Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon Wireless) review

As Samsung continues to refine its flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S5 is better than ever. It's the most powerful phone you can buy, and is a lock for our Editors' Choice on Verizon.
Photo of Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon Wireless)

Like many of this year’s newest smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t a radically new device. It looks a lot like last year’s Galaxy S4, and in many respects it handles very similarly. The difference is in the details. Beyond the trumped-up features on features—of which there are plenty to choose from—Samsung has honed its flagship phone in areas that are actually meaningful to users on a day-to-day basis. Battery life is spectacular, display quality is uncompromising, and camera performance rivals standalone point-and-shoots. Verizon adds a healthy heaping of bloatware and also nixes the Download Booster feature, but it’s still a top performer. It shares our Editors’ Choice award for Android smartphones with the HTC One (M8), which will appeal to those who favor form over function.  

We’ve already reviewed the Galaxy S5 on T-Mobile, so head over to that review for a full run down on the phone’s features and design. The $199.99 (with two-year contract) Verizon model is physically identical, so we’ll focus on carrier specific differences for this review.

Network and Call Quality
The Verizon S5 supports CDMA/1xEVDO Rev. A (800/1900MHz) and LTE Band 13/4 (700/1700MHz), with global support for EDGE/GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and HSPA/UMTS (850/900/1900/2100MHz). That means the S5 connects to Verizon’s blazing fast AWS LTE where available. In my tests, in an area with strong AWS LTE, the S5 averaged speeds of 23Mbps down and 15Mbps up.

Note: The slideshow below is of the T-Mobile Galaxy S5, which is physically identical to the Verizon model.

Call quality was roundly excellent. Volume in the earpiece maxes out at uncomfortably loud levels, while transmissions through the mic are clean and easy to understand. Voices on either end sound natural, but if things sound a touch muddy or harsh to your ear, you can tweak the sound signature to your liking in the settings menu. Noise cancellation was superb in my tests, as well, easily handling loud construction noise outdoors.

The 2,800mAh battery was good for just under 23 hours of continuous talk time. That should be plenty for a day’s worth of moderate use, and anecdotally I rarely got the battery to dip below 20 percent after even heavy usage. Samsung also introduced Ultra Power Saving mode on the GS5, which leverages the AMOLED displays’ ability to turn on individual pixels to save power and limits the phone to basic functionality. Enabling this mode lets you eke out a few extra hours of usage, even with just a few percentage points of battery left.

The GS5 supports 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi on the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. Wi-Fi speed and range are some of the best we’ve seen, with the GS5 maintaining a strong 15-20Mbps download speed even 30 feet away from a 802.11n router, while the HTC One (M8) started to slow to 7-10Mbps. Samsung showed off the Download Booster feature at launch, which aggregates Wi-Fi and LTE network throughput simultaneously, leading to faster speeds when connected to a slower network, like free public Wi-Fi hotspots. Unfortunately, Verizon has disabled this feature altogether—this is also the case on AT&T, though, and T-Mobile is still working on enabling the feature for its S5.

Bloatware and Conclusions
Of the 16GB of internal storage, 9.92GB is available to users out of the box. There are over 10 Verizon-branded apps, including Verizon Tones and the completely redundant VZ Navigator. On top of that, there are four Amazon apps, IMDb, Slacker Radio, Polaris Office 5, and Isis Wallet. None of these are removable, and Verizon also pushes its services to the forefront, making the Verizon-branded Messages+ app the default for SMS.

The usual array of fad-chasing features is here, like the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, but they don’t define the Galaxy S5. Samsung shows restraint with its latest version of TouchWiz, and it shows a commitment to improving the core features of its flagship phone: display, battery life, and camera. That adds up to one seriously capable smartphone, and even with Verizon’s usual bloatware and stripped features, the GS5 represents the best that Android has to offer. It shares our Editors’ Choice award with the HTC One (M8); those that put a premium on design will be better served by the One, while those who value function above all else will find little fault with the GS5.

Specifications
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 5.6 x 2.85 x .3 inches
Weight 5.1 oz
Screen Type Super AMOLED HD
Operating System as Tested Android 4.4
GPS Yes
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 16MP Rear
2MP Front-Facing
microSD Slot Yes
Screen Pixels Per Inch 432 ppi
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Video Camera Resolution 1080p
Processor Speed 2.5 GHz
Bluetooth Version 4.0
Screen Size 5.1 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Quad-Core
Form Factor Candy Bar

Verdict
As Samsung continues to refine its flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S5 is better than ever. It's the most powerful phone you can buy, and is a lock for our Editors' Choice on Verizon.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc