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Nexus 5 vs Galaxy S4

Andrew Williams


Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Which Android phone to buy?

Samsung Galaxy S4 or Nexus 5? Both are still great Android phones and are now much cheaper to own now. We compare the specs

The Samsung Galaxy S4 was the best-selling high-end Android phone of 2013 and since been updated through the Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy S6.

One of its top rivals is the Google Nexus 5, a phone made by LG. It costs just £299, but is it really the best Android around, as some claim? Let's see how it stacks up against the Galaxy S4.

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – Price and Deals

Nexus 5 – From £299 SIM-free

Galaxy S4 – From £385 SIM-free

The Galaxy S4 price has come down a good deal since the phone launched in early 2013 – from £600 to around £380. However, it’s still a fair bit more expensive than the Nexus 5.

The Nexus 5 starts at £299 direct from Google. That gets you the 16GB edition, while the 32GB version costs £339.

There are multiple versions of the Galaxy S4, maxing out at 64GB of storage. However, by far the most common version in the UK is the 16GB edition. That's the version you can get for a shade under £400.

If you want so save some money, the Nexus 5 is the way to go.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs S5 vs S6

S4 front

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 - Design

Nexus 5 – Matt black plastic, 8.6mm, 130g

Galaxy S4 – glossy plastic, 7.9mm, 130g

The Nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 have quite different approaches to design, but both are made of plastic. The Nexus 5 has a simpler, matt black design while the Galaxy S4 uses glossy plastic. In our opinion, the Nexus 5 feels better in the hand.

These phones weigh the same amount – 130g. That’s very light for a phone of this size. The Galaxy S4 is the slimmer of the two, at an impressive 7.6mm thick, but the Nexus 5 isn’t chunky enough to make this a particularly serious consideration.

However, the Galaxy S4 does have one significant design benefit. It has a microSD memory card slot that lives under the battery cover. The Nexus 5’s back is non-removable, but this helps to give it a more solid feel than the Galaxy S4.

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – Screen

Nexus 5 – 1080p 5-inch IPS screen

Galaxy S4 – 1080p 5-inch Super AMOLED

The screens of these two phones are fairly evenly matched. They are both five inches across (4.95 inches and 4.99 inches to be exact) and have 1080p resolution panels.

Their screen types are completely different, though. The Nexus 5 has an IPS-type screen and the Galaxy S4 a Super AMOLED screen.

The key difference is that IPS screens use a standard backlight where AMOLEDs use light-emitting pixels, helping to provide much better contrast than an IPS screen can hope to. However, this only really becomes apparent when looking at the phone’s screen in a pitch black room. The Nexus 5 still offers very good contrast, even in dimly-lit rooms.

The Nexus 5 fights back with sharpness. As the Galaxy S4 uses an irregular sub-pixel array (a diamond shaped PenTile layout), sharpness isn’t quite as good as the Nexus. However, as with contrast, you simply won’t notice the difference in everyday use. Both screens are extremely sharp.

One minor pitfall of the Galaxy S4 screen is that it lets you oversaturate the colours – a common issue with AMOLED-type screens. However, make sure the phone is on the right screen setting in the phone’s menu and image quality is top notch.

Nexus 5

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – Software and Interface

Nexus 5 – Android 4.4

Galaxy S4 – Android 4.3 with TouchWiz

The Nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 are polar opposites in terms of their approach to Android. The Nexus 5 uses completely vanilla Android 4.4 KitKat while the Galaxy S4 has a heavily customised version of Android 4.3.

Samsung generally refers to it as the 'Samsung UI' these days, but it’s better-known as TouchWiz. It adds a load of features, such as Smart Stay, which keeps the screen active when the front camera senses your eyes looking at the display. Yep, many of Samsung’s additions are a bit gimmicky. And it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the redesigned interface of Android 4.4 KitKat.

Neither phone suffers from any particularly significant lag, though. TouchWiz is a fairly bloated interface, though, which can cause some slight slow-down when you have a bunch of apps installed.

The Nexus 5’s vanilla Android 4.4 has fewer features, but still has enough to satisfy most people. It also features pre-installed Quickoffice, the Google Android alternative to Microsoft Office. The Galaxy S4 comes with Polaris Office pre-installed. It’s a third-party alternative. And Quickoffice is available for free from Google Play anyway, if you don’t get on with Polaris.

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – Power - CPU, GPU and RAM

Nexus 5 – Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU

Galaxy S4 – Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.9GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU

The six months between the releases of the Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 shows up in their specs. Where the Galaxy S4 uses a Snapdragon 600 processor, the Nexus 5 has a newer Snapdragon 800 chip.

Its clock speed is significantly higher – 2.3GHz to the Galaxy S4’s 1.9GHz, and the chip is significantly faster all-round. Of course, this difference is largely academic as any slow-down in the Samsung phone is a result of software optimisation issues rather than a lack of raw power. They’re both fast chips.

Both phones have 2GB of RAM, which is enough to keep them running well with plenty of apps installed.

Benchmarks such as AnTuTu, Kraken and 3DMark all show that the Nexus 5 is significantly more powerful than the Galaxy S4, and is closer to the performance of the newer Galaxy Note 3.

Nexus 5 vs Galaxy S4 - Storage

Nexus 5 – 16/32GB internal storage, non-expandable

Galaxy S4 – 16GB,32GB and 64GB with microSD card slot

If it sounds like we're not picking enough of a clear winner in some categories, storage makes it easy to pick one clear winner – it's the Galaxy S4. It has a microSD memory card slot under its battery cover, letting you bump up the internal memory for just a few quid.

We do think some people obsess a little too much over the idea of expandable memory, but it is very handy if you want to use your phone as a portable video player.

Both phones have at least 16GB of internal memory, but there are higher-end models available too. There's a 32GB edition of the Nexus 5, and both 32GB and 64GB versions of the Galaxy S4. The higher-capacity versions aren't readily available, though. The 64GB version in particular is very hard to get hold of in the UK.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6

Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – Camera

Nexus 5 – 8-megapixel sensor with LED flash, 1.3MP front camera

Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash, 2MP front camera

One aspect of the Nexus 5 that feels like a bit of a cutback is the camera. It has an 8-megapixel camera – not too bad – but it’s an infuriatingly slow snapper at times. You can take great shots with the thing, but you need patience. It’s pretty unreliable too, suffering from issues with white balance and exposure. Its saving grace is a rather good HDR mode, although this too needs some patience as it’s not super-fast.

The Galaxy S4 camera is more reliable, higher-res and quicker. It also has oodles of features, in traditional Samsung style.

There’s one killer extra in the Nexus 5 – optical image stabilisation. This gives the Nexus better low-light performance than the Samsung phone, and many other rivals too.

Neither camera is particularly high-end, though. They both use 1/3.2-inch sensors – the normal size for a phone – and unremarkable lenses. The Galaxy S4 has an f/2.4 lens and the Nexus 5 a fairly slow f/2.5 lens.

Fingers crossed Google or LG (the phone’s maker) will sort out some of the Nexus 5’s issues in an update. But for now the Galaxy S4 is a better all-rounder.


Despite the Galaxy S4 price drop, the Nexus 5 is still significantly cheaper than the Galaxy S4. And given you get a comparable screen, faster processor, prettier software and – in our opinion – a slightly more appealing design. It’s the better-value option.

Eduardo Ortiz

October 28, 2013, 11:01 pm

How can you judge a camera by megapilxels only. The htc one has a 4.3 megapixel sensor but in my opinion, the camera is better than the s4's 13MP camera.


October 29, 2013, 2:24 am

One has 4.3 ULTRA pixels


October 29, 2013, 8:54 am

Thats ultra pixels on HTC and it doesin't have better a camera


October 29, 2013, 10:36 am

True, the Nexus 5 has OIS, whereas the S4 doesn't, which can drastically improve certain types of photo, especially in low-light. There's also rumours of the N5 having MEMS for changing the focus after shooting. These features could make the N5 camera much more reliable in real-world usage than the S4, even if it's megapixel count isn't as high.

Kevin Muldoon

October 30, 2013, 12:11 pm

The Nexus 5 does not have 3GB of RAM. It has 2GB.


October 30, 2013, 6:05 pm

you really have no idea what you're talking about do you. 'ultra' pixel is just a marketing term


October 30, 2013, 6:06 pm

see my reply to mr.x

people are so easy to sell crap, as long as it has some cool sounding word in it. 'ultra pixel', '64bit processor' (iphone5s)


October 31, 2013, 12:20 pm

I upgraded from a Galaxy S3 to a HTC One, and in daylight, the S3 produces much better images than my HTC One.

I took both phones to Cuba (my girlfriend now has the S3), and the HTC One blew out the highlight on every daytime shot. At night all the pictures where blurry and grainy because it thought I didn't want to use the flash, so relied on high ISO and poor image stabilisation.

HTC boasted about image quality. Well I've yet to see one good photo from this camera. I've been a keen photographer for the past 26 years, and own a Canon 5D MkII and Fuji X100S so know a bit about photography. It's a shame HTC doesnt :-o

Kas Eistra

October 31, 2013, 10:20 pm

Please stop stressing the importance of a removable battery and the expandable storage in phone reviews.. 99% of the buyers don't care and will never change their battery or memory card.. These phones are being reviewed by tech enthousiasts. That's great, but they tend to look at the phone from their own perspective. You should have novice co-writers on these reviews so the focus shifts a bit more to the average user.


October 31, 2013, 10:44 pm

Yeah, as an HTC One owner I have to agree, the camera is a bit of a let down.

Now that I've been using it for a while, so is Sense 5 - I'm rooting mine and making it a Google Edition as soon as KitKat is released for that version of the handset.


October 31, 2013, 11:25 pm

Seriously where in the UK can the 32Gb or the 64Gb Galaxy S4 be found! I just did a quick google search does not look like it is available anywhere.


November 1, 2013, 2:02 am

I'm not familiar with UK purchasing, but I just bought my 32gb S4 on Amazon last night (new) $199 with AT&T. Give it a shot.


November 1, 2013, 9:37 am

The last we heard, the retailers that were once planning on stocking the 64GB version canned the idea due to lack of interest!


November 1, 2013, 11:27 am

No, please KEEP stressing the importance of user replaceable batteries and expandable storage. It's the 'novice' non-tech enthusiasts who need to educate themselves, don't dumb everyone else down to your level!


November 2, 2013, 5:37 pm

Well, 64 bit actually does make a big difference between 32 bit. But yes, ultra pixel is a load of plops


November 3, 2013, 9:44 am

I know for a fact Andrew Williams, who reviews most of our phones, doesn't rate the HTC One's camera, either. It's not bad bad, but the benefit of 'Ultra Pixels' is overplayed, I think.


November 11, 2013, 2:56 pm

It's very important to be able to replace the battery when it doesn't work as expected or when you have a spare one. The same goes for the memory card.


December 12, 2013, 6:07 am

Where, pray tell, did you see this? It clearly states they both have 2 gigs of RAM. Read closer before being a dink.


December 12, 2013, 6:10 am

It's weird how people aren't impressed by the HTC One's camera. I was dumbfounded in the fact that HTC even managed to MAKE a good phone lol. But the one thing I loved the about the One's camera is it was far better in low light settings (that's for me though, most of my activities and work are through the hours of the night)


December 12, 2013, 6:15 am

I wouldn't go as far as to insult it as a gimmick. It did need a name for the fact it's new. By your logic, Snapdragon, Radeon, TruStudio are all just gimmicks. It's a name they picked. Sheesh.


December 12, 2013, 2:09 pm

It's OKAY in low light, but not as good as was expecting (well, maybe hoping?) - maybe I was asking for too much from it.

I do really love the aluminium body, but then I realised it doesn't matter as it lives in a plastic case (I have butter fingers, it is absolutely required for me to put it in a case) so I'm basically left wishing it had a Moto G style rear.

The screen is phenomenal though and I love the Beats Audio/Boomsound - that was brilliant the few times I've been staying in a hotel and wanted to play some music, the quality is really impressive (obviously not hifi standard).

Kevin Muldoon

December 16, 2013, 9:41 pm

The original article stated 3GB of RAM. They have since corrected this error. Pay attention to the fact my comment was published months ago and this article has been updated several times since then...you dink! :)

Jack Gaunt

December 30, 2013, 11:23 am



January 7, 2014, 6:48 pm

Eh, then why not complain about other things too, like a user replaceable screen? If the battery goes wrong, it's a problem you need to handle using the warranty, like you would with any other defect.


January 7, 2014, 6:51 pm

The SD card thing isn't important if you have enough onboard storage, though.

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