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Samsung Galaxy S5 vs new HTC One (M8) vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison review: what is the best new Android smartphone of 2014?

HTC, Samsung and Sony have each unveiled their flagship smartphones for 2014 in the One M8, Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 respectively. With three brand-new and very stylish Android handsets on the market, which should you buy? We compare the Samsung Galaxy S5, New HTC One (M8) 2014 and Sony Xperia Z2 spec for spec to find out.

The HTC One M8 is avaialble already with the Samsung Galaxy S5 launching on 11 April and the Sony Xperia Z2 on 14 April. Right now you can pre-order the Sony Xperia Z2 for £599, and Amazon UK is listing the Samsung Galaxy S5 at £548 (but with an RRP of £599 matching that of the Z2). The HTC One M8 costs around £550, but no doubt all three smartphones will come down by some £50- to £100 within a couple of months, and you'll be able to pick them up much more cheaply (relatively speaking) on a contract. See also: best smartphones

Design-wise there are only a few differences between each of these smartphones and their predecessors. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has the same design as the S4, but with a perforated case that makes it feel less like a premium device. New here, though, is a fingerprint scanner built into the Home button, and a heart-rate monitor on the rear.

The Sony Xperia Z2 is almost identical to the Z1, but with a new (almost hidden) earpiece and microphone at top and bottom. It's slightly larger than the Z1 to incorporate the larger screen, and Sony says it has improved the screen-to-chassis ratio. The Z2 does feel smaller, but it's still a little unwieldy.

HTC has extended its metal design to the front of the handset, machining the chassis from a single piece of aluminium and treating it to a glossy finish. It's also snuck in improved front-facing BoomSound speakers that benefit from larger chambers and a redesigned amplifier.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the slimmest smartphone in our trio, at 8.1mm versus the Sony Xperia Z2's 8.2mm and HTC One M8's 9.4mm (we're quoting GSM on the latter). The S5 is also the shortest, at 142mm, and the Z2 the tallest, at 146.8mm; the HTC One M8 is piggy in the middle at 146.4mm. A slim piggy, mind, since its 70.6mm chassis is smaller in width than both the 73.3mm Z2 and 72.5mm S5, and it weighs 3g less than the Sony (163g), although 15g more than the featherlight 145g S5.

Both the Sony and Samsung are certified dust- and waterproof. However, whereas you'll need to ensure the Galaxy S5's case is clipped on tightly with its ports properly covered before jumping into a large puddle, the Xperia Z2's IP55 and IP58 ratings mean you can dive headfirst into the nearest swimming pool and even take photos underwater. The Sony is waterproof in freshwater to 1.5m and for up to 30 minutes.

Various colours are available for each of the handsets. The Samsung comes in black, white, gold and blue. The Sony is available in black, white and purple. HTC, meanwhile, offers the One M8 in grey, silver or gold.

There is very little difference in the sizing of these three smartphones' screens, with the HTC the smallest at 5in, the Samsung slightly larger at 5.1in, and the Sony biggest of the bunch at 5.2in. All three offer a full-HD (1920x1080) resolution, but the HTC's smaller screen means it offers the highest pixel density at 441ppi. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S5 offers 432ppi and the Sony 423ppi, although you really won't be able to tell the difference between them.

Samsung employs a Super AMOLED panel in its Galaxy S5, which it says can automatically adjust to lighting, thereby optimising the display for whatever the conditions. Sony uses a 'Triluminous' display, and its X-Reality mobile picture engine and Live Colour LED technology (which is said to increase colour depth and gradation) result in a gorgeous-looking screen that is sharp, colourful, vibrant and immersive. HTC, meanwhile, has increased the size of its super-sharp panel and moved the navigation buttons onscreen, allowing for a handset that's only slightly chunkier than the original HTC One.

We can't wait to get the HTC, Samsung and Sony into our lab for benchmarking, since there's very little to separate them on paper. All three sport Adreno 330 graphics. All three run Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processors. The differences lie only in the clock speed of the processor - Samsung pushes this chip the hardest, at 2.5GHz versus its rivals' 2.3GHz - and the amount of RAM. Whereas the S5 and HTC come with 2GB of memory, Sony slaps 3GB into the Z2 - but how much difference will this really make, especially given the Galaxy S5's faster-clocked CPU?

We're also intrigued by HTC's claims of a co-processor. According to the smartphone maker, its low-power chip keeps sensors awake for features such as Motion Launch Gestures and can also track activity via the preloaded Fitbit app.

One thing's for sure, though, all three smartphones will be blazing-fast - Sony says the Snapdragon 801 is 75 percent faster than the S4 Pro - and with unbeatable graphics.

The Samsung, Sony and HTC are each available with 16GB of internal storage for your apps, music, video and more. The Galaxy S5 is reportedly also available in a 32GB model, but history tells us you'll be hard-pushed to find one. Pleasingly, each comes with a microSDXC slot that lets you plug in a further 64GB of storage (although the Samsung and HTC can handle 128GB). The HTC also comes with 65GB of free Google Drive cloud storage.

At last we have an area where these Android phones are less evenly matched. On paper you might be tricked into thinking the 20.7Mp Sony Xperia Z2 is the best suited to the amateur photographer, while the 4.1Mp HTC One M8 is about as useful for taking photos as an envelope, and the 16Mp Galaxy S5 sits somewhere in the middle. But achieving decent photographs depends on a lot more than the number of megapixels offered by a sensor, and each of these three phones offers some interesting technologies in this department.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has gone from 13Mp in the S4 to 16Mp here, with its 1/2.6in sensor boasting a super-fast auto focus that lets you take a shot in 0.3 seconds, a selective focus mode that blurs the background and makes your subject really stand out, and a pretty decent HDR (Rich Tone) mode. There's also a 2Mp front-facing webcam, and the Galaxy S5 is capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps.

Talking about 4K video, the Sony Xperia Z2 gets one up on the S5 with support for 4K video via MHL. This means you can watch the 4K video captured on your smartphone on your 4K TV, thereby enjoying it in its full glory. The Sony also boasts a 20.7Mp stills camera, which should allow for outstanding photography and video from your smartphone. It combines a large 1/2.3in Exmor RS sensor with Sony's G Lens and BIONZ image-processing engine for blur-free, ultra-sharp shots even in low light. There's also a Timeshift slo-mo mode that shoots at 120fps.

We've seen the HTC One M8's Ultrapixel camera before, and we weren't disappointed. Now HTC has upgraded its design by offering a second camera - known as the Duo Camera. While one sensor shoots a standard image, the other captures depth. This allows you to refocus a shot even after the event. HTC also boasts a 5Mp front-facing camera with a wide-angle lens for the One M8.

Whether you buy your smartphone from HTC, Samsung or Sony, it's going to come with the latest connectivity technology. That means 4G LTE mobile connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0, the very latest in Wi-Fi technology - 802.11ac - and NFC.

Sony also allows the sharing of 4K content between your smartphone and TV via MHL, and boasts of one-touch sharing, listening, mirroring and backup via NFC, while Samsung specifies MIMO technology and offers a unique Download Booster that combines the power of 4G LTE and 802.11ac Wi-Fi to deliver downloads at a theoretical max of 400Mb/s. That's fast.

Unsurprisingly, all thee handsets run the very latest version of Google Android: KitKat 4.4.2. None is a vanilla implementation of Android, however, with the Sony Xperia Z2 perhaps the closest.

Samsung has performed a bit of a clean up of Android for its Galaxy S5, with round icons found in the notification bar and Settings menu. Similar to BlinkFeed, Samsung's Magazine interface is placed to the left of the main Home screen, and we couldn't find a way to remove it. Three extras are worthy of mention: Kids Mode offers a fun, colourful interface for children, restricting content and access to other features with a PIN; S Health is paired with the heart-rate monitor on the S5's rear to help you track your fitness; and Private Mode is a place in which to store all those naughty or embarrassing photos and videos you don't want anyone else to see (the fingerprint scanner is used to gain access to this mode).

HTC's Sense 6.0 interface debuts with the One M8. It lets you personalise BlinkFeed to a greater degree, and change the theme of the software and even the font. HTC also builds in Motion Launch Gestures - you can switch on the phone by double-tapping the screen, swiping in from the edge of screen launches BlinkFeed or the widget panel, and holding the phone in landscape mode and pressing the volume key launches the Camera app.

Battery life is always a bit of a sticking point for the most powerful Android phones, with few able to last more than a day without needing a recharge. So it's pleasing to see phone makers include special power-saving modes that can drastically improve the runtime. The Galaxy S5's Ultra Power Saving mode, for example, switches the display to black and white and turns off unnecessary features, allowing the Galaxy smartphone to last 24 hours with just 10 percent charge. HTC's Extreme Power Saving mode is even better, allowing 30 hours of runtime once the battery drops to 10 percent.

Ignoring these power-saving features, however, the Sony Xperia Z2 has the largest-capacity power pack at 3200mAh. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 offers a 2800mAh cell, and the HTC One M8 2600mAh. Only the Samsung's is removable, which means you could potentially carry a spare when you're away from a mains charging point for an extended period.

Without those power-saving modes, Samsung claims its S5 lasts 10 hours when used for web browsing and 12 hours for video playback. Sony says its Xperia Z2 can manage up to 740 hours on standby, or 120 hours for music, 19 hours for talk time, and 10 hours for video. HTC makes no claims about its battery life in normal use.

We'll run each handset through our own battery-life tests once we get them into the lab.


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