Friday, 23 May 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 vs HTC One M8: Which flagship takes ...

We’re only a few days away from LG’s big G3 announcement, which will complete the set of high-end flagship droids. But for the impatient, which flagship Android do you throw your money at? We’ve reviewed all the three phones at great length and thought we’d put together the ultimate showdown between the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Z2.


At the end of the day, each one will have their own personal brand preference or reasons why they do not like a particular brand. We just hope to illuminate some of the striking features which either set them apart or are important for everyday use.


Aesthetics and ergonomics

Aesthetics is highly subjective topic and after looking at all three phones, we feel the HTC One M8 wins hands down. A high-end phone should feel premium when you hold it and should be easily distinguishable from any other phone in its line-up. The S5 and Z2 lack this as the design language has been reused from Samsung’s and Sony’s handsets belonging to the mid-range as well as high-end segment. The M8 on the other hand carries forward the unique design language of the M7, which till today is easily recognisable.

You really canYou really can


In terms of ergonomics however, the M8 lags behind due to its super slippery body and overly curvaceous sides. We felt the Z2 is the most ergonomic out of the three due to its sensible button placement and blocky nature, which offers good grip.


Core features

All three phones have got your well covered on this front. All have excellent Full HD displays, SD card support up to 128GB, Wi-Fi ‘ac’, USB Host, NFC and very good front facing cameras. The M8 and the S5 edge out the Z2 a bit by also offering IR blasters. All three phones also come with 16GB of onboard storage out of which, the Z2 offers the most amount of usable space (11.5GB), followed by the M8 (10GB) and lastly the S5 (about 8GB).


Sizing each other upSizing each other up


The HTC One M8 however beats both the phones by being a bit more future proof with LTE compatibility. The S5 and Z2 launched in India only support 3G. The Z2 and M8 are also far ahead in terms of speaker quality compared to the S5’s mono speaker. While Sony’s inclusion of stereo speakers is a nice upgrade, the M8’s BoomSound infused stereo speakers remain unmatched.


Supplementary hardware features

In terms of additional features, the Samsung Galaxy S5 easily takes the cake here. We have an IP67 certification, similar to the Z2’s IP58 certification as well as a finger-print scanner and a heart-rate monitor. The One M8 however redeems itself by offering a secondary camera for depth sensing. This adds a interesting dimensions to your photos and could prove to be a useful tool for those who love tinkering around with the pictures they’ve clicked.

Stacked up!Stacked up!


User interface

All three phones run a custom skin over stock Android KitKat 4.4.2. In terms of sheer number of features, the S5 once again wins hands down. However, when you look at ease of use, you really can’t beat HTC’s Sense v6. Sony’s Xperia skin comes in as a close second. The trouble with Samsung’s new skin for the S5 is that there’s simply too much going on at any one time, making it a daunting task to navigate even for the seasoned Android user. For instance, just open up the Settings page and you’re faced with, what seems like, an infinite list of icons.


The M8 certainly has the slickest UIThe M8 certainly has the slickest UI


System performance

All three phones are powered by top of the line chipsets. The S5 sold in India gets the Exynos 5 Octa SoC while the Z2 and the M8 pack in a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801. The M8 however is clocked slightly higher than Sony’s offering.

The S5 dominates hereThe S5 dominates here
The M8 clearly has the best gaming chopsThe M8 clearly has the best gaming chops


The S5 blitzes the other two in the AnTuTu benchmark however, the chipset cannot hold its own when it comes to the gaming benchmark. In 3DMark Unlimited, which is a test purely for chipset to chipset comparison, the Snapdragon 801 really shows its number crunching chops.


The Z2 (First), M8(middle) and S5 (last) The Z2 (First), M8(middle) and S5 (last)


Another important factor to wager in is the amount of free RAM available at any given time. The more amount of RAM free, the smoother the overall interface and experience. Also, multi-tasking will be smoother since the system will be able to easily keep the state of the previous app in memory while you fire up a new one. Thanks to the ample 3GB of RAM on the Z2, there’s always about 1.8GB free. In second place, we have the M8 which has about 800MB free at any point. The S5 comes in third with about 550MB free at any given point. The lesser amount of RAM is one of the reasons for the random freezes in Samsung’s flagship, as we saw in our review too.



While all three OEMs feature their own set of gimmicky camera enhancements, we’re looking at the core camera performance for stills and video. For this, we retested all the phones with the same tests to see which one was the best.

Night shotNight shot


In our first test, all three phones captured vastly different colours in the sky. The M8 was probably the most true to the actual setting while the S5 and Z2 brightened the image considerably. The latter two appear as if they have been shot in HDR but they aren’t.


Another night shotAnother night shot


Here’s another night shot and once again, the HTC One tends to balance out the bright and dark areas without causing any blooming in bright spots. The side effect here is that you lose details in the dark areas, which are clearly visible in the S5 and Z2’s shots.


Click for full imageClick for full image


In a day time macro shot, the S5 clearly wins with the most natural and balanced colours. The Z2 is a bit on the cooler side while the M8 is on the warmer side.


Click for full imageClick for full image


The S5 and the Z2 are neck and neck here as they most accurately represent the original scene. In the M8, the sky appears overcast, which it certainly wasn’t.


For the video test, we shot all three cameras at 1080p, 60fps. We did a night and day time shot. At night, the M8 doesn’t manage 60fps as the video was captured at 50fps, unlike the S5 and the Z2. The S5 was had the smoothest frame rate and also, had the least amount of noise in the video. The Z2 had the most amount of noise in low-light.


During the day, all three manage good quality but the S5 manages to sneak past the Z2 and the M8. The frame rate is a lot more stable even when you move and the image quality is a notch better. The M8 comes in at a close second while the Z2 takes third spot. The trouble with the Z2 is that the picture quality is not the best and the sensor takes a while to refocus when you move about. Touch-to-focus is also not present in this mode as you’re at the mercy of the software.


The Z2 and the S5 are the only two with 4K video support. Even here, the S5 is a notch better in terms of frame rate and quality. We also noticed audio lag during 4K recording with the Z2.


Battery life

All the phones will easily last you a full day and little more. If you want to push it further, all three offer excellent battery saving modes as well. Out of this, we felt Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving mode to be the most flexible and one which really pushes the standby time up by a lot.

All phones will last you an entire day, if not moreAll phones will last you an entire day, if not more


The winner

Keeping all the factors in mind, we would say the HTC One M8 manages to carve a niche for itself and the upcoming G3, would probably be its biggest competition. The M8 might not have the best camera or be waterproof, but it has class, and oodles of it. If feels like a premium smartphone the moment you hold it. Plus, it’s the only phone to support LTE out of the three and has some of the best speakers ever fitted to a smartphone.


We would rank the Sony Xperia Z2 as a close second looking at its overall performance. The only issue we have is the high price of the device currently and the video recording leaves a lot to be desired.


The Samsung Galaxy S5 takes third place but as a consolation, it is the cheapest of the three (going by market rates) and certainly has the best camera, bet it stills or video. Our main gripe is with the materials used to make it as it simply doesn’t live up to what we expect from a flagship. And the UI and user experience also leave a lot to be desired.


At the end of the day, these are all highly powerful phones and what you pick is clearly a personal choice. You can’t go wrong with either of them, really, but we’ve tried to do our best to sort out the dilemma. It’ll be interesting to see how the LG G3 stacks up against these proven giants.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 vs HTC One M8: Which flagship takes ...

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