a noticeable lip as you swipe off the glass lens, which is noticeably thicker than the one on the Galaxy S4. This lip keeps the glass from touching the surface if the phone is set face down on a table. The only major departure on the front is the capacitive button configuration which replaces the menu action overflow button with a multitasking button, something that has been sorely lacking from Galaxy phones, although this change is likely to annoy those that preferred to have a dedicated menu button. On the bright side, long pressing the multitasking button acts as an action overflow button.

On the back, the phone has undergone some serious changes, although it’s still quite familiar. The speaker is still present, as is the camera bump with the flash module underneath. The heart rate sensor is also next to the flash, and the single speaker is on the back as well. What’s really interesting is that the texture is no longer glossy. The back has a grid pattern of indentations in it that help with gripping the phone, and there’s a noticeable texture that seems to resemble the same pattern that the Note 3 had, but there’s no stitching to suggest a faux-leather texture. Along the sides, the power button is on the right side, the volume rocker on the left. The IR transmitter continues to be in the same position that it was before, as is the 3.5mm headphone jack which is on the top right. The microUSB 3.0 port is on the bottom, covered by a flap that is supposed to protect against water immersion according to IP67 spec.

Overall, while the Galaxy S5 isn’t as nice in the hand as the HTC One (M8), it’s certainly not as bad as the Galaxy S4 or S3. I have to say that compared to the GS4, the back makes a huge difference in improving the feel of the device. It's not what I'd consider premium (despite the GS5's price point), but it's much better than before.

While the Galaxy S4 and HTC One were generally comfortable to use, the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) are both teetering at the edge of too large. I found that both are effectively sitting right at the edge of what I’d consider to be usable with one hand. HTC continues to have a bit more ergonomic shape as the rounded back cover fits in the hand better, although it makes the phone have a higher maximum thickness. 

Taking off the back cover of the phone, it’s clear that the entire phone has been designed with water resistance in mind, as there’s a rubber gasket all along the back cover, and there’s an extra plastic snap in the center that helps to ensure that the gasket seals the phone properly. The GS5, like the GS4 Active, retains an IP67 (Ingress Protection) rating. The first digit (6) indicates that the design is fully sealed against dust, while the second digit indicates that the device is submergible up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Another consequence of this need to waterproof the phone is that taking apart the phone for repair is no longer done by removing screws from the cover that is underneath the backplate unlike the Galaxy S4. Instead, based upon some teardowns done by others, repairing this phone must be done by removing the display first, then the midframe and the rest of the phone can be accessed for repair. In short, the assembly of this phone most closely resembles the Galaxy S4 Active, which is hardly surprising because both are IP67 certified. However, as Samsung emphasized at their launch event, this doesn’t make the Galaxy S5 waterproof in any way.

Outside of the physical construction of the device, the Galaxy S5 continues to ship the latest and greatest hardware for its time. Samsung has used the MSM8974ACv3 Snapdragon 801 for this phone, an updated AMOLED display with a claimed 500 nit brightness for outdoor visibility, and a new ISOCELL 16MP camera sensor. A comparison of the Galaxy S4 and S5 can be seen in the table below.

  Samsung Galaxy S4 Samsung Galaxy S5
SoC APQ8064AC 1.9 GHz Snapdragon 600 MSM8974ACv3 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM/NAND 2 GB LPDDR3, 16/32GB NAND + microSD 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32GB NAND + microSD
Display 5” 1080p SAMOLED HD 5.1” 1080p SAMOLED HD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x15 UE Category 3 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130 grams 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm, 145 grams
Camera

13MP (4128 x 3096) Rear Facing with 1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size, 31 mm (35mm effective), 2MP F/2.4 FFC
 

16MP (5132 x 2988) Rear Facing with 1.12 µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size, 31 mm (35mm effective), 2MP FFC
Battery 2600 mAh (9.88 Whr) 2800 mAh (10.78 Whr)
OS Android 4.4 with Nature UX 2.0 Android 4.4 with TouchWiz
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 1x1 + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 + BT 4.0, USB3.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM MicroSIM

Outside of camera, display, and SoC, battery gets a noticeable bump and a new higher voltage chemistry (3.8V vs 3.85V) , the WiFi solution becomes a dual spatial stream solution, and there's a mild increase to size and mass.

Camera Architecture & Still Image Analysis
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  • xsoft7 - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    just remove the touchwiz UI!
    every single samsung device has lags because of it!
    after installing google edition\diffrent roms that not based on it, the lags dissappeard!
    the UI is their most weak point, no matter how fast the cpu\gpu or ram will be, the ui, after several software insallation will L-A-G. just go over youtube and see it for yourself! wether it is GALAXY note 1,2,3 or galaxy s 12345, or tabs. they are lagging! (except google edition)
    Reply
  • BedfordTim - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    That is a deliberate feature put there so that you will upgrade to a "faster" phone. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    The GS4 is the most stable phone of 2013. People who has actually held a phone know that people like you and xsoft7 are just trolling.

    http://www.androidcentral.com/apps-crashed-most-gi...

    Give it up. No one cares about your opinion.
    Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    *People who has actually held a GS4 know.... Reply
  • Astarael - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    *have Reply
  • earthrace57 - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    I hate to break it to you, but how stable it is when using apps isn't exactly relevant when using touchwiz. On my friend's S4, there is noticeable slowing when doing motions in the basic UI, which is what we are talking about. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    I hate to break it to you, every phone, no matter brand or OS can be slow if you install the wrong apps.

    Your "friends" phone is completely irrelevant to everybody who's actually used a GS4. Because we know you just full of it. How do I know I am more right than you? Because I know which Android phone is dominating sales. By a gigantic margin. If anything of what you're making up is true, Samsung wouldn't be as dominant, no matter how much money they would throw at their marketing department.
    Reply
  • niva - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    Dominating sales has nothing to do with what you're describing. Have you tried the google play version of the galaxy s? The one that comes with stock android and doesn't feature the silly overlays? Yup, runs more stable than the "regular" galaxy s and actually gets updated in terms of software.

    The reason why manufacturers drop those skins is not so they "look different" only but because they can somehow rationalize not updating the software on the device later and force you into an upgraded device sooner.

    Anyone buying a non-nexus phone is in this boat unless they want to do some work on their own to keep the devices up to date and that doesn't always quite work out right in terms of stability.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - link

    Even Nexus phones are not always updated immediately as we have seen in the last year. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Wednesday, April 09, 2014 - link

    If you don't understand what Android is, I really don't see why I should discuss it with you.

    Android is a free to use open source platform. This means, manufacturers has to compile the code to their specific hardware, which takes a few months. NO ONE IN THE REAL WORLD CARES ABOUT THIS DELAY NIVA. NO ONE.

    People who are been obsessed with stock experience pushed to their phones the minute Google announces a new update buy a Nexus phone. Everyone else buys the phone they feel best suits them. Most people teds to buy Galaxy S phones, simply because they are the best, and one of the very few with an OLED display.

    Skinning Android is a necessity to create a feeling of an ecosystem the buyer feels at home with. For instance, I could never live with the skin Sony crams into their phones, in my opinion it's ugly in really incoherent. I have a Nexus tablet too, but I prefer TouchWiz, simply because it gives you a lot of really, really useful add/on features.

    Anyone arguing a Nexus phone is the only choice, just because it has stock Android doesn't understand what a smartphone is. The Nexus 5 is a mediocre phone. At best.
    Reply

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