Samsung’s new flagship smartphone is almost here. The Galaxy S5 was subject to truly monumental levels of hype and months of rumours in the run up to its unveiling, but now that the phone is official, how much of an upgrade is it over last year’s model? We’ve put the S5 side-by-side with the Galaxy S4, comparing the two to highlight the differences and improvements Samsung has made.
This is purely a specification comparison, highlighting the differences as they stand on paper. Where we’ve got benchmark figures, we’ve included them to highlight any differences in performance. However, until we get the Samsung Galaxy S5 in for a full review it’s impossible to judge things like screen quality, battery life and camera image quality. We’ll have to wait until April, when the Galaxy S5 officially goes on sale, to give a final verdict. In the meantime you can decide whether the S5 will be worth waiting for, based on its specs.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Dimensions: The Galaxy S4 has a footprint of 70x137x7.9mm and weighs 130g. The pebble-like shape of the Galaxy S3 was replaced with a more rectangular design, with slightly rounded corners to make the handset more comfortable to grip. The Galaxy S5 is slightly larger and heavier, weighing 145g and measuring 73x142x8.1mm. The curves have been toned down even further, to the point that the S5 has more in common with the Galaxy Note 3 phablet than its predecessor.
Although the Galaxy S5 is bigger and heavier, if you’re already used to the size of the Galaxy S4 you’re unlikely to notice any major difference in your hand or pocket should you make the upgrade.
The Galaxy S4 (left) and S5 (right) side-by-side – the scale is accurate to show the difference in physical size between the two handsets
Materials: The Galaxy S4 is made entirely from plastic, with metal effect trimaround the sides of the phone and a carbon fibre effect finish on the front and rear of the body. This goes for all colours, whether you opt for the White Mist and Black Frost colours the phone originally launched in or the slew of new choices Samsung has introduced over the past year. The one difference is the Galaxy S4 Black Edition, which exchanges the carbon fibre effect for a faux leather finish, much like the Galaxy Note 3.
The Galaxy S5 ditches carbon fibre on the back for a dimpled soft-touch plastic, which should help create more grip than the glossy finish on the S4. The plain black finish on the front looks a lot more stylish, too, although the silver metal effect trim around the edges remains. Unfortunately the handset is still made from plastic, rather than metal, but overall we think it looks a lot slicker than the S4.
Screen size: The Galaxy S4 has a 5in display (it’s actually 4.99in, but for all intents and purposes there’s no noticeable difference between it and other 5in smartphone screens), with screen bezels on the left and right sides of around 2-to-3mm.
The Galaxy S5 extends this further with a 5.1in screen, although the exterior bezels haven’t been reduced. This explains the difference in handset size. Both phones use Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect the panel from scratches.
The Galaxy S5 (right) has a slightly bigger screen, but has the same resolution as the S4 (left)
Resolution: Both the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 have 1,920×1,080 Full HD resolution displays. Because the S5 has a slightly bigger screen, this means pixel density has dropped. The Galaxy S4 has 441 pixels per inch (PPI), but the S5 has 432PPI. The difference will be almost unnoticeable in the flesh, though, as both phones have pixel densities so high that it is impossible to see individual pixels without a magnifying glass. In other words, the Galaxy S4 had more pixels than was strictly necessary, so Samsung could afford to up screen size without losing clarity.
Screen technology: Unsurprisingly Samsung has opted to re-use the AMOLED screen technology seen in the Galaxy S4 in the S5. It has been a staple of the company’s flagship Galaxy handsets for some time, and has several advantages over LCD technology. Because individual pixels can be turned off when representing black, AMOLED screens have incredibly deep blacks and use less power when displaying them.
Both phones use a pentile arrangement of subpixels, which interleaves green pixels between alternating red and blue pixels. LCD screens use three sub-pixels (red, green and blue) for every pixel. In many cases, LCD screens look sharper, particularly for text. However, with Samsung’s displays running at such high-resolution, this isn’t evident.
Plus, the S5 uses the same diamond pattern for pixels as the S4, where the red and blue pixels are diamond-shaped and larger than the green pixels. This helps increase clarity and we’ve not noticed any problems with the Galaxy S4, so we don’t expect any on the S5.
Graphics: The Galaxy S4 has a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU, which is able to play just about any game currently available on the Google Play Store smoothly. It scores 11,254 overall in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited GPU benchmark, which was incredibly fast a year ago but now falls behind newer handsets. The Galaxy S5 has a newer, faster Adreno 330 GPU, which scores 18,438 in the same test. This makes it significantly faster (a near-on 64 per cent improvement) when it comes to games, suggesting that the S5 will cope with every new release for the foreseeable future.
Memory: The Galaxy S4 was one of the first Android smartphones to come with 2GB of RAM as standard. Many phablets, including Samsung’s own Galaxy Note 3 now exceed this amount, but Samsung has decided there’s no need for the Galaxy S5 to match it – the new phone sticks with 2GB of memory.
Storage: The Galaxy S4 is available in three storage configurations: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, each with microSD expansion card slot for adding extra capacity at a later date. So far, Samsung has only confirmed 16GB and 32GB versions of the Galaxy S5, and although there’s still time for a 64GB model to arrive it won’t be happening at launch. It does at least keep the microSD card slot, which supportsup to 128GB cards versus the Galaxy S4’s 64GB.
Battery: The Galaxy S4 includes a 2,600mAh battery, which according to Samsung is capable of 17 hours of talk time. In our tests, it routinely lasted as long as ten and a half hours when playing video on a loop, although when playing games, or with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G and NFC all active it will last a lot less.
The Galaxy S5 has a larger 2,800mAh battery, but considering it has a slightly larger screen, extra features like a heart rate sensor and a more powerful processor, it’s unknown whether it will last longer than the Galaxy S4. Samsung says the S5 should manage 21 hours of 3G talk time from a single charge, which is an improvement over the S4, but that’s unlikely to account for the screen being on. We won’t know for sure until we get our review sample of the Galaxy S5, but our hunch is that battery life will be very similar for this phone.
The Galaxy S4 has a 13-megapixel, back side illuminated (BSI) rear camera sensor, which is paired with an LED flash. It captures 4,128×3,096 resolution (12.78-megapixel) stills and records Full HD video at 30fps. The 0.23in sensor has 1.136µm pixels.
Things improve significantly for the Galaxy S5. It has a larger 0.28in sensor with larger 1.241µm pixels. This means that more light should hit each pixel, which should mean better low-light performance and less noise. The S5’s camera also uses the new ISOCELL sensor technology, which reduces the crop factor of the final image and improves dynamic range by preventing light leaking from one pixel to another. It shoots 4,640×3,480 (16.15-megapixel) stills and records 1080p video at 60fps. It is also able to record Ultra HD (4K) 3,840×2,160 video at 30fps.
From the specs, the S5 (right) has a better camera than the S4 (left)
The front camera appears to be the same on both phones – it captures 1,920×1,080 stills and 1080p video for Skype video calls or Google Hangout video messages.
The biggest new addition for the Galaxy S5 is the fingerprint sensor built into the home button. It currently lets you authorise PayPal transactions, lock down a particular folder to keep it away from prying eyes and, of course, unlock the handset from sleep mode. The Galaxy S4 has to make do with screen-based security using a PIN, password or pattern.
The Galaxy S5 is geared towards fitness, so Samsung has added several new features that aren’t present on the S4. These include ANT+ support for pairing heart rate monitors, exercise trackers or pedometers and a heart rate sensor built into the rear of the handset just beside the camera. The S5 is also water- and dust-resistant, which should keep it safe if you get caught out in the rain when on a run.
Although it lacks these fitness-specific features, the Galaxy S4 is still compatible with Samsung’s entire range of wearable tech, including the original Galaxy Gear, new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit smart band. These of course all work with the new Galaxy S5 as well.
The Galaxy S4 originally launched with the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system, but has been upgraded to 4.3 and is expected to receive an update to the latest 4.4 KitKat release at some point in the near future. The Galaxy S5 will arrive with the very latest 4.4.2 build of KitKat, ensuring it is up to date when it launches in April.
The S4 (left) now runs Android 4.3, although it will get an upgrade to Android 4.4; the S5 (right) ships with Android 4.4
The biggest visual change between the Galaxy S4 and S5 is TouchWiz, Samsung’s heavily customised Android skin. The colourful icons have been given a pastel makeover, losing their 3D effect in favour of a flatter appearance that’s vaguely reminiscent of Apple’s iOS 7. The settings menu has been completely overhauled, with rows of icons rather than lists, but the underlying functionality doesn’t appear to have changed significantly from one generation to the next.
While the S4 (left) uses a standard-looking Android interface, the S5 (right) has the brand-new TouchWiz interface
4G and Wi-Fi
Both the Galaxy S4 and S5 support all major 2G, 3G and 4G LTE frequency bands, although the S5 supported the faster LTE Category 4 and LTE-Advanced modes while the S4 makes do with LTE Category 3.
Apart from this disparity, all other wireless technologies look to be the same across both phones. They both support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS and GLONASS geo-location and an Infra-red blaster for controlling TVs or other home cinema equipment.
Other small differences include the micro USB3 port on the Galaxy S5, as opposed to the standard micro USB port on the S4. The S4 also uses a micro SIM card slot, whereas the Galaxy S5 uses the newer, smaller nano SIM standard.