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The Samsung Galaxy S5 (T-Mobile) [My Review]

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In 2014 there are a few things I expect from a flagship mobile device:

  • Good build quality
  • Reliability (software & hardware)
  • All-day battery life

My review applies to the black Samsung Galaxy S5 (GS5) on the T-Mobile networking in the San Francisco bay area.

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I used the phone over 5 days as my only smartphone, but I have since returned the device. As a moderate to heavy user, I consume 5gb of mobile data a month (streaming music, videos, e-mail, etc.), talk for over 1000 minutes, send countless messages (SMS and SMS alternatives), take and upload photos, and frequently use tier 1 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Google+, etc.). The phone I will be comparing the GS5 is the iPhone 5s (5s) which I also have running on the T-Mobile network.

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Friends and family will call me an Apple Fan Boy, but in reality I’m not brand-loyal. I am, however, very picky about buying and using technology that best suites my needs.

The GS5 is well built, has a gorgeous display (which makes the 5s display look like garbage), has battery life that lasts a bit longer than the 5s, supports USB 3.0 data transfer with quick charging capabilities, and is water resistant and dust proof.

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The GS5 meets almost all the expectations I’ve listed above…almost. In comparison to the 7 month old 5s, the GS5 adds the benefit of water resistance and marginally longer battery life. For what I need a smartphone to do, the GS5 doesn’t get the job done any better or quicker than the 5s, and that made me sad.

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The ultimate reason why I returned the GS5 is because of the software. Before any Samsung or Android owner gets upset, I know all about getting a different rom onto the phone and tweaks, work-around etc. Here’s my point - I’m not willing to pay $700+ (yes there’s plenty of sales tax in California…) for a phone I need to “fix”. If a Google Play Edition comes out - like the one for the HTC One M8 - then that would persuade me to recommend this phone.

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What was so bad about the software? Frankly, nothing new if you’ve owned a recent Galaxy device, such as the GS3, Note 2, Note 3, and GS4.

  • Tons of Samsung software and settings are included. Some of which are thankfully disabled by default but still reside on the device and beg to be updated and launched every now and then. The settings menu is cluttered with pages icons (even changing it to the list-view is overwhelming). You can turn off some of the included apps, but the average user won’t know how to and won’t bother to.
  • The My Magazine feature on the home screen is powered by Flipboard. Unless you sign up for an account, it’s really a pain to read and share articles that the app presents to you. The integration with your social networks, which excludes Facebook, is limited and not that useful. The app itself is also not very responsive when it comes to scrolling - I’m sure that can be updated with a software patch.
  • The Samsung and Google Android Keyboards; while they do a decent job correcting my typing and they both feature swipe functionality, they are no match for Apple’s keyboard when typing on the go such as on the MUNI in San Francisco. A strange bug that seems to plague my friends and coworkers with Samsung devices is that the keyboard will begin to automatically capitalize the first letter of each word in a sentence. It’s unclear how it begins to do this but none of us can figure it out. I end up re-typing my messages frequently on the GS5 in comparison with the 5s. That’s not helpful when composing e-mail messages because it requires me to check my message a few times over to ensure that no random corrections were made.
  • I was an early adopter of Android and unfortunately some of the underlying issues seem to still exist years later. It only took about 2 days into using the phone when apps such as the gallery and Chrome would crash when I tried to open them.
  • Google has re-enabled the ability to move apps to an SD card if you have an SD card installed, but the bug with short-cuts and widgets disappearing still exist. I recognize this is actually a limitation of the Android system, but would have thought Samsung could work-around it using their modifications.
  • There’s also the issue of Apps still being treated as second class citizens in the Android ecosystem. This isn’t specific to the GS5, but tier 1 apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Instagram, even Google+ (just to name a few) have less functionality and don’t run as smoothly as their iOS counterparts.

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What about the rest of the phone?

  • The camera is good. Competitive with the 5s, though it’s not much better, unless you need to zoom/crop your photos. 4K video is a nice plus but the file sizes are huge and if you’re not holding the phone steady or have it mounted on a tripod, little shakes show up in a big way when viewing the footage.
  • The fingerprint sensor…well I didn’t even bother as I don’t bother with it on the 5s either. Reviewers have said it’s not as good as the 5s and judging by the way you need to swipe it perfectly down the center each time for it to work, I would agree.  
  • The heart-rate sensor works as advertised, but it’s not much better and doesn’t work any faster than what you get with 3rd party apps that utilize a phone’s camera and led flash to record your heart rate.
  • The water resistance works - you can wash your phone if you’re afraid of germs and enjoy time around the pool etc.
  • The call quality is good, but the speaker for audio as well as speakerphone is terrible. It is absolutely tinny and rattles the device at higher volumes. Surprisingly the earpiece for calls also vibrates the phone during calls if volume is above 50%. Luckily I use Bluetooth headsets which connect really well and give me a longer range than I’ve experienced with the 5s. I have to give the 5s a slight edge when it comes to call quality though. HD Voice calls over the T-Mobile network are noticeably more clear and offer a greater range of sound on the 5s.
  • There’s one software feature I did find myself using, only because I have unlimited data - Download Booster. This feature allows the phone to download over Wifi and your cellular data network simultaneously for files over 30mb in size. This made downloads blazingly fast when I’m on good Wifi and LTE networks.

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In conclusion, the GS5 is a good smartphone that many people have already purchased and many more will purchase. Talking with Samsung owners, it seems most of them try to ignore the app notifications and admit defeat when they run into the bugs that I’ve experienced. Of course there are those who will root their device and just put vanilla Android or some other flavor of Android onto their device, but that’s not what the majority of Samsung’s customers will do. It’s unfortunate that Samsung didn’t hold back on their kitchen sink approach because I feel it gives Android a bad name.

What do you think?

Filed under samsung galaxy s 5

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Samsung Galaxy Player 5.8

Samsung’s Galaxy Player line comes in all different screen sizes and the biggest one just got announced. The specs aren’t impressive - just like previous models - but it does feature dual front facing speakers like the new Galaxy Note 10.1. 

What maybe more important about this announcement is that this could potentially be a similar chasis used for the Galaxy Note II. 

Filed under Samsung Galaxy Player

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Samsung SSD 830 Series [My Review]

The Samsung SSD 830 Series has been reviewed by countless companies and bloggers so I won’t spend the time going over the specifics of the drive. In the real world, this drive was amazingly easy to set up and has been a pleasure to use. 

The system I installed it in is an early 2011 13” Macbook Pro.

When I received the 256GB drive I placed it in a USB 2.0 external enclosure, hooked it up to my Macbook Pro, formatted it with Disk Utility, and started to install Mountain Lion. After the installation had completed, I kept the SSD in the enclosure, booted off the drive, and began to set up my Mac by restoring all of the data from my existing internal hard drive. After a few hours of moving over about 180GB of data, I installed a few updates and it was good to go. The only note is that “TRIM” is not enabled by default, so you may have to use an app called TRIM enabler. 

Here is the speed test comparison between the new SSD and my old Seagate Momentus XT 500GB HDD:

Clearly the SSD smokes the hybrid HDD drive.

I then installed Windows 7 and ran the system benchmarks to get these results:

So my SSD performs just as well as my RAM. I think that’s a good thing!

Here is a photo of it installed inside my Macbook Pro. It is worth noting that the drive is actually slimmer in height than typical 2.5” HDD’s so it will fit in smaller laptops without a problem. 

In conclusion, this is an awesome drive that has not given me any problems in my Macbook Pro for both OS X Mountain Lion and Windows 7 w/SP1. One cool thing about having this drive installed is that upon booting OS X, you won’t see the loading animation under the Apple logo because it simply boots so quickly. I will update this post if there are any issues with the drive.

Filed under Samsung SSD macbook pro

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Galaxy S III Reviews

All 4 major US carriers are going to sell this phone. 

Post will be updated with other carriers when they become available.

Links to review:

AT&T - http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/20/3097869/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-at-t-review-price-availability

Sprint - http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/20/3097848/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-sprint-review-price-availability

AT&T V. Sprint - http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/20/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-review-shootout-atandt-vs-sprint/

Verizon - TBA

T-Mobile - http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/23/3112809/samsung-galaxy-s-iii-for-t-mobile-review

Filed under Galaxy S III Samsung

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thisistheverge:

Samsung Galaxy S III review
Samsung stops teasing and finally delivers its flagship Android device for 2012 — can the Galaxy S III live up to its mighty promise? 

This is a very comprehensive review of what has turned out to be another great device put out by Samsung. Overall I think owners of this phone may only complain about how cheap it looks and feels. It’s probably worth your time and money to check out both the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X before making your next large smartphone purchase. 

thisistheverge:

Samsung Galaxy S III review

Samsung stops teasing and finally delivers its flagship Android device for 2012 — can the Galaxy S III live up to its mighty promise? 

This is a very comprehensive review of what has turned out to be another great device put out by Samsung. Overall I think owners of this phone may only complain about how cheap it looks and feels. It’s probably worth your time and money to check out both the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X before making your next large smartphone purchase. 

Filed under Samsung Galaxy S III

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Samsung Galaxy S II w/ICS

Samsung began to roll-out ICS updates to some of their GSII devices yesterday in some parts of the world. The Verge has a quick review of the changes (or lack of changes). 

Check out the video and you really need to listen to the man narrating the video. In short, he’s bored and disappointed. I imagine most users are or will be underwhelmed by the update as well. 

Filed under Galaxy S II ICS Android Samsung

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Apple & Samsung Get Their Patent Cases Dismissed [The Law]

The Germans just aren’t having it anymore, and decided to put the hammer down on both Apple and Samsung. 

Instead of releasing the same devices with 20 different screen sizes, perhaps Samsung should focus its money, efforts, and apply their “survival of the fittest” mentality to actually selling products that beat Apple at their own game. Of course this is also Apple’s fault and both companies are wasting precious resources suing each other. Have they not noticed the backlog of cases that courts have these days?

Filed under Apple Samsung Patents Germany