Showdown: HTC One (M8) vs. Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Sony Xperia Z2

HTC One vs. Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Sony Xperia Z2 Compared

 

Overview

With the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 all recently hitting the market, you may be facing the dilemma of which flagship smartphone to buy. We've reviewed all three, but now it's time to compare them head-to-head. 

Picking a winner out of these three phones is one of the toughest decisions we've had to make. While each phone is generally good, they all have one big drawback that stops them from claiming the undisputed title: the HTC One M8's weak 4MP camera, the Galaxy S5's entirely plastic build, and the Xperia Z2's slower processor and poor battery life.

Even when you break down individual features, you start to see a pattern: two phones have dust and water resistant builds, one doesn't. Two phones have front-facing stereo speakers, one doesn't. Two phones have metal and glass builds, one doesn't. It's almost as if HTC, Samsung and Sony got together, and colluded to split up the best features, ensuring that everyone's a winner, except of course for the poor consumer, who doesn't know which to buy.

To try and help you, we'll be breaking down each phone and evaluating them on a variety of individual aspects. Winning (or getting a tie) in each category will score that phone one point, with the final winner being the phone with the most points. Let's begin!
 

 

HTC One (M8)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Sony Xperia Z2

Winner

Aesthetics
  • Aerospace-grade aluminium with a brushed metal finish and diamond cut edge.
  • 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35mm
  • 160g

 

  • Plastic with dimpled rear cover.
  • 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
  • 145g
  • Full aluminum chassis with glass rear panel.
  • 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
  • 163g

Aesthetics are always subjective, but we feel that the entirely plastic S5 doesn't have the same premium feel as the One (M8) and Z2. Even with the S5 out of the running, this is a tough call between the One (M8) and the Z2. Both offer premium metal and glass designs that look and handle well, so it really comes down to whether you prefer the sexy curves of the One (M8) or the sleek minimalist look of the Z2. We'll call this one a tie.

Dust & Water Resistance
  • None
  • IP67
  • IP58

The IP67 rated Galaxy S5 is better protected against dust, but the IP58 rated Xperia Z2 is better protected against water. While both phones use sealed covers to protect their ports from dust and water damage, the S5 also has a removable rear cover which requires a tight seal all around the edge to ensure water protection. Just one area not pressed down firmly, or one of the plastic contact points breaking, will completely compromise the phone's water resistance. As such, the safer Z2, with its non-removable battery, is the winner in this category.

Display
  • 5-inch 
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Super LCD 3
  • Pixel density: 441 ppi
  • 5.1-inch
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Super AMOLED
  • Pixel density: 432 ppi
  • 5.2-inch
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • IPS
  • Pixel density: 423 ppi

All three phones boast excellent displays, with vibrant colors and great viewing angles. While the One (M8) has the most pixels per inch, thanks to its slightly smaller display, the difference in clarity between the three phones is negligible. Overall, we give the nod to the S5 in this category for its higher maximum brightness, deeper contrast and more natural color reproduction, especially when it's running in its Cinema mode setting.

Audio
  • Front-facing BoomSound Stereo Speakers
  • Single rear speaker
  • Front-facing Stereo Speakers

Both the One (M8) and Xperia Z2 boast front-facing stereo speakers. Comparing the two, we found both phones to be about equal in terms of volume and clarity, but we felt that the One M8 produced a slightly wider sound, with a bit more bass and tonal range. Having said that, the difference was small enough that we will call this category a tie between the One (M8) and the Z2.

Sensors
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Proximity
  • Compass
  • Barometer
  • Fingerprint Scanner
  • Heart Rate Sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Proximity
  • Compass
  • Barometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Proximity
  • Compass
  • Barometer

While all three phones have the standard complement of sensors, the S5 is the clear winner here thanks to its fingerprint scanner and heart rate sensor. While its implementation of the fingerprint scanner could have been better, it's the only premium Android phone that has it, plus it has close collaboration with PayPal for fingerprint based authentication.

Camera Performance
  • 4MP UltraPixel with BSI sensor
  • f/2.0
  • 28mm wide angle lens
  • Secondary camera for capturing depth information
  • LED dual flash
  • 16MP
  • f/2.2
  • 1/2.6-inch sensor
  • Phase Detection Autofocus
  • Single LED flash
  • 20.7MP autofocus
  • f2.0
  • 27mm wide angle
  • 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS for mobile CMOS image sensor
  • Single LED flash

The Xperia Z2's 20.7MP camera looks the most impressive on paper, but image quality was not quite as sharp as the S5's, which boasted better detail retention, more natural color reproduction and slightly little graininess. Further to that, the Z2's special camera functions lagged badly as covered in our review. HTC has very interesting camera functions but is ultimately let down by its imaging detail and quality. We'll have a more detailed look at all three cameras in a dedicated article coming soon.

Camera Modes and Features
  • uFocus (background blur)
  • Foregrounder (subject emphasis through effects)
  • Seasons (add seasonal effects)
  • Slow motion video @ 120fps
  • Selective Focus (background blur)
  • 4K video recording
  • Live HDR
  • Slow motion video @120 fps
  • Background Defocus
  • Augmented Reality (add a variety of creatures and effects)
  • 4K video recording
  • Slow motion video @ 120 fps

While all three phones have background defocus modes, we found the S5's to produce the best effect. Unfortunately, it was also the most difficult to use, and often resulted in error messages. The One (M8)'s camera was the easiest to use, as every photo taken uses its dual cameras to capture information, which can then be edited later. Overall the S5 gets the win here for producing the best final result (even if it can be very hard to achieve) as well as its useful live HDR mode and 4K video recording capabilities.

Benchmark Performance
  • Sunspider 1.0.2: 905.3
  • Quadrant: 25945
  • 3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Unlimited: 21212
  • Sunspider 1.0.2: 397.2
  • Quadrant: 23169
  • 3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Unlimited: 18647
  • Sunspider 1.0.2: 937.8
  • Quadrant: 21249
  • 3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Unlimited: 18421

While all three phones are armed with Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processors, the One (M8) and S5 boast faster 2.5GHz processors than the Z2's slower 2.3GHz unit. While the Z2 does have an extra 1GB RAM, this wasn't enough to overcome its slower processor. In our benchmarks, the One M8 performed better than both the S5 and Z2, outscoring them by quite a large margin on Quadrant and Ice Storm Unlimited.

Battery Life (video playback)
  • 3.8V, 2600mAh
  • Eight hours, 13 minutes
  • 3.85V, 2800mAh
  • Eight hours, 36 minutes
  • 3.8V, 3200mAh
  • Six hours, 39 minutes

The Samsung Galaxy S5 narrowly beat the HTC One (M8) here, outlasting it by 23 minutes. In general usage, the S5 also boasts excellent battery life thanks to Samsung's partnership with Lucid Logic, a company that specializes in battery life optimization through software. The company offers a variety of battery saving technologies including WebXtend, NavXtend and GameXtend, all of which are packaged into the S5. Of course, the S5 also has its Ultra Power Saving Mode. Also don't forget that it's the only phone with a removable battery.

Price
  • S$998
  • S$1068
  • S$998

It's worth noting that the S5 comes with 32GB internal memory, while the M8 and Z2 are both 16GB, which somewhat justifies its higher price. Nevertheless, the One M8 and Z2 split this category because of their lower retail price.
 

Final Tally
 


With a final tally of five wins, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is our winner in a very tightly contested shootout. As always, different features will be of different importance to different people, so you'll have to decide which features matter the most to you. Despite the S5 taking a narrow victory here, we can safely say that, overall, any of these three flagship smartphones are solid choices.

For a more in-depth look at each phone, as well as full image performance and benchmark analysis, do refer to each phone's individual review: