Sony Xperia Z2 vs HTC One (M8)
The 20.7MP camera that made its debut on the Sony Xperia Z1 is now gracing the Xperia Z2 as well. We're not complaining, of course, as we know what the snapper is capable of. The 1/2.3” size of the sensor makes it bigger than those found in most other popular smartphones, and with cameras, a bigger sensor is always a good thing. Pixel size, however, is average at 1.1 microns.
HTC has taken an unorthodox approach when designing the 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera found on the HTC One (M8). It is practically the same one that the last-gen One M7 had, but with an added secondary camera that captures depth information. The latter gives us the option to apply fancy effects to photos – to blur out the background or to convert images into 3D-like renditions. On a technical note, the One M8 camera relies on a 1/3” sensor with 2-micron pixels, and pixel size is touted as the camera's advantage over other cameraphones. These larger pixels should be able to capture more light, which is projected to result in good low-light performance. Resolution, however, is the UltraPixel camera's biggest drawback – it captures 4MP stills at a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Launching the Camera app on the Sony Xperia Z2 brings us to a clean and intuitive user interface, with large buttons for taking photos or video. The camera opens up in Intelligent Auto mode by default, which attempts to set the scene mode automatically, and it tends to be pretty accurate at that on the Z2. A manual mode has not been omitted, however. It lets the user control scene settings as they wish, to turn HDR on or off, and to take full-resolution, 20.7MP stills (Auto mode yields 8MP ones). Furthermore, Sony has added slow-motion video effects, background defocusing for professional-looking close-ups, 4K video support, and the option to download additional camera modes.
The camera UI on the HTC One (M8) isn't bad. We like that it is clean, with no knobs and toggles in the viewfinder's way, but switching between photo and video mode, or between the front and rear cameras, takes more taps than it does on the Z2. Nevertheless, kudos go to HTC for adding true manual controls to its camera software.
When it comes to actual image quality, the Sony Xperia Z2 is a class above the HTC One (M8). First of all, its images pack a lot more detail. Also, Z2's camera tends to be better at setting the right exposure, while the M8 might leave the photo under- or overexposed. Unless we use a tap to manually select the area that we want exposed, that is. On top of that, digital noise is more discernible in the M8's photos. Low-light indoor photos from the HTC One (M8) may turn out a bit lifeless, with dull colors. The Xperia Z2, on the other hand, produces livelier colors in a low-light indoor situation. Interestingly, very dark scenes in which the HTC One (M8)'s flash has fired look quite good, if not better than those from a Z2 with its flash on.
All in all, the HTC One (M8) UltraPixel camera is still a good one – it is fast and its photos are definitely usable – but it falls behind when compared to the camera on the Z2, or any other of today's flagships.
The Sony Xperia Z2 takes smooth, good-looking 1080p video at a steady 30 frames per second. Sound is clear and dynamic as well. The option to shoot 4K video with it is welcome, but it would be hard to truly appreciate it unless you have a 4K TV to enjoy the footage on.
The HTC One (M8) shoots daytime 1080p videos that are about as good as the Z2's. Framerate is set to 30fps by default, but there's also the option to crank the dial to 60fps for extra smoothness. Night videos, however, are not as fluid as those from the Xperia Z2 and exhibit a stronger motion blur.
There's a lot to love about the Walkman music player on the Sony Xperia Z2. First of all, it has a UI that is both beautiful and functional. We like its option to fill in any album art that happens to be missing in our collection. Modes and tweaks are present, to no surprise. You get an equalizer, which you're allowed to modify yourself, as well as ClearAudio+, which is an option that aims to enhance audio automatically, depending on what's being played. The Music application on the HTC One (M8) is also a pleasant-looking one, although we find its lack of an equalizer rather puzzling. It has a music visualizer, on the other hand, and like the Walkman, it can pull missing album art from the internet.
Watching videos on the Sony Xperia Z2 is a pleasure thanks to its large and vivid display. Moreover, the stock video player did not have any troubles playing back videos of any popular format. Either the gallery or the dedicated Movies app can be used to play videos with, both the ones you have recorded and the ones you have copied onto your handset. The latter has a clean and stylish UI, with a built-in option to edit videos shot with the Z2. There is no dedicated video player app on the HTC One (M8). (You can download a third-party one, of course). Instead, videos are listed in and viewed from the Gallery application. The video playback UI is clean and simple, but can also be used to trim videos in case that's required.
As we mentioned earlier, both phones sport front-facing speakers that produce high-quality stereo sound. The HTC One (M8), however, outpaces the Z2 in that respect. The former's speakers are louder and with much more depth, while the ones on the Xperia Z2 can't reach the same output level and have less presence in the lower register.
Another perk that makes the HTC One (M8) stand above the Z2 is its built-in IR blaster. With its help, HTC's phone turns into an intelligent remote control for your TV and set-top box. The pre-loaded TV application lets you switch channels, adjust the volume, and browse the TV menus, all the while acting as a TV guide (not available in all markets). The Xperia Z2 does not have an infra-red blaster, unlike many other flagship smartphones.