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Samsung Galaxy S5 review

 Review: February 2014  

Last updated December 2015

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy S5 launched in the UK on 11 April 2014. It's the fastest, most powerful Galaxy smartphone ever, with a stylish new look, fingerprint and heart rate scanners, ultra-fast camera and extended battery life.

Today's best buy: Samsung Galaxy S5 16GB from Laptops Direct (£169.97)



It's 11th April and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is finally in the shops. That's given us plenty of time to consider whether this is the best Samsung Galaxy phone ever (which it is) or merely an update to the Samsung S4 (which it is).

Look and feel

First things first. How does it look? It's recognisably a Samsung Galaxy S phone, and from the front it's very similar to previous S series phones. It's still plastic. But the back of the phone is different. It's a perforated casing that looks very smart and comes in a choice of 4 surprisingly tasty colours - Charcoal Black, Electric Blue, Shimmery White and Copper Gold. We were so relieved to see that Samsung hadn't adopted the hideous fake leather look of the Galaxy Note 3 that we'd have welcomed anything. But really, we like this new look a lot, although it doesn't match the sexiness of the HTC One M8.

When we said that the case was perforated, we didn't mean that it was full of holes. In fact, if ever there was a phone that is so not full of holes it's the S5, and that's because it's water- and dust-resistant with an IP67 certificate. That doesn't mean that you can take it swimming, but you can take it out in the rain without worrying. And if you live in Britain, that can only be a good thing.

There's something else that's new, and it's a fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button. That's cool, and it looks like this is the way of the future for all phones. The S5 requires a swipe rather than the simple click of the iPhone 5s, but it works well enough.

The Samsung S5 comes with a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 pixels and it's simply stunning. Super AMOLED delivers the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, and the effect is quite extraordinarily vivid. It's perhaps not the most subtle display, but the vast majority of users will love it.

Overall, the S5 is a large phone - larger than the S4 even though the screen size is virtually the same - and it's heavier too. It's not as heavy as its metal and glass rivals from other manufacturers, but it's still heavy.

Fitness features

On the back of the Galaxy S5 you'll find a heart rate monitor, situated just below the camera lens. This is the first heart rate monitor to be built into a smartphone. Woo! But is that what the world's smartphone users most wanted? You can already buy heart monitors - you'll find them on the bottom shelf at the pharmacist, next to the verruca cream. We haven't noticed queues of people waiting to buy them. But perhaps we're wrong. Perhaps this will be a game changer. Because Samsung is also heavily pushing its new Galaxy Gear Fit smart watch. The Gear Fit is poised to revolutionise exercise, according to Samsung's press release, so yeah, it looks like we were completely wrong about this. Sorry.

Fast photography

The Galaxy S5 has an uprated camera too. It's uprated to 16 megapixels, and it has the world's fastest autofocus in a camera phone, being able to focus in just 0.3 seconds. Selective Focus let's you keep the subject sharp and blur everything else, like the pros do. Also impressive is the way that HDR mode works in real time, so you can see exactly how your photos will look. The camera can also shoot 4K video.

We have to say that this is one of the very best cameras on any phone. It definitely beats HTC's UltraPixel camera for sharpness.

Fast connectivity

The Samsung S5 also comes with a new faster version of Wi-Fi and is 4G compatible. The Download Booster uses both your Wi-Fi and 4G connections to increase the data speed to the maximum possible.

Fast everything

In olden days, the fact that the Galaxy S5 has the fastest processor ever - the Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz processor with 2GB of RAM - would have been a headline feature. Now it's just one of the specs. All of the latest 2014 superphones have massively powerful processors - mostly the same Snapdragon 801. This new processor can deliver some tangible benefits when playing CPU-intensive games, but for everyday user interface stuff it simply isn't noticeable. In fact, navigation can sometimes feel slightly laggy, which is astonishing for such a high-powered machine. Sort it, Samsung!

Samsung has certainly packed a lot into the S5. The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface overlay on top. The S4 was already bloated with gadgets, and the S5 has even more, with the new fitness features topping the headlines. There's the S-Voice personal assistant as well as the Google Now personal assistant.

The phone comes with either 16GB or 32GB of built-in memory and you can add up to 128GB of extra memory via a microSD card. That's a lot of storage.

Battery life

Battery life is the elephant in the room for modern smartphones. Who cares what your smartphone can do if the battery is dead? The S5 comes with a new Ultra Power Saving Mode which turns the display to black and white and closes all background features. This can keep the phone alive for 24 hours if necessary. We would have called it Life Support Mode, but that's why we're here writing about phones instead of making them.

If you don't resort to such desperate measures, you'll find that the Galaxy S5 can get you through a day of heavy work, but not more than one day. You'll be plugging this animal into the power socket every night if you're anything like us.


Samsung is heavily pushing the fitness features of the S5 as part of its strategy to sell us all smart watches. Will that happen? We don't know, but probably not. What then, is the S5's killer feature? The fingerprint scanner? The fast autofocus? The new colours? Here at S21, we're struggling to see whether the S5 really has a killer feature, or whether it has a killer cocktail - a blend of everything just being perfect.

We don't see a wow factor here, and that could be a problem for sales of this device. It's obviously a brilliant upgrade for owners of the S3 or S4, and it will surely meet the needs of users without reservation. But will it thrill them? Only they and their Galaxy S5's heart monitor will know for certain.

Update (2 December 2015): The S5 has now been re-booted in the form of the S5 Neo. Read our Samsung S5 Neo review for more.

Samsung Galaxy S5 features include:

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Samsung Galaxy S5 user reviews

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Average rating from 14 reviews:

Reviewed by Stretch from UK on 30th Jun 2015
Surprisingly a very good phone!

Having had bad experiences with Samsung, having owned an S3 (poor battery life, and operating system), I was looking to move away from Samsung.

Having previously been a BB Bold owner I was tempted by the new BB Passport.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Passport was a disappointment, and I ended up returning the BB and swapping it rather hurriedly for the Samsung S5.

Having not been a fan of Samsung, Iíve been very pleasantly surprised just how good the S5 actually is.

Yes the phone is made of plastic, but who cares; most of us put our phones in some sort of protective case or cover.

The Lollipop operating system is so much better and fresher looking. Unlike the old S3, I can actually read the screen outside. The fresher look and little tweaks and speedier processor make this a much better phone.

One of the reasons I was tempted back to BB was battery life. The battery life in my old S3 sucked, but the battery life in the S5 is excellent. I easily get well over 1 day, sometimes 2 without having to worry about charging.

In a nutshell the S5 is a cracking phone.

I would give the phone 5 stars, but no phone is truly outstanding.

Reviewed by BOB from UK on 8th May 2015
I've always stayed away from Samsung phones. I hate all the bloatware apps that you can't get rid of, rubbish battery life and poor build quality. Well how wrong was i.

OK the phone is made of plastic. But after having several metal phones that have suffered from bending (only slightly) in my pockets, I blame what I do for work for this as I'm always leaning and bend over stuff as part of my job. I don't wear tight trousers.

Plastic phones are more forgiving. Plastic doesn't have memory like metal does.

Back to the phone. Fast as hell. Once rooted I deleted all the bloatware I didn't want. Took a few attempts to get it right. Thank god I backed it up from out of the box. It now runs like a dream. No issues.

Battery life. This is an odd one. I always have 100%. I drive upto 500 miles a day and my phone is my sat nav. I have it on charge when driving. This doesn't harm the phone as it stops charging and runs on power. At night when I go to bed it might be at 80% after getting home and using it to send emails and general messing. When I wake up its used 2% in standby. Other phones including android and windows and iPhones use far more.

Screen quality is great
CPU is fast with just enough RAM
5 out of 5

Shame Samsung have gone to using metal for the S6. That's why I got the s5.

Reviewed by RR from Germany on 11th Apr 2015
Very sleek, fast and "smart", however not my first choice as a phone. -- I use the Galaxy S5 for business and need both, data and voice capability. The S5 certainly excels in the area of data use. It has a large display with exceptional resolution and colour and, slim as it is, it still fits in my shirt pocket. Voice quality is good also. However, due to its large size and the fact that most of the front side area is taken by the touch-sensitive screen it is very difficult to firmly hold and at the same time operate with just one hand. The headset comes without a clip so you cannot fix the cable on your clothing. Both -- lack of grip and a headset pieces slipping out of your ear -- render the Galaxy S5 useless for telephone use in rental cars!!

Reviewed by SteveC from UK on 5th Jan 2015
Since getting the Galaxy S5 as a contract upgrade in October 2014, overall I've found it to be a very good smart phone. I find its size about right to use, but I wouldn't want it any larger. Function wise it all works very well and it does a good job, but I do find that the finger print scanner is generally poor. A nice security feature, but itís let down by requiring very accurate and consistent finger swipes across the scanner to accept entry. Consequently, I've had far too many 30 second lock-outs and so Iíve stopped using it. Maybe a firmware update is needed to make it work better. Iíve seen a lot of criticism in reviews about the S5ís plastic body and looks. Personally, Iíve no complaints here. Given the phoneís size, itís reasonably lightweight and durable. Anyway, once youíve got a decent case on the phone, so what if itís made of plastic. Overall an excellent phone, great screen and it does a lot. But, where do we go from here?

Reviewed by paublo from u.s.a. on 13th Sep 2014
All these reviews don't mean a thing-----unless you know what the SAR value is of your phone; ( The specific absorption rate of your phone);i.e. The amount of radiation that your body can absorb. THAT should be the 1st thing you look at. Lately, Samsung has low SAR values, But why doesn't anybody list what the SAR value is of the "5"?

Reply by Boyden from England on 10th Nov 2014
Probably cos most of us don't give a flying fig what the SAR values are

Reply by Jesse from Australia on 1st Feb 2015
I care what the SAR value is. You've probably found it by now but both US & EU ratings are listed by gsmarena.
US ratings are 1.20 W/kg (head) 1.58 W/kg (body) Which is extremely high!! The legal limit is 1.6 W/kg!! Which is a real shame, I was going to buy this phone until I found that out. The Galaxy Note 4 on the other hand is rated 0.37 W/kg (head) 0.88 W/kg (body) (US rating). I'm still undecided though because I don't like big phones, and I really do like ruggedness (dust and water resistant). Perhaps if I make a special bag to carry it in and always use a hands free...?
The official samsung site appears to list this info but it isn't working for me, super slow to load and then doesn't actually list any information (probably a javascript error)

Reply by Steve from UK on 1st Feb 2015
Jesse, the SAR values of phones are listed on S21: www.s21.com/sar.htm and S21 even lists the 10 phones with the lowest values: www.s21.com/lowest-sar-phones.htm.

The Galaxy S5 has SAR ratings as follows:
Head SAR: 0.562 W/Kg
Body SAR: 0.406 W/Kg
Source: www.samsung.com/sar/sarMain?site_cd=uk&prd_mdl_name=SM-G900F

Reviewed by Blake 7even from UK on 28th Aug 2014
This is a Big Boy Phone. Does all I need and more. Battery will get me through a day of heavy use. Took it on holiday and got some awesome snaps and videos. Runs everything like a dream so far. Had HTC One X+ before and used the Sat Nav from Notts to West Mids Safari (with car charger) and was down to 40% from 100% by time arrived, was no use after that. Did the same to France last week from 92% and arrived in Cherbourg with 65% including Ferry crossing and photo's, champion!!! Can't think of any negatives to tell you about. Love the privacy mode!! You'd be crazy to look past this phone!!!

Reply by Stevo from UK on 30th Sep 2014
The battery drain using your charger with SatNav will be because your USB car charger is out-putting less than required. I found this out and bought a PowerGen Dual USB charger....now, my phone ALWAYS has more juice in it than when I start out!

Reviewed by Jamie from UK on 11th Aug 2014
I upgraded a month ago from the S4. At first I was blown away with the phone and much happier with it than the S4. Now normality has kicked in and I am struggling to keep the wow feeling it gave me in the first couple of weeks. The camera is better, apps like Facebook and Twitter seem to work smoother. Generally I am very happy with it, however like most phones you are never completely satisfied. I wish they stuck an even better camera on it even though it is much better than that on the S4, I also wish it felt better in the hand to hold. Apart from that the phone works fine and is very quick. The wow factor for me is the battery. I am struggling to run it down each day. The only way I do is leaving tethering on for my iPad for most of the working day. I feel the battery is amazing. I have bought a spare battery but have never had the need to use it when out with the phone all day yet. If you are a Samsung fan you will love it. I have no loyalty to any manufacturer, however it is a very good phone and I would highly recommend it but is it as impressive as the LG G3, the HTC One M8 as an alternative or maybe even the Sony Experia Z2? I was recommended that the S5 is the best all-rounder and as most of the latest android phones have the same software feel , it comes down to how comfortable you feel the phone feels and whether you like the looks of it.

Reviewed by Frati from UK on 3rd Jul 2014
Upgraded from the Galaxy S2.
S5 lot bigger still trying to get used to it but that said the phone GUI is nice and crisp lighter then the S2 which had a black GUI the whole phone seems lighter with the colouring, I bought the phone outright no more apps from phone vendor which is handy and the nice feature you can disable or unistall apps that you don't need, 2gb installed and the phone already us running 1.2gb of apps! be warned.
Only thing I don't like is the folders, I prefered the older android 4.1.2 which had the apps one on top of the other but 4.4 has a folder and you can see the icons of the apps there
2800mAh battery you need it the more apps the more memory it uses and more power needed to run them.
Camera perfect was good on the S2 yet this is perfect for when out with children adn you don't always take your camera with you. NO RADIO, don't really need it with the amonuts apps out there spotify etc you can just run those or link up to a radio station via their app ;-)
Still playing and finding new things so can't complain at present..

Reply by Frati from London, UK on 24th Jul 2014
Downside - headphones that are supplied are rubbish you get a top quality mobile and the standard headphone too much treble, sounds rather flat. Why on earth do phone manufactures insisted on giving out rubbish headphones?? Got some other headphones no name cheapies approx £15 and the sound is 100% better. If you are buying the phone buy a decent set of headphone you will not regret it.

Reviewed by russ bracey from uk on 16th Jun 2014
This is the Lionel Messi†of mobiles!

Reply by micky from London, UK on 15th Jul 2014
Messi was rubbish at the World Cup, but this pone is not. Gives and keeps giving

Reviewed by James from UK on 21st May 2014
Unbelievable phone. Everything is super quick, easy to use and excellent screen size. Discovering new things every day! Happy with the design as well - nice fit in hand and a incredibly light!

Reviewed by yen from nw england on 1st May 2014
No FM Radio and its TOO BIG #criminal

Reply by Frati from UK on 2nd May 2014
So you read the spec and saw the phone??? stupid comments on your behalf..

Reply by richard from uk on 4th May 2014
There is always 1 stupid comment

Reply by Arun from Saudi on 26th Jul 2014
Yeah That comment was thoughtless. Too Big!!!

Reviewed by Fredburger from UK on 24th Apr 2014
Just got my phone recently and I have to say it's probably the best one I've got. Future proof it's all in the phone everything you would need. Could probably keep up to date with other phones for 10 years I'd say! BRILLIANT PHONE!

Reviewed by Fred from UK on 17th Apr 2014
Just replaced my S4 with the S5 I always buy my phones outright and was unsure if the S5 was enough of an upgrade.
That said I love gadgets and the fingerprint scanner alone swayed me and I must admit it seems very effective. Despite several members of my family trying it, it would only unlock with the two fingers that i registered with the device.
Their is a lot more to the device than that though the increase is screen size feels much bigger than the actual physical increase and is clear and sharp.
The camera takes beautiful pictures especially in low light and I really like the makeover to the UI, and as I have already got a buyer for my S4 so that takes the pain out of the upfront costs.
So if you are wondering is it worth upgrading I say yes and if you have a S3 in my opinion its a no brainer

Reviewed by Jay from Uk on 11th Apr 2014
Decided to try the Samsung S5 upgrading from the HTC one (m7). I loved the HTC but wasn't keen on the New HTC One M8. I am really please I took the plunge I'm amazed.Only got it earlier but already it clearly a class device. Great camera, amazing screen clarity and battery life. So far so good. On;y negative is that its not as premium feeling as the HTC.

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