The Samsung Galaxy S5 is out in the market, and while it’s not the revolutionary upgrade that many were hoping for, the combination of familiar design elements and new highlight functionalities is a formula that has worked for Samsung flagship devices for several years now.
In our review of the Galaxy S5, we cited a few things that make the phone a formidable release. But is the jump from the S4 to the S5 big enough to warrant an update? While that decision ultimately depends on your preferences, needs, and wallet, here’s what we think are the top five reasons why an upgrade from the Galaxy S4 to the Galaxy S5 would be a good idea.
1. Build quality
The Galaxy S5’s design is very similar to its predecessor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re upgrading from the S4, you won’t find yourself struggling to adjust, especially with the similar sizes and form factors. Samsung made a few design improvements. Particularly, the dimpled back cover feels better than the glossy finish of the S4 (but may still be lacking compared to the premium feel of the Note 3’s faux leather).
An even better reason to upgrade is the Galaxy S5’s IP67 certification, which means the phone is water- and dust-resistant. It can withstand a 30-minute dip in up to 1 meter (about 3 feet) of water and still come out working and responsive. The build quality on the S5 is leaps and bounds better than the S4, which makes it a good upgrade if you’re looking for durability in a flagship device. The fact that you can use the device with confidence even during rainstorms or at the beach is great, compared to the super-thin bezeled S4, which squeaked and creaked under pressure.
In terms of size difference, the S5’s screen is only 0.1 inch bigger than its predecessor’s, but it keeps within Samsung’s tradition of using Super AMOLED screens, which results in crisp and vivid colors that pop out of the screen. Color saturation can be adjusted according to your preference, however. And, as with other LED-based screens, you can squeeze out a bit more battery juice with the power-saving mode that switch to monochromatic theme.
It’s not just a bigger display. The S5’s display was actually praised by the experts at DisplayMate as the best display the team has tested. It’s even better than the Note 3’s and a clear improvement over the S4 when it comes to brightness and reflectance levels.
3. ISOCELL camera
The Galaxy S5 comes with a sensor using the new ISOCELL technology – in layman’s terms, each pixel is isolated from neighboring pixels, reducing artifacts and other problems common among digital sensors. That should result in theory in crisper images and less noise, particularly in challenging lighting conditions. Our photo tests produced very vivid pictures with good color reproduction. At the very least, the photos are perfect for posting on social media, and with a few tweaks and adjustments, your Galaxy S5 photography can reach the next level.
Some fun and useful features on the Galaxy S5 are the Live HDR and Selective Focus functionalities. Live HDR lets you preview the HDR output, so you can have an idea of how the image will appear with high dynamic range. Selective Focus, meanwhile, lets you adjust the focus after the photo has been taken.
Upgraded hardware often comes with increased performance, and while not everyone wants to be on the bleeding edge, the Galaxy S5’s Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5 GHz gives the device snappy performance. Any lags or stutters are often caused by the user interface, namely TouchWiz. But even that gets an upgrade, which is our final point below.
Previous iterations of TouchWiz may have been plagued by stutters, but Samsung has tweaked and updated its user interface in the S5 to be more responsive. Samsung has also updated the UI with a better look and feel, such as the new settings icons, which may help with usability.
TouchWiz’ notable features like multi-windows and gestures are still present in this iteration. New enhancements include Toolbox, a widget that floats on top of the other apps like Facebook’s Chat Heads, giving users easy access to up to five apps.
Apart from our top five reasons, we think the heart rate monitor and finger scanner are useful additions, but may not be key reasons to upgrade just yet. For one, the heart rate monitor is something fitness buffs might find useful, although it’s not comparable with devices that continuously monitor your pulse. Meanwhile, the fingerprint scanner is the feature that has a bigger potential, especially in terms of security. However, we will have to wait until we get software updates that enable users to enter passwords with a finger swipe. Notably, PayPal has already launched fingerprint-based payments for use with the S5. Hopefully, other developers and companies will follow suit.
In short, our top five reasons to upgrade from the Galaxy S4 to the Galaxy S5 involve some evolutionary updates that have made it a better phone, in terms of build quality and usability:
- Build quality – IP67 water and dust resistance, and a better feel
- Display – Vivid colors, AirView, higher brightness
- ISOCELL camera – Crisp and vivid images, selective focus, live HDR
- Performance – Snappy performance, consistent with being Samsung’s flagship device
- TouchWiz – Optimized user interface, keeping TouchWiz’ suite of features, but without lags and stutters, plus a few multi-tasking enhancements
- Honorable mention – Heartbeat monitor and fingerprint scanner have good potential use case scenarios, but will need software upgrades or app support