Sony’s Xperia Z2 vs Samsung’s Galaxy S5: An in-depth comparison

It’s tough at the top of the Android tree. How do you decide what to pick? There’s a new flagship launched every couple of months and they just keep getting better.

Samsung’s Galaxy S series is dominant, and the S5 is a seriously tempting smartphone, but Sony has been working hard to regain some limelight and the Z2 is no slouch. Let’s compare the two in all the categories that matter and see which one claims the win.

Related: Sony Xperia Z2 review and Samsung Galaxy S5 review

Price and availability

This is a real Achilles’ heel for Sony right now because the Xperia Z2 only just came out in the U.S. and it costs $700 unlocked direct from Sony’s online store. Currently, you can’t get a subsidized deal on any carrier. The version Sony is currently selling will work with AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks, but not Verizon or Sprint’s.

You’ll pay around $600 if you want an unlocked Galaxy S5, but you’ll also find it at all the major carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular. Sign up for a two year contract and you can walk away with a new S5 for $200. You can also find plenty of deals for a new S5 with no money down, but you’ll have a hefty monthly bill to pay.

Winner: Galaxy S5

Processing power

BSamsung Galaxy S5oth of these smartphones have top-notch quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPUs, but the Galaxy S5 is clocked slightly faster at 2.5GHz to the Z2’s 2.3GHz. The Adreno 330 GPU is identical, but Sony has an advantage when it comes to RAM with 3GB compared to the 2GB in the S5.

Running 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test our Xperia Z2 managed a score of 17,950, while the Galaxy S5 scored 18,210. Realistically there’s very little to choose between them here. They both feel fast and responsive, diving in and out of apps and games without delay.

The S5 has 32GB of storage, compared to 16GB for the Z2, and both can take microSD cards up to 128GB in size.

Winner: Tie

Pixel power

The screen on the Z2 is a touch bigger at 5.2 inches compared to the 5.1-inch screen on the S5. That makes the pixel density a touch higher on the S5, because both phones have a full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, but you won’t be able to see a difference. The S5 edges it on sunlight legibility.

Both screens look great, but Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology wins plaudits for a reason: the blacks are very deep; the colors are rich; and the contrast is excellent. Color accuracy has been a weak point before, but it seems to be improved in the S5, though it doesn’t match the Z2 on this count. Sony’s TV know-how brings Triluminos and X-Reality trademarks to bear and you can tweak your contrast and saturation. It’s a good display and it puts complaints about viewing angles to bed, but color accuracy is the only category it really beats Samsung in.

Winner: Galaxy S5

Camera

Sony Xperia Z2 On paper, the Z2 looks wins with a 20.7-megapixel main camera and a 2.2-megapixel front-facing camera. The S5’s cameras are rated at 16 megapixels and 2.1 megapixels respectively. But those ratings don’t say a great deal about real-world performance.

What matters for most people is the ability to take a shot quickly and both cameras perform well in this regard. Using the Superior Auto mode on the Z2 gets the best results without any fiddling on your part, as it effectively downscales the 20.7-megapixel shot to 8 megapixels cropped at 16:9. There isn’t a great deal to choose between them, because the S5’s auto settings also deliver, but the Z2 is definitely faster in low light conditions.

Both phones offer a range of gimmicky modes to play with. The S5 seems to do better with HDR as the shots look crisper with higher contrast. They can both record 4K video, but the Z2 does get very hot very quickly when you use the 4K mode. The Z2 has some great fun modes for kids with AR effects superimposing dinosaurs and other things. Both have a gimmicky background defocus option (the Z2’s is better) and it probably edges the battle on modes overall with a nice dedicated Vine option and slow motion or “Timeshift” video also making an appearance, although, panoramas are better on the S5.

Winner: Tie

Look and feel

The Z2 is a premium phone. It looks and feels expensive with classic angular, industrial Sony design with plenty of piano black. It’s glass front and back, which makes it heavy at 163g. The frame is aluminum, providing a silver highlight and the signature power button is polished so it shines out. It’s a big phone, measuring 5.78 inches (147mm) tall, 2.89 inches (73.3mm) wide, and 0.32 inches (8.2mm) thick. Some may feel the bezels are a little large and it’s not going to suit smaller hands.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 looks very familiar from the front with a more curved frame and the standard Home button below the screen. The back is plastic with the perforated leather effect. It’s a touch smaller at 5.59 inches (142mm) tall, 2.85 inches (72.5mm) wide, and 0.32 inches (8.1mm) thick and a lot lighter at 145g. The Galaxy S5 is slightly easier to handle and more comfortable to hold. It also has a removable back panel that allows you swap out the battery.

There’s no doubt about the winner of this beauty contest; if you want something with aesthetic class it has to be the Z2, but the S5 wins on feel.

Winner: Galaxy S5 for feel, Xperia Z2 for looks

Speaker quality and headphones

Sony Xperia Z2 HeadphonesSony has taken a leaf out of HTC’s book and given the Z2 dual front-facing speakers for stereo sound. We think every manufacturer should do this. They don’t match the Boomsound speakers of the HTC One M8, but the Z2 is water resistant and that may have something to do with it. The S5 is louder, but if you’re using the speakers, the fact that the Z2 points them at you makes a big difference.

They both have decent music apps and features, but only the Z2 has built-in FM radio. Music through the headphones sounds excellent on both smartphones; you’ll probably have to be a major audiophile to divine a difference. It is worth mentioning that if you are going to use the earphones that come with the phone then the Z2 wins by a mile because Sony has bundled in a set of noise-canceling MDR-NC31EM in-ear headphones.

Winner: Xperia Z2

Android interface

Android 4.4.2 KitKat was the underlying platform on both the Z2 and S5 at release. Sony has made a few tweaks to the interface, but maintained a pretty light touch, while Samsung has gone its own path and completely overhauled everything. Samsung’s TouchWiz is colorful and packed with every feature under the sun. Sony’s interface is a lot closer to stock Android and has an understated, minimalist charm.

For multitasking you can go split screen with the S5 using Multi Window. Sony has taken a different approach with Small Apps, which assumes one main app and a smaller utility, rather than potentially giving them equal billing. Both work well, but Multi Window is slightly more versatile.

To sum up the differences: the Z2 interface looks cleaner and classier, but the S5 interface offers more options.

Winner: Xperia Z2 for beauty, GS5 for utility

Water resistance

Sony Xperia Z2 water resistanceWith an IP67 rating, the Galaxy S5 can be immersed in water up to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes without damage. It also has nothing to fear from dust.

The Xperia Z2 has an IP55/58 rating, which means that its dust protection isn’t quite as good, but its water resistance is better. It can handle low pressure jets of water from all directions and be submerged in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. We’ve heard of one lasting six weeks on the sea bed.

Winner: Xperia Z2

Battery life

The Galaxy S5 has a 2,800mAh battery and the Xperia Z2 has a 3,200mAh battery. That pretty much tells the whole story. The Z2 lasts noticeably longer than the S5 between charges. Whether you’re making calls, browsing the Web, or watching videos the Z2 will outlast its opponent by more than an hour.

They both offer good power-saving modes that you can configure to suit you and they’re great in a pinch to squeeze a little longer out of your phone. It’s worth mentioning that you can switch the S5 battery, which isn’t possible with the Z2, but few people are prepared to carry a spare.

Winner: Xperia Z2

Notable features and extras

Samsung Galaxy S5 screen healthThe Galaxy S5 has entered the world of biometric security with its fingerprint sensor and it has a heart rate monitor, too. These are standout features that you won’t find on the Z2. Swiping your fingerprints to unlock and make purchases is a security boost. Samsung’s S Health app is also pretty comprehensive. The S5 also has an IR blaster enabling it to act as a TV remote control.

The Xperia Z2 is a polished, premium phone, but it doesn’t have a lot of unique features. Its durability is impressive, the camera is solid, the speakers are good, and the battery life is great. It has a cool PlayStation app and you can use your DualShock 3 controller with it if you have a USB OTG cable. There’s also a nifty Smart Connect app that allows you to automate certain tasks.

Winner: Galaxy S5

And the winner is: Galaxy S5

For anyone shopping in the U.S. right now the Galaxy S5 has to win simply because it’s much more available. Even if you do opt for a SIM-free model you’ll pay $100 less for the S5. It has a great display and it’s packed with extra features. The Xperia Z2 is a beautiful phone, and on a level playing field it might just edge the win. There really isn’t much between them.

Full specs

Here’s a detailed breakdown of all the specs:

Galaxy S5

Samgung Galaxy S5 Front

Xperia Z2

xperia z2 vs galaxy s5 front
Size 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm 147 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
Weight 145g 163g
Screen 5.1-inch Super AMOLED 5.2-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 1080×1920 pixels 1080×1920 pixels
OS Android 4.4.2 with TouchWiz UI Android 4.4.2 with Sony UI
Internal Storage 16/32GB 16GB
Expandable Storage Up to 128GB Up to 128GB
SD Card Slot Yes Yes
Processor 2.5GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 801
RAM 2GB 3GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, USB 3.0, IrLED, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, USB 2.0, HSPA+, NFC
Gesture Controls Yes Yes
Front Camera 2.1MP, 720P HD 2.2MP, 1080P HD
Rear Camera 16MP, 1080P HD 20.7MP, 1080P HD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0
Extra features Heart-rate monitor, fingerprint sensor FM radio
Water Resistant Yes, IP67 rated Yes, IP55/58 rated
Battery 2,800mAh, removable 3,200mAh , embedded
Charger USB 3.0 Micro USB
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color Options Black, white, copper, blue Black, white, purple
Ave. Price $200 with a two-year contract, $600 unlocked $700 unlocked
Availability AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS, and U.S. Cellular Sony
DT Review 4.5 out of 5 4 out of 5
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