Laptop Mag Verdict
The fitness-focused Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport brings greater durability, longer battery life and more style to one of the best smartphones.
Fantastic battery life
Vivid color choices
Physical buttons for menu, back and home
Great AMOLED display
Spark LTE can be spotty
Too many pre-loaded apps
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After the initial release of the Galaxy S5, Samsung has been busy spinning off new versions of its flagship smartphone. First came the drop-proof and water-resistant Galaxy S5 Active for AT&T, and now there's the Galaxy S5 Sport for Sprint. Made for fitness buffs, this exclusive handset features the same Super AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 801 CPU and 16-megapixel camera that made the original so great, but has an improved case design and longer battery life. Even if you're not a gym rat, the Galaxy S5 Sport's combination of long battery life, durability and camera quality make it a top choice.
Like a person jogging to the gym through a crowd of suits, the Galaxy S5 Sport stands out in either of its two outfits, Electric Blue or Cherry Red. The S5 Sport features reinforced, thicker edges while mostly retaining the original S5's slim figure. The back features a shiny plastic bezel surrounding a soft-touch dimpled coating, perfect for maintaining a firm hold even after a sweaty workout.
The camera also gets a reinforced bezel, ensuring you won't crack the lens even during the most intense exercises. The improved design is sturdy and attractive, and gives me the impression that this phone doesn't need a case.
On the front, the Galaxy S5 Sport switches out the capacitive touch back and menu buttons for physical keys, although we could have done without the added crisscross texture. Unfortunately, the heart rate sensor from the original S5 has not been improved and is still quite finicky, which is a bummer for a fitness-focused phone.
Click to EnlargeThe dimensions of the Galaxy S5 Sport (5.67 x 2.91 x 0.35 inches) are barely larger than the original Galaxy S5 (5.59 x 2.85 x 0.31 inches). The same goes for the weight, with the S5 Sport (5.57 ounces) weighing less than half an ounce more than the vanilla Galaxy S5 (5.11 ounces). The S5 Active is just a tad taller and ever-so-slightly thicker than the Sport, and another half an ounce heavier (5.72 x 2.89 x 0.35 inches, 6 ounces).
The remaining differences are in the power ports, with the S5 Sport having just a single micro USB jack, instead of the combo USB/MHL port found on the original. Finally, the fingerprint sensor found in the home button of the original S5 has been removed--not that we really missed it.
Compared to its siblings, the S5 Sport splits the difference between the rugged and somewhat bulky S5 Active and the original S5. The S5 Sport retains the same IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. This means the S5 Sport can last up to 30 minutes submerged in one meter of water. However, since the S5 Sport lacks the extra side button of the S5 Active, it cannot take pictures while submerged. We would also be more hesitant to toss around the S5 Sport, because even though the case has been beefed up a bit, it lacks the reinforced corners of the S5 Active.
Click to EnlargeThe Galaxy S5 Sport features the same 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display we know and love. When I watched the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, I loved the vivid neon highlights contrasted by the rich earth tones of Groot's arboreal body.
However, color reproduction and accuracy met our high expectations. The S5 Sport's screen was able to display 161.1 percent of the sRGB spectrum. For accuracy, the S5 Sport recorded a Delta-E of 0.8. (closer to 0 is better). The Sport offers more color saturation and about the same color accuracy as the iPhone 5S (98 percent, Delta-E of 0.09) and HTC One M8 (115 percent, 0.9 Delta-E).
If I had to pick a shortcoming of the Galaxy S5 Sport, it would be its single back-mounted speaker. It's not terrible, but it's outclassed by the HTC One M8. When we listened to Phoenix's Too Young, we preferred the richer mids and highs of the HTC One, but overall quality was about the same as the original Galaxy S5.
On the Laptop Mag audio test, the S5 Sport produced 80 decibels of volume measured from 13 inches away. This was quieter than the HTC One M8's 83 dB but much higher than the original S5 (73 dB).
Apps and Interface
Click to EnlargeUpon booting up the Galaxy S5 Sport, I had to restrain myself from yelling "We must protect this house!" The home screen background is blanketed by wallpapers of people wearing Under Armour gear in various states of exercise. Tapping on empty spaces will prompt inspirational quotes to pop up, such as "Transform Yourself" or "Sweat Every Day." This is a result of the Sprint's sporty branding, but, thankfully, this stuff can be turned off from within the Sprint Fit Live app.
Fit Live is accessible from a pop-out tab along the upper left edge of the screen, and provides a shortcut to MapMyFitness (an Under Armour-owned app), Samsung S Health and Spotify. You'll also find the Smart Health news feed, which pulls in health-conscious articles for constant well-being awareness. Other fitness apps are excluded, and must be launched from the home screen or app tray.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
Click to EnlargeLike the original S5, the Sport features the Samsung S Health app, which works with the built-in pedometer to track your steps while also integrating with third-party apps and devices to expand its fitness-monitoring capabilities. Samsung Activity Zone tracks air pressure and elevation provides easy access to a flashlight, compass and stopwatch.
Navigating through the various screens is a breeze with Samsung's TouchWiz UI, which has been cleaned up slightly since its previous iteration on the Galaxy S4. Swiping down from the top launches a combo settings and notifications window with a slick, flat aesthetic. I really liked the Multi Window feature for side-by-side multitasking, but searching and organization in TouchWiz felt a little lacking.
The rest of the pre-installed apps consist of a Sprint's usual suite, including Sprint Framily Wall and Sprint Zone, and the aforementioned partner apps. Sprint bundles a free year of premium MapMyFitness, and six months of Spotify for those with a Framily plan--or three months without.
Click to EnlargeThe heart of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport is its 2.5-GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU and 2GB of RAM. This allows the handset to deliver the same snappy performance we've seen in other S5 models.
When I loaded the graphically intense shooter N.O.V.A. 3, the S5 Sport launched the game in 19 seconds, slightly slower but not far off from the HTC One M8 (17 seconds) and the smartphone average of 16 seconds.
The S5 Sport transcoded a 204MB 1080p video to 480p in 4 minutes and 48 seconds. This is comparable to the HTC One M8 (4:47) and much faster than the smartphone average (7:47).
The S5 Sport performed well on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 3 (multicore performance) and 3DMark Icestorm Unlimited (graphics), scoring 2,909 and 18,141, respectively. This is similar to the HTC One M8 (2,480 and 20,965) and better than the iPhone 5S (2,556 and 13,795).
The Galaxy S5 Sport features the same 16-megapixel rear camera found on its siblings. This means you also have access to features like live HDR preview and selective focus.
HDR mode combines multiple exposures into one photograph to better capture the dark and light portions of a scene. Selective focus further enhances touch-focus performance by allowing for sharper selection of objects in the foreground.
The camera on the Galaxy S5 performed well under most circumstances, but did fall a bit behind the iPhone 5S in low-light pictures. Aside from the difference in white balance, the S5 Sport's photo has slightly more noticeable image grain and a little less detail compared with the iPhone.
Click to EnlargeThe final instrument of the S5 Sport's photo arsenal is its 2-megapixel front camera, which is good for selfies and includes a beauty mode for smoothing wrinkles and eliminating blemishes. One downside to the beauty mode is that photos can come out overly soft, but this can adjusted or turned off in the settings.
Editor's Note: For a full review of the S5 Camera, see our Samsung Galaxy S5 for Sprint review here.
4G LTE and Voice Performance
Click to EnlargeUsing Speedtest.net, I ran three speed tests using the Spark LTE network in Union Square. The S5 Sport averaged 25.6 Mbps downloads and 12.64 Mbps up. This was far better than the other three results taken in our office. Even with four bars of service, the S5 Sport averaged under 1 Mbps up and down on 3G. Other tests around the city did not yield much better results, although speeds did creep up to around 3.5 Mbps up and down.
Currently, Spark is available in only 28 cities across the U.S., although Sprint is promising to bring the service to a total of 100 million people by the end of the year. Go here to see if your city is currently covered.
Battery Life and Ultra Power Saving Mode
The Galaxy S5 Sport's battery lasted longer than its vanilla sibling. On the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing over 4G LTE), the Galaxy S5 Sport lasted 10 hours and 37 minutes, an hour and a half longer than the original S5 on Sprint (8:46). This was also better than the iPhone 5S (5:46), HTC One M8 (9:52) and smartphone average of 8:06. This is a significant improvement, and just by itself would make the S5 Sport a better value than the vanilla S5.
The S5 Sport also features an ultra power saving mode that switches the display to grayscale and turns off extraneous features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Doing this can extend standby time up to 9.6 days at 75 percent battery, a useful feature for users taking an extended trip.
Click to EnlargeI would trade a millimeter of thinness for extra durability and battery life, and with the Galaxy S5 Sport, that's exactly what you get. And unless you're worried about being too conspicuous, the vibrant paint jobs are a nice touch as well. I love the three physical buttons, and the textured back is great for everyone, from workout fanatics to people who can't remember that last time they went to the gym.
Those looking for even more ruggedness should check out the S5 Active on AT&T, which has the added benefit of being able to use the camera while underwater. But overall the Galaxy S5 Sport is a fun variation on the S5 for the fitness set and our top pick overall on Sprint.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport (Sprint) Specs
|Audio formats supported||OTA, eAAC+, WAV, FLAC, WMA, M4A, AAC, XMF, MIDI, AAC+, MP3, AMR-NB, OGG, AMR-WB|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0 BLE/ANT+|
|CPU||2.5-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Front Camera Resolution||2 MP|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Operating System||Android 4.4.2|
|Phone Display Size||5.1|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|Size||5.67 x 2.91 x 0.35 inches|
|Talk / Standby Time||Standby 390 hours / Talk 29 hours|
|Video formats supported||VC-1, ASF, VP8, AVI, WMA, H.263, H.264, M4V, 3G2, MP4, 3GP|