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LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5 - which one should you buy?

Tom Morgan
9 Aug 2014
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LG's QHD resolution-toting G3 faces off with Samsung's Galaxy S5 - which is the best Android smartphone?

2014 has already been a bumper year for smartphones, with some of the best looking and most powerful handsets ever released already available to buy, but LG is looking to go one step further. When it officially revealed the G3 smartphone last month it introduced the world to QHD resolution screens that still fit in your pocket.

However, screen resolution alone won't make it the best smartphone on the market. The current king of the Android world is Samsung's Galaxy S5, which has been on sale for several months - has LG done enough to dethrone its biggest rival? We've compared the two to see which is the right phone for you.

Now that we've reviewed both phones, we've gone beyond a mere specification comparison to highlight the real-world differences as well as how they stand on paper. We've included screenshots, benchmark figures and photo samples to point out differences in performance, battery life, camera image quality and screen clarity to help you decide whether to opt for Samsung or LG.

SIZE AND WEIGHT

Materials: Samsung has built its smartphones from plastic for years, and the Galaxy S5 is no exception. It has an entirely plastic body with a rubberised rear cover which creates plenty of grip thanks to a dimpled texture. Even the metallic accents around the edges are made from plastic, which makes the £570 phone feel a little cheap compared to its rivals.

Before it was announced, it was rumoured that LG would be following HTC's lead and use an entirely metal chassis like the HTC One (m8), but instead the G3 is made from plastic with a metallic finish. It looks a little more premium than the Galaxy S5, but isn't cool to the touch like HTC's metal wonder and feels indistinguishable from plastic in the hand. It is treated with an anti-fingerprint, scratch resistant coating, however, so it should stay looking pristine like metal would.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

The Galaxy S5 is unashamedly plastic, but the G3 at least tries to look like metal

On the plus side, using plastic has allowed both companies to add more colour options at launch. The G3 will launch in black, white, gold, pink and purple, while the Galaxy S5 is available in black, white, blue and gold hues. We would expect Samsung to add more colours in the future, but LG has stated that it won't be adding additional colours to the range after launch.

Dimensions: Despite having a larger screen and a metallic finish, the G3 is only marginally heavier than the Galaxy S5 at 149g. Arguably you won't notice the difference, though, as the Galaxy S5 weighs an almost identical 145g. At 146x74.6x8.9mm, the G3 is taller, wider and thicker than the Galaxy S5's 142x72.5x8.1mm but again, only marginally so. The curved back means the G3 sits more comfortably in the hand, but feels surprisingly chunkier too. We noticed the difference after a day or so of use switching between the two, so anyone with smaller hands may prefer the slightly more manageable Galaxy.

SCREEN

Screen size: With the G3, LG has launched the biggest screen in a "standard" smartphone to date. Despite being only slightly larger than the 5.1in Galaxy S5, the G3 manages to squeeze in a huge 5.5in display - putting it on par with much larger phablet handsets. Sat side by side the G3 is noticeably larger, but the Galaxy S5 is by no means small - at 5.1in it's still larger than most other handsets on the market. Small hands will struggle to reach the very far corner of the screen on either phone, but it's much easier for general use than a phablet. Both phones are protected from scratches and scrapes by Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

The G3 may only be slightly bigger than the Galaxy S5, but it has almost twice the number of pixels

Resolution: This is the big one - where the Galaxy S5 "only" has a 1,920x1,080, Full HD resolution display, the G3 has a massive 2,560x1,440, QHD resolution panel. That means it has 1.7 times the amount of pixels in a similar physical space, and is able to produce images with significantly more detail than the S5. With a massive 534ppi pixel density, it puts the S5's 431ppi to shame on paper. In practice, photos look noticeably sharper on the G3's higher resolution display, with trees, brickwork, wood and skin features looking particularly sharp when held side-by-side. We thought the Galaxy S5 looked crisp in our original review, but hte G3 takes resolution to a whole other level.

It's also easier to read desktop versions of websites such as the BBC News homepage on the G3 without zooming into the text, as small fonts are crisp and legible. For general use, however, sending text messages, checking Facebook and navigating through Android's homescreens don't benefit greatly from the extra resolution.

Screen technology: The G3 uses a True HD-IPS panel, which uses an internal backlight to illuminate the screen. This helps it produce brighter images and whiter whites than the Galaxy S5's OLED screen, making lighter photos look a little more natural. 

The Galaxy S5's AMOLED display technology illuminates every pixel individually without using a backlight. It should be less power hungry than an LCD display, especially when showing dark or black images. OLED screens have vastly superior contrast over LCD displays too, so darker images or photos with lots of black look deeper and have more visual punch than on the G3.

Where Samsung's AMOLED phones use Pentile displays with diamond-arranged sub pixels, LG uses three sub-pixels for every pixel, which would make everything sharper if they shared the same resolution. The G3 is already significantly sharper than the S5 thanks to its higher resolution anyway, so the difference in pixel structure just emphasises this.

Which display produces the best overall image will depend on your personal preference; on the G3 photos look incredibly sharp and whites look far brighter, but colours aren't quite as vibrant as they are on the Galaxy S5. Darker images also look better on Samsung's phone, and have the added benefit of using less battery power than the G3's LCD backlight. If you value image clarity over punchy colours, the G3 should be your phone of choice, but for watching video with deeper blacks the Galaxy S5 steals it.

PERFORMANCE

Processor: Both the Galaxy S5 and LG G3 use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 system-on-chip processor, which runs at a massive 2.5GHz - making them the fastest Android smartphones available to buy today. On paper, the Galaxy S5 appears to have the edge, with higher scores in the SunSpider Javascript benchmark (408ms vs 649ms from the G3) and 4015 in Geekbench, compared to 2623 from the G3. In practice, however, some apps feel much more responsive on LG's handset; YouTube opens almost half a second faster and the image gallery in particular has fewer stutters than Samsung's app.

Graphics: As both handsets have the same SoC, they both rely on the same Qualcomm Adreno 330 GPU. It's among the fastest mobile Graphics chips around, so should be able to play any of the games currently available in the Google Play Store at a smooth frame rate - at least at 1080p. With the G3's increased resolution, it posted significantly lower frame rates in both the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark (15235 vs 18451 from the Galaxy S5) and 28.9fps in the Epic Citadel flythrough, compared to 57.5fps from the Galaxy.

This won't make a major difference when playing more basic games like Angry Birds, but some of the more demanding games in the Android marketplace may show frame rate drops on the G3 purely because the GPU is working harder to draw more pixels at once.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

Rubberised plastic or a faux metal finish - neither can best the HTC One M8

Memory: The Galaxy S5 is available with 2GB of RAM, which puts it on par with most other flagship smartphones. LG has gone one step further, and will launch two versions of the G3; one with 2GB of RAM and a second, more powerful handset with 3GB of RAM. This may make all the difference when pushing the phone to its limit, as the extra screen resolution will prove taxing on 3D games and apps. Our review unit had 2GB of RAM, matching the Galaxy S5.

Storage: If you opt for the top-spec G3 with 3GB of RAM, it will arrive with 32GB of internal storage. Sticking with the 2GB model means limiting yourself to 16GB of internal memory, although both versions include support for microSD cards. The Galaxy S5 is also available with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, and can also use microSD cards. Unfortunately both are limited by the new permissions changes in Android 4.4 Kitkat, meaning you can't edit files on a microSD card from an app unless it created them.

Battery: On paper, the G3 should have the advantage when it comes to battery life thanks to the 3,000mAh internal battery. It's larger than the Galaxy S5's 2,800mAh cell, but it is also powering an LCD display with significantly more pixels. In our video rundown test, it lasted around 13 hours 10 minutes on a single charge - several hours less than the Galaxy S5's fantastic 17 hour runtime. In general use, we would still expect the G3 to get through an entire day without needing a top up, but the smaller AMOLED screen appears to give the Galaxy the edge in terms of longevity.

CAMERA

The 13-megapixel rear camera on the G3 doesn't sound like a major upgrade over the G2 - it has the same number of megapixels, after all. However, LG has paired it with a laser autofocus, a first for a smartphone, meaning it should be significantly faster to focus when taking photos. In most situations the difference between the G3 and S5 is less than a few tenths of a second, but in low light the G3 has the edge when it comes to focusing on a subject. We also have more faith in its multi-point AF than the S5's single AF point to keep our subjects in focus.

We do like the way that LG provides quick access to its camera, so you can be ready to take a new shot in an instant. When the phone's off you can just long-press on the volume button (mounted on the back) and you jump straight into the camera app. This is much faster than using a short-cut icon on the home screen. As the camera app remembers the last mode you used it in, too, you're ready to start shooting immediately. See how to take better photos with the LG G3 for more information.

LG has fitted a 1/3in sensor paired with a dual LED flash, which can capture 4,160x3,120 stills or record 2160p (4K) video at 30fps. It also uses optical image stabilisation, which should help prevent blurry images from camera shake.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

Both phones have depth of field effects and can record 4K video, but only the G3 has laser focus

Samsung has increased the pixel count for the Galaxy S5, raising up from 13-megapixels in the Galaxy S4 to a 16-megapixel ISOCELL sensor for the S5. The 1/2.6in sensor shoots 4,640x3,480 (16.15-megapixel) stills and records 1080p video at 60fps. It is paired with a standard LED flash.

It is also able to record Ultra HD (4K) 3,840x2,160 video at 30fps, although you'll need a 4K TV or monitor to play back your footage at its native resolution - the G3 can put its QHD screen to use and play this footage back at (an admittedly downscaled) higher resolution. See how to take better photos with the S5 for more information.

In our tests, the G3 produced sharp, detailed images indoors with natural colours. Everything was kept in focus, thanks to the multi-point laser autofocus, and you have to zoom in a long way to spot any signs on noise. Conversely, the Galaxy S5's indoor shots aren't quite as sharp, and lose some definition in the cuddly dog's fur, although colours are slightly more vibrant.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G3 indoor photo example

LG G3 on the left, Galaxy S5 on the right 

Moving outdoors, the G3's laser focus doesn't make as much of a difference to the Galaxy S5's standard autofocus and the results are far more balanced. Both phones do a great job at capturing the detail in the brickwork of the near building, and manage to capture detail in the overcast sky without overexposing the image. It's only once you start zooming in towards the buildings in the distance that the Galaxy S5's extra resolution comes into effect, making it possible to read the pub sign clearly. The Galaxy S5 again produced a more vibrant image, but the difference between the two images was much smaller outdoors.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G3 outdoor photo example

LG G3 on the left, Galaxy S5 on the right 

Enabling High Dynamic Range (HDR) on both phones resulted in even more sky definition, but on the G3 images were noticeably darker. We preferred the Galaxy S5's subtle handling of HDR, which didn't affect the overall image brightness or colour. Samsung's phone also has live-view HDR, meaning you can see onscreen what effect HDR is having on your images before you actually press the shutter. With the G3, users have to snap a picture then check the results to see if HDR was worth enabling.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G3 outdoor photo example - HDR

LG G3 on the left, Galaxy S5 on the right 

Both phones are able to do clever things with image focus, but only if you choose a particular mode when shooting.

The G3 has a better front-facing camera according to the spec sheets; it might have the same number of megapixels as the Galaxy S5, but the pixels that comprise the 2-megapixel sensor are physically larger and the lens has a wider aperture, which helps improve selfies taken at arm's length - even in dimly lit areas.

FEATURES

Aside from the laser-assisted camera, the G3 doesn't have much in the way of crazy extra features. The only thing that stands out is the rear-facing power and volume keys - a necessity to make room for the massive screen, and to slim down the screen bezels as much as possible. This makes a return from the G2, but with redesigned buttons that sit flush to the phone, rather than protruding outwards.

The Galaxy S5, meanwhile, has a huge selection of extra features and gimmicks that set it apart from the competition. It is both dust- and water resistant, and more secure thanks to the fingerprint sensor built into the home button. It's currently more functional than the TouchID sensor seen in Apple's iPhone 5s, as it can be used to authorise paypal payments or secure files so that only you can access them.

Fitness is a strong focus for the S5, as it comes with a heart rate monitor on the back of the handset to measure your pulse. The data is saved to Samsung's S Health app, which can also track exercise, keep a record of your weight and act as a food diary. LG includes G Health, which counts steps using the phone's accelerometer. We noticed the G3 consistently reported a lower number of steps compared to the Galaxy S5, by around 300 steps, but its calorie counting seemed more accurate - the Galaxy S5 suggested we'd burned far more calories than we would expect from a 20 minute walk to work.

The Galaxy S5 is also compatible with Samsung's Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit wearables. LG will be launching the G Watch later this year, but we've been told you won't be restricted to an LG handset to use it.

SOFTWARE

Android version: The Galaxy S5 launched with the very latest 4.4.2 KitKat build of Google's Android operating system, and the G3 followed suit, meaning both handsets are as up to date as possible.

LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

The G3's flat homescreen opts for pastel shades, while the Galaxy S5 uses bright colours

Custom UI (Flat UI, Touchwiz): Customising the look and feel of Android has become one of the main ways for manufacturers to differentiate their smartphones from the competition. Samsung overhauled its Touchwiz UI for the Galaxy S5, redesigning icons with a flatter appearance and changing colours to better match the appearance of Google's KitKat design. The one major change is the quick settings menu, which arranges every option into a grid of icons, rather than a long list. The handset also still relies on physical buttons, rather than the onscreen ones favoured by other manufacturers and Google itself.

The G3 has a redesigned version of LG's Optimus or "flat" UI, which is much more restrained than previous versions. The customisations are few and far between, with only a few built-in apps and a minimal appearance that doesn't detract from the Android experience underneath. There are still a few tweaks, such as the KnockOn and KnockCode security system, Dual Window mode for running two apps simultaneously, and a smart keyboard that can be adapted to suit your typing style.

4G and Wi-Fi

Both the Galaxy S5 and LG G3 support all major 2G, 3G and 4G LTE frequency bands, including the faster Category 4 LTE should your mobile network use it.

Most other wireless technologies are shared across both phones too. Each supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS and GLONASS geo-location and an IR blaster for controlling your TV. Both support dual-band Wi-Fi for stronger signals when your router includes the technology.

Both manufacturers have opted to use the more common micro-SIM rather than the newer, smaller nano-SIM. The Galaxy S5 has a USB3 charging port which can be used for faster data transfer between the phone and a PC, but the G3 makes do with a standard USB2 connection. Regular USB2 cables do work with the S5, but it charges and transfers data faster with USB3.

VERDICT

Picking a winner between the G3 and Galaxy S5 was seriously tough; we loved the G3's more premium look and feel, and incredible high resolution display, but preferred the Galaxy S5's camera for its ability to capture bright, vibrant images in both normal and HDR modes. The Glaaxy S5 has been out for a few months now so can be picked up for less cash upfront or on a cheaper monthly contract, but the G3 can justify the higher price thanks to that screen. Now that you can pick up an Android Wear-powered G Watch from the Google Play Store, Samsung no longer has the edge when it comes to wearables, either. You won't be disappointed with either phone, but right now we think the G3 has the edge overall.

SPECS

ManufacturerSamsungLG
ModelGalaxy S5G3
HARDWARE
ProcessorQuad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM2GB2GB
Screen size5.1in5.5in
Screen resolution1,920x1,0802,560x1,440
Screen typeAMOLEDIPS
Front camera2-megapixel2.1-megapixel
Rear camera16-megapixel13-megapixel
FlashLEDDual-LED
GPSYesYes
CompassYesYes
Storage16GB16GB
Memory card slot (supplied)MicroSDMicroSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0
NFCYesYes
Wireless data4G4G
Size142x72.5x8.1 mm146.3x74.6x8.9mm
Weight145g149g
FEATURES
Operating systemAndroid 4.4 (KitKat)Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Battery size2,800mAh3,000mAh
BUYING INFORMATION
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£560£489
Detailswww.samsung.co.ukwww.lg.co.uk
Part codeSM-G900FLG G3 D855

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