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Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4: Should I upgrade?

We compare the Samsung Galaxy S5 with last year’s Samsung Galaxy S4, to see if it’s worth an upgrade…

Already own the Samsung Galaxy S4? Well, unless you’re the most loyal of Samsung fanboys, you’re probably wondering whether you should stump up a few hundred quid for the new Galaxy S5 (which we’ve heavily scrutinised in our full review), or just stick with last year’s handset and save the cash. In this comparison review, we’ll pit brother against brother to see if the Galaxy S5 upgrade is really worth the money…

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Design

One area we all hoped Samsung would vastly improve on is design, and sadly the Galaxy S5 isn’t quite the metal-plated hunk of gorgeousness we longed for. We’re definitely still not sold on the crinkle-cut plastic edging, although the soft-touch rear definitely looks and feels better than the S4’s cheapy plastic shell.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 comparison review

However, one big plus is the water resistance: the USB port is now covered up and all edges properly sealed, so you can play with the Galaxy S5 in the bath or shower, or drunkenly toss it in the toilet, and it’ll still work fine. The Galaxy S4 would be dead in half a second.

Samsung has also converted the Galaxy S5’s home button into a swipey fingerprint scanner, for unlocking the phone and even authorising online payments. When it works, it works very well, and we’re hoping the occasional glitch we saw was down to this not being the final retail model.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 comparison review

Overall, the Galaxy S5 is more hardy than the Galaxy S4, but not really a better looking beast like we’d hoped.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Screen and media

As for the screen, there’s next to no change between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S4’s 5-inch Super AMOLED display has been boosted all of 0.1 inches, to a 5.1-incher in the new Galaxy. Picture quality is still excellent, with bold, bright images flying at your eyeballs, and viewing angles are pleasingly wide, with no distortion as you tilt the screen.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 comparison review

So, movie fans will love the Full HD visuals, but there’s no need to upgrade if you’re already rocking the Galaxy S4.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Performance

Delve inside the Galaxy S5 and things look a lot more positive, with the Galaxy S4’s Snapdragon 600 processor upgraded to a fresh new 801. Combined with the refreshingly streamlined TouchWiz interface, we found the S5 was noticeably nippier than last year’s model, with no stuttering in sight when flicking around the desktops and loading up apps.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 comparison review

Samsung has also sped up the Galaxy S5 in various other ways – for instance, with the clever Download Booster mode, which combines the power of 4G and Wi-Fi to download huge files more quickly. So, when it comes to performance, the Galaxy S5 is a clear winner.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Camera

Although the Galaxy S5 upgrades the camera to 16-megapixels, compared with the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel snapper, we didn’t notice a huge leap in picture quality. Both phones produce sharp photos with realistic colours, although the Galaxy S5 takes snaps even faster with its zippy autofocus, thanks to that Snapdragon 801 chip.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Should I upgrade?

The main difference between the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 comes with the camera features. The Galaxy S4 was overloaded with tons of different shooting modes including Drama and Burst Shot, which have now been consolidated into a single, user-friendly mode called ‘Shot And More’. It’s a much tidier approach, and well appreciated.

However, the Galaxy S5’s new camera features are a bit hit-and-miss. For instance, the Selective Focus mode takes ages to process, as it’s taking a number of different shots and combining them. The new Virtual Tour mode may be a neat and quirky idea but it’s far too time consuming, requiring you to take dozens of photos.

Thankfully the glorious 4k video mode charges in to save the day, capturing incredible amounts of detail. Great news for when you finally buy a 4k telly, in a decade or so. The one downside is the vast amounts of storage space each 4k video takes up. You’ll definitely be needing a microSD card.

Overall, the Galaxy S5’s camera is a definite improvement over the Galaxy S4, but the biggest winners will be home movie addicts, thanks to that 4k mode.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Features

As usual, Samsung has crammed loads of extra features into the Galaxy S5 which weren’t found on last year’s model, most of which are at least worth a look. Kids Mode is a charming stripped-down and secure desktop for your tykes to play with, while the new Magazine UI is a simple news and social media feed, similar to HTC’s BlinkFeed.

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There’s also the dramatically-titled ‘Ultimate Power Saving Mode’, which gives you 24 hours of standby time on just 10% of battery, by limiting you to a handful of features and a stripped-back black-and-white UI. Of course, as soon as you start using the phone the battery life continues to drop, so you can’t just stick it on when the phone’s almost dead and expect another full day of use.

Fitness was a focal point of the Galaxy S4, and the exercise features become even more prominent in the Galaxy S5. Once again you get a built-in pedometer, but now you also have a heart-rate monitor, to be used with the improved S Health 3.0 app. You can check up on your pulse at any time by fingering the rear-mounted sensor, while the S Health widget now clearly displays how active – or inactive – you’ve been on the desktop.

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Hand on heart, we can say that most of the new Galaxy S5 features are genuinely useful, depending on your lifestyle. Certainly a big improvement on the likes of Smart Stay and all those other battery-sapping, processor-chugging gesture features the Galaxy S4 introduced (most of which are still available, but – on our review model – were turned off by default).

Of course, many of the Galaxy S5’s new features can be replicated using existing Android apps, so they don’t make this smartphone a must-have upgrade over the Galaxy S4.


Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Conclusion and should I upgrade?

So, should you splash out on the Galaxy S5 if you already own last year’s handset? Personally, we’d say only if you have money to burn, although we do love the 4k video mode and most of the new built-in features. And if you don’t already own a Galaxy, or are still rocking an older model, there’s plenty of great stuff here to make the Galaxy S5 a worthy buy.

Check out our full Galaxy S5 review for an in-depth look at the best and worst of this flashy new phone.



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