Google Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Spec comparison

At the end of last week, Google finally launched the Nexus 5, putting months of rumours and speculation to rest. So, how does the Nexus 5 compare to what many folks consider to be the king of Android phones – the Samsung Galaxy S4?

Before we dive in, it’s worth pointing out that the S4 went on sale some six months ago. That’s like half a generation for a smartphone in 2013, but the S4 is still one of the flagship phones on the market.

Dimensions and weight

Let’s start with how the Nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 (GS4) measure up physically. Both are very light… and they actually weigh exactly the same amount: 130 grams. They’re also nearly identical in terms of length and width – though the Nexus 5 is 1.2mm taller, it’s 0.6mm narrower.

And the all-important thickness? The GS4 beats the Nexus 5 by just over half a millimetre. There really wasn’t a need for Google and LG to whip up something thinner and lighter, though. Most folks won’t even notice the difference because they’ll be staring at the Nexus 5’s £299 sim-free price tag.

They might also agree with the critics, many of whom think that the Nexus 5 is the most comfortable 5in phone to hold, and that may play an important role in the decision making process.

Processor, RAM, and storage

The Nexus 5 has the edge when it comes to processing power, and you’d expect that since it’s being released half a year after the GS4. The Nexus 5’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 is clocked at 2.3GHz – a fairly substantial jump from the GS4’s 1.9GHz chip.

There’s also a bit more graphical muscle inside the Nexus 5. It’s got an Adreno 330 GPU, which is capable of outputting 4K video – and Qualcomm says it offers twice the computing performance of the Adreno 320 (the GPU in the Galaxy S4). Early benchmarks have pegged the Nexus 5 as the best Android gaming device on the market.

Internal storage options are the same in the two phones. You can buy the Nexus 5 with either 16GB or 32GB, and the extra capacity will still set you back an extra £40. Samsung, of course, also lets you pop in a microSD card if you need more room. Speaking of pricing, the Nexus 5 wins here with its £299 price tag for the base 16GB model. The GS4 has been coming down in price, but it still runs to around £400 for the 16GB version (you can currently pick it up for £385).

Finally, although it had been rumoured that the Nexus 5 would launch with 3GB of RAM, it’s actually got 2GB just like the GS4.

Display

The Nexus 5’s screen doesn’t quite measure 5in like the Galaxy S4 – it’s actually 4.95in. It is, however, a full 1080p display like the GS4. It’s also covered by a protective slab of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3, just like the GS4.

The Nexus 5 uses the same IPS panel as the LG G2, however, and it’s been widely praised for being one of the best mobile displays money can buy. The Nexus 5 is slightly smaller, too, so an already good screen has been made slightly sharper and just a smidgen better – which gives the Nexus 5 an edge over the GS4 when it comes to visuals.

Cameras

Samsung wins the camera megapixel battle (with 2-megapixel up front and 13-megapixel on the back), but that’s not a battle everyone is fighting any more. The Nexus 5’s 8-megapixel rear shooter will still capture high quality images, and it’s got optical image stabilisation tech built in to steady your pics.

Early reviews, however, say that the Nexus 5 camera isn’t exactly a stand-out. Again, given the £300 asking price, that probably won’t be a huge deterrent.

Software

What really attracts Android fans to the Nexus 5 – or any Nexus device, really – is the software. You’re getting Google’s latest on the Nexus 5, Android 4.4 KitKat in all its unmodified glory. You’re also going to be at the front of the line for future updates, since there’s no carrier testing standing between you and the new firmware.

There are folks who enjoy the TouchWiz experience, and Samsung does offer some nice tweaks like multi-window mode. Many of its factory-installed apps, however, feel an awful lot like bloatware. If you just want an uncluttered phone that offers pure Android with nothing but Google’s stock apps, the extra software on the Galaxy S4 will be a real turn-off.

If you want to read up more on Google's new phone, check out our article on the Nexus 5's cheap pricing and how it's a key element of Google's Android strategy. You might also be interested in our closer look at Android 4.4 KitKat, and our spec comparison of the Nexus 5 and its predecessor, the Nexus 4.

And if you decide to take the plunge with Samsung's smartphone, be sure to look at our 10 top tips for your Samsung Galaxy S4.

Google Nexus 5

Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE

Display

Screen size

4.95in

4.99in

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080 pixels

1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Pixel density

445ppi

441ppi

Type

IPS LCD

Super AMOLED

Processor and battery

Family

Snapdragon 800

Snapdragon 600

CPU

Krait 400

Krait 300

Cores

Quad-core

Quad-core

Clock speed

2.3GHz

1.9GHz

GPU

Adreno 330

Adreno 320

Battery

2,300mAh

2,600mAh

Claimed 3G talk time

Up to 17h

Up to 17h

Storage and memory

RAM

2GB

2GB

Internal storage

16GB /32GB

16GB / 32GB

microSD

No

Yes

Camera

Rear

8-megapixel

13-megapixel

Video

1080p @ 30fps

1080p @30fps

Front

1.3-megapixel

2-megapixel

Wireless

Standard

4G LTE

4G LTE

Wi-Fi

802.11 a / b / g / n / ac

802.11 a / b / g / n / ac

NFC

Yes

Yes

Bluetooth

v4.0

v4.0

Integrated wireless charging

Yes

No

Dimensions

Size

137.8 x 69.2 x 8.6mm

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm

Weight

130g

130g

Operating System

Android 4.4 KitKat

Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean (will be upgradable to 4.4)

Price (SIM-free)

£299 (16GB) / £339 (32GB)

£385 via Amazon (16GB)

Availability

8 November

Available