This past week or so, Iíve had the opportunity to use both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the new HTC One (M8) extensively. Steve already posted his reviews of both the GS5 and the One M8 but I thought Iíd throw my 2 cents in. This isnít a full review but rather my thoughts on each phone, how they compare with with each and after, how they compare with their competitors.
Letís get this out of the way, both the M8 and S5 displays are outstanding. Theyíre right at the top of the pecking order when it comes to displays. Both are about as good as it gets with regards to brightness, viewing angle, outdoor performance, etc.
Keeping that in mind, to me I prefer the S5 display. While I do find it more saturated than the Oneís display I donít find it overly saturated. It also has whiter whites and deeper blacks.
The blacks are so deep on the GS5 I notice them even when donít have the 2 phones side-by-side. Thatís saying a lot. The whites on the other hand are not noticeable unless youíre comparing them directly.
Another area the GS5 pulls ahead is viewing angles, thereís a lot less colour shift plus it maintains the same brightness when you view it off-angle.
Outdoors in bright, direct sunlight theyíre about equal and are about as good as it gets for a phone.
To me, in the past, getting a phone with a Super AMOLED phone meant you were getting a really nice display with 2 compromises, you sacrificed brightness and outdoor performance. With the S5 display AMOLED has finally caught up.
For the first time in a few generations I actually prefer a Super AMOLED display over LCD.
While itís easy to compare displays, HTC and Samsung have taken 2 very different approaches to the cameras in their flagship phones. The S5 takes a more conventional approach with a 16 megapixel evolution of last yearís 13MP on the S4. The HTC One M8 on the other hand is very similar to last yearís M7 which had a 4 megapixel ĎUltrapixelí sensor only this time around, the M8 now has a second camera located just above which captures depth information.
Both have 16:9 sensors meaning you have to use 16:9 mode to utilize their full resolution. As Steve pointed out, the GS4 required you to use 4:3 mode to capture an image at full resolution. this is a good thing since most of us look at our images on 16:9 displays anyways.
Both have comprehensive camera applications which border on being too complicated. I guess HTC takes this the furthest. Not only is the camera app packed with features but the proprietary HTC abilities continue to the two HTC gallery applications which are required to make use of these features.
The depth information captured by the secondary camera is used by the software to create effects more accurately in the background like creating blur plus some augmented reality effects like falling leaves. Thereís also a cool 3D mode which allows you to view photos from different angles depending on how you tilt the phone when you view it. You can go about 5 degrees in any direction before it looks really weird.
The secondary camera allows that but the thing is, there are apps which can already do this without a second camera (okay, maybe not the 3D effect). Still you could argue that the secondary camera allows the HTC One to do this faster and more accurately. Still, I found that the One doesnít always blur the background properly.
I also wonder why canít they capture depth information with just a single camera. One thing I noticed is that the second camera is located right near the top of the M8 so I found my fingers blocked it quite frequently
Another problem is that some of the Oneís tricks donít work when you share the photos so theyíre really meant more for consumption on the device.
Where the One pulls ahead is when it comes to low light performance. Itís able to take usable photos with the assistance of a flash that most other phones (save for the Lumia 1020 and occasionally the iPhone 5s) canít.
The Oneís camera also has very aggressive but accurate face-tracking plus it takes pictures extremely fast. The One also has a very wide 28mm lens. This isnít a good or bad thing - itís good because it allows you to capture more, itís bad because sometimes capturing more results in a less interesting photo.
However I also find that Iím not crazy about how the Oneís pictures look. Theyíre usually noisy and gritty. They also look dull, plus the white balance is often wrong. The One also has a tendency to overexpose photos to the point that part of the photo is usually blown out.
Overall, the Oneís cameraís speed means I end up with some usable photos but I have to take an awful lot of them.
The S5 camera is more conventional. It doesnít have the Oneís indoor ability and performance but when there is enough light it takes very nice looking pictures. It usually captures very accurate colour, noise is acceptable plus when youíre outdoors it captures a lot of detail.
If youíre the type of person who likes to do post capture adjustments on your phone then you might like the extra tricks the Oneís camera brings to the table. However, unless there isnít enough light most of the time I prefer the S5ís photos.
I will say this, assuming you have enough light the S5ís pictures allow you to crop a lot more than the Oneís which only allow for very limited cropping.
While you could call the Oneís extra camera a gimmick I give HTC credit for putting a lot of tools on the One to make use of it.
Thereís more to a camera than low light performance so as far as the cameras go, weíll call it a draw here.
This is tough to compare, the easy way to describe it is that metal > plastic but itís not that simple in the case of these 2 phones.
I have no idea what material the S5ís back piece is covered with but it looks and feels just like leather. Itís not like the Note 3ís cover which looks like leather and feels like cheap hard plastic - the S5ís feels like the real deal. *EDIT*, I just touched the back of the S5 while it was in my pocket and it triggered a memory - it feels just like the Blackberry Z10's back only with a different texture. So, I guess the back is coated with rubberized paint with a texture that resembles leather.
The Oneís back cover actually wraps around the sides too, itís not like the old One M7 which had a metal back but plastic sides. The problem with the Oneís metal cover is that itís covered with a glaze/lacquer that makes it feel like plastic.
With the M8, the only thing about the cover that reminds me of metal is that it gets really cold and really hot easily. Steve and I actually used a continuity meter on the back of the One and it didnít register so the metal is fully covered.
Samsung has put seals on the back cover and over the USB port to keep water out. You wouldnít want to take it swimming but it should handle being using in the rain and being dropped in the toilet.
While the One is probably a more rigid phone, the S5 is no slouch in this regard. In order to be water resistant the S5 has very rigid body and does a good job resisting flex. Practically speaking, in everyday use both phones are equally solid.
Water resistance is a cool feature but it does cause one problem. The cover on the USB door doesnít full swing out of the way so using a dock with the S5 is next to impossible. That said, I think I understand why this is. If the battery cover turned and swung out of the way then the piece that swivels would let water in.
Still, the One has no body gaps in it and while itís not officially water resistant I wouldnít be surprised if it handled a small amount of water since thereís really no where for the water to go in save for the microUSB and headphone jack. The speaker holes are very small and I doubt water droplets can get in.
So far, the M8 and S5 bodies are close. Where the S5 pulls ahead - no, actually, where the One falls behind is that the curved back and clearcoat make it a very slippery phone. That, coupled with the S5ís slick leather-esque are why I prefer the S5ís body. Most of the people I showed both phones to agreed with this.
When it comes to software, each successive each version of the Samsung Galaxy S line has gotten more overdone.
It started innocently enough; the Galaxy S introduced Samsungís TouchWiz layer which tried to fill in some holes in Android with a new skin, notification area switches, widgets and a Social hub, etc. Back then Android was still pretty raw looking so these were welcome changes.
The Galaxy S II added Air Kies and some motion gestures.
However, things started to get out of control with the GSIII; while it added some genuinely useful features, it also brought a bunch that werenít. The GS4 took the bloat to a whole new level and included features like a bunch of Air Gestures which are so useless that theyíre turned off by default.
Anyways, while the GS5 is by no means a vanilla Android phone, the amount of Ďstuffí on it is more reasonable. The proof is that while my GS4 only has 9.7GB of free space (out of 16GB), the GS5 has close to 11.5GB of free space.
Some of Samsungís customizations are pretty useful. My favorite is Multi-Window (now available for the GS4 and I think the GSIII too). With the S5 Samsung has really managed to make it more useful. I like how the email client opens links in a second multi-window when you click on them. Thatís a smart way to use it. Iíd like to see Samsung improve this so you can specify preset multi-window pairings like you can with their Galaxy Pro and Note Pro series tablets.
If youíre a fan of Samsungís ďun-necessary but cool extrasĒ Samsung includes 2 new features; thereís a heart rate monitor on the back. Basically, it looks like an extra camera and a red LED light (a flash). You put your finger of these and the flash illuminates your finger. That way the camera can measure your heart rate. Itís a cool feature but Iíve been doing this with my phones for years using just the regular camera and flash. I guess the purpose of this feature is to emphasize the GS5ís ability to measure your heart rate.
Samsung also includes a very cool feature called Download Booster. When you download a file thatís bigger than 30MB itís able to use both your LTE and WiFi connections simultaneously to download the file more quickly. While I got it working, I never managed to get good results on it. The GS5 had a TELUS SIM card with a LTE connect to the shared Bell network. I also tethered it via WiFi to a LG G2 with a Rogers SIM. Even with that I only managed around 40Mbps at most which was a bit disappointing. Anyways, as cool as the feature sounds I canít see myself using it given that we have pretty limited data buckets in North America.
Software is a very personal thing when it comes to preferences. With that in mind Iím not crazy about HTC Sense. I donít find Blinkfeed useful though I no longer mind it since you can disable itís home screen easily. Another thing I donít like is that the home screen scrolls sideways while the app drawer scrolls vertically. Still, these problems are easily fixed by installing a new launcher so I guess itís a minor problem.
Still, I have a friend who is a heavy exchange user. This person uses a lot of folders and swears by HTCís mail app because it has an option to view all messages in all folders on one screen. You canít do this with the Galaxy S5.
I like how HTC copied LG ĎKnock Oní feature. You can turn it on by tapping the screen twice. You can also turn it off by tapping the screen twice though it only works on the lock screen which makes it slightly worse than the G2 which lets you double tap the home screen too.
Iím disappointed that Samsung didnít copy this feature too but they do have a built-in finger print reader. At first, it doesnít seem as useful as the one Apple put on the iPhone 5s since you have to swipe the S5ís home button to use while you just place your finger on the 5sí home button.
However, I find that the S5ís reader still works really well. While you do have to swipe your finger on it to use it, it can figure out if itís your finger even when you swipe at different angles. It works most of the time and I find it reads my finger correctly more often than my 5s which sometimes takes a few tries.
Overall, I prefer the customizations and extra software in Samsungís Touch Wiz but HTCís Sense is not without itís charm. I wonít pick a winner here because itís too personal a choice.
One improvement the GS5 brings is that it has a USB 3.0 connector on the bottom while the One M8 makes do with USB 2.0 just like itís predecessors the One M7, One X, Raider/Amaze/Vivid/etc. So the GS5 blows the One M8 out of the water when it comes to USB transfer speeds right? Not so fast.
I tested both the One M8 and GS5 with my SSD equipped desktop and my laptop using both USB 2.0 and 3.0 and found that both phones have similar transfer speeds. In some cases, the GS5 was faster while the One M8 was faster in others.
|Read (MB/s)||Write (MB/s)|
|Samsung Galaxy S5 USB 2.0||29.3||33.3|
|Samsung Galaxy S5 USB 3.0||32.4||37.7|
|HTC One M8||31.6||35.1|
Further, when I popped my Sandisk Extreme Plus card which is capable of speeds of up to 85MB/s (megaBYTES) read and 55MB/s I actually found that the One M8 has substantially faster transfers speeds. So in a way, the GS5ís USB 3.0 isnít much of an advantage.
|Read (MB/s)||Write (MB/s)|
|Samsung Galaxy S5 USB 3.0||31.1||16.2|
|Samsung Galaxy S5 USB 2.0||26.2||13.8|
|HTC One M8||28.9||31.2|
433Mbps and 866Mbps are really high numbers but youíre probably wondering what the real world performance is like.
I tested both phoneís WiFi speed with a Linksys EA6900 802.11ac router along with ZoltŠn Pallagiís WiFi Speed Test.
Linksys calls the EA6900 an ďAC1900Ē router meaning it supports speeds of up to 802.11N 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz side (neither phone supports this) and 802.11ac speeds of up to 1300 on 5Ghz. To get 1300Mbps youíll need a device that supports 3 streams. As I mentioned earlier, the GS5 supports 2 while the One M8 supports 1 so the EA6900 should be able to handle either phone with ease.
In case youíre wondering, an AC1200 (300+866) router is probably all you need to max out the GS5.
In case you're wondering, the EA6900 has a lot of features and speeds are similar to my Netgear R6300 (another router which supports 3 stream 802.11ac). Range is similar. It also has 2 USB ports one of which is a USB 3.0 though the speed from this port is not impressive at all (~15MB/s). I don't like how it uses a wall-wart style power adapter instead of a longer laptop-style one like on the R6300. It's also missing a power button so you have to unplug it if you want to turn it off.
WiFi Speed Test consists of an Android app and server software which preferably sits on a hard-wired server located on the same network.
I had a lot some trouble getting consistent results with WiFi Speed Test, there are a lot of factors in place here. The server, the router, how clean the WiFi channel are, etc. Still I managed to get a good idea of what speeds each phone is capable of.
I tested each phone while it was in the same room as the router. If you move further away or into another room, speeds will drop.
|Typical 802.11ac Upload Speed|
|Samsung Galaxy S5||330Mbps|
|HTC One M8||220Mbps|
While the WiFi speeds are great, itís too bad Samsung and HTC didnít include a built-in SMB server so that you can access the contents of each phone on your computer like you can with the LG G2. Still, programs like this are an app (and usually a root) away.
So the thing to take away, is that if youíre home, both phoneís WiFi should be able to keep up even if you have a really fast home internet connection provided you have a router which supports 802.11ac.
I did my torture test where I use each phone extensively at 100% brightness for maybe 50% of the time and got around 7hrs out of the GS5 while I only managed 6hrs with the One. These are actually pretty good results - both should last the day for most users.
The headphone out on both phones sound find so there isnít much to say with regards to this. Where the HTC One pulls ahead is with itís much louder speakers. Not only are they louder but they sound much better plus you get two of them so when theyíre in landscape mode you can listen to media in stereo!
Both have MicroSD slots but the HTC One wins here because it comes with 32GB of built-in storage (25GB available) vs 16GB (11.5GB available) on the GS5.
Both come with Peel based remote control software which is almost completely useless if youíve cut your cable and donít subscribe to TV service. The software assumes you have TV service and the entire interface is centered around this.
Here the HTC One takes the win on the strength of itís speakers.
No doubt about it, the HTC One is an awesome phone but the problem is that I find the S5 is a more well rounded package. The screen is incredible and quite possibly the best phone display Iíve ever used. The water resistance is very practical and the body is very tactile and nice to hold.
Last year I thought the HTC One M7 was a better phone but Samsung has turned the tables and I think the S5 is the one to get out of the two.
Still, in absolute terms, both the GS5 or the One M8 are evolutionary improvements over their predecessors. If you have a GS4 or One M7 the new ones are better in most areas but theyíre not so much better that Iíd recommend you toss them out and pick up the new versions.
What about the LG G2?
While the S5 and One M8 are the latest and greatest, LGís G2 wasnít released that long ago and on paper, itís comparable to the two.
The G2 has a bigger display 5.2 vs 5.1 (Samsung) and 5.0 (HTC). It also has a bigger battery (3000mAh vs 2800 on the Samsung and 2600 on the HTC).
In terms of processing power the G2 has a 2.26Ghz Snapdragon 800 SoC while the One and GS5 have 2.26Ghz and 2.5Ghz Snapdragon 801 SoCís. The only difference is that the 801 has an extra low power core which means the HTC One and GS5 have better standby times. Still the G2 is no slouch in this department so unless you hardly use your phone, the G2 isnít at much of a disadvantage here.
The LG loses points for not having a MicroSD slot and. Still, its camera has optical image stabilization which is a plus if you shoot a lot of video.
In terms of ergonomics I have to go with the G2 because itís power and volume buttons are located on the back. That means you never have to worry about accidentally pressing the volume buttons like you do with the HTC One. The on-screen buttons mean no accidentally soft-key presses like you get occasionally with the GS5.
The G2 is a great overall package. In fact, if I had to chose Iíd probably pick the G2 over the HTC One while Iíd probably give a slight edge to the G2.
What about the Samsung Galaxy Note 3?
The Note 3 is another strong entry. Compared to the GS5 and HTC One it has 2 advantages; It has a large 5.7Ē display and built-in Wacom digitizer and stylus.
If those arenít important to you then Iíd pick the GS5 over the Note 3 on the strength of its screen, how it feels in your hand (the back particularly), the screen (better outdoors and brighter) and water resistance.
As for the HTC One Iíll call it a draw. The Note 3 has an edge because the HTC One is too slippery to hold comfortably. The One has an edge because its screen works better outdoors.