Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

This Galaxy S5 is ready to take a beating

If you've been holding on to that older Samsung Rugby Smart or even last year's Galaxy S4 Active, you'll be pleased with what you're about to read. With the Galaxy S5 Active, Samsung has once again taken their best selling device and sent it back to engineering to create a version that you can beat and abuse without ending up with something that no longer works. And they managed to keep everything we love intact while doing it.

If you want or need the features and specs from the Galaxy S5, but know that you'll be dragging it through the mud, the blood and the beer, then the Galaxy S5 Active was built for you.

The Galaxy S5 Active video walkthrough

Treat me rough

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

Simply put, this is the Samsung Galaxy S5 after it's been toughened up a bit. The looks are a good bit different — and camouflage is only one of the color options (along with gray and red), so don't worry — but the device acts just the same as its slightly more delicate sibling. The style isn't going to appeal to everyone. There is no getting around that. It's wide, flat, and thin, with an extra bit of armor consisting of a hard rubber band that encircles the frame. It looks like it should have the Snap-On logo on the back. Having said that, I think I like it better than the look and feel of the normal Galaxy S5. But this is all personal preference.

The difference, and focus of the phone is the Mil-Spec 810G and IP67 ratings. Together, these make the S5 Active resistant to salt, dust, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, transport shock and thermal shock. This means that you can dunk the S5 Active into a meter of water for 30 minutes just like the "normal" Galaxy S5, but it's also going to fare better if left in the bright sun, or going in and out of extreme temperature conditions, or getting slammed on a metal table from 3 feet in the air. That was fun to test, but a bit loud.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

You have the same buttons, controls, and ports that you're used to in the same places. You also have an additional Action Button that opens the exclusive Activity Zone app when pressed, or the camera when long-pressed by default. Things change a bit when you get to the bottom of the phone, where you'll find three mechanical buttons — one each for Home, Back, and Multitasking. With S-Voice assigned to the long-press home action, you could use the S5 Active with work gloves on or if you're covered in grease or mud. The touch screen is still pretty unusable with wet or dirty fingers, though. The Fingerprint scanner and it's association with the security keyring has been removed, so when your hands are clean you won't have that to use.

I love this screen

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

Like the internal specs, the display is the same excellent piece of tech we find on the Galaxy S5. It's a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 1080p resolution that checks in at 432 ppi. It's bright. It's beautiful. It works well in bright sunlight. It's one of the best displays we've ever seen, and deserves the praise that it receives. Gone are the days when only a good LCD could be considered "the best" as this display rivals or exceeds the display used on the HTC One M8 or the Apple iPhone 5s. I'm itching to have a go with the new panel used on the LG G3, but until then I give the crown to the Galaxy S5 — and the Active variant.

A great camera

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

The cameras are the same as you'll find on the Galaxy S5, with the same features and shooting modes in the software. Overall, it's an excellent smartphone camera, but it struggles in low-light situations. Most smartphone cameras do the same, so I'm not going to fault it. Having the Active button serve as a shortcut and a shutter button is a nice touch. While you'll find plenty of samples in our Galaxy S5 review, I'm adding a few here just for fun.

The same TouchWiz flavoring

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

Like everything else, the software on the S5 Active is a mirror image of what you'll find on the standard Galaxy S5. It's completely TouchWiz'd out, and I'm not about to say that is a bad thing. Samsung has been enhancing and retooling their software, and each version gets a little better than the last. If you've not used TouchWiz in a while, you owe it another chance. It's not for everybody, and I'm not going to say I prefer it, but no longer should it be dismissed off-hand.

Inside the app drawer you're going to find everything but an AT&T Kitchen Sink included, as well as all the Google Applications required. You're not going to like them all, nor are you going to use them all. You can go into the settings and disable almost all of them, so jump in and do just that. We don't like all the extra garbage installed on our phones any more than you do, but there's not much you can do when a phone is an exclusive to a carrier. Disable the junk, and politely let AT&T know on their social media pages that you'd rather not have the bloat.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

The software itself is fluid, and any stutters and jitters you remember from last year's Galaxy S4 models are gone. While the style may not be for everyone, the function is spot-on and Samsung has done a fine job tuning their operating system. We can stop the blind hate for TouchWiz now, and realize it's another option for folks who want it.

Having said that, I'd really love a Google Play edition of the S5 Active, but that's just me.

Some final thoughts

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

"Active" and "rugged" are buzzwords. The Galaxy S5 Active isn't built of unobtanium and kryptonite, and you can't randomly beat on it with heavy metal tools. For all the "ruggedness" built into the construction, it still has 5.1-inches of glass on the face. But when it comes normal everyday abuse, like bumping the phone against some scaffolding, or dropping it in the mud, or even walking in and out of a deep-freeze all day long, the S5 Active is going to last longer than it's counterpart.

You may work at a desk all day like I do, but there are folks out there who don't. People who put on a uniform every morning, or a hard hat, or till the soil. Also, many folks get out every weekend and play hard. Rocks, woods and waters can be hell on a smartphone. The Galaxy S5 Active is designed for all those people, who work or play hard and need a phone that's as tough as they are. And the great thing is that they need make no compromises. Everything you love about the Galaxy S5 — it's camera, it's screen, the features and the specs — are on board.

If you need a phone that is as tough as you are, you want to have a look at the S5 Active.


Reader comments

Galaxy S5 Active review


To you, but others may think it is the best. There are also some that prefer function over looks.
Posted via Android Central App

ok i didnt really get all the hype on the s4 active but this is actually pretty tight.
i would be all over this if it were on more than just att

Thanks for an interesting and informative review!
You mentioned exactly the points I was wondering about -real use with gloves and in an outdoor environment.
Also, it's smart that Samsung kept the specs closer, if not the same, as the "regular" S5. That's an improvement over the S4 Active!

Finally, that built in rubber bumper is quite appropriate for this model!
No case needed ;-)


Yes but for anything over 3 feet I would suggest a case. Just to be safe. They don't make the few cases they make for them just for show.

If only Samsung would smarten up, and realize how many units they'd sell if they made this available on every carrier like the regular S5.

I'd definitely get this over the regular version.

Posted via Android Central App

Amen to that! I have two toddlers and would love to have this phone but I'm not switching from carriers just for a phone.

The other significant difference between the S5 and the S5 Active is that the later only uses USB2 micro so it doesn't have the upside of USB3 data transfers.

I had the Nexus 4 for almost a year. I'm 6'1" and fit the tall and lanky description of your average geek. I walked out of work swinging my arms for some reason and my N4 flew out of my hand. It flew up to head height and then flew forward about 5 feet and landed hard on the blacktop that makes up our parking area. No scratch. No dent. No shatter front screen or shattered glass back.

Personal anecdotes are just that. Personal anecdotes. They don't count for much beyond "well, this happened to me".

Your buddy's story is the online equivalent of "I know a guy who knows a guy who saw a guy drop his Active in a case and had the screen shatter". I mean it's a great story, but without proof we really can't just take your word over Jerry's in regards to how rugged and tough this phone may or may not actually be.

See, now that's just as believable as your last comment. Difference being this time around it's funnier.

But i do believe you got my point and your follow up reply is testament to that. You understand that personal anecdotes concerning devices don't count for much without proof. : )

Sucks about your buddy's phone whatever happened, assuming something bad did happen to it. But hey, it happens. I kinda think though it'd survive in other people's hands, your mileage may vary and all.

Glass is glass. It's a phone, it can break. These things are not indestructible.

My friend bought a new G2 dropped it the next day and the glass shattered, I've dropped mine 5 times at least and no damage. Sometimes we get lucky.

It can be an ever so slightly imperfection in the glass, hitting just that right angle etc...

Hopefully he had insurance.

Posted via Android Central App w/G2

Last I looked the article was related to the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active. Go to the LG G2 review and put your comment there.

Exact same issue. Not to mention, constant software issues since I received it. And Samsung will not do anything to rectify the situation. Disappointing and expensive mistake. Will definitely be going with a different manufacturer for my next phone, which is really frustrating as my last 3 or 4 have been Samsung units.

Well, he's not the only one. I've had my s5 active for a's been good to me. Went to the lake this weekend and sand, wet towels and hands had nothing on my phone. BUT it fell off the picnic table...abt 3-4 feet and my screen cracks!! I literally shed a tear. It still works. I'm typing over the crack screen right now. My previous s4 active had no bumps or bruises but per att, had cracked lcd. Idk how it happened, but just opted to upgrade. Anyhoo, yes it's rugged, but a month later I got a cracked screen. I should hv invested in otterbox instead of having 100% faith in the advertisement.

my cracked so I called Samsung they told me they would fix it but then changed their minds and told me it would cost 160. dollars. this sucks guess I am glad that's its not just me. maybe they will do something about it if we all complain

Good review. I picked up one this week. I need to have an Att phone for the summer because I'll be out in the boonies where T-Mobile has no coverage. Maybe I'm alone but I really wanted the Camo but the store was all sold out. Ended up with a red one. I agree that it is a very nice phone and I live the feel of it. It's a good size between the Nexus 5 and the Note 3.

Posted via Android Central App

I am either getting this phone or the G3. I don't think I want a QHD screen with the 801 chipset so the S5 Active will probably win.

Jerry, just a heads up, either the mic your using has one side thats broken, or its a bad upload as one ear is clear as hell, the other ear its really static like when wearing ear buds, just a heads up bud

Is it true that it also has Optical Image Stabilization?
If yes, the camera of this phone is not the same as you propose with the Galaxy S5

The youtube video showing simultaneous video of an S5 and S5 active (clamped together) while the guy stomps around is pretty compelling. Some don't think it is real (it _is_ the internet) but it seems pretty legit to me. If it is real, it is a big plus. Maybe Jerry can repeat the experiment. :-)

Looks like a cool phone, too bad it's exclusive to a carrier I'm not with. Samsung could probably sell a lot of these. I'm sure it'll do well for AT&T.

Posted via Android Central App w/G2

By the way, When is the AC marketplace (shopandroid) going to allow one to select the S5 Active as their device?

I love this phone wayyyy more then the normal s5 and its because it looks unique and awesome. Even my iphone toting brother likes the look of it..and he hates android

Posted via Android Central App

Great write up Jerry. My thoughts exactly. I bought the original S5 and took it back. I saw this and had to have it. To me it is noticeably better than the original. Looks better, case need not apply and the screen has better visibility in the sun.

Posted via Android Central App

Now...the thing is..are they gonna screw up all the updates like they did on the last Active?

Posted via Android Central App

Working at a AT&T retail location, i have been selling more of these than the standard S5. As a S4 owner, i would most likely going for the Active...though my eyes are set on the G3 :D

I had the s4 active for a week and also the s4 standard. If this is truly exactly like s5 it's a winner. I was very disappointed with the s4 active.

Posted via Android Central App

Jerry, you missed the fact that this thing does not seem to support any type of wireless charging. No pins at all in the battery compartment. Maybe I'm missing something but I don't think so.

It's still a smartphone with a screen that takes up the front of it, so you have to be careful with that part of it. Just like the end of the review says - "The Galaxy S5 Active isn't built of unobtanium and kryptonite, and you can't randomly beat on it with heavy metal tools. For all the "ruggedness" built into the construction, it still has 5.1-inches of glass on the face."

Had this phone for a week it fell from the bed that's less then 2 feet from the floor and the screen cracked. Samsung said that they would fix it then told me that it would cost 161.00 the phone is only 199.99 I am very unhappy

The phones screen isn't invincible. It's still a screen that takes up the front of the phone, so that needs to be taken care of, just like any other smartphone. The last part of the review even said it - "The Galaxy S5 Active isn't built of unobtanium and kryptonite, and you can't randomly beat on it with heavy metal tools. For all the "ruggedness" built into the construction, it still has 5.1-inches of glass on the face."

I love this phone! I bought the camo one a couple of weeks ago and put the bright orange Case Mate Hula on it, which makes it look even more amazing at a glance. The screen on it is great when set to auto, I love that it gets automatically brighter in the sun or a brightly lit room. It hasn't ever lagged and is so very fast. For the people that have complained that their screen cracked - It's a phone with a screen that takes up the front of it, so you still have to be careful. This phone may be rugged, but the screen isn't.

Well I have the galaxy S5 active and Samsung is full of shit on this phone mine fell out of my pocket and fell less than 3 feet to the ground and now my screen is shattered, AT&T won't send me a new screen or help me get it replaced and Samsung said they would fix it but I have to pay for it and not have my phone for weeks an they will clear everything off my phone, my pictures, my clients nest numbers and formulas are all stored on my phone and can not afford to have that information wiped out of my phone. They will not even work with me seeing as I'm at least an hr away from anywhere, all I asked for was for them to send me a new screen! Samsung and AT&T have lied about how great this phone is and in my opinion are ripping people off and refusing to help when their products fail real life situations. I am extremely disappointed in how they treated me as a long standing customer with Samsung and AT&T. Never again will a dime of mine fo towards anything by Samsung, and AT&T will lose our business as soon as I get a new phone service

Um, you blame Samsung, and better yet, AT&T for you dropping your phone? ANY phone will break. ANY phone. Any phone with a giant glass screen will be able to be broken. It's glass, think about it! They are not going to send you a new screen by itself and yes you will have to pay for any repairs done by damaging your own phone. I can't believe you expect them to send a screen to someone just because you asked for one?

As far as the stuff on your phone, copy it off. You should have backups of important stuff and anything important as you say it is should NEVER be in only one location. No matter how tough the phone it can be stolen, lost, or it can just randomly die. If you only broke the screen though then copy off the information via a computer its easy. Then learn to backup. I'm not being rude, just practical and these apply to everyone. SD card and an app to backup easy. Still not good, but easy. Dropbox on phone to upload items, better. Whatever you do you are the only one responsible for you data. Period.

I purchase phones for my entire company and we have S4 Actives and are now moving to the S5 actives. We still have a few s3 phones but they broke a lot as these are used in the field a ton. Lotst of broken screens from hitting pavement and I had 4 that died due to being used in the rain a little. Moved to the S4 Active and I've not had one break in any way yet, and most are at least a year old now. I can say for sure that these are more rugged phones as they have survived my field workers abuse unscathed. Will they NEVER break, no, but I'm also not expecting magic from them. I also make sure every phone is in a case, even though it is a rugged phone. So far so good, I have a test case of 45 Actives so far and they are plugging along fine. That said one will die today lol, but I'd still not be upset.

Side note - my wife has dropped her iPhone 5 50 times I bet with no ill effects. Amazing, and half of those with no case or only one of those tiny skin things on it. I've seen it go 15 feet from the car and be fine when I knew it would be broken. She finally bought a good case after about a year and a half. It lived about 4 months in an otterbox then she dropped it at a concert maybe 4 feet or so and almost caught it on the way down slowing its impact and yet the screen shattered. It was the lightest hit in a long time, yet it killed that screen dead. it happens to them all.

My reason for being so upset is because the phone is less than 3 months old and the way both companies claim it's made for repeated abuse and clearly it's not. And I'm also not going to pay someone to fix my phone the erase everything off it, even if I had a way to back it up I still don't want it reset.

It's not what they claim it's the way you took it. They didn't say it was made for repeated abuse. The only claim they make is it will stand up better to the elements than the regular S5 would. They don't even claim that it's tougher than other phones. You have to use common sense when purchasing anything and read what they write for what it is, and not make claims based on what you think they said.

My daughter purchased a Galaxy S 5 Active on September 1st. Early this morning her phone was on the charger supplied by Samsung and the charger melted as well as the port on the phone and Samsung's flawed logic is if nothing else in the house had a problem it must be the house and not their phone or charger and OOPS, TOO BAD, since your phone is melted it voids your warranty!!!!! Really!!!!!! Too bad I didn't see someone else's complaint on the internet before or I would have steered her back to an IPhone , at least they fixed their battery problem! 10/26/2014

Been a Galaxy user since the original. S5 Active is THE WORST phone I have every owned. Constantly inadvertently dialing 911, unknowingly posting to twitter and activating apps while in lock-screen mode. Locked into AT&T 24next deal (stupid me) . This one is making me go to iPhone and I hate eating crow (probably why I'm so ticked off about it). All it needs is a way to disable emergency dialing while in lock mode, but apparently that can't happen due to safety regulations.