Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4: first look

The Galaxy S5 has arrived to an expectedly crazed fanfare, but the initial reaction to Samsung's new handset has been kind of restrained. Some of you were obviously expecting more from the world's largest manufacturer by volume, and that's not an unfair state of affairs. That is, after all, one of the few downsides of being the top dog -- expectations from iteration after iteration double, then quadruple, and so on and so forth. 

But is the Galaxy S5 as bad some are making it out to be? It's time we take a preliminary look, and what better benchmark than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4?


Looking at the Galaxy S5 put next to its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, we're struck with an odd feeling. The two are, undoubtedly, cut from the same cloth, and while the S5 is a visible evolution over the S4, there's an important distinction. Namely, while the Galaxy S4 is mostly a more refined version of the Galaxy S III, the Galaxy S5 takes after the more rectangular Galaxy Note 3.

In terms of size, the Galaxy S5 is clearly the bigger handset, both in width and height. But not by a whole much, especially considering the small bump in display size, and the handset's IP67 certification (dust- and water-proof), which always adds extra bulk. That said, we do feel that Samsung has crossed an imaginary line with the S5, and it is now moving away from our own psychological size threshold. The Galaxy S4 is just more wieldy. 

All said, when it comes down to which handset we're more enthralled with, we've gotta pick the Galaxy S5. But hey, that's just a preliminary look, and there's a good chance that we're simply drawn to what's new, rather than what's tried, but tested.


The AMOLED display on the Galaxy S5 is said to have gone through some considerable changes, even though we're only talking about a slightly bigger, 5.1-inch display with a resolution of 1080x1920, or 432 pixels per inch. The display is also quite versatile in the way its lit -- it can go as bright as 500 nits, or as dim as a mere 2 nits. Along with new 'adaptive' display perks (tweaks things like contrast and colors outdoors, supposedly), this should position the Galaxy S5 as quite the outdoors device, not to mention that nighttime reading won't put too much stress on your eyes.

In comparison, the 5-inch AMOLED panel on the now aging Galaxy S4 sounds less impressive. Sure, the 1080p resolution ensure the slightly crisper, 441 pixels per inch, but there are considerable drawbacks to it. The Galaxy S4 looks far darker next to the S5, because its maximum brightness is actually below 300 nits (minimum: 9 nits). That's a considerable disadvantage, and one of the big negatives of the display. 

Interface and functionality

It's sort of a tradition for Samsung to stockpile all the major software changes for a major release like the Galaxy S5. A new, more refined version of TouchWiz is what we found on the Galaxy S5, with a flatter look. Based on Android 4.4 KitKat, the new software looks more matured. Major new additions include a homepage screen dedicated to My Magazine, which works similarly to BlinkFeed in that it aggregates content from various sources, and there's also the all-new swipe-type fingerprint sensor built into the home button. Another cool, Galaxy S5-exclusive function is an integrated heart rate sensor into the LED flash unit, which works in tandem with the S Health app.

Once again, the Galaxy S4, for all its features, looks a tad barren in comparison. Android 4.4 KitKat has started rolling to what is now Samsung's ex-flagship, and though there's no fancy fingerprint sensor or heart rate sensor built into the hardware, the Galaxy S4 is still quite functional. It's just that it's now falling behind, which is to be expected.

Processor and memory

While we haven't yet had the opportunity to run the Galaxy S5 through our synthetic benchmark suite, initial information about its fancy new chip suggests that it'll have a considerable advantage over the now aging 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 found on the Galaxy S4. The new silicon, dubbed Snapdragon 801, is an upgrade over the now ex-king of performance, the Snapdragon 800, with Qualcomm claiming some noteworthy improvements. For starters, the four Krait 400 cores have apparently seen a performance boost the amount of 14%, all the while the Adreno 330 GPU gained even more -- 28%. Lastly, the camera sensor's processing power has, allegedly, been improved by as much as 45%. Impressive, especially considering that these improvements are on top of what the already potent Snapdragon 800 brought to the table. 

Next to that, the Galaxy S4's SD600 sounds rather underpowered. But it's not. It's still more than capable of running the latest software without a hitch, and we'd be lying if we told you that you simply have to have this latest chip from Qualcomm. For what it's worth, at least the amount of RAM on the phones is even -- both phones have to make do with exactly 2 gigs.


The 16-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S5 overshadows the nevertheless excellent 13-megapixel unit on the Galaxy S4. At least from what we're told, and on paper. We haven't had the opportunity to go for a full out camera comparison just yet -- we handled a prototype of the Galaxy S5, after all -- but if we're to trust Samsung, some noteworthy changes have occurred. 

For starters, the new camera is touted as having the world's fastest auto focus on a smartphone, a feat that the reasonably speedy unit on the Galaxy S4 can't claim. Moreover, thanks to the new Snapdragon 800 processor, the S5 will, supposedly, capture snaps even faster than its predecessor, which takes about 3.4 seconds to snap a photo, save it, and get ready for another, according to our tests. The S5 can also capture 4K and HDR video, two perks that the Galaxy S4 doesn't check.


There was an air of disappointment among fans when the Galaxy S5 went official, and while we get that some aspects, like RAM, didn't seen an upgrade, we can't help but feel this is an overreaction. IP67 certification, a fingerprint scanner and a heart rate sensor -- those alone should qualify as acceptable enough upgrade. Things like the improved Snapdragon 801 and camera unit are just the icing on the top.

Of course, that's not to say that you should jump right ahead and abandon your Galaxy S4. If anything, we'd say that the S4 is still more than adequate for just about every use case scenario. Sure, it's not the latest and greatest thing on the market, but it'll be hard to justify a switch from what is still an excellent device.

Related phones

Galaxy S5
  • Display 5.1" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2800 mAh(21h 3G talk time)
Galaxy S4
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, Quad-core, 1900 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2600 mAh(17h 3G talk time)



1. Kuroki

Posts: 183; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

The Ugly just got even uglier. Now with huge bezels!

9. datphoneguy

Posts: 155; Member since: Sep 15, 2013

Yeah, I thought it was just me but the bezels on the S5 actually look a tad bit bigger than the S4. Hmmm...

15. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

2. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

I don't think any s4 owners out there will be rushing out to get the s5. Even S3 owners at the ends of contracts who previously would have easily just straight upgraded to the s5 will possible pause for thought and look around at rival handsets because of the s5's disappointing unveilment. For Samsungs fans the best thing may actually be for the s5 not to be a great success,it may prompt Samsung not to rest on their laurels and make a serious effort next time

14. AlexYouOC

Posts: 53; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I agree with you 110%. I got my S3 when it first came out and ever since then I have been saying "I'm waiting for the S5 to come out before I get another phone". Now after seeing it, Im very disappointed. Yes, its a more than capable phone, but it still feels like I could wait for an S6 if I was really that dedicated to getting another Samsung. My S3 is starting to show its age now and I might have to see what HTC is going to do in March now

3. imyourpapi

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

Qhd, 3gb ram, 64bit , two different variants my a$$. man f*** all the rumors leading up to this lol

16. darkkjedii

Posts: 31658; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

LMAOOOOO dude your comment has me rollin. Anytime someone names off a list in disappointment, and the says my a$$, it's automatically hilarious. Judging by your sign up date you wouldn't know of him, but the ultimate android junkie (Richard Allen Yarrell) is having a BF rite about now.

23. imyourpapi

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

Jedii!!!!! it's me android4u!! lol new account it's a long story lol but I know that guy lol yeah he definitely would be haha what you think about the gs5 bro?

32. darkkjedii

Posts: 31658; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Beast of a phone, looks wise it's underwhelming. Worth buying regardless what you have, I'm not a fan of the dimpled back, the rest is rite on point. Why the name change bro?

35. imyourpapi

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

Pa messing with me I swear I know my password just won't let me login and got frustrated, so made a new still rockin ip5s with the note bro?

26. davenycept

Posts: 200; Member since: Jul 03, 2012

Thank you..that's my only thing were the lofty expectations

31. fireblade

Posts: 717; Member since: Dec 27, 2013

and that rumors must come from eldar murtazin

4. imyourpapi

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 04, 2014

Sammy got lazy with the bezels... Yuck!!!!

5. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2363; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

.....4k underwater recording.?!..I might get it....if priced right...

22. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

No dedicated camera-button means controlling the camera underwater might be a challenge.

6. Edmund

Posts: 656; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

That's 21 articles on this mediocre handset. No bias here folks.

10. jove39

Posts: 2148; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

you have a dedicated PA reader :)

7. mobi_user

Posts: 152; Member since: Jun 18, 2013

Hey, last last I remember Samsung used to joke of iPhone that "it is a phone with a jack in the bottom". Seems Samsung guys forgot the joke and followed iPhone instead.

11. jove39

Posts: 2148; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

No...Samsung didn't followed iPhone...this phone looks ugly compared to iPhone!

18. darkkjedii

Posts: 31658; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

The jack is on the bottom. Whewwww!!!

8. donearh

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

LG G2 the Best!

12. jove39

Posts: 2148; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

LG with G2 and G2 pro will shine this year

29. Professor

Posts: 223; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

The LG G-Pro 2 is better. Even the old LG G2 is better. Now imagine the party that the LG G3 is going to make with it when it comes out...

13. bucky

Posts: 3795; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Omg that's ridiculously huge. I really can't see many buying a PHONE that size.

17. darkkjedii

Posts: 31658; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I wonder how Richard Allen Yarrell feels about this. I'd say he's having a "White Chicks" BF rite now.

19. darkskoliro

Posts: 1092; Member since: May 07, 2012

Hahaha I'm so glad he's been banned from pa :)

20. Cha7520

Posts: 222; Member since: Oct 31, 2010


21. sammyfan

Posts: 21; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

Trust me S4 looks better from the front!

24. Ninetysix

Posts: 2966; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

Can't wait for Design 4.0!!! They'll surprise everyone by making it a bit bigger than its predecessor.

25. Professor

Posts: 223; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

Big BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. No real reason to buy an S5 over an S4, or to upgrade. The only real advantage of the S5 over a regular S4 (not over an S4 Active) is that is water resistant (like the Active). That's it... Slightly better screen although basically the same size (even when phone is much bigger & thicker). The camera... Anyone that knows about cameras knows that more MP's don't mean it has better photo quality. (And probably way worse in low light).

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