OnePlus One vs. Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison

August 1, 2014
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When industry newcomer OnePlus launched the One they claimed it was a “flagship killer”, targeting the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 in terms of features and functionality, but without the premium cost. Priced at $299 for the base and $349 for the higher-capacity model, the OnePlus One actually competes against mid-range devices like the Google Nexus 5 price-wise, promising a high-end user experience at an accessible price. The One’s launch was quite over-hyped, although reception has been positive so far, supply shortages notwithstanding.

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We earlier compared the OnePlus One with the Google Nexus 5 (made by LG), which are sold at similar price ranges. Here we compare the OnePlus One against the Galaxy 5, which is perhaps the device it intends to compete against. After all, the Chinese company’s motto to “never settle” also means never settling for expensive devices when you can get the same quality for much less.

Read & Watch – OnePlus One Review

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Design and Build Quality

The One and the S5 are built with extremely different design languages. The OnePlus is decidedly the larger device, offering bigger screen real estate in a more stretched package. The S5, built with IP-67 certification, is more rugged in its construction and follows Samsung’s familiar design with rounded corners slapped on a plastic body. There’s the trademark hardware Home button, flanked by the back and the new multi-tasking capacitive button.

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Both devices offer the familiar Android button layout, although the S5’s microUSB charger port at the bottom is covered with a removable tab. This tab helps protect the device against dust, spills and some immersion into water, although it can be cumbersome to use at times. Both handsets have removable back panels, with the S5 offering a removable battery and microSD expansion underneath.

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Here’s where the two differ. The One lets users remove and change the back cover, but the battery is not user-replaceable, nor is there an option for storage expansion. OnePlus actually designed the One to be as simple and straightforward as possible, in terms of the hardware.

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In terms of size, while the One’s screen is bigger by 0.4 inches, the S5’s wider bezel brings the two phones’ physical sizes close together. Now in terms aesthetics, it’s quite subjective, as Samsung’s use of a perforated design on its back cover is a love-it or hate-it deal. Meanwhile, the One comes with a sandstone-like finish, which should give you a good amount of grip and protection against fingerprint smudges.

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Display

Here’s where the Samsung Galaxy S5 shines, as its Super AMOLED display is definitely clearer and crisper than the OnePlus One’s LTPS screen. The S5 shows vivid contrasts and saturated colors, which is a signature among Samsung displays. It can be too vivid at times, however, which could bee too saturated for some. Fortunately, this can be toned down in the settings.

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The One is at an advantage when it comes to multimedia consumption. The 5.5-inch screen should be a treat to use for watching movies, playing games, browsing and even just messaging with friends.

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Both devices come with densities of over 400 PPI, so both should offer crisp and smooth text and images. Given the difference in screen sizes, however (and with both running at 1080p), expect the S5’s display to be crisper than the One’s.

Performance

The S5 and the One come with comparable hardware, with either device running on a Snapdragon 801 with Adreno 330 GPU. The One trumps the S5 in terms of RAM (3GB vs 2GB), although with this much memory in the first place, it might be difficult to feel an advantage in everyday scenarios. With similar platforms, it boils down to the software and optimizations.

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The OnePlus One comes shipped with CyanogenMod 11S — one of the more popular third-party custom ROMs around. While its Android 4.4.4 underpinnings are already a great canvas for features and customizations, the Cyanogen team has customized CM11S with the power user in mind. The OnePlus comes with a bevy of tweaks and settings that are accessible out of the box. For those who want a vanilla Android experience, OnePlus is actually working on an AOSP version of the One, so stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S5 comes with the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz, which can be a subjective matter as it’s decidedly a signature Samsung interface that offers a world of difference over the vanilla Android experience. Still, in our tests, we’ve found that Samsung has optimized TouchWiz to perform better in this iteration — without the lags common in previous versions, except in a very few instances, such as the MyMagazine news aggregator.

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UI preference is really a subjective matter, so if you’re the type to go for in-depth customizations, then the OnePlus One might be the device for you. If you’re satisfied with the colorful UI of TouchWiz and the added functionalities that the S5 offers, such as the ultra low-power setting, fingerprint sensor and heart-rate monitor, then the S5 might be the best.

Still, both devices will give you decent speed and performance, so it’s a choice of whether you prefer Cyanogen’s or Samsung’s user experience.

Hardware

Here’s where Samsung’s flagship devices shine, at least in terms of features and functionality. Samsung is the type to incorporate all sorts of bells and whistles in their top-of-the-line devices. In the case of the Galaxy S5, you have the fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor. While these have their own applications, such as more secure device unlocking or access to financial apps, it’s ultimately up to the user if these are necessary.

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In my opinion, these are add-ons that are nice to have, but not necessarily of value. What I like with the Galaxy S5 is the fact that it has a removable and replaceable battery, which can come in handy when you can pop in a spare. It also offers expandable storage via microSD, which should be a good thing for those who need more than the usual 64 Gigs of space.

With regard to battery life, both devices should last a day of moderate to heavy usage, although the Galaxy S5 does provide ultra power-saving features that can let you squeeze out just a bit more by reducing functionality and display quality.

Camera

With your smartphone being the most convenient and accessible camera that you carry virtually everywhere you go, it’s important to have a good smartphone shooter that you can quickly pull out of your purse or pocket. In this regard, the S5’s 16-megapixel ISOCELL camera is a wonder to use, producing crisp and vivid images. You won’t go wrong with the S5’s camera on Auto mode, although it also offers a handful of modes and settings.

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The One’s 13-megapixel shooter is also decent, and the shipped camera app comes with an innovative swiping interface, through which you can switch among different modes simply by swiping across the screen. Another advantage is the choice of video codec for recording movies — something that can be useful when you’re fond of post-processing videos for sharing or upload.

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Both cameras offer decent speed and performance, with Samsung’s ISOCELL providing quite a bit more, in terms of color saturation. The One’s camera and app is also easy to use, which is a good deal for a device at this price.

Software

OnePlus and Samsung took drastically divergent routes in producing their flagship devices, at least in terms of software. Samsung is all about having a chock-full of functions and features, including its own navigation app, a MultiWindow option and even a floating Toolbox for easy access to apps. The shift to the multitasking button from the old capacitive menu button is a welcome change, in line with the evolution of Android’s UI so far. However, not all add-ons are welcome, such as MyMagazine, which I feel is too curated for general use.

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Meanwhile, OnePlus One took the CyanogenMod route, which is a powerful custom ROM that can be described as Android on steroids. On the surface, it looks like stock Android, but dig deeper into the functions and settings, and it’s decidedly a different beast altogether. You can tweak layouts, interfaces, buttons and themes to your liking. There’s also Cyanogen’s Gallery app and a native screen recorder, which is not usually found in other stock ROMs.

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Again, the choice is subjective: whether you want bells and whistles, including a quick multi-tasking button and MultiWindow, or if you want an interface that you can tweak exactly to your liking.

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Price

Now here’s where the clincher might lie. The OnePlus One is priced more competitively, at $299 for the base model and $349 for the higher-capacity device (unlocked, contract-free). The Samsung Galaxy S5 is often subsidized via two-year contracts, which should make it accessible for anyone willing to go for a post-paid subscription. The device nominally sells for upwards of $600 off-contract, depending on the discount and promotion.

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Do take note, however, that while the Galaxy S5 is widely available in the market, the OnePlus One is still quite scarce, and requires an invite before you can purchase. That’s how in-demand the device is. And OnePlus still has not even launched in certain markets to date!

Price notwithstanding, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S5, as the Korean firm has proven the strength of its Galaxy brand flagship. If you want something fresh and novel (as well as inexpensive and straightforward, too), then the OnePlus One is a good choice.

Gallery

Specs Comparison

 OnePlus OneSamsung Galaxy S5
Display5.5-inch LTPS IPS with TOL display, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 401 ppi. 5.1-inch Super AMOLED, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 432 ppi
Processor2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330
2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330
RAM3 GB2 GB
Storage16/64 GB, no expansion16/32 GB, expandable
Camera13 MP rear LED flash, Sony Exmor RS sensor, 6p lens, f 2.0, 4K, HDR
5MP front, f 2.0, 80 degrees field of view
16 MP ISOCELL sensor, LED flash
2.1 MP front
Battery3,100 mAh2,800 mAh
ConnectivityGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFCGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 3.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
NetworksGSM/WCDMA/FDD-LTE/TD-LTE3G, LTE Cat. 3 2X2 MIMO
SoftwareCyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4 KitkatAndroid 4.4 Kitkat
Dimensions152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
162 grams
142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm,
145 grams

So, which one do you feel is the better choice overall? OnePlus One, or the Galaxy S5? Let us know your thoughts down below.

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