In just a few short weeks, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 phablet will have yet another competitor to deal with in the Sony Xperia Z, a device that Sony announced at CES 2013 in Las Vegas just a few short days ago. Those in the market for a new smartphone, and specifically, a smartphone with a large display, will likely be looking at both devices wondering how they compare. Here, we take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 versus the new Sony Xperia Z.
In August, at IFA 2012 in Berlin, Samsung took the wrappings off its new phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a device that the company hoped would successfully replace its original Galaxy Note which launched back in 2011. Over the course of the past few months, it has become clear that the Galaxy Note 2 has gained traction around the globe as Samsung has reported over five million units sold.
When the original Galaxy Note launched, many wondered whether Samsung could garner success with a smartphone sporting a gigantic display and a stylus, an accessory that was long believed to be past its prime. Thus far, it seems like Samsung has gotten the last laugh and the Galaxy Note 2 has firmly planted itself within the company’s Galaxy-branded empire which has arguably taken the reigns as Android’s most visible.
It has also spawned a new Android trend. Most high-end Android devices in 2012 featured massive displays and it looks like that trend will continue into 2013 and beyond as the first higher-smartphones announced in 2013 all included large displays.
One of those devices is the Sony Xperia Z, originally known as the Sony Yuga, a device that will serve as Sony’s high-end smartphone for the first half of 2013 and will compete with devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC M7, and more for the hearts and cold hard cash of consumers. Another device it will be in direct competition with is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and consumers looking for a new smartphone will likely be weighing both in the weeks ahead.
So how do they match up? Here, we take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 versus the Sony Xperia Z in terms of features, release date and more.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was first announced all the way back in August of last year and since October, it has been on shelves in the United States. The device replaced the original Galaxy Note phablet which first surfaced in 2011 and launched on AT&T several months later. This time around, the device arrived in the U.S. only a few months after its original announcement.
Already, there are rumors of a Galaxy Note 2, though we don’t expect the device to arrive until far later in the year, potentially at IFA 2013, the same event where both previous Galaxy Note devices were announced.
The Sony Xperia Z was announced in the windy deserts of Las Vegas during CES 2013. The device, which had been previously rumored as the Sony Yuga, represented one of Sony’s biggest announcements of CES and it received our Best Smartphone Award for CES 2013. That being said, Sony neglected, like many manufacturers do at these conferences, to announce a specific release date for the Xperia Z.
Thus far, the company has said that the device will be launching globally at some point during the first quarter of this year which means that regions around the world should expect it to arrive anywhere from January to March.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen any potential dates pop up though. In fact, we’ve already seen some credible evidence that suggests that the Sony Xperia Z will be out sooner rather than later.
Right now, February 18th is looking like it could be the European release date for the Sony Xperia Z. Sony hasn’t confirmed it yet, but that’s the closest date that we’ve seen listed thus far. Other retailers have suggested February and March 1st so it’s looking like the device is only a few weeks from arrival on shelves.
The first thing consumers will likely notice about the Galaxy Note 2 is the sheer size of it. The Galaxy Note 2 features a massive display and thus, the device also offers a gigantic footprint, larger than most high-end smartphones.
Specifically, the Galaxy Note 2 measures in at 151 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm which, again, is absolutely massive for a smartphone. It weighs 180 grams, which, unsurprisingly, is extremely hefty. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 5 weighs a measly 112 grams and has a 7.6mm frame. Translation: To offer an idea of just how big the Galaxy Note 2 is, take a look at it next to the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini in the photo below.
The Galaxy Note 2, like the Galaxy S3, is made of polycarbonate plastic, which makes it durable and easy to hold. It’s design is also extremely similar to that of the Galaxy S3, think of it as a larger Galaxy S3, which employs rounded edges and a home button at the bottom for easier navigation. The Verizon Galaxy Note 2 model has a Verizon-branded home button which is different than any of the others.
As we’ve noted, the Xpera Z is one of the better looking Xperia phones in recent memory. The design is a nice-looking rectangular shape that possesses some semblance of roundness around the edges. The device also features glass panels in the front and back.
Due to the large display, the footprint of the phone is pretty big though it’s not as big as the Galaxy Note 2. Sony’s Xperia Z measures in at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm, which is actually extremely thin for a smartphone. It’s not as thin as the 7.1mm iPhone 5 but it’s thinner than most smartphones on the market, especially the Galaxy Note 2.
The Xperia Z is also fairly light, weighing 146 grams. It isn’t as light as the 112 gram iPhone 5, but it’s still light, especially for a phone of this size. The design is also both waterproof and dust resistant which should help keep the phone together over a two-year contract.
Maybe the most unique thing about the Galaxy Note 2 is the size of its display. It features a a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display, a display that dwarfs just about every smartphone display on the market. It’s the reason the device is called a phablet and not a smartphone.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 display features a now aging 1280 x 720 HD resolution with 267 pixels per inch (ppi) which translates into good photos and text. As for video, the 16:9 aspect ratio will allow users to view widescreen content without wide black bars.
And because the screen real estate is so large, the Galaxy Note 2 can easily be shared by two people when viewing content such as a video or a television whilst on-the-go.
The Xperia Z display is not as large as the Galaxy Note 2’s, but it does feature some brand new technology that will start surfacing on high-end Android smartphones over the course of 2013.
The device, like the Droid DNA for Verizon’s network, features a 5-inch full 1080p display with 1920 x 1080 resolution. That should translate into fantastic looking text, images and video.
The Xperia Z’s display features 443 pixels-per-inch which should also help to produce crisp looking content on-screen. Sony has also included its Reality Display TV and Mobile Bravia Engine 2, both of which should make the Xperia Z one of the better looking displays on the market in the beginning of 2013.
Samsung make any significant upgrades to the Galaxy Note 2’s camera and that translates into a good, but not excellent rear camera on the whole. It shoots 1080p video, it can capture good photos in quality lighting, but don’t expect the world from it.
It is backed by some powerful software features, some of which can be seen in the video below, but the Galaxy Note 2’s rear camera, however way you slice it, won’t be anything to write home about.
It also features a 2MP front-facing camera that is good for video chat.
Sony, on the other hand, looks like it will be upping the ante in terms of cameras on Android phones. The Sony Xperia Z features a 13MP Exmor RS sensor which should translate into fantastic pictures in low light environments. It should also, again, mean that the noise that has affected Xperia cameras in the past will not be found in the Xperia Z camera.
The photos we’ve seen snapped with the device were sharp and crisp and it should meet the demand from Xperia fans and average consumers. The Xperia Z also will feature a 2.2MP camera in the front which, like the Galaxy Note 2’s camera, will function well for video chats.
Like all smartphones, there are specifications beyond the previous three that not only help to power them, but are also intriguing to consumers. And with both phones out in the open, we can take a look at the similarities and differences between the two.
First, the Galaxy Note 2.
- 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display with 1280×720 resolution
- 1.6GHz Quad-core Exynos Processor
- 16GB Storage (microSD Card Slot)
- 8MP Camera/1.9MP Front-Facing
- 3,100mAh Battery (Removable)
- 2GB of RAM
And, the Xperia Z.
- 5-inch Reality Display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor
- 16GB Storage (microSD Card Slot)
- 13.1MP rear camera/2.2MP front-facing camera
- 2,330 mAh battery (Non-Removable)
- 2GB RAM
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the specifications. First, both devices lack built-in wireless charging support, something that many high-end smartphones in 2013 will likely have. The Droid DNA and Nexus 4 both currently have it.
Second, the Galaxy Note 2 features a bigger, removable battery. It has a larger display, which likely eats up more juice, but until the Xperia Z is released, we won’t know if it will be able to stand up to the Galaxy Note 2’s battery power. It’s certainly plausible that it will. The big thing here is that the Xperia Z’s battery is locked in and isn’t removable like the Galaxy Note 2’s. This means that there will be no way to easily upgrade and no way to easily replace the Xpera Z’s battery.
And three, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 takes advantage of a unique stylus called the S-Pen that features an ergonomic design and takes advantage of a number of applications built especially for it.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 comes equipped with some great software. First, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is on board right out of the box. Some flagship devices are still without their upgrade to Android 4.1 and the fact that it has Jelly Bean on board already puts it in a nice place for a swift upgrade to Android 4.2 and eventually, Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.
Our favorite Android 4.1 features can be seen in the video below.
What’s more though is that the Galaxy Note 2 features some unique software properties courtesy of Samsung itself. The company has given the Galaxy Note 2 some unique software that takes advantage of the device’s bundled S-Pen stylus. The S-Pen specific apps include an S-Note app for easy note taking and another that allows users to simply use the pen to hover over calendar events and emails to get a preview before opening them.
In addition, Samsung’s TouchWiz, the UI that the company lays over Android, brings powerful features to users as well including one called Multi-Window View lets users split the Galaxy Note 2’s display into two parts to run two separate apps at the same time. For instance, users can check email on one side while checking Facebook on the other. A demo of Multi-Window View can be seen in the video below.
Sony’s Xperia Z will also be coming with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, rather unfortunate given that Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, seen below, is already out on several Nexus devices and will likely be heading to non-Nexus devices in the first few months of 2013.
The company did stress to us that it will be toning down the user interface on the Sony Xperia Z, to the point that the company didn’t even give the software any kind of official name. So, no, the software on the Xperia Z won’t be vanilla Android, but it’s going to be less intrusive and less ugly than Sony’s previous offerings.
Something that consumers look for in a device is choice in carriers. Fortunately, that’s something that Samsung has delivered on with its flagship smartphones which tend to become available on a large swath of American service operators. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is one of those devices and it’s currently available on the five largest mobile carriers in the United States.
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon all offer the Galaxy Note 2 which means that customers can weigh things like network size, data plans and more before settling on a carrier.
AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon host the Galaxy Note 2 on their 4G LTE networks while currently, T-Mobile’s Galaxy Note 2 runs on its HSPA+42 network. The difference between it and 4G LTE can be seen in the video below.
However, the carrier has said that it will enable 4G LTE speeds once its 4G LTE network goes live, something that should take place at some point in January. The first place to receive 4G LTE service from T-Mobile will be Las Vegas and the carrier has not yet said what other cities will be among the first batch.
No carriers have been confirmed for the Sony Xperia Z in the United States though we do know that it will be landing on several in the United Kingdom including Three UK, Vodafone and O2.
It could be that the Sony Xperia Z doesn’t land on any carriers in the U.S. instead, only becoming available unlocked. However, because the device is new, we can’t jump to those conclusions just yet.
One of the perceived drawbacks to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is that it’s an expensive device. Carriers like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon charge a pretty penny for the 5.5-inch phablet, with a 16GB model costing $299.99 on-contract. T-Mobile is even worse as it asks for a $370 premium for the Galaxy Note 2.
Fortunately, third-party avenues exist where consumers can get a bit of a discount. Through Amazon, the Galaxy Note 2 price is much cheaper, going for more than $100 off of the subsidized price through carriers.
Of course, not everyone can or wants to go through third-party retailers but until we get closer to the launch of the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Note 2 will almost assuredly stay priced at this point, for better or worse.
The Sony Xperia Z price remains much more of a mystery as Sony has yet to announce any specific price point for the device. We do know that the Xperia Z is a high-end phone, which means that it should command a pretty penny, but if it does come to a carrier in the U.S., it probably won’t be available for anything more than the standard $199.99 on-contract price.
If it only is available to U.S. customers unlocked, and there is a possibility of that happening, it will likely command a price of $500 or more off-contract.