Mechanical Design and Build Quality
Samsung Galaxy S5 HardwareDigging into the mechanicals, straight away we're going to point out that we're not all that fond of Samsung's insistence on sticking with the chromed, plastic trim edge that's strapped around the GS5. Though it does do a nice job of giving the phone a bit more grip on the edge of the device, frankly it looks kind of cheesy and detracts slightly from the overall feel and build quality of the GS5. It's not a huge issue by any measure in our opinion and the GS5 still feels and looks great; it's just the spot where we wish this phone was a bit more refined.
The back casing of Galaxy S5 is a totally different design aesthetic now ,with what Samsung calls their "Modern Glam Perforated Patten." Frankly, it has sort of a "pleather" feel to it but we like it. The surface really grabs nicely in the hand, resists scuffs and looks great in our opinion. Certain colors in the finish might not be your cup of tea but the charcoal black unit we tested looks sharp, as does white and blue. We're not sure about the copper color but we'd have to see if first-hand to comment.
And of course there's the Galaxy S5's new 16MP camera with LED flash and the heart rate monitor, situated on top of the back of the device with a small bump out for the camera optics. This new camera does a fantastic job with stills and also shoots UHD video at 3840X2160 resolution. The heart rate monitor is kind of nifty too and it functions quite accurately with Samsung's S Health app as we'll show you shortly.
Volume rocker, power button and I/O placement on the device are all in our preferred locations, unlike what we had to tolerate with the HTC One M8's top power button positioning. However, the GS5's speaker port located on the back of the device easily gets muffled in your hand and the audio quality, unlike the HTC One M8, is uninspiring. Now that we've heard how good a smartphone speaker system can actually sound with the One M8, we're spoiled. In this area, the GS5 doesn't compare. Is it a big deal? Not in our opinion. It's just one of the trade-offs with Samsung's new flagship. You get proper power button placement and a shorter device with a bit more screen real estate on the GS5. The One M8's power button placement and taller profile take a lot of getting use to but the sound coming from its speaker system is impressive and actually something you might enjoy. That said, most folks don't expect their smartphone to offer great sound fidelity and are ready to rock out with a set of ear buds, so we'll chalk this one up to a very minor let down for the GS5, in our humble opinion.
Another, you either love it or hate it sort of design choice the Samsung team made, is the Galaxy S5's protected microUSB port. This tethered cover is required to keep the GS5 water and dust resistant and preserve its IP67 resistance compliance rating. Personally, I don't mind it. For others, this could be a minor to major annoyance. Interestingly, Samsung has a semi-standard synch and charge port here. Standard microUSB cables do work just fine for charging and synching the GS5 but if you utilize the included USB 3 microUSB cable with its extended port connector, you'll get full USB 3 throughput over the connection. Nice, and it could come in handy for transferring those 4K video files the GS5 is capable of shooting.
And Samsung is still one of the few smartphone manufacturers that offers a user serviceable battery. In this case, just peel off the back cover of the device and you get access to the Galaxy S5's larger 2800mAh battery and the phone's dual tray microSIM and microSD card slots.