Hot: Fingerprint sensor, water-resistant, top-notch camera and 4K video features
Not: Needs to lose that removable plastic backing, mixed reviews for heart rate sensor
Tech specs: 5.1-inch full HD display, 16GB or 32GB onboard memory (only 16GB version expected in NZ), 2GB of RAM, 2.1GHz quad core processor, 2.1 megapixel front camera, 16 megapixel rear camera, NFC, MicroSD, Bluetooth 4, Mimo, Wifi a/b/g/n/ac, Cat4/LTE, 142x72.5x8.1mm, 145g
Price: $1049 (release date April 11 in black, white, blue and gold)
Networks: Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees (for now, Vodafone has an exclusive on a gold version)
Samsung’s new S5 gets a trio of headline features: fingerprint-sensor logon, water and dust resistance, plus an external heart rate monitor.
Lay your finger on the heart rate sensor (located just under the camera) and this smartphone will literally take your pulse. There are a tonne of smartphone heath and fitness apps and hardware add-ons out there; this is the first to have a sensor built into a phone. So far overseas reviews have been mixed however. A Wall Street Journal reviewer found the sensor was only worked about half the time and "Sometimes it reported rates that were way off."
Beyond that, there are a slew of incremental upgrades. The display is now 5.1 inches (the S4 is 4.9), the quad core processor is bumped in speed from 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz, and the rear camera gets a boost from the S4’s 13 megapixels to 16 megapixels. Better, it can auto focus in 0.3 seconds (a comparable speed to DSLR cameras - although in a quick play at a media preview with low indoor lighting, the S5 definitely wasn't focussing within 0.3 seconds). The S5 can also shoot 4K (or ultra high definition video). If you’ve got one of those new-fangled 4K TVs, there’s finally a way to get 4K content – film some yourself.
There's also a download booster technology that Samsung says will “boost data speed by bonding wi-fi and LTE (4G cellular) simultaneously.” It will be interesting to see how this feature works with real-world wi-fi and commercial 4G networks. As with other recent handsets, the S5 has Cat 4/LTE support. That is the fastest type of 4G supported by Telecom and Vodafone (and soon 2Degrees) for theoretical maximum download speed of 150Mbit/s. Samsung is mindful NZ has relatively modest 4G data caps, and the download booster can be turned on or off.
The S5 has also won plaudits for having a more streamlined interface than the S4 (although there are till plenty of extras laid over the standard Android interface), and not pre-installing its space-hogging content Hub (a number of content elements of which weren't available in NZ anyway).
The rumour mill had it that Samsung might go for an all metal case with the S5, but it stuck with a plastic, removable backing – albeit with a new stippled design that makes it more comfortable to grip. From NBR’s quick hands-on preview, it looks as if the S5 has what it takes to keep Samsung at the head of the smartphone pack.