3. Samsung Galaxy S5
Galaxy smartphones are known for going big. Big screens, big specs, big tricks and, of course, big sales. But the small stuff can be just as exciting and the S5’s only halfway there.
Samsung’s still enamoured by its Galaxy design DNA: lightweight, durable and now waterproof – it makes a lot of sense. But with a big handprint, ‘modern glam’ back panel and poor size-to-screen ratio, it’s still not beautiful.
Features rule, with a swappable battery, microSD storage, the ability to run two apps side by side and even a heart-rate sensor round the back. It’s not 2K but the 5.1in Super AMOLED screen is the best we’ve seen on a Samsung phone. Plus there’s a superb ad-hoc 16MP snapper with fast autofocus and 4K video – just in case you thought Samsung had gone soft on specs.
That TouchWiz lag is almost gone for good – a few stutters using its My Magazine Flipboard app were all we could force – and battery life is on the longer-lasting end of the Androids That Last A Day spectrum.
If the tweaked build and cleaned-up user interface are anything to go by, Samsung is taking design, inside and out, seriously. There’s more work to do but it’s a mighty close call and Samsung fans won’t be disappointed here.
Design: 8/10This is a big, wide phone but the new textured polycarbonate makes it nice and grippy. It’s a mere 15g heavier than the S4 and is also more solidly built. We’re not saying “go metal or go home” but a redesign is long overdue.
Screen: 9/10One advantage the S5 has over its rivals is how easy its screen is to read outdoors. When watching small-screen flicks, blacks look incredibly inky – but the HTC and Sony bring out more detail and there is a slight blue tinge.
Camera: 9/10Zooming in on landscape shots? Use the S5. Your mate’s face in a dimly lit restaurant? Reach for the HTC or Sony. Elsewhere, the HDR mode is one of the best we’ve used and we like the simplified camera app.
OS and apps: 9/10Still a little overwhelming, the latest version of TouchWiz sees Samsung trying to edit its gazillions of features. There are cool additions such as S Health and Smart Switch, which imports iOS data if you’re switching from an iPhone.
READ MORE: 8 of the best apps for the Samsung Galaxy S5