The one thing when first writing this review was it left me thinking: Samsung HAS to be making another premium model to show us later in the year.
Now we’ve had that, in the shape of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which is an iPhone 6 competitor in terms of screen size and resolution, although maybe not power.
But this isn’t the premium model I was hoping for, meaning Samsung will have to limp to 2015 and the Galaxy S6 before it can rectify its need for a more polished handset. It’s still sold millions of the Galaxy S5 model, of course, but there’s no denying it’s missed a few chances to get back to the head of the pack here.
The Samsung staples are still here, and that’s excellent. That means that the screen is powerful, bright and a joy to watch movies on, be they HD or SD quality.
The sound output is also excellent, bringing you the best from your tunes and making it easy to follow dialogue and hear effects even when on noisy public transport. While I wouldn’t recommend whacking up the volume all the time, in certain instances it’s excellent.
The 16MP Isocell camera is a step forward for the brand – maybe not offering stunning pictures each time, but on the whole delivering very attractive snaps, especially when you take the time to set the scene.
I’ll never tire of highlighting the microSD slot and removable battery as good things to have, if nothing else for peace of mind, and I’m impressed by Samsung for sticking to its guns there.
The battery life is also, once again, excellent, and if you’re after something that will keep chugging along no matter what, this is a top smartphone to check out.
Despite the fact Samsung is probably going to sell a record number of Galaxy S5 units, I can’t help but think it’s missed a massive trick by popping out another phone clad in plastic. Spin it however you want, the S5 feels cheap and if it came from a no-mark smartphone brand would be dismissed as uninspiring – it’s only because the adverts everywhere ram it down our throat do we discuss it.
There’s got to be something better here – when, for the same price, HTC and Sony are able to bring out appreciably superior designs, Samsung needs to step up.
I wasn’t always impressed by the speed of the phone either – the camera could take a while to load, games sometimes showed lag and opening the gallery will always be a sticking point for me.
There’s not a lot that’s particularly wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S5, but it feels like the Galaxy S3-S-S… another iterative design and power boost when it needed a reboot after the S4 didn’t add much to the Galaxy mix.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a great phone – the problem is we’re now in a world where stunning smartphones are becoming the norm.
Samsung seems to banking on the fact it knows there will be some people out there who will buy its devices no matter what, else it would have jumped to a more premium design.
Some might think I’m overstating my disappointment in how the S5 looks, but this is a critical part of the buying cycle. You can’t rely on brand recognition and loyalty for long if competitors are making something that can cause design envy.
And there’s the divide in terms of how to deliver a verdict on the best Samsung phone ever: 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, and the iPhone 6 is again a big jump forward.
Samsung has done enough with the Galaxy S5 to still be a decent smartphone of 2014, and I would still recommend it as a solid, if unspectacular, smartphone that ticks the boxes it needs to and very little more.
It initially squeaked in as a 4.5-star phone, largely due to the fact that it’s got an excellent screen, great battery and high-end specs combined with a strong camera – but now there are plenty of other options ahead of it from Sony, HTC, LG and Apple.
If you’re a Samsung fan, this is the phone you should check out thanks to the slightly lower price tag (although not by much), but also see whether you’d prefer the design elegance of the Galaxy Alpha or the amazing power of the Galaxy Note 4 instead.