Samsung Galaxy S5 Active review: Combat ready

Combat ready

GSMArena team, 20 June 2014.


The gallery on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active can be viewed by time or by album and filtered by several categories. Event is the basic view, which groups photos based on time and location, but it's the other modes that caught our interest.

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The gallery • smart filters

Pinch zoom will change the size of the thumbnails and can also open and close individual photos. Batch operations are supported and that includes not just copy/delete but also image rotation.

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Pinch zoom controls the thumbnail size

The single photo view has several shortcuts for sharing (via an app or over DLNA). The Quick Connect button in the notification area will scan for all ways you can share something in the Gallery with nearby devices.

You can easily edit images right in the Gallery itself. The new Studio option is quite powerful and can do anything from basic editing and photo collages to creating and trimming videos. It also handles the post-processing of Shot & more photos.

Music player

The TouchWiz music player on the Galaxy S5 Active is jam-packed with features and supports a wide variety of file formats, including FLAC.

Music is sorted by several categories and you can hide some categories you don't need. Folder view is available and so is scanning for DLNA servers (Quick Connect helps with this).

There's also the Music square - the phone scans your music library rating each track in terms of tempo (Exciting or Calm) and emotion (Passionate or Joyful). It can then load a playlist matching your chosen tempo and mood. The emotion axis in the graph can be switched to Age, which makes it easy to automatically create a playlist of classics or contemporary hits.

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Browsing the music library • Samsung Music square

The Now playing screen gives you the usual options: timescroll, playback controls, an AllShare shortcut. A coverflow-like list of album art lets you know what the next song will be and is an easy way to skip right to it. The music player will also try to find the lyrics for the song you're listening to.

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Now playing

Samsung has enabled several audio-enhancement features. The SoundAlive equalizer presets are cleverly organized into a square similar to the Music Square. The presets balance between Treble and Bass, Vocals and Instrumental. You can also just tap the Auto toggle or enable a Tube amp effect, 7.1 channel virtualization, along with Studio, Club and Concert Hall effects.

The list of audio features doesn't end there. Smart volume will keep the sound level consistent across tracks, while Adapt sound tests the performance of your headphones and tunes the equalizer based on that.

While listening to a song you can find music controls in the notification area and the lockscreen.

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Music controls in the notification area and the lockscreen

Video player

The video player on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active handles files from the local storage and DLNA-compatible devices. Chapter preview lets you jump to a specific scene.

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Browsing the video collection • watching a video

Codec support is not great, however. Many videos we tried resulted in an "audio codec not supported" message and even some basic video codecs don't work (i.e. DivX). MKV, AVI (XviD) and MP4 videos do play, but anything beyond MP3 or AAC sound is a no go.

If subtitles are available, the video player will automatically find and load them. You can also manually load subtitles if the video and subtitle file names don't match.

You can change the zoom mode (100%, fit to screen width and without affecting the videos aspect ratio) and there's a pinch zoom too, in case you want to get close to a specific part of the action. Instead of zooming in, you can zoom out and turn the video into a floating window with the familiar Pop Up Play feature.

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Pop Up Window

The same SoundAlive audio-enhancing technology from the music player is available here too. There are additional settings for the brightness, playback speed and playing the audio over Bluetooth (if you have wireless speakers).

Excellent audio output

Going all rugged hasn't had a great effect on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active audio output. The smartphone produced excellently clean output, which was mostly in-line with its non-MIL-SPEC sibling.

When used with an active external amplifier, the Galaxy S5 Active produced excellent scores top to bottom and garnished them with nice loudness levels - well above the average and even higher than those of the original Samsung Galaxy S5.

Plugging in a pair of headphones causes a rather large spike in stereo crosstalk - larger than that of the vanilla flagship, but the Galaxy S5 Active still remains an excellent performer everywhere else. And its volume levels are still higher than most of its competitors (barring the One (M8)), so we'd commend the smartphone for an excellent overall performance.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active+0.02, -0.08- 0.027-96.5
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active (headphones)+0.02, -0.06- 0.015-42.8
Samsung Galaxy S5+0.02, -0.08-96.393.30.0017 0.0089-95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones)+0.01, -0.08-96.393.30.0095 0.018-61.9
LG G3+0.02, -0.08-99.498.90.00160.035-100.0
LG G3 (headphones attached)+0.02, -0.09-93.793.30.00600.032-78.5
Sony Xperia Z2+0.02, -0.08-
Sony Xperia Z2 (headphones attached)+0.08, -0.04-84.787.60.1200.066-60.2
HTC One (M8)+0.04, -0.10-95.493.40.0012 0.010-93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones)+0.04, -0.08-94.993.90.0014 0.018-79.7
LG G2+0.03, -0.28-91.991.90.0097 0.011-91.3
LG G2 (headphones)+0.07, -0.03-91.591.80.037 0.041-54.3
Oppo Find 7a+0.03, -0.16-92.792.60.0057 0.072-92.0
Oppo Find 7a (headphones)+0.05, -0.07-91.592.70.0042 0.054-15.7

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active frequency response
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

  • Beintrinsic

I can't get an s5active in Ontario...😣

  • wendythepoo

Love my s5 active. I test prototype vehicles. I launched my cell phone off the roof of my car doing a wide open throttle. Had to be doing at least 50mph when it flew off the roof. Screen did not crack. Back came off and the little rubber glove I...

  • Anonymous

I hate s5 active.2 big problems. The buttons stick out too far so it pocket dials. The proximity sensor is poorly located so it doesn't turn the screen off when talking on the phone. It opens many apps while talkung.