Samsung Galaxy S5 ‘Prime’ Review 

August 21, 2014 1:02 PM

PrimeWe’re accustomed to Samsung’s yearly addition to the galaxy range. However, a mere few months after the release of the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung releases a more powerful variant of the Galaxy S5 called the Galaxy S5 ‘Prime’. They’ve released this addition due to the need for a version to support Korea’s ridicuously fast LTE-A network. LTE-A is a relatively new technology, available in very few markets. It can achieve speeds up to 300MB/ps, with the Korean networks capping the speed to 225MB/ps.

Availability

Unfortunately, the LTE-A Galaxy S5 is only available in Korean markets, with no sign of the phone reaching others markets. It sells for roughly £600. I managed to pick one up in the flagship Samsung store in Gangnam, South Korea. However, with EE announcing a super fast network similar to that of Korea’s LTE-A, we may see this phone come to the UK in the near future.

Design

The design is what we have come to expect from Samsung. While we’re expecting a metal build, perhaps similar to that of the HTC One M8 which oozes quality, we are met with a familiar plastic build. Though, it seems Samsung is learning its lesson with the announcement of the Galaxy Alpha range, which sports a metal design.

It wouldn’t be easy to spot differences between the original Galaxy S5 and the LTE-A version. While the external appears the same, it is the internal that separate the two. The phone has a slightly larger 5.1 inch screen than last year’s S4. The bezels are slightly wider too, however the phone remains light and slim. Unlike others competitors, Samsung continues to include a physical home button and capacitive multitasking and back button. I much prefer this layout to the onscreen buttons which many companies are beginning to adopt. Samsung has managed to include a fingerprint sensor in the home button. It’s not quite as well executed as iPhone’s touch ID, but nonetheless the feature is there.

On the side of the phone, the phone still includes the plastic sides that are made out to look like metal. The phone has the volume rocker on the left hand side of the phone, which has a satisfying feedback when pressed. On the right hand side of the phone, there is the power button. Both sets of buttons are easily accessible with one hand use.

One of the design features that has always been important to me is a removable back. Samsung continues to do this, allowing for access to the MicroSIM slot, MicroSD slot and a removable battery. This allows the ability to carry an extra battery, a feature all phones should have in my opinion.

At the top of the phone the phone has an IR blaster, microphone and 3.5mm earphone jack. The bottom of the phone houses a USB3 slot, which we also found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which allows for faster charge and file transfer times. A clip covers this port to ensure the phones IP67 certification. This clip is often a nuisance but is necessary for the certification.

Despite the use of plastic, the phone remains comfortable in the hand and isn’t slippery in the hand like other competitors including the HTC one M8. The design of the phone leaves us wanting more, something closer to the HTC one M8, or even the Sony Xperia Z2.

Hardware

We start to notice the real differences in the LTE-A version of the S5 and the original when it comes to the hardware. Whilst almost unperceivable to the human eye, the screen on the LTE-A version is a league above that of the original. The phone bears a 5.1 1440p AMOLED display (the first of its kind), with an astounding 565 ppi. This is up from the original Galaxy s5’s 432 ppi AMOLED display. Can you tell the difference? Well, not really. The only time I could tell a difference, was when looking at high res photos and the LTE-A versions displayed more details and imperfections in the photos. Both displays are very bright and have fantastic viewing angles and deep dark blacks. Either way, you’re getting a great display. I compared the display of the LTE-A version to the 1440p display of the LG G3, and the differences are very noticable. The LTE-A Galaxy S5 has a much more vibrant display, in contrast to the dim display found on the LG G3. The colours on the Samsung are much more saturated than those on the LG G3, but allow for pleasant photo and video viewing.

The LTE-A Samsung Galaxy S5 rocks 3GB RAM up from 2GB in the original.The phone has the latest Quadcore Snapdragon 805 processor clocked at 2.5GHz. With these enhancements, I found that apps were faster to load on this variant than on the international version, this was especially true for the camera app. The phone scored highly in quadrant’s benchmark test as shown below. The phone of course also sports LTE-A, while I cannot illustrate the speeds you would get in Korea, the speeds on UK’s EE are very good as shown below.

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The speaker on the phone provides decent sound, however with the loud speaker facing away from you, the sound becomes less immersive. The HTC one M8 still holds the crown for best loudspeakers. The earpiece is loud and clear when on the phone with minimal disturbance and dropped calls. Signal was generally excellent.

A 2800mAh battery is housed in the phone. I found that the battery lasted all day, from an 8am wake up to 11pm, when I put the phone on charge. A typical day for me, consists of web browsing and messaging. However, when using more intensive applications such as Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, the battery would drain more significantly. Note that the screen drains the battery significantly at a higher brightness level. The battery should last most users, and for more heavy users I advise you carry a spare battery. Alternatively, Samsung provides excellent battery saving options.

Software

The phone runs Touchwiz, Samsung’s android skin. I have never been a fan of Samsung’s Touchwiz, with its occasional lag and stutter. If you swipe to the right you are welcomed by Samsung’s My Magazine, which gathers articles from Flipboard – just not as well. I would soon as much use Flipboard which provides a more personal and stable interface. I opted to use a popular smart Android launcher called Aviate which provides an excellent experience.

Samsung includes its ‘S’ range of apps including S health, S planner and S voice. S health is very useful providing a step count, heart rate monitor and even a way to log the food you eat. I found myself using this app regularly, unlike the other two ‘S’ apps included. S planner is a decent calender, but there are better calendar apps available on the Play Store. S voice is still inferior to Google’s own Google Now service.

The settings app on the phone is a mess, with an abundance of settings. I wish Samsung could have found a better way to organise their settings.The contacts and dialer app are nice and easy to use, with the ability to sync contacts from a wide range of sources. When ending a call you get the option to quickly message or call back the person. When in contacts you can swipe on the contact to the left and right in order to message or call the person. These implementation is quite intuitive and one of my preferred dialers.

Camera

The Smartphone’s cameras have been replacing point and shoot cameras. So a good camera in a phone is very important. The phone has a 16MP ISOCELL camera, which takes bright clear pictures in good daylight. I found that the camera would tend to soften images, almost to the extent where some pictures looked like a fine painting rather than picture. As with other Samsung phones, the camera has any features. It has a drama shot, which takes many pictures of a subject moving and puts them all into one picture. Other features include a re-focusing mode, that allows you to change the focus of the picture after taking it. The camera struggles in questionable lighting condition, producing noisy photos. However, this is aided by the excellent HDR mode and picture stablilisation.

The video quality is excellent, with a 4k videoing mode. The phone has slow motion and fast motion video capture options. However the quality of these modes are poor. The slow motion in the iPhone 5S in much better.

The quality of the camera in competent and suitable as a daily shooter.  Some sample images and videos are shown below.

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Verdict

There is no doubt this is a good phone, better than the original S5. There just aren’t many stand out features that make me love this phone. If Samsung decided to make the LTE-A version metal, my opinion may have been different. However, this phone is easily recommendable with its great display, good battery life and good camera. Samsung gets the basics right, but I want more. I want a phone that I’m excited to pick up.

 

 

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