The Galaxy S6 is one of the most striking Android smartphones in a long time. Samsung took risks, ditched two of its most defining features (microSD cards and removable batteries) and seems to have come out a winner. Coming off the back of the relatively lukewarm Galaxy S5 reception a year ago, this win was sorely needed. But the Galaxy S6 comes at a cost, so we asked the question: which Galaxy is better value for money? Find out in our Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5 comparison.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: release date and price
The Galaxy S6 release date was April 10 globally with an official unveiling during MWC 2015. The Galaxy S6 price varies according to the amount of internal storage: from 599 USD for 32 GB up to 799 USD for 128 GB.
The Galaxy S5 release date was back in 2014 on April 11 and the Galaxy S5 price at launch started at 599 USD depending which carrier you bought it through. Keep in mind that price was for a 16 GB version though.
The S5 is available on Amazon these days for around 400 USD while the S6 is actually more expensive on Amazon, going for around 620 USD. Keep this in mind as we're comparing these phones: we're looking at them as possible purchase options now, so a 2/3 ratio on current price is the reference point for what follows.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: design and build quality
While I have to confess I have never been particularly impressed by Samsung's design language (except on the Galaxy Note 4, which I thought was near perfect), I do have to admit that the Galaxy S6 represents a significant break from the tried-and-true Samsung recipe of plastic covers with variously textured or dimpled backs.
From the front it's still quite hard to distinguish between the two devices, barring the fact that the S6's Home button is larger and the S5 is a little wider. The Galaxy S6 does have smaller bezels than the S5 though, thankfully, but all other features from the front look pretty much the same.
It's the sides and the back that are the most radical departures and where the Galaxy S6 earned its ''premium'' stripes. Where the Galaxy S5 had a metallic-looking, ribbed plastic trim on the sides with the infamous Band-Aid battery cover, the Galaxy S6 has an aluminum frame with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 4 on the back, which, in drop tests tends to hold up even better than the display glass.
The flash and heart-rate monitor on the S6 shift to the side from the S5's position underneath the camera lens, but both cameras protrude slightly. On the down side for the S6, the phone is remarkably slippery and the glass back is a huge fingerprint magnet. On the plus side, the speaker has been shifted to the bottom edge rather than in its traditional position on the back.
The S6 is the clear winner here. While fingerprints and slipperiness are a real issue, the overall design of the phone is more accomplished and confident. Likewise the break with previous identical-looking Samsung flagships was well overdue. Having said that, the S5 does feel better in the hand (at least to me) even if it is much uglier.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: display
Both devices have a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display. The difference is in definition. Where the Galaxy S5 rocks Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) producing a pixel density of 432 pixels per inch (PPI), the Galaxy S6 display boasts QHD (or 2K) resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) for an eye-popping 577 PPI.
Just because the numbers are higher doesn't necessarily mean the S6 display is better though. There are many out there that think anything over Full HD resolution is a waste of time because QHD displays require more power and the human eye can't easily distinguish differences on pixel densities above 350 PPI.
Your position on display definitions is a matter of personal choice, but I have to admit I love the S6 display. It is insanely crisp and bright and easily the best display I've yet seen on an Android device. The Galaxy S5 is equally bright though, has equally good viewing angles and is just as saturated and vibrant as you'd expect. Again, the decision comes down to your feelings on Full HD vs QHD.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: software
We won't go into too much detail here, as the Galaxy S6 basically has all the features the S5 has plus some newer ones, but both devices are running Samsung's TouchWiz on Android Lollipop. The S6 is currently sitting pretty on Android 5.0.2 and the S5 on 5.0, but that's all set to change in the near future with the update to Android 5.1 awaiting both devices.
I was quite critical of the S5's software and interface when it launched and I stand by that judgment. It felt rushed, inconsistent and unfinished. Even after some updates it's still not quite there. The S6, on the other hand, has a much cleaner, more simplified and streamlined interface and for the first time I can honestly say I like TouchWiz.
Both devices support gestures (motion controls), both have fingerprint scanners, private mode, easy mode, built-in themes, multi-window, download booster, cloud printing, NFC, screen casting (MirrorLink), S Voice, S Health (and plenty of other Samsung apps) and a heart-rate monitor.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: special features
As mentioned above, both Galaxy's have fingerprint scanners (although the S6's touch-based scanner is better than the S5's swipe-based scanner) but the S6 adds a few additional features into the mix. These include Qi wireless charging by default and turbo-charging capability.
The S5, on the other hand, has two quintessentially Samsung features that are no longer part of the S6 recipe: a removable battery and microSD expansion. The S6 replaces its microSD card slot with options for more internal storage: 32 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB, but this dramatically increases the cost. SD cards are slower and less secure but far cheaper than built-in memory.
The S5 is also IP67 water-resistant, which the S6 is not (officially). YouTubers have revealed that the S6 can handle just as much water as the S5 though. This is a tough one to call: Qi and turbo-charging vs microSD and a removable battery.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: performance
This is one area where there is no competition and no cause for debate: the Galaxy S6 is incredibly fast and leaves the Galaxy S5 in the dust. The S6 has the impressive Exynos 7420 CPU powering things and it is the best CPU around right now. The S5 can't compete with a phone on the specs front when it is a year old, but the S5 was always slow, sluggish and glitchy.
Samsung completely reworked TouchWiz for the S6 and while it still isn't quite as smooth as I would like (being a stock Android user generally), it is easily the fastest that TouchWiz has ever been. The S6 simply destroys the S5 in processing power, resource management and battery optimizations, but we wouldn't expect anything different.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: camera
The Samsung Galaxy line has always had exceptional cameras and the Galaxy S5 camera is fantastic, even a year after it first appeared. The Galaxy S6 camera, however, is simply from another dimension. It is the best camera on any smartphone on any platform you can get, with the possible exception of the Lumia 1020 but: Windows Phone, pfft.
As with display resolution though, this is a matter of personal preference. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the S5 camera, but if you want the absolute best of the best smartphone camera experience then there's no denying the S6 is the benchmark against which all other phones will be measured this year.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: battery
The Galaxy S6 has a 2,550 mAh non-removable battery compared to the Galaxy S5's removable 2,600 mAh battery. On paper it looks like the Galaxy S5 is the winner here, and in reality the same is true. Sure, the S6's battery and software optimizations are better than on the S5, but the QHD display and smaller cell comes at a cost. It's enough to get you through the day, but that's about it.
The S5 introduced us to the impressive Ultra Power Saving Mode which has only been improved with the jump to Android Lollipop's battery optimizations. The S6 has the same feature although we get wildly differing battery predictions from each device. As you can see from the shot below, at 92 percent battery remaining the S6 forecasts 3.3 days and the S5 promises 11.5 days. The display is to blame here again.
Let's face it: the S5 has a great battery. Not perfect but still better than the S6. The S6 is supported by the convenience of wireless charging and the time benefits of turbo-charging but does not let you switch out a dead battery for a fresh one, making a wireless charging pad or outlet a necessity.
Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S5: audio
Many people will be happy to have the speakers off the back of the latest Galaxy, even if front-facing speakers are the benchmark by which we judge all smartphone speakers. The S6 has bottom-mounted speakers compared tot he S5 which uses the traditional location on the back.
The Galaxy S5 speakers are better though. They are of equal volume but a little hollower and bassier than the S6. The high notes aren't quite there and there's not the best clarity, but the S6 is too top-heavy, sounding like a tin can full of broken glass with only the echo of bass, as if it recently left the building.