Mobile Geeks pit the three top 5 inch smartphones against each other, to discover which smartphone is the current king of the crop. Will it be the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Sony Xperia Z2 or the HTC One M8? Join us for the ultimate flagship shootout, a don’t forget to vote for your favorite too:
Sascha, Nicole and myself each have an opinionated corner to defend when it comes down to which device is the current 5 inch smartphone top dog. Sascha would opt for the Samsung Galaxy S5 at every turn, while Nicole is an avid Xperia Z2 fan girl. While those two choices are very tempting, I would rather have the HTC One M8 in my pocket as my regular gig.
Each of these three devices are considered flagships, the very best that their respective manufacturers could muster. However, despite being shining examples of what a 5 inch smartphone should be in 2014, each of the three phones have clear areas of advantage and disadvantage, pros and cons that Mobile Geeks will dissect in detail.
The Mobile Geeks gang took a metro ride to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, one of the most scenic places in Taipei City, and sat down to really battle it out between us. We each had to defend and state our case for our favorite 5 inch smartphone.
In the video below we give the final nod to Youtube viewers who have the chance to vote for the smartphone they think deserves to be shootout champion. Watch the video, and don’t forget to vote for your favorite:
Game of Phones
Like I said, each of these three devices has areas where they outshine and out do the competition; Samsung have a potent mix of top, top features, outstanding performance with one of the best cameras and displays ever seen on a smartphone. Sony’s glass and aluminum build is outstanding, squeezing in a slightly larger display and more memory, while HTC have by far the best audio experience ever on a phone, not mention a bullet-like uni-body build.
The raw spec lists will always reveal plenty of important knowledge to the discerning geek. Here’s a table which outlines pretty much all the good stuff we need to weigh and consider:
Top 5 Inch Smartphone Specifications Comparison
|Samsung Galaxy S5||Sony Xperia Z2||HTC One (M8)|
|Display||5.1" 1080p Super AMOLED|
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|5.2" 1080p IPS LCD|
|5.0" 1080p Super LCD3|
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|RAM||2GB DDR3l||3GB DDR3l||2GB DDR3l|
|Storage||16GB / 32GB||16GB / 32GB||16GB / 32GB|
|microSD||Up to 128GB||16GB||Up to 128GB|
|Cameras||16MP & 2MP||20.7MP & 2.2MP||4MP Ultrapixel & 5MP|
|Weight||145 grams||163 grams||160 grams|
|OS||Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat||Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat||Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat|
|UI||TouchWIz||Sony Xperia UI||HTC Sense v.6|
Let’s look at some of the very larger issues in some more detail, starting with without doubt a real humdinger of a question – which has the best quality display?
The general consensus among most geeks I have encountered is that all three have astonishing good quality displays, but it seems that HTC’s Super LCD3 is lacking in the incredible brightness and clarity we see on the Z2 and the S5. In terms of display technology development and access to the industry’s best panels, Samsung and Sony are world leaders, and it shows.
Ironically the 5 inch HTC Display has technically the highest pixel-per-inch rating with a ppi of 441, but the screen lacks the incredible luminosity. Indeed is difficult call to really decide which of the Z2 and S5 we really prefer, although I would probably call it in Sony’s favor with its larger, thin bezel 5.2″ IPS screen. Having said that, both devices scored 9/10 for their displays in their respective reviews, that would be an even call perhaps.
I think Nicole and Sascha are both desperate to claim a win here. Watch the video above yourself to decide which way you are inclined to go.
In terms of overall design, I would argue you are looking at a two horse race. HTC are really pushing the bar out with two superb chassis designs that feel totally next generation. The Xperia Z2 oozes quality with its slim glass and aluminum frame, and feels great in the hand. The HTC One M8 likewise breaks the mold with an updated take on the original HTC One M7 with a uni-body design that feels arguably even more solid than its predecessor.
However, Sascha is pushing a boulder uphill in trying to convince Nicole and I that the faux leather, plastic finish and plastic framed Galaxy S5 is the best overall design. Not a man to give up easily, Sascha defends his corner, arguing that even if doesn’t really feel fantastic, it still looks fantastic.
Performance was always going to be a close call, with all three phones using the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processors, although the Samsung Galaxy S5 (and Asian versions of the HTC One M8..?) have a slightly higher clocked version of the 801, creeping up to 2.5GHz compared to 2.3GHz for the Sony Xperia Z2. In reality however, the results are very close, with HTC obviously optimizing better for benchmarking with some nicely clinched scores. How much the companies actually are gaming, or optimizing these scores is unknown, but the real take away is that the performance of the three devices is pretty much identical.
Here is a table comparing benchmark scores for each of the three devices:
Top 5" Smartphone Benchmark Comparison
|Sony Xperia Z2||Samsung Galaxy S5||HTC One M8|
|GFX Bench Manhattan||11.7fps||11.5fps||11.1fps|
|GFX Bench T-Rex||26.9fps||27.1fps||28.2fps|
|3DMark - Ice Storm||18753||18373||20594|
|Sunspider (lower is better)||762.4||665.2||669.6|
You can also check out this comparison video which shows us running benchmarks of all three devices in today’s shootout:
This is one area where the competition really kind of heats up. If the mega-pixel race is what you care about, I refer you to Sony’s 20.7MP rear camera which sports an Exmor RS sensor that you’d normally expect to see on a high-end camera. Samsung is not far behind with its 16MP ISOCELL based rear camera which has one of the fastest auto-focus ever seen and gives Sony a real run for its money when it comes to low light situations.
Both Sony and Samsung devices have a clear edge in terms of video recording with 4K capability, but all three camera offerings offer slow-motion modes, albeit using slightly different tactics to achieve slow-motion video. Here’s an article that explores the pros and cons of each of the slow-motion modes, accompanied by this video:
All three devices also offer image stabilization in video recording. We did this side by side comparison video on the Taipei metro to see which phone really delivered the most stable video:
HTC is trying to steer clear of Mega-pixels entirely, perhaps because they don’t have their own in-house developed camera technology. The 4MP Ultrapixel sensor on the HTC One M8 is backed by a real depth sensor that allows you to modify depth of field focusing after you have taken the shot – AKA UFocus. I love this camera, even if it takes a bit more work to really squeeze the performance out.
Here’s an example of the UFocus shot:
The Samsung Galaxy S5 can kind of do a similar effect, but only if configured before the shot is taken. Here’s an example:
Here’s an animated .gif that shows you an example of what you can do with the HTC One M8’s 3D Effect, which also uses the depth of field sensor.
The HTC certainly has a few cool tricks up its sleeve, but does that outweigh not having 4K video support, average low-light performance and inferior focus speeds? We’ll leave you to make up you own mind.
Battery life, on paper at least, would seem to favor the Sony Xperia Z2 which has a remarkable 3,200mAh battery. The Galaxy S5 is right behind on 2,800mAh, but the HTC could be a candidate for the wooden spoon with its 2,600mAh.
It’s also interesting to see that the race to provide the best low power mode is also heating up. HTC offers an Extreme Power Saving mode which really helps to stretch battery life, likewise Sony has its Stamina Mode which does a similar job. Samsung however, have managed to stick their nose out in front with their Ultra Power Saving mode which we now acknowledge as the most aggressive and best implemented power savings feature ever.
The main point is that all three provide all day battery life, but we’ve jumped on the LaptopMag battery benchmark bandwagon and here are they are by the exact numbers.
Sony Xperia Z2 – 11:32
Samsung Galaxy S5 9:36
HTC One M8
When it comes to audio, HTC is clearly ahead of the pack. I think is one of the least disputable areas in today’s shootout. Their BoomSound stereo speakers are just streets ahead of the competition. Sony is also doing a decent job with some pretty loud built-in speakers, but we kind of felt that in fact Samsung were not pulling their weight with the paltry mono rear speaker offering on the S5.
To many, this will be a question of, who cares about smartphone speakers – they were always rubbish anyway? I think that HTC One users would thoroughly disagree.
You can also check out this side by side audio comparison of the three devices in this video that Nicole made. Really gives you a sense of just loud the HTC One M8 can be.
When it comes to software we have a choice of HTC’s new Sense v6 UI, Samsung’s ever evolving and expanding TouchWiz or Sony’s slick and user friendly Xperia UI. All three customized UIs look great and of course perform really well, each being based on the latest Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat OS.
The relative merits of the aesthetics and feel of an UI will of course come down to personal taste, and lets also remember that today’s experience is often very customizable too. However one area where manufacturers have been criticized is in where there are simply too many vendor branded apps installed by default.
It’s a fair argument that says HTC and Sony have pared down their in-house offerings to offer a very slick and minimalistic UI based largely on standard Google offerings. Samsung however seems determined to cram as much as possible of their own app eco-system on to the device, many of which can be problematic to uninstall and generally restrict internal storage.
The three devices are actually evenly priced, available in most regions of the world for somewhere between $665 and $785 depending on model, storage capacity and even color. The prices have started to drop a touch, with bargains on the horizon as the high-end becomes increasingly congested and mid tier devices improve.
Here in Taiwan we see the Samsung Galaxy S5 is probably the most reduced in price with a 16GB model available for NT19,000 – a pretty good deal that would stand up well against a red 32GB HTC One M8 at NT23,400. A black Sony Xperia with 32GB would set you back a very reasonable NT21,900. If local pricing varies a lot from this, let us know in the comments below.
I have nailed my personal thoughts quite clearly to the mast. I would opt for the HTC One M8 every time. It’s in-hand feel is the best there is right now. I even like the dual camera system and its cool UFocus feature among others. The HTC One M8 just feels like the best phone I’ve ever used.
Sascha however feels that Samsung have again come up with the most feature-filled and highest-end component mash-up ever with the Galaxy S5. It’s also fair to say that they have probably shifted far more units that either of today’s competitors. IP67 proofing, fingerprint readers and heartbeat sensors? It’s not my phone of choice, but Samsung clearly have a huge following that is really enjoying the Galaxy S5.
Nicole is a genuine Sony Xperia Z2 fan-girl. She actually got quite upset when Sony made noises about us returning the review sample we had. I agree it is an absolutely awesome smartphone, one that we feel probably deserves to sell better than it currently does. The Xperia Z2 is a device I personally look forward to revisiting – if Nicole ever lets anyone else get near it!
Don’t forget to watch the video below and vote for your favorite 5 inch smartphone. Leave your comments below.
Find the full review articles here: