Samsung just took the wraps off the Galaxy S5 yesterday, and one thing is already clear - the handset is coming in a much more competitive environment this year. At MWC alone, we are seeing devices like the Sony Xperia Z2 and LG G Pro 2 appear with nearly identical hardware. We’re particularly curious about the other Korean rival to the Galaxy S5, LG’s 5.9-inch G Pro 2 phablet.
Phone sizes have grown so much that the border between phablets and regular smartphones is quickly blurring, yet the 0.8 inches of difference in size between the 5.1” Galaxy S5 and the 5.9” G Pro 2 is still noticeable. Are there any other major reasons to pick one over the other? Let’s find out.
You should also know that there is a big difference in size between the two and the G Pro 2 is clearly the larger one. The Galaxy S5 is much better in terms of handling - a smaller device is easier to use with a single hand after all. The G Pro 2 has its physical buttons on the back, and we don’t mind this novelty, but they are also a bit hollow to press.
We have a 5.1” 1080 x 1920-pixel display on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and a 5.9” 1080p one on the G Pro 2. Samsung has not brought the oft-rumored Quad HD screen resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels), but we’d argue that this is not really something that would make a tangible difference on a smartphone-sized display. No change in resolution, however, does not mean no change in quality, and at first look the Galaxy S5 appears to have an improved Super AMOLED display that can get brighter (great for use outdoors) as well as dimmer (great for night reading).
At the same time, we’re practically equally impressed with the vibrant colors of the G Pro 2. The LG handset uses an IPS LCD screen rather than AMOLED, so that means it sticks to a more conservative color representation.
The Galaxy S5 has two pretty unique features that the G Pro 2 does not have. First is the swipe fingerprint scanner built right in the home key (you can use it to unlock your device as well as for mobile payments), and the heart rate monitor below the rear camera.
Good news is that the time seems to finally have come when manufacturers launch devices with the latest version of Android on board. The S5 and G Pro 2 both come with the newest Android 4.4 KitKat and that’s a great thing. Both, however, also feature custom user interfaces that are heavy and somewhat similar in their preference for cartoony looks and vivid colors.
The Galaxy S5 comes with a new TouchWiz user interface. TouchWiz has been revamped with a simpler, flatter icons, and has just become more visual - long text lists are replaced with large round icons, and it feels friendlier to first-time users. Samsung is also focusing on health and fitness with a hugely improved S Health application that now not only tracks your steps and movement throughout the day, but also stores data about your heart rate. Samsung still includes its suite of Android applications that we like - apps like the S Calendar, S Notes, File manager and so on. Overall, though, Samsung seems to have focused on less gimmicky software features and more meaningful innovation.
LG’s Optimus user interface brings an equally large set of custom LG applications and software features, but it also adds an important one that it’s been missing so far. We’re speaking about the split-screen multitasking allowing you run two apps at the same time, and we’re glad to have it.
Processor and memory
In real life, you’d be hard pressed to find any lag on either of the two and regular applications open quickly and run smoothly. The real technical difference between the two is in the clock speed of the processor - the S5 one runs at up to 2.5GHz, while the G Pro 2 - at up to 2.3GHz, and the Adreno 330 graphics on the S5 can also run at slightly higher clocks than the (otherwise same) one on the G Pro 2.
Internal storage comes in at 16GB for the basic Galaxy S5 model, while LG is more generous offering 32GB out of the box. Both devices feature microSD card extension slots, but the Galaxy S5 is the first that we see supporting up 128GB cards (the first 128GB card has just recently been unveiled).
Camera is a particular focus in the Galaxy S5, as it ships with a 16-megapixel shooter with a nearly 20% larger than the average, 1/2.5” image sensor. The G Pro 2, in contrast, sports a 13-megapixel camera, but it also gets optical image stabilization, a feature that the S5 is strangely missing.
Samsung has also updated and improved its camera user interface with new shooting modes that are now easier to access and you can even download new ones, plus HDR is now not just for still pictures, but videos as well. Comparing the two, LG’s one is very similar to Samsung’s previous camera UI and also has many shooting modes and manual settings, but they seem a bit better arranged on the S5.
For video, both handset can record 4K UHD at 30 frames per second, and that’s absolutely mind-blowing - few people have 4K TVs in their homes yet! Samsung also supports a new Selective Focus feature that allows you to pick the area of focus after you capture an image. It’s a bit finnicky, but when it works it can create a neat bokeh effect to pictures.
Still wondering which is the better device, the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the LG G Pro 2? To us, it’s mostly about choosing the right smartphone size for you. The large, 5.9-inch G Pro 2 is great for media consumption, but this comes with compromises in daily use and ergonomics. The Galaxy S5 seems a bit more versatile to us and it’s not all that large. Plus, it has got the advantage of a slightly faster processor, a very promising camera and new software tweaks. All of that makes us think, the Galaxy S5 should be the more lucrative option for consumers.