Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. HTC One M9: The Tale of the Tape

by Reads (407)

Internals

For the first time in years, Samsung has eschewed the latest version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset in favor of its own Exynos 7420 chipset. Officially, that’s made up of four Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 2.1GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.5GHz, and a Mali-T760 GPU. It’s joined by 3 GB of RAM. The One M9, on the other hand, sticks with the new Snapdragon 810 SoC, which features a quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53, a quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57, and an Adreno 430 GPU. It too carries 3 GB of RAM.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

In English, both phones are really strong. Flagship phones have hit the point of diminishing returns in their ability to run every app under the sun. These are two new, top-of-the-line chipsets, so any game or program you want to run will be no problem for either handset. With everyday use, these devices are fast, just like last year’s Galaxy and One.

The issues only arise when you go beyond the ordinary. Push both phones a bit harder and you’ll notice that the One M9, like other Snapdragon 810 devices before it, has a slight overheating issue. It’s similar to what we found with the LG G Flex 2: It’s not hot enough to ruin the device, but the warmth is noticeable enough to know it’s not the kind of thing you want from your $650 purchase. Things can feel a tad sluggish when this happens, especially when compared to the consistent power of the S6. Samsung seems to have foreseen these issues in developing the Galaxy S6, and as a result its flagship isn’t dragged down by the same problems.

Battery

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

The One M9’s struggles with battery life are less forgivable. Again, with moderate web browsing and app usage, both phones will last a full work or school day easily enough—though the Galaxy S6 will almost always have more juice by the end of it.

Go a bit harder on the gaming or video streaming and the gap is much more evident: Our battery tests vary, but we’re talking as much as a 4 to 5 hour difference in the Galaxy S6’s favor.

The One M9’s battery isn’t bad, but it’s a little too ordinary for something that’s supposed to be above-average across the board. The Galaxy S6’s pack, on the other hand, is certainly strong enough to hang at the high end of the market (for now), despite it powering many more pixels. Regardless, all of this is more evidence of how specs can be deceiving—on paper, the One M9’s 2840mAh battery is heftier than the Galaxy S6’s 2550mAh unit.

Samsung has an advantage when it comes to charging too, as the Galaxy S6 supports a couple of wireless charging standards (WPC and PMA), while the One M9 always requires you to find an outlet.

Unfortunately, neither battery is removable. This means that you’re stuck with these units for the life of the device, which should be especially worrying in the One M9’s case unless any battery-saving software updates roll out in a few months. It’s another one of those casualties of choosing looks over function.

Storage

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Both flagships come with 32 GB of storage by default, with pricier 64 GB and 128 GB offerings available for the Galaxy S6 as well. The One M9 has the advantage here thanks to its microSD support, which allows you to expand that space. Samsung sacrificed this as part of its design revamp, annoying more than a few Galaxy loyalists in the process.

Call Quality

It’s fine on both accounts. Not that you were really curious, advanced people of the 21st century.

Software

The One M9 and Galaxy S6 run on Android 5.0 Lollipop, but you’d never know it, since Samsung and HTC over it up with their own custom interfaces. To be clear, the stock version of Android runs circles around the two of them, so what you want here is something that either stays out of the way of Google’s vision of its own software, or only adds to it in a genuinely useful way, a la Motorola. Neither HTC nor Samsung’s current skins—Sense and TouchWiz, respectively—do either, but they’re both less obtrusive than previous iterations.

HTC is up to Sense UI 7 with the One M9, and all told it isn’t too much different from Sense 6 on the One M8. (Surely you’re seeing the theme with this phone by now.) That’s not a totally a bad thing, once again, because that version went a long way towards cleaning up the look and readability of the UI. Now, there’s a built-in theme store that lets you customize the interface’s aesthetics yourself. It’s a nice option to have.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

The only other notable addition to Sense is a homescreen widget that’s supposed to automatically present different apps based your location and which apps you frequently use there. So if you frequent Evernote in the office, that’ll pop up when you’re on the clock. If you use Facebook back home, your phone will make indulging in social media a little more convenient later in the day. . This isn’t as successful: The phone takes a while to learn your habits, and it’s just easier to download the apps yourself and organize them how you want.

TouchWiz, on the other hand, has really, truly made some strides towards not being completely terrible. It’s still rife with redundancies, but now you can at least disable much of its bloat right out of the box. It too comes with additional theme support, and the annoying pop-up messages have been toned down. Its settings menu still needs work, though.

You’re getting something that’s okay at best regardless of which interface you choose, but now both options are capable and simple enough. And because both HTC and Samsung aren’t the fastest OEMs when it comes to updating their software, it’s mostly going to come down to which one looks better to you.

Cameras

This is the one of the few categories where we feel confident saying one flagship is better than the other. Camera performance has been a clear strength for the Galaxy and a clear weakness for the One since it was introduced, but the difference is especially stark this year.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

HTC made it a point to improve the average photo quality of the One M8, removing the gimmicky “UltraPixel” and (admittedly fun) “Duo Camera” setup in favor of a single, 20.7-megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED flash. Sadly, it didn’t work out too well.

The camera has some issues determining how bright to make its photos, often leading to overexposure, bleeding colors, and, especially in low-light conditions, mushier textures. It also suffers from some shutter lag. It’s far from poor, but it doesn’t feel like the kind of shooter that belongs on a high-end device. Stop us if you’ve heard that before.

The Galaxy S6 doesn’t have such problems. Its 16-megapixel sensor, with optical image stabilization, a f/1.9 aperture, and a regular LED flash that takes consistently sharper, more detailed shots in more varied settings. We wouldn’t put it on the iPhone’s level, and it has some issues capturing moving subjects, but it almost always provides accurate colors and little noise. It shoots faster, its HDR mode is more capable, and its OIS goes a long way towards retaining detail in darker settings.

Neither camera’s UI is particularly noteworthy, but one place where HTC can take solace is in the selfie department. There, its 4-megapixel front-facing shooter—which is really just the main camera from last year’s model—outclasses the average 5-megapixel unit on the face of the Galaxy S6. That light-capturing UltraPixel tech still comes handy when you’re sending Snapchats from poorly lit settings.

Extra Features

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

That about covers the bulk of it, but as we did with our last comparison, let’s run through any noteworthy features that didn’t fit in the above categories, rapid-fire style.

  • The Galaxy S6 comes with a fingerprint sensor that works similarly to the one on the iPhone 6—just place your finger on the home button and away you go, no finicky swipes needed. The One M9 doesn’t have any such tech, but its recently announced One M9+ variant does add one. Unfortunately, that phone is only heading to China.
  • The Galaxy S6 retains its predecessor’s the heart rate sensor, except now it can serve as a shutter button for capturing selfies. It’s mostly unreliable outside of that, though, so we can’t knock the One M9 too hard for not having one.
  • The Galaxy S6 will also support Samsung’s mobile payment system, Samsung Pay. The Korean firm says the technology behind it will allow the service to work at more pay stations than its competitors, but since it isn’t launching until later this year, we can’t verify that claim. HTC has the usual Google Wallet system, which is what it is at this point.
  • All the usual forms of connectivity—Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, etc.—are on both devices. That includes an IR blaster, meaning the two can double as television remotes.
  • Neither phone comes with any special sort of water resistance. That’s been the case with HTC’s metal-only phones for a few years now, but for Samsung it’s another sacrifice made to help facilitate the S6’s overhauled design.

Price

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

These may be the two highest-profile Android phones on the market—one of them definitely is, at least—so they’re both going to be everywhere, and they’re both going to be expensive. The big four of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile carry them both, while US Cellular and MVNOs like Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS also have the Galaxy S6.

Pricing varies by carrier, but generally lies between $600 and $700 unlocked, or $200 with a two-year contract. The manufacturers themselves have them priced at $650 unlocked. The 64 GB and 128 GB Galaxy S6s are around $100 and $200 more expensive than that, respectively.



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