Let’s face it. Trying to decipher Samsung’s various smartphone names is almost as mind-boggling as trying to work out its TV model numbers. Most people know the Galaxy S series – that’s Samsung’s premium smartphone range, the latest of which is the Galaxy S7 andS7 Edge. You’re probably also familiar with its high-end phablet phones, the Galaxy Note series, although the latest entry in the series, the Galaxy Note 5, never actually made it to the UK.
But what about all the others? You’ve got the premium mid-tier A series such as the Galaxy A3 2016, and there’s also the slightly more budget-orientated J series. Then, below that, you’ve got the Core Primes, the Youngs, the Fames and the Aces to name just a few.
Of course, the S series handsets tend to stick around much longer than Samsung’s budget phones, as you can still pick up a Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo (a retooled version of its now two-year-old Galaxy S5handset) for £300/$450 SIM-free or £17.50/$27-per-month on contract fromCarphone Warehouse. Try finding the Galaxy Ace Style, on the other hand, which was also released in 2014, and you’ll find yourself out of luck.
The big question, though, is whether it’s better to buy what’s essentially an old flagship smartphone, like the S5 Neo, or go for one of Samsung’s newer, but slightly less powerful budget phones? TheGalaxy J5, for instance, is by far one of Samsung’s best budget handsets in recent years, and at £160/$240 SIM-free or £12.50/$19-per-month on contract (also from Carphone Warehouse), it even gives the 3rd Gen Moto G a run for its money. But is it better than the Galaxy S5 Neo? Here’s how they stack up.
SCREEN SIZE AND DIMENSIONS
From the outside, you would be forgiven for thinking that both phones look exactly the same. They both have the same basic shape, their rear cameras are both square and their rounded plastic frames feel more or less identical in your hand. They’re practically the same size and weight, too, as the J5 measures142x72x7.9mm and weighs146g, while the S5 Neo measures 142x73x8.1mm and weighs145g.
They do, however, have quite different screens. They both use Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, so image quality will be more or less the same, but the S5 Neo’s 5.1in, 1,920×1,080 display has a much higher resolution than the J5’s5in, 1,280×720 display. As a result, images and text will appear much sharper on the S5 Neo, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of Full HD video as well. The J5, on the other hand, still looks perfectly fine from a normal viewing distance, but you’ll be limited to 720p video.
^ The Samsung Galaxy J5 has a perfectly adequate display for its price, but the S5 Neo has a much higher resolution
A small resolution screen isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it also means the phone has fewer pixels to power over the course of a day. As a result, the J5 has much better battery life than the S5 Neo, as it lasted a whopping 17h 50m in our continuous video playback test when we set the screen brightness set to our usual measurement of 170cd/m2. Admittedly, the S5 Neo wasn’t far behind with its 16h 27m under the same conditions, but it just goes to show that the J5 is more than capable of holding its own against its more expensive rivals.
That said, you won’t be able to store a lot of local video files on the J5, as it doesn’t have nearly as much internal storage as the S5 Neo. While the S5 Neo’s 16GB (which in real terms works out to around 11GB once you’ve taken Android into account) still isn’t huge by modern standards, it’s still a lot better than the J5’s measly 8GB, as this only leaves 4.6GB available to the user. However, both phones have microSD slots available, so it’s pretty easy to expand the storage if necessary. You’re just more likely to need one if you buy a J5.
^ The S5 Neo has a lightly textured rear panel, which is about the only visual flourish that separates it from the J5
The Galaxy S5 was once a top of the range smartphone, so it’s only natural that the S5 Neo is similarly quick. It doesn’t have exactly the same processor as the original S5, but its octa-core 1.6GHz Exynos 7580 chip and 2GB of RAM are still a pretty potent combo next to the J5’s decidedly more entry-level quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip and 1.5GB of RAM.
In our benchmarking tests, the S5 Neo was almost twice as fast on every occasion, whether it was Geekbench 3’s CPU tests or GFX Bench GL’s graphics tests. The J5 caught up when it came to web browsing, but the S5 Neo was still 200 points faster in Peacekeeper, making it noticeably more responsive and less jerky when dealing with media-heavy web pages. Still, that’s not to say the J5 is entirely unusable, as it’s still got more than enough speed for everyday tasks. You’ll just have a slightly smoother experience with the S5 Neo.
^ Put the J5 (above) next to the S5 Neo, and you’d swear they were almost exactly the same phone
Of course, one of the most important parts of any smartphone is its rear-facing camera, and here the S5 Neo is leaps and bounds ahead of its J5 cousin. It not only has a higher resolution sensor – 16 megapixels as opposed to the J5’s 13 megapixels – but the quality of each photo is also significantly higher.
In our tests, for instance, the J5 struggled to expose images correctly in bright sunshine (images looked fine if the sun was behind you), but this wasn’t a problem on the S5 Neo. The S5 Neo also took better shots indoors, but they both had issues capturing lots of fine detail in lower lighting conditions. Still, I’d definitely pick the S5 Neo’s camera over the J5’s, as I found it to be more reliable overall.
^ One of the only things the S5 Neo (above) has in common with the J5 – apart from its size – is Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, which is exactly the same on both handsets
The Galaxy S5 Neo and Galaxy J5 might look very similar from the outside, but peel away that outer layer and you’ll find two very different smartphones underneath. The Galaxy J5 does a surprisingly good job of keeping up with the S5 Neo considering it’s a budget smartphone at heart, but the S5 Neo is by far the superior handset when it comes to performance, camera quality and its display.
Of course, you do have to pay significantly more for the S5 Neo, as it’s roughly double the price of the J5 SIM-free and around £7/$10 more per-month on contract. For instance, you can get the J5 on a £12.50/$19-per-month deal with Carphone Warehouse that gets you 500MB of 4G data, 250 minutes and 5,000 texts, but the same deal on the S5 Neo is £19.50/$30-per-month.
Over the course of two years, that means you’ll be paying £468 for the S5 Neo, but only £300/$450 for the J5. That’s quite a big difference, but in our eyes, it’s probably worth paying the extra, especially if you tend to use your smartphone as your main camera and spend most of your spare time browsing the web or using social media. The J5 is still a brilliant little phone if you’d rather pay upfront or want something on Pay As You Go, but the S5 Neo is the better buy overall.