MRU's Galaxy S5 review

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by MRU, May 19, 2014.

  1. MRU Suspended

    MRU

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    #1
    In a similar vain to the HTC M8 review I posted a week ago, I'm ready to share my thoughts on the Galaxy S5.


    So initially in the run up to when the new phones were announced I was looking forward to see what Samsung did with the S5, and when it was finally unveiled I was (as was much of internet) underwhelmed not by the specs but the general look of the device, especially the back of the device. It was clear that this was an evolution of the Galaxy S5 and not a departure.

    Then the proceeding weeks whilst we waited for it to actually get to store shelves, I followed the reviews and hands on impressions and it was whilst viewing these especially early videos that hit YouTube that my greatest concern about the handset and it's specs rose it's head. That was the 2gb of internal memory and how heavy touchwiz OS is and how adding more features to this year's model may add even more stress on that memory pool just standing still....

    Because of this concern I was hesitant to purchase the phone, however in the proceeding few weeks after launch and seeing camera samples I decided to put my concern to one side and actually get the device.

    So did it impress me? Or did it just validate my concerns? And what of that kooky back? Read on.....



    Firstly design,

    I opted to purchase the white model. I had both white and black S4 models and preferred the white, so it seemed logical to go for the White S5. On opening the packaging I was greeted by a very nice and after using both the M8 and the Lumia 1520 the S5 felt light but solid. Yes it's plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. What surprised me more was that dimpled back was actually quite nice in white and the soft touch felt like it provided a good surface to grip. The ridges on the chrome plastic also provide a nice tactile surface to grip the device. Whilst I do think real chrome would look and feel better even with keeping the rest of the device in its polycarbonate plastic, would add a little more feeling of sturdiness and premium feel, as it is - it feels and looks exactly like a Samsung Galaxy device. Which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about them.

    The bottom of the device is the concealed usb 3 port. I am not a fan of these but appreciate they need to be concealed for waterproof certification. That being said it would have been better if Samsung had opted to include wireless charging automatically with the device, in order to reign in some of the awkwardness of that concealed slot when it comes to charging.


    And the elephant in the room ...

    The camera has been beefed up and it is noticeable in the shots the camera takes, but under that is in my opinion the 'kitchen sink' of silly gimmickry in the heart rate monitor. I honestly do not see the point in the heart rate monitor and in the few attempts I have used it can not see how it is accurate enough to provide anyone with anything meaningful to track. Of course after exercise your heart rate is going to be faster, of course inactivity it will be slower - what does that tell us? Nothing on its own and when heart rate read out fluctuates a good 10-20 bpm after testing a few attempts it just leads me to believe it was there for nothing more than marketing / differentiator purposes than for any genuine practical use. Blood pressure and blood glucose likely have more practical use than just heart rate.

    Seriously Samsung, drop the heart rate sensor and use that cost saving to give users an extra 1gb ram in their device or wireless charging from the off, and you will be far better serving your users.

    The finger print scanner felt flawed to me. It works but not quickly or reliably, requiring me to input my security pin often more times than recognising my finger. Using the finger print scanner one handed is near impossible, meaning it doesn't really speed up your device unlocking. If anything it adds anther layer of guff, in the end I disabled it. For payment purposes in apps it works well (paypal) but it's annoying that Samsung hasn't got its act together with Google and made it available for purchasing items off Google play. A missed opportunity.



    Peformance and UI...

    Well Touchwiz has indeed had a nice refresh with the S5, well at least on the surface. If you were not a fan of Samsung's bright and blocky OS before, then the new Touchwiz won't change your view, but there is a number of decent improvements in the launcher this year.

    On the whole it feels faster and smoother, much of the stuttering from needless animations has been reigned in, and the option to actually turn off desktop transitions is well over due. Other manufactures need to do this, give me a smooth slide to my home screen panes over a needless cube spin or starwipe any day.

    The subtle enhancements to stock S-Apps is welcome, with S Planner now feeling at home on the S5 rather than an app trying to cram too much info into a small area on previous incarnations.

    Messaging has always felt out of date having barely changed since 2009, but I'm glad to see subtle improvements here too. Frequently used contacts can be stickied, and the actual design on the messaging can be enhanced to look more akin to hangouts albeit still with Touchwiz style coloring.

    Gallery sees little change however and it's still one of the few apps which show signs of hiccups & stutters. This is annoying when you consider Google's own Photos app is smooth on it and displays none of those hiccups. Clearly then hardware is not an issue, it's software.

    As launchers go, if we just look at Touchwiz home screen management and app drawer management, it's surprisingly a decent launcher, and that's why it's so infuriating to see it sitting on top of legacy structures that have existed since the first Galaxy devices and are fundamentally identical to the S2.

    As much choice the launcher gives you, it still grates that you can not move the app drawer icon from the right to either the centre or the left. Not everyone is right handed Samsung....

    My Magazine has made its way over from the Note 3 and ill be blunt, it's not transitioned greatly. Positioned on the left hand pane if you opt to use it, it has a curiously slow draw in animation which adds a feeling on sluggishness to its launch, that is utterly needless. On top of that as a news agrigator it doesn't really work very well. Essentially feeling like a skinned widget of flipboard, you can only choose a handful of catagories. Even if you opt to only have one catgory such as Technology and then manually choose the sources for that, when you launch my magazine you are still only presented with the one pane, and it requires you going one more level into the app to actually bring up some of that content. Further more clicking on any content essentially just launches flipboard. On the Note 3 this is not the case, it allowed you to see your highlights straight away. Here on the S5 it feels artifically restricted, and needlessly bloated. It's actually quicker to just launch flipboard, thereby undoing much of the benefit of having a quick news agrigator. Indeed to me it feels like Samsung wanted to provide it's own blinkfeed, but it's Implementation is completely flawed and pails in comparison to that provided on Sense 6. Indeed if anything it just adds another memory overhead to an already excessive one. Thankfully it can be disabled.


    Camera ...

    The camera on the S5 is the highlight of the device. Seriously it provides one of the best camera phone experiences out there, and I have managed to shoot some beautiful photos with the camera. One area where the camera could have benefitted however is in stabilisation. Shooting video and especially 4k video can be shaky when moving, and again OIS here would have yielded a massive boon to its Peformance for video shooting. (But we got a heart rate sensor instead) ;)

    If you are a keen photographer th camera will impress but there is one caveat that bugged the crap out of me, and that's when it comes to editing after the event. So you have selected a photo and launch edit to maybe crop, give a bit of saturation, apply a filter. All of which work great. Then you want to save your changes and you are told you can only save it as 8mp or 5mp !!!!! WTF? seriously it's needlessly annoying software limitation, we should at least be able to save our 16mp photo back as a 16mp file.

    It's needless annoying little things like that that pretty much sum up my experience with the S5. It's all goes great and then you hit this artificial wall and you think to yourself 'why '....


    Memory management ...

    Touchwiz in general use is smoother on the S5 than it ever was on the S4, but not any smoother than the Note 3. Indeed like Touchwiz OS before, it's a heavy OS. Just doing nothing only running it's OS background tasks it can take up 1.3-1.4gb of memory out of 1.8 accessible.

    Compare that to M8 or even the GPE S4, which comfortably sit around 650-750mb, that's a lot of extra resources the S5 is pulling out of a users availability. Indeed launching 9 apps on my M8 I sit around 950mb. Same situation with the S5 and I'm 1.7gb, and it's not long before I see the repercussions of that.

    In general use the S5 is a very speedy little device, but when it comes to multitasking that memory consumption is very noticeable on Peformance of the device. Whereas the S4 GPE, and M8 will happily multitasking with 9 full apps going back and forth without ever having to reload them, the S5 will begin to struggle after 4 or 5. By time you get to you 5th or 6th app launching from multitasking menu, you will see the app reload. Thankfully due to the shear power of the 801 chipset it does reload speedy enough, but the fact that it needs to shows that there is a defecit when it comes to memory on the S5. If it had been graced with 3gb I'm sure this would not have been the case, and it would have flew no matter the stresses Touchwiz and the myriad of background services but on it.

    But hey we didn't get that extra gig, we got a heart rate scanner......



    Conclusion...

    And whilst I'm taking the pee out of the heart rate scanner, please understand why...

    The S5 is undoubtedly a great device, but it feels like one that is hampered by its creators decisions to provide marketing feature, such as the sensor, the half baked fingerprint scanner, than what would actually have had an amazing and tangible benefit to ALL end users, and not the small percentage that will actually use those gimmick features.

    OIS would have worked wonders with the camera, and extra 1gb of memory would have resolved those multitasking issues and allowed the OS to flow even more smoother. A real aluminum or chrome bezel instead of the plastic one would have given the device a more premium feel whilst retaining Samsung's unmistakable aesthetic.

    It feels like a device that's so close to perfect, yet hindered by a marketing team dictating specs. A few changes would have provided ALL users tangible improvements to their user experience, but instead it feels like the desire to add 'one more marketing thing' has hindered the end product.

    It's not that the S5 is a bad phone, it's one of the best that there is, but frustratingly it could have been better had Samsung considered end user over advertising hook.


    So close Samsung,

    8.5/10


    (Same score as M8).... will the Z2 be better, find out in a weeks time :)

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    Tapatalk uploads so quality is reduced. Will replace with full res tomorrow.

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  2. jamezr, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014

    jamezr macrumors G4

    jamezr

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    #2
    As always MRU...very nice review. Look forward to your thoughts on the Z2!
     
  3. DeathChill macrumors 68000

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    #3
    Quoting his entire post was really unnecessary.
     
  4. Robster3 macrumors 68000

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    Dec 13, 2012
    #4
    It will be a good phone that gets over a 9. Don't think i have ever used 9 apps open on a phone.
    My magazine and blink feed were useless to me.
     
  5. jamezr macrumors G4

    jamezr

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    #5
    Better now? :) But I did leave off the pictures the first time! :)
     
  6. bmac4 macrumors 68040

    bmac4

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    #6
    Thanks MRU. I have been saying these same things about marketing gimmicks for years. I had the Note 2 and felt like it could have been so much better has Samsung not bothered with some of the crap. Why can't they just let there phone sell itself? Let all the cool things android does be enough? I just don't understand putting in unnecessary features.
     
  7. MRU thread starter Suspended

    MRU

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    #7
    Yep... By all means they should add things to improve their hardware, but they should add features that benefit 100% of their users all the time, not 5% of their users some of the time.

    More memory has a vastly greater impact on users experience than a heart rate monitor.

    It's those kind of things that frustrate, because its clear the S5 was a marketing led design focus that built the phone, rather than a user experience led design focus.

    It is a great phone, it just could have been greater. :)
     
  8. bmac4 macrumors 68040

    bmac4

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    #8

    I was arguing this point on a thread about a week ago. It seems that some people would rather say they have half baked features than to have a great all around device. That lacks some if those things.
     
  9. JaySoul macrumors 68030

    JaySoul

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    Jan 30, 2008
    #9
    Cool review.

    The thing is Samsung just need to start realising that LESS IS MORE.

    Once they do, the whole experience will be improved. I like my S4 but would love it if they had just taken a hacksaw to certain R&D departments.
     
  10. Sensamic macrumors 68030

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    Mar 26, 2010
    #10
    Nice review.

    I would be much more mad than you with the memory management problem. I also hate the chrome bezel and the USB cover (don't care for waterproof).
     
  11. Switchback666 macrumors 68000

    Switchback666

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    #11
    The chrome bezel and the fake stitching on the back of the note 3 are probably the only things I don't like about the phone hardware wise.
     
  12. Robster3 macrumors 68000

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    Dec 13, 2012
    #12
    Funny, that is what i did like about the note 3, and also like it on the S5, feels good, not slippery and no need for a case. I use wireless charging so usb is no problem, only open it when i drive all day and want to charge.

    No way i would of used my 5S or M8 without a case. I would of spent easy $300 on cases on my iPhone 5/5S.
     
  13. Switchback666 macrumors 68000

    Switchback666

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    #13
    The texture i really like, what i don't like is the design I would prefer the exact same thing but without the stitching part.
     

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