Every year Samsung launches a new Galaxy S flagship smartphone, and as always, Samsung puts the best platform that can be bought in their devices. The Galaxy S5 is no exception, as the MSM8974AC, or Snapdragon 801, powers the Galaxy S5. The 8974AC is the 2.45 GHz bin of the MSM8974AB, a slightly massaged MSM8974 that first launched with the LG G2 and other devices in the summer of 2013. As a recap, the MSM8974AB increases the clock speed of the Hexagon DSP to 465 MHz from 320 MHz, and the LPDDR3 RAM clocks go from 800 MHz to 933 MHz. What really matters though, is that GPU goes from 450 MHz to 578 MHz from 8974 to 8974AC. I definitely have to point to Anand's piece on the Snapdragon 801 for anyone that wants to know more.

The other portion of the hardware story is the camera, which is probably one of the biggest areas for OEMs to distinguish themselves from the pack. Samsung seems to be playing it safe this year with a straight upgrade from 13MP to 16MP by increasing sensor size, and pixel size remains at 1.12 micron side edge length. It is notable that the camera sensor seems to be in a 16:9 aspect ratio, which would make it possible for both photos and videos to keep the same interface without odd reframing effects when going from photo preview to camcorder functionality. Optics are effectively unchanged from the Galaxy S5, as the focal length in 35mm equivalent remains at 31mm, the aperture remains at F/2.2. The one area where there could be a notable improvement is the promised ISOCELL technology, which physically separates pixels better to reduce quantum effects that can lead to lower image resolution and also increases dynamic range, although this will require testing to verify the claims made by Samsung. Samsung has also added 4K video recording for this phone and real time HDR to extend the dynamic range of the camera.

The Galaxy S5 has 2GB of RAM, also not too surprising given the 32-bit ARMv7 architecture of the 8974AC.

The display is a 1080p 5.1” panel, which makes this phone around the same size as the LG G2. Samsung has definitely improved AMOLED, but first impressions are unlikely to tell much when it comes to the quality of calibration and other characteristics of the device. In all likelihood, this will continue to use an RGBG pixel layout in order to improve aging characteristics as the various subpixels age at differing rates. I would expect max brightness to increase, although this may only show in very specific conditions such as extended sunlight exposure and low APL scenarios.

The industrial design seems to be an evolution of the Note 3, with a texture that looks similar to that of the Nexus 7 2012. However, whether the stippled texture will actually avoid the long-term issue of a slimy/oily feel is another question that will have to be answered after the hands-on. While we're still on the point of the hardware design, the Galaxy S5 is IP67 rated, which is why the microUSB 3.0 port has a cover for water and dust resistance.

The fingerprint sensor is a swipe-based one, and Brian has voiced displeasure over swipe sensors like those found in the One max. I personally think that there could be some issues with ergonomics, as Samsung places the home button very close to the edge of the phone, which would make it rather difficult to swipe correctly over the home button, especially if the device is being used with one hand.

As always, Samsung has included removable battery and a microSD slot for those that need such capabilities, although now that Samsung is following Google guidelines regarding read/write permissions, the utility of the microSD slot could be much less than previously expected. For the battery, things are noticeably different as Samsung has gone with a 3.85V chemistry compared to the 3.8V chemistry previously used by the Galaxy S4. With a battery capacity of 10.78 WHr, this means that it has 2800 mAh. For reference, the Galaxy S4 had a 9.88 WHr battery with 2600 mAh. 

As always, Samsung has put TouchWiz on top of their build of Android that will ship with the Galaxy S5, and it mostly looks the same. There are definitely some new features though like My Magazine, which seems to be a way of presenting multiple sources of information using a scrollable list of tiles with images on them.

There might be a trend here in the paragraphs, and while some may see it as a tic, it’s probably more representative of the consistency that Samsung is bringing to the table. “As always” means that people know what to expect, and while it may not be nearly as exciting to the tech press, average people live and die by what’s relatively familiar, not what’s new and exciting. The addition of new features and consistent improvements to performance without compromise relative to the previous generation is definitely something to be applauded, and with review units, hopefully it will be possible to see how the GS5 stacks up against the competition.

At any rate, the phone will launch with blue, black, white, and gold colors. It launches April 11 in 150 countries.

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  • petergreyhill - Monday, March 3, 2014 - link

    so quick to throw stones ....remedial reading might help but it does explain why you re so eager to hype the 5S.
  • coachingjoy - Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - link

    Innovation, while still advancing, is not going to make leaps and bounds found in previous generations. Phones and their ilk are approaching commodity status.
  • anubis44 - Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - link

    "Phones and their ilk are approaching commodity status."

    Exactly. What the hell do people expect them to cram into the phone at this point? A genital-tickler? A surrogate brain? A portable particle beam weapon? Jesus Christ, what a pack of spoiled brats we're all becoming in the West. No wonder we're just sitting around fiddling with stupid cell phones while our politicians sell us out and export all our manufacturing base to Asia.

    Be satisfied with the friggin' communications swiss army knife modern smartphones have become, get a life and start helping to restore our economic base again before we become a vassal state to China.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    A slider keyboard would be nice.

    Everyone says "nobody buys the slider phones that OEMs release" but none of the slider phones since the original Droid have been high-end phones. Why would anyone buy a 2-generation old hardware platform with a keyboard?

    The first company to release a flagship phone with a slider keyboard, meaning the same hardware specs as the non-slider flagship, will find themselves selling a lot of phones.
  • WinterCharm - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Except apple seems to have plenty to happen.

    It's just this: Innovation happens sporadically. You cannot "roadmap" innovation. In either the case of Samsung or Apple... there will be times when it feels like nothing "new" is happening. This may be one of those times for Samsung.

    People tend to freak out, but just realize that Innovation is SPORADIC, IRREGULAR, and takes time.
  • JoshHo - Monday, February 24, 2014 - link

    Sorry about that one, I assumed that it would have 3GB of RAM as just about every high end flagship that I've had to write up recently has had 3GB of RAM.
  • identity - Monday, February 24, 2014 - link

    Please tell us what those flagship phones are that you've written about that has 3gb of RAM. Because the iPhone, LG G2, Sony Z1, and HTC One sure as hell don't have 3gb of RAM. LG G2 Pro and Sony Z2 will have 3gb of RAM when it comes out.
  • littlebitstrouds - Monday, February 24, 2014 - link

    You answered you're own damn question in the question "LG G2 Pro and Sony Z2 will have 3gb of RAM when it comes out." Hence the OP's statement, "high end flagship"
  • identity - Monday, February 24, 2014 - link

    No shit, 2 phones != about every high end flagship recently.
  • JoshHo - Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - link

    Z2 and G2 Pro were the high end devices that I wrote up recently, and it would make sense for Samsung to include 3GB of RAM if the Note 3 had 3GB of RAM as well. It wasn't until the press release came out that I knew for sure it was 2GB of RAM.

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