LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: what is the best high-end smartphone?


LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: what is the best high-end smartphone?

The LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 are two of the biggest and best smartphones to date. Retailing for £550 and £459 respectively, the G3 and S5 have both earnt firm places in our list of the best phones of 2014 (along with a host of other options, should neither one take your fancy). However, with two major flagship launches competing for the best Android phone top spot, we’ve put them head-to-head to take a look at which smartphone is best.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Design 

The most immediately apparent difference is one of design. With the Galaxy S5, Samsung maintained, with a few small changes, the design of previous Galaxy smartphones, with an all-plastic case, and chrome-effect banded edges surrounding the screen. It also has a physical home button at the bottom of the screen (which doubles as a fingerprint reader for unlocking the phone and authorising PayPal transactions), and a rubberised soft-touch back panel. While far from being an ugly phone, it doesn’t jump out as being especially pretty either. 


The LG G3, on the other hand, absolutely does. Rather than the slightly boxy layout of most smartphones, the G3 is backed by a single swooping curved piece of plastic. The brushed aluminium-effect finish and exceedingly high build quality means it doesn’t feel at all cheap or flimsy, and you’d be forgiven for thinking at first glance that it was actually metal. It looks and feels fantastic, and manages to hit the sweet spot of accommodating a huge display whilst stopping just short of being cumbersome. 


In terms of dimensions the G3 is larger than the S5, measuring 75 x 8.9 x 146mm (WDH) compared with 73 x 8 x 142 mm (WDH), however the payoff is its 5.5in screen is 0.4in larger than the 5.1in display of the Samsung. It isn’t a vast gulf, but it does push the G3 the tiniest bit over comfortable one-handed size. 


One of the least appealing aspects of the Galaxy S5’s design is the way the camera sticks out slightly from the rest of the body, reminiscent of nothing so much as a chrome-ringed zit. It spoils the line of the phone somewhat, and prevents it lying flush when on its back, which is a pain. However it makes up for this with its IP67 rating, meaning it’s water-resistant up to one meter for 30 minutes and dust proof.  


The G3 is not without its niggles, either. The volume and power buttons are located on the back of the phone, below the camera, an unintuitive placement that we dislike. This means there’s a lot of uncomfortable contortion when using the phone one-handed, and for those unfamiliar with LG’s signature button-layout there’s likely to be a bit of baffled fumbling before you twig where they actually are.

LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5

Winner: LG G3 

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Display 

Smartphone screens have become something of an arms race in recent years, with companies scrambling to one-up each other in screen size and clarity. This has led to some impressive-looking displays, and the Galaxy S5 is no exception.  


Its Super AMOLED screen has a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920, and the tech behind it is compelling. It has a maximum brightness of 364 cd/m2 – high for an AMOLED display – and its perfect blacks are untouchable. The only minor quibble would be a slight over-saturation in the phone’s default mode, but this is small potatoes – the S5’s display is very, very good. 


The G3’s is also superb. Incredibly good, in fact: this phone’s screen is absolutely breathtaking. It boasts a 1,440 x 2,560 resolution (four times the number of pixels used in 720p displays, hence the QuadHD designation), and the 5.5in IPS panel immediately pops with crisp sharpness and vivid colours. We measured maximum brightness at 457cd/m2, which surpasses the S5, although black levels aren’t as good. Colours are reasonably accurate, and the screen covers an impressive 91.4% of the sRGB colour gamut. 


The G3’s display isn’t as good as it may at first appear, though. First, the extra resolution is pointless. Put the S5 next to the G3 and look at both up close and you won’t be able see the pixels on either. In an attempt to fool you the screen is sharper, however, LG sharpens everything onscreen: this works in some circumstances, particularly while viewing photos, but not in others. Some smaller text actually becomes harder to read due to LG’s sharpening techniques. 


Second, and more seriously, that higher resolution display causes power management problems. As the phone heats up, the brightness is automatically reduced to prevent overheating, first to 310cd/m2 and then to 269cd/m2. 

LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
Resolution1440 x 2560px1080 x 1920px
Screen Size5.5in5.1in
Brightness457 cd/m2364 cd/m2

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Camera 

If you captured the same picture with both the G3 and the S5, you could be forgiven at first glance for thinking that LG’s camera takes the crown in terms of image quality, but don’t be fooled. Although photos will appear sharper and more detailed on the G3, Samsung’s camera is actually the better of the two.  


That’s a consequence of the G3’s screen-sharpening mentioned above. When viewed on a larger, high-resolution monitor, however, the photos taken by the Galaxy’s 16mp sensor look considerably sharper than those captured by the 13mp LG G3. 


The specifications explain this difference in quality. While the LG’s camera has a 1/ 3.06in sensor and an aperture of f/2.4, the S5 has both a larger f2.2 aperture and 1/2.6” sensor, meaning its camera setup has the capacity to soak up more light. 


As is the norm for flagship smartphones nowadays, they also both capture 4K video at 30fps, and both employ fast phase detect autofocus, like more expensive DSLRs and compact system cameras. 


One area where the G3 beats the S5 is image stabilisation: it has optical image stabilisation where the S5’s is digital, which should help it in low light conditions. However, it still can’t quite match the S5 in dim environments. 

LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
Megapixels13 Megapixels16 Megapixels
Video Capture4K at 30FPS4K at 30FPS
Sensor Size1/3.06in1/2.6in
Image StabilisationOpticalDigital

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Performance and battery 

Under the hood, both phones have the same 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU combo, although the G3 is loaded with 3GB of RAM where the S5 has 2GB. Despite this, the S5 still has the edge on LG’s latest model, with the Galaxy out-performing the G3 in our usual benchmarks. The differences aren’t huge though. The most significant one was the framerate in the GFXBench T-Rex 3D gaming test. The G3’s insanely high resolution meant it could only manage 20fps, whereas the Samsung achieved 28fps, due to its more sensible, lower resolution screen.  


Battery life follows a similar pattern. While both phones will comfortably last a day with juice left over, in our benchmarks, it’s the S5 that edges a win. In our video rundown test, which involves playing a 720p video in flight mode, with the screen set to a brightness of 120cd/m2, the S5 consumed 5.2% of battery capacity per hour, whereas the G3 sucked up almost double at 9.1% per hour. 


LG has attempted to mitigate any potential issues with battery life by employing tactics such as the automatic brightness dimming mentioned above, but it’s beaten to the punch by the S5’s Ultra Power saving mode. This nifty feature shuts off mobile data, limits you to a small (customisable) list of essential apps, and switches the display to a much less taxing black-and-white colour scheme, allowing you to eke out another few hours if you accidentally squander your charge while out and about.  

Performance and Hardware
LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
CPU2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8012.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
GPUAdreno 330 Adreno 330 
Gaming Test Score20 FPS28 FPS
Battery Test Score9.1% Per Hour5.2% Per Hour

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5 

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Software 

As is only natural for two handsets that grace our list of the best Android smartphones of 2014, both phones run an Android 4.4 KitKat build, jazzed up in various ways; Samsung has draped its signature TouchWiz interface over the top of it, while LG has tweaked the appearance and layout of its overlay and added a battery of widgets. The LG’s fancy transition animations are prettier to our eye, but there isn’t a great deal between them in terms of the software’s look and feel. 


We like Samsung’s Download Booster technology, which combines your Wi-Fi and 4G signals Voltron-style to ramp up your download speeds, improvements to the settings screen and S Health app, which can now measure your pulse and stress levels through the S5’s inbuilt heart rate sensor. 


The LG G3’s guest mode is excellent (allowing your kids to play with your phone without having access to certain apps and features), it has a spruced-up notification drawer and “Smart Notifications” that can provide traffic updates, remind you to call people back and give you weather-appropriate clothing suggestions. We didn’t find it overly useful. One feature that is extremely handy, however, is the clip tray; this function remembers your recently copied items and allows you to choose from them when you select the paste option – an absolute godsend for those who use their phone as a professional tool.  

LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
SoftwareAndroid v4.4.2 (KitKat)Android v4.4.2 (KitKat)

Winner: LG G3

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Wearable compatibility

One of the most exciting recent developments in tech is the growing number of wearable devices, with both LG and Samsung creating their own line of smartwatches. However, unlike the Apple Watch which can only be used in conjunction with your iPhone, both the LG G Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear range use the cross-device Android Wear OS.


This means that both phones will be compatible with any smartwatch using Android Wear, regardless of which manufacturer made the smartphone; there’s nothing to stop you buying an S5 and pairing it with the LG G Watch R, for instance. However, some of Samsung’s other wearables, such as the Gear 2, are built on Samsung’s Tizen operating system and as such will only work with certain devices such as the S5, the S4, the S4 Zoom, the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Mega 6.3.

If you’re specifically looking for a smartphones to use with your wearable devices, Samsung’s exclusivity restrictions make the Galaxy S5 a better choice… unless you want a Samsung watch.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Storage and connectivity 

The phones are more difficult to separate when it comes to storage and connectivity. Each has a microSD slot for expanding the storage by up to 128GB, and both are NFC-enabled. Both handsets come in 16GB and 32GB flavours, you can replace the battery easily on each and there’s Cat4 4G and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. 


Storage and Connectivity
LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
Expandable Memory128GB128GB
NFC YesYes

Winner: tie

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: Verdict 

While the LG G3 is a very solid phone and you could definitely do worse, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is just a little bit better than it in most respects. On their own, these differences might not seem like much, but add them together and there’s clear air between the too phones. If you’re looking for a flagship smartphone, stump up the extra cash and go for the slightly more expensive S5; you’ll be glad you did. 0

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

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