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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mini-review: Galaxy S5 Active doesn’t add enough to be worth buying | Ars Technica

ED, a nice option for people who don't care for the latter screen
technology. In short, the S4 Active was different enough from the
vanilla S4 to be worth a look, but not so different that it lacked all
the S4's most appealing features (a problem with variants like the S4

But the Galaxy S5 is already waterproof. Its back already moves
away from the smooth, slidey plastic of older Galaxy phones. AMOLED
screen technology has improved to the point where it's not really any
worse in direct sunlight than an LCD screen (and the S5 Active includes
the same 1080p AMOLED display as the regular S5, anyway). Is this year's
Active variant still worth a look, or will most people be better served
by the standard S5?

What's the same?

Andrew Cunningham

The Galaxy S5 Active (center) is closer in size to the largish HTC One M8 (right) than the Nexus 5 (left).

Specs at a glance: Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
Screen 1920×1080 5.1"(432 ppi) AMOLED
OS Android KitKat 4.4.2 with Touchwiz
CPU 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801
GPU Adreno 330
Storage 16GB with MicroSD slot
Networking Dual-band, two-stream 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Ports Micro USB 2.0, headphones
Camera 16MP rear camera with Phase Detection AF, 2MP front camera,
Size 5.72" x 2.89" x 0.35" (145.3mm x 73.4mm x 8.9mm)
Weight 6 ounces (170.1g)
Battery 2800 mAh
Starting price $200 on contract, $660 unlocked
Other perks RBG notification LED, IrLED, NFC
The S5 Active is substantially the same phone as the regular S5. It's
got the same 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC, the same 2GB of RAM,
the same 2,800mAh removable battery and SD card slot, the same
two-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity options, the
same 1080p AMOLED display, the same 16MP front and 2MP rear cameras, the
same build of Android 4.4.2 with the same flatter, less-offensive
TouchWiz skin laid over top, and even the same semi-accurate,
not-all-that-useful heart rate sensor on the back (whew).

For all benchmarks, battery life tests, sample photos, and other spec-related observations, I'll point you to our review of the regular S5.
The short version is that the phone consistently ties or beats its
other $199-with-contract peers in performance, and it lasts for nearly
11 hours in our Wi-Fi browsing test. We've reprinted a few charts from
that review below; a few spot checks confirms that the S5 Active should
perform identically in all circumstances.

What changes?

One small difference is that the S5 Active's three buttons are all
physical, rather than the mix of physical and capacitive buttons you get
in the regular S5. The Home button in the Active is missing the
fingerprint scanner from the regular S5, but it's the only major feature
you're missing.

Enlarge / All-physical buttons mean that the phone lacks its fingerprint scanner.
Andrew Cunningham
phone's main attraction is its thicker, sturdier, more robust casing.
Like the vanilla S5, it's dustproof and waterproof when submerged in up
to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The thicker case makes it
"shock-resistant when dropped from four feet onto a flat surface,"
according to AT&T's product page.
The S5 Active is all-matte plastic on the back and sides, and the
corners of the phone in particular are larger and reinforced with small
bumpers that should help keep the inside protected. The top, bottom, and
side edges of the phone are covered with small divots that make the
phone a bit easier to grip—it actually feels better to hold than the
standard S5 despite the increase in size.

Enlarge / Small divots on the phone's side make it easier to grip.
Andrew Cunningham

Enlarge / The phone still has its wonky heart rate sensor.
Andrew Cunningham

Enlarge / The S5 Active is waterproof and dust-proof... but so is the regular S5.
Andrew Cunningham
gone is the bumpy Band-Aid back from the original S5, replaced by a
flat, matte plastic panel. Pry up that panel and you'll reveal the
phone's SD card slot, SIM tray, and battery, and on the back side you'll
see the small rubber ring that protects all of those components from
water when the phone is submerged (a plastic-and-rubber stopper over the
USB 2.0 port on the bottom also protects the innards from
liquid—there's no USB 3.0 here, another small change from the regular

The S5 Active is only available in three colors, and while the back
is removable it can't work with back covers designed for the original
S5. Our review loaner is the "Camo Green" version, and the camouflage
pattern is frankly a bit too faux-macho for my taste. Both "Titanium
Gray" and "Ruby Red" are more reserved.

The last trade-off you make to get that sturdier chassis is that the
phone is larger, thicker, and heavier than the vanilla S5. It's an extra
25g heavier, about a millimeter thicker, one millimeter wider, and
three millimeters taller. The original S5 is a little smaller and
lighter than the HTC One M8, and the S5 Active is a little larger and
heavier (though the grippy S5 Active is easier to hold onto than the
smooth M8).

Also, we dropped it on the floor a few times from roughly chest
height. It was no worse for the wear. We wouldn't go throwing it against
the wall on purpose but the bumpers seem to be doing their job.

Just not different enough

Enlarge / Buy the S5 Active if it appeals to you, but the regular S5 is going to be just fine for most people.
Andrew Cunningham
the biggest problem with the S5 Active is that it's no longer different
enough than the regular S5 to be worth considering. The vanilla phone
is going to be compatible with a wider range of accessories, and you've
got your choice of carrier since the S5 is available essentially
everywhere from everyone. Like the S4 Active before it, the S5 Active is

Given the similarities between the S5 Active and the vanilla S5, for
most people we'd recommend getting the standard edition of the phone and
putting it in a case if you want extra protection. The good thing about
having a separate case is that if you drop the phone, the case absorbs
the damage while leaving the phone underneath relatively undamaged—in
the long run, this will be good for extending the useful life of your
phone and increasing its resale value. That's not true when your phone
is your case.

The good

  • Sturdy casing that's actually pretty nice to hold.
  • Most of the good stuff from the S5, including the bright colorful screen and the fast internals.

The bad

  • Lacks fingerprint scanner and USB 3.0 port. Neither is the vanilla S5's best feature, so the loss isn't debilitating.
  • "Camo green" is not our color.

The ugly

  • AT&T exclusive, for the second year running.

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