Samsung's next flagship phone is here, sort of. The Galaxy S5 doesn't officially release in the U.S. until April 11, but the early reviews are out, and the consensus is nearly universal: this is Samsung's best phone yet and a significant upgrade from the Galaxy S4. But it's also an incremental step forward, not a revolutionary rethink of Samsung's blockbuster phone series.
Our own review will be here soon, and we recommend waiting to read it before you make any major purchasing decisions. But if you're dying to know if you should rush down to your carrier store on Friday to pick one up, here's what the rest of the web is saying.
The Snapdragon 801-powered Galaxy S5 is a huge step up from the Snapdragon 600 in the GS4. Perhaps the most exhaustive benchmarking is found at AnandTech, who finds it trades wins against the HTC One (M8) - it's slightly faster in some tests, slightly slower in others, but you're not likely to notice the difference in everyday use. As an interesting side note, the dual-core iPhone 5s wins a few benchmarks against even these new high-end Snapdragon phones, proving that number of cores isn't everything when it comes to performance.
Battery life is improved over the GS4, and again, similar to the HTC One (M8). One are where the GS5 take the cake is charging speed. You can fill up it's battery very quickly.
The 16-megapixel shooter on the GS5 is a winner, with sharp detail and better low-light performance than last year's model. Of particular note is the fast focus and short shutter delay. As Harry McCracken remarked in his Time review, "...the phone aced the photographic test that many competitors flunk: It let me take pictures I was happy with, as fast as I could snap them." The video quality seems especially good. The camera app, on the other hand, could apparently use a little sprucing-up.
Many comparisons will be made with the HTC One (M8)'s camera. It appears HTC's has similar fast-shooting performance and superior low-light capabilities, but suffers in very bright outdoor shots and can't resolve nearly as much detail at only 4 megapixels.
The new TouchWiz and Samsung apps are sleeker and simpler than in previous Galaxy phones, but reviewers agree that the overhaul is not dramatic. The sentiment expressed by Own Willams at TheNextWeb is echoed in many reviews: "Designs across the OS have been tweaked to be less garish in places but mostly still resembles the S4′s version of TouchWiz."
What of that fingerprint scanner and heat-rate monitor? Well, they work, but as Jessica Dolcourt notes in her CNet review, "neither one strikes me as important enough to tip the scale in the S5's favor." You have to be very precise with a vertical swipe on the fingerprint scanner, making it nearly impossible to use one-handed.
The heart-rate sensor is similarly impractical. Reviewers say it's nice to have, but nobody who wrote about it got it to work every time, and holding your finger on the back of your rather large phone isn't really the most useful way to measure your heart rate when you'd really want to (while exercising).
Better than the HTC One (M8)?
Everyone seems to love the Galaxy S5. Highlights include a great display, snappy performance, improved battery life, touched-up TouchWiz, a very good camera (especially for video), and nifty extras like the S-Health app.
But everyone was enamored of the HTC One (M8) a couple weeks ago, too. Which of these flagship phones is better? Most of the reviewers are unwilling to put a stake in the ground. The GS5 holds the edge in display quality, rear-facing camera, and software extras. On the other hand, the HTC One (M8) has better build quality and ergonomics, superior sound, and a better front-facing "selfie" camera. It also gives you 32GB of internal storage for the price of the 16GB Galaxy S5.
CNet summed up the comparison well: "On specs alone, the Galaxy S5 has more tricks, hands-down. But when you add core hardware and Android functionality, they're evenly matched. ... At the end of the day, these phones are fairly neck-and-neck, with Samsung pulling ahead in camera quality and software capabilities, and the One M8 besting the Galaxy S5 on look, feel, and value."
If you want some reading material while you wait for our expert review, we suggest the following: