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LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: an in-depth look

The two South Korean phone giants go head to head as we take a closer look at the LG G3 vs the Samsung Galaxy S5!

Published onJune 24, 2014

The latest 2014 flagship smartphones from all major Android OEMs are now available, and it’s always interesting to see how they fare against each other. Every flagship may have some key features in common, but also manage to offer something unique, be it the full metal design of the HTCOne M8, or the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor of the Samsung Galaxy S5.

The LG G3 was the last smartphone to make it out of the gate, but does it offer enough to take the lead over some stiff competition? In the first of many comparisons to come, today, we’ll be taking a look at the LG G3 against the Samsung Galaxy S5!

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When it comes to design, both of these smartphones tried to offer something that would stand out with their overall material choices. But as we now know, both Samsung and LG managed to bring something different to the table, without straying too far from their past iterations.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 mostly retains its look from previous generations, with an angular look with rounded corners, which has more or less become a signature look for Samsung smartphones. What is now different is a back cover that is made from a perforated, or dimpled, plastic material. Unfortunately, this change did not receive the best welcome. While many appreciated the move away from glossy plastic, some considered it a step down from the faux leather rear cover that was first introduced with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

LG seems to have a grasp on the negativity toward glossy plastic as well, and moved to a harder polycarbonate that was treated to have a brushed feel. Granted, LG did have our hopes up with regards a metal body, but this change was still quite appreciated. The LG G3 definitely has an attractive exterior that arguably moved in a more stylish direction compared to the Samsung Galaxy S5.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 retains the same button layout that we’re all used to, with the tactile home button flanked by a capacitive back key, and, this time, a Recent Apps key. The power button and the volume rocker are found on the right and left sides respectively. On the other hand,  the unorthodox button layout of the LG G3 definitely takes some getting used to, with the latest flagship featuring a more refined version of the rear buttons that were first introduced with its predecessor. Having to access the buttons placed at the back of the phone does begin to feel very natural after some time.

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While the Samsung Galaxy S5 features a 5.1-inch display, up by 0.1-inch from the Galaxy S4, the screen of the LG G3 grew a whole half inch diagonally over its predecessor, to 5.5-inches. This might have meant a huge difference in the size and resulting handling experience, but that isn’t the case this time. Courtesy of its ultra-thin bezels, the LG G3 doesn’t outsize the Galaxy S5 by more than a few millimeters on any side. The result is a great handling experience on the LG G3, a phone that is barely harder to manoeuvre than the Galaxy S5. If you are a  stickler for one-handed usage, the Galaxy S5 will probably be better for you, but not by much.

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As mentioned, the reason for this compact design of LG’s flagship is the very thin bezels all around, allowing for a maximized screen real estate. On the other hand, the Galaxy S5 grew its bezels out a little more, likely as an accommodation for its IP67 certification, which is certainly a small price to pay in exchange for the protection against and dust and water.

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Overall, while we do enjoy the evolution of design of the LG G3 quite a bit more, its shortcomings in the resistance department makes it the more fragile device of the two. Nonetheless, we tip the hat to LG for managing to pack a larger screen into its device, without making the handling experience that much different than that of the Samsung flagship.

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Display technology might be hotly debated here, as the IPS performer on the LG G3 has been blown up quite a bit, while the AMOLED tech of the Galaxy S5 continues to please.

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High saturation is the name of the game when it comes to the Galaxy S5, with colors that really pop out. Sharpness and viewing angles are fantastic on this screen that comes with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 432 ppi. When compared to the bigger LG G3 screen, we don’t see the Galaxy S5 display really losing too much ground, but the display of the LG device is definitely a sight to behold.

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A pretty massive increase to a resolution of 2560×1440 resolution results in a pixel density of 534 ppi, which is noticeable when compared to the 1080p competitor, albeit not by too much.Viewing text on this display is a breeze, and media viewing does get a boost with the larger screen, making both games and video enjoyable across the board. While its viewing angles might suffer a bit and its colours take on a warmer tone, the takeaway is that the G3’s large display is very enjoyable.

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That said, if you’re looking for punchier colours and don’t need the higher resolution, you can have a great time with the Samsung Galaxy S5. We just have to give LG a lot of credit for doing a really good job with their first Quad HD display.

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With regards to performance, there is little to differentiate between the two smartphones, as both sport a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5GHz, backed by the Adreno 330. Both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the 16GB variant of the LG G3 come with 2GB of RAM, but you get the extra boost of 3 gigs of RAM if you pick up the 32GB version of the latter.

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Work and play are ultimately as easy as they can get on these two flagships, as either one will perform exactly the way you need them to. Users who tend to harp on lag won’t find any that will truly hinder their experience, but it is worth noting that both operating systems can suffer from some architectural issues that can be perceived as lag. This is of course not due to any shortcomings on the part of the processing packages, but rather the way the user interfaces loads are structured. Good examples of this issue are the Recent Apps screen on the LG G3 and MyMagazine loading every article at once on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Ultimately though, speed is in no shortage here, and you’ll get everything you need done easily, with either smartphone.

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There’s also no shortage when it comes to hardware offerings, though Samsung continues to try and pack in more than the competition, even if the usefulness of these extras always comes into question. With both smartphones, a removable back cover allows access to a replaceable battery and expandable storage, while the slew of connectivity options are included, like NFC and IR blasters. Mobile connectivity should be no issue either, as both smartphones will be available from every major network carrier in the US.

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Where the Samsung Galaxy S5 pulls ahead is with its heart rate monitor on the back and the fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the physical home button. Unfortunately, these features are ultimately useful just for those specifically looking for them. A far better reason to recommend the Galaxy S5 over the LG G3 is its IP67 certification, for protection against dust and water, which makes the Galaxy S5 a much sturdier phone.

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If you’re just looking for the usual bells and whistles, either one of these phones will satisfy, as everything from controlling TVs to using Bluetooth headsets is possible. When it comes to battery life, both phones are able to work for long hours, with a plus for the LG G3, because it manages to go the distance even with a larger and crisper display.

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It’s in the camera department that we begin to find some real differences, as both LG and Samsung bring their own flavours of enhancements to the table.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 includes its ISOCELL technology, which takes a somewhat different approach to capturing photo data. It does yield some great photos and continues the tradition of Samsung’s great optics quality. Colours are really out there, as is usually the case with Samsung saturation. Details are all captured pretty well in good lighting, but unsurprisingly taper off as the light gets worse. 16 megapixels also give you quite a bit of room to crop and cater your photo if you need to.

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LG, on the other hand, has continued to improve its optical image stabilization with OIS+, a feature that more phones should come with. But that’s not all they have done this time around — a laser focusing system helps track subjects much faster, and ultimately yields a focusing speed that is leaps and bounds faster than what is possible with the LG G2. LG’s confidence in the laser system is evident in the fact the camera interface starts off very bare; tapping on the screen both focuses and takes the shutter at the same time.

The Galaxy S5’s camera provides a little more functionality, as well as manual controls, but the LG G3 manages to create consistently great photos in Auto mode, which is a testament to its capabilities. Pictures tend to take on a warmer tone overall in this case, but detail is still captured well and images remain pleasing throughout.

When it comes to quality, I do find the playing field more or less even between these two cameras. The high saturation of the Galaxy S5 shots keep pretty much every photo from being dull, and is at a level somewhat higher than that in the LG G3. Low light performance is about the same on both devices, despite Samsung’s software enhancements and LG’s OIS.

In the end, the Samsung Galaxy S5 provides a little more freedom for anyone who wants control, but the LG G3 camera is the faster performer, with its laser guided system that manages to keep the quality level pretty high.

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Finally, when it comes to software, both operating systems received updates meant to refresh what was perceived as overplayed and dull in previous iterations. In a nutshell, the core Android experience is at its best no matter which phone you choose, so the differences are in what the devices add to the formula. Samsung has consistently put new features into its interface, but LG has also made its own strides in providing useful tools.

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Starting with Samsung, a new circle motif has permeated throughout the Settings menus, while a flatter look all around did clean things up a bit. Various familiar Samsung features return in the Galaxy S5, like MultiWindow and air gestures. New additions include a Toolbox for easy access to five defined apps, and a Download Booster that uses data and wi-fi in tandem, which helps boost download speeds considerably, but is something to be used sparingly to avoid going over your mobile data limits.

MyMagazine is an attempt to bring a useful second homescreen news service, but its ties to Flipboard make it little more than a full screen widget, that ultimately ends up putting too many layers between you and the content.

What is most striking about the updates to the Touchwiz UI was that, despite all the changes, it still feels like a skin over the same old UI that people either hate or love by now. While the changes are welcome, they are not enough to make a real difference.

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When it comes to LG, we do like the direction in which the design aesthetic is heading, though it’s more about hiding eyesore elements, rather than fundamentally changing them.

MultiWindow makes it to the LG G3, which makes perfect sense considering the larger screen. New additions include the Smart suite of applications, like Smart Cleaner, for deleting temporary files, and Smart Notify, which ultimately amounts to little more than a wordy weather report.

The QSlide and QMemo apps are still present, but are hidden behind yet another shade in the notification dropdown. The most useful software feature in the G3’s arsenal continues to be Knock Code, which is an easy way to secure your phone without making it too difficult to access.

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In the end, you get a slew of features on both smartphones, but with so many tools at your disposal, the question is, how many times will you use them? I don’t really use air gestures on Samsung phones at all, while on the LG device, I pretty much never use Q-Slide applications. Deciding which one looks better is up to you, but both devices suffer from feature overload, in my opinion.

LG G3Samsung Galaxy S5
5.5-inch IPS LCD, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
Samsung Galaxy S5
5.1-inch Super AMOLED, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 432 ppi
2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU, Adreno 330
Samsung Galaxy S5
2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU, Adreno 330
2GB or 3GB w/ 3GB model
Samsung Galaxy S5
2 GB
16 GB or 32 GB, microSD with expansion
Samsung Galaxy S5
16/32 GB, expandable
13MP rear cam with OIS and laser auto focus, 2.1MP front
Samsung Galaxy S5
16 MP ISOCELL sensor, LED flash
2.1 MP front
3,000 mAh removable
Samsung Galaxy S5
2,800 mAh removable
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, USB v2.0, Slim Port
Samsung Galaxy S5
GPS, GLONASS, microUSB 3.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
4G LTE support
Samsung Galaxy S5
3G, LTE Cat. 3 2X2 MIMO
Android 4.4 KitKat with LG UI
Samsung Galaxy S5
Android 4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz UI
146.3 x74.6 x 9.1 mm,
151 grams
Samsung Galaxy S5
142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm,
145 grams

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Both phones are going to fetch premium prices at major carriers in the US, though the Samsung Galaxy S5 has been available for some time now and is currently easier to get your hands on. Unlocked, both phones come close to the typical $700 price point.

And so, there you have it, the LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5. It’s easy to get excited over the larger screen of the LG G3, but even underneath the surface, LG provided its best experience yet. But the same can be said about the Samsung Galaxy S5, minus the massive high-resolution display.

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Over the years, LG has been gaining ground on Samsung, proving that it can offer just as much, if not more, in its flagship devices.

We continue to get closer to an even playing field here; LG takes the lead when it comes to the Quad HD screen, while the IP certification remains a selling point for Galaxy S5. In software, the feature lists are arguably too long in either case, though the core experience is as good as ever. Both cameras are great at what they do, though the leap forward on the LG G3 is more substantial than the effect of ISOCELL tech of the Galaxy S5. Finally, when it comes to build quality and design, the LG G3 looks and feels better, in our opinion, than the dimpled Galaxy S5.

While Samsung has always been pretty good, LG is truly coming into its own with its latest flagship. In the end, you can’t go wrong with either of these devices.

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