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Samsung Galaxy S5: Screen and Video Playback

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Samsung Galaxy S5: Screen

At first glance the Galaxy S5 display doesn't seem to be much better than that of the Galaxy S4. At 5.1 inches it's just 0.1 inches larger than its predecessor, it uses the same 1080p resolution, the same Gorilla Glass 3 top layer and the same Super AMOLED panel type.

But it's really quite fantastic in many respects.

Since the wildly oversaturated Galaxy S3, Samsung has put a lot of effort into working on the colour calibration of its OLED screens. And it pays off here.

Samsung's obsession with packing in features is also a bonus, as you get to choose the character of the Galaxy S5's screen. As in recent top-rung Samsung phones, you can pick between a bunch of screen profiles, and they're more effective than ever.

Galaxy S5 modes

Dynamic mode gives you that oversaturated, larger-than life look that many people associate with a Galaxy S phone. It makes the interface pop and look extremely vibrant, but is not good for watching videos (overcooking of the reds in people's faces is the main issue).

The Standard, Professional Photo and Cinema modes see a gradual stepping-down of colour vibrancy, hitting a good level of accuracy with the last two. Putting the effort to get these modes right should earn Samsung some real kudos here, but we're glad it hasn't enforced accuracy either (not that we'd ever expect that from Samsung).

Just as some people think reference-grade plasma TVs look dull and boring next to bright LCD TVs, some will love the dazzling look of the Dynamic mode's colours. It does make the interface look great, if nothing else.

Galaxy S5 photo 3

There's also an adaptive mode, which alters the screen tone in-line with the app you use. However, it doesn't work with all apps so perhaps you're better off picking one of the consistent modes. We'd suggest avoiding Dynamic, but there's no accounting for taste.

As we expect from a Super AMOLED panel, contrast and black level are excellent in the Galaxy S5. Its blacks are far more impressive than the HTC One M8's, although you will need to be in a darkened room to appreciate this. Top phones of the last 12 months almost universally have excellent screens. Put the phones in a dark room, though, and the diffference between OLED and LCD is immediately apparent.

Galaxy S5

Although the S5 screen looks blown out, this is the fault of the camera (/photographer). The real points to note are the S5's faultless black levels and the masses of extra shadow detail. Just look at how much clearer the bushes in the window are compared to the HTC One M8.

On another more OLED-related note, we're glad to report there's none of the odd blue tint that affects older Galaxy S phone screens when viewed from a horizontal angle. Viewing angles are superb, with perhaps just a hint of colour shift at certain angles – but nothing 95 per cent of people could notice.

There's one lingering point to criticise, and it's something we're only including for the sake of completeness. Look up close and there is a tiny, tiny bit of fuzziness in areas of block white. This is a result of Samsung's continued use of a PenTile array screen.

In the Galaxy S5, the phone's pixels are made up of four sub-pixels – two green, one blue and one red. Most screens use three. They're arranged in a diamond shape, and this has a less tight regularity, with more 'gap' in-between than you get with a more traditional RGB sub-pixel LCD phone like the HTC One M8.

In devices with much lower pixel density displays, like the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, using a PenTile layout can have serious effects on the perception of sharpness. But here you really have to try to see it. This remains a seriously sharp screen.


The pixels are too dense for our camera to pick up subpixels, but you can see some of the PenTile 'patterning' effect here

Screen brightness is impressive, able to mitigate the high reflectivity of the top Gorilla Glass 3 layer. However, it is a bit less bright than the top LCD-based phone screens in normal conditions. Side-by side, you can clearly see that the maximum brightness settings of the HTC One M8 and iPhone 5S appear a bit brighter in daylight. The Galaxy S5 wipes the floor with the competition at night-time, though.

Samsung Galaxy S5: Video and Music

Having such a large, bold screen makes the Galaxy S5 an obvious choice as a mobile video player. And Samsung has a history of packing-in much better-than-average video capabilities into its phones.

True to form, the phone includes a Samsung-made video player application. It's simple, but unlike the Google Movies app, it is there to let you play your own videos, not ones you buy or stream from Google, Samsung or anyone else.

Format support isn't quite as up-to-date as we would have expected from a Samsung phone of a few years ago, though. MKV, DivX and Xvid files all play fine, but the Galaxy S5 does not support AC3 audio fresh out of the box.

Galaxy S5 photo 1

This is an extremely common audio format for movies distributed online. Its omission could be seen as an anti-piracy move by Samsung, especially when it is/was supported by the Galaxy S4. But if so, it's one that's easy to circumvent with the help of a third-party app that offers software decoding of audio/video streams. MX Player is an Android favourite.

Aside from AC3, audio support is fair, with FLAC and Vorbis included along the various types of AAC, WMA and MP3. As with video, real audio enthusiasts will need to call upon a third-party app (for APE support and so on), but if you're that far down the rabbit hole, you probably have a favourite app already anyway.


April 8, 2014, 7:36 am

Its a keeper.


April 8, 2014, 8:50 am

According to PA, loudspeaker of S5 is louder than HTC One(M8) hmm...


April 8, 2014, 8:56 am

Louder doesn't necessarily mean better. You've also got to consider location and actual quality. S5 loses on both points.


April 8, 2014, 10:04 am

Location of speakers, your review of One(M8) stated that "As your thumbs move directly over the drivers, your digits' movements do (slightly) alter the tonality of the sound" Indeed I found this noticeably annoying whilst playing a game and etc.

It seems like the location has cons and pros, don't you think? Of course you are entitled your opinion, but I'm just saying people don't think the location of speaker as an outright winning factor.


April 8, 2014, 10:27 am

I'm a different Andy (Yes, I appreciate the confusion), and yes you have a point. We still think the HTC's are better overall, though.


April 8, 2014, 2:20 pm

Im a big fan of Samsung products but why oh why would they have a protruding camera lens which detracts from the look/ feel.


April 8, 2014, 6:35 pm

I won't be buying it for one reason. It's a Samsung.


April 8, 2014, 7:52 pm

Water resistant :)

looks really Nice :)


April 8, 2014, 10:26 pm

I was able to hold one in a Voda shop today.
So like the Note 3 I recently did a deal on but more pocketable.
I wish I'd waited. Sighs.

PS, some sites claim it uses a nano sim?


April 9, 2014, 6:29 am

And the reason I won't buy it: Knox!

Tim Sutton

April 11, 2014, 10:53 am

I held one of these yesterday.

It actually looks worse than the S4.Those bezels are HUGE.

It feels nasty and cheap.

The interface design is awful. You've got Touchwiz, Tizen and Android all looking and handling differently and all fighting for space on one handset. There are FOUR texting apps and THREE music players. The settings page is SIX SCREENS long. It's insanely cluttered and impossible to enjoy.

I can't see how anyone would look at this handset and choose it over even an S4. Physically the S4 is the better looking of the two (they're both ugly) and the S4s software isn't quite so schizophrenic.

I'm.. how is this a 9/10 handset guys? How? It's actually less good than the phone it's replacing.


April 11, 2014, 3:58 pm

Totally agree, This is a piece of overpriced plastic!

And how did they decide the price is £499, I can only see offers for £569?


April 11, 2014, 4:28 pm

I have some of the same criticisms. I think the HTC One M8 is a much 'nicer' phone, and I rate the Sense software more highly than TouchWiz.

However, the excellent screen quality and very good camera quality won us round.

The display in particular is a lot better this time around. It surprised me quite how good it is in various conditions - I've always been an LCD rather than OLED fan in phones (plasma in TVs, natch). But the S5 has won be around.

The camera too is a big improvement in certain conditions. I've heard some criticisms of the new 'faux stabilisation' feature. However, the way it is effectively built into the Auto mode means it'll result in better pictures for a whole load of people.

For me, though, the screen is the biggest winner here. And SOME of the S5's bad bits can be patched away with customisations either supplied directly by Samsung or Android.


April 11, 2014, 5:29 pm

The comment about the display being so much better than the one in the M8 is a bit strange, as Samsung's displays still have obvious issues : lower brightness than LCD and fuzziness due to the pentile arrangement. It really is a matter of preference. I sense a bit of ''fanboyism'' here. Shouldn't happen in a professional review.


April 11, 2014, 6:09 pm

I can smell a flop from Samsung's top model this time. Why Samsung decided they can have the highest priced flagship phone while they are making it out of plastic? In the UK it is £569 SIM free, which is more than the Sony Z2 £549, the HTC One M8 £529 and the iPhone 5S £549!
It's not surprising they announced a drop in profits.


April 11, 2014, 10:57 pm

What is wrong with 'plastic'? What better material is there? Robust. Light weight. Impact absorbing. RF-transparent. Engineers to fine tolerances. I can't readily think of another material which fits the purpose so well. Quality is fitness for purpose, not bling.


April 11, 2014, 11:00 pm

Sheesh - they missed that in the review, it's a Samsung?


April 11, 2014, 11:07 pm

"Samsung's displays still have obvious issues.."
So why even bother reading a review - you already know that all Samsung displays are the same hence this one is necessarily the same as its predecessors.


April 11, 2014, 11:55 pm

Plastic is unpleasant to the touch, gets static charge, lacks reasuring weight, flexes, creaks, poor aesthetics.
I agree it has many great uses, but not in a TOP OF THE LINE product. Don't forget you are buying the most expensive smart phone out there and what you get a rubish bin plastic shell.

An Droid

April 12, 2014, 2:19 am

I actually have a S5, so my comments are based on interaction with the phone and not hearsay.
The good:
- a really amazing screen, and rated the best by everyone who has tested it. It really IS that good
- a huge improvement in the camera
- scaled down TW (works and looks better)
- dimpled soft touch back cover is a pleasure to hold
- ultra power saving mode (I travel a lot, and often used to run out of juice after a long day of normal use)
- heart rate monitor and S-Health (I had a 3rd party HR monitor on my S3 as I do exercise regularly)
- it's water resistant
- lightning fast download (10% faster than S3 over same wi-fi

The bad:
- the square shape (I preferred the more curvy shape of my S3
- the chrome look plastic surround ( satin fining on S3 was classier)


April 12, 2014, 8:16 am

Why do you feel the need to up-vote all your own comments?

Tim Sutton

April 12, 2014, 1:16 pm

I really like the M8 (except for the name) too.

I went in to have a look at the S5 because my work will have a look at it for employees and had my Lumia 1520 with me, and the difference between the two in terms of quality is, to my eyes, enormous.

The Lumia feels and looks like £500 worth of electronics, the S5 doesn't. And then you try and actually use the S5 and its WEIRD mish mash of three OS's and the gap just gets wider.

It really seems odd to me to give such high marks to a handset that is, as delivered by Samsung, mediocre both to look at and to use.


April 12, 2014, 6:18 pm

Because the designers at Disqus decided posters should have this option and I am using it - as designed.


April 13, 2014, 7:09 pm

i have a galaxy phone and i'm telling you apple is way better than his piece of crap i have right now


April 13, 2014, 7:49 pm

For the life of me, I just cannot understand why people hate on the samsung products because they are not some aluminum unibody design. Polycarbonate is rather durable, resistant to scratches and reduces the overall weight of the phone. The texturing of the polycarbonate is the only thing I have issue with (See S4).... smooth PC is a fingerprint magnet.

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