Introduction

The last two generations of HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S were separated by the looks versus practicality debate. Samsung's revamped design erodes this difference, while HTC stepped up its camera game.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC once ruled the Android world, but has since been supplanted by Samsung. Still, last year the companies' trajectories were reversing once again - Samsung's streak of record profits ended, as did HTC's streak of quarters in the red.

This lit a fire under Samsung to change the foundations of its design. The new slender body of metal and glass is a big step forward from the Galaxy S5. It wasn't a sudden reboot though, Samsung iterated the design first with the Galaxy Alpha then with the Galaxy Note 4 to make sure the Galaxy S6 comes out great.

Now HTC is the one stuck in a design rut, the HTC One M9 is a second rehash of the original HTC One design. Some (HTC designers and fans alike) will claim you can't improve on perfection. Looks aside, the One M9 misses out on some trendy hardware as well - QHD screen, fingerprint reader, wireless charging.

HTC did make the jump to 2160p video capture and even overtook Samsung in still resolution with a 20.7MP sensor. We'll have to see if that's enough.

To warm things up here's the blow-by-blow of the "specs on paper" round.

Samsung Galaxy S6 over One M9

  • Bigger screen diagonal: 5.1-inch vs. 5.0-inch screen
  • Higher resolution screen - 1,440 x 2,560 vs. 1,080 x 1,920px
  • Optical image stabilization for the camera
  • PayPal-certified fingerprint scanner
  • Thinner and lighter - 6.8mm and 138g vs. 9.6mm and 157g
  • Heart rate and blood-oxygen (SpO2) sensors), barometer
  • Wireless charging (market dependent)
  • 5MP selfie with QHD video vs. 4MP/1080p selfie camera

HTC One M9 over Galaxy S6

  • Metal unibody vs. metal and glass body
  • Stereo speakers
  • Higher resolution still camera - 20.7MP vs 16MP; dual-LED flash
  • Expandable storage with microSD card slot
  • Larger battery - 2,840mAh vs. 2,550mAh, both sealed

Samsung will not have any issues in presenting the Galaxy S6 as a brand new, much improved device. The design is new, the screen is QHD, the camera has optical image stabilization, the fingerprint scanner is an improved design and so on. That said, it's making a bet that the majority of consumers don't care about expandable storage and removable batteries.

HTC ad star Robert Downey Jr. will have more explaining to do. The design is the same, the screen is the same, there's no fingerprint scanner, the stereo loudspeakers are an old perk and so on. The PR team can crow about the high-resolution camera with 2160p video. The old UltraPixel isn't dead, it's now serving selfie duties - great for low-light shots from a night out.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9 getting ready for a fight

Of course, both phones are built around new and powerful chipsets. Samsung went its own way to leverage its manufacturing advantage - while the basic design isn't too different, the 14nm process keeps the chipset running cool. Snapdragon 810 on the other hand has had difficulties keeping cool, which reduces its performance potential.

With all that HTC can still claim to have the more premium design and the better loudspeakers, while Samsung will point to the thinner, lighter chassis and sharper screen. Consider this a preview of what's on the next page, the hardware comparison.

Update, April 3: we wrote this article using a pre-release Galaxy S6, but we received a retail unit and re-ran all the tests. The pages have been updated to reflect that - battery life and benchmarks improved, while the camera, display, audio quality and loudspeaker are essentially the same as before.

Hardware comparison

HTC has a history of metal unibodies, most of which are part of the recent One series and they have come in all sizes (mini and Max). The HTC One M9 uses the blueprint of 2013's One, with some refinements - an eye-catching dual-color design, a microSD card slot and improved handling.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC had a full year to work on the new body. The dual-tone design is unique and comes in several attractive color combos apart from the traditional Gunmetal Gray. What HTC hasn't done is make it meaningfully more compact - it's a couple of millimeters shorter and one millimeter narrower, but it's practically the same thickness and weight several years in a row now.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9's new dual-tone look

Samsung's Galaxy S6 flagship grew a bit taller than its predecessor, but cut the thickness down to 6.8mm and went down in weight. The Samsung and HTC flagships measure 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm and 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm respectively. Their weight is 138g vs. 157g - a substantial difference.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 is a big departure from the old Galaxy mold

In all fairness, the metal unibody has certainly contributed to the extra weight and the One M9 also has a bigger battery than its predecessor (2,840mAh). The stereo speakers on the front are the excuse for the size of the phone, which is on the large side for the 5" class.

Samsung actually cut the battery capacity (to 2,550mAh) to reach the desired thickness (and the resulting weight). We'll see a bit later how that affects the battery life. Also, the camera on the back quite noticeably protrudes beyond the 6.8mm thickness.

The company also had to put a taller hardware Home key as it houses the fingerprint scanner and it's the better no-swipe design.

So, Samsung has made some questionable tradeoffs (battery capacity, protruding camera lens and home button) to make the _phone_ slender and as a result the slim glass and metal combo feels quite good in the hand. The HTC One M9 in comparison feels a bit chubby, though its curved back and pointier side frame balance that out.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 are basically the same height and width, but the S6 is much thinner

Samsung's choices may be a bit controversial, but HTC has less to show for a year of work - a couple of hundred milliamps in the battery are not much progress when other manufacturers are competing in cutting down thickness and bezels.

The way the HTC One M9's body is shaped is that the metal coming from the back overlaps the metal coming from the front, but not completely. This leaves a small ledge, which improves handling (the smooth finish back can be slippery). This ledge, however, kind of looks like a case that doesn't quite fit the _phone_ - when a phone aspires to be the prettiest on the market, it shouldn't look like it's wearing ill-fitting clothes. Of course, looks and aesthetics are a subjective thing.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The HTC One M9 metal body feels like it's made of two not quite fitting parts

Samsung's design is flatter. It has an exposed aluminum frame on the side. It's smoothly chamfered and the Gorilla Glass 4 on top and on the back is slightly chamfered too - the transition between metal and glass is not perfect but it makes holding the phone quite comfortable with no sharp edges.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The Gorilla Glass on the front and the back is beveled slightly to curve into the metal sides of the phone

The back is not completely flat, but instead gently arced. That glass doesn't offer much grip though, you have to rely on the matte finish metal on the sides. Still, the phone is 20g lighter than its opponent, which does help in handling.

Going back to the front, the HTC One M9 is at a bit of a disadvantage with a 5" screen vs. the 5.1" screen of the Galaxy S6. That's not much, but the on-screen buttons on the HTC further reduce the screen real estate, even though there's a pretty roomy black bar between the screen and the bottom speaker that does nothing.

Samsung once again uses a hardware Home button, but this time by necessity - it's where the fingerprint scanner lives. You don't have to swipe anymore and you fingerprint will be recognized at any angle. Having to swipe just the right way on the Galaxy S5 was quite inconvenient, so this is a big improvement, which will lead to increased adoption by users.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The taller hardware Home key houses an improved fingerprint sensor

Above the screen are the selfie cameras - a 4MP UltraPixel from HTC (the former main camera of the previous One flagships has fallen from grace) and a 5MP shooter from Samsung. Both feature HDR mode, but the Samsung selfie camera can shoot QHD video while the UltraPixel shooter tops out at 1080p.

The One M9 also features the trademark BoomSound speakers, which make it a portable boombox. The Galaxy S6 has only one speaker (on the bottom), so it doesn't provide the same stereo experience for music and videos.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9's trademark stereo speakers • the Samsung Galaxy S6 has one loudspeaker on the bottom

Also on the bottom is the 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB 2.0 port (both phones share this arrangement). Samsung dropped the USB 3.0 since the port is harder to fit on thin devices and wired data transfer is pretty rare these days.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Both phones have their 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port on the bottom

Both phones support fast charging. Samsung is promising 4 hours of use or 2 hours of HD video playback after just 10 minutes of charging. HTC meanwhile uses Qualcomm's FastCharge 2.0, which fills the battery from 0% to 60% in half an hour.

You'll need a different charger though, the one that comes in the HTC box isn't powerful enough. In contrast Samsung provides an Adaptive Fast Charger in their retail box.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Regular charger from HTC • a powerful charger from Samsung

Samsung has another way to offset the smaller battery capacity - wireless charging support. The Galaxy S6 supports the two main standards out of the box, Qi (used also by Nexus devices and installed in some airports) and PMA (installed in some Starbucks and McDonald's locations).

Samsung spread the side keys on the left (volume rocker) and the right (Power button). They are easily reachable with the index finger and thumb. HTC meanwhile put both on the right, which means you can only use your index finger or your thumb (depending on which hand you hold the phone in). Also, we pressed the volume keys instead of the Power key plenty of times while getting used to the setup.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Buttons on two sides of the Galaxy S6 • All side buttons are on the right of the One M9

HTC added a microSD card slot on the One (M8) and the M9 has kept it. Samsung surprisingly dropped the microSD slot even though it was a Galaxy S staple. Samsung explains that for top performance the phone needs fast storage and microSD cards (the cheap ones especially) don't cut it.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 has two card slots • the Samsung Galaxy S6 has just one

We get around to the back. The HTC One M9 back is metal and houses a 20.7MP camera. Its protective glass protrudes slightly from the back and to its left is the dual-LED, dual-tone flash.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 back is made of Gorilla Glass and as we mentioned, the 16MP camera sticks out quite a lot. To its side is a single LED flash along with the heart rate/blood oxygen saturation sensor.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The metal back of the HTC One M9 and the glass back of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung skipped the waterproofing on this generation flagship, so you'll have to wait for the Galaxy S6 Active if you want to jump in the pool with your phone. The HTC One M9 doesn't have any special protection from the elements either.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. A major break from the tired plastic build of its predecessors, the Galaxy S6 has a premium feel to match its rich spec sheet. It's thinner - not the thinnest but still quite thin - and its metal and glass design looks great. No memory expansion and no removable battery have drawn some critics, but that may prove to be a vocal minority.

The HTC One M9 is a beauty, but so were its two predecessors. It could have been more compact to account for two years of progress. Right now the dual-tone design (while very attractive) is the only visible sign of evolution in design.

Display comparison

Samsung kept the 5.1" screen diagonal from the previous Galaxy S, but stepped up the resolution to QHD (that's 1,440 x 2,560px). HTC kept the same IPS LCD - 5 inch in diagonal with 1080p resolution. Both displays are protected by Gorilla Glass 4.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

You may think that QHD is excessive, but Samsung's Super AMOLED has a PenTile matrix - that's two sub-pixels instead of three. This means the sub-pixel count is now roughly equal to a 1080p LCD so it does improve sharpness.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The company has done more to improve the display quality. Since the Galaxy S5 it perfected color rendering (with minimal color shift due to viewing angle) and on the Galaxy S6 it pushed the brightness way up. AMOLEDs used to be dark, but the Galaxy S6 display can reach 750nits - higher than the LCD of the HTC One M9.

Note that this is on Auto brightness, when you set the brightness manually you can only push it up to 470nits. That's pretty close to the One M9's maximum of 530nits.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The HTC One M9 screen has vivid colors too and minimal color shifting when viewed at an angle. The contrast is excellent too, 1,200:1 across the brightness range and the blacks are pleasingly deep. The brightness slider is not linear though, the screen only puts out a third of its top brightness when the slider is in the middle.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S6 208 473
Samsung Galaxy S6 (Auto brightness) 208 753
HTC One M9 0.15 175 1180 0.44 534 1221
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
Samsung Galaxy S5 (Auto brightness) 274 617
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Sony Xperia Z3 - - - 0.65 866 1333
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789


The screen is pretty reflective though, which keeps the sunlight legibility down to One (M8) levels. The Samsung Galaxy S6 on the other hand has one of the best displays in that respect. And this was with brightness set manually, the auto brightness has potential to offer even better legibility.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One M9
    2.334
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Acer Liquid Jade S
    1.734
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Sony Xperia E4
    1.467
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Having mentioned colors, Samsung provides Screen modes that change the white balance and color saturation of the display to match your preference.

Both the Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9 feature a high-sensitivity mode that lets you operate the phone with gloves (great for winter times).

Connectivity

Both phones can (theoretically) go up to 300Mbps when connected to an LTE network and they also support 42Mbps 3G. Both use a single nano-SIM card, with no official dual-SIM versions announced yet.

Locally, both can hook up to speedy Wi-Fi ac (on 2.4GHz or 5GHz) and both have the latest Bluetooth 4.1 with apt-X for high quality audio streaming. The Galaxy S6 also has ANT+ for use with certain sports sensors.

For positioning the Samsung supports a combination of GPS, GLONASS and Beidou (the Chinese system). The HTC One M9's specs page doesn't list Beidou even though the Snapdragon 810 chipset does support it.

If you still listen to plain old FM radio broadcasts (as opposed to online streaming radio), the One M9 requires you to plug in a pair of headphones, while the Galaxy S6 does not support it at all.

Both phones have IR blasters to control AV equipment at home. Surprisingly, both come with the Smart Peel Remote app, but you can always install a different app.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

IR blasters on top of both devices

Finally, for wired connectivity both have a microUSB port with MHL 3.0 for TV out and USB host for connecting peripherals.

Winner: Tie. Unless you still listen to FM radio or have invested in ANT+ equipment there's no clear winner to be had between the two in the connectivity department as both cover the modern-day essentials and then some more.

Battery life

Update, April 3: we received a retail Galaxy S6 unit and re-ran our tests. The battery life improved, pushing it above the One M9 .

HTC managed to fit a slightly bigger battery in its new flagship (2,840mAh vs. 2,600mAh), while Samsung actually went down in battery capacity (2,550mAh vs. 2,800mAh). Yes, Samsung has wireless charging for quick top ups, but as we found in our review the Endurance rating of the phone tumbled down by 10 hours as compared to the Galaxy S5.

This would have been HTC's chance to strike, except the One M9's Endurance rating is down 15 hours compared to its predecessors.

Here's the thing, Samsung used its chip manufacturing prowess to bring the first 14nm mobile chipset to the market, while Qualcomm is still on a 20nm process. This has a noticeable effect in how much waste heat is produced by the chipset (this has implications for performance), but also impacts battery life.

The Super AMOLED screen is also very efficient - despite the move to QHD and the higher brightness, the Galaxy S6 performed better overall. For the battery test we put the brightness slider at 50%, which translates to 208nits for the Galaxy S6 and 175nits for the HTC One M9.

Even so the Samsung Galaxy S6 beats the HTC One M9 by at least three hours in web browsing and by four hours in video playback. It does lose in by an hour in the talk time though. Still, for a battery that's 250mAh smaller, the Samsung result is quite good.

Also, there's a powerful charger in its box and a wireless charging option, while the HTC has none of those.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. Big wins in web browsing and video playback lead to a superior Endurance rating. The smaller talk time is not perfect, but we doubt you'll talk the battery dry. The more convenient charging methods also count for a lot.

Both Samsung and HTC went back with their battery life, but at least the Galaxy has a thinner frame to show for it. The One M9 may be suffering from a sub-par chipset, we'll see in a bit.

Interface comparison

Both phones launch with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop out of the box and they carry two of the best-known Android customizations - TouchWiz and Sense. Here are a couple of videos to give you a feel for both platforms. It's quite unlikely you've never seen one, but there are plenty of improvements to both.

Lockscreen

The Lollipop lockscreen dictates that notifications are visible and both TouchWiz and Sense follow that. They also have a clock and weather info visible, plus a number of shortcuts. Sense provides four customizable shortcuts as it has done for years, while TouchWiz offers only dialer and camera shortcuts (you can double-tap the Home key to launch the camera).

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 lockscreen

The One M9 supports double-tap to wake - tap the screen twice while it's off and it will light up. Other Motion Launch Gestures allow you swipe up to bypass the lockscreen altogether, swipe left to unlock and jump to the homescreen, right to go to BlinkFeed down to launch voice dialing.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 lockscreen

You can also launch the camera by pressing the Volume up key while holding the phone horizontally. All of these Motion Launch Gestures work with the screen completely off.

Security

The Galaxy S6 can use the fingerprint sensor to secure the lockscreen. You just place your thumb (or any other finger) on the key and hold for a second. The process is very resilient and works with the finger at any angle. It's quick too, there's no swiping involved (not even on the screen). There's a password fallback in case the fingerprint reading fails.

A fingerprint lock doesn't prevent someone from reading your emails off the lockscreen notification list. You can set the phone to hide the content of the notifications or not display any notifications to prevent that. You can have the secure lockscreen to be disabled based on the proximity of Trusted devices (e.g. a smartwatch or your car's Bluetooth-enabled stereo) or in Trusted locations (determined by geo-positioning).

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Private mode • Trusted devices and areas • Keeping notifications private

The fingerprint sensor is also used to secure Private mode. It's an encrypted part of your storage that is only accessible when Private mode is active. You can store any type of file there, no app will be able to access it without your permission.

The sensor can also replace your username and password. Once you sign into a website (using the Internet app), the browser will offer to remember the login. Next time you just put your finger over the Home key and the phone will fill in the username and info fields and hit enter.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Signing in with your fingerprint instead of username/password

Fingerprints can also secure your PayPal transactions and your Galaxy Apps account.

The HTC One M9 no answer to that. You can secure the lockscreen with a password, but that's not nearly as convenient.

Notifications

Sense 7 uses a tweaked Lollipop notification area. As you pull it down, it reveals the notifications, another pull brings out the quick toggles. You can long press them to jump to the relevant section of the Settings menu.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Notification area • quick toggles

Samsung is using its custom layout with one row of quick toggles always visible, then the brightness slider, then S Finder and Quick connect buttons and then the notifications. The only option to view all quick toggles at once is to tap the Edit button.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Notification area • editing quick toggles • adjusting the brightness

Overall, we prefer HTC's (really Google's) design here as it's much cleaner. Having a row of quick toggles visible right away is handy, but there's too much clutter in the TouchWiz notification area.

Themes

Both TouchWiz and Sense have introduced theming in their latest iterations. Both companies back that feature up with a Theme store of their own. On both phones a theme changes the wallpaper and icon pack, plus the sound notifications. HTC themes also change the look of the on-screen buttons and the system font.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC has a wide selection of themes at launch

While we're on the subject, the wallpaper in the latest TouchWiz has a slight parallax effect, just like on the iPhone.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Pre-loaded themes on the Galaxy S6 • downloading more from the store

Multitasking

Both phones have the Lollipop-style 3D rolodex of recent apps. The HTC One M9 defaults to the Sense style 3x3 grid of apps. Unlike previous iterations there are multiple pages now so you're not limited to just 9 apps. Also, in this view you can "pin" an app so that it's always accessible.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC app switcher • Android-style switcher • picking between the two

Samsung has perfected its Multi Window feature. It's still limited to apps that support it, those are easily recognizable in the app switcher menu - their thumbnails have a shortcut in the upper right corner that opens the app on half the screen.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

App switcher • Multi Window • the browser running in a small floating window

Alternatively, you can swipe from the top right edge of the screen and downscale the app into a floating window that you can move around.

This is another area where HTC has no alternative.

Staying in touch

An earlier version of Sense brought BlinkFeed - a homescreen pane dedicated to reading the latest news. It pulls headlines from select news sources (based on your interests) as well as showing recent stuff from your calendar and your Facebook account.

A new addition in Sense 7 learns your eating habits (the usual time you head out to lunch) and will offer suggest nearby restaurants to try.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

BlinkFeed brings you news and social networking updates

Samsung has an alternative called Briefing, which is powered by Flipboard. Unfortunately, it doesn't tap into your social networking notifications.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Briefing is just a newsreader, no social networking

Settings

The Settings screens on both phones are pretty similar, a long list of settings with a Search function to help you navigate quicker. Samsung also provides a selection of Quick settings - the ones you use the most - while HTC has put some toggles available at the top level of the menu, saving you a tap.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. The fingerprint sensor plays a role in several places throughout the software - securing the lockscreen or just select files, replacing your login credentials for websites, simplifying PayPal payments. The multitasking with Multi Window feels simple and natural to use too.

The HTC One M9 beat its opponent with a cleaner notification area and better news reader, we especially liked the Motion Launch Gestures. Theming is a nice addition too, but all this is nothing the One (M8) can't do. Matching its predecessor is a damning praise for a flagship.

Performance

Samsung is a conglomerate of many companies, one of which happens to make smartphone chipsets. So why then did the Galaxy S4 and S5 along with the Galaxy Note 3 and Note 4 use a Snapdragon chipset from Qualcomm? And more importantly, why did Samsung switch back to its own supply?

Both the Exynos 7420 that's used in the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Snapdragon 810 inside the HTC One M9 use CPU cores designed by ARM. Four powerful Cortex-A57 cores are balanced with four low-power Cortex-A53 cores, those can be mixed and matched to fit the current workload. They are 64-bit capable too and the two flagships run a 64-bit version of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The thing is, Samsung has a superior manufacturing capability - its chips are made at 14nm, while the TSMC-manufactured Snapdragon chips are at 20nm. This let Samsung clock its chipset 100MHz higher for both types of cores and keeps the heat in check. Note that both phones can warm up, but under heavy stress the HTC One M9 gets noticeably hotter.

Update, April 3: we re-ran the benchmarks on a retail Galaxy S6 unit and it showed better 3D performance compared to the pre-release unit we used initially.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 wins in both single and multi-core performance, confirmed by Geekbench 3 and Basemark OS II 2.0. Since the cores are identical the difference comes from the actual clockspeed - manufacturers advertise the maximum speed, but the chipsets in their phones rarely hit that mark, especially with multiple cores running.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5215
  • HTC One M9
    3761

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    6306
  • HTC One M9
    4688

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    26799
  • HTC One M9
    18047

Overall system performance also goes in favor of the Galaxy S6, by a small margin in Basemark X and a bigger margin in AnTuTu. Both phones come equipped with 3GB of RAM, we'll test the storage performance separately in a minute.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1674
  • HTC One M9
    1365

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    69396
  • HTC One M9
    51427

While the CPUs come from the same designer, the GPUs are quite different. Samsung is all-in on ARM designs and uses a Mali-T760. It has a tough job ahead of it since it has to render graphics at 1,440 x 2,560px resolution. The HTC One M9's and Qualcomm's Adreno 430 have to work at 1,080 x 1,920px, that's close to half the number of pixels.

The HTC One M9 comes out ahead when the graphic benchmarks are set to render at native screen resolution with a score about 50% higher. Depending on the level of graphics the Galaxy S6 can turn in playable framerates - 38fps in GFX Bench 2.7 - but the more advanced of GFX 3.0 are too much.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    50
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    38

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    24
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    16

Game makers have the option to render graphics internally at 1080p and upscale as needed. That's covered by the 1080p offscreen tests. All three tests show an advantage for the Galaxy S6 and Mali-T760 over the One M9 and Adreno 430.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    59
  • HTC One M9
    49

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    24
  • HTC One M9
    23

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    27169
  • HTC One M9
    19848

For web browsing, we used the Samsung-tuned Internet app on the Galaxy S6 and the Chrome app on the HTC One M9 (it's the only browser available out of the box).

Kraken 1.1 shows the Galaxy S6's CPU performance advantage extends to faster JavaScript. The general web test, BorwserMark 2.1, shows a nearly double advantage. That's with rendering pages at QHD resolution too.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4154
  • HTC One M9
    5500

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    2718
  • HTC One M9
    1681

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. A slightly faster processor improves performance for apps and web pages. Poorly written 3D games can have issues with the QHD resolution, but the rest can adjust the ratio resolution/quality to their liking (it's what most games on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One do). At equal resolution, the S6 GPU has more performance to offer.

The HTC One M9 proved itself a capable opponent, but it doesn't deliver the best performance on Android, which is a negative for a flagship.

Storage performance

Samsung is one of the biggest manufacturers of memory chips and is quite proud of its new UFS 2.0 storage standard. In fact, with the Galaxy S6 it was so focused on speed that it removed the slower microSD card slot altogether.

HTC kept the microSD card slot it introduced with the HTC One (M8). We've recorded 2160p videos on microSD cards before so we don't think this task should be an issue.

We stuck a UHS-I card in the HTC One M9 and tested its performance too to illustrate the difference between internal and external storage performance.

Reads and writes come in two forms - sequential (e.g. playing or recording a video) and random (e.g. an app fetching various resources from storage). For sequential read the Samsung Galaxy S6 has a massive advantage over the HTC One M9. For writes, however, the advantage is smaller.

Update, April 3: we retested the storage on a retail Galaxy S6. The pre-release unit we used initially had some issues with sequential reads, but they weren't present in the retail unit.

Sequential Read, MB/s

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    311.05
  • HTC One M9
    239.19
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    48.16

Sequential Write, MB/s

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    139.20
  • HTC One M9
    123.97
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    8.47

Random reads and writes are much slower than sequential ones (this is true even for solid state drives in computers). The HTC One M9 again lags behind when it comes to reads, the Galaxy S6 is nearly four times faster here. Writes are more balanced, but Galaxy S6's advantage is far from negligible, around 50%.

Random Read, MB/s

MB/s, Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    77.58
  • HTC One M9
    20.27
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    7.37

Random Write, MB/s

MB/s, Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    19.76
  • HTC One M9
    13.93
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    0.59
  • Winner: It depends. For raw speed, the Galaxy S6 is clearly the winner. The decision to leave out the memory expansion port rubbed many the wrong way though. True, there are 64GB and 128GB versions, but those upgrades are pricier than the equivalent microSD card, even a fast UHS-I card.

    The HTC One M9 comes only in a 32GB variety, but you can add hundreds more with the right microSD card. It will be slow, but our experience shows cards are fast enough for 2160p video. You probably won't need more than 32GB for apps either.

Multimedia package

Gallery

HTC's Gallery app organizes photos and videos into Albums, Location, Tags or by Time. The Timeline option has a nice calendar, which makes it super simple to find photos from a specific month. Highlights are available for certain views, they are essentially slideshows demoing the content inside an album.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC Gallery • Highlights • Zoe

You can tap the Edit icon to select which photos and videos are part of the Highlight and change the music. Once you're done, you can post the resulting video to Zoe (HTC's media-oriented social network), with options to share it privately or the opposite - invite people to join in and add their own content. The video can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ with just a tap.

You can use one of your photos as a base for a custom theme to customize your phone with. There's also an image editor that covers the basics (filters, crop & rotate, red eye removal) as well some more advanced options to overlay photos (say to simulate a double exposure) and to retouch faces). One negative is that there is no way to select multiple photos, which can get annoying when you want to pick out photos to delete or share.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung gallery with video highlights

Samsung's Gallery app has borrowed Video highlights from the HTC app. There are automatically generated slideshows (with no option to manually edit them) that can be shared as a regular video. The app groups photos by Time or by Event.

There's a simple editor on board with a one-tap Auto adjust, crop & rotate, more advanced functions in the Photo editor and a collage maker.

Music player

Samsung simplified its music app without removing too many features. The SoundAlive audio tuning screen has two dials - bass/treble and instrument/vocal - or a 7-band equalizer for more advanced users. The Adapt Sound option can do the adjustment automatically.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung music with simple and advanced music controls

The HTC One M9 does not have an equalizer, all you get is a Dolby Audio option, which works both with the BoomSound speakers and headphones. There are pre-defined modes for HTC headphones (earbuds, in-ear and Pro Studio) and "Other" for all the rest.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC music player without equalizer

Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the HTC can play lossless FLAC audio out of the box.

The One M9 also has an FM radio (which strangely lacks RDS support). It uses the headphones as an antenna and can play through the BoomSound speakers.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

FM radio without RDS

Video player

Samsung Galaxy S6's video player supports up to 4K 2160p videos with the H.265/HEVC codec. There's no support for multi-channel audio or DivX, but subtitles are supported (with options to customize their looks). The video player can also work in a small floating window to keep out of the way.

There are basic video editing features out of the box - trimming, color effects and changing the background music - but you can download a (free) more extensive editor too. Unfortunately, the helpful DLNA view of previous versions of the Samsung video player is gone.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Dedicated video player with subtitle support

The HTC One M9 does not have a dedicated video player, instead you just pick a file from the Gallery or the file browser. Video files up to 4K 2160p with H.265/HEVC are supported, but again no multi-channel audio or DivX. Subtitles are not available.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

No dedicated video player, the gallery is used instead

Both phones can use their MHL3-enabled USB ports to connect to an HDTV. Both also support DLNA, which can be activated with a three-finger swipe gesture on the One M9.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. While it clearly lifted the Video highlights idea from HTC (and we still like HTC's implementation better), the music makes audio tuning accessible, while the video player brings subtitle support.

The HTC One M9 was better to use, but it doesn't quite replace a proper video player. The music player was too HTC-centric - maybe that worked in the Beats days (then again, maybe it didn't). Either way, we don't want to feel like second-class customer if we don't have HTC headphones.

Audio quality

If you have kept track of our reviews you know how this one will go. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is an excellent music player - one of the best on the market with above average volume and great clarity of its output. Even with headphones plugged in, it delivers stellar scores all over the board.

That all counts for little here, though, as if faces the best audio performer of all smartphones. The HTC One M9 is not only louder than its rival here, but it's also that little bit cleaner with headphones on - in fact its output is identical to the test with an active external amplifier and that's an incredible achievement. The Samsung flagship put in a good effort, but it never stood a chance here.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
HTC One M9 +0.02, -0.06 -94.8 93.0 0.0049 0.026 -93.7
HTC One M9 (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.05 -93.7 92.7 0.0082 0.030 -91.6
Samsung Galaxy S6 +0.01, -0.04 -95.6 92.8 0.0024 0.0094 -94.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 (headphones) +0.02, -0.05 -92.6 91.9 0.0025 0.042 -83.4

HTC One M9 frequency response

HTC One M9 response

Samsung Galaxy S6 frequency response

Samsung Galaxy S6 response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Update, April 3: we retested the audio quality of a retail Galaxy S6, but it was identical to what we saw on the pre-release unit we used initially.

Winner: HTC One M9. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is a great performer indeed, but the One M9 is perfection itself and it's better than anything else on the market.

Loudspeaker

The HTC One M9 brings the trademark stereo speakers. They are not very loud in absolute terms, but they produce high-quality sound, which is great for listening to music. HTC doesn't seem to have made any progress since the One (M8), but the One M9 still has some of the best speakers on the market.

The sole speaker on the Samsung Galaxy S6 is just a fraction louder than the One M9 speakers, but it doesn't have the nice stereo effect.

Update, April 3: we retested the loudspeaker of a retail Galaxy S6 and the numbers came out fairly close. It scored a Good rating again.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
HTC One M9 65.2 64.6 76.1 Average
Samsung Galaxy S6 68.1 66.3 73.7 Good


Winner: HTC One M9. Although the two fall right on the boundary of Average and Good, the difference between them is really tiny. Loudness aside, the quality of the sound produced goes in favor of the One M9.

Camera features

HTC's UltraPixel experiment was brave, but ultimately it failed. Now the company is back in the resolution race and it's a big jump with a 20MP BSI sensor. The HTC One M9 sensor sits behind an f/2.2 aperture and is 1/2.3" big, with the unusual 10:7 aspect ratio.

Samsung Galaxy S6 has a wider aperture, f/1.9, which in photography speak, lets about half a stop more light. It's a 16:9 sensor and features optical image stabilization (OIS) to further help with photos in the dark. It has only a single-LED flash to fight HTC's dual-LED, dual-tone flash.

The front-facing cameras are notable too. The 4MP UltraPixel camera now serves selfie duties. It's a fairly large BSI sensor with traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, behind a 26.8mm f/2.0 wide-angle lens. The autofocus has been removed though.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung has been putting 5MP selfie cameras on its recent flagships. The camera matches the f/1.9 aperture of the back camera, but it's a 4:3 sensor. Both it and the HTC selfie camera have HDR modes and can record QHD@30fps video.

Both cameras have manual modes. The HTC one lets you manually adjust the focus, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation. The Samsung lacks the shutter speed adjustment, but it has sliders to control the highlights and shadows in the photo. Unfortunately, neither phone lets you manually control the focus or the other settings while shooting video.

Other modes include selective focus - this time done with a single camera on the HTC One M9. It also offers Split capture (shoot with both cameras at the same time) and photo booth (for a retro 4-photo strip experience).

The Samsung Galaxy S6 also offers virtual shot, which has you shoot a video by walking around a subject. After that the phone uses its gyroscopes to recreate that object as your turn the phone as if it's still in front of the camera. The two-camera photo, which was introduced on previous Galaxy flagships, is gone. At least you get a Wide selfie mode - like a panorama for selfies.

Panorama and HDR go without saying.

Both phones have ways to quickly launch the camera. On the Galaxy S6 you just need to double tap the Home key - anywhere in the UI, even when the screen is off. The HTC One M9 instead can launch the camera from a locked screen if you hold the phone horizontally and press the Volume up key. Both cameras wake up impressively fast, but the One M9 is quicker.

Update, April 3: we received a retail Galaxy S6 unit and took new camera samples to check if the image quality has changed - it hasn't.

Photo quality, daylight

In broad daylight a higher resolution is an advantage - there's plenty of light to keep the noise down. The HTC One M9 is indeed much better than its two UltraPixel-packing predecessors were.

In terms of color rendering the HTC boosts the blue and red channels, while the green one is a bit weak. The Samsung camera is more balanced and has accurate white balance, while its opponent leans very slightly to a cooler (bluer) white balance.

In terms of captured detail the One M9 is very competitive, capturing even fine detail. It does apply some sharpening to get there though. What lets it down, however, is the noise reduction, which leaves the image looking blotted when magnified to a 1:1 pixel size. It's especially visible in foliage, Samsung's precessing is just more mature.

That's not to say it does a perfect job. It's slightly softer than the Galaxy Note 4, so this was a good opportunity for HTC to strike.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Let's look at the dynamic range. We picked out the two photos that had the closest exposure and enabled the mode in the photo editor that shows overexposed/underexposed areas.

We've also added a histogram overlay, which shows the tonal distribution. Reading the histogram, the Samsung Galaxy S6 photo is slightly brighter but also the tonal distribution is more balanced. The One M9 photo has a more of the darker tones and the shadowy spots on the photo are way too dark.

And even though the Galaxy S6 image is brighter there is less blowout than the HTC One M9. Even though a lot of the sky was overexposed, that wasn't enough to render better detail in the shadows. Since the images of both phones are equally contrasty, we would guess the most likely explanation for the wider blowouts on the HTC One M9 photos is a smaller dynamic range.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9


Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Here are some camera samples from both phones for your perusal.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 camera samples

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 camera samples

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. It has a wider dynamic range and manages to capture more detail due to its more mature image processing.

The HTC One M9 put up a good fight, but just wasn't enough. It's a good camera on its own and processing can be fixed, but there's nothing to be done about the comparatively limited dynamic range.

Video camera, daylight

Both cameras top out at 2160p@30fps and they offer the same high framerate modes too - 1080p@60fps and 720p@120fps.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 records the 2160p@30fps videos at 48Mbps total bitrate with high-quality stereo audio (256Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling rate). This means 1 minute of footage is a whopping 300MB. Also, the phone limits you to 5 minute clips.

The HTC One M9 goes a bit longer, 6 minutes, but its total bitrate is lower, 42Mbps. That's plenty, the real issue is the audio that's captured at 96Kbps, which isn't enough for good stereo. Also, the One M9 field of view (FoV) is noticeably narrower, which will give it an advantage for fine detail, but it fits less inside the frame.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 videos are impressively sharp. They have plenty of fine detail, some things are not as clearly defined as in the HTC One M9 videos (look at the road signs for instance), but that's a side effect of that particular FoV. Samsung has enabled some sharpening in the videos, unlike the still camera.

The HTC One M9 makes a hash of things. There's a lot of purple tint in the frame and it's both under- and overexposed. We already established that the sensor in the Galaxy S6 has a wider dynamic range, but that's not nearly enough to justify what we're seeing.

Have a listen to the videos too, in Galaxy S6 videos you can clearly hear the car's tires roll by while One M9 videos have a flatter, noisier audio.

A huge issue we have with the HTC flagship is that our 1080p@30fps videos came out blurry. We went back and recorded new ones several times, including after the big software update, but they still came out blurry. This issue seems limited to 1080p@30fps, as the 1080p@60fps videos have proper focus.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. The wider FoV has put it at a disadvantage when it comes to finer detail, but it's a fair tradeoff for fitting more in the scene. The better color rendering and dynamic range help a lot too.

The sub-par audio capture of the HTC One M9 was bad enough, but the company really needs to resolve the issue with 1080p@30fps videos.

Photo quality, low light

"Low light photos" was the standby excuse for keeping the UltarPixel camera on the previous HTC One flagships. That's gone now and the difference in daylight shots is great, but what happened to shooting in the dark? Let's just say this will be a rather short chapter.

We snapped the same photos we used for our recent camera shootout. The first sample is taken at dust, the next one after a few minutes when it got darker and the last one was at night.

The Galaxy S6 leveraged its optical image stabilization and dropped the shutter speed quite low without adverse effects. The One M9 also lowered its shutter speed, but without OIS many of the photos were blurred by camera shake.

Even though we picked out the best samples, the thing is the HTC dialed up the ISO very quickly and any semblance of detail was lost in the noise. Even the first photo (taken at dust) was at ISO 400 and was quite soft and noisy. Things only went downhill from there.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 also has a wider aperture, which combined with the OIS and slow shutter speeds allowed it to keep the ISO relatively low and turned in usable shots.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 lowlight camera samples

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 lowlight camera samples

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. This was a swift victory, the Galaxy S6 is one of the best low-light shooters around.

The HTC One M9 camera proved to be lesser in this respect.

Video camera, lowlight

The quality of videos shot at dark is an extension of the quality demonstrated by the still camera. This doesn't bode very well for the HTC. Indeed, the videos from the One M9 proved very noisy and low on detail despite the FoV advantage.

Here's a crop to show off the magnitude of difference in performance for both cameras. We only tested the 2160p videos because of One M9's issues with 1080p@30fps. The dynamic range comes up once again, the HTC just doesn't do very well with bright street lights in a dark street. Even when bright windows are less prominent the result isn't much better.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 preserves more detail both in the well-lit and dark areas and unsurprisingly its videos are much more detailed overall.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. You can refer to our recent camera shootout to see the S6 against stronger opponents, this was an easy win.

The HTC One M9 has serious issues with low-light performance, both for stills and for videos.

Flash test

The HTC One M9 has a dual-LED, dual-tone flash, which should give it an advantage over the Galaxy S6. Indeed, the flash is stronger and it fills the frame more evenly. For every shot we took, the One M9 adjusted the strength of the flash until it found just the right amount of power and it achieved accurate white balance.

The noise reduction takes away a lot of fine detail though. The Galaxy S6 is the opposite - plenty of fine detail, but noticeable light falloff (it's plainly visible in the thumbnail) and we had some issues with the white balance. Even shooting with a white wall as the background, the S6 couldn't get it quite right.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 • HTC One M9

Winner: HTC One M9. The photos are good enough for sharing on Facebook (which is going to downscale them anyway). You can get more detail from the Galaxy S6 if you run color correction in an image editor, but there's nothing you can easily do to fix the vignetting caused by the flash falloff.

Selfie camera

Selfies are the most popular type of photo these days and both companies acknowledge that with capable front-facing cameras. Plus, HTC One M9's camera used to be the primary camera on two flagships and 4MP/1080p is the type of camera used on some mid-rangers.

Both cameras are great at their job. The Galaxy S6 camera dialed up the exposure so some detail was lost in the white clouds (we'll turn to HDR in a moment). The white balance is slightly warm for the Samsung and slightly cold for the One M9.

The HTC selfie is a bit dark in the shadows, but that provides better contrast, while the Galaxy selfie looks a bit washed out. The 16:9 aspect ratio of the One M9 photo is also more convenient for the modern widescreen world.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Both selfie cameras have HDR modes for when the sun is at your back. The Galaxy S6 camera, like other Samsungs, has a very light touch. If you look carefully you'll see it fixed the overexposed clouds though. The HTC One M9 camera on the other hand dialed the effect a bit too high - it creates a dramatic, but unnatural looking sky.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 selfies: HDR off • HDR on

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 selfies: HDR off • HDR on

With Samsung Galaxy S6's wide aperture you can get close to the subject and let the lens naturally blur the background.

Winner: HTC One M9. The better contrast makes the selfies look better. The HDR effect is too strong for us, but some like it that way.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 selfie camera produces sharp photos, but they are an old-school 4:3 and could use a boost in contrast.

Digital bokeh effect

While HTC dropped the secondary camera on the back the One M9 still has a mode to create a bokeh around your subject. There are no settings here though, you just shoot an object at 60cm/2ft and let the camera do its job.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a similar mode, but it lets you set the focus distance nearby, far away or get everything in focus. This adjustment can be done after the photo is taken.

Neither camera can replace the real thing, but we found Samsung's processing to be more accurate. The HTC One M9 blurred some nearby objects and there's an un-blurred gap on the boundary between close and far away objects.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 selective focus: near • far • all in focus

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 bokeh effect

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. The option to blur the nearby object gives you more creative freedom and what's more, the Galaxy S6 processing is more accurate.

Panorama

The Samsung Galaxy S6 starts the Panorama mode with a clear advantage. It creates images that are around 3,200px tall, while the HTC One M9's panoramas are under 2,000px tall.

The difference in fine detail is quite pronounced in favor of the Galaxy S6. The better Samsung image processing from the still camera is visible here too. The HTC One M9 had some minor stitching issues, but seem to have more problems with moving objects.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 panorama

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 panorama

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. The higher resolution and better processing allowed it to capture more detail. This is a situation where the 20MP camera should have been an advantage for the One M9, but that's not the case here.

Final words

Samsung and HTC are inseparably entangled with Android and the platform proved a major driving force for the rise in fortunes for the two companies. A lot of that was on the back of flagships - despite being the priciest gadgets in the lineup, Galaxy S and One flagships have drawn massive amounts of interest that subsequently translated into sales.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

A flagship is also a role model for lower-end devices and its popularity boosts their profile too. That proved a bit of a problem for Samsung as even cheapo Galaxys looked a lot like the flagship, which undermined the design perceived value. This year the company rebuilt the Galaxy S6 from scratch and the results received great acclaim.

This kind of problem wasn't an issue for HTC as the One family for the last two years and (aside from mini and Max versions) no other HTC handset matched the One's striking appearance. For one reason or another the company was struggling to maintain profitability, at least until things started turning around with the One (M8).

So, has HTC extended its positive momentum with the One M9? On its own it's a good phone though it's not a massive improvement over last year's model. Samsung was in the exact same boat with the Galaxy S5 in 2014 and that put an end to its streak of record-breaking sales.

Previously, exacting HTC and especially Apple users dismissed the Galaxy S as plastic and derivative looking. They had a point too, Samsung's strength was always feature domination not design. Even if it doesn't have an all-metal unibody like the current iPhone 6 and One M9, there's no denying the Galaxy S6 is eye-catching.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The attention to design didn't detract from features, if anything Samsung is further ahead of the competition this year. Various Samsung divisions came together to assemble a phone with the best screen, chipset, memory and (with help from Sony) camera.

Sure, Sony and LG are yet to have their say, Apple too later this year. None of that will help HTC though.

HTC stuck with the same design for a third year, the major change this time is the dual-tone build. It does look good - we spent some time with the Silver/Gold One M9 and it reminds us of a luxury watch a bit. The Gunmetal Grey looks too much like its predecessor and we're not completely sold on the Gold/Pink version.

The other major change was the camera department. We never had much love for the UltraPixel sensor, but it does make a good selfie camera. The main camera, however, was a disappointment. Good for still photos at day, okay for videos (with pending issues) and pretty lacking in the dark.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

Credit where credit is due, the audio is perfect with headphones on and great with them off. The chipset is new too. We found it a solid performer, overheating gets annoying in long gaming sessions, but it also means the battery isn't used efficiently.

If you want to upgrade from your 2013 HTC One and want to stay with HTC (Galaxy S6's looks failing to impress you), the One M9 has plenty to offer. But it's difficult to see what users who didn't buy the One or the One (M8) will find appealing about the One M9, enough to make them switch.

The same argument doesn't hold for the Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S4 and S5 had impressive features, the main complaint with them was looks and build. And the S6 resolves that handily.

Hardware comparison

HTC has a history of metal unibodies, most of which are part of the recent One series and they have come in all sizes (mini and Max). The HTC One M9 uses the blueprint of 2013's One, with some refinements - an eye-catching dual-color design, a microSD card slot and improved handling.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC had a full year to work on the new body. The dual-tone design is unique and comes in several attractive color combos apart from the traditional Gunmetal Gray. What HTC hasn't done is make it meaningfully more compact - it's a couple of millimeters shorter and one millimeter narrower, but it's practically the same thickness and weight several years in a row now.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9's new dual-tone look

Samsung's Galaxy S6 flagship grew a bit taller than its predecessor, but cut the thickness down to 6.8mm and went down in weight. The Samsung and HTC flagships measure 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm and 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm respectively. Their weight is 138g vs. 157g - a substantial difference.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 is a big departure from the old Galaxy mold

In all fairness, the metal unibody has certainly contributed to the extra weight and the One M9 also has a bigger battery than its predecessor (2,840mAh). The stereo speakers on the front are the excuse for the size of the phone, which is on the large side for the 5" class.

Samsung actually cut the battery capacity (to 2,550mAh) to reach the desired thickness (and the resulting weight). We'll see a bit later how that affects the battery life. Also, the camera on the back quite noticeably protrudes beyond the 6.8mm thickness.

The company also had to put a taller hardware Home key as it houses the fingerprint scanner and it's the better no-swipe design.

So, Samsung has made some questionable tradeoffs (battery capacity, protruding camera lens and home button) to make the phone slender and as a result the slim glass and metal combo feels quite good in the hand. The HTC One M9 in comparison feels a bit chubby, though its curved back and pointier side frame balance that out.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 are basically the same height and width, but the S6 is much thinner

Samsung's choices may be a bit controversial, but HTC has less to show for a year of work - a couple of hundred milliamps in the battery are not much progress when other manufacturers are competing in cutting down thickness and bezels.

The way the HTC One M9's body is shaped is that the metal coming from the back overlaps the metal coming from the front, but not completely. This leaves a small ledge, which improves handling (the smooth finish back can be slippery). This ledge, however, kind of looks like a case that doesn't quite fit the phone - when a phone aspires to be the prettiest on the market, it shouldn't look like it's wearing ill-fitting clothes. Of course, looks and aesthetics are a subjective thing.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The HTC One M9 metal body feels like it's made of two not quite fitting parts

Samsung's design is flatter. It has an exposed aluminum frame on the side. It's smoothly chamfered and the Gorilla Glass 4 on top and on the back is slightly chamfered too - the transition between metal and glass is not perfect but it makes holding the phone quite comfortable with no sharp edges.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The Gorilla Glass on the front and the back is beveled slightly to curve into the metal sides of the phone

The back is not completely flat, but instead gently arced. That glass doesn't offer much grip though, you have to rely on the matte finish metal on the sides. Still, the phone is 20g lighter than its opponent, which does help in handling.

Going back to the front, the HTC One M9 is at a bit of a disadvantage with a 5" screen vs. the 5.1" screen of the Galaxy S6. That's not much, but the on-screen buttons on the HTC further reduce the screen real estate, even though there's a pretty roomy black bar between the screen and the bottom speaker that does nothing.

Samsung once again uses a hardware Home button, but this time by necessity - it's where the fingerprint scanner lives. You don't have to swipe anymore and you fingerprint will be recognized at any angle. Having to swipe just the right way on the Galaxy S5 was quite inconvenient, so this is a big improvement, which will lead to increased adoption by users.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The taller hardware Home key houses an improved fingerprint sensor

Above the screen are the selfie cameras - a 4MP UltraPixel from HTC (the former main camera of the previous One flagships has fallen from grace) and a 5MP shooter from Samsung. Both feature HDR mode, but the Samsung selfie camera can shoot QHD video while the UltraPixel shooter tops out at 1080p.

The One M9 also features the trademark BoomSound speakers, which make it a portable boombox. The Galaxy S6 has only one speaker (on the bottom), so it doesn't provide the same stereo experience for music and videos.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9's trademark stereo speakers • the Samsung Galaxy S6 has one loudspeaker on the bottom

Also on the bottom is the 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB 2.0 port (both phones share this arrangement). Samsung dropped the USB 3.0 since the port is harder to fit on thin devices and wired data transfer is pretty rare these days.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Both phones have their 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port on the bottom

Both phones support fast charging. Samsung is promising 4 hours of use or 2 hours of HD video playback after just 10 minutes of charging. HTC meanwhile uses Qualcomm's FastCharge 2.0, which fills the battery from 0% to 60% in half an hour.

You'll need a different charger though, the one that comes in the HTC box isn't powerful enough. In contrast Samsung provides an Adaptive Fast Charger in their retail box.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Regular charger from HTC • a powerful charger from Samsung

Samsung has another way to offset the smaller battery capacity - wireless charging support. The Galaxy S6 supports the two main standards out of the box, Qi (used also by Nexus devices and installed in some airports) and PMA (installed in some Starbucks and McDonald's locations).

Samsung spread the side keys on the left (volume rocker) and the right (Power button). They are easily reachable with the index finger and thumb. HTC meanwhile put both on the right, which means you can only use your index finger or your thumb (depending on which hand you hold the phone in). Also, we pressed the volume keys instead of the Power key plenty of times while getting used to the setup.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

Buttons on two sides of the Galaxy S6 • All side buttons are on the right of the One M9

HTC added a microSD card slot on the One (M8) and the M9 has kept it. Samsung surprisingly dropped the microSD slot even though it was a Galaxy S staple. Samsung explains that for top performance the phone needs fast storage and microSD cards (the cheap ones especially) don't cut it.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

HTC One M9 has two card slots • the Samsung Galaxy S6 has just one

We get around to the back. The HTC One M9 back is metal and houses a 20.7MP camera. Its protective glass protrudes slightly from the back and to its left is the dual-LED, dual-tone flash.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 back is made of Gorilla Glass and as we mentioned, the 16MP camera sticks out quite a lot. To its side is a single LED flash along with the heart rate/blood oxygen saturation sensor.

Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9
Galaxy S6 vs. One M9

The metal back of the HTC One M9 and the glass back of the Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung skipped the waterproofing on this generation flagship, so you'll have to wait for the Galaxy S6 Active if you want to jump in the pool with your phone. The HTC One M9 doesn't have any special protection from the elements either.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. A major break from the tired plastic build of its predecessors, the Galaxy S6 has a premium feel to match its rich spec sheet. It's thinner - not the thinnest but still quite thin - and its metal and glass design looks great. No memory expansion and no removable battery have drawn some critics, but that may prove to be a vocal minority.

The HTC One M9 is a beauty, but so were its two predecessors. It could have been more compact to account for two years of progress. Right now the dual-tone design (while very attractive) is the only visible sign of evolution in design.

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