The battle between Samsung and HTC begins again, with the launch of 2014’s flagship devices, the Galaxy S5 (GS5) and the One (M8). Between the previous incarnations, I declared the Samsung GS4 as the smartest phone over the HTC One (M7).
The two new models are offered at roughly the same price, so let’s start our review by looking at the design.
Each brand has its own style in terms of design. However, I’ve well and truly fallen in love with the M8’s unibody. Its machined aluminium body looks stunning and feels great. The GS5 still has a plastic body, complete with the Galaxy Note 3’s faux-leather styling.
If, in the past, your preference was for GS phones, then you will likely not be disappointed with the new model. The GS5 now has a bunch of new features, including being dust and water resistant (IP67 certified). While IP67 protection is handy, the HTC One’s premium finish easily betters it.
The display size of both devices are almost the same, with only a 0.1 inch difference in size. The GS5 has a 1080p Full HD Super AMOLED 5.1-inch screen, while HTC M8 packs the same resolution into a 5-inch IPS screen. The size isn’t that much of a difference, but the colour on the Samsung and HTC is.
The AMOLED display offers more vibrant colours with deeper blacks, while the M8 is more realistic in its presentation of these colours; so it is very much down to personal preference as both displays are very good.
Both use the same processor from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 801. The M8 has beefed up from the previous model, clocking a maximum speed of 2.46GHz. Its benchmark shows a quadrant score of 20,182 and geekbench 2,758.
The GS5 ditches its dual quad-core processor in the GS4 for a traditional quad-core CPU clocking the same 2.46GHz. It rocks a benchmark score of 23,498 and 2,965 (quadrant and geekbench respectively).
Powerful specs like Snapdragon 801 and 2GB of RAM will make sure that you can use it without any lag. But beware, when used for long periods of time, both phones can get noticeably hot.
The M8 has plenty of fancy camera tricks to offer. It benefits from having another lens on the back, where you can select what to focus on after shooting (Ufocus) or add depth perception to create 3D-like images. For selfie lovers, it comes with a 5MP front-facing camera with a feature that “beautifies your face”.
The GS5 features a 16MP sensor with the capability of capturing Ultra HD video. There are a range of smart functions, including “selective focus” which produces a similar effect to HTC’s Ufocus, without an additional lens.
While the HTC performs better in dimmer conditions, the GS5 has the advantage of a higher resolution if you want to crop in a bit.
Using the latest version of Android (4.4.2 KitKat), the speed and features are fully optimised for each device. Each company has created their own user interface (UI), with HTC calling it “Sense 6.0”, while Samsung’s is “TouchWiz”.
If this was simply a case of comparing which offers the most options/features, then Samsung would win. TouchWiz is filled with widgets and tricks, and is consistent across all Samsung’s devices.
But in terms of speed, HTC is snappier and comes with features like double-tap (quickly wakes the phone) and FastBoot (turns on the phone within seconds).
Once again, both the GS5 and M8 offers the same, with 16GB of built-in storage, complete with a micro SD slot for extra storage. This translates to 7GB and 10.6GB, respectively. The difference in space is accounted for by the operating system and bundled applications. Samsung gives you bundled apps such as S Health (hub for your fitness information.), S Translator (translates spoken words or entered text), S Showtime (for watching movies, TV shows) and S Care (for technical support). Sadly, these apps aren’t removable and take up lots of the GS5 storage.
The M7's lack of a micro SD slot was a major downside and so the M8 has stepped its game up in offering micro SD support and levelling the playing field.
The GS5 is powered by a 2,800mAh battery, while the M8 has a smaller 2,600mAh battery. However, both will get you through the day. If you’re running out of juice, both offer power-saver options to make sure your device lasts the distance.
For instance, Samsung turns itself into a retro phone; greyscale screen and no 3G/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth. Pretty much like your old Nokia phone. In this mode, 10% of the battery can easily last a day.
With the GS5, you can just pull the back off the phone and swap the battery. But maybe that’s not necessary, since most of us now carry a power bank around.
The sound from the M8’s speakers is still difficult to match. It is the holy grail for movie watchers and music listeners. Not many phones can produce this great experience in such a small package.
This year the GS5 adds a heart rate sensor for monitoring your health. By placing your finger over a sensor and waiting a few seconds, you will be given a heart rate reading, which is then added to a graph so you can plot your heart rate over time.
For security, the fingerprint scanner sits within the home button and requires you to swipe vertically across the home button to register your print. The scanner isn’t just for unlocking your phone, you can use it for PayPal as well.
The bottom line
The Samsung Galaxy S5 keeps pushing the limits by adding more and more features, like the heart rate sensor and fingerprint scanner. However, these unique features are likely to eventually get turned off and ignored. For example, how often do you use the “Air Gesture” (hand motion as commands) as introduced in the S4?
While the HTC One (M8) hasn’t introduced anything new except for the camera, it is still an improved version of an already-great M7. It offers class-leading sound quality, a great display and performance, all in a gorgeous package.
For the Galaxy S5 vs HTC One (M8) rematch, the winner is the HTC One (M8), by a hair’s breadth.