The latest Samsung Galaxy A5 and Samsung Galaxy S5 are definitely worth a look if you’re in need of a new phone and don’t have £600+ to spend on a new flagship handset.
Each of these can be acquired for under £350 and between them represent some of the best that we’ve seen from the Samsung mobile camp this year.
Although they’re not perfectly matched, they’re both appealing devices in their own right. With both phones costing half the price of the Samsung Galaxy S6, which one is the most worthy alternative to Samsung’s budget-busting flagship? Let’s take a look.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Price and Deals
Samsung Galaxy S5 - From £335.39 or £26.50 per month
Samsung Galaxy A5 - From £299.99 or £22.50 per month
Last year’s top-of-the-range Galaxy S5 has received a pretty hefty price cut now that Samsung’s new flagships, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, are nearing release.
During the peak of its reign, the S5 cost a pretty penny SIM-free at around £560. Now with a 40% price cut, it’s a highly tempting phone for anyone who may have been looking at some of the more premium mid-range devices, or “super mid-range” as Sony would have us call them.
The newly released A5 looks and feels like a flagship device, but doesn’t have that top-end power. However, if you look around, places such as Argos are selling it for under £300 and it’s one of the best phones available in that mid-range handset class.
SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A5 review
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Design
Samsung Galaxy S5 - Plastic, Gorilla Glass 3, 8.1mm, 145g
Samsung Galaxy A5 - Metal, Gorilla Glass 4, 6.7mm, 123g
As much as the Galaxy S5 was praised for its solid performance, it couldn’t shake the criticism levelled at its design and feel. When the Galaxy S5 launched, it was up against the established and beautifully made iPhone 5S and the all-metal unibody HTC M8. But somehow Samsung thought it was OK to release the S5, a near-£600 competitor to those beauties, sporting a glossy fake-metal bezel. Not cool.
The ugly plastic trimmings of the S5 are only somewhat forgivable because the phone has IP67-rated water resistance. Although we’re not recommending you do this, it can survive being submerged in water. The removable rear cover of the phone is another positive, made from a pleasantly dimpled plastic. Even if it should’ve been rubberised or leather.
On the other hand we have the Galaxy A5, forged in the same furnace as the sumptuous Galaxy Alpha, a phone that showed the first signs of great design things to come from Samsung.
The A5 has a metal unibody design with chiseled edges. Some might say it looks a bit like an iPhone 5S, but that’s a lazy comparison. The A5 has been crafted using a similar design language to that shown off in the Alpha and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, two of our favourite handsets released in the past year.
There are things to like about both devices ergonomically. The slimness of the A5 makes it fit comfortably into jean pockets, as well as when you’re holding it. As a result, its 5-inch screen is easy to navigate comfortably one-handed – even for people like me, with baby hands.
The larger and curvier S5 feels noticeably bigger in hands and pockets, and requires some juggling to be used one-handed. We found the S5 less comfortable to use for long periods of time, although we did like the feel of its dimpled removable rear cover.
These phones are chalk and cheese when it comes to design. The Alpha is beautiful, slim and metal. The S5 is thick, water-resistant and plastic. Given how different they are, the decision between these two phones may rest entirely on their physical attributes – I prefer the Galaxy A5.
Winner: We felt short changed by the finish of the S5, flagship phones shouldn’t look cheap. We’ve got to give it to the Galaxy A5.
SEE ALSO: Best cheap phones to buy
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Screen
Samsung Galaxy S5 - 5.1-inch 1080 x 1920 Super AMOLED, 432ppi
Samsung Galaxy A5 - 5.0-inch 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED, 294ppi
When it comes to screen quality the S5 shows it’s a class above the A5. Of course, this should be quite obvious looking at the specs alone.
But specs don’t tell the whole story and to say the S5 is in a different league, shouldn’t suggest that the A5 has a bad screen by any means. The A5’s 5-inch 720p display is one of the best you can find on a mid-range device. Being Super AMOLED, the A5 has vibrant colours and great contrast. Meaning that photos, videos and games look rich on this phone. Although dark scenes in videos can be a challenge to see when using the A5 in moderately bright settings.
The Galaxy S5’s higher resolution 5.1-inch screen has 432 pixels per inch, making it significantly sharper than the A5’s. Content really shines on this phone. Viewing the same photo on both devices simultaneously, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the picture was captured on two different cameras. The S5 is Super AMOLED too so its black tones are deep, with no light bleeding to wash them out. The only criticism we’d level at the S5 is that its colours are a touch too saturated and seem biased towards red tones.
It’s bigger, has twice the resolution, and uses the same Super AMOLED technology as the A5, making the Galaxy S5 a clear winner if top screen quality is a must-have for you.
Winner: The Galaxy S5’s screen is Super AMOLED and Full HD, meaning the A5 is out of its league here.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Storage
Samsung Galaxy S5 - 16/32GB, microSD up to 128GB
Samsung Galaxy A5 - 16GB, microSD up to 64GB
There is no 32GB version of the A5, but 16GB is manageable when you have the ability to increase its capacity via microSD cards by up to 64GB.
The Galaxy S5 offers more flexibility, available in 16GB and 32GB sizes, and if those aren’t enough, you can also use a microSD card up to 128GB. So you can get significantly more content onto the S5 than onto the A5, should you need it.
Winner: More in this case is better, so the S5 takes it.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Speakers and Call Quality
Samsung Galaxy S5 - Voice 66dB, ring 75dB
Samsung Galaxy A5 - voice 57dB, ring 66dB
It isn’t just those annoying people who play crap music on the back of buses that care about speaker quality on mobiles. Phones need to be loud enough to hear when they’re ringing and buried in your pocket or down the back of the sofa.
The S5 is definitely the louder of the two, but both phones are lacking in the quality department when it comes to speaker sound. During calls, the internal speaker is clear enough, but noticeably top-end-heavy.
Things are much worse when you switch to rear-facing loudspeakers on both the S5 and A5. The audio engineers at Samsung clearly don’t share Meghan Trainor’s listening preferences – they’re all about that treble, no bass. Voices are audible but they don’t sound good, and music is simply not worth playing through these loudspeakers. You may want to invest in a Bluetooth speaker before you embarrass yourself in the park trying to play tunes in front of your mates.
Winner: Nobody wins here. Poor speakers. No bueno.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Software, CPU and Performance
Samsung Galaxy S5 - Android 5.0 Lollipop, Snapdragon 801 quad-core 1.2GHz
Samsung Galaxy A5 - Android 4.4.4 KitKat, Snapdragon 410 quad-core 1.2GHz
Even though it’s a little more aged than the Galaxy A5, last year’s flagship Galaxy S5 now has the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS update. We’re still waiting to get it on the A5, which runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, but we’ve been told it’s arriving imminently.
These are two different classes of phone, so a like-for-like comparison of power is redundant. But let’s discuss the real difference in performance, because numbers can be quite abstract. How does each phone actually perform for the tasks you’re likely to use them for?
Both phones are equally smooth when navigating around menus and browsing the internet, and both handle multitasking well. The functionality of them is boosted by TouchWiz’s Multi-Window app, which enables you to keep two compatible apps open to use on screen at the same time. We expected the A5 to show some cracks here, but we didn’t notice any disparity in performance during multi-window use.
Samsung’s custom TouchWiz Android skin appears in slightly different flavours on these phones. On the Galaxy S5, there’s a bundle of Samsung’s pre-installed applications, also referred to affectionately as “bloatware”. The S5 when acquired through a carrier comes with no less than nine pre-installed apps. Some you may find useful, such as S Health, but others simply clog up the phone and are a drain on its performance.
Fortunately the A5 was developed under Samsung’s new ethos of cleaner UIs and so it has a stripped-back TouchWiz interface. It only has a couple of pre-installed apps, which gives it a much more open feel.
The Galaxy S5 does sport a few more advanced features, such as its fingerprint and heart scanner, as well as an IR blaster to control devices such as TVs and set-top boxes. And since getting the Android 5.0 Lollipop update its performance has been improved further. Notable tweaks include much slicker fingerprint recognition and more actionable options available in the notifications panel.
Both phones feel equally snappy during basic use and have some great functionality built into them, so there isn’t much between them when taking on regular tasks.
The real impact of the Galaxy S5’s superior setup, with its 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core chipset and Adreno 330 graphical processing unit, is that this phone is much more adept at running intense 3D games and delivering smooth video playback.
This is because Snapdragon 801 has two memory channels versus one in the Snapdragon 410. On top of that, its CPU and dedicated 330 GPU have a faster clock speed and higher pixel rate than the units featured in the A5. Even though both devices have 2GB of RAM to work with, the S5 is better equipped to utilise its memory.
Additionally, things such as more efficient power management and faster charging are also benefits of the more advanced system. But once the A5 gets the Android 5.0 update, its already fine performance should improve. Although it won’t be able to keep up with the S5 when things get intense, it should hang in there otherwise.
Winner: The Galaxy S5 is a clear winner here, with Android 5.0 and top-spec chips powering it.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Camera
Samsung Galaxy S5 - 16MP rear autofocus, 2MP front
Samsung Galaxy A5 - 13MP rear autofocus, 5MP front
The Samsung Galaxy S5 had one of the best cameras on a smartphone last year, and even this year it’s still being included in comparisons with some of the newest high-end phones.
It has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and can record 4K/UHD video. Images captured on the Galaxy S5 typically contain some great detail and good dynamic range. Our biggest criticism of the S5’s camera is that it struggles to capture accurate colour information. The images are overly saturated by default and show some colour casting, leaning either too far towards warm tones or cool blue tones. This indicates some inconsistent metering and white balancing. The camera application does offer manual control, which can tame its biases, but it’s also too laggy for our liking.
In low light, the Galaxy S5 is one of the better phones out there, as it has a backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor. Unfortunately the S5 fakes detail with aggressive noise reduction and sharpening. The results don’t look too bad on screen until you look a little closer, but if you’re not pixel peeping, the results are among the best you can get on a phone.
The front-facing camera of the Galaxy S5 is decent enough for the odd selfie, but it’s pretty horrendous in low light. You’ll struggle to get anything decent with it after hours. The front-facing camera of the Galaxy A5 has a 5-megapixel sensor and has a couple of additional features such as Wide Selfie. It has a higher resolution than the S5’s front-facing camera and is better equipped. The increasing importance of a device’s selfie-taking capabilities is definitely a sign of the times.
The main camera of the Galaxy A5 is only 13-megapixel, but it has the same sensor as that used in the LG G3, and that phone’s camera was pretty good. It doesn’t have the G3’s autofocus, or its ability to record UHD video, but we were impressed by the A5’s camera. It does a great job of managing colour accuracy and capturing a respectable level of the dynamic range in a scene. It’s also good at capturing fine detail.
The Galaxy A5 has one of the best cameras in its class, and even though it lacks some of the sophistication of the S5’s, it’s highly capable in good light. If you take casual shots and love selfies, the A5 is the ticket.
Winner: Because it operates faster and has a better front-facing camera, I’m (controversially) giving the nod to the A5.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Battery Life
Samsung Galaxy S5 - 2,800mAh
Samsung Galaxy A5 - 2,300mAh
Staying power is one of the best features of the Galaxy S5. Not only does it have a decent-sized battery, but its Snapdragon 801 chipset, TouchWiz UI and Android 5.0 combine to make it a highly power-efficient phone.
Using the phone moderately for messages, using 4G mobile data to check your social media feeds occasionally throughout the day and with push email on, you can get more than a day and a half out of the S5.
In our video loop test, playing a video on repeat with the screen on medium brightness, the S5 managed to last for 11 hours. We got 10 hours out of the A5 in a similar test, so even though its battery is a fair bit smaller, its performance isn’t far off.
The stamina of the A5 during regular use is also comparable to the S5’s, but let’s not forget it has a much lower screen resolution to power. Power-hungry applications such as the video player and games deplete the battery by about 5% for every 20 minutes played on the A5, while the S5 is fractionally better.
We found that the A5 can collect about 25% of battery juice from 30 minutes charging, where the S5 can charge from almost 0% to full in about two hours using a standard Micro USB cable – so we see similar performance here as well. It’s worth mentioning that the S5 is USB 3.0 capable though, so using USB 3.0 you’ll get faster data transfer speeds as well as faster charging. The only bug we have with this is the awkwardly stiff flap that covers the port, but it does help keep water out so you wouldn’t want it to be loose.
Both phones have power saving and ultra power saving modes. Power saving will reduce processor functions and screen contrast and brightness. Ultra goes further, restricting applications and background data. When you desperately need your phone on to get you down the home stretch, U.Power saving can extend your phone’s battery for days. If activated early enough, you can get well over a week out of either phone in this mode.
Winner: There isn’t too much in it, but the S5 does have fast USB 3.0 compatibility so it has the edge.
Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Samsung Galaxy A5 – Verdict
This isn’t a natural head-to-head. We’re considering two different classes of phone. One super middleweight, the other an ageing heavyweight.
But the decision comes down to what you need. Considering you’re going to spend about the same amount of money for both, they offer divergent benefits. The Galaxy S5 has a 32-bit 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, advanced features such as finger and heart sensors, a 16-megapixel camera and a Full HD screen. But it looks cheap and chunky.
Held up next to the Galaxy A5, the S5 looks immediately dated and budget. It’s the lower-end A5 with its 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor, 13-megapixel camera and 720 x 1280 screen that looks the business.
Both phones are capable devices, but if you play 3D games, watch rich media and are likely to put your phone at risk of water damage, the S5 is probably for you. However, if aesthetics are your thing and you want a classy-looking phone that takes no shortcuts when it comes to design and build, the A5 is one of the most attractively crafted phones we’ve seen in the past 12 months.