Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Review: Running in Place

by Reads (4,668)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 6
      • Ease of Use
      • 6
      • Design
      • 6
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Value
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 6.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Same great display, performance, and camera of the original S5
    • Free MapMyFitness and Spotify Premium trials
    • Rubber back is easy to grip
  • Cons

    • Sloppy build that isn't protective enough
    • Software is even more bloated than before
    • Sprint's LTE network is spotty in areas

Quick Take

The Galaxy S5 Sport purports to be a phone for fitness freaks, but comes off more like a vessel for Sprint and its promotional partners. It retains the standard Galaxy S5's best traits, but makes its worst ones even worse. AT&T users should look into that carrier's Galaxy S5 Active, but most people are best off with the original model.

How do you make the Samsung Galaxy S5 better for fitness enthusiasts? Well, you don’t have to do too much. At least that’s the message conveyed by Sprint’s Galaxy S5 Sport, which recycles almost all of the original flagship’s core features but slightly shakes up its design and adds some software tweaks aimed at attracting health nuts. As such, most of our conclusions about the Galaxy S5 Sport aren’t all that different from those in our first S5 review.

Let’s take a look at what’s new with this variation, though, which is exclusively out on the yellow network for $650 unlocked or $200 with a two-year contract.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Plastic Place

Samsung Galaxy S5 SportThe original Galaxy S5 wasn’t particularly attractive or appalling, but the S5 Sport is downright ugly. Gone is the smooth if unspectacular plastic coating of the standard device, here replaced with a Frankenstein’s monster of textures, bumps, and grooves. Its back is marked by a plate of dimpled, rubberized material, puzzlingly fitted with two indented lines that make it look like the phone is meant to be folded up. That’s surrounded by a ring of thick, shiny plastic, which itself is connected to a different coat of matte plastic on the edges, except the latter material comes in a darker shade of teal blue (or red). Meanwhile, the corners are made from another slice of polycarbonate that’s harder and lined off like the sides of the standard S5. Everything about this looks disjointed, as if pieces of four different devices were patched together into one mutant hybrid.

So-called “rugged phones” have never been belles of the ball, so some of this sloppiness is excusable. The bigger problem, however, is that the S5 Sport isn’t exactly durable or ready to withstand to the wears and tears of exercise in the first place.

That plate of rubber is grippy enough, but it only protects part of the phone. As far as we can tell, the plastic that covers the rest of the device is just as vulnerable as it would be on a normal S5. This means that you’ll still need to be careful not to drop or scratch the Sport too hard, which totally defeats the purpose of making a spin-off like this. You definitely won’t be able to beat it around like AT&T’s Galaxy S5 Active, another ruggedized variant that isn’t pretty but has been hardened to withstand inevitable abuse of frequent outdoor activity, and then some.

Samsung Galaxy S5 SportNow, it’s not all bad. The capacitive keys of the normal S5 have been replaced by three physical buttons that remove the aimless fingerprint sensor from before and are much easier to find and press on the run. The helpful and programmable shortcut key of the S5 Active isn’t here, however. The old phone’s massive USB/MHL charging port has also been replaced, here with a smaller and more universally compatible microUSB connector (although it charges slower and is still underneath an annoying protective flap). The whole thing is still dust- and water-resistant, so it can take an accidental pool dunking without causing you any concern. And while 5-inch phones like this are always going to trouble the smaller-handed among us, the S5 Sport fits snugly in the hand compared to the other devices in its size bracket.

But too much of what’s good about the S5 Sport is also applicable to the original S5. The issue at hand is what the Sport adds to the equation, and the answer to that is not much. For the same price as the standard S5, the Sport gives you a phone that’s noticeably heavier (158g vs. 143g), a little bit bigger (5.67 x 2.91 x 0.35 in vs. an already big 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 in), and much worse looking, without giving the level of protection that’s ideal from a fitness-focused device. It’s not uncomfortable to use, but its build is a downgrade. There are external cases for the standard Galaxy S5 that do the job better.



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