Now that Sony and Samsung have unleashed their high-powered next generation of flagship phone, it’s high time to compare them across the board: design, specs, features and value.
Which of these Android range-toppers should you opt for? Let’s take a detailed look…
PLASTIC VS METAL
There’s no doubt about it: Samsung Galaxy S5 is the best built of the S series yet. Its dimpled matte backside (initially available in four colours) is easy on the eyes and comfy in your hand, and a welcome change from the ill-advised fake stitched leather look of recent Galaxy Note models. It’s a solidly put together phone despite its light weight (145g) and boasts IP67 protection to keep out dust and water. The signs are there that Samsung’s engineers are definitely getting their act together.
And yet, it’s still a phone with a plastic back. The Sony Xperia Z2 on the other hand is a gloriously seamless fusion of metal and glass. True, it’s a little heavier than the S5 (163g) but grasp it in your mitt and its cool weight screams “Yes, I’m a premium phone”. Samsung still hasn’t got there yet. The Z2 has IP67 protection and like the S5 can survive a rainstorm or a dunk in the bath totally unscathed.
Winner: Sony Xperia Z2
On the surface there’s very little difference between the two phones’ screens. The Galaxy S5 sports a 5.1in 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED display while the Z2 rocks a 5.2in 1920 x 1080 Triluminos IPS screen.
Without having compared them directly yet, we’re loath to call this one. The size difference and pixel density difference are negligible so the real battlegrounds here are colour reproduction, contrast and viewing angles.
AMOLED typically excels in all three areas, but Sony’s smartphone displays are always a treat for the eyes and the Z2’s new Live Colour LED tech, which uses custom filters and phosphors to produce a more even backlight and deeper colours, should make this the best yet. IPS also offers stellar viewing angles.
It’s just too close to call at the moment. This is an area we’ll have to revisit after our Z2 and S5 review samples arrive.
Winner: Undeclared for now
Both the S5 and Z2 have significantly improved cameras in comparison to their predecessors.
The Galaxy S5 has a 16MP rear camera with the fastest autofocus on a phone (as little as 0.3 seconds), an improved High Dynamic Range mode that shows you the effects of HDR in real time, and Selective Focus, which allows you to blur the background while keeping a subject in sharp focus (it’s not true shallow depth-of-field, but rather a piece of trickery in which two shots are merged). On the video front, it can shoot in 120fps for smooth slow motion playback. There’s also a 2.1MP front-facing camera.
Like the Xperia Z1, the Z2 boasts a 20.7MP rear camera – but the sensor in the Z2 is physically bigger (1/2.3in) which should mean better light-gathering abilities and thus cleaner, sharper photos. On the camera app front, it offers Background Defocus (similar to the S5’s Selective Focus). It also comes with SteadyShot image stabilisation, which smooths motion and panning when capturing video. Oh, and speaking of video, the Z2 can record it in 4K quality (3840 x 2160 pixels), not to mention 120fps for 720p slo-mo playback.
The specs clearly suggest that Sony is the winner here, but we’ll find out for certain when we get our hands on both phones.
Winner: Sony Xperia Z2
POWER: TWO BEEFY BROS
These two are just about the most powerful smartphones on the planet right now, and there’s very little between them.
The Sony Xperia Z2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz, plus 3GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a slightly faster Snapdragon 805 quad-core chip running at 2.5GHz, but 2GB of RAM. Neither is 64-bit compatible.
We haven’t had the chance to benchmark or real-world test them yet, but our gut feeling is that (a) the Z2 might be a bit better at multitasking (b) the S5 might be slightly quicker overall and (c) both handsets are going to be blazingly fast and capable of handling anything you might care to throw at them.
The S5 sports one speed-related feature we really like the sound of: Download Booster, which uses 4G and Wi-Fi simultaneously to help files download much faster.
The Z2 features a 3000mAh battery delivering (according to Sony) 19 hours of talk time, up to 880 hours of standby and up to 10 hours of video playback. Samsung claims the S5’s 2800mAh battery provides up to 21 hours of talk time and 390 hours standby time.
Both phones have the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system with their own UI embellishments laid on top. Both of which have their own merits and equally irritating bloatware to deal with.
This one is just too close to call until we get a chance to use both phones extensively and run benchmark tests. For now, we’ll have to call this one a dead heat.
Winner: Undeclared for now
FINGERS AND EARS
On the feature front, the S5 seems a length ahead of its Sony rival. It’s the first phone to come with a heart rate monitor (which integrates into the phone’s new S Health 3.0 app) and also features a fingerprint scanner for screen unlocking, document protection and even friction-free PayPal payments. You also get hold-overs from the S4 like Siri competitor S Voice and air gestures, which allow to you to swiftly scroll through images without even touching the screen.
Sony doesn’t really offer anything in that vein on the Z2, but music fans will find its bundled noise-cancelling headset very handy on crowded public transport, not to mention the stereo speakers on the handset itself.
Still, we think the S5 has this round comfortably sewn up.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5
On paper, there’s little to no daylight between the Xperia Z2 and the Galaxy S5. The former looks better equipped in certain areas (camera, build quality), the latter in others (features) and in many areas, they look pretty much the same.
Both, it’s clear, are likely to be killer smartphones with more than enough power to deal with anything you throw at them. Any differences in capabilities will almost certainly be minuscule – but when we get our hands on them properly in the coming weeks, we’ll be able to give you the definitive answer on which is the best. For now, it’s a tense standoff.