HTC One (M8) vs Samsung Galaxy S5: the weigh-in

When smartphone giants collide, expect a monumental fight for supremacy

The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 were two of last year's best Android phones, so it's no suprise that their successors are prime candidates for the Best Phone in the World 2014 title.

We now know all about the HTC One (M8) following its offical announcement earlier today - in fact you can read our full review below. Meanwhile, we've had the full skinny on the Samsung Galaxy S5's specs since it was launched at Mobile World Congress last month.

So which of these two superphones should you be saving up for? Read on and see what we think.

READ MORE: HTC One (M8) review

Design: metal vs plastic

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Fact: metal is always more appealing than plastic when it comes to smartphone bodies, so the One (M8)’s aluminium unibody design gives it a big advantage over the Galaxy S5’s polycarbonate chassis.

The One (M8)’s rear has a lovely brushed-metal effect, and it feels more natural to hold than the Galaxy S5’s plastic and oddly pockmarked body. The One (M8) also fits better in our hands thanks to its curved body and rounded edges and although it's a tad thicker at 9.35mm to the Galaxy S5’s 8.1mm, you won't notice the difference in use.

All that metal does have one disadvantage, of course - the One (M8) weighs 160g compared to the 145g Galaxy S5. Is that a problem? Not for us. And it does mean that the M8 has a much more solid feel. On the other hand, the Galaxy S5 is both waterproof and dustproof - good news if you're the adventurous type (or just clumsy), and a definite bonus over the HTC, which lacks any sealing of the kind.

If you prefer physical touch buttons, the Galaxy S5 retains the signature back, home (doubling up as a fingerprint sensor), and menu buttons. Clean enough, but in comparison to the One (M8)’s front, which is all screen, the HTC scores higher in aesthetics. The back and home buttons are displayed on-screen, and the menu button, which was annoyingly absent on the HTC One, makes its return.

So which do we like the look of most overall? Based on our brief time with both devices, we'd have to go for the sleek and sexy One (M8).

Winner: HTC One (M8)

Screen: pixel war

Sticking anything less than a 1080p display on any flagship smartphone these days is akin to making a car with only 3 wheels. Fortunately, you can expect 1920 x 1080 pixels on both the One (M8) and Galaxy S5. Purely based on specs, the One (M8)’s slightly smaller 5in display has a higher pixel density than the Galaxy S5’s 5.1in screen. But unless you remove your glasses and press your nose to the One (M8)’s display, you won’t really notice the slight difference in sharpness and colour quality.

HTC One M8 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: the weigh-in

What the Galaxy S5 has over the One (M8) is a Super AMOLED display, which theoretically produces much richer colours. But the One (M8) shines equally bright with its Super LCD 3 display, delivering vibrant colours vibrantly. Both units also offer excellent quality at wide viewing angles, allowing us to view fine text at the edge of the screens with ease.

On paper, both devices are on par, and it’ll take more than just a brief glance to determine if the difference between AMOLED and Super LCD displays swings our vote either way.

Winner: Undeclared for now

READ MORE: The 10 best smartphones in the world right now

Camera: Two is better than One

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The leaks and rumours surrounding the One (M8)’s dual camera system were so ridiculously accurate, all HTC had to do was admit they were correct. The second rear camera is included to record depth information, working in conjunction with HTC’s UFocus feature to re-focus images after they’re taken. Not exactly a new concept, it's an idea which started with the Lytro camera and was soon available as a software update for Nokia’s Lumia phones. Even LG and Samsung have the after-image focus on their LG G Pro 2 and Galaxy S5 respectively.

But with two cameras, the One (M8) has the distinct advantage of capturing depth information better and faster than its competitors. Depth adjustment is also much more accurate, as images are taken simultaneously rather than one after another. The lag between images, together with any slight movement, could potentially create blurrier photos for after-image focusing.

With the same UltraPixel sensor as its predecessor, low-light imaging remains the One (M8)’s strength. The only downside is the use of a lower 4MP - or rather UP - count, so images that are zoomed in will have less pixels to display. With a 16MP rear camera, the Galaxy S5 will have pixels to spare even when zoomed in. Ironically, the One (M8)’s front camera is pegged at 5MP, delivering more pixels than the Galaxy S5’s 2MP affair. For selfie addicts, this may be enough reason to sway your decision.

Like the iPhone 5s, the One (M8) has dual-LED flashes, more for improving skin tones than increasing the flash exposure for low-light photography. The Galaxy S5 lacks that, though its autofocus speed is significantly faster than the One (M8). It's also packed with clever software tricks to get the most out of your snaps, though for our money the One (M8)’s imaging features are implemented with more finesse.

Ultimately, this one is too close to call. The M8’s focus on low-light photography will appeal more to some, but for general, everyday shots, we'd imagine the S5 would often produce better results. So let's call it a draw.

Winner: Tie

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on video

More after the break...

Power: the beast within

Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor powers both the One (M8) and Galaxy S5. The former is clocked at 2.3GHz, the latter gets a clock speed of 2.5GHz. Both devices are loaded with 2GB of RAM for multitasking.

HTC One M8 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: the weigh-in

All of which means there's unlikely to be much between the two in terms of power. And given how impressed we are with the incredibly smooth performance and high AnTuTu score of 36,149 for the One (M8), that bodes well for the S5.

Battery mileage could swing slightly in Samsung’s favour, with a larger 2800mAh capacity compared to the 2600mAh battery in the One (M8). In our tests we experienced a drop of 6% per hour with HD video looped at 50% brightness and an active data connection for the One (M8). We expect a similar mileage for the Galaxy S5, despite its slightly larger 5.1in display.

Overall, the One (M8) is a smooth and powerful beast, but until we abuse the Galaxy S5 with the same level of stress testing, we can’t in good conscience give a solid verdict as yet.

Winner: Undeclared for now

READ MORE: 10 things you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S5

Usability: Have a KitKat to make Sense

Though both Android phones are equipped with the latest KitKat version, their user interfaces are as different as night and day. The only similarity is the use of simpler and flatter icons on both devices.

HTC One (M8) vs Samsung Galaxy S5: the weigh-in

Though the Galaxy S5’s user interface is much cleaner than its predecessors, HTC already has a headstart with clean UIs. In particular, Sense 6.0 lets you install customised fonts, and feels more organised with colour-coded basic apps for easier identification. Its Flipboard-like news curator BlinkFeed also receives a massive improvement, adding support for RSS feeds rather than limiting you to official news channels partnered with HTC. Furthermore, BlinkFeed takes note of what you’ve been searching for, and recommends more news based on your interests.

Gesture controls are significantly different between both Android devices. Samsung continues with its signature eye-sensing and hand-waving gesture controls, though in reality these features aren’t heavily utilised or practical for everyday use. HTC, on the other hand, took some notes from LG, introducing a tap-screen-to-wake-phone feature. Dubbed Motion Launch, it also includes swiping gestures when the phone is asleep to quickly activate BlinkFeed, launch the last-used app, and call up widgets.

While it doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor like the Galaxy S5 does, the One (M8) will integrate with Fitbit seamlessly. Wear a Fitbit accessory, sync it to the HTC device, and you can track your workout regime and fitness level just as accurately.

In essence, the One (M8) is all about useful, practical features, rather than subscribing to the “more is better” logic. That's enough for it to take this category.

Winner: HTC One (M8)

Verdict

HTC has a track record of making great phones. The side-by-side comparison of the One (M8)’s hardware and features with those of the S5 shows that it’s an even match. 

What sets the HTC device apart from its rivals is its incredibly detailed and beautiful design, along with an equally appealing Sense user interface. With its weatherproofing, heart-rate tracking and multitude of software features, the Galaxy S5 isn't without plus points either - but it's going to have to be some phone to beat the One (M8).

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S5 preview

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