I’m just going to come out and say it: battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S5 is excellent. If you don’t want to read on, I won’t blame you.
The reasons that it has improved are two-fold: one, you’ve now got a larger 2800mAh battery pack, which obviously extends the life of the device day to day. Two, you’ve also got the snappy Snapdragon 801 processor kicking things along under the hood, making everything more efficient and keeping your battery life from draining away.
On top of that, the screen is also much more efficient at the same brightness as the Samsung Galaxy S4 – which was itself no slouch when it came to keeping your power locked away tightly.
Let’s give this some context: in our battery video run down test, looping the same video for 90 minutes at full brightness, the Galaxy S5 managed only a 16% drop in life, which is comparable to the iPhone 5S, which has a slower processor, smaller screen and fewer pixels to drive.
It far outclasses the 23% drop of the HTC One M8, which, if you’ve read that review, is a great device for battery life too, so you can see how happy I am to see these even more improved results.
In fact, only LG (of the big manufacturers) seems more adept at optimising the battery life of its devices, so it’s weird that it failed to beat Samsung with the LG G3, but that does have a QHD display to contend with.
The Samsung Galaxy S5’s battery was so good that I found myself having to think of all the things that drain the power quick enough so I could re-test the Ultra Power Saving Mode – which means that it can handle an hour or two of photography, Real Racing 3 (a real power sucker) and 2 hours of video before dropping to 25%.
It’s been bested by a few other phones more recently, with the Sony Xperia Z3 a marked competitor, but it’s still up there with the best.
The two power saving modes (Ultra and normal) both work well enough – with normal power saving mode coming with the ability to turn your screen black and white too, meaning you won’t need to worry as much about the drain (nor will you want to look at your phone as much, thus saving power again).
There’s no way to order these apps to fire at a specific point of battery drain, which is odd, but perhaps that’s something Samsung will add in at a later date.
It’s worth remembering that at its heart the Samsung Galaxy S5 is still a phone, and comes with some of the best performances on the market in a number of ways.
For instance, it still has strongly integrated social networking with its contacts, comes with a host of decent apps and widgets from the off (we’re still glad that the torch / flashlight widget is only one icon wide) and generally knows how to get the best out of its phone-based credentials.
Calling on the Samsung Galaxy S5, like most of its Galaxy brethren, is a great experience, with clean and crisp sound going in and coming out of the device. The reason we’ve relegated this category to ‘the essentials’ is simply that most phones can do this well, but Samsung still comes out top of the pile in this respect.
There are still the old familiar touches on show, such as being able to see the last message you exchanged with someone when you give them a call, and the ability to phone back or message when hanging up, which gives the option to perform some of the most oft-used functions.
The network coverage of the Galaxy S5 is more than acceptable, although not the best I’ve seen around, which is something of a shame as I’d have expected something clad in polycarbonate to be a really clear experience when it comes to connecting to the cell towers around.
But still, it’s a phone with great powers of calling other people, and if that’s what you’re into then (apart from possibly wasting money on such a high end smartphone) you could do a lot worse.
The notion of messaging on a phone has come a long way in recent years, with the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger providing a real challenge to the incumbent SMS.
Thankfully Samsung has stuck with its own messaging app rather than forcing you to use Hangouts on Android 4.4, which I think is something Google is keen to have more people do, such is its insistence that you use the app for texting when you download it for the first time.
In keeping with the new Touchwiz UI Samsung has added in another clever feature in the shape of priority senders at the top of your inbox. This means that the people you talk to the most will be never more than a tap away when you open the app, making it very easy to get around.
The keyboard on the Galaxy S5 is something of a mixed bag though. I always test it by working out whether or not I want to download SwiftKey straight away (one of the better keyboard apps on the Android Play Store) or if I can soldier on with the incumbent.
In this case, I think you could probably just get away with keeping hold of what Samsung’s offering, providing you don’t use a lot of commas. There’s only a full stop key visible with the letters, meaning a frustrating tap over and over again.
The keyboard is also supposed to learn your style as it goes along, but there were times when it refused to let me enter the word I’d tapped out as it wasn’t in the dictionary.
I almost feel like praising this keyboard as Samsung used to make some really awful options, but you’ll probably still be happier trying out some other options. It’s still poor compared to the rest of the market.
Like most smartphones today, Samsung still has the dual threat of its own browser and Google Chrome. If you’re using the latter as a desktop browser, then you’ll probably be loathe to change as it will have all your history and passwords saved right away.
That would be something of a shame, as Samsung has put together a really nice option that’s designed to look as good as it is fast.
The interface is clean, with the URL and navigation keys getting out of the way when you start scrolling through the webpages. It has all the standard tricks of Chrome, such as incognito mode and Desktop View, so you won’t miss out on much by switching between the two.
The bookmarking system is intuitive, and saved pages work well in a Pocket-style way.
As you can guess, most smartphones running Android have a top end browser these days, but Samsung’s implementation, including the loading bar hitting the top of the page, is nice.
You can argue whether this is an essential, but for anyone looking to keep their children entertained with a smartphone, the Kids Mode on the Galaxy S5 is a useful tool.
It’s standard fare in some ways: you turn it on, enter a pin, show a picture of your child and give it an age range so your boy or girl knows that this is something that’s special to them.
Then you can select the apps they can use (which are shown rather nicely as presents on the home screen top be unwrapped… “Daddy, look, it’s Escape Zombie Land! Thank you!” “Er… sorry, give me the phone. That’s not for kids.”) and you can also set the amount of time they’re allowed to play.
From being able to tap the landscape and find hidden treasure to being able to doodle, record your voice or watch pre-approved media, it’s a nice app to look at and can be added to with other apps as well.
I’m trying to pretend that I didn’t accidentally end up playing with this mode for half an hour during testing. I can’t. There’s an app that lets you record your own voice and have it play back as a robot.