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.

Design


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.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Dimensions

5.78 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches

146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Sony Xperia Z1

Sony Xperia Z1

Dimensions

5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Dimensions

5.78 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches

146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.75 oz (163 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Sony Xperia Z1

Sony Xperia Z1

Dimensions

5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches

144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

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



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. 

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


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.

Displays


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.

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.


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


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.

Interface


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.

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.

Cameras


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.


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.


Batteries


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

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.

Expectations


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?

Related phones

Galaxy S5
  • Display 5.1" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2800 mAh(21h 3G talk time)
Xperia Z2
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3200 mAh(19h 3G talk time)

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163 Comments

1. KingDingaLing

Posts: 324; Member since: Oct 11, 2013

This comment section is going to be fun to read later....let it begin.

142. james004

Posts: 486; Member since: May 15, 2013

looking forward to ifa. xperia z3 will fix on things they missed on xperia z2.

2. adjou

Posts: 106; Member since: Jul 06, 2010

Before MWC 2014, most people on the xperia line: "Water resistance is useless, it's not like you are going to drop your phone in the toilet on purpose!! :S" After MWC 2014, : "OMG, WATER RESISTANCE IS LIKE THE BEST THING EVER, MUST BUY GALAXY S5NOWWWW." Really... -_-'

19. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

Never heard that. Some people would rather skip waterproofing because it adds some bulk to the phone, that's it, its a great feature.

48. Quezdagreat

Posts: 428; Member since: Apr 05, 2012

the same thing about the fingerprint scanner

138. Nexus_bear

Posts: 32; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

I agree. The fingerprint reader is nice. But its been done before. Besides Samsung's take on Biometry, the fingerprint scanner. Iris detection. Heart rate monitor are nice, but it truly sucks you in to Samsung's ecosystem and are 3points that are worthless if you add in custom Roms or want stock, if you want to wait for other implementation options other than Samsung's we have to wait for Google to bake it into their Google Mobile Services. Nice phone Sammy. But you jumped the gun again. Now I hope Google doesnt half ass rush biometric I.D. code to their OS.

51. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Before MWC 2014: 2GB of RAM is enough on the phone. 3 is overkill. After S5 announcement: HA! The S5 only has 2GB of RAM. The Z2 is obviously better since it has 3! This is directly to the Sony fans who had a ball flooding the comment sections and poll yesterday.

58. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Note 3 yea

59. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

What about it? It's perfect.

60. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

I would call perfect phablet. Better than their own company's flagship S5.

74. oister85

Posts: 508; Member since: Apr 27, 2012

I agree with you, also in the memory the note 3 has 32gb of memory. The s5 comes with 16gb of memory.

143. james004

Posts: 486; Member since: May 15, 2013

are you paid by samsung? cus i would DEMAND samsung money if spent this much time online being fan of them and trashing every comment section. Doing good job btw. ask for promotion and raise. :)

65. ngo2dd

Posts: 896; Member since: Jul 08, 2011

No it was not. With all the leak of the M8 being out people were say how the M8 was last year phone because of the S800 and 2 gig of Ram. But when Samsung has it, it is a great phone. Only fanboys talk like that.

76. Hyperreal

Posts: 361; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

before mwc: "I pay for the best specs thats why i choose samsung", after: "numbers mean sh*t, 2 gig is enough"...

80. kyobil

Posts: 4; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

wow... did you forgot when samsung released note 3 with 3GB ram and Z1 only 2 GB Ram, samsung fans flooding Z1 comment sections with "Only 2 GB Ram". and yet hoping S5 for 3GB ram.. i guess i can call it draw...

106. GTR722

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 20, 2012

SorryPapa, biggest Samsung fan here, the Z2 kills the S5 in every way: Better screen, more ram, bigger battery, better camera. Samsung era is over.

109. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Better screen? Have you demoed both phones? Nope. More RAM? Yes, but if the S5 has better RAM than it did before, it's a welcomed change. It's running KitKat, so I'm not worried. Better camera is subjunctive since there hasn't been comparisons on the camera models. Samsung nails software, and that's Sony's downfall. From a pricing standpoint, both phones are equal, but the Z2 costs a lot more than the S5.

120. Astoni

Posts: 649; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Z2 might have great hardware, but Sony's downfall is software.. atleast on the camera side. The Z2 will probably be better in everything except camera, if it sports the same camera that the z1 does..

127. TMach unregistered

Both cost $600!

128. Astoni

Posts: 649; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Both phones has already been priced in sweden and s5 is cheaper by 15%

148. TMach unregistered

Well, both have been priced in the UK and both will cost £599 Sim Free! QED

163. whitestang86

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 29, 2014

You meant "subjective" not "subjunctive" -- that has to do with verb tense.

3. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

Where is the physical camera button? If its water proof then how can you shoot pictures underwater if the physical camera button is missing? Samsung never learned from Xperia Z's mistake. Another disappointment.

8. TechFreak123

Posts: 85; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

You can set the volume buttons as shutter button.

18. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

You know you cant replace the physical camera button with the volume buttons. A button pressed half way sets the focus, you cant do that with volume buttons. Also knowing the Galaxy series, vol buttons serve as zoom buttons. I aint gonna install apps just to hot swap button functions.

43. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

No need for apps, the camera options include a setting for those buttons.. .you can set them to take pics, video or zoom... Though I also prefer a dedicated shutter button... I am actually excited to see how the S5 Mini will compared to the Z1 Compact....

46. vipervoid123

Posts: 163; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

Then u probably will disspointed Like S5 ~ Due to Samsung nvr put high-end spec in "mini" ver of flagship ~

100. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Fair enough, but then I will be even more exited to have a Z1 Compact and brag about it to people who get the S5 Mini then... hehehe

47. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

did you read what he is saying ? the s5 is not waterproof he is not made to take it in pools and the beach , its only in the shower of water accidents , the z2 is waterproof

121. Astoni

Posts: 649; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

misleading.. You can use the z2 underwater yes but not in pools if they contain clorine or beaches if its saltwater

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