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Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands-on: Samsung’s New Flagship Goes Back to Basics

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Samsung cuts out the clutter with their new flagship

A few hours ago Samsung unveiled their latest flagship device, the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S5 has the monumental task of trying to regain the mindshare lost by its predecessor which did not perform to the company’s expectations. This year’s launch feels much different than the one back in London a year ago – gone is the fanfare, the dancing, the Broadway production. This year, Samsung is all about business, and the Galaxy S5 reflects this new change in focus

>>> See also: Samsung Galaxy S5 official

A note about our hands-on: Samsung Philippines were only able to provide black box versions of the Galaxy S5 to the Philippine media during the Unpacked viewing event earlier this morning held in the Makati Shangri-La. Black boxes are externally just that – black boxes, with display, controls, cameras and sensors of the Galaxy S5. While we could not take photos of the device – Samsung Philippines forbade us from doing so – we managed to essentially use Samsung’s newest flagship, sans the externals. We apologize in advance for the lack of actual photos in this article.

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Galaxy S5 Specs

  • 2.5GHz quad-core processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 5.1-inch FHD Super AMOLED, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 16/32GB internal storage, expandable up to 64GB
  • 16-megapixel camera
  • 2.1-megapixel front camera
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80, MIMO(2×2), Bluetooth 4,0, BLE / ANT+, NFC, IR Remote
  • IP67 Dust and water resistance
  • 2800mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

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Initial Impressions: The Galaxy S experience, stripped down to its core

One of the things that we noticed during the launch of the device is that Galaxy S5 doesn’t have the same amount of S-branded software in the Galaxy S5 compared to the S4. While their TouchWiz UI is still on board, it’s definitely less obnoxious this time around, and feels slightly more polished. The display on the Galaxy S5 is essentially the same one on the Galaxy S4, with minor improvements – the fancier automatic dimming for example, and the enhanced color correction gives the display a new life.

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Navigating through the S5 was a breeze, with zero lag. Transitions were silky smooth, which isn’t a surprise, considering the S5 uses a 2.5 Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor. Early benchmarks show that Samsung has managed to optimize the processor enough to get high marks in AnTuTu, though it’s going to take a real review to see if the performance of the S5 reflects its synthetic benchmark scores.

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Samsung has increased the megapixel count in the Galaxy S5 compared to the S4, going to 16-megapixels instead of the 13 found on their old flagship. The sensor of the Galaxy S5 is 16:9, which means that you can now get full resolution samples when you shoot – the Galaxy S4 and similar phones usually lose resolution when you shoot in widescreen. The camera can also take UHD video.

Another new feature for the S5 is real-time HDR. While HDR shooting exists for the Galaxy S4, it usually took quite a bit of time before you got your HDR pictures after pressing the shutter button, and required you to stay still. The Galaxy S5’s HDR mode allows you to see the HDR shot even before you press the shutter. There’s also cool selective focus feature on the camera, which allows users to change the depth of field after the photo has been taken. Very slick. The autofocus is also pretty quick, and makes good on its promise of quick, 1/3 of a second focus time.

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Much like the iPhone 5S, the Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner built into the home key. In theory, you simply swipe your finger downwards to unlock the device but in practice, it sometimes didn’t take, necessitating a second swipe to unlock the phone. The back of the device also holds a heartbeat sensor near the camera module where you place your finger, the sensor is linked to the new S-health software that’s in the Galaxy S5.

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Samsung has upped the battery life of the Galaxy S5 to 2800mAh, and introduced a new battery saving mode to conserve power when you’re really desperate. The Ultra Low Power mode cuts all non-essential functions of the phone and turns the screen black and white to conserve battery power. Samsung says that with the ultra low power mode on, 10% of battery life translates to roughly 24 hours of standby time for the device. You can add additional apps that will run in the background while on ultra low power, but obviously you won’t achieve Samsung’s numbers under ultra low power mode if you add a lot of apps.

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One thing we weren’t able to test was how the Galaxy S5 worked with Samsung’s recently announced wearables. The company devoted a lot of time to talk about the Gear Fit and the Gear 2 during the S5 unveil, so it would be interesting how the two wearables figured into the whole equation.

According to local Samsung execs, only the 16GB version of the Galaxy S5 will be heading to our shores, though there’s still a possibility that will change when there’s enough demand. No local launch date has been set, though Samsung has said that it will release the S5 globally in 150 countries come April 11.

 

 

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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