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Samsung Galaxy S6 vs HTC One M9 vs the competition

With HTC and Samsung both announcing new flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and On M9, we breakdown the technical differences between these two cutting edge handsets.
By
March 2, 2015
samsung galaxy s6 43

Both HTC and Samsung have now announced their latest flagship smartphones here at MWC 2015, so it’s time for a showdown. Obviously we can’t really make a judgement call until we get a more extensive look at the two devices side by side, but pitting them against each other on paper is still a good way to get a feel for how the two handsets differ.

With all that said, let’s jump in and take a preliminary look at how the hardware inside the Galaxy S6 compares with the One M9, as well as the best handsets available last generation.

Galaxy S6One M9
Display
Galaxy S6
5.1-inch Super AMOLED, 2560 x 1440 (577 ppi)
One M9
5-inch LCD, 1920x1080 (442 ppi)
SoC
Galaxy S6
14nm Exynos 7420
One M9
20nm Snapdragon 810
CPU
Galaxy S6
4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53
One M9
4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53
GPU
Galaxy S6
ARM Mali-T760
One M9
Adreno 430
RAM
Galaxy S6
3GB
One M9
3GB
Storage
Galaxy S6
32/64/128 GB
One M9
32GB
MicroSD?
Galaxy S6
No
One M9
Yes
Cameras
Galaxy S6
16MP OIS rear, 5MP front
One M9
20MP rear, Ultrapixel front
Battery
Galaxy S6
2,550 mAh
One M9
2,840 mAh
Dimensions
Galaxy S6
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
One M9
144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm

Starting with the display, Samsung’s 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 makes the move up to QHD (2560 x 1440), matching the likes of the LG G3, Nexus 6 and the Galaxy Note 4. HTC has chosen to stick with 1080p in its 5-inch device, which should give the Galaxy S6 a slight advantage at close viewing distances (content permitting). However, 1080p is still very much in the sweet spot for a 5-inch handset, so the M9 won’t disappoint. AMOLED vs LCD is still an ongoing debate, but usually you’ll find more vivid colors with Samsung’s AMOLED technology, be that for better or worse depending on your own preference.

Under the hood, this generation sees the first 64-bit flagships from both companies, but, unlike previous years, the two handsets feature different processing packages. While not totally dissimilar, there are some important differences between Samsung’s Exynos 7420 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 powering the One M9, and some big differences when compared with last gen’s Snapdragon 801/805 handsets.

LG G Flex 2Galaxy Note 4Nexus 6
Display
LG G Flex 2
5.5-inch P-OLED,
1920x1080 (403 ppi)
Galaxy Note 4
5.7-inch Super AMOLED,
2560 x 1440 (515 ppi)
Nexus 6
6-inch AMOLED,
2560 x 1440 (493 ppi)
SoC
LG G Flex 2
20nm Snapdragon 810
Galaxy Note 4
20nm Exynos 5433 |
28nm Snapdragon 805
Nexus 6
28nm Snapdragon 805
CPU
LG G Flex 2
4 x Cortex-A57 + 4 x Cortex-A53
Galaxy Note 4
4 x Cortex-A57 + 4 x Cortex-A53
| 4 x Krait 450
Nexus 6
4 x Krait 450
GPU
LG G Flex 2
Adreno 430
Galaxy Note 4
Mali-T760 | Adreno 420
Nexus 6
Adreno 420
RAM
LG G Flex 2
2/3GB
Galaxy Note 4
3GB
Nexus 6
3GB
Storage
LG G Flex 2
16/32GB
Galaxy Note 4
32GB
Nexus 6
32GB/64GB
MicroSD?
LG G Flex 2
Yes
Galaxy Note 4
Yes
Nexus 6
No
Cameras
LG G Flex 2
13MP OIS rear, 2.1MP front
Galaxy Note 4
16MP OIS rear, 3.7MP front
Nexus 6
13MP OIS rear, 2MP front
Battery
LG G Flex 2
3,000 mAh
Galaxy Note 4
3,220 mAh
Nexus 6
3,220 mAh
Dimensions
LG G Flex 2
149.1 x 75.3 x 7.1-9.4 mm
Galaxy Note 4
153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
Nexus 6
159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm

Both SoCs make use of an octa-core ARMv8-A Cortex-A57 and A53 configuration, offering a superior balance between peak performance and low background power consumption over the last generation. However, Samsung’s chip will be produced on a 14nm process versus the Snapdragon 810’s 20nm, meaning extra energy savings that could be put towards additional performance or batter life. It looks like Samsung has opted for the latter, as the Galaxy S6 features a smaller 2,550mAh than the One M9, both of which are below the 3,000mAh target that many handsets exceeded last generation.

Even so, both SoC’s will offer energy savings over last year’s 28nm Snapdragon chips. Smaller, more energy efficient processing packages are the calling card of the 2015 generation.

We saw some performance hitching with the LG G Flex 2’s 1080p display and Snapdragon 810 combination, but haven’t noticed the same problem with HTC’s One M9. On the CPU side of things then, performance between the Galaxy S6 and One M9 should be almost identical, and will be in the region of recent high-end handsets like the Galaxy Note 4 and G Flex 2, and marginally ahead of older Snapdragon 800 and 801 handsets.

samsung galaxy s6 antutu benchmark

GPU performance could be a different story, however. The Galaxy S6’s QHD display will put additional stress on the graphics chip when playing games, compared with the M9’s 1080p display. We saw some performance slowdowns with the Adreno 330 powered LG G3, but the Galaxy Note 4’s Mali-T760 proved to be a more adequate performer at this resolution. Benchmarks indicate that the Galaxy S6’s Exynos 7420 has some additional GPU grunt over the older Exynos 5433, probably as a result of two additional GPU cores. We’ve already seen that the Snapdragon 810’s Adreno 430 flies at 1080p, so performance won’t be an issue on the M9.

We’ll have to run some real world tests, but it seems that Samsung has bulked up its GPU to help cope with the extra display resolution. However, both of these components could end up costing the handset some battery time compared with the M9 and other smartphones on the market, so we’ll definitely have to run some battery tests too.

Snapdragon 810 Basemark Overall
Snapdragon 810 3DMark Graphics

From the benchmark’s that we’ve seen, the Snapdragon 810 comes out ahead of the existing pack, mostly in the graphics department. Given the similar CPU architecture of the Exynos 7420, stronger GPU but more demanding display resolution, it’s likely that performance will be similar for Samsung’s handset too.

Storage options are an interesting choice this time around. Samsung has disappointingly dropped microSD card support in favor of aesthetic design, but now offers 128GB of storage for those who need it. HTC is sticking with a single 32GB storage option, but offers microSD support for those who want it. The M9 is more in-line with what is currently available in other handsets, while Samsung’s 128GB option far exceeds other Android manufacturers.

htc one m9 31

As for cameras, it’s impossible to judge accurately without some real world test shots, but HTC has seriously upped its resolution game following criticisms of its Ultrapixel technology, and has moved over to a back-illuminated sensor for better low-light performance. 20MP vs 16MP is close to call in terms of sharpness, so we’ll have to wait to test low-light and noise performance to decide on the winner, but both should be very good. If you’re a selfie lover, there’s a choice to be had between Samsung’s 90 degree wide-angle 5MP camera or HTC’s Ultrapixel technology, both of which exceed most front cameras on recent high-end smartphones.

HTC has closed the camera resolution gap with Sony’s Xperia Z flagships, while Samsung’s 16MP sensor, the same as in the Galaxy Note 4, sits nicely above the now common high-end 13MP resolution. However, we would ideally liked to have seen HTC adopt optical image stabilization, which was already a staple of LG and Samsung handsets last gen.

LG G3OnePlus OneSony Xperia Z3
Display
LG G3
5.5-inch LCD, 2560 x 1440 (538 ppi)
OnePlus One
5.5-inch LCD, 1920x1080 (401 ppi)
Sony Xperia Z3
5.2-inch LCD, 1920x1080 (424 ppi)
SoC
LG G3
28nm Snapdragon 801
OnePlus One
28nm Snapdragon 801
Sony Xperia Z3
28nm Snapdragon 801
CPU
LG G3
4 x Krait 400
OnePlus One
4 x Krait 400
Sony Xperia Z3
4 x Krait 400
GPU
LG G3
Adreno 330
OnePlus One
Adreno 330
Sony Xperia Z3
Adreno 330
RAM
LG G3
2/3GB
OnePlus One
3GB
Sony Xperia Z3
3GB
Storage
LG G3
16/32 GB
OnePlus One
16/64 GB
Sony Xperia Z3
16/32 GB
MicroSD?
LG G3
Yes
OnePlus One
No
Sony Xperia Z3
Yes
Cameras
LG G3
13MP OIS rear, 2.1MP front
OnePlus One
13MP rear, 5MP front
Sony Xperia Z3
20.7MP rear, 2.2MP front
Battery
LG G3
3,000 mAh
OnePlus One
3,100 mAh
Sony Xperia Z3
3,100 mAh
Dimensions
LG G3
146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm
OnePlus One
152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
Sony Xperia Z3
146 x 72 x 7.3 mm

Extra features are usually what differentiate the cutting edge flagships from the strong performers, and here the Galaxy S6 perhaps begins to pull away from the M9 and the rest of the pack.

Take it or leave it, the Galaxy S6 comes with an improved fingerprint scanner, will support Samsung’s upcoming NFC payment platform, and will work with both WPC and PMA wireless charging standards. Both handsets support fast charging, as do many of last gen’s flagships, but HTC doesn’t include any wireless charging options. To HTC’s credit, BoomSound is still a good feature that will likely win some consumers over, and the handset supports slightly faster Cat 9 LTE speeds of 450 Mbps, compared with the S6’s Cat 6 peak download of 300Mbps.

samsung galaxy s6 34
htc one m9 51

 

Software could also be a decisive factor for some. Although Samsung has slimmed down its TouchWiz software this time, HTC has an excellent track record of offering excellent features while maintaining smooth performance throughout. Both devices now support themes, which will provide plenty of choice for those who don’t like the default aesthetics.

Android Lollipop’s little tweaks also bring marginal improvements, but as most last generation handsets have already begun receiving similar updates, having the latest version of Android is not a major selling point as it has been in previous years.

Compared with other handsets on the market, the HTC One M9 is a refinement of last years 5-inch flagship standard, offering some improved specifications, a tad more processing power and all the features that most people will need. However, many may be disappointed that look and specifications are still remarkably similar to last year’s device.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is more of a leader in the hardware department, featuring the very best of Samsung’s display technology and slightly more advanced SoC hardware, with some additional features thrown in to separate it from the pack. Overall, it offers a bit more over its last generation iteration than the M9 does, and should end up as the best performing QHD handset on the market. However, the smaller battery may end up as a bottleneck for all of this tech.

While the Nexus 6, Galaxy Note 4, G Flex 2 and One M9 all offer decent improvements over the 1080p Snapdragon 800 generation, the Galaxy S6 combines all of these changes together into a single package and with it the 64-bit, QHD era has fully arrived.

Where do the Galaxy S6 and One M9 fit in your rankings?