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Thu 24 Apr 2014 07:21 PM

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Review: The new Samsung Galaxy S5

Korean electronics giant Samsung has released the fifth generation of its best-selling flagship phone

Review: The new Samsung Galaxy S5

Korean electronics giant Samsung has released the fifth generation of its best-selling flagship Galaxy series in the UAE.

Despite pre-launch speculation, differences with the previous generation have been minimal. The new device is basically a much better Galaxy S4, yet still a top market player and able to compete with the best.

The philosophy behind it is clear: build on the success of S4 and incorporate all the new trends that have recently emerged and excited consumers.

The manufacturer has worked to enhance design, catch up with the increasingly powerful cameras on offer, and penetrate the fitness segment, which saw a sudden burst of interest during the second half of 2013.

Design wise, the idea was to give customers a premium feel, in an attempt to escape a well-earned "plasticy" reputation. The faux-metallic frame was enlarged and the infamous plastic back was etched with small dimples to give it texture and grip. Samsung also broadened the choice of colours to four. As a result, the visual effect is quite convincing and the tactile experience is enhanced.

However, we still know that it's plastic and that it will wear as such. An enlarged and vivid screen (5.1' instead of 5), a larger battery (2800mAh instead of 2600) and a multitude of sensors means it is a bit weightier in the hand.

It still doesn't feel as heavy as the full-metal-bodied competitors from Sony and HTC, and can be used single-handedly for quite some time.

When turned on, the beautiful Full HD Super AMOLED 432 ppi display also greatly serves the aesthetics of the device and the overall user experience. The bright and colourful display was cleverly coupled with a diamond-inspired theme for a dramatic effect.

A great screen can lose its advantage in the wrong lighting and the viewing experience always ends up being a compromise between these different possible settings, which Samsung avoided by placing a sensor to adapt display brightness and colours to ambient light. This means the screen will always look as good as it can be when in use, whether indoors or outdoors.

The improvements also extend to a few key elements in the device. Galaxy S4's lag on photography has been remedied. The camera sensor has been boosted to 16 megapixels (still far behind notorious photography freak Nokia 1020 with its 41 MP), and has been fitted with a professional-grade hyper rapid autofocus to capture crisp clear pictures in motion.

The photography app's interface has also received and complete makeover and is now as seamless and user friendly as they come, completely banishing the long uniform lists of its predecessor. Multiple image editing and manipulation functions were fed into it and most of them seem "strongly inspired" by the competition.

The handheld has also received a treatment to make it immune to use in rainy and dusty conditions, which is logical after the wild success of Samsung S4 Active edition and Sony's waterproof devices over the last couple of years.

Other remarkable add-ons included a fingerprint scanner on par with Apple's latest device, enabling Samsung to fully profit from its strategic partnership with Paypal.

The company has also broken into the fitness sector after the success of fitness bands and apps over the course of last year. A heart rate sensor has been placed under the camera of the S5 and feeds into the built-in app, also used to manage a whole range of Samsung Galaxy wearables released at the same time. "S health" can count your steps, monitor your heart, estimate the amount of calories you burn, and organize your workout routines.

Performance wise, the device offers a solid user experience thanks to a quad-core 2.5 gigahertz processor and a whole 2 gigs of ram. Samsung's spin of Android Kitkat 4.4.2 is stunning as the TouchWizz interface was overhauled, rejuvenated and simplified. Internet browsing is very smartly managed with best-in-class LTE capabilities and a proprietary technology that combines Wifi and LTE for speedy data transfer. Battery life is an improvement on the previous generation and an emergency mode was added to go for hours on less than 10 percent battery and still be able to receive a phone call. Users certainly didn't get a revolutionary device, but customers (especially Galaxy series fans) got one of the best on offer yet.

Galaxy S5 retails for prices ranging between AED2,599 ($707) and $2,899 depending on LTE and memory specs.

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