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Hands-On First Impressions of Samsung's Galaxy S5 Smartphone

By Al Sacco, CIO
February 24, 2014 07:50 PM ET

CIO - Samsung today unveiled its next generation Galaxy S smartphone, the Galaxy S5, during the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The media event was simulcast at Samsung's Galaxy Studio in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood.

I didn't make it to Barcelona for the MWC show this year, but I did stop by the Galaxy Studio to check out the new Galaxy S5. I spent about 15 minutes with the new device, and though it's difficult to really test some of the newest features with the device tethered to a desk in a small demonstration space, I did come away with some notable first impressions.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands-On First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the GS5 is that it looks nearly identical to the GS4. The most notable differences in appearance are the ridged bezel that surrounds the device, as opposed to the smooth plastic bezel on both the GS4 and the GS3. The difference is barely noticeable at first, but I do think it's an improvement, at least from function standpoint -- the ridges give the bezel a bit more "grip."

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The back cover is also textured, with a series of small, but not too tiny, indented dots. The cover is made of a "faux leather" material that feels kind of cheap and "plasticy," which is a disappointment. Atop my Galaxy S5 wish list was the hope that Samsung would use some premium materials in constructing the GS5, compared to the flimsy plastic bezel and battery cover on the GS4. But I guess that just wasn't meant to be.

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S5

The Galaxy S5 is both larger and heavier than the GS4, though not by much, and the difference is negligible. The GS5 is 142mm (H) x 72.5mm (W) x 8.1mm (D), and it weighs 145g, compared to the GS4, which is 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm and 130g. The 15g weight difference seems notable, and it probably has to do with the larger battery in the GS5 -- 2800 mAh compared to the GS4's 2600mAh power pack.

The Galaxy S5's display is just slightly bigger than the GS4's 5" display, at 5.1." Both displays are Full HD Super AMOLED (1920x1080) but the Galaxy S5's screen seemed brighter when both were turned all the way up to full brightness.

The device will be available in 16GB and 32GB versions -- no 64GB variant will be available. And it supports external memory cards up to 64GB. The GS5's 2.5GHz quad-core processor is significantly more powerful than the GS4's 1.6 GHz quad-core chip. (U.S. variant.)

The cameras on the Galaxy S5 got a notable makeover. The front-facing camera is now 2.1MP, compared to the S4's 2MP, and the rear camera is 16MP, compared to the 13MP shooter on the GS4. The camera also has a faster autofocus feature, which Samsung claims is the fastest on any smartphone. It also has a cool new feature that lets you focus on one part of an image and blur out the rest, not unlike the blurring feature in Instagram. The improvements sound good to me, but it was difficult to test them in the Galaxy Studio.

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