Interface and Functionality

Both the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 feature the latest version of Android 4.4 KitKat. Samsung however puts a ton of its S apps and its new TouchWiz custom skin on top, The new TouchWiz is a UI that is now more user-friendly, with features like larger icons that remind of stock Android.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 5 come with the latest Android 4.4 KitKat on board, but while the Nexus 5 ships with a pure stock version of it, the Galaxy S5 sports Samsung’s newest TouchWiz skin on top.

It’s hard to point out whether stock Android or the Samsung-skinned version is better, even more so in this latest TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0 version on the S5 that introduces larger icons and less clutter, much like in stock Android. The larger icons throughout the TouchWiz UI are easier to tap on, and they’re now restyled to a flatter, modern and less cartoonish look. Samsung takes its own customizations a step further, though, replacing hard to read long lists of text in places like the settings menu with a list of visual cues.

Samsung’s UI is also packed with more features and apps - some of them double up on existing core Android apps (things like Samsung’s S Calendar and S Voice come as alternatives to Google’s Calendar and Voice Search), and others like the file manager and weather widget fill some gaps.

Core apps like the phonebook and text messenger have received a redesign in the latest TouchWiz, with the phonebook now featuring a dark theme with less empty space, and with tiles for favorite contacts. The stock Android app looks different, but both get the job done equally well.

Samsung includes its own custom keyboard in the Galaxy S5, while the Nexus 5 uses the Google Keyboard (you can now download the Google keyboard for free from the Play store on any Android device). Buttons are well spaced, and typing is fast and easy on both, but the Google Keyboard comes with the slight advantage that it supports gesture typing right out the gate.

One app that stock Android is missing right now is a health center like the S Health app in the Galaxy S5. Samsung has improved on it, making it a more comprehensive health and fitness hub that stores your daily steps, calories burned, and heart-rate results (that you can measure with the new heart-rate monitor on the S5). Another interesting new feature in Samsung’s skin is Download Booster that you can toggle on and off from the notification dropdown. It basically uses your mobile data and Wi-Fi connections in concert for quicker downloads of large files.

Processor and Memory

The Galaxy S5 ships with the newest quad-core Snapdragon 801 system chip, but the performance gap with the Nexus 5 is not that large. Support for expandable storage, though, is a big plus for the S5.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 5 come with very fast, quad-core Snapdragon system chips that secure a smooth and enjoyable, lag-free Android experience. The S5 has time on its side, and as the newer handset, it comes with the slightly faster Snapdragon 801 chip, while the Nexus 5 runs on Snapdragon 800 silicon.

The difference between the two comes mainly from the different clock speeds. The S5 with the Snapdragon 801 chip can run its Krait 400 processor at up to 2.45GHz, while the Nexus 5’s CPU can reach clock speeds of up to 2.26GHz. The graphics chip on the S5 also runs at higher frequencies of up to 578MHz, while the Nexus 5’s graphics reach up to 450MHz. Along with that, both devices feature 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, but memory bandwidth is slightly speedier on the S5: 933MHz vs 800MHz on the Nexus 5. Apart from that, both chips are manufactured on the same 28nm HPm node, and are nearly identical in terms of architecture.

Put in a nutshell, we’re looking at gradual improvement in performance that does not make for a drastic difference in real-life usage, as both devices can run even the most demanding mobile software out there, including intense games, without a stutter. At the same time, the Galaxy S5 is clearly the more future-proof device. Its Snapdragon 801 system chip also enables some interesting new features like

Internal storage starts at 16GB on both the Galaxy S5 (with nearly 12GB of them being user-available) and the Nexus 5 (12.5 gigs available to end-users). The Galaxy S5, however, has the advantage of supporting expandable storage via microSD cards of up to 128GB, while the Nexus 5 does not have the option to expand its built-in memory.

Quadrant Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 25041
Google Nexus 5 8455
AnTuTu Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 36603
Google Nexus 5 26340
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 1186
Google Nexus 5 1166
Vellamo HTML 5 Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 1632
Google Nexus 5 1524
Sunspider Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 777.3
Google Nexus 5 723.9
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 11.7
Google Nexus 5 9.4
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S5 1054
Google Nexus 5 891.3

Internet and Connectivity

Both the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 support 4G LTE, rich connectivity options, and a smooth web surfing experience.

You can surf the web via the mobile Chrome browser, which comes pre-loaded on both devices, but Samsung actually opts for its own custom Android browser as the default solution. Both browsers get the job done in an efficient and fast manner, and differ mainly in their interface. Chrome seems just a tad bit better suited for touch interface with its neat card-based interface, and it supports cross-device syncing. Scrolling and zooming around webpages happens without a stutter, as you’d expect from such high-class smartphones.

In terms of connectivity, both feature 4G LTE with appropriate bands for different markets, but the S5 has the newer Category 4 Qualcomm Gobi modem that supports up to 150Mbps on the downlink, while the Nexus 5 can handle as much as 100Mbps in downloads.

Additionaly connectivity options include dual-channel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC on both. The S5 also has an infra-red (IR) beamer that can be used as a remote control for a TV and other electronics.

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