Sony Xperia Z2 vs HTC One (M8)
Android 4.4.2, which is the latest version of the platform available right now, comes loaded on the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One (M8) out of the box. Don't expect seeing any stock Android UI elements on either of them, however. Sony has treated the system's interface to a thorough overhaul, adding both visual and functional improvements to the OS. Similarly, HTC has loaded Sense 6.0 onto the (M8) – a well-polished and consistent Android UI with a clean and modern look.
If you've ever used an Android device, then you should have no troubles adapting to Sony's custom interface as it is organized much like the stock one – with several home screens for apps and widgets and an app drawer listing all your installed applications. We must note that folders can be placed in the drawer, which is a welcome option since that lets us get all rarely used apps out of the way. In addition to this, there's a side panel in the app drawer for sorting and searching through installed applications. This panel hasn't been designed optimally, however, as we tend to toggle it on by accident every once in a while.
Sony has spiced things up a bit by adding theme support and a handful of its own live wallpapers, thus giving users more personalization flexibility. Toggle buttons in the notification panel are also present, to no surprise. Another handy feature are the so-called Small Apps – tools that run in their own window hovering above the UI. You only get a handful of these pre-loaded, including a voice recorder and a notes app, but the Play store contains dozens of these for you to try.
Sense 6.0 running on the HTC One (M8) is a bit more radical departure from stock Android, although you can make it feel a lot more stock-ish with a few tweaks. One of the UI's highlights is BlinkFeed – a home screen dedicated to aggregating your social networking news feeds with articles from online news outlets, thus bringing relevant information at the user's fingertips, available at a swipe's distance. You might like this feature if you're a heavy SN user, but in case you're not, you're totally free to turn BlinkFeed off.
The Sense 6.0 experience is complemented by various gestures used to accomplish a variety of tasks. A double tap on the screen when the handset is in stand-by, for example, will turn its display on, as if its power button has been pressed. Then a swipe up can be used to unlock the device, while a swipe to the right or left will bring us to BlinkFeed or our standard home screen respectively. It is also neat that the camera can be launched by placing the phone horizontally and pressing any of its volume buttons.
We tested Sony's on-screen keyboard, which comes loaded on the Xperia Z2, and we ended up feeling quite pleased. It has been developed with focus on personalization as it can be easily tailored to the user's preferences – it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. A wizard helps you configure options like auto-correction and word prediction. Accuracy is top notch.
The virtual keyboard on the HTC One (M8) is also a pretty good one, with plenty of options to configure and languages to select from. Personally, we find the one on the Z2 a little bit more accurate, but at the end of the day, using an on-screen keyboard efficiently is often a matter of how used your thumbs are to it.
Processor and memory
On paper, the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One (M8) share a lot of hardware similarities. The same Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 ticks inside both of them – model number MSM8974-AB – with a quad-core Krait 400 CPU that can run at up to 2.3GHz and Adreno 330 GPU. On a side note, this particular chip is slightly less powerful than the Snapdragon 801 model MSM8974-AC, which powers the Galaxy S5, but it is still one of the fastest around.
If you're assuming that the two phones perform equally well in real life, however, then you won't be entirely correct. The Sony Xperia Z2 tends to lag if its home screens are too crowded. Some UI choppiness can be seen as well. Keeping your home screen clean and tidy will take care of the slowdowns, but at the same time, we were expecting more from Sony's flagship in terms of UI smoothness. Nevertheless, even heavy 3D games run perfectly fine on the Z2.
We did not experience any performance issues with the HTC One (M8) during testing. Compared to the Z2, it feels snappier while browsing back and forth through home screens. Unsurprisingly, demanding video games run without hiccups on HTC's flagship as well.
Sony has equipped the Xperia Z2 with a whopping 3GB of RAM, which is an advantage that only a few other handsets can brag with. The HTC One (M8), on the other hand, has 2GB of RAM, which is still good and definitely enough to ensure the smooth switching between applications. We aren't entirely sure just how big of an advantage is that extra gig for the Xperia Z2, but we can confidently regard it as more future-proof than the M8.
Both smartphones come with 16GB of on-board storage, and both have about a third of that reserved for system files. What's left is approximately 10 gigs, more or less, of user-available storage, which many might find insufficient. Thankfully, a microSD card slot is present on the two devices and can boost their storage space by up to 128GB extra.
Internet browser and connectivity
Chrome is the web browser pre-loaded onto the Sony Xperia Z2. It is fast, responsive, and comfortable to use as it inflates text in paragraphs, thus making it easier to read. Those who use Google's browser on their other devices will enjoy its option to sync bookmarks and tabs between them.
On the HTC One (M8) we find a browser that's simply labeled as Internet, along with Chrome, which also comes pre-loaded. The former handles even the heaviest of web pages without breaking a sweat. It won't inflate text for you, however, and we're not fans of its tab switching interface. Of course, you're free to use Chrome instead, or an alternative third-party browserfrom the Google Play store.
LTE Cat4 (up to 150Mbps down) is supported by the Sony Xperia Z2 across 10 different bands, which is a perk that few other smartphones boast. When no LTE is available, you can still rely on good old HSPA+ at rates of up to 42Mpbs down. The phone's set of connectivity features also includes the latest flavors of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, MHL, A-GPS with Glonass compatibility, and NFC.
The list of LTE bands supported by the HTC One (M8) is a bit shorter, with only four different frequencies on it (may vary for carrier-specific models). Nevertheless, HSPA+ at up to 42Mbps is always at your disposal, along with Bluetooth 4.0, the newest Wi-Fi standards, DLNA, MHL, GPS with Glonass compatibility, and NFC.