Do we have a good one for you today – the Samsung Galaxy S9 goes up against the new Sony Xperia XZ2. Does the Galaxy S9 still have what it takes to beat out the newest device from Sony? Which device offers the most value? And should previous owners upgrade? These are the questions we will try to answer in this comparison. Both devices look the part of a flagship smartphone with their extended aspect ratios and small bezels. The Galaxy S9 looks like a high priced smartphone, and with this year’s Xperia XZ2 makeover, it now looks more like a Galaxy S9 than a Sony. Pricing is close enough for each device so we can take that out of the equation. With so many specifications the same, it will have to come down to brand, design, and individual features.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Sony Xperia XZ2 have a few things in common. We can start with the similarity in their physical dimensions, as well as their display size and aspect ratio. Size and aspect ratio are the only similarity with their displays, as their resolutions are different and the Galaxy S9 uses an always-on display. They both use the same processor (SD845), an Adreno 630 GPU, 4GB of base RAM, both have a 64GB base storage model, and both have expandable storage. They both use a single lens camera, almost the same size battery, fast charging, and wireless charging. Both smartphones have NFC, so they can handle Android/Google Pay mobile purchases. Both have Hi-Res audio and stereo speakers, but only the Galaxy S9 has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Both have IP68 water and dust-resistance, rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, and Gorilla Glass 5 all around. Both come with Android 8.0 Oreo – the S9 Plus can be purchased on all major US carriers and the Sony Xperia XZ2 can be purchased unlocked.
Please take a careful look at the detailed specifications comparison chart below and you will see just how these two high-end smartphones stack up against each other. After that, we will look at each mobile offering in more detail and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on overall specs, as well as the execution of design and functions.
Samsung Galaxy S9
The Samsung Galaxy S9 is the entry-level option from the flagship line with a couple of the best features reserved for the Galaxy S9 Plus. The Galaxy S9 does receive the new processor/GPU, Hi-Res audio with stereo speakers, and the new 12-megapixel camera using Super Dual Pixels with an Adaptive Aperture. On both models, Samsung re-positioned the fingerprint sensor from the side of the camera to below the camera lens to prevent less smudging. Samsung also added Intelligent Scan (iris + facial recognition working simultaneously) for more accurate and faster authentication. The AR Emoji feature is a fun feature, but still needs some work.
Last year, Samsung introduced us to their Infinity Display and other manufacturers have been playing catch-up ever since. It boasts dual curved edges, an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and is great for both media and multi-window tasking. The Galaxy S9 uses a 5.8-inch version with a QHD+ resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels and 570 pixels-per-inch (PPI). Samsung includes the always-on display technology that not only saves battery life, but also makes it easier on the user to glance at their notifications without having to open an app to read them. Since the Infinity Display’s inception last year, Samsung refined the curve of the glass/body to make it easier to pick up the device or hold it without accidentally opening an app.
The US/China version of the Galaxy S9 uses the newest Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor clocked at 2.7 GHz with an Adreno 630 GPU for outstanding graphics. Models sold in the EMEA countries use Samsung’s own Exynos 9810 processor and a Mali-G72-MP18 GPU. Either processor is comparable in performance. Both models pack 4GB of RAM and a base of 64GB of expandable storage. Samsung carried over the same battery used in the Galaxy S8 – a 3,000 mAh capacity battery with your choice of Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging or quick wireless charging for both Qi and PMA formats. The battery should last the average user an entire day.
The Galaxy S9 uses a 12-megapixel sensor with Super Dual Pixels for its camera, but the excitement is a new piece of technology called Adaptive Aperture that works like a human's iris. When the camera senses a bright light situation, the aperture will reduce itself to f/2.4, but when the camera senses a low-light situation, it will open wider to an f/1.5 aperture. The camera also comes with Phase Detection AutoFocus (PDAF), OIS, 10x Digital Zoom, and an LED flash. Samsung did not skimp on the front-facing camera (FFC) by giving it an 8-megapixel sensor with its large aperture of f/1.7, auto-HDR, and even its own autofocus.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 has many features – some of which you may never use – but others are useful and it's nice to know they are there if you need them. Samsung Pay is likely to be one of the more useful as it allows the mobile purchaser to make a purchase just about any place you can swipe a credit/debit card. The new Intelligent Scan is a fast and secure way to unlock your device by using both the iris scanner and facial recognition. If you open up the Samsung Health app, you will have access to the heart rate monitor, the O2 sensor, and the new blood pressure monitor, which is an industry first. The other big news for the Galaxy S9 is the inclusion of stereo speakers. Self-emoji are a great idea, but Samsung’s AR Emoji still needs some work. The DeX module (sold separately) is improved for the S9. The Galaxy S9 is available in Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Titanium Gray, Lilac Purple, Burgundy Red, and Sunset Gold depending on your market and carrier, and comes with Android 8.0 (Oreo) running out of the box. The device measures 147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm and weighs in at 163 grams. It is retailing from $750 to $800, but there are quite a few BOGO promotions going on at dealers.
Sony Xperia XZ2
The most exciting design change at Sony has got to be the updating done to the outside of the device. The Sony Xperia XZ2 finally looks like a modern smartphone, ready to take on the Samsungs, LGs, and the Huaweis of the world. Gone are the large bezels and in is the 18:9 aspect ratio, which adds a slimmer and taller look to the device while its rounded edges add an extra touch of elegance. Gorilla Glass 5 now covers the front and the back of the device and gave Sony a chance to add wireless charging. It sports the latest Snapdragon chipset and Adreno GPU, along with expandable storage. The XZ2 retains its front-facing stereo speakers, but loses its 3.5 mm headphone jack. The FFC has been reduced in size to only 5-megapixels. The fingerprint sensor is now located on the rear of the device rather on the side and is actually functional for the US market.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 sports a 5.7-inch IPS LCD FHD display with no notch. Sony still refuses to jump to a QHD display, opting instead to keep an FHD+ resolution as its standard with 2160 x 1080 pixels that work out to a 424 PPI. Sony did upgrade to the latest 18:9 aspect ratio for a more modern look, as well as being better proportioned for entertainment and multitasking. Sony protects its display with Gorilla Glass 5. A non-removable 3,180 mAh-capacity battery powers the Xperia XZ2 with support for Quick Charge 3.0 and wireless charging.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 is using the latest processor, the Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm – the same one used in the Galaxy S9 and most other flagship devices in 2018. The SD845 is an octa-core processor clocked at 2.47 GHz and it is paired with the Adreno 630 GPU to handle the most demanding graphics you can throw at it. The standard XZ2 comes with 4GB of RAM (there is a 6GB model as well) and 64GB of expandable internal storage.
Sony is no stranger to camera sensors/lenses as they make almost all of the camera sensors used on other mobiles. You may think that Sony would have the best cameras on its own models, but that is not always the case. The main camera on the Xperia XZ2 sports a single 19-megapixel sensor with an aperture of only f/2.0. It comes with its own gyro EIS for stability, uses both laser and PDAF for focusing and comes with an LED flash. The FFC dropped from an incredible 13-megapixel sensor to a minuscule 5-megapixel sensor. It comes with a gyro EIS for stability for selfies and video chats.
Now that Sony has caught up to the other 2018 smartphones in the design and execution, they continue to make some questionable decisions. The company took away the 3.5 mm headphone jack in a phone that is 11.1 mm at its thickest point, and does not support VoLTE or Wi-Fi Calling. Sony made good decisions by including an excellent vibration motor, a PS4 ecosystem (if you use a PS4), stereo speakers, and providing superb battery life. The Xperia XZ2 uses a very light user interface on top of Android 8.0 (Oreo), making it run fast and smooth. The device measures 153 x 72 x 11.1 mm and weighs in at a hefty 198 grams. It comes in Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, or Ash Pink. It will cost you about $670 for the 4GB/64GB version and $699 for the 6GB/64GB version.
...And The Winner Is...
The Final Word
With all of the changes in design and other improvements, I really thought that the Sony Xperia XZ2 would be the winner of this comparison, but once again, the many features, availability, and the competitive pricing of the Samsung Galaxy S9 makes it the overall winner.
Starting with the display - the Super AMOLED QHD+ display is arguably the best you can get on a smartphone – not to mention the always-on feature. They both use the same processor/GPU, the same amount of RAM and the same amount of expandable memory. Both have a great camera area, but the Galaxy S9 has a more advanced FFC. Both offer wireless charging, but the Galaxy S9 offers quick wireless charging. They both have the usual suspects, but only the Galaxy S9 has Samsung Pay, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, facial recognition/iris scanner, a heart rate monitor, SpO2 sensor, and is available to purchase from all four major US carriers.
Unless you are an avid PS4 player or a diehard Sony fan, I can see no logical reason to purchase the Xperia XZ2 over the Galaxy S9. While it's good the new Xperia XZ2 finally has great looks, the Galaxy S9 has had those looks for the last two years.