Samsung Galaxy S6 vs HTC One M9
Interface and functionality
While the One M9's Sense 7.0 interface still is the fancier-looking of the two, Samsung has made incredible progress in terms of the smoothness of its own TouchWiz layout.
While Samsung's Galaxy S devices have always shipped with nothing less than the best available at the time in terms of hardware, we've often found ourselves wishing it did more on the software side. Its proprietary TouchWiz layout has often proved sluggish and less responsive than what some competitors had to offer – a slight that the Samsung faithful only tolerated because of the smorgasbord of extra features the platform gave them access to. With the Galaxy S6, however, the company has finally seen sense, and has carried out a number of software optimizations that make the Galaxy S6's software both easier to understand and faster than ever before.
Indeed, this is the first time that we can call the Android Lollipop-based TouchWiz experience truly smooth and hassle-free. But even though the company has cut down on the weight of its interface, the HTC One M9's refreshed Sense 7.0 UI is just as fast. What's more, and while we can't argue with people's differing tastes, we still find the brushwork of Sense 7.0 more appealing from where we're standing. The One M9, however, simply can't compete in the features department.
Quite right, the One M9's software reminds us a lot of stock Android, as HTC continues sticking to the basics and adds little on top. The interface looks differently, sure, but at its base is Android the way Google intended it. And while the updated, Lollipop-based Sense 7.0 layout brings goodies such as dynamic app folders that automatically switch their contents depending on whether you're working or at home, and can now be thoroughly skinned via the new Themes app (think icons, wallpapers, styling and ornamentation), it still doesn't compare to what Samsung offers.
With the new TouchWiz, Samsung is keeping a lot (but not all!) of the perks that made it unique, and refreshing or even completely re-designing areas that it wasn't completely satisfied with. For example, the S Health app has gone through a revamp and is now minimalist- and modern-looking while retaining the same wide array of functions. Like HTC, Samsung has also added support for third-party themes, and its own Themes app already offers a number of solutions, though none of them really caught our eye – for that, we'll have to wait and hope third-party devs feel incentivized enough to create something beautiful.
The Galaxy S6's stack of features is hardly exhausted yet, for we also have a new, improved fingerprint scanner (still embedded in the physical Home button) that is now of the touch, not swipe, type, finally allowing for a hassle-free unlock. Unlike the One M9, the S6 also offers software features like MultiWindow (run two apps simultaneously), and Private and Car modes (hide sensitive content / dashboard with bigger icons and essential apps only).
Processor and memory
While the Galaxy S6's Exynos chipset proves a great alternative to the Snapdragon 810 in the One M9, it's Samsung's incredibly fast new storage solutions that gives it an edge over its competitor.
For the longest time, Samsung and Qualcomm worked together on the former's flagship lines, though the chip maker didn't always get all the orders – the rest went to Samsung's then fledgling semiconductor division making the Exynos chipsets. With the Galaxy S6, however, Samsung was ready for a monumental shift, and Qualcomm is no longer part of the game. Instead, the S6 relies on a home-grown Exynos 7420.
The 7420 is an octa-core processor, built on a 14nm node, with two clusters made up by four cores arranged in a big.LITTLE configuration and Mali-T760 graphics. We have one group of power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 CPUs, and another with powerful Cortex-A57 ones. The idea behind the arrangement is simple to understand – the efficient team of cores takes care of most trivial tasks, while the speedy A57 cores kick in when power is required. If maximum performance is what you need, the Exynos 7420 can switch all eight cores on and work them simultaneously.
Turning to the HTC One M9, we're seeing the chipset that Samsung deemed inferior to its own – the 20nm, octa-core Snapdragon 810. Qualcomm's latest available creation is quite similar to Samsung's, for it, too, offers the same four-by-four ARM Cortex-A53/A57 cores under a big.LITTLE config, the difference being the Adreno 430 GPU.
According to benchmarks, the Galaxy S6 has an edge in terms of processing power and memory, but falls behind the One M9 when graphics tests get involved. Indeed, the One M9's Adreno 430 GPU handles heavy loads in those scenarios better, achieving average frame rate values that are significantly higher than those of the Mali-T760. In general, however, using either of the two devices proves buttery smooth.
As for memory, we have 3 gigs of LPDDR4 RAM with both flagships, and a minimum of 32GB of internal storage. Speaking of the last, and we already touched on this, Samsung is utilizing what is without a doubt the fastest internal memory we've seen so far – a mix between eMMC 5.1 and UFS 2.0 – which offers a vastly superior performance than anything we've seen to this date. That said, if you value storage expandability, the S6 will leave you hanging – for the first time ever, a Galaxy S line flagship comes without a microSD card slot, giving the advantage to the One M9, which does.
Internet and connectivity
All your needs will be met regardless of which way you go.
Smooth browsing is what we've been getting with each and every flagship for the past few years, and Samsung's and HTC's new offerings don't fail to deliver just that. Courtesy of their powerful internals, both devices handle even asset-heavy pages with ease and don't struggle when navigating through them. That said, whereas both devices rely on Chrome for your browsing needs, Samsung's Galaxy S6 comes with its own default solution that is an equally great performer.
On the connectivity front, you'll hardly find much to complain about, regardless of whether you go for the Galaxy S6 or the One M9. Both devices offer support for a wide array of LTE bands, 5GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, DLNA, MHL 3.0 for streaming up to 4K resolution content to a secondary screen, an infrared blaster for control over home electronics, and even Miracast in the case of the S6.
Where the Galaxy S6 pulls ahead is Samsung Pay – the company's new mobile payments solution that works hand-in-hand with the handset's NFC chip. The idea behind it is much alike to that of Apple Pay – the company gets retailers and banks involved (but free of charge), and you reap the benefit of never having to pull out your credit card out of your wallet again (much less physically sign any receipts).