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Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Google Nexus 5 comparison: which one wears the Android crown?

The Galaxy S6 and Nexus 5 were both designed to show Android at its best, and they’re both absolutely superb smartphones. But which one is better, and is one phone a better buy than the other? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s have a look in this Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5 comparison.

galaxy s6 perspective teaser
The S6 is Samsung's new flagship for 2015. / © Samsung

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: design

It’s nice to see Samsung batting away those Apple comparisons by making its most iPhone-esque Galaxy yet, right down to the lack of expandable storage, a built-in battery and those funny little antenna bands. It’s a nice-looking thing with a solid, premium feel, and while it’s derivative as hell you don’t buy Samsungs for their groundbreakingly original designs, do you?

The Nexus 5 is hardly original either: it’s a solid but fairly ordinary-looking hunk of black smartphone, resembling nothing more than a slightly longer Nexus 4.

galaxy s6 vs iphone 6
The Galaxy is one of the most iPhone-y Samsungs yet. It's nice, though. / © Samsung, Apple, ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: display

The Galaxy S6 has a 5.1-inch display delivering 2560 x 1440 pixels at 576 ppi. The Nexus 5 has a slightly smaller screen with lower resolution and pixel density: it’s 4.95 inches, 1920 x 1080 and 445 ppi. That’s still pretty good for that size of device, but the Samsung is visibly better.

samsung galaxy s6 walpaper
The Galaxy S6's screen is superb. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: processor and RAM

Samsung’s offering is rocking the latest Samsung Exynos, an 8-core 7420 with a max clock speed of 2.1 GHz and 3 GB of on-board RAM. The Nexus 5 has 2 GB of RAM and a quad-core Snapdragon 800 with a max clock speed of 2.3 GHz.

nexus 5 homescreen apps
The Nexus 5 isn't a bad phone, but it feels old in this company. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: storage

In a bold and not entirely popular move by Samsung, the Galaxy S6 has iPhone-esque fixed storage without the ubiquitous microSD card. You’ve got a choice of 32 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB.

The Nexus 5 comes in two flavors: 16 GB or 32 GB. Once again, that isn’t expandable.

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: software

As you’d expect from an early 2015 flagship, the Samsung rocks up with Android 5.0 Lollipop - and this time TouchWiz has been simplified somewhat to make it a bit less cartoony. The older Nexus shipped with stock KitKat 4.4, although the 5.1 update is available now.

samsung galaxy s6 camera modes
The camera is a key selling point for the S6. / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: camera

The camera is one of the Galaxy’s big selling points, and it’s an impressive 16 MP model with good low-light performance and an LED flash. The front-facing camera is 5 MP.

The Nexus cameras are less impressive at 8 MP and 1.3 MP respectively, although they’re perfectly adequate. The Samsung’s miles ahead, though.

androidpit nexus 5 usb 353
Will you be doing this more frequently on the S6 than on the Nexus 5?  / © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: battery

Samsung’s battery choice has raised a few eyebrows here, because at 2550 mAh it’s actually smaller than the battery in previous Galaxies (and it isn’t easily removable either). Samsung says the more efficient 64-bit processor more than compensates and that battery life isn’t negatively effected, even though it’s also driving a more pixel-packed display. We’re crossing our fingers on this one.

The Nexus battery is smaller still at 2300 mAh, but of course it doesn’t have that bigger display to drive.

Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: price

It looks like the Galaxy S6 will retail for $699 upwards, which means it’s even more expensive than Apple’s iPhone 6. However, as always the networks will subsidize handsets on contract so you should be able to get one for significantly less - although don’t expect deep discounting in the honeymoon period just after the phone finally ships in April.

The Nexus has been around for a while and unlocked ones are currently commanding $479 for the 32 GB and $399 for the 16 GB, even though the RRP of that model was $349.

samsung galaxy s6
The Galaxy S6 shows just how fast Android phone tech is moving. / © Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Nexus 5: early verdict

It’s testament to how fast Android is moving that the gap between an early 2015 Samsung and Google’s late-2013 flagship is already so large: the Samsung S6 is much faster, more powerful, has a much better screen and is better in almost every respect than the Nexus 5. It’s better in many respects than the Nexus 6, too.

If you’re after the latest Android tech then the Samsung is clearly the winner here, although Google is keeping the Nexus current with Android updates. It’s not that the Nexus 5 is a bad phone; it’s that the tech has already moved on significantly. That perhaps explains why a second generation Nexus 5 is due before the end of the year.

What do you think about our comparison? Could the Samsung tempt you to trade in your Nexus?


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  • Jim V Mar 19, 2015 Link to comment

    "Samsung says the more efficient 64-bit processor more than compensates and that battery life isn’t negatively effected, even though it’s also driving a more pixel-packed display."

    There is no way the 64-bit processor is going to make up the difference. The processor in a smartphone takes almost no power at all compared to the power used by the screen. The screen uses more power than any other part of a phone. With the Galaxy S6 having a QHD screen there are a lot more pixels for the screen to refresh and a lot more pixels for the GPU to render(1.77x the number of pixels to be exact). Rendering and refreshing that many more pixels is going to use a LOT more power. Add to that a SMALLER battery and the battery life is going to suck.

    Just look at the LG G2 and LG G3 for an example. The G3 had a slightly more efficient processor than the G2 but has much lower battery life and that is with keeping the same 3,000mAh battery.

  • The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are elegant in design and performance is definitely top notch. The Nexus 5 is a battery draining joke at best just to be nice.

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