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Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

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Interface and functionality

Two markedly different skins: Sony's Xperia theme feels downright restrained when compared with Samsung's TouchWiz, which goes full-out with customization options.

The differences in design between Sony and Samsung aren't just limited to the outer shell of their new flagships – the custom interface and the functionality it offers is also governed by two very distinct (and contrasting) philosophies. In simple terms, it wouldn't be objectively wrong to say that Sony has a more restrained and simplistic approach that weeds out the extra fluff and discards it. In contrast, more is better with Samsung, and even more is best. And these competing philosophies are not confined to just functionality – they, naturally, govern the resulting software design, too.

Based on the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat update, the Xperia Z2 is rather minimally-skinned. The overlay is distinct, sure, but it is nicely tailored around the core principles of stock Android, and its underlying functionality. Essential apps, like the Phonebook, Organizer and Messenger, have a minimal and uniform look. Sony has only added on top where it felt is absolutely needed – like easier homescreen editing and extra themes, or even the so-called Small Apps (mini versions of apps) or some extras for the multimedia department. These include xLOUD, which boosts volume levels, and the ClearAudio+ equalizer preset. 

User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
User interface of the Sony Xperia Z2 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

Looking at Samsung's TouchWiz-skinned take on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the different approach is hard to miss. The software is chock-full with extra features, and the Settings menu is downright overwhelming. That said, we've gotta say that the otherwise cartoonish overlay has gone through a very positive design update, though we're not blind to some leftover inconsistencies.

UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5
UI of the Samsung Galaxy S5 - Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

In any case, there can be no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the undisputed winner in terms of functionality here, especially when you consider extras like the generally-reliable fingerprint scanner, or even the somewhat puzzling heart rate monitor. Beyond those two, apps like S Health, and perks like the well-made (but hard to launch) one-handed mode, are well-received. That said, and this is important, you do have to keep in mind that a big part of these extras will either not make it into your daily routine, or are available through third-party apps off the Play Store.

Processor and memory

More RAM, or a slightly better processor – that's what it comes down to here. Luckily, there are no wrong answers.

If you would pry open either of these two flagships, the sight below is unlikely to disappoint even the most exacting of you. True to their 2014 flagship title, both the Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5 are packing some serious silicon muscle. That said, there are some differences between the two.

Packing a 2.3GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974-AB), Sony's flagship packs the slightly less powerful Qualcomm chip of the two, with the slower cores and GPU. In comparison, the Galaxy S5's 2.5GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 (MSM89740-AC) is Qualcomm's top of the line bin of the chip, and offers a small performance edge. On the other hand, the S5's otherwise healthy 2 gigs of RAM are not quite as healthy as the 3GB unit packed in the Z2.

And yet, beyond rehashing technicalities, and even beyond the slight disbalances between the two, both devices offer no-compromise performance in general, though the TouchWiz software on Samsung's phone is more prone to hiccups when navigating around the interface. 


Internet and connectivity

Flagship-worthy and frills-free web browsing; chock-full connectivity arsenals.

Sony is among the only mainstream manufacturers to offer just Google’s Chrome browser out of the box with its phones, and we can say we’re happy to see such an approach. As always, Chrome performs up to standard, and browsing on the Xperia Z2’s 5.2-inch display is a pure pleasure – load times are industry-leading, and navigation is smooth as butter.

But such dismissal of OEM browsers doesn’t do Samsung’s proprietary Browser app justice. Sure, the Galaxy S5 does also come with Chrome pre-loaded, but we’ve found that the company’s in-house solution is quite the performer, too. Once again, we have top-of-the-line browsing experience with the Galaxy S5, and we’re honestly unable to produce a winner here. Good stuff!

On another note, connectivity options are also quite plentiful with these two top shelfers. Indeed, both devices offer Cat 4 LTE speeds of up to 150Mbit/s downlink. We again have a stalemate in regions without LTE, as both handsets have a back-up HSPA+ capable radio for theoretical peak speeds of up to 42.2Mbit/s. In addition, the usual stack – Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, NFC – are available to both, though the Xperia Z2 does offer the slightly more interesting, 802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac Wi-Fi protocol (no 5GHz for the S5). On the other hand, the S5 does come with the unique Download Booster feature, which allows the handset to merge Wi-Fi and LTE speeds into a singular force of movie-downloading-bonanza.

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