Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5 head-to-head review

Samsung has been working hard to cement a lead in the Android ecosystem for several years, loading each new flagship smartphone with a variety of software and hardware features designed to differentiate them from their competition. The Samsung Galaxy S5 continues this trend, coming loaded with a biometric heart monitor, fingerprint scanner and Knox 2.0 security service.

While these upgrades sound great, in the past we've often found Samsung's software additions have been to the detriment of Galaxy handsets and we have preferred the cleaner user interface and experience offered by Google's own-brand Nexus handsets. Many users have justifiably questioned whether the same will remain true with the Galaxy S5, when it is compared with Google's current Android flagship the Nexus 5. You can see the two handsets in action in the video below.

Design and build
The Galaxy S5 is visually much more striking than the Nexus 5 and features a similar design to its predecessor the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 has metallic sides, a removable polycarbonate back and Gorilla Glass front. The only immediately noticeable design difference is that the Galaxy S5's backplate has a perforated – as opposed to smooth – finish. By comparison the Nexus 5 is fairly unassuming, featuring a single-piece, slightly rubberised back and monotone design.Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5 head to head review back
Despite being larger and heavier than the Nexus 5, measuring in at 142x73x8.1mm and weighing 145g, the Galaxy S5 is just as comfortable to hold as the 138x69x8.6mm, 130g Nexus 5.

Thanks to its IP67 certification, the Galaxy S5 feels like the sturdier of the two. The certification means the Galaxy S5 is dust and water resistant, and when we dropped the Galaxy S5 into a kitchen sink full of water the handset survived unscathed. By comparison, a Nexus 5 review unit came out of a two-foot drop onto a carpeted floor with a shattered screen.

Winner: The Galaxy S5


The Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 both use very different screen technologies. The Samsung handset features a 5.1in, 1920x1080, 432ppi Super Amoled touchscreen, while the Nexus 5 has a 5in, 1080x1920, 445ppi, IPS Plus capacitive touchscreen.

Choosing between IPS and Super Amoled displays is often fairly tricky as each technology has its strengths and weaknesses. On paper IPS displays are better at displaying colours and whites than their Amoled equivalents. This is because IPS displays organise liquid crystals onto a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate.Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5 head to head review front
Amoled screens take a different approach and electrically charge each individual pixel to generate colours, a practice that lets them produce deeper and richer blacks. The flipside of this is that the screen has a shorter shelf life and can produce more heat than IPS displays.

Despite our past troubles, the Samsung handset is the clear winner. Not only does the Galaxy S5's display feature superior brightness, colour and contrast levels to the Nexus 5, it also boasts radically wider viewing angles than the Google handset.

Winner: The Galaxy S5

Operating system and softwareBoth the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 run using the Google's latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system. However, thanks to Samsung's decision to add its custom Touchwiz skin to the Galaxy S5, the two phones' user interfaces (UIs) and features are about as different as you can get.

In the past we've not been fans of Touchwiz for two key reasons. The first reason is because the skin adds a sea of bloatware and needless UI changes. While we have to praise Samsung for the work it has done to reduce the number of useless applications on the Galaxy S5, the company has still made a number of superfluous additions.

A good example of this is the Galaxy S5's settings menu. Samsung has completely reworked the Galaxy S5's settings menu, replacing the standard UI with a set of shortcut icons for specific options, such as storage, accounts, security and display. While the change isn't terrible, it is fairly pointless as it doesn't really improve the unskinned settings menu seen on the Nexus 5. In general, the untouched version of KitKat seen on the Nexus 5 was more pleasant to use.
Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5 head to head review settings menu
The second reason we dislike Touchwiz is because, by adding a skin, Samsung has hampered the Galaxy S5's ability to receive future Android software updates. This is because the skin needs to be tweaked and optimised to work with new software updates from Google, which can delay phones receiving updates for months at a time.

Being fair to Samsung, some of the software changes, such as S Health and S Voice, are useful, but sadly they don't make up for the other pointless changes and additions.

S Health is a custom application that uses information stored on the Galaxy S5 – combined with biometric data taken using the phone's built-in heart-rate monitor – to offer users fitness advice and help create more effective exercise regimes.

S Voice offers similar functionality to Google's built-in voice command services and lets you mount web searches, enter items into the calendar or set alarms by talking to the phone.

Winner: The Nexus 5

Next: Security and performance
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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