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Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Sony Xperia Z5 - which is best?

Katharine Byrne
15 Mar 2016
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Sony Xperia Z5
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We put the Samsung Galaxy S7 head-to-head with Sony's Xperia Z5 to see which is the best Android smartphone

Sony’s Xperia Z5 was one of our favourite handsets of last year. After all, if it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for the rest of us, right? However, now that we've had a chance to test its arch-nemesis, Samsung's brand-new Galaxy S7, the question on everybody's lips is which one deserves a place in your pocket? To see which smartphone you should be buying this year, we've put both phones head to head to see which one is the best value for money.

In this article, we compare each phone's design, display, speed and performance, battery life and camera. We'll also be focusing on the regular, flat S7 rather than the fancier Galaxy S7 Edge. To see how the S7 differs from its curvy cousin, see our S7 vs S7 Edge article.

Design

Materials: Like last year’s Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S7 is made of glass and metal, giving it that all-important premium design and top notch build quality you'd expect from a flagship smartphone. The smooth, rounded corners make it rather slippery to hold, though, so you might want to invest in a case to make sure you maintain a firm grip on your expensive investment.

The Sony Xperia Z5 is also made from metal and glass, but the subtle rim round the edge of the phone gives you something more substantial to hold onto, making it feel more secure in your hand. The reinforced corners also add an extra degree of confidence, and the frosted glass back doesn't pick up nearly as many fingerprints as the glossy exterior of the Galaxy S7.

Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Sony Xperia Z5 side on

Both phones have an IP68 certification as well, so each one should be completely dustproof and equally able to survive in up to 1.5m of fresh water for 30 minutes, which is perfect for those unexpected April showers or an accidental tumble down the loo. However, while neither phone requires you to seal off its micro USB port before taking a dive, the Xperia Z5 does require you to make sure its microSD and SIM card slots are fully covered by its removable cover.

Both handsets have a fingerprint sensor. The Galaxy S7’s is in its home button, whereas Sony puts it in the power/unlock button on the side of the phone. Both require you to press its respective button in order to unlock it, but Sony's solution is by far the most practical, as the power button is already somewhere your thumb naturally rests when you go to turn on the phone. Samsung's home button, on the other hand, is much more awkward to reach with just your thumb, and it would have been much better located somewhere else.  

Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Sony Xperia Z5 rear camera

Dimensions: The S7 measures 142x70x7.9mm and weighs 152g, making it ever so slightly smaller than the Z5, which measure 146x72x7.3mm and weighs 154g. However, these tiny differences won't make a massive amount of difference in day-to-day use, although the Z5's narrower, more angular edges do make it much easier to hold in one hand.

Conclusion: As lovely as the S7 is, the Z5 is arguably the more practical and attractive-looking smartphone. Its frosted glass back looks much more elegant than the smeary fingerprints you'll find on the S7, and I also felt much more confident holding the Z5 in one hand than I do the S7.

Display

The Galaxy S7 has a 5.1in display with a 2,560x1,440 resolution, which gives it a pixel density of 577ppi. Sony’s Xperia Z5, on the other hand, just can’t compare when it comes to sheer pixel count, as its 5.2in display only has a 1,920x1,080 resolution, producing a pixel density of just 424ppi. Not that you'd be able to see much of a difference with the naked eye, though, as both displays look amazingly sharp in the flesh.

Likewise, what the Z5 lacks in pure pixels it more than makes up for with its excellent colour accuracy. Its IPS panel covered an incredible 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut in our tests, and its super high brightness levels of 684.25cd/m2 means the screen stays visible no matter how bright it is outside. Its black level of 0.54cd/m2 isn't particularly brilliant, but its contrast ratio of 1,078:1 ensures there's still plenty of detail to be had onscreen.

Samsung galaxy S7 always on

^ The S7's always-on display is really useful for looking at information quickly without having to turn the screen on

The S7, meanwhile, uses a Super AMOLED display, which just inches in front to cover a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, producing beautifully rich, vibrant images. Its black levels are also a perfect 0.00cd/m2, and its contrast ratio is super high – so much so that our colour calibrator couldn't even give us a score. It's not as bright as the Z5, as its peak brightness only hits a maximum white level of 353.74cd/m2, but this is still bright enough to use outside without too much trouble. Likewise, switch to auto brightness, as the display will shoot up to around 470cd/m2 when it's placed in direct sunlight, providing a little extra boost when you need it.

The S7 also has an Always On Display (AOD), which can be set to display information permanently on the screen such as the time, date, battery status and even some rudimentary calendar info. This means you don’t have to press the lock button to wake the screen up to simply check what time it is, and since its Super AMOLED screens only draw power for the individual pixels currently in use, it doesn't drain the battery much either.

Conclusion: In this case, the S7 is the clear winner. The Z5 easily has the best IPS display I've ever tested, but it's still not quite as good as Samsung's Super AMOLED panels. Throw in its useful always-on display and the S7 wins hands down.

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