The Galaxy S5’s main shooter has gotten a bump in megapixel count this year, going from 13 to a massive 16. Samsung can’t help but extend its feature creeping ways to its camera software, but that doesn’t stop the camera itself from taking fantastic shots most of the time.
Especially in well-lit settings, photos here are sharp, vibrant, and detailed. Colors are lively and balanced, and fine details are relatively easy to make out. All of this is helped by the shooter’s continuous autofocus system, which is startlingly adept at reducing blurriness while capturing a moving target.
Speaking of focus, the Galaxy S5 also includes an HTC One-esque “selective focus” feature, which is supposed to let you change the focus point of shots after they’ve been taken. The effect doesn’t work half the time, though, and it isn’t nearly as strong as the One’s tool when it does. A new “Real Time HDR” mode, however, is great, as it lets you preview your surroundings in HDR mode before snapping the pic. It’s simple yet effective.
Samsung’s cameras have traditionally struggled in low-light, and the Galaxy S5 unfortunately continues that trend. Photos in the dark are usually too grainy, and the time it takes to capture a shot seems to increase as well. It’s probably better than what you’d get on the Galaxy S4, but there’s room for further improvement here.
The same sentiments generally apply to the Galaxy S5’s video capturing abilities. In the light, things look vivid, smooth, and sharp in the default 1080p resolution. There’s also a 4K shooting mode here, which lets you capture 2160p video at 30 frames per second. That’s a nice bonus for any early UHD adopters out there, but it probably won’t matter much to most users.
On the front of the S5 sits a 2-megapixel shooter, which doesn’t provide very sharp or colorful shots but is fine enough for your everyday selfie.
Samsung’s camera app is still loaded with more modes and effects than you’ll know what to do with, but most of them are now hidden behind appropriate, well-arranged sub-menus. A “Shot and More” mode lets you decorate, resize and edit your pics to no end, and the usual “Beauty Face,” panorama, and dual camera settings are still there, but none of it ever obstructs you from just firing up the app and taking a quick pic.
The Galaxy S5 sports a 2,800 mAh battery, which Samsung rates at 390 hours of stand-by time and 21 hours of talk time. It’s exceptional in practice, as I was able to get around 12 hours out of the phone with near-constant use. With lighter usage, the S5 can easily last a full day, possibly up to a day and a half. It will get you through a full day of work or classes without any issues.
As mentioned above, Samsung has also included a pair of nifty battery-saving modes that can ration your juice in a pinch. A more standard “Power saving mode” allows you to disable background data whenever you like, but the more noteworthy “Ultra power saving mode” is even stronger. It converts the entire phone to a greyscale theme and limits it to its most basic applications (texting, calling, reading emails offline, etc.), allowing it to last for a few days with only a scant percentage of power left. It’s an idea that other OEMs have tested out before, but it should still prove handy for anyone on a long, charger-less trip.
The Galaxy S5 is a blockbuster: big, loud, powerful, and dumb. It does all the necessary things too well to be considered a failure. It runs fast, takes good photos, lasts a long time, and isn’t a pain to hold. The foundations it’s built upon are exceptional.
Still, those foundations are nearing the point of diminishing returns. More and more, the phones that stand out are the ones that care about how they feel and what software they run. And for all the good the Galaxy S5 does, it’s still a cheap-feeling vessel for a UI that’s trying to do too much.
The S5 doesn’t care as much about those things, because it doesn’t have to. People pay to see their blockbusters, and that’s fine. Anyone who buys the Galaxy S5 is not doing it wrong. But they, and Samsung, could be doing it better.
- Tremendous performance
- Lively, colorful display
- Can produce great photos
- TouchWiz is bloated and sloppy
- Fingerprint reader and heart rate monitor are useless
- Feels cheaper than other flagships