We've been pitting Sony's dazzling and brand new flagship, the Xperia Z2, with just about every flagship worth its salt since it was unleashed earlier today. Despite its late comer advantage, we wouldn't go as far as to say that these stands-offs are decided from the outright, even when paired with a device like the now aging HTC One. Simply put, what the Xperia Z2 has in raw power, the HTC One makes up with its eye-catching design, and still very decent hardware specs. But the Z2 is a looker in its own right, too, and the hardware on it is truly top notch as of today. So who's got this one? We can't call this just yet, but that doesn't mean we can't take a cursory look, now does it?
Oh boy. Before we even get to comparing what are, in our opinion, two very distinctive design approaches, we have to note that the Z2 is perceptibly larger than the HTC One. Next to the it, the Z2 appears almost brutish, despite the fact that HTC's flagship isn't the most conservative out there.
Regardless, we can't help but appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the Xperia Z2. The clear-cut lines, the glass at the front and back, along with the rectangular form of the Z2 give the phone a distinguished, stoic look. In comparison, the One feels and looks more feminine, with less pronounced character. The concave nature of the back and the sides are welcoming, compared to the aggressive and edgy Z2, and it's the more ergonomic device of the two for sure. Of course, Sony had to make sacrifices to achieve that IP68 certification, and whatever you may feel you lack in ergonomics, you gain in situational utility. Therefore, and as always, it comes down to individual taste, but we're still a fair bit more enchanted with the aluminum-clad One.
For the longest time, the 4.7-inch, 1080x1920 pixel Super-LCD panel on the HTC One took something of a reference role when it came to display quality, and for a very good reason. Its crisp, 467 ppi screen is still pretty much unrivaled in terms of detail, and we love just how natural color reproduction is. On the other hand, Sony's previous flagships have all relied on disappointing TFT tech that produced under-saturated colors in comparison, and failed to render actual blacks. Despite the visible improvements since the Xperia Z, we're kind of happy to see that Sony finally went with IPS tech with the 5.2-inch display on the Z2. We're not treated to super-crisp, QHD (1440x2560) resolution as we were lead to believe by the rumor mill, but the screen is still pretty darn detailed, at 423 pixels per inch. We obviously didn't have our toolkit with us, so we won't know exactly how well-calibrated the new panel is, but our first impression was overwhelmingly positive. Finally, Sony!
Both devices run their respective takes on the latest and greatest Android 4.4 KitKat, but there's a stark difference to their design approach. Sony has the friendlier interface, and arguably the more modern one. It allows more customizations, too, thanks to its wide variety of built-in color themes, and a more flexible underlying idea. There's no arguing that Sony's take on Android reminds us more of the stock, vanilla experience, even though the company has customized the experience behind most essential apps, like the Dialer, Messaging, Gallery, and Camera apps. Individual features, like double knock to wake the phone, are especially welcome.
Looking at HTC's Sense 5.5-skinned version of Android, we can't help but note the difference in approach. HTC's UI is for grown-ups in comparison -- it's just sleeker, and far more conservative, almost overly so. Grey and black elements in the ornamentation of the software are common, and the interface feels a tad less colorful when put next to Sony's new flagship. But it would be wrong of us to call HTC's software lifeless, especially in the presence of a feature like BlinkFeed, which aggregates information from numerous sources, like Twitter, Facebook, and others. The software on the HTC One is constantly buzzing with something new!
Processor and memory
Processing power is the one area where Sony's Xperia Z2 easily steamrolls the HTC One. HTC's 2GB of RAM and aging 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 are simply no match for the Xperia Z2's fancy 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 and 3 gigs of RAM. No, that's not a typo -- Snapdragon 801 is going to be a real thing, and it's a decent upgrade over the existing Snapdragon 800 line. In comparison with the now older SD800, the SD801's Krait 400 cores are said to be 14% faster, while the Adreno 330 GPU has received a sizeable, 28% bump in potency.
Obviously, we'll wait and see how Qualcomm's latest performs once we get our hands on it, but it suffices to say that the Xperia Z2 gets an easy win in this particular department.
The camera is, arguably, the second area where Sony's Xperia Z2 has a significant advantage. The 4MP "UltraPixel" tech behind the HTC One is not as bad some would lead you to believe, but it simply can't match the 20.7MP Exmor RS sensor of the Xperia Z2. What's more, the Xperia Z2 now touts an even more complete software feature set, with support for 4K video capture and an 120 FPS mode for slow-mo vids. Sony has also made the TimeShift and AR (Augmented Reality) effects usable in video capture mode, instead of just stills, so that's another new perk with the Z2. Lastly, it's worth pointing out that its fancy Snapdragon 801 processor is said to bring up to 45% improvements in camera sensor processing speed, but we'll have to wait this one and see how exactly these gains translate into reality.
Pragmatism dictates that the smarter pick at this point in time is the Xperia Z2 -- something many of you would probably agree with. It's the newer device, with the hotter hardware, and it's far from bad to look at. But while this might be enough of a reason for some to make the jump, not everybody is necessarily after the most impressively-sounding hardware. After all, the HTC One gets by more than fine, and despite its age it's still a very potent device, and, in our view, the more stylish one.