Aesthetically neither the Galaxy S7, nor the Xperia Z5 are particularly dramatic departures from their respective predecessors. Both phones consist of a metal frame sandwiched between glass on the front and back. The S7’s highly reflective finish is markedly more fingerprint prone than the frosted back of the Z5, however if it proves to be as hardy as last year’s S6, it won’t crack as readily as the Z5’s back did (going on our own experiences and other notable reports of fragile Z5 glass from other users).
Ergonomically the smaller S7 fits better in the hand thanks to the curved rear glass and more heavily rounded metal frame. The Z5 is notably thinner than Samsung’s new flagship, but it’s both taller and wider in order to accommodate the 5.2-inch screen (the Galaxy S7 utilises a 5.1-inch display), making it harder to use one-handed.
On paper, the Quad HD Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S7 wins hands down, but side-by-side the difference between the Samsung and the Z5’s Full HD IPS LCD panel isn’t particularly noticeable. Both displays offer strong overall brightness, great contrast and rich colour. The nature of AMOLED technology means the S7 is a touch more vivid than the Z5, but with regards to which one has a more appealing colour gamut is a matter of personal preference. The S7 does however feature an always-on display, so even when the device is locked you can check for notifications or time, date and weather information.
Waterproofing has been a staple amongst Sony’s best smartphones for some time now and the Xperia Z5 is no exception. Samsung meanwhile has experimented with waterproofing with its Active range and the Galaxy S5, but last year’s S6 shrugged off the extra hardiness in place of a slicker design, with the S7 Samsung’s squeezed both good looks and waterproofing into one flagship.
Another aspect where Samsung is going back to its old ways is by reintroducing microSD expandability, yet one more feature that Sony’s phones, including the Z5, have offered for ages.
Both companies like to skin Android with a few tweaks and changes of their own. Samsung’s TouchWiz interface is easily the heavier of the too interfaces, running atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but if you want something a little lighter, the Xperia Z5’s Lollipop-based user experience still retains a few stock Android elements, alongside Sony exclusive functionality from services like PlayStation Remote Play.
On the surface performance feels solid on both devices, but the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and extra gigabyte of RAM in the Galaxy S7 should future-proof the experience it offers, meaning it’ll be snappier for longer.
Sony’s raw Exmor camera sensor technology is seriously good. The Z5 takes mammoth 23-megapixel stills, whilst Samsung’s recent flagships have all offered unquestionably hot competition. The S7 actually adopts a smaller 12-megapixel sensor over last year’s Galaxy S6, but the dual pixel technology it now features (and its wide f/1.7 aperture) might be enough to give the Z5’s snapper a run for its money in low light and autofocus comparisons – something we’ll be able to establish once we have the phone in for a full review. Samsung’s camera also protrudes slightly from the S7’s back, whilst the Z5’s is flush with its body.
Samsung’s hopefully fixed one of the biggest shortcomings of the S6 with the S7’s larger 3000mAh battery. Provided it can last at least a day and a half, it’ll offer comparable performance to the Xperia Z5’s 2900mAh which can offer a similar level of longevity without having to fall back upon its low power mode. Both phones also boast fast charging, however the S7 leverages newer, more efficient technology and fast wireless charging too, which is completely absent from the Sony Xperia Z5.
Check back soon for a full comparison once we get the Samsung Galaxy S7 in for review and in the meantime, check out our extensive coverage of the Sony Xperia Z5.
Read next: Sony Xperia Z5 Review: In Depth