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Thinner Lighter Better

Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 detailed comparison

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on September 2, 2014

In this post we’re pitching the new Sony Xperia Z2 against last year’s Samsung Galaxy S4. If you want to see how the two fare against each other and whether or not is worth upgrading from the Galaxy S4 to the Xperia Z2, stay with me for the next couple of minutes.

Wrapping your fingers around these two for the first time, the S4 will feel like a toy next to the Z2. And that’s because the Xperia is both heavier, and more massive than the Galaxy. It’s also much sturdier, like a premium device should, as the plastic-made S4 annoyingly squeaks in hand, while the glass-and-metal monolith that is the Z2 does not bulge at all, not even when squeezed hard.

First impressions aside though, the Galaxy still has some chips on its side of the table. The ports are easily accessible, the plastic rear-plate is removable and reveals an easily replaceable battery and last but not least, if you don’t like the plastic case or fear that this phone is too fragile, you can easily put a bumper or cover on it, and still end with a device smaller and lighter than the Z2.

Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 video comparison

Of course, the Xperia is IP certified, like all the Zs before, that’s why the ports are covered by plastic caps. And in order to keep scratches at bay, there’s a thin protective film applied over the glass surfaces, but despite that, the phone is far from being ruggedized. So don’t drop it!

Anyway, let’s have a more detailed look at these two. The screens take most of the front faces, with the cameras and sensors on top. The S4 packs its characteristic Home Button and Back and Menu keys under the display, while on the Xperia, that area is squeaky clean, as Sony integrates the main Android commands within the interface.

The Galaxy is smaller, lighter and more fragile, the Xperia is sturdy, but heavier and larger

The Galaxy is smaller, lighter and more fragile, the Xperia is sturdy, but heavier and larger

The screens

About those screens. There’s a 5.2 incher on the Sony and a 5 incher on the Samsung, both sporting Full HD resolutions. But Sony went for an AMOLED panel, while Sony uses a Triluminos TFT panel. This translates in poorer brightness for the Samsung, and popping, over-saturated colors, but also perfect blacks, contrast and viewing angles.

Sony’s screen is clearly brighter, displays richer whites and at least in theory, should paint more realistic colors. But they are actually quite over-saturated themselves on this test unit, and I’m not sure if that’s a flaw with this particular device, or a given with all Z2s. On top of these, Sony did address what was their major drawback with the previous Zs: the viewing angles.

The screens: AMOLED vs TFT

The screens: AMOLED vs TFT

While looking at the front-faces, I should mention that both these phones offer notification LEDs, a round one on the Galaxy, and a thin and long one of the Xperia, hidden in the earpiece. Which also hides one the speakers BTW, as this phone has a set of stereo speakers flanking the screen and firing sound towards the user.

Samsung’s rear placed speaker is louder, but the two are actually close in terms of audio-quality, which is impressive for the Z2, given how the it is waterproof and those chambers are covered by membranes.

Everyday experience

Looks aside, the two phones are both running Android. 4.3 JellyBean on the Galaxy, 4.4 KitKat on the Xperia. with custom skins on top. However, while Samsung’s Touchwiz is slow and cluttered with way too many functions and apps, Sony’s take is much cleaner and light-years ahead in terms of design. All these, plus the different hardware platforms inside, make the Galaxy S4 feel slow and old next to the Z2, especially when multitasking between many apps or performing some heavier tasks. Regardless though, the two can handle pretty much everything you will throw at them just fine, but the Z2 will do things faster.

Since I mentioned the hardware, you should know that this is a Qualcomm 600 version of the S4 here, with 2 GB of RAM, while the Xperia houses a Qualcomm 800 platform with 3 GB of RAM. So there’s no denying the Z2 is the beefier of the two, but that was expected, given how it’s a much older device.


Sony Xperia Z2 Samsung Galaxy S4
Screen 5.2 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, TFT Triluminos panel 5.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, Super AMOLED panel
Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.3 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 1.9 GHz + Adreno 320 graphics
Memory 3 GB RAM 2 GB RAM
Storage 16 GB 16 GB
Connectivity
4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC 4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC
Ports microUSB, microSD microUSB, microSD
Cameras 20.7 MPx back camera, 2.1 MPx front camera 13 MPx back camera, 2 MPx front camera
Battery 3200 mAh 3600 mAh
OS Android 4.4 KitKat Android 4.4 JellyBean
Size 147 x 74 x 8.4 mm 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
Weight 162 g 130 g
Others available in several different colors, front-facing stereo speakers, 4K video recording AirGestures, AirView, IR blaster, Thermometer and other extra sensors

You should also know that I have the 16 GB versions of these phones in here, and on the Xperia there’s more space available for your own content, due to its cleaner OS and fewer bundled applications. Both devices will accept microSD cards though, and the S4 is also available with 32 or 64 GB of internal memory.

Last but not least, I cannot end this section without telling you a few words about that bundled software I mentioned earlier. Sony packs the Z2 with its own Album, Walkman and PlayStation apps, plus a few of its content services. On the Samsung, you do get the vast range of S Apps, from S Memo to S Translator or S Health, which uses the extra sensors inside the S4. And you also get the suite of gestures, AirView and Eye Tracking functions.

They’re not useless, some of you might actually enjoy them. I for one though have disabled pretty much all these things a few days after buying the phone, as I wasn’t using them much, they bugged down performances and ate through battery life.

The Cameras

Anyway, enough about these. Let’s turn our attention onto the main shooters. On paper, the Z2 clearly offers the better camera, with a larger sensor. In practice, things are a bit more complicated.

Both phones offer some complex camera interfaces, with plenty of shooting modes and manual tweaks. When it comes to taking videos, the Xperia Z2 steps in front with its ability to record 4K content or slow-motion clips, plus the superior image stabilization. When it comes to taking pics, both offer fair performances in good light, but really struggle to focus in dimmer conditions. In my case, the two failed to focus properly at least 6 times out of 10. And that’s really annoying.

So overall, the Z2 is the superior camera-phone here. But it’s not great, so take close attention when shooting pictures in low light, especially if you’re using the Smart Auto mode.

 

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Indoor test – low light – no flash

Indoors - low light - Flash

Indoors – low light – Flash

Macro Shot

Macro Shot

Battery life

Next-topic: battery life. Long story short, the Xperia does last longer on a charge than the S4. With heavy use, I got more than 4 hours of screen time with the Z2, and 3 hours tops with the Galaxy, but don’t forget this one has lost some of its initial juice. So it’s a trade off here: the Z2 will last longer on a charge, even when compared to a brand new S4, but you’re stuck with the encased battery, while with the Samsung, you can swap the battery with a new one later down the road. Oh, and if this matters to you, the S4 does support Wireless charging, with the appropriate back-plate, while the Z2 does not.

Wrap up

Alright, all these things said before add up to a simple conclusion: the Sony Xperia Z2 is the one to pick between these two, unless you want something more compact and you’re on a tighter budget, in which case the older and now more affordable S4 could be worth it. But that was expected and Sony would have had a major problem if they weren’t able to deliver something better than Samsung did nearly a year ago.

The Xperia Z2 outmatches the S4 in most cases

The Xperia Z2 outmatches the S4 in most cases

However, don’t forget about the Galaxy S5, which was recently announced as well, as that’s the one the Xperia Z2 will need to outmatch this year. But more about these, soon…

That warps it up for now, but before you go, I’d like to know what do you think about these two and how the Z2 fairs against the S4. So leave your replies below. And of course, if you’re interested in the Sony Xperia Z2, you might want to check out my detailed review, as well as my other comparisons, with the iPhone 5S and the Sony Xperia Z1.

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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