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Review roundup: Samsung Galaxy S5 is very good, but perhaps not good enough


The early reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S5 are in, and the general verdict appears to be that it’s a very good phone – but perhaps doesn’t offer any really persuasive reason to upgrade from the S4.

Re/Code took the view that the waterproofing was the only real standout feature.

I’ve been testing the new S5 for a couple of weeks, and I like it, though I didn’t find it especially exciting or novel. In every major hardware area, it’s a very good phone, with a sharp, gorgeous screen that, at 5.1 inches, is a teeny bit bigger than the five-inch display on last year’s model, the S4 […]

Overall, the Galaxy 5S is a very good phone, but not one compelling enough for me to recommend that you buy it to replace last year’s Galaxy or the current iPhone. But there’s one caveat: If you drop your phone in water a lot, you want this one …

The WSJ agreed, summing it up by saying “it can swim, but won’t make any waves.”

The Galaxy S5 has a waterproof exterior that survived a dunking in a margarita, a plunge in to a toilet, and left overnight in strawberry Jell-O. (Yes, I tried.)

In most other ways, this update to Samsung’s top-selling Galaxy S4 barely moves the needle. Aside from the waterproofing, the Galaxy S5’s most original new feature is a heart rate sensor that works well only if you hold very, very still. It also has a fingerprint reader more versatile than that in Apple’s 5S, but a camera that still doesn’t take great pictures in low light.

Anybody weighing this phone as an upgrade or a switch from another model may rightly wonder: Has smartphone evolution stalled?

TechRadar said that Samsung had gone for evolution rather than revolution (again).

The Samsung Galaxy S5 can be defined by one word: evolution […]

Powerful, competent and with a whole new UI, it’s a shame that Samsung hasn’t progressed further with the look of its new challenger […]

If you’re excited about what Samsung does, you’ll love this phone. The brand has definitely done a lot to make it more useable and deliver things you’ll actually use, such as a better, faster camera and health info.

But if you’re on the fence, or in the iPhone camp, it would be easy to decry this as a mere update to what came before, offering uninspiring design and a feature set that doesn’t mark it out well enough from the competition.

CNET was of the same mind.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 excels at everything that matters — Android 4.4 KitKat OS; a bright, beautiful display; blistering quad-core processor; and an excellent camera experience. In addition, Samsung’s efforts to streamline its own custom interface and reduce pre-installed bloatware pay off.

[But it’s] a only small upgrade over the Galaxy S4. The fingerprint scanner can be confusing to use, and the heart-rate monitor is a niche feature at best. In some regions, the Galaxy S5 costs significantly more than rival top-rated handsets.

AnandTech agreed that it was an evolution, but said that even so it’s close to perfect.

Overall the Galaxy S 5 is a solid replacement to the GS4 (and definitely to any previous Samsung device). I find that pretty much all the flagships offer some set of tradeoffs that prevent any one from being the perfect device (iPhone’s screen size, GS5’s materials, M8’s camera). It’s unfortunate because I’d really like to crown a single device the king of them all, but instead we’re faced with a handful of differing optimization points. Samsung got it almost perfect with the GS5. With a metal body, a rear facing camera with larger pixels (perhaps with some tweaks to camera output processing), a better NAND controller, and stereo front facing speakers, the GS5 would probably be perfect.

Business Insider was extremely impressed, with the plastic body its sole criticism.

My only major problem with the Galaxy S5 is the physical design. I still prefer metal phones or phones made out of a solid plastic unibody. It’s not awful, but it’s not ideal, either. But if you don’t mind plastic, you’re really going to like the Galaxy S5.

That said, the Galaxy S5 is simpler, more refined, and more enjoyable to use than any Samsung device I’ve tested so far. Between the camera, that brilliant 5.1-inch display, and the smoother software, the Galaxy S5 is one of the best phones you can buy.

Samsung is reportedly taking a rather aggressive approach to unfavorable reviews: the Korean site Media Today (via BGR) says that the company has filed a $285,000 lawsuit against the Electronic Times over comments it made about the S5’s camera …

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