Home Reviews Mobile Devices Samsung’s almost perfect Galaxy S5

iTWire reviewer Ray Shaw has been using Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 for six weeks. He says it is still good, great even, but a few issues could take a little shine of its flagship product.

On a hardware front, there has been a fatal flaw ‘on a limited number of Galaxy S5 smartphones’. If you get a ‘Warning: camera failure’ message then the cure is a replacement phone. The issue is not widespread and probably within acceptable failure rates for a new product.

Amongst other issues with the camera are lack of a silent shutter setting (a silent camera app fixes that), gallery lag to load/render photos, slow image rotation – sometimes up to a minute, and generally slow picture rendering. It appears that this is caused by external automatic syncing to Dropbox, Flickr etc. The solution is to turn auto-syncing off.

My beef with the camera is that it does not produce outstanding pictures – 16MP it may be but my old Nokia Lumia 920 with 8MP beats the hell out of it for colour, saturation, and speed of shots. Autofocus can be slow and shots can take seconds. Turning off HDR (Rich Tone), image stabilisation, face detection, and selective focus does improve the shooting speed but the camera app needs more work. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a better snapper than the S4 but not what I expected from 16MP.

Others have complained that its IP67 rating does not extend to salt-water - users should realise IP67 only means protected against dust, and brief immersion up to 1 metre. It is not a mil spec – an Otterbox or similar case is the best way around this. Then there is the complaint about the micro USB 3.0 cover required to be in place for IP67 resistance. Yes, that is true. No, there are no reports of it breaking off yet.

Those who have bought Qi charging wafers (flat receivers that fit inside the back cover) have commented that many do not fit properly. The solution is to purchase a Qi replacement back cover instead of the wafer – all works fine.

Sound is not loud – the rear speaker at full volume is lower than say the HTC One M8. However, audio quality is better.

Most complaints are about Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. It has been pared back but it is still bloatware (unnecessary). Rooters (the name given to Android hackers) claim you can improve performance by using a different launcher app or waiting for the vanilla Android KitKat 4.4 ROM to be available for the S5. Good Gear Guide has an article on installing Google Experience Launcher native to stock standard Android devices.

There have been complaints about the difficulty to answer phone calls from the lock screen. I have experienced this too and found that increasing touch sensitivity (glove mode) under Settings/Display will help – it is not perfect however and calls can remain difficult to answer. I am told that a different launcher app is the best cure but there are so many that I dare not try.

On the good side

It is still an amazing phone and the positives outweigh the negatives – if you experience them at all.

Post article note:

Samsung has addressed a number of these issues in its soon to be released – May/June - Android KitKat 4.4.3 update. Attention has been given to the camera and gallery app in particular. The phone will advise when the update is available.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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