Samsung Galaxy S5 full review

The Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 are two of the best Android phones you can buy. They will be superceded this year, perhaps, but both will remain excellent handset. And when the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6 appear in the next couple of months, you'll start to get a great deal on this pair. Do not discount them.

Both the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 have 5in full HD displays and offer quad-core processing power. Both come with quality cameras and are built to be striking but robust. They will be a good purchase for you that will last for two or three years, despite what the manufacturers will tell you when they launch their next-generation phones.

Both have large batteries and run Android 4.4 KitKat. And both cost around the same. So once you have decided that a 2014 phone is okay for you, how can you choose between the HTC One M8 and the Galaxy S5 from Samsung? In this article we look at key aspects such as performance, specification, storage, display and camera. Ultimately you will have your favourite, but don't choose your next phone without reading PC Advisor's HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5 smartphone comparison.

For more, read New HTC One M8 2014 review: better than the original and now with a microSD card slot and Samsung Galaxy S5 review: flagships smartphone has new features but doesn't stand out from the crowd.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: UK price and availability

You can now get both the HTC One M8 and the Galaxy S5 smartphones pretty much universally in the UK. The Galaxy S5 is currently selling SIM free online for around £400 and the HTC One M8 can be found marginally cheaper for around £350. Contract deals are broadly similar.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Processor and performance

The HTC One M8 has been given the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. The 801 quad-core chip has a clock speed of 2.3GHz. Memory stays the same at 2GB but that's not a bad thing.

We've spent quite a while with the HTC One M8 and performance is excellent. Adding a user interface onto Android can cause problems, but we couldn't spot any with Sense 6.0.

As well as the Snapdragon 801, HTC adds its own co-processor in much the same way Apple has with the iPhone 5S. This low-power chip keeps sensors switched on for HTC's Motion Launch Gestures, which can be used to switch the phone on. It also can track activity using the pre-loaded Fitbit app so there's less need for a dedicated fitness tracker such as Fitbit's own One.

Here's the crucial point, you will find newer smartphones with faster benchmark scores launched throughout the year. But these two phones will be quicker than almost every phone on the market, and will be plenty fast enough at both general computing and playing games.

And anyway, we can barely think of a word suitable to describe the HTC One M8. In the older Geekbench 2 test, at launch the M8 set a new record of 4171 points outpacing the LG G2 which scored 4085. It also set a great score in the latest Geekbench 3 benchmark at 2781, narrowly missing out on beating the Nexus 5's 2800 haul. A time of just 583ms in SunSpider is incredibly good but it seems no phone can beat the iPhone 5s in this area with its blisteringly fast time of 417ms.

Moving on to graphics and the HTC One M8 performs very well with 30fps in GFXBench 3.0's T-Rex test. The iPhone 5s also wins here with 37fps. In the extremely demanding Manhattan test, the HTC One M8 managed 12fps which is good considering previous phones we've tested have all failed to reach double digits here. Once again, the iPhone 5s sets the bar with 21fps.

Numbers aside - since they only give an indication of performance - the HTC One M8 is one nippy smartphone. We often see Android smartphones with customer user interfaces lagging from the sheer weight of the additional software but this simply isn't the case here. No matter what you ask of the device, it simply takes it and chomps through it like a one-bite canapé.

We're seriously impressed and another thing to note is that the smartphone boots up much faster than others we've seen. It's a minor detail but a good one nevertheless. Fast boot is enabled by default in the power settings but if you should feel the desire to turn it off, you can.

How then does the Galaxy S5 compare? Inside the Galaxy S5 is the kind of high-end specs you'd want to find in a flagship. Like the HTC One M8, the handset has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor which is quad-core but clocked a little higher at 2.5GHz. This is accompanied by a now standard 2GB of RAM, although a handful of devices do have more.

We've hit a point where all flagship smartphones offer excellent performance – it almost goes without saying. They're all running of powerful and efficient processors so we're not surprised to find the Galaxy S5 nippy in day-to-day performance but it's not flawless.

For starters, there is a slight delay between pressing the power or home button and the lockscreen appearing and the same is true when hitting the recent apps button. There's also the fact that the camera app takes a good few seconds to launch and quitting to the homescreen from apps doesn't happen straight away. These are minor gripes but the Galaxy S5 seems slow in these areas compares to rivals which can do these tasks seemingly instantaneously.

Overall we'd give the nod here to the HTC One M8. The Galaxy S5 is fast, but the HTC feels marginally faster. Suffice to say neither phone will disappoint. (See also: The 24 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.)

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Software

This aspect is relatively straightforward, but impossible to call, as both the All New HTC One and the Galaxy S5 come with Android 4.4 KitKat.

The Galaxy S5 will come with Samsung's take on Android 4.4 KitKat. This is Google's most mature and easy-to-use mobile OS, albeit overlaid with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. If you've used a Samsung phone before you'll know what to expect.

From the new HTC One expect Android overlaid with HTC's 'Sense' UI. Again, existing HTC users will know what they like.

Both phones offer a stable and easy-to-use interface, with multiple places from which to purchase music and other media. The choice will be a subjective and personal one. (If you are interested in great Android phones, check out our Sony Xperia Z2 review: New flagship is another solid smartphone and LG G2 review: The best smartphone you can buy articles.)

When- and whether these handsets get Android L is another issue.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Display

Despite numerous rumours of a 5.25in screen, the Galaxy S5's display is only marginally larger than the Galaxy S4's. It's 5.1in and if you were hoping for a new crazy high resolution then you might be disappointed to find out that the Galaxy S5 has a now very standard Full HD display. Of course, it's still Super AMOLED as you would expect from Samsung.

Nevertheless, the display does look brilliant on a number of levels. Of course, it's still Super AMOLED as you would expect from Samsung so colours are vivid and pop out at you and contrast is good, too. As you might presume, the Galaxy S5 offers excellent viewing angles.

The Galaxy S5's display performs better than most outdoors and we found we rarely need to up the brightness to gain visibility. Maximum brightness is good and about level with what we're using to seeing but it's worth noting that the display goes exceptionally dark which could be handy for saving battery or situations like reading in the dark. A handy brightness slider resides in the notification bar but it can be switched off if you prefer.

Smart stay is carried over from the Galaxy S4 and keeps the screen from switching off as long as you're looking at it. By default, the screen is set 'adapt display' which automatically adjust elements like colour gamut, white tone and contrast but you can use other modes which tweak the settings if you prefer: Dynamic, Standard, Professional photo and Cinema.

Flagship smartphones are generally large these days so we're talking 5in and above. This makes them difficult to use one-handed but Samsung has included a special mode which you can enable in the settings menu. A quick swipe into the middle of the screen and back out will launch the one-handed mode. Here you can adjust the size of the interface so it's easy to reach. It's a bit strange but we can see it being helpful to some users.

HTC has decided to increase the screen size for the One M8 from 4.7- to 5in, so there's a little more real estate for whatever you're doing but the difference isn't too noticeable. The screen's resolution, as with rival flagships, remains at Full HD (1920x1080) – perhaps it's just too early to jump to higher pixel counts (if we even need them).

The larger screen size means a dip in pixel density to 441ppi but you're not going to notice. The phone itself is a bit bigger but HTC has done a good job of making it feel like it's the same size.

As with the M7, the HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks stunning. The new panel has an improved contrast ratio and viewing angles.

One thing we particularly like about the M8's screen is its silky gloss finish which, more than other phones, means your finger glides brilliantly across its surface. It's just another detail which makes this phone feel so premium.

These are two stunning smartphone displays. Leaving numbers aside and viewing them side-by-side we can't honestly say that one is better than the other. The Samsung's is marginally better, but the HTC's is great-looking too.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Design and build

The Galaxy S5 retains that recognisable Samsung look. This means not much has changed compared to previous generations and other Galaxy devices. The S5 looks a lot like the Galaxy Note 3 which is a shame because it really requires its own style as a flagship device. Unfortunately it's bigger, squarer and more boring than the Galaxy S5.

It also doesn't feel like a premium smartphone in the hand. A perforated rear cover supposedly makes it feel more natural but we just don't see the benefit here, perhaps we need to live with the device for longer.

A huge design change is that Samsung has added dust- and water resistant credentials. That's something which Sony has been offering for a while now in its Xperia range. The Galaxy S5 has an IP67 rating which means it will happily get wet without frazzling inside. However, you'll need to make doubly sure that the port covers is on and the rear cover is perfectly clipped into place. I'm sure a number of users will get an unwanted surprise when the gaps aren't completely covered.

The Galaxy S5 comes in four colours at launch – black, white (as you might expect) plus blue and something called 'copper gold'. The latter has a kind of peach tone to it in our opinion.

Going on the evidence of all previous Samsung Galaxy phones, the Galaxy S5 will be as robust as will be the 2014 HTC One. Expect both phones to be noticably big, and to combine style and built-to-last build quality. Which you prefer will of course be your own personal choice. Typically most people instinctively prefer HTC's aluminium over Samsung's plastic, however.

The HTC One M8 looks a lot like the original. Once again, the Taiwanese firm has used a uni-body aluminium design but the metal wraps around to the front rather than having a plastic strip around the edge. The corners of the phone are also more rounded. It has a brushed look and has been treated to gain its glossy finish. The device now uses around 90 percent metal compared to the M7's 70 percent. See also: 18 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.

A larger screen means that the phone is both taller and wider than its predecessor - predominantly taller - but it doesn't feel too large in the hand. It's also a few grams heavier at 160g compared to 143g, making it one of the weightier flagship smartphones but again, it doesn't feel overly weighty. Instead it has that reassuringly heavy feel to it.

HTC puts design first and you can certainly tell that with the M8 in your hand. It feels like a premium smartphone which is something Samsung has failed to achieve, in our opinion, with the Galaxy S5. The new HTC One is ergonomic, but also sturdy.

This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate which is a downside to the iPhone 5S and previous metal versions.

From launch, the M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold' – a line-up reminiscent of the iPhone 5S colour options.

The eagle-eyed will already have noticed that HTC has ditched the dedicated navigation buttons in favour of on-screen alternatives.

We think the HTC One M8 looks more classy than does the Galaxy S5, without feeling like you'd need a protective case. The Galaxy S5's plastic build feels more robust, however. But it is a subjective thought. One thing to note is that the HTC One M8 doesn't come with any dust- or waterproof credentials. This may or may not be an important feature to you but if it is you need to go for the Samsung.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Storage

The Galaxy S5 is available in either 16- or 32GB capacities, although it seems to be a classic situation where the larger of the two is like a super rare Pokémon. A microSD card supporting up to 64GB is almost a given nowadays but the Galaxy S5 can take double that at 128GB. Like other Samsung smartphones, the Galaxy S5 also offers 50GB of free Dropbox cloud storage.

It's a good job there is plenty of storage options because like the Galaxy S4, a lot of the Galaxy S5's internal storage is used up before you've even downloaded an app. Our 16GB has just under 10GB available which is less than average.

Despite this we think we'd err toward the Galaxy S5 in this particular respect. The M8 does have a microSD card slot. This was a bugbear with the original HTC One, which had no card slot - HTC said this wasn't possible with the M7's design. The M8 will accept up to 128GB cards, a lot of extra storage.

The bad news is that, in Europe, the HTC One M8 will be available only as a 16GB model. Of that 16GB a fair amount is already taken up with software so you'll get about 10GB of internal storage to play with. As a sweetener, users will be offered 65GB of free Google Drive storage for two years. That's a total of 209GB, (assuming you buy a 128GB microSD card).

The presence of a 32GB option makes Samsung shade this one. Although, again, the options for both are great.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is all up-to-date on the Galaxy S5 with 11ac Wi-Fi (MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an infrared transmitter, and the latest 4G technology. Samsung has fitted the Galaxy S5 with Cat 4 LTE supporting eight bands and a download booster which uses your Wi-Fi connection to give you a theoretical max download speed of 400Mbps.

Flip over to the new All New HTC One 2 (2014) and you'll also get GSM, 3G and 4G LTE. Stop me if this sounds familiar but we also find 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, NFC and an Infrared port. And yes, microUSB v2.0.

That's two well-connected and pretty well-matched handsets. We can split them for connectivity... yet.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: Cameras

The Galaxy S5 camera has reached a decent 16Mp and has a few new features which catch the eye. Super-fast auto focus means you can take a photo in 0.3 seconds, according to Samsung. We couldn't exactly time this but it does seem to be very nippy. A selective focus mode allows you to choose from three different focal points after you've taken a photo – near, far and pan. Video shoots in 4k resolution like the Galaxy Note 3 which is impressive.

Below the camera is a flash but also a heartrate monitor, making the Galaxy S5 the first smartphone to come with the feature. Place your finger on the sensor and it can read your heartrate in a matter of seconds. This is built into the S Health app and a cool feature for those into fitness.

The original HTC One brought us a different type of camera: one less reliant on sheer weight of megapixels, and able to take better snaps in low-light conditions. With Sense 6.0 in the HTC One M8 the camera app has had a redesign and we like the stylish and minimalist approach. It's easy to use but there are plenty of settings to play with if you're feeling adventurous. They're easy to find if you're looking for them. HTC splits the camera app into different modes with the front camera even labelled as 'selfie'.

The back of the HTC One M8 is home to two camera lenses. HTC calls this the Duo Camera and it's one of the main new features of the smartphone. You might think they are for taking 3D photos, like the old LG Optimus 3D but that's not the case.

The first camera, the one closer to the middle of the phone, is the Ultrapixel camera found on the M7 – with some improvements. According to HTC, the ImageChip 2 means the camera can shoot faster and capture sharper images. And this seems to be true from our preliminary tests (click the images to enlarge).

At 4Mp, there isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals such as the Galaxy s5 but becuase its pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations.

The second camera is an interesting addition and is there to capture depth information. This 'metadata' is attached to the photo taken with the main camera and can be used later on. Similar to the Lytro camera, the HTC One M8 Duo Camera allows users to refocus a photo after it's been taken.

Unlike the Galaxy S5, which offers three preset focal points, the M8's second sensor means users can refocus anywhere they like. We've had a play with this and it works pretty well, although it's quite difficult not to cover the second les with you finger. Luckily a message pops up on the screen to say you're blocking it.

Video quality is unimpressive. There's no stabilisation and footage wasn't as sharp or detailed as we'd have liked (and certainly not a patch on the Samsung Galaxy S5's video quality).

The Foregrounder app allows you add effects in tandem with the refocusing. A strange 3D effect makes photos come to life in a sort of house of mirrors way – i.e. a gimmick - and you can also cut and paste parts of photos, such as a person, with minimal hassle although again, this is more for creativity than something genuinely handy you'll use regularly.

Like the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash. It works reasonably well, but images are still obviously taken using a flash and - in most cases - you won't need it as the Ultrapixel camera does a grand job when there isn't much light around. The image below was lit by only a cooker hood fluorescent bulb. It isn't the greatest photo in the world, but it does show decent white balance and - importantly - a lack of noise.

Both the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 have interesting and good smartphone cameras. We've reviewed them both in more detail on our individual reviews of the HTC One M8 and the Galaxy S5. It's a close one to call because both cameras offer different strengths. For more, read New HTC One M8 2014 review: better than the original and now with a microSD card slot and Samsung Galaxy S5 review: flagships smartphone has new features but doesn't stand out from the crowd.

HTC One M8 vs Galaxy S5: which should I buy?

The Galaxy S5 is fast, well built, full featured. It has a big bright and bold screen, and good cameras, and it offers good storage- and connectivity options. And you could say all of the above about the new 2014 HTC One M8. The Galaxy S5 may offer a better, marginally bigger display, the HTC One M8 may be slightly faster, although you will be hard pressed to notice the difference in either area. Both phones offer interesting new features, and offer their maker's take on the latest Android. Ultimately availability and pricing will determine this battle, as well as the human and subjective response to design, build and interface. If it was me, at this stage I'd probably err toward the HTC One M8. But it really is a personal choice. And both of these phones are a great deal right now - set to get better.

See also: The 24 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.


Samsung Galaxy S5: Specs

  • Display: 5.1 inch Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display, 432 ppi
  • Processor: 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
  • GPU: Adreno 330
  • OS: Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) with TouchWiz
  • Camera: Main (Rear): 16 Mega pixel phase detection autofocus with LED flash, up to 4K video
  • Sub (Front): 2 Mega pixel camera, Full HD recording @30fps
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (MIMO), GPS/GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 (LE), Infrared (Remote Control), 4G LTE (Cat 4)
  • Memory: 16/32GB internal, microSD slot (up to 128GB), 2GB RAM
  • Dimension: 73 x 142 x 8.1 mm, 145g
  • Battery: 2,800 mAh removable