In addition to offering a variety of colors for the Galaxy S5, Samsung is also broadening the line with two additions to the family—the AT&T Galaxy S5 Active and the Sprint Galaxy S5 Sport (compare the specifications of the S5 vs. S5 Active vs. S5 Sport). Both cousins to the flagship boast features that are more tuned to those with a more sports-oriented lifestyle, though neither model makes any ruggedized claims. The Sprint-exclusive Galaxy S5 Sport comes with enhancements to get you up and active, and in this review we’ll see if the fitness-oriented sportier edition of the original flagship lives up to its namesake.
The Galaxy S5 Sport is closely related to the Galaxy S5 flagship. Both phones offer excellent bright and vibrant 5.1-inch full HD 1080p Super AMOLED display, top performing quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, Samsung’s new 16-megapixel ISOCELL camera sensor, heart-rate sensor on the back, and water seals to the make the phone water-, dust-, and sweat- resistant.
The main difference between the Sprint Galaxy S5 Sport and the Galaxy S5 is the basic design.
Though both models are very similarly designed, the Sport version has a more rubberized back cover that makes the phone less slippery than the perforated faux leather backing of the non-Sport variant.
Additionally, Samsung replaced the capacitive touch buttons on the front in favor of physical controls that you can press when navigating the Android UI. Though this requires a bit more force to activate than a simple tap, in practice it’s a lot nicer as you’re not accidentally hitting the back button if you’re just trying to hold the phone.
And though you’re getting the water resistant covers and seals of the standard S5, the Sport model eschews the faster USB 3.0 port on the flagship in favor of a standard micro USB 2.0 port. While this may seem like it’s a step down, I didn’t really find the need to connect my phone to my PC that frequently due to robust cloud storage options and faster WiFi and wireless connectivity options these days.
In terms of dimensions and aesthetics, the Sport version feels more like the standard Galaxy S5 when compared to the more rugged-looking Active on AT&T, which has more robust sides for gripping and corner bumpers to help with impact in case the phone is dropped. With a less industrial look, the Sport variant may appeal to a more broad market than the Active model.
The major thing that the Sport, and also AT&T’s Active, lacks when compared to the Galaxy S5 is the 2014 fingerprint swiping technology. This means to unlock your phone and authenticate yourself, you’ll have to revert back to using the screen to entering a PIN, passcode, or swiping away.
Performance of the Galaxy S5 Sport is very similar to the Galaxy S5. This is unsurprising given that both devices are powered by the exact same internal hardware, which consists of a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 2 GB RAM, and 16 GB of on-board storage.
The phone comes with Android 4.4.2 and is pre-loaded with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. Sprint and Samsung also added preloaded a few software, most notably the Sprint ID Sports package, which gives the phone its sports-oriented fitness theme. You’ll find on the home screen a little slier towards the top left side of the display that will pop open with more sports options when you tap on it.
Tapping on “Sprint Fit live” widget will give you options fo Map My Fitness, S Health, Sportify, and a Sprint Smart Health widget that rotates and gives you the latest health news, diet tips, and general wellness advice. There’s also rotating wallpapers that change with athletes in their sports, which can inspire you to get out and get that jog in.
Other than a few preloaded Sprint apps, you’ll also find Samsung’s excellent Multi Window View multitasking that’s ported from the Galaxy S5.
Additionally, you’ll also get Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving mode as well, which can help stretch out your battery life by disabling non-essential notifications, apps, and radios. Great for camping or a long weekend trip, this mode will make sure you’ll have battery power when you need to make an emergency call.
Other than the preloaded software and the hardware buttons, there isn’t much to differentiate the Sport model from the flagship, and that may be a good thing as Samsung is promoting the Sport variant and not crippling its potential. Even Samsung’s IR blaster is present on the Sport, allowing you to use your phone after your jog to watch TV and control your home entertainment setup.
Still, if you prefer the more muted design of the regular S5, you can download many of the software that’s pre-loaded on the Sport and make it, well, sportier.
Thanks to a beefy processor and capable integrated graphics, the Galaxy S5 Sport is a svelte multimedia player. Samsung’s built-in video player can handle most video files that you throw at it. Videos can be streamed over WiFi, Sprint’s capable LTE or Spark network, or loaded onto the device’s 16 GB of storage or on a memory card as the Galaxy S5 Sport can accomodate micro SDXC cards up to 128 GB capacity.
In use, I appreciated the physical buttons, rather than the capacitive buttons, of the Sport model when viewing videos. Generally, I like to hold the phone in landscape mode when viewing a YouTube clip or playing back movies that I recorded with the device’s 4K-capable camera. On the Galaxy S5, I find myself accidentally pressing the back or multitasking capacitive buttons and getting frustrated, but on the Sport thanks to physical buttons accidentally exiting my video is no longer a reality.
Media fanatics will enjoy the vibrant Super AMOLED display of the Sport model, which can be tuned down to have more natural colors rather than AMOLED’s historic reputation for over-saturation. And while the rear-oriented speaker sounds loud, the Sport, like the original S5, produces more muffled sounds, likely due to the waterproofing of the phone.
Camera performance of the Galaxy S5 Sport is similar to the Galaxy S5. In general, the camera performs admirably well in daylight or in well-lit scenes with fast focus, brilliant automatic HDR captures and live previews on the screen in both photo and video modes, and bright colors.
In low light or at night, the Galaxy S5 Sport, like the original S5, is another story. Auto-focus is a lot more slow and camera-to-capture speeds are greatly reduced as well. In what would have taken under a second to capture in daylight will now require 2 to 3 seconds of waiting. This means that if you have fast moving subjects, they’ll be reduced to blurs, unless you turn on the flash.
However, if you have time to compose your shots and speed isn’t of the essence, the camera does use a nice Night mode in low light. It’s similar to how HDR works in capturing several images and stitching them together. Doing this in Night mode with low light helps to remove some of the grain and noise from the image while making things a bit more clearer despite not having optical image stabilization like the LG G3 or the Nokia Lumia models. Images captured in darker environments with bright lighting also suffered from lens flare as well.
Video recording is clean and sharp and we were pleased with the quality. You can choose to record standard 1080p full HD clips or go as high as Ultra HD 4K video capture, the latter will heat up your Sport over extended shooting times.
Sample Images from the Camera
Sprint Spark LTE
The Galaxy S5 Sport can achieve great speeds when on a Sprint LTE network or on the newer Sprint Spark network, which chooses the best band to connect with depending on your location, network conditions, and if you’re indoors or outdoors. In my testing, Sprint Spark’s LTE network gave me speeds between 5 and 10 Mbps. Though generally this isn’t the fastest connection speed in town, it was impressive considering I generally only had 1 to 2 bars of Spark connectivity in my apartment.
The Sport also supports Sprint’s new WiFi calling. This is great if you live or work in an area with spottier coverage or are traveling internationally and don’t want to pay for roaming. Turn on WiFi calling and your calls will be routed as a VoIP call. It’s a nice addition that will help to keep you connected and save you money when you’re traveling abroad.
In terms of hardware performance, the Galaxy S5 Sport is basically identical to the Galaxy S5, which means that it scores very high, and is clearly among the best phones out there. If you want a deep-dive of the S5, I recommend reading our in-depth review of the Galaxy S5, but I will add some real-world performance results below, just to make a long story short. Both in terms of CPU speed (Geekbench) and in terms of Gaming performance (3DMark), the Galaxy S5 does very well.
With the major difference between the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy S5 Sport being the design, it’s nice to see that Sprint is offering some variety to Samsung’s flagship model without sacrificing power or performance. With the same internals, the Galaxy S5 Sport brings a fitness-oriented theme to the mix while preserving Samsung’s design and adding a bit more ergonomic to fit users with a more active lifestyle.
One of the downsides with purchasing a variant of the Galaxy S5 is that sales numbers for this model will be low—in the U.S. the Sport is only available on Sprint. As such, it may be tougher to find official or third-party accessories for the Sport. One such accessory that would come in handy for this model would be a Qi-enabled wireless charging back battery cover, an item that’s available for the Galaxy S5 but not for the Sport.
With this accessory and a Qi charging plate, you can wirelessly charge your phone without fumbling for cables, and given the sporty, waterproof nature of this phone, such an accessory would have come in handy to alleviate the need to fumble with the micro USB 2.0 port cover on the phone.
At the end of the day, the decision to get the Galaxy S5 Sport over the standard Galaxy S5 will come to a matter of preference. The Sport is available in Electric Blue and Cherry Red while the standard Galaxy S5 is available in black, white, and copper gold on Sprint’s network. Both phones are feature-rich and are powerful road warriors. Interestingly enough, however, the Galaxy S5 Sport is priced at $199 on a two-year contract, double the $99 contract value of the flagship.