Sony Xperia XZ2 vs Samsung Galaxy S9: the weigh-in

Can Sony's revamped flagship challenge for the smartphone throne?
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It's a big week for smartphone reveals at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, and two of the biggest thus far are undoubtedly the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Sony Xperia XZ2.

Both are Android-powered beasts with top-shelf components inside, and both will be vying for your flagship dollars this year. But despite some similarities, they are pretty different handsets in terms of design, screens, and myriad other details along the way.

Eyeing a pricey, powerful new phone in the next few months? Here's a look at how two of the biggest options compare, based on the specs and our initial hands-on time with both.

Design: New look XZ2, familiar S9

You've probably seen the Galaxy S9 before – because it's virtually identical to last year's brilliant Galaxy S8. That's not a problem, really, since the Galaxy S8 still reigns as our favourite phone on the market today, and its sleek, curved, ultra-minimal design is still a stunner.

But the only real design difference here is moving the fingerprint sensor to below the back camera, instead of alongside it. And as anyone who wielded the Galaxy S8 knows, that's actually a pretty smart upgrade.

The Xperia XZ2 takes a little bit of Galaxy inspiration, with its sides curving just a smidge, but it's not quite as distinctive: it's a bit closer to the Pixel 2 XL at a glance. In any case, it's not the most exciting flagship phone we've seen, although we think it's an improvement over the bulky, boxy, bezel-loaded look that most Sony phones have worn for years now.

Screen: An easy edge

Here's where Samsung looks to have a key advantage. The Galaxy S8's 5.8in curved Super AMOLED display (18.5:9 aspect ratio) was arguably the best smartphone screen around last year, and the Galaxy S9 keeps it intact. Even without any noticeable differences, this Quad HD screen is still fabulously sharp, bright, and has impeccable contrast.

On the other hand, Sony's screen sticks to a 1080p LCD at 5.7in, albeit similarly extra-tall at 18:9. It's lower-resolution than Samsung's, but should still look pretty sharp with the ability to upconvert standard Full HD video into HDR (high dynamic range) for more visual pop.

Even so, we can't imagine how Samsung loses this comparison.

Camera: Too early to tell

We haven't used either of these phones enough yet to try and evaluate them on their own merits, let alone each other's – but each seeks to improve upon its predecessor.

The Galaxy S9 makes potentially big camera strides by dropping the aperture on the 12-megapixel back shooter down to f/1.5 (from f/1.7) to let in more light, and then it enables adjustable aperture. What does that mean? Well, when you have plenty of light, it'll automatically shift to f/2.4 to capture even more detail.

That might be a really sensational addition, but we won't know until we can really test it out. Samsung's cameras have been excellent in recent years, although Google's Pixel phones have arguably taken the lead in the smartphone space.

On the other hand, Sony's cameras haven't been all that great – but there might be an upswing with the Xperia XZ2. This 19MP back camera has an ISO 12,800 sensitivity, plus it gets a boost from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in the form of a custom image signal processor. That's like what you'll see in the Pixel 2, but it wasn't actually activated until a recent update… so the Pixel 2 was plenty fabulous without it.

Both of these phones can also capture 4K footage, as well as snag super slow-motion video in Full HD at 960 frames per second. Wild stuff, that.

Performance: Loads of power

Samsung's Galaxy S9 comes with the Exynos 9810 processor, which looks to lead the Android pack by a solid margin. It'll run the Snapdragon 845 in the States, though, and benchmark tests show a bit less speed from Qualcomm's chip.

Unfortunately for Sony, that Snapdragon 845 is the same one in the Xperia XZ2 – but there's still a lot of speed for your everyday needs, and it'll be a step up from the 835 used in a lot of last year's flagship phones. And both of these phones pack in 4GB RAM.

Battery and perks: Samsung's many perks

The Galaxy S9 sticks with the 3,000mAh battery pack seen in last year's device, which was plenty enough to last a full day. The Xperia XZ2, on the other hand, nudges up to 3,180mAh and has a lower-resolution screen to power. That said, the HDR upconversion might require a bit more battery power, so we'll have to see how it all shakes out.

Both of the phones offer fast charging and wireless charging capabilities, as well. And the two are also IP68 water and dust resistant, so you don't have to worry about a quick drop in a puddle.

And you'll find 64GB of internal storage in both of these, along with microSD card support for extra storage – so that's a welcome perk all around.

Interestingly, the Xperia XZ2 also has haptic sensors that deliver force feedback that matches the audio during games and features – a rumble feature, if you'd like, to borrow a term from the Nintendo 64 (circa 1997). As our hands-on reviewer wrote, "Don't worry though, the feature is switched off by default. And that's probably the best thing I can say about it."

But the Xperia XZ2 ditches the headphone port this time around, which means you'll need wireless or USB-C headphones to listen – as well as listen to Hi-Res audio. The Galaxy S9, on the other hand, bucks this trend by keeping the port. Nice one.

And the Galaxy S9 also supports the updated DeX Pad, which lets you plug in an external monitor and use your phone like a desktop PC, as well as the great Gear VR virtual reality headset. As always, Samsung goes above and beyond with cool, albeit optional perks.

Initial verdict: Probably Samsung

Sony's Xperia XZ2 shows some potential improvements for the downtrodden line, including a refreshed design, HDR upconversion for standard HD video, and a zippy Snapdragon 845 inside to power things along.

Still, this is the Galaxy S9 we're talking about. Even if it's not a very major upgrade over last year's edition, the Galaxy S8 was our favourite smartphone for the last year, and no other phone really came close enough to change our minds.

Based on what we've seen and touched, the Xperia XZ2 feels like a more even competitor to the OnePlus 5T – but we have a hunch that Sony isn't charging less than ₹50,000 here. We don't have a price point for the Xperia XZ2 just yet, but last year's XZ1 was ₹46,990 and flagship smartphone prices have only trended upwards of late.

If the XZ2 comes in around ₹60,000 or even ₹65,000, it seems like it's going to get lost in between potentially higher-end phones for a little more money, or comparable phones that cost quite a bit less. But that's just speculation for now. We'll see how it shakes out with official pricing.

As of now, Samsung hasn't releaved its Indian pricing, but we expect it to range between ₹58-₹65k – but unless the Xperia XZ2 is significantly lower in price, we don't expect that it will be serious competition to Samsung's smartphone reign.