Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview

We can't help it but stage a fight between what will be the flagship handsets this spring season - Samsung's Galaxy S5, and the Sony Xperia Z2. Both sport 1080p displays, Snapdragon 801 processors, and high-resolution cameras, but thаt's where the similarities stop. Let's dive in, and stack the two Android monsters against each other.


Our cage fight begins with the rather different chassis each company made for their Spring 2014 flagship. Apart from the design and water resistance certification differences, the two handsets differ in overall dimensions, too. The Galaxy S5 might be taller and wider than last year's S4, but compared to the Xperia Z2, it actually comes shorter, and more manageable in the hand. Sony's phone is also slightly heavier, but that's the price to pay for choosing premium materials for the chassis.

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2
Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2
The Xperia Z2 is crafted in the best traditions of Sony's OmniBalance design, with glass front and backplate, clasped into a sturdy aluminum frame. Galaxy S5 looks less premium, despite the new rear design with perforated looks. Despite that both phones are certified as waterproof, the back cover of the Galaxy S5 is still removable, revealing the swappable battery, micro SIM and microSD slots. There is a rubber edge that seals those compartments when the back cover is snapped back on, and a protective flap on the USB port at the bottom, and that's that. 

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Xperia Z2 offers a unibody design with sealed battery, and all the ports and slots covered on the sides, but it's IP58 certification is higher than the IP57 one on the S5. Sony's phone can stay in up to five feet (1.5m) of water for up to an hour, whereas the Galaxy S5 can be used in the bathtub, rain or shower, but dunking it is allowed at only up to three feet (1m) of water, and for a maximum of half an hour.

Extra features

Xperia Z2 stereo speaker
Samsung embedded a Finger Scanner in the home key of the Galaxy S5, and put a heart rate sensor on the back, next to the LED flash. These features, especially the heartbeat thingy, are unique for the handset, but Sony also has something different in store with the Xperia Z2. The Japanese graced the handset with stereo speakers and amplifier set, dubbed S-Force Front Surround Sound, as well as digital noise cancellation tech that eventually weeds out most of the ambient noise when you listen to music. Which set of features you would take, is up to personal preferences here, as both manufacturers managed to offer something to set their phone apart.


Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Sony issued a laundry list of technologies for the 5.2" 1080p Triluminos display of the Z1. There's a new Live Color LED tech, that is poised to produce brighter, more vivid imagery, without ovesaturating them, like the Super AMOLED display tech on the Galaxy S5 does.

Z2 display has commendable color accuracy
Indeed, Erica Griffin's quick show floor measurements of the display's color accuracy , that you see on the right, demonstrate how Sony's claims are based on good factory calibration - something that not many manufacturers bother to do.

Thus, on the color representation front, the Z2 screen might perform better than the 5.1" 1080p panel of the S5. Still, Samsung offers several image modes to choose from in the display settings section, so one of those might be as close to the standard sRGB color gamut range as the Z2. We'll know for sure after the tests we make on the retail units. 

Check out how much better the viewing angles and color presentation are on the Xperia Z2, compared to the Z1.

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Other than that, the display quality seems to be pretty close - the Z2 carries an IPS panel, unlike the Z1, so its viewing angles are finally good, and so are the excellent ones on the S5. 

Usually, LCD displays, which use their own backlighting, are brighter than OLED ones. This often forces manufacturers to resort to innovative screen reflectance coatings for better outdoor visibility, and Samsung has a very good track record in that regard. 

With the Galaxy S5, however, Samsung managed to craft a screen with 500 nits of peak brightness, and just 2 nits minimum, so this point is rendered moot, as that's the maximum brightness of a good LCD display, too.

Processors and memory

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
The 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processors in the Galaxy S5 is of the MSM8974-AC variety, which is a tad faster than the 2.3 GHz MSM8974-AB version in the Z2, though that's unlikely to present any significant difference in everyday usage, or in benchmarks. In comparison with the Snapdragon 800, the new 801 comes with 14% faster Krait 400 processor cores, and 28% faster Adreno 330 graphics. 

Even more important - we have dedicated image signal processors with it, for a 45% improvement in camera sensor processing speed, so both handsets seem to be futureproof in the silicon department, at least until Snapdragon 805 hits later this year. Check out the benchmarks we ran on a demo S5 unit, to gauge what's to expect from the new Snapdragon 801 processor that Samsung and Sony use.

Sony tops the Galaxy S5 in the RAM department, equipping the Z2 with the generous 3 GB, while the Galaxy S5 makes do with 2 GB, which on theory would mean less intensive multitasking, but in reality the noticeable difference might only be in app loading times. Both phones come with 16 GB of internal memory out of the box, and offer microSD slots for storage expansion.


Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Samsung plastered a new TouchWiz user interface on top of the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat in the Galaxy S5. It introduces flatter, round icons, reworked menus, and a plethora of new features, like Private or Kids modes. It held off on the "S" branded apps and functions this time, only loading the camera app with new regimes, made possible by the new sensor and chipset.

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
The Z2 carries Sony's own Xperia interface overlay, coated again over Android 4.4 KitKat. There are numerous functionality improvements, too, like DoubleTap to Wake, a Smart Call function that lets you answer calls with gestures, and new extras in the camera interface, which we list below. There is also a "What's new" app with its own homescreen widget, that serves as a recommendation engine for apps, media and feeds.


Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Both phones offer high-resolution cameras and LED flash on the back - the Z2 has a 20 MP sensor, and the Galaxy S5 comes with a 16 MP unit. The handsets utilize smallish 1.1 micron pixels for their sensors, meaning that the one on the Z2 is slightly bigger - 1/2.3" - than the 1/2.5" sensor in the S5, in order to accommodate the higher resolution. The phones offer 2 MP front-facing cams, capable of 1080p video recording. Here are some quick samples from both devices, taken at the MWC expo show floor - at first blush, the camera on the S5 looks better, but those are not retail units, so we'd save the verdict for later.

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
The Snapdragon 801 processors in the S5 and Z2 allows 4K video recording with fluid 30fpd, as well as selective focus for bokeh effect in the camera app, and both phones take advantage of those, just that Sony calls it Background defocus. They have a tad different takes on the image enhancements and effects that come with the two cameras, yet those are pretty similar in their basis. Sony offers 120fps footage for slow motion video, and its Timeshift mode now applies for video, not only for stills, while you can add real-time effects during the footage capture. 

Samsung offers something similar, with real-time HDR photography for both stills and video, plus it combines the typical Contrast autofocus with Phase Detection AF, allowing impressively fast 0.3s shot-to-shot times. The Galaxy S5 camera interface is a bit easier to use with its large, easy to press option buttons, while the one on the Xperia Z2 offers a perplexing array of modes, that are arranged in a somewhat ragtag way.


Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
Sony managed to sneak a large, 3200 mAh battery, in the slim 8.2mm chassis of the Z2. This capacity is more akin to a phablet, and Sony promises "outstanding, class-leading battery performance". Granted, we had a 3000 mAh unit in the Z1, which is not much smaller, yet screen-on times were unimpressive. The 5.2" display on the Z2 seems to be of a higher caliber, though, than the TN LCD unit of the Z1, which hopefully translates to better power efficiency, hence the promised good battery life. Sony cites 6-7 hours of HD video watching on a charge, however, so apparently the Z2 won't break any battery endurance records, as this is just an average screen-on duration for an Android flagship

Spring chickens: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison preview
The 2800 mAh battery unit in the Galaxy S5 can thankfully be swapped out, in the best of Samsung's design traditions. It is rated for the respectable 21 hours of talk time on a charge, and 16 days of standby. Samsung bragged that the Galaxy S5 can endure up to 10 hours of web browsing, and up to 12 hours of HD video playback, which are impressive numbers indeed. There is a new Ultra Power Saving Mode, too, that makes the display show images in black and white, shutting down all processes and connections it deems unneccessary, which should make the phone last quite a long time more, in case you are running out of juice. Check it out in the video below.

Those features combined are likely to make the Samsung Galaxy S5 last longer overall than the Sony Xperia Z2, with a similar usage pattern, despite the larger battery capacity in Sony's phone.


If someone told us before the MWC that Sony would be the one chasing the specs sheet with its newest flagship, instead of Samsung, we would have found it hard to believe, yet that's what happened. The Xperia Z2 has a tad larger screen, and a larger battery than the Galaxy S5, plus more RAM, and a higher resolution camera. Its waterproof certification is also higher than the one on the Galaxy S5, and the design looks and feels more premium in the hand. The S5, however, is more compact, and a tad lighter, plus it carries two unique features - the Finger Scanner biometry, and a heart rate sensor on the back. Still, Sony counters these pretty well with the addition of its own audio extras, like stereo speakers, and a digital noise cancellation mode.

Thus the Sony Xperia Z2 combines both the beauty, and the beast, in its glass-and-metal chassis. Given that both phones are capable of 4K video recording, Galaxy S5 would only be preferable before the Z2, if it comes with lesser pricing, or if you long to unlock the phone with your fingerprint, and measure your heart rate on a regular basis. There are still quite a lot of important variables to consider, though, like the individual call quality, and battery life of the two Spring 2014 juggernauts, so stay tuned for our detailed comparison between the retail Galaxy S5, and Xperia Z2. Which one would you pick?


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