Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Google Nexus 5
Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S5 represents Samsung’s take on Android with its TouchWiz custom skin, and continuous support for features like a removable battery and expandable storage in the Galaxy series. Comparing it against Google Nexus 5 equals to comparing two different visions about Android - Samsung with its flashy TouchWiz interface and alternative app reality against Google’s vision of a pure Android operating system following the principles of no expandable storage or user-removable batteries.
At the same time, both the Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 5 are top-shelf devices with state-of-the-art hardware. The Galaxy S5 has time on its side, and as the newcomer on the market, it features the latest and more powerful Snapdragon 801 system chip, as well as Samsung’s promising 16-megapixel camera. The Nexus 5, on the other hand, remains unmatched in the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ segment as it costs nearly half the price of the S5, while featuring almost equally capable hardware.
So how does Samsung’s new Galaxy fare against Google’s showcase Android phone, the Nexus 5? And which one wins in a direct battle of features and performance power? Read on to find out.
The Galaxy S5 brings a fresh new design and a variety of color options, but it’s also a noticeably larger device than the Nexus 5. In exchange for its bulkier footprint, though, the S5 is protected from the elements.
The Galaxy S5 comes as a breath of fresh air for Samsung in terms of design. It’s made out of plastic, but that plastic is styled in brand new looks with a unique dimpled soft-touch back, and the whole package comes in a diversity of fresh colors right out the gate - ‘electric blue’, ‘copper gold’, ‘shimmer white’, and ‘charcoal black’. The Nexus 5, on the other hand, is also plastic, but with a more rubbery feel of its soft-touch plastic body. It does not lack color variety either, as it’s available in white, black, or red. Design is subjective matter, so we won’t judge either one based on their outwards appearance, but what we can say is that both phones are equally well put together - just pick the one you like better.
What’s not subjective is the clearly visible size difference between the two. The Nexus 5 is more compact than the Galaxy S5 in all aspects: it is 2.72”-wide, whereas the S5 measures 2.85”, and the Nexus is also shorter at 5.43” against 5.59” on the S5. On top of that, Google’s smartphone is also slightly thinner (0.32” vs 0.34” on the S5) and lighter (4.59oz vs 5.11oz). Overall, this makes for a difference that is substantial for those who value compact-ness.
In exchange for its larger size, the Galaxy S5 is protected from the elements with IP67 certification. What this means is that the phone is dust protected and can withstand being submerged in water up to 30 minutes in a depth of up to 1 meter (3.3 feet).
We’ve already mentioned that Samsung's flagship family has offered removable back covers, expandable storage, and user-replaceable batteries from the start, and the S5 is no exception. In contrast, the unibody Nexus 5 feels rather limited in that regard – its battery is not user-replaceable, and it lacks memory expansion card slot.
In terms of buttons, the Galaxy S5 features that signature for Samsung physical home key below the display with a back and menu buttons around it. The other physical keys are on its sides: the lock key is on the right, and the volume buttons - on the left, and they are all clicky and easy to press. The Nexus 5 in comparison features no physical keys on the front - instead it uses on-screen virtual buttons. While the Galaxy S5 buttons are clicky and easy to press, the Nexus 5 takes button craftsmanship up a level with its ceramic physical keys (lock key on the right and volume rocker on the left) that have this very nice premium feel and are easy to press with very nice travel, all little details that we’ve come to appreciate after using the phone for a while.
However, the S5 also adds two elements that are not found on the Nexus 5: a fingerprint scanner and a heart-rate monitor.
The fingerprint scanner is a feature we’ve seen in devices throughout the years, but only recently, with the iPhone 5s, it seems that it has gotten a more refined implementation. The fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S5, however, differs from the one on the iPhone 5s. In the S5, you have to swipe in an almost straight line from the bottom of the screen and through the home key, while in the iPhone 5s authenticating is a bit simpler - you just need to touch the home key (no need to actually press it, or swipe through it). The fingerprint scanner on the S5 is a bit finicky, failing to register swipes from the side, and this swipe implementation makes it hard to use the fingerprint scanner with a single hand. On the flip side of things, you can use the S5 sensor for more things like authenticating payments on PayPal.
The other new feature of the Galaxy S5 is its heart-rate monitor, located on the back of the phone, right below the camera. It’s the first time we see such a scanner in a smartphone, and it’s used to measure your heart-rate (pulse). It works by shooting infra-red light on your finger (you have to place your finger on the sensor) and monitoring the change in reflections to come up with a heart-rate measurement. Our experience shows that it gets accurate readings, but it requires some patience: you need to be silent when you measure your pulse and wait for a few seconds for a correct result. It’s definitely not a gimmick, but you have to understand that it provides single-time readings, and might not be a perfect fit for athletes who want to measure the continuous change of their pulse during workout.
The Galaxy S5 also features an infra-red beamer on top that you can use with the WatchON app to control TVs, and other electronic devices.
The Galaxy S5 features a 5.1” 1080p display, just slightly larger than the 5” 1080p screen of the Nexus 5. The two use different technologies, though - Super AMOLED in the S5, and LCD in the Nexus 5.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 sports a 5.1-inch display, slightly larger than the 5-inch screen of the Nexus 5. Both are high-res panels with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, but due to the slight difference in screen size, pixel density is a bit higher on the Nexus 5: 441ppi versus 432ppi on the S5. This minute gap is practically impossible to spot, though, as both screens look very sharp, rendering even tiny fonts very clearly, and you won’t notice any pixelization either.
The similarities between the two displays, however, end here. The two use vastly different underlying technology: the Nexus 5 features an LCD display with a backlight to lighten it up, while the Galaxy S5 uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology that instead relies on light emitted by the organic diodes of every single pixel to make up an image. AMOLED panels have their pros and cons with the most notable advantages being their traditionally great contrast (due to the fact that the technology allows for perfect pitch black) and outstanding viewing angles, and the cons including their often unrealistic, overblown colors, and lower brightness. In the Galaxy S5, Samsung has made notable progress on overcoming some of those limitations, in a screen that is brighter and more power-efficient than earlier AMOLED panels. With the gains that the S5 makes in brightness and reduced screen reflectivity, it's much easier to use outdoor, and goes practically on par with the Nexus 5 in this regard.
In terms of colors, though, the Galaxy S5 has not changed much from its predecessors: in the default Standard viewing mode, it features inaccurate color representation with predisposition for greenish tones and boosted colors. Color temperature reaches the whopping 8000K, way in excess of the 6500K ideal, resulting in blueish cold feel, instead of pure white. The situation improves if you switch over to the Professional Photo mode (color temperature is about 7200K then), but overall colors are again a bit colder and greener than what we would like to see.
On the other hand, we’re very happy with the display on the Nexus 5. Colors on it are very accurately calibrated, reaching closely that coveted sRGB color gamut coverage. It’s not a perfect screen, as it lacks just a bit of punch and the whites appear slightly yellowish, but those are rather minute details, especially in comparison with the Galaxy S5.