HTC One M8 vs. Samsung Galaxy S5: Hands on comparison

samsung-galaxy-s5-htc-m8

Now that HTC has unveiled the HTC One M8, it only seems natural to compare it to the other major new Android smartphone out there, Samsung’s Galaxy S5. I’ve compared some specs for each phone in the chart below. I’ve also spent a bit of time with each phone, and can say how many of these features measure up based on my experience.

HTC One M8 vs. Samsung Galaxy S5

Display, design and size

This first comparison is a tricky one, because both phone displays look great. The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-inch, 1080p panel, while the M8’s display measures 5 inches. The HTC One has a slightly higher pixel density, due to its barely smaller screen size, but you really can’t tell the difference with the naked eye. Luckily, both screens are very bright, with vivid colors and good viewing angles. You won’t be disappointed with either one.

HTC One M8 home screen

You might be a little disappointed by the Galaxy S5’s design, though, which is made of plastic and doesn’t feel particularly high-end. That’s especially true when you compare it to the HTC One, which features a gorgeous metal build. In my opinion, it’s the best looking Android phone on the market, and definitely the phone to get if you’re big on design.

Size-wise, I found both phones to be very comfortable. They’re big devices, but neither of them quite reaches into “phablet” territory. It’s worth noting that the Galaxy S5 is slightly smaller and lighter all around, even though it has a larger display. I didn’t feel a noticeable difference when handling either phone, but I haven’t held both of them at the same time.

Galaxy S5 lock screen

Power, battery life and storage

Both the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 are powered by Qualcomm’s new, super-fast Snapdragon 801 processor. The Galaxy S5 will ship with a 2.5GHz quad-core chip, while U.S. models of the M8 will feature a 2.3GHz quad-core processor. That shouldn’t make a big difference as far as power and speed are concerned. Qualcomm’s chip is among the fastest silicon currently available, and both phones operated flawlessly when I got a chance to handle them.

HTC One M8 gold

Battery life isn’t quite as close. The Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh battery, which is slightly larger than the 2600mAh cell in the HTC One M8. But the Galaxy S5’s battery is removable, which means you can carry a spare, while the M8’s battery is permanently sealed in. Both phones come with software features meant to expand battery life by days when down to just a 10-percent charge, but if battery life is your main concern, the Galaxy S5 offers more flexibility.

Both phones stack up evenly when it comes to storage, though. You can get either device with 16 or 32GB of internal storage. And both feature a microSD card slot, which allows you to increase you to add up to an additional 128GB.

Galaxy S5 back

Camera and software

I haven’t had a chance to put these cameras to the test, but based on my experience with the previous generation of devices, as well as some of the early HTC One reviews out there, my money is on Samsung. The Galaxy S5 features a 16-megapixel camera, along with some cool software features like Live Preview, which allows you to see a photo with a filter or HDR before you snap it. And Samsung claims it has the world’s fastest autofocus in as quick as 0.3 seconds.

HTC One M8 camera

The HTC One M8, on the other hand, has the same 4-megapixel “UltraPixel” camera as the original HTC One. The idea is that the phone uses larger pixels to capture more light, rather than more detail. So while you might not be able to shoot a sharper picture than the Galaxy S5, in theory you can get a better shot in lower light. But my experience with the first HTC One proved this just wasn’t true. Sure, it did a decent job in low light, but it was not resoundingly better than the Galaxy S4. I don’t think a minor gain in light is worth a significant hit against detail.

HTC has added a second rear sensor, which allows you to change the focus on pictures after you take them. And the phone has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, which means you should be able to take some of the sharpest selfies possible. But I’m mostly interested in replacing my digital camera, and I think the Galaxy S5 has a better shot at doing that.

Galaxy S5 camera

As for software, both phones run Android 4.4 KitKat, so it’s really a tossup of whether you prefer the overlay from Samsung or HTC. Both are better than we’ve seen from either company in the past, though neither is close to stock Android. HTC offers Sense 6 and BlinkFeed, which is a Flipboard-like homescreen replacement. Samsung, meanwhile, scales back a bit from the overbearing presence of TouchWiz on previous devices, and adds some cool apps like S Health, which works with a heart rate monitor on the back of the phone to measure your heart rate.

Unique features

While many of the basic features look similar on a spec sheet, each phone offers a few completely unique features.

As mentioned above, the Galaxy S5 has a heart rate monitor, which is great for fitness buffs. It also has a fingerprint scanner that allows you to unlock the phone, like the iPhone 5s, though it might not be quite as easy to use. The M8, on the other hand, offers a wide range of motion controls that automatically detect when you pick up the phone. This lets you unlock the device or perform a number of other tasks without even needing to hit the power button. And the HTC One’s dual front speakers are the best I’ve heard on a smartphone.

HTC One M8 case open

Decisions, decisions

Each phone costs the same ($199.99 on a two-year contract, though you get 16GB of storage on the Galaxy S5 for that price compared to 32GB on the HTC One), and each will be readily available throughout the U.S. in just over two weeks (though if you can’t wait, the HTC One is available from Verizon Wireless stores right now).

Picking a winner is harder to call than pretty much any other comparison I can think of. But that’s a good thing. Both of these phones share many similar features, and both represent the best of Android right now.

Galaxy S5 heart rate

That said, I don’t think either of these phones is the clear-cut victor, at least after my limited experience with each of them. Instead, I think they each appeal to a slightly different audience.

If you’re more interested in good design and snapping selfies, the HTC One is a better choice, thanks to its stunning build and high-resolution front-facing camera. But if you’re looking for a handset to replace your digital camera, the 16-megapixel Galaxy S5 is likely to offer a better overall photo experience. These phones are sure to inspire plenty of debate, but ultimately, you won’t be disappointed with either.

This post was updated at 12:18pm to show that the HTC One M8 comes with 32GB of storage for $199.99.

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