Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S9: the 2018 flagships head-to-head

Which phone wins out?

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium and Samsung Galaxy S9

The number of excellent phones you've got to choose from in 2018 just keeps growing and growing. We had the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch in February, and now Sony has taken the wraps off the Xperia XZ2 Premium, its own high-end flagship. So how do they compare?

With speedy processors, oodles of screen space, and excellent rear cameras as well, either of these top-end phones would make an excellent purchase as far as we're concerned – but here we're going to dig deep into the similarities and differences in all the key areas.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S9: design

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

We'd have to give the Samsung Galaxy S9 first prize here: that gorgeous 5.8-inch, 1440 x 2560 pixel Infinity Display has barely any bezels and is super-bright and super-sharp. Elsewhere, Samsung has put all the curves in all the right places, even positioning the rear fingerprint sensor somewhere more sensible this time around.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium definitely isn't a disaster in the design department though, and Sony's team have substantially improved the looks of the company's flagship phones this year. The 5.8-inch screen has an even sharper resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels than the Samsung model, though 4K might be overkill on a phone this size.

As far as colours go, you can pick up the Samsung phone in black, blue, grey and purple, whereas the Sony handset sticks to black and silver. The Galaxy S9 also wins out in terms of being thinner and significantly lighter than the Xperia XZ2 Premium.

Unless you're a real Sony loyalist, we suspect most people will prefer the look of the Samsung device – though beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. It does a better job of banishing the front-facing bezels, it's thinner and lighter than the Sony phone, and it's available in more colours. Sony is still playing catch-up in this department.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S9: specs

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9

Sony certainly hasn't held back in terms of packing the Xperia XZ2 Premium with some high-end specs: you've got a Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM in there, as well as 64GB of on-board storage you can expand with a microSD card if you want to.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 also has a Snapdragon 845 chip on board, though in some regions it's sold with the similar Exynos 9810 chip. There's 4GB of RAM, plus 64GB or 128GB of on-board storage, and again that can be expanded via microSD.

The Sony phone does have two sensors for the rear camera as opposed to just one on the Samsung, combining a 19MP colour sensor with a 12MP monochrome one. The Galaxy S9 sticks with a single 12MP sensor around the back, though it does offer a dual aperture setting to adapt to different kinds of light.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium just edges it here in terms of raw specs, but when it comes down to phone performance and camera picture quality there's really not much to choose between the two. Both phones run Android 8.0 Oreo and should be able to cope comfortably with any app or task you throw at them.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S9: features

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

These are two of the best flagship smartphones of 2018, and come with all the features that you would expect: both feature HDR-ready displays, for example, and both come with IP68 certifications, so they're well protected against dust and water. Both phones support wireless charging too.

There are a few differences you should know about – the Samsung Galaxy S9 sticks with a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can still plug in your current wired headphones. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium ditches the jack for a single USB-C port that doubles up as both an audio connector and a charging slot.

As far as the battery goes, the Xperia XZ2 Premium packs a bigger 3,540mAh battery than the 3,000mAh battery inside the Galaxy S9, though the Sony phone does have a higher resolution screen, which sucks more power. Battery life depends on a variety of factors but we'd still expect the Xperia XZ2 Premium to just about win out here.

And if slow motion video is important to you, both these phones can record in super-slo-mo 960 frames-per-second – though the Sony phone can manage this at a 1080p resolution, while the Samsung handset has to go down to 720p to achieve the feat.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S9: price and verdict

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9

We don't know exactly how much the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium is going to cost yet – it's out later this summer – but considering the standard Xperia XZ2 will set you back around £700 or $800 online, the Premium model is likely to be some way higher. That compares to the Samsung Galaxy S9, which costs £739 or $719 straight from Samsung.

About level on the pricing then, though the Sony will probably be a touch more expensive when it arrives. As with many of the categories we've mentioned, it's actually pretty hard to split these two phones, and neither really runs away with it as the best of the pair.

Seasoned Sony fans will be impressed with the updated design for the Xperia this year, and there's a lot to like about the XZ2 Premium – fast specs, a sharp display, plenty of battery power and a dual-lens camera that's sure to produce some top pictures given Sony's track record in smartphone photography.

Overall though we think the Samsung Galaxy S9 just edges it, with a superior design and display, and a cheaper price (probably) for more or less the same components. Samsung's version of Android is usually the best of the third-party bunch as well, and as an added bonus you can still use your old wired headphones with it.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.