Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5: clash of the titans! [updated]

Galaxy S5 vs Nexus 5: clash of the titans! [updated]

Today I've taken on the rather intimidating task of pitting the legendary 2013 Nexus 5 against the best that Samsung has to offer right now, the Galaxy S5. I'm a Nexus 5 owner, but I've used the S5 plenty so I'll try to be as fair as possible while adding my opinions based on prolonged usage of both phones. I think we all know there's no way I'm getting out of this one alive no matter which phone I choose – the Nexus/Samsung rivalry is almost as strong as the Android/Apple one - but let's put them side by side and weigh up our options. [Update: video comparison added]

AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 teaser
© NextPit

Design and Manufacture

When it comes to build quality there's nothing wrong with either of these phones: both are built nicely and have their benefits. I like the tackiness of the rubber on the back of the Galaxy S5, if not the look of it, but there's a lot to be said for the particular rubberized plastic that Google chose for the Nexus 5 too. The Nexus 5 has been criticized for being a bit boring looking and the S5 for being ugly and I agree with both of these judgments to a degree. The S5 is a bit wider and taller than the Nexus 5, but it has a marginally larger screen. The bottom bezel is about the same on both, although the Samsung has a dedicated home button that also serves as a finger scanner for unlocking. Both phones have a notification LED.

Link to Video

AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 speakers
© NextPit

The S5 has a rounded silver plastic trim around the edges whereas the Nexus 5 has harder edges but is nicely curved at the top and bottom. Both devices have buttons in all the same places, but the S5 has an IR blaster and a water-resistant flap over the USB charging port on the bottom. The Nexus 5 has a bottom mounted speaker with dual grills (the other houses the microphone) and the S5 has the speaker on the back. Samsung opted for a central location for the square camera lens with the heart rate monitor and flash beneath it. The Nexus 5 shifts the circular camera lens and flash to the corner. Both camera lenses protrude a little. If I had to pick one over the other for looks I'd go with boring over ugly but as far as other considerations like microSD expansion, removable battery and water-resistance, it's clearly the S5.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 edges
© NextPit
AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 bezels
The Galaxy S5 (left) has a Super AMOLED display, the Nexus 5 an IPS+ LCD. The S5 has a dedicated home button/finger scanner with capacitive buttons and the Nexus 5 has on-screen buttons. / © NextPit


Ah, the age-old battle between LCD and AMOLED. The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen and the Nexus 5 a 4.95-inch IPS+ LCD. They're both sporting the same resolution (Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels), but due to the Nexus 5's slightly smaller display the pixel density is marginally higher at 445 compared to the S5's 432 ppi. As usual, the Samsung display is super bright, saturated and provides high contrast. The Nexus 5 can't keep up in terms of brightness or color, but it all depends on whether you like saturated colors or not. The Nexus 5 screen is a little pinkish and the S5 a little cooler. I find reading to be easier on the S5 but image colors are a bit too saturated for my tastes. The S5 is definitely more visually vibrant than the Nexus 5 and if I'm handing out awards the S5 gets it.

Samsung's TouchWiz (left) and Google's stock Android (right) / © NextPit

Software and UI

Full disclosure: I like stock Android. This is why I chose a Nexus device in the first place. I generally dislike much of the bloatware and gimmicky software features that Samsung put on top of the Android system and that TouchWiz is ridiculously slow as a result, even in its new trimmed back version. Having said that, the S5 has way more going on than stock Android, so if you like lots of built-in features straight out of the box the Nexus 5 will appear very limited. However, this means that the Nexus 5 is much faster than the S5. If you want to see more about the two user interfaces you can check out our TouchWiz vs stock Android comparison but here's my two cents' worth.

Touchwiz offers more functions in the notification shade, but stock Android is cleaner.  / © NextPit

The notifications shade on the Nexus 5 is very clean and minimal compared to the S5's slightly bloated affair. As with most things though, the S5 offers more options in this area than the Nexus 5. Likewise the Quick Settings: the S5 has a huge list of round buttons and the Nexus 5 a more trimmed back grid of square tiles. Samsung lets you arrange the apps in the app drawer how you like, whereas the Nexus 5 just lists them alphabetically. In the settings, the Nexus has a clean list of options where the S5 goes for colorful round icons in sub categories which can be collapsed or expanded (you can also switch to a list view in TouchWiz though).

The new TouchWiz settings menu in grid view (right), and stock Android. / © NextPit

As far as the added features that are available, the S5 has a heart rate monitor and S Health app built in to monitor and track your fitness efforts. There's also the finger scanner for an added layer of security and the fantastic Download Booster and Ultra Power Saving Mode. Samsung has added the My Magazine home screen for a curated newspaper along the lines of Flipboard (the Nexus 5 has a dedicated Google Now homescreen which you can also access on the S5). If you're comparing features, the S5 wins hands down for sheer volume, but if a pared back system is what you are looking for then stock Android is for you. Of course, stock Android is also updated much faster than Samsung's firmware releases which also take up much more space.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 display
The Galaxy S5 (left) and the Google Nexus 5 (right). / © NextPit


The Nexus 5 appeared closer in time to the Galaxy S5 than it did to the Galaxy S4. This later release afforded Samsung the opportunity to put a better processor inside with a higher clock speed, even though the Nexus 5 was at the top of the pack when it was released. The Nexus 5 is still the faster device though thanks to TouchWiz, and is let down by its lack of some of the great features that TouchWiz does bring though, so it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. More features also tend to come with more unnecessary features as well, like the finger scanner for example or the heart rate monitor for some. On the plus side, the S5 has a larger and better performing battery than the Nexus 5 and it is also removable, so on the hardware front the S5 gets it, even if it is a bit slower and may have added features no one actually wants, but still has to pay for.

Technical specifications

  Samsung Galaxy S5 Google Nexus 5
System Android 4.4.2, TouchWiz Android 4.4.4, stock Android
Display 5.1 inch, Super AMOLED, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 432 ppi 4.95 inch, IPS+ LCD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 445 ppi
Processor Quad-core Snapdragon 801, 2.5 GHz Quad-coreSnapdragon 800, 2.3 GHz
RAM 2 gigabyte 2 gigabyte
Internal storage 16 / 32 GB + microSD 16 / 32 GB
Battery 2,800 mAh, removable 2,300 mAh
Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP 8 MP/ 1.3 MP
Connectivity GSM, HSDPA, LTE Cat 4, Bluetooth 4.0, IR blaster, NFC, USB 3.0, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac GSM, HSDPA, LTE Cat 4, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB 2.0, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm
Weight 145 grams 130 grams
Extras Fingerprint sensor, real-time HDR, 4K video, heart-rate monitor, water-resistant and dustproof (IP67) Fast updates
AndroidPIT Galaxy S Nexus 5 camera
The Galaxy S5 (left) has a 16 MP camera and the Google Nexus 5 (right) an 8 MP camera. / © NextPit


The Nexus 5 suffered from lackluster camera performance from day one although the camera performance has improved significantly with Android updates and the new Google Camera. Nevertheless, the 8 MP camera is no match for Samsung's superior auto-focus, numerous settings and dynamic range. In most conditions the Nexus 5 posts equivalent results and occasionally better, but it's not enough to beat the sheer resolution and options available in the S5.

Note: Images in the gallery were taken at full resolution on each device, producing a different aspect ratio. I have simply positioned the images at the same size to show the same details.

Final verdict

As a Nexus 5 owner and lover, I obviously have a bias towards the stock Android experience, but when it comes to what you get in the S5 I think it's clear that on basically every front above the S5 is superior. I can live with TouchWiz lag, just, and disable or ignore the features I don't like or need. Not all hardware add-ons on the S5 are really necessary but the basics are done very well, and some are critical, like microSD, which we'll never see on a Nexus device. Likewise, there's aspects of Nexus that Samsung can never hope to emulate, like a truly speedy interface and rapid updates.

Which brings us to the other major selling point of the Nexus 5: it's cheap. For 350 USD you get an excellent base device with no bells or whistles, compared to the 599 USD price tag for the S5. If speed, price, lack of bloatware and rapid updates are important to you, the Nexus 5 has it by a long shot. If built-in software features, hardware additions, camera and battery are the deciding factors for you, then it's the S5. While I love the Nexus 5, the presence of a microSD slot, a better battery, higher resolution camera, water-resistance and other features I actually like on the S5 make a pretty compelling argument. I haven't jumped ship yet, but a Google Play edition Galaxy S5 might just convince me.

Which device would you buy? What is the biggest selling point for you?

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  • I have been a samsung user from long time !! Used all d galaxy S and note series till yet !!!
    I own both the phone S5 and N5 !!

    N5 comes with stock android and is running on android L....runs smooth without lag and is gud for simple usage !!!
    While S5 got gud battery performance, camera and due to SD card slot i can keep lot of stuff along with me !!! The only draw back is the updates as i havent gt Android L yet in it.

    Advantages over N5 are added features and the major one which i feel is the OTG feature !!
    i sometimes really think why no otg in N5. The ultra saving mode is life saver in S5. Really luv it !

    If u are update hungry go for N5 (simple usage n gud performance ) and if u want gud performance and added space go for S5 ( if u like stock android apperance go for google launcher)

  • Clash of the 'Old Titans' maybe, sadly no more.

  • Sounds like you got a lemon. Why didn't you return it? It does come with a warranty, you know. I have a Nexus 5 and it's as smooth as butter.

  • I hate the nexus 5. Its buggy. The stock camera is horrible. It freezes. The memory is full almost daily. My keyboard always crashes. I will be typing and then it'll just stop working. I won't be able to text even if I restart the phone. I feel like the nexus 5 is trying to compete with apple on the amount of time it takes to open settings, switch camera from rear to front, and other what used to be simple tasks. The inefficiency of the iPhone is what turns me off from apples mobile devices and now this stock android nexus 5 is right up there at the apple level of crap. The phone is boxy and uncomfortable to hold. Its almost too wide. I use my phone for texting, pictures, social media, and check up on my school work. I rarely call anyone. When I do talk to someone on the phone, I am plagued with a glitchy screen that flashes while I am talking or won't even turn on so I can hang up or put the call on speaker. The unusually extra large red hang up button gets hit often in the mix of trying to turn the screen on. I do not feel that the phone is optimized over WiFi. I run about 45-60mbps on t-mobile H service and the second I turn on WiFi, the phone just stops. Speed test from the computer will show 90-100mbps through WiFi but the phone is not receptive to any WiFi service.

    With all that its been hard deciding if I really want to give into the S5 or G3. The outdated iPhone will never get my money. I have an iPad. No need for a smaller one that does less. The S5 is appealing for the fluff like the health apps but it seems like it comes stock with too much too soon that could pose a problem. I was a first day S3 owner, hated it and got a note which had an easier interface and usability. The G3 is appealing for auto focus and it's camera. No real reason beyond that besides LG health seems to be more promising than a gimmicky heart rate monitor on the S5. I have a 2 year old and have missed so many great moments due to the slow nexus 5 camera. Beyond the cameras of the S5 and the G3, the phones seems very similar in capability and use. The lg is huge with a screen that is so advanced, there's no app capable of benefiting the user. Anyone remember the 3d phones and that issue? I do like the external SD card feature on both as well as removable battery. This may be the hardest decision I've faced in phone land. So for now, I will keep the crappy nexus 5. July 16 couldn't come sooner. Would love to have a g3 and s5 side by side.

    • Whaaaaaaa...

    • There's not too much we can do about some of your issues but the Google Camera and 4.4.4 solved almost all of the N5's camera issues. I'm using CM 11 (M8) with Apex Launcher running an Android L theme with the now defunct L Keyboard and I've never loved my Nexus 5 more.

      • Hi Kris,
        Sounds really cool, can you guide me how to get my N5 in same line as urs. I'm still on stock 4.4.4. Kindly guide me on how to install CM 11, sry I am new to this. Thanks Ansh

      • Hi @Anshul, you can visit CyanogenMod's homepage and use their CyanogenMod Installer. It makes unlocking your phone and installing CM 11 a breeze. As far as I know you don't even need to be rooted, but I haven't used it msyelf. They have good documentation on the site anyway if you have any questions/concerns. The Android L theme I just got through the CM Theme Store and I'm using the Moonshine Icon Pack from the Play Store. The L Keyboard recently got removed but I'm sure you can find a download link somewhere for it still. Nova and Apex launchers are available in the Play Store too. Have fun!

    •   7
      Deactivated Account Jul 19, 2014 Link to comment

      I have a N5 and never encountered the problems you re facing. Mine is just smooth, fast and does what i want it to do. It also lasts a full day of usage..and I'm a pretty heavy user + with the new update coming soon..that said will boost the battery life. So, yeah. I cant be any happier with my N5. Best decision I ever made for sure.

  • Let's just remember that the Nexus came out the past year and it's still able to keep running almost as good as S5 (yes, it runs smooth, no need to cry). But the gap of performance between those phones is really less than expected. Samsung promised revolution and all it gave was more of the same, but with new clothes (someone actually liked the bandaid back of the S5?), new useless features (because that's what the heart rate sensor and the finger sensor are, you'll use it for a week and then forget it for the rest of your experience) and a redesigned Touchwiz (well, at least one step goes forward).

  • 'clash of titans' in what respect? What a sensationalied title with so little substance when compared to other flagship devices i.e. LG G3 or Oppo's Find 7.

    • C'mon @Andrew, you may not like the title, but the S5 is Samsung's biggest selling phone to date and they are the biggest smartphone manufacturer on the planet. And the Nexus 5 appeared very near the top of practically every best smartphone list of 2013. I'd call those pretty successful phones.

  • If you want/need 4G connectivity and you want to travel internationally, only the Galaxy 5S will work. The Nexus 5 820 ships to North America, and its 4G bands work there (but not in Europe, for example). The Nexus 5 821 ships to the rest of the world, and its 4G bands work there (but not in North America). Due to the inclusion of LTE band 7, the Galaxy 5S that is supplied to North America will also work with 4G service for most of the carriers in Europe. Thus, the Galaxy 5S is the only phone (of the 2) that can obtain 4G service in multiple geographic locations. This will not be important to everyone, but for some it will be the determining factor.

  • I sometimes feel like I've been through every phone out there at some point and after years of jailbreaking and trying new roms I could not be happier with my N5. I love fast updates and hate bloatware so in that regard the N5 is perfect. I still root but keep it simple, xposed and a few needed apps. My battery lasts me all day and I have a memory stick that I honestly never really lose. I'm a believer in what the N5 provides.

  • As a nexus 5 owner i can tell you that comparing these two devices is pointless, while they may be comparable spec wise the samsung is newer and double the price! I bought my nexus last febuary for 240, that being said were i to choose now i would still choose the nexus,very powerful beautifully simple and elegant and at half the price there really is no need to compare

  • I actually wanted a nexus 5 because of vanilla android (have a nexus 7 and enjoy the experience), but my problem was the Nexus 5 was hard to come around in South Africa so i ended up getting the S5.
    Firstly i hated TouchWiz in comparison to pure android, it was a bit over the top especially it's visual design and effects, I downloaded lot's of third-party launchers to replace it like Nova etc but didn't like these because they didn't feel natural to me although everyone raves about them.
    I installed Google now launcher on it and couldn't be happier, this in my experience counters the awful TouchWiz experience, it's very fast and buttery smooth, but the other problem is it doesn't install KitKat Dialer or KitKat contacts app, so you'll have to find another app in playstore to replace these, I found the Dialer and contacts apps in TouchWiz very strange and outdated looking really disliked them, to remedy this I installed Dialer plus and contacts plus from app store and these are great in replacing the native apps I recommend them.
    After those modifications i can say I'm truly happy with my purchase, there are some neat advantages here like split-screen, great camera and the native media players are not bad at all, rooting this device is very easy with towelroot literally doesn't even take 10 secs, the problem is very limited custom roms even cyanogenmod doesn't support s5 (yet).

    • This is my point: do you want a blank canvas you can paint yourself or a picture that's already done. The only problem is you may not be able to paint the things you want or may not like what someone else paints for you! Bring on Project Ara!

  • Pure Andy for me, now and forever.
    Nothing beats the speed and customization options that a Nexus phone provides. I also like the minimalist look and feel of it. And from what I see, "L" is going to rock.

    Had a Galaxy Nexus and then a GS3 and now the N5. I really don't need all of that other stuff that just slows down the phone. And to be honest, all that gimmicky stuff is for show and tell and then you never use it again.

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