Review: Samsung Galaxy S5 Active for AT&T
The GS5 Active is a tougher Android smartphone from Samsung. It carries over most of the GS5's attractive features, but wraps them in a stronger body for protection from daily abuses.
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The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active is just what the name implies: It's a variant of Samsung's flagship smartphone that's more able to shrug off the daily bumps and bruises commonly experienced by today's handsets. It offers all the same features as its daintier cousin, but is packaged in a sturdier shell for better protection. If you're the adventurous type, or just prefer a sturdy phone to a delicate one with a case, the GS5 Active is a better bet than the standard model.
I'm just going to come out and say it: The Active is what the Galaxy S5 ought to be. The Active trades in the GS5's vanilla design for one that's altogether superior to my eyes. It may be heavier and bulkier, but the Active won't require a case of any sort. It has far more personality and utility than the GS5, and will surely be a better day-in and day-out companion for those who pick it over the less-sturdy model.
Fully ruggedized phones are often built like tanks and generally have the chunky footprint to match. The GS5 Active doesn't go quite that far. It's able to withstand moderate drops, dunks in the pool, and some roughhousing, but you can't drive your car over it or smash it with a hammer. The Active trades the GS5's chrome exterior rim for a rough polycarbonate shell that wraps around the side edges and forms a protective lip around display. The shell creates angled corners that give the Active its own look. Gone is the dimpled battery cover. In its place is a solid, textured plate. Our review unit is colored in camouflage and looks like it would be at home on a paintball range. Other colors are available. I like the design a lot.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, the GS5 Active measures 5.72 x 2.89 x 0.35 inches and weighs 6 ounces. The standard model measures 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches and weighs 5.1 ounces. In other words, the dimensions are different, but not by an appreciable amount as far as I am concerned.
Like the GS5, the Active is a big phone. People with small hands may find it too big. The angular sides mean it doesn't rest comfortably in your hand, it doesn't nestle into your palm. You can feel just how wide the phone is. On the positive side, it is incredibly solid and strong as hell. Nothing about the Active is wimpy or delicate. It should fit into most pockets without too much trouble, but the rim protecting the display means the phone is easy to feel against your leg as you move about.
The front surface is mostly screen. There's a chrome-colored strip above the display for the earpiece speaker. The Active ditches the GS5's capacitive control buttons and fingerprint sensor for three regular buttons: multitask, home, and back. The buttons are easy to find with your thumb thanks to their good profiles. Travel and feedback is excellent. The lock button is on the right edge, just above the center. It has an excellent profile and travel and feedback are practically perfect. There are two buttons on the left edge, which is a change from the standard model. The first is the volume toggle, which has a great profile and superb travel and feedback. The second is much smaller and activates the Active's "Action" apps (more on these later.) The button itself may be small, but I didn't have any trouble finding or using it.
The battery cover takes some effort to peel off thanks to the gasket that protects the innards. It needs to be snapped firmly in place to protect the GS5 from water. The battery itself is removable. The battery cover needs to be removed in order to access the SIM card and microSD card slots, as well.
The microUSB port is on the bottom and has a hatch to protect it. The Active isn't water resistant unless this hatch is firmly closed. I found this hatch to be a little bit of a pain to use day-in and day-out, but it's a worthwhile tradeoff. The headphone jack is on top and doesn't need a hatch.
The Galaxy S5 Active lives up to its name. I bumped it around for several days and it's still working just fine. I dropped it several times (on purpose) onto concrete, kicked it, and held it under running water. I banged it on my desk, pounded it with my fist, and threw it high in the air allowing it to land on my grassy yard. It's still ticking.
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