The S5 (left) and competitor Sony Xperia Z2 (right)

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2: First Impressions

Yesterday and the day before, the two largest Android smartphone giants released their respective flagships of 2014, with Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Sony’s Xperia Z2. We promised you a comparison article, and here it is!

The Galaxy S5 is the successor of 2013’s most popular device – the S4. Announced a month earlier than last year’s S4 announcement, the S5 looks to keep what worked, and add some features along the way.

PHOTO CREDIT: RAPPLER
PHOTO CREDIT: RAPPLER

The Xperia Z2 is going in the very recent footsteps of the largely successful Z1, but we are not particularly happy about it’s existence – after all, the Z1 launched just 5 months ago.

xperia-z2-hero-white-1240x840-3e10d78449d87fa41b4b9126a53ff806
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

First off, let’s examine the specifications sheet.

 

Xperia Z2

Galaxy S5

Display 5.2” 1080p IPS LCD display 5.1″ 1080p Super AMOLED display
Camera 20.7 MP, 1/2.3 inch sensor 16 MP, 1/2.5 inch sensor
Video Recording 2160p/4K 2160p/4K
Processor 2.3 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM 3 GB 2 GB
Battery 3200 mAh 2800 mAh
Other IP68 rating IP67 rating

With that out of the way, we shall now examine the details.

Design

The design hasn't changed much from the Z1, which is not an issue
The design hasn’t changed much from the Z1, which is not an issue | PHOTO CREDIT: XPERIABLOG

Following their OmniBalance design philosophy, Sony has wisely stuck to the wildly popular aluminium and glass design. It only slightly strays from the Z1’s design, which is a good thing. With the Xperia Z’s and Z1’s design impressing not only us but all and sundry, the Z2’s continuation of the design really pleased us.

The use of aluminium and glass also makes the device look and feel like one worth a thousand dollars, unlike the S5, which continues to use plastic.

Both the design and software have hardly changed.
Both the design and software have hardly changed. | PHOTO CREDIT: CNET

The front of S5 also looks identical to the S4, which we were disappointed to see. This is simply a repetition of their rather insipid and industrial design, rather than a continuation of a striking design. When turning the device over, the story does not change.

It comes in black, white, blue, and gold | PHOTO CREDIT: PHONEARENA
It comes in black, white, blue, and gold | PHOTO CREDIT: PHONEARENA

The back of the S5 follows neither the Note 3′s faux-leather backing nor the S4′s metallic looking plastic backing. The design is reminiscent of the Nexus 7 2012 model which, even as a Google device, looked terrible. The problem is exacerbated with the S5 – any colour other than black looks horrible and gives off an even cheaper vibe than the S4 or Note 3.

Samsung again has disappointed, while Sony continues to wow the industry.

Performance

Both devices are running the same processor – the latest offering by Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 801. A slight tweak of last year’s Snapdragon 800, the new variant allows for a higher maximum clock speed (2.3 GHz to 2.5 GHz).

The Snapdragon 801 is a slight improvement over the 800
The Snapdragon 801 is a slight improvement over the 800 | PHOTO CREDIT: LILIPUTING.COM

Compared with their predecessors (we’ll be looking at the S4 LTE+ here for the S5), the S5 demonstrates the largest jump, having a 200 MHz increase. The Z2 surprisingly does not clock its 801 at 2.5 GHz, but just at 2.3 GHz. Whatever the reason, you’re not going to see differences in speed in real world usage.

It is to be noted that while the S5 has a 200 MHz higher clock speed, this will not translate to distinguishable increases in real-world usage. As a matter of fact, the S5 might be the same speed or even slower than the Z2 due to the bloat stuffed into the S5. Nevertheless, a faster processor is always welcome.

Industry’s-First-8Gb-LPDDR4-Mobile-DRAM-01

Talking about bloat, it was a surprise not to see the S5 packing 3 gigabytes of RAM, when in comparison the Note 3 already came with it. The Z2 here has an immediate advantage, and one that’s down the line – it will be able to manage more apps running at once, and in the future will not cause random crashes to occur.

In comparison, the Samsung devices already NEED 3 GB of RAM because their UI, TouchWiz, is full of unneeded bloat. Future updates will bring even more features, possibly slowing down the device further.

Display

Both Sony and Samsung have continued with 1080p (Full HD) displays, rubbishing rumoured claims that they would be packing 2K-resolution displays. Sony has increased the display size by 0.2 inches to 5.2 inches, while Samsung have incrementally increased it to 5.1 inches up from 5.0 inches.

Viewing angles and colour reproduction has been massively improved over the Z1 | PHOTO CREDIT: THENERDMAG
Viewing angles and colour reproduction has been massively improved over the Z1 | PHOTO CREDIT: THENERDMAG

Samsung has stubbornly stuck to their decision of having an AMOLED display, while Sony has smartly dumped their TFT LCD tech for an IPS display, which in short means the Z2 is going to better the S5 in colour reproduction.

Display size has been increased by 0.1 inches, but resolution is still 1080p.
Display size has been increased by 0.1 inches, but resolution is still 1080p | PHOTO CREDIT: BUSINESS INSIDER

AMOLED displays are notorious for over-saturating colours, and thus they seem much more vibrant than their LCD counterparts. LCD on the other hand produces much more realistic colours, but put next to an AMOLED display, they seem dull.

Based solely on that, it is safe to say the Z2 will have a better display than the S5. While you may argue that Sony’s track record with displays has been poor, they have actually released one device with an IPS LCD display – the Z1 Compact. Reviews of the display were stellar, so that’s probably going to continue.

UI

From Left: S4 UI and S5 UI | PHOTO CREDIT: PHONEARENA
From Left: S4 UI and S5 UI | PHOTO CREDIT: PHONEARENA

Samsung has continued their usage of their TouchWiz Nature UX, even though rumours were suggesting that it would have a revamped interface, much like their Note/Tab Pro. It is still tacky, but less so due to the flat icons. However, it still uses colour schemes stuck in the past – it stuck with the green 2.3 Gingerbread accents throughout Jellybean, and now has adopted the blue accents seen in Jellybean.

PHOTO CREDIT: ANDROID CENTRAL
PHOTO CREDIT: ANDROID CENTRAL

The worst offence though, is the criminal amount of storage taken up by the UI and OS. Out of the 16 or 32 GB promised, you’ll get a whole 8.14 GB less. The Z2 has no such issue, with only 4 GB of storage reserved for the UI and OS.

Icons are larger, but there are hardly any changes | PHOTO CREDIT: MOBILEPHONES.COM
With the Z2, the icons are larger, but there are hardly any changes | PHOTO CREDIT: MOBILEPHONES.COM

It also looks the best out of all OEMs, and follows and functions the closest to what Google design guidelines suggest. This is something that has won over many fans, and the continuation here is also something we like.

Camera

Samsung has given the S5’s camera a 3 MP resolution bump, up from 13 MP in the S4. The S4’s camera was already a very decent snapper, and the resolution increase is always welcomed.

The camera interface looks similar to the S4 | PHOTO CREDIT: NDTV
The camera interface looks similar to the S4 | PHOTO CREDIT: NDTV

The sensor size has been increased from 1/3 inches to 1/2.5 inches, which means the bigger sensor can gain more information than a smaller one and produce better images (specifically, photos with better dynamic range, less noise and improved low light performance).

However, the Xperia Z1 already has a larger sensor size at 1/2.3 inches, and a higher resolution sensor. The Z2 is continuing with the same camera specs – 20.7 MP resolution with the G lens from their compact cameras being used in the device too.

PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

The Z1 already has shown its superior camera performance (you can see sample shots here), and taken second place out of all smartphone cameras (#1 being the Lumia 1020). It is certain that Sony will have improved software issues that let down the hardware in some moments which will result in large improvements in the imaging capabilities of the Z2.

Still, the Galaxy S5 does come with the new ISOCELL camera sensor and Phase Detection autofocus, making it the quickest focusing smartphone, with reported timings of 0.3 seconds. This is something that should really boost camera performance, but we don’t think Sony will lose its Android camera phone crown.

Both devices are also capable of recording video at 2160p/4K resolution, a feature which debuted with the Note 3.

Battery

In what seems like a foolish move, Samsung has given the S5 just 2800 mAh in battery capacity. This is even smaller than the LG G2, Xperia Z1 (both 3000 mAh) and Samsung’s own Note 3 (3200 mAh), all of which released late last year.

PHOTO CREDIT: GOTTABEMOBILE
PHOTO CREDIT: GOTTABEMOBILE

This is just a 200 mAh jump in battery life from the S4, which itself had poor battery life. Coupling that with a larger display and the ever battery-draining TouchWiz UI, and you’re looking at a short battery life.

The Z2 on the other hand has had a same increment increase that the S5 has over the S4, except it now puts it 400 mAh clear of the S5 at 3200 mAh.

Sony had already demonstrated brilliant stand-by times with their Stamina mode, so the 200 mAh battery increase should help. It still should be noted though, that the processor and display have both seen improvements using more power, so that might leave it with the same battery life as the Z1.

Extra features

Both devices feature waterproofing and dust proofing, with Sony continuing it from last year’s Xperia Z and Z1, and Samsung including it by default in their flagship.

PHOTO CREDIT: THE GUARDIAN
PHOTO CREDIT: THE GUARDIAN

While Sony has had a proven track-record with their ingress protections, Samsung’s story has been the complete opposite. Their waterproof variant of the S4, the S4 Active, imploded due to the fact that the waterproofing rarely worked and resulted in multiple RMA complaints.

What’s more, Sony actually has included better ingress protection in their Z2 than the S5. The S5 is rated at IP67 (dust tight and protected against brief immersion in water), while the Z2 is rated at IP68 Enclosures (dust tight and protected against complete, continuous submersion in water).

There is a sensor, but it hardly works right.
There is a fingerprint sensor, but it hardly works right.

The S5 though, has a fingerprint sensor, except it does not work. According to The Verge, it was really picky in unlocking the device (read more here). It also has a heart-rate monitor, which should appeal to fitness buffs.

With the Z2, Sony seems to be returning to their Walkman roots.They have included front facing Stereo speakers in their device – something that finally is not exclusive to the HTC One. How the sound quality will be is not certain, we do think it will be a large improvement over the Z1 which had feeble speakers.

The Galaxy S5 on the other hand has the speakers flush against the rear, which is not a poor placement, but there are higher chances of one’s fingers muffling the audio. It also lacks surround sound.

sony-xperia-z2-hphones ear phones earphones
PHOTO CREDIT: DIGITALVERSUS

Catering again to audiophiles, Sony has also included Active Noise Cancelling earphones and accompanying software software in the Z2 comes with. While seemingly trivial, such accessories do add value (and cost-effectiveness) to the package as a whole.

Finally, Sony has also taken a page directly out of LG’s playbook and included the double-tap to wake feature (known as Knock-On in the G2). This is an incredibly useful feature which we liked in the G2, and as blatant as the duplication is, we’re glad Sony has included this.

Conclusion

In our eyes, there is absolutely no contest. The Xperia Z2 is a far better device than the S5. A better display, design, battery life, camera, UI and a better IP68 protection that has been proven to work.

The S5 does have the fingerprint sensor, and a faster clocked processor, but the former does not work all the time, and the latter will not result in noticeable speed boosts. However, it does have a removable battery which many Samsung users cite as a deal-maker.

Even our editor Timothy, who has supported Samsung through thick and thin found himself really disappointed by the S5, and for the first time will not purchase Samsung.

Both of these devices have not been released yet however, so there is a high chance we will see changes in the final retail models. Furthermore, don’t just take our words for it – try both out when they are in stores and decide on which you like best.

Watch out for our upcoming article about how Sony might be shooting themselves in the foot by releasing the Z2 just 5 months after the Z1. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus for the latest updates!

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5 thoughts on “Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2: First Impressions”

  1. A good read, and something that can let the people know a little more about (better) alternatives to the mainstream options! I just thought I would leave some constructive comments here, so…
    If I’m not wrong, the Xperia Z2 has an IP58 IP68 (corrected by Editor) rating? (Not that the decrease in dust protection really means much in practical usage – who would throw a 1000-dollar smartphone into sand?) I also thought that it would be really nice if there was mention of the Stereo Speakers Sony has included on the Z2 – something that the S5 does not have – and some coverage about the Active Noise Cancelling earphones and software that the Z2 comes with – I think this is one underrated innovation, especially for musicians like myself, or audiophiles. Because the accessories that come with a device, while seemingly trivial, do add value (and cost-effectiveness) to the package as a whole (That is partly the reason why I’m still happy about purchasing an LG Optimus G for a fraction of a price of an S4 – In Korea, home of Samsung and LG, it is widely known that LG packs much better headsets with their phones than Samsung does).
    To be fair to the S5 though, the S5 does come with a new ISOCELL camera sensor and Phase Detection (read:faster) autofocus…so that is something that might lend it some fighting power.
    Cheers!

  2. Thanks, wonderful review except that the conclusion was forgone from the first paragraph. It’s a biased review but it certainly makes the potential (me) buyer think hard for a case for the S5.

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