Samsung Galaxy S5 Review

Camera And Battery Life Performance

We haven't spent a lot of time discussing the Galaxy S5's camera application and its resulting performance yet, so we'll dig in a bit here.  In short, Samsung's new camera app for the GS5 is solid, with some standard controls and settings, along with interesting shooting and image augmentation features.

There's a decent array of shot control settings here, some of which we haven't seen in a smartphone camera app today, like metering modes, for example.  Though we did find ourselves missing a few settings as well, like shutter speed for example.  You do get some basic white balance control with a few settings to choose from, however.  In addition to standard colorization affects, you also get Panorama mode, Shot and More (a burst shot mode that let's you choose from Best Photo, Best Face, Drama Shot etc.) and a Virtual Tour mode which is actually kind of cool.  The feature's naming is pretty self-explanatory but this mode allows you to take multiple shots of wherever you are and the GS5 will assemble a video compilation of the photos you took with panning and fade transitions that give the affect of being on a virtual tour.

In addition, there's also a Selective Focus mode on the GS5 and, sort of like the HTC One (M8), it composes shots with multiple focal points and then allows you to tap on foreground and background areas of the scene to choose from those focal points.  The autograph Red Sox baseball shot above is an example of a Selective Focus shot from the GS5, with the baseball sharp and the background out of focus for a reasonable, though some may feel half-hearted attempt at a depth of field effect. In practice, the HTC One M8's Duo Camera feature with selective focus does a better job and Samsung's software implementation doesn't quite measure up.  Both implementations of the effect leave a lot to be desired, however, if you're spoiled by what you can do with a quality DSLR camera lens.  We have to be realistic though, it still is a smartphone camera we're talking about here, so at least it's a step in the right direction for this type of feature.

Non-HDR (Left) - HDR (Right)

All told, still shots looked excellent from the GS5, whether indoors in low light or under bright conditions.  Colors are balanced and vibrant and with the GS5's 16MP sensor pulling in lots of light, the HDR setting turned on and Auto mode selected.  We should note that the GS5's lightning-fast auto-focus is also excellent. Often times it can be an advantage in getting that spur of the moment shot that you have to react quickly to; as with fleet-footed Jack Russells that exist in almost a perpetual motion state.

The Galaxy S5's video camera performance is pretty fantastic as well, with good image stabilization capabilities and an impressive UHD video mode that records at 3840X2160 resolution (not quite 4K).  It does amass file size quickly within the GS5's on board storage but it's impressive none the less.  Here's a quick taste...

Battery Life Stress Test 
Heady Load Stress Testing With AnTuTu Tester

The battery within the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a removable and user-accessible 2800mAh cell that's a 200mAh boost over the previous generation Galaxy S4. In addition, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 processor and associated battery saver software, allows the chip to power down significantly when idle and absolutely sip power.  In fact, we've had the GS5 sit on a test bench for days while still powered up, but with very little battery consumption.  It's pretty impressive actually. 

Samsung Galaxy S5 Ultra Power Saving Mode

Further, the Galaxy S5 has not only traditional power saving modes that will prolong battery life but also a new Ultra Power-Saving mode that does something rather innovative. The Ultra Power Saving mode of the Galaxy S5 actually dims the display to a very low 2 nits of brightness and sets the screen to grey scale. You then only get access to a few basic functions at a time, including messaging, phone, calculator, memo, voice recording, Google+, the Chrome web browser and emergency alerts.

Ultra Power Saving mode also gives you an estimation of how long the phone will last in this mode and as you can see, with 70 percent battery life, we're able to go almost 9 days.  On business trips and other times where you forget the charger back home, this can be pretty huge.  Samsung really was thinking outside the box with this feature and it's pretty great.

In standard use, which involved hours of e-mail checking, occasional web browsing, a few social apps, a few phone conversations, and a couple of camera shots, we managed to get through an entire day 12 - 14 with over 35 percent remaining battery life on average. And again, sitting in standby and idle, that battery life is easily maintained until the next day.

Still, we decided to beat on the GS5 here in our worst case AnTuTu Battery Test benchmark.  This test taxes the CPU at 100 percent, with the screen set to 50% brightness and WiFi on, until the power is down to a minimal level before shutdown.

As you can see, the Galaxy S5 does beat out the GS4 and HTC One M8 in this test, though the top-end superphones here are grouped tightly.  Regardless, it's safe to say that, if you're working the GS5 hard, it'll hang about as tough or tougher than  any 5-inch smartphone on the market currently.

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