Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z1
Samsung's Galaxy S5 is hot off the press, sporting a next-gen Snapdragon 801, a new 16 MP camera, and some novel features, like a heartrate sensor on the rear. The Xperia Z1 is Sony’s flagship phone for last year, which was announced just six months ago and soon will be replaced by the yet-to-be-released Xperia Z2. That's not to say the Z1 doesn't have flagship specs, though, as the handset offers a 1080p display, just like the S5, a still-fast Snapdragon 800 processor, and a whopping 20 MP camera on the back.
That's why we are staging a fight between the two, as the Z1 now comes cheaper than the S5, but will you be missing on something if you go the Xperia way? Is this S5 newcomer clearly superior over Sony's 2013 flagship? Read on to find out...
The Z1 chassis is as unwieldy to use with one hand as the S5 casing, but feels more premium in the hand, and has higher waterproof certification.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a plastic water-resistant body with removable back cover, while the Sony Xperia Z1 has a premium chassis that’s comprised of a sturdy metallic frame with a glass front and back. Needless to say, the materials by themselves tell us clearly how these two handsets differ in their design approach. While the Galaxy S5 arguably has a more sophisticated look than ever before, with its “perforated” rear design, its plastic construction lacks the solid feel attached to the steel-and-glass Xperia Z1. The removable back cover, however, gives easy access to the swappable battery, while the chassis of the Z1 has the unit sealed inside.
Looking at their specs sheet on paper, the S5 is slightly thinner and lighter, but in reality this is hardly noticeable. Both phones seem too big for their screen size, and cumbersome to use with one hand. On another count, they both sport water-tight chassis, that lets them swim in water, but the depth certifications are in favor of the Z1. Sony's phone is tagged IP58, which means it can stay in up to 5 feet (1.5m) of water for more than an hour, while the S5 carries IP67 certification, so it can lounge in up to 3 feet (1m) of water for half an hour without damage.
Samsung is betting big on biometrics with the Galaxy S5, offering a Finger Scanner embedded in the home key underneath the display. It is a bit cumbersome to use, however, requiring you to swipe directly over the home key in one position of the finger only, so most of the time you'll need two hands to use it properly. The other new sensor – the heartrate one near the LED flash on the back – also needs some time to work, as it will read your pulse for 10 seconds and more, before it registers a score. Both are useful features if you need them, just not as quick to use as they should be.
With the Galaxy S5, Samsung introduced its best AMOLED to date, which is superior to the Z1's panel in every aspect, especially viewing angles, but still has overblown colors and cold hues in the default Standard screen mode.
The Galaxy S5 features a smidgen larger 5.1” 1080p Super AMOLED panel that’s capable of delivering 400+ nits of brightness in automatic mode under bright sunlight. The Xperia Z1 packs a 5” 1080p Triluminos display with similar pixel density, which exhibits somewhat pale and washed-out colors. The S5 panel is the best and brightest AMOLED Samsung has done to date, but color reproduction hasn't changed much – it still has blueish tone and punchy oversaturated colors, with emphasize on blue and green. The default Standard mode of the screen (which would likely be what most people will keep on their phone) shows the cold curse of AMOLED displays in full force – we measured the abominal 8000K, making the screen's white appear very blueish. The Professional mode has better color temperature, and slightly more accurate colors, but still comes with this “AMOLED feel”. If you want the closest possible sRGB representation on the S5, you have to keep the screen in Cinema Mode, which only blasts the greens out of proportion.
The S5's biggest advantage before the Z1's display, however, are the viewing angles. While Sony used an older TN-LCD technology, where brightness and contrast drop dramatically with the slightest tilt, on the S5 the colors, brightness and black levels barely budge even at the most extreme angles. Besides being brighter than the Z1's panel, the S5's screen also has lower minimum brightness of 2 nits, which helps your eyes in dark surroundings, while on the Z1 you can just see the backlight seeping through the color filters.
As a whole, Samsung S5's screen is more vivid to look at (albeit oversaturated and not accurate), with way better black levels and good viewing angles. It also offers more functions, as its supersensitive Synaptics touch layer allows you to use it with gloves, or hover your finger over the screen, previewing content without touching it.