Our shootouts have so far put the S5 at a disadvantage in the looks department - on certain occasions it was the extra hardware goodies and IP certification helping it salvage a hard-fought tie. Truth be told, polycarbonate construction is by its nature inferior to the glass/ceramic/glass unibodies of some of its competitors. This time around, though, there is a more level playing field, as the LG G3 is also made entirely out of plastic as well.
LG's design is essentially a unibody-like construction, which resembles the all-metal construction of the HTC One (M8), all the way down to the rounded rear panel. The faux brushed aluminum finish also lends to this illusion, while the back panel fits snugly on the device yet is easy to remove.
Samsung's design for the Galaxy S5 calls for a Gorilla Glass front, faux perforated leather on the back and a glossy plastic frame along the sides. The back is not everyone's cup of tea, but it hides fingerprints and scratches better and it's got more grip. Plus, it's a notable improvement over the last Galaxy S generation, for what it's worth.
While looks are certainly a key feature of a smartphone (it's always in your hand or on ear), there are more things to consider before declaring a winner.
First off, the Galaxy S5 is more compact and lighter. The exact measurements are 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm and 145g for the Samsung. The G3 measures 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm and weighs 149g.
Arguably the most important measurement here is width where both phones are fairly close, but the extra 2mm surprisingly feel like much more, and the G3 definitely feels bigger if you hold the one after the other. Oddly, in terms of usability the larger screen diagonal actually play against the G3, as your thumb has even farther to travel in one-handed operation.
The Galaxy S5 has IP67 dust and water certification, while the LG G3 does not. In case you're not familiar with IP ratings, the first digit is dust protection and the second is water resistance. A 6, as in the case of the S5, means no dust can get in at all. As for the second digit, a 7 indicates the Galaxy S5 can be submerged up to a meter of water for half an hour.
While having an IP certification is clearly an advantage for the S5, LG has made some compelling arguments against it.
Their primary skepticism is that quality standards set by the IP board are not clear from a user's point of view. For example, what happens when a device rated for 30 mins of water resistance is submerged for 29 minutes, taken out, then immediately submerged again? Does a new 30 minute period begin, or do you really only have one minute left? How long after submerging does this period reset? Submersability is a moot point, which is hard to grasp for the regular users and it has resulted in many drowned portables of various makes.
LG also argues that the force of the water jets you may expose the device to is also not specified. Certainly, you're talking about vastly different needs if you're trying to build a device to withstand a small splash of water or one to withstand a high-pressure jet.
Both of these arguments are valid points from LG, but we still would have liked to see some sort of official protection from the elements - after all, we're not talking about a small investment here.
Since the G2, LG has moved its physical buttons from below the screen to the display itself, while the power/lock and volume rocker are located below the camera lens on the back as part of the company's proprietary control deck. It's been refined since its initial implementation and both the volume rocker and power/lock button feature pleasant textures.
Samsung takes the more conventional approach of placing its physical buttons on both sides of the device, and retaining its hardware home button below the screen. The buttons are of ample firmness and are positioned relatively high to be reachable by thumb or index finger.
The hardware Home key is a necessity on the Galaxy S5 since it houses a fingerprint sensor, the functions of which we'll cover in the software section.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a microUSB 3.0 port (more on that later), which is covered by a protective flap for the sake of water resistance. Day to day it proves to be more of a nuisance, though, as you have to open and close it each time you charge the phone or connect it to a PC. LG's offering is neither protected, nor of the USB 3.0 flavor.
Both devices feature speakers located on the back, rather that front-facing ones like on some of their competitors. The Galaxy S5 has a small nub to keep the speaker from getting completely muffled by the surface it's resting on, while the G3's curved rear panel accomplishes the same task.
The 16MP camera lens on the Samsung is the second element on the back that protrudes, causing some wobble. The 13MP shooter on the G3 is flush with the back, even slightly depressed to prevent scratches.
Below the camera on the Galaxy S5 is another element we'll leave for later, the heart rate monitor. The G3's control deck feature below its camera is something we've covered above.
The back panels of both devices are removable, revealing user-replaceable batteries underneath. Both rear panels are fairly easy to remove using the dedicated thumb crevice on the side. The LG G3 houses a 3,000mAh unit, while the Galaxy S5 runs on a 2,800mAh pack.
Winner: Tie. While both devices are made of polycarbonate, the LG G3 is the better looker thanks to its curved back and faux-aluminum texture. The Galaxy S5 is more comfortable to hold thanks to its more compact design, but the G3's control deck on the rear panel is a worthy advantage, despite needing some getting used to. That pesky cover on the Galaxy S5 microUSB port may get in the way but it also makes sure no water gets in.