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Galaxy S5 deep-dive review: Long on hype, short on delivery

JR Raphael | April 21, 2014
Samsung's Galaxy S5 Android phone follows a very popular predecessor, but the latest version doesn't stand out in a sea of thoughtfully designed competitors.

The GS5 does have a slightly larger display than last year's model — 5.1 in. compared to 5 in. on the GS4 — but the difference in screen space isn't terribly significant. The phone's 1080p Super AMOLED screen is fantastic, though, with bold, brilliant colors and crisp detail. It's bright, too, and easy to see even in glary outdoor conditions (though you'll want to disable Samsung's always-wonky auto-brightness mode to get optimal performance).

As is typical of phones with AMOLED displays, blacks on the Galaxy S5 look deeper than what you'll see on devices with LCD screens while whites look noticeably grayer. You win some, you lose some.

Samsung says the Galaxy S5 has a new system that dynamically adjusts colors based on the lighting in your environment, but it's hard to detect much of a difference. The phone also includes a series of new configurable display modes, but the effects from those are equally subtle.

Body parts

The Galaxy S5 has a few new bells and whistles on its body: First of all, the phone is water-resistant (rated up to one meter deep for 30 minutes), which could be a nice bit of added protection if you ever find yourself in a storm and/or swimming pool with your phone in your pocket. Like we've seen with Sony's waterproof phones, the downside to that setup is that charging the device is a minor hassle, as you have to remove a protective flap every time you want to plug it in (and the GS5 doesn't support wireless charging unless you opt to buy a separate and yet-to-be-released special case).

Next, the GS5 has a heart-rate monitor on its back, which seems to be addressing a problem that doesn't exist — honestly, how many people are going to use that with any regularity? But hey, it's there if you want it. Just note that it's far from scientific; its results have been pretty scattered in my experience. And you can actually set up a similar feature on any Android phone by downloading a free app — no special hardware required.

Once you set it up, the fingerprint scanner will prompt you to slide your finger down the lower part of the screen and over the Home button to unlock it.

Last, but not least, the Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner built into its face. Once you set it up, the device will prompt you to slide your finger down the lower part of the screen and over the Home button to unlock it. It's been fairly accurate for me — not a single false positive so far — but the sliding process is finicky and often takes a few tries to get right. I suspect it'll be annoying enough that the vast majority of folks will give up and stop using it after a few days.

 

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