The Galaxy S5 Sport is Sprint’s new exclusive take on Samsung’s 2014 flagship device, a phone that takes everything we love (and didn’t love) about the original Galaxy S5 and wraps it in a new package with some additional fitness-oriented software. While it scores points for its solid build quality, is the Sport a better buy than the first iteration of the S5? Read on for our full review.
Design & Build
The design of the Galaxy S5 Sport is significantly different than the standard version of the GS5 released back in the spring. While the phone maintains a similar footprint and silhouette, it features a boxy, ruggedized build incorporating contrasting plastic accents in matte and faux-chrome finishes. Homages to the original Galaxy S5 design persist, including a dimpled back that is considerably more grippy on the Sport thanks to its rubber inset.
Measuring 5.67 x 2.91 x 0.35 inches, the Galaxy S5 Sport is bigger than the standard S5 by a few fractions of an inch in every dimension. Most noticeable is the device’s thickness, which increases from 0.32 inches. The Sport is also heavier by a considerable amount at 5.57 ounces compared to the GS5’s 5.11 ounce weight.
The Galaxy S5 Sport caters to fans of physical Android navigation buttons with the standard set of three mapped out below the screen. The buttons are plenty big and feature a textured design that adds some grip and makes them easy to find. It’s a small touch that could come in quite handy when drenched in sweat after a serious workout, reminding that the Sport was purpose-built for those incline to “active” lifestyles.
Elsewhere the phone features a volume rocker and power/standby key, camera sensor that protrudes slightly from the rear of the phone above a flash array that doubles as a heart rate monitor, and a sealed microUSB charging port. The latter is important to maintain the waterproof design introduced with the original Galaxy S5. Unfortunately, the Galaxy S5 Sport does not include the fingerprint scanner of its blueprint device, eliminating the ability to unlock the phone with the swipe of a finger and more.
While the shell of the Galaxy S5 Sport is a far cry from the original, the device’s internal hardware is more or less identical and functions as much. It starts with the one outward-looking piece of kit, a 5.1-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display. With the Galaxy S5 it was touted as one of the best screens to ever grace a smartphone, and its no different in its Sport iteration. As with all AMOLED displays, expect a high level of contrast and rich, vibrant colors. You can read more about the Galaxy S5’s display in our full review.
The Galaxy S5 Sport features the same Snapdragon 801 found in the Galaxy S5 coupled with 2GB of RAM, delivering performance that matches that phone in every respect. It certainly doesn’t feel like the fasted Android phone on the market — thanks in no small part to its bloated TouchWiz interface — but it is no slouch by any means. Again, you can read about the Galaxy S5’s performance in more depth in our original review.
We would be doing a disservice if we didn’t mention cellular performance. As a Sprint exclusive, the Sport is tied to Sprint’s hit-or-miss network. When able to maintain a solid connection with the carrier’s 4G LTE network, users can expect solid download and upload speeds. The issue arises with coverage. If you live and spend most of your time in an area with strong Sprint service this shouldn’t be too big of an issue, but you may want to do some research if you aren’t already on Sprint’s network. As an alternative, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active is a similarly designed Galaxy S5 variant that benefits from AT&T’s network.
Samsung’s TouchWiz interface has long been a divisive element of the Galaxy S line. While its intentions have always been in the right place — attempting to add to the Android experience via software features and exclusive apps — the execution hasn’t always been seamless. TouchWiz often comes across as clunky, confusing, and overwhelming for both the user and the phone’s hardware. This continues to be the case with the Galaxy S5 Sport, which implements the same TouchWiz Nature UX found on other Galaxy S5 models.
For an overview of TouchWiz on the Galaxy S5, see our initial review. Here we will focus on additional software exclusive to the Galaxy S5 Sport, which are mostly geared toward the “active lifestyle” sect. The main aspect of this is Sprint Fit Live, a hub of sorts that combines the S Health app standard to all Galaxy S5 handsets with Spotify (Sport owners get a few months of free access as a bonus) and another service MapMyFitness. Sprint Fit Live also provides users with access to health-related articles and other fitness info.
Does it add to the experience? For those intending to use the Sport as a fitness companion, it gets the job done. It’s nothing that could not be accomplished to the same degree or even better with standalone apps, however, so it’s far from a reason to run out and buy the Galaxy S5 Sport. Many will simply see it as bloatware along with the numerous other apps from Sprint, Samsung, and its partners that come preinstalled on the device. These include Amazon, eBay, Lookout Security, Flipboard, and 1Weather just to name a small fraction.
As with other hardware elements, the Galaxy S5 carries a 16MP camera identical to the Galaxy S5 and performs on par with its predecessor. In good lighting conditions the S5’s optics can really wow, but don’t expect every shot to be a masterpiece based on the high megapixel count alone. While lowlight performance is adequate, it certainly isn’t spectacular.
The Galaxy S5 Sport features a 2,800mAh battery that didn’t cease to impress us, just as was the case with the vanilla Galaxy S5. With standard use the phone will have no issues lasting more than a day on a single charge. Even with the Sport’s more rugged inclinations, the battery pack remains removable making it possible to carry a spare, but you likely won’t need one given the distance the handset can go on a single charge.
Is the Galaxy S5 Sport an upgrade over Samsung’s standard S5 flagship handset? That is to say, is there a solid rationale to choosing one over the other? While Sprint subscribers may find some appeal in its new design and fitness buffs might see something in a phone built for “active” lifestyles, the Sport ultimately is little more than a Galaxy S5 with a fresh coat of paint. Users already in the market for an S5 might consider the Sport if they want a device that stands out from the rest of the GS5-wielding pack. It’s no better but no worse than the original.
Solid build quality
Brilliant Super AMOLED display
Excellent battery life
Lacks fingerprint sensor found in regular GS5
Software feels a bit overwhelming, fitness features don’t add much