Samsung Galaxy S5 vs HTC One M8: 2014's Big Boys Battle It Out

Vs Paul Briden 16:40, 3 Jul 2014

Samsung's Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 are now both in the open, here's the two compared

The HTC One M8 is finally here. After being the most leaked handset in all history, it should be no surprise that its design, spec and features are quite similar to what we heard about ahead of launch. HTC has revamped the visual design and added some fancy tricks to its camera hardware, as well as updating the processor and display tech onboard.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is now available in the UK, having launched officially at MWC in February. Naturally we thought it'd be worth a look at how these two powerful flagships compare with each other.

2013’s HTC One was lauded, across the board, as THE Android handset of 2013, taking home more awards than any other smartphone. With the One M8 we’re looking at yet another gorgeous device, complete with improved hardware, specs and chassis design.

The Galaxy S4 was sort of the opposite. It was a very decent handset with plenty of power and useful features, but many (including us) just found the look and feel of the device somewhat lacking – especially when compared to the HTC One. Users too weren't all that impressed with the look and feel of the Galaxy S4 either, claiming it looked too similar to 2012's Galaxy S3. In fact the complaints were so common Samsung even issued an official statement in late-2013 saying the S5 would be dramatically different to its predecessor.

No. We're not sure what happened with the Galaxy S5 either. Perhaps the design team missed that memo? Looks are pretty subjective though, and while the Galaxy S5 is pretty similar to its predecessor, there’s enough going on under the hood to differentiate it from last year’s model. The back panel is also completely different, too, and the handset – unlike the HTC One M8 – is now completely water and dust resistant.  

Back in 2013 the specs war was still well and truly in full swing. In 2014, things have calmed down a little: processing tech has leveled out, and manufacturers are now focusing on new areas – wearables – for future growth. As well as this, device makers are seeking ways to make their handsets, which, for the most part, use the same technology as their competitors, stand out from the crowd – something clearly evident aboard both these devices.

And this is definitely a good thing, too, as it has seen a renewed focus on things like imaging technology, overall design and unique, useful features; rather than just arbitrary specs. Indeed, 2014 looks to be the year smartphones will once again become interesting as manufacturers look to create unique ways, outside of spec and hardware, to differentiate their offerings. 

Here we'll be looking at how the HTC One M8 compares to the Samsung Galaxy S5. 

Design and build

The HTC One M8 is now here and the rumours were true – the exterior is very similar to the previous HTC One. However, there is a bit of refinement going on here which does make it that much better.

Pretty much every surface of the aluminium unibody has been reshaped to make the handset look and feel smoother and to sit more comfortably in the hand, it also now features a brushed texture to the metal and a clear coating to give it all a nice finish. The unibody now extends around the sides of the handset in one piece with curved edges and tapered corners, again this makes it nicer to hold than its predecessor.

Earlier rumours suggested grey, black, gold and silver colour options but HTC has now confirmed three of the four were correct. HTC said it wanted to pick metallic colours which emphasised the phone’s aluminium build, which means it comes in silver, gold and grey, or, I should say, Arctic Silver, Amber Gold and Metal Grey.

The HTC One M8 is slightly larger than its predecessor to accommodate a bigger battery and a larger 5-inch display. It still features the same end cap design with HTC’s front-facing BoomSound stereo speakers and their punched grilles. The phone is still pretty thin, sports a dual-camera port arrangement on the rear and generally HTC has used as much metal as possible. 

As predicted the M8 is a variation on the HTC One’s aluminum-glad design. The corners are rounder and the overall handset is slightly bigger and slightly heavier. Still, the device is an absolute beauty, looking even more premium and stylish than its predecessor. HTC scores big again. 

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 has shaped up to be a similarly incremental update in terms of the exterior. The handset is slightly larger than its predecessor but the screen hasn’t actually expanded at all (more on the display later).

It’s a little squarer at the corners, while the back panel now has a matte finish and a dimpled texture for improved grip. The silver surround is not metal but remains plastic with a metallic finish and now features a ridged design to make things even grippier.

The Galaxy S5 now features IP67 water and dust resistance and the microUSB port at the base of the phone has a port cover as a result. HTC's One M8 has no such tweaks to enhance its durability - a dunk in a puddle will probably still cause a big problem and the aluminium casing is quite fragile compared to Samsung's plastic. A case is most certainly a good idea, although it will detract from that luxurious exterior design, rendering it somewhat moot.

Display

Again, as per previous reports, the HTC One M8’s display has expanded from the HTC One’s 4.7-inch size to a full 5-inches. HTC has not explained what display technology is in use, however, and has simply stated that it uses a new LCD technology for improved visual quality. It has a full HD 1080p resolution at 441 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Consistently, HTC has managed to deliver impressive touchscreens on all its major flagship handsets and the HTC One M8 is no different. The screen is incredibly clear with vivid colours, excellent brightness and nice, punchy contrast.

While normal display performance is great, we have noticed when taking the phone outside in bright sunlight that things fall a bit flat. It's a big improvement on the HTC One in this regard, but still quite difficult to read under these conditions.

Rather than rumoured LTPS LCDs Samsung has actually gone for the same Super AMOLED tech seen in its other devices. It’s a 5.1-inch panel rather than the rumoured 5.25-inches, with a full HD 1080p resolution at 430 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Essentially, not much has changed, but this is also not necessarily a bad thing as the 5-inch size was nice and optimal, while picture quality is still sharp with great colour, contrast and brightness.

Display Mate, a testing website for smartphones, has claimed the Galaxy S5 has the “best performing smartphone display we’ve ever tested”. That’s a big claim but the website says it’s because of the brightness, colour accuracy and contrast ratio on the display. Statistics wise it equates to be 22% brighter than the Galaxy S4 screen and even manages to use less battery on powering the screen than its predecessor did.

Processor

Another Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming?

Benchmarking software GFXBench  has leaked details of a new Samsung Galaxy S5. The specifications suggest it could either be an entirely new handset from Samsung or another version of the S5. Currently there’s no-way of knowing but here are the specifications.

It’ll have a Snapdragon 805 quad-core chipset clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB of RAM and an even larger display at 5.2-inches. It’s a QHD display with  1440 x 2560 pixel resolution. There’s also a 16MP camera included on the back of the handset.

Samsung released a variety of different Galaxy S4 models with different specifications.  It’s quite likely this could be the new version of the Galaxy S5 with some upgrades specs but there’s no way to be certain right now. Currently no word on a release date either.

Contrary to some rumours, the HTC One M8 does not use Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 805 chipset. No, it’s much more in-line with current competitors, meaning a slightly lower-key upgrade to the Snapdragon 801 quad-core chip. For HTC that’s still a noteworthy leap, however, as the previous HTC One only ran a Snapdragon 600 while many of its peers ran the Snapdragon 800.

The Snapdragon 801 aboard the M8 is clocked at 2.3GHz and has access to 2GB of RAM. In use, the HTC One M8 is considerably quicker than its predecessor in general operation and should be able to smoothly handle any Google Play content you care to throw at it.

Samsung has gone for the same chip inside the Galaxy S5, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5GHz and with 2GB of RAM.

Frankly, 2GB of RAM is a little surprising, we were expecting 3GB off the back of changes made to the Galaxy Note 3 and considering Sony’s Xperia Z2 was just outed with 3GB.

While the new processor is almost certainly quicker than the Galaxy S4's and HTC One's Snapdragon 600, both phones are going to be evenly matched, although for owners of the existing models looking to upgrade the HTC One M8 makes a bigger leap from its predecessor's tech. 

Camera

Rumours ahead of the HTC One M8 launch pointed to a “dual-camera” setup. Well now that it’s here it has been revealed it wasn’t a dual-camera lens at all. The top “lens” is, in fact, a dedicated depth sensor, which enables a few funky features for the HTC One M8’s actual camera positioned just below. For example, “U Focus” works rather like a Lytro camera, allowing you to re-select the focal point on an image after capture. The data is stored in the image file, meaning you can focus and re-focus as many times as you like, whenever you like.

The camera itself is similar to the HTC One’s hardware – a 4-megapixel “Ultrapixel” back-illuminated sensor (BSI) with an f/2.0 aperture. As with the HTC One, this works very well in low-light conditions, but HTC claims to have tweaked things for better all-round performance too. The handset features a dual-LED two-tone flash with amber and white LEDs for better low-light colour, but optical image stabilisation has been dropped as it interferes with the re-focus features. The front-facing secondary has been improved to a 5-megapixel sensor and HTC has designed some dedicated camera modes made for capturing good selfies. 

Samsung’s camera updates are also quite substantial. The handset packs a 16-megapixel ISOCELL sensor, an upgrade on the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel arrangement, and features a 0.3 second shot speed. Another cool addition is “Selective Focus”, which is somewhat similar to a Lytro camera in that it lets you snap a shot and then re-select a focal point later. An HDR Live mode has been included, which allows you to see how HDR could alter a shot before you take it, meanwhile the video capabilities have been improved to allow 4K quality.

Software

As expected, HTC Sense makes use of Android 4.4 KitKat’s latest tweaks, which means a streamlined look and feel with transparent UI components, more colour cohesion and new type fonts. HTC has added a few extra features which are enabled via a dedicated  low-power sensor chip. This includes gesture control, meaning you can wake the handset with a double-tap, hold the phone to your ear to answer a call or perform certain swipe gestures to open specific apps from sleep, such as the camera.

With TouchWiz, Samsung has taken advantage of Android’s new transparent menu features together with white notification icons and a new font. Other UI elements, including app shortcuts, now have a flatter and more simplified design.

Another key change is the use of Google’s “OK Google” voice command for Google Now, previously seen on the Nexus 5 and some select Motorola models - you can't do this on the HTC One M8.

Leaked images of HTC Sense show a similar set of UI changes with regards to fonts, colours and the presence of transparent menu bars.

Other features

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a couple of interesting features activated with the user’s finger. As per earlier rumours, there’s a fingerprint scanner and Samsung has taken a leaf out of Apple’s book by embedding it in the Home key. After going through a fairly extensive process of verifying your print, you’re able to unlock the phone by scanning your finger. You can also use it in conjunction with a PayPal account, although it’s not yet clear the extent of payment services available.

Another scanner on the rear of the handset is used in conjunction with the S-Health 3.0 application to monitor your heart rate, with health features forming a prominent part of the new device.

The HTC One M8 comes with 16GB of onboard storage and microSD support for cards up to 128GB. Meanwhile the battery pack is non-removable and rated at 2,600mAh.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has options for 16GB or 32GB onboard, though we don’t yet know the availability for each version. Both types have microSD support for cards up to 128GB. 

Video

Want to see the HTC One M8 in action? We’ve created a video hands-on with the device for you to see it in all its glory. This way you can fully see the new Sense 6.0 UI and we introduce you properly to the refined design. We also give an in depth look at the camera and show off that gorgeous 5-inch display.

If you like the video be sure to give us a like and a subscribe for our future content - we'll aim to have Galaxy S5 footage as soon as we get a review unit.

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