CNET First Look
Tougher Samsung Galaxy S5 Active takes a tumbleThis hulked-up Galaxy S5 spinoff pumps up the outdoorsy factor while keeping software and specs top notch.
[MUSIC] For the second year in a row, Samsung has expanded it's Galaxy S5 with an active phone. The Galaxy S5 Active to be exact, with only a slightly different design and effects that mirror the original S5. The active here raises two questions. What is the optimized difference? And, is it really suited to the rough and tumble lifestyle? I'm Jessica Dolcourt for CNET and here we go with the unit from AT&T. For the record, Samsung never claimed that the S5 Active is a regular device. And that's a good thing because it'll hardly pass muster. True, a thicker plastic coating on the top, bottom and corners will keep it from getting busted up like my S5 Z after a tumble. And, it's got these perfectly raised buttons on the front and on the sides. That make it a lot easier to navigate with wet fingers, or gloves. But, without any grippy edges, like we did have in the S4 Active, it is a little slippery. And, since it is also a little bit wider than the S5, it also makes it a little bit harder to hold, at least for me. And, those **** looking nubs on the back. Yeah, those are just pure decoration. The S5 Active does have seals and gaskets to protect the interior from water and dust. But then again so does the S5, which, like this one, is also rated IT67. Okay, so here's what is different. The S5 Active has this really neat convenience key above the volume rocker. You press it once and you'll pull up a new Samsung app called activity zone. This shows you a barometer, a compass, a flashlight, and a stopwatch. The flashlight has several modes in fact and it even translates your text into morse code. A menu in the app lets you add other shortcuts too, which does give you quicker access to opening say, a separate app for running. And if you long press the key you can launch the camera as well. This is the first time in a long time that we've seen Samsung do this. And you can adjust the settings, so that pressing this button triggers the shutter. Remember that you can also take photos by pressing a volume button. And that you can use either of these techniques to take pictures underwater. This unit I've got here is a rather militant camo green, but you can also get the S5 Active in red or gray. Now I said that internally the Active here is just as capable as the S5 with the same 5.1 inch, 1080p HD display. The same excellent 16 megapixel camera and the same 2.5 gigahertz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. So it is really fast. It also runs Android 4.4 KitKat and has Samsung touchless interface on top. That means that you get everything from Google Now and My magazine to ultra power saving mode, toolbox, private mode, and multi window plus a lot more besides. And yes, the S5 Active does have a heart rate monitor on the back. What it doesn't have, though, is the fingerprint scanner. And you'll notice that the charging port is the standard affair rather than the quicker charging that the Galaxy S5 has with its double barrel combination. So, how does the Galaxy S5 Active stack up? Well it's certainly in the top of its class when it comes to features and specs, but there are sturdier phones out there. Still, if you think of it as a more robust, tactile and outdoorsy version of the S5 then it won't let you down. I'm Jessica Dolcourt for CNET. Be sure to catch my full S5 Active review at cnet.com.