At first glance it might appear that the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the first Samsung flagship that doesn't bring a major screen update. After a 5.1" Super AMOLED of 1080p resolution and 432ppi density sounds virtually the same as the 5" 1080p Super AMOLED panel that that the Galaxy S4 employed.
But that's only half the story - while the Galaxy S5 screen is only as sharp as its predecessor (you can't tell the difference at this point), its panel is completely redesigned. It offers higher brightness and more efficient backlighting as well as lower reflectivity, which means better contrast when there are strong light sources present.
The color rendering has also been tweaked and now the Cinema mode offers as true to life colors as any other smartphone on the market. Not that the Galaxy S4 wasn't close enough for most purposes practical, but the Galaxy S5 really makes the "LCD offers more natural colors" argument useless. And, as usual, Samsung offers more saturated screen modes if you prefer your images punchy rather than accurate.
This means that Samsung has taken what was an already impressive display and made it the best on the market. It's true that unlike most of its competitors, the company still employs a PenTile matrix, rather than a conventional RGB one, but the diamond arrangement introduced last year makes sure that results in no visible artifacts and, with pixel densities north of 400ppi, you can't take away points for sharpness either. You can only spot differences if you compare two panels side by side and look from so close that your eyes hurt, which is hardly ever going to be the case.
Our test brought another confirmation of the increased brightness of the new panel.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Samsung Galaxy S5||0||274||∞||0||529||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy S4||0||201||∞||0||404||∞|
|HTC One (M8)||0.20||245||1219||0.46||577||1256|
|HTC Butterfly S||0.15||165||1117||0.43||451||1044|
|Oppo Find 5||0.17||176||1123||0.51||565||1107|
|Apple iPhone 5||0.13||200||1490||0.48||640||1320|
Strangely enough, the sunlight legibility, while top-notch on its own, was only a little better than what we saw from the Galaxy S4. We were expecting an achievement near the very top of our chart, but the Galaxy S5 came slightly lower than that.
The Galaxy S5 screen isn’t much bigger than that of its processor (5.1″ vs. 5″), but it is brighter. The Snapdragon 801 chipset should also offer a big performance boost over the Snapdragon 600 of last year, but there are worries that this comes at the price of higher power consumption. Will the 200 mAh larger battery (2,800mAh vs 2,600mAh) make up for that?
Samsung has brought a new Ultra Power Saving mode, which disables most functionality and shows a simplified black and white homescreen, leveraging on the AMOLED screen. Yet, those fall outside the scoop of our dedicated battery life test as they limit the functionality of the smartphone severely and are generally for emergency use only.
As it turns out, however, the Galaxy doesn't need any such tricks to deliver excellent battery life - the smartphone posted an impressive endurance rating of 72h, handily beating the achievement of its predecessor. In the individual tests, the new Samsung flagship beat the Galaxy S4 by three hours more of talking and two hours more of web browsing, but scored an hour less for video playback. Still, considering that the screen is notably brighter at 50%, it really shows that Samsung has really improved its efficiency.
Update: We retested the phone after the Android 5.0 Lollipop update and it showed definite improvement. You can find more details here.
Note that while it's not included in the scorecard above, battery life power draw has a place in the endurance rating equation.