Hands-on comparison: Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Sony Xperia Z2

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Having had a look at absolute camera quality here, it's time to look at the flagship Nokia and Sony smartphones, the Lumia 1020 (from July 2013) and Xperia Z2 (from April 2014), across all features and capabilities, in blow by blow style. Is there an obvious winner?

You may remember that I did a detailed camera comparison between the Lumia 1020 and the larger Xperia Z2 here? My verdict was that the Z2 camera aped the Nokia's oversampling and lossless zoom to a degree, but never achieved the same degree of quality and detail, falling badly behind in low light.

But what about overall, looking at the two devices as general purpose flagship smartphones? It's a valid comparison, though of course the 1020 is showing its age in terms of chipset and raw speed - surely a 1030 can't be that far away now?

Lumia 1020 and Xperia Z2

In the hand, the two devices feel very different, despite overall main body width and depth, thanks to the much more rounded Lumia form versus the chamfered monoblock approach of the Z2. Both are rather droppable and a case is recommended!

As usual, I pick out winning categories in green, for interest sake - though don't take these too seriously. And note that many categories simply don't have a winner, either because the differences are subjective or because the two are roughly equal overall.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Sony Xperia Z2
Date launched July 2013 February 2014
Current price (SIM-free in the UK, inc VAT) £385 £550
Form factor, weight Touchscreen polycarbonate monoblock, fully sealed, 130 x 71 x 10mm, 158g Touchscreen monoblock with aluminium chassis and ceramic body panels, fully sealed, 147 x 73 x 8mm, 163g
Operating system, interface Windows Phone 8 GDR3/Lumia Black, tile interface Start screen (review device running WP 8.1 Preview) Android 4.4, five homescreens, Sony's Xperia UI extensions and application bundle
Display  4.5" AMOLED with ClearBlack Display polarisers, 768p resolution, pretty good in sunlight 5.2" IPS LCD, 1080p resolution, average visibility outdoors, generally good colours and very crisp
Connectivity Quad band GSM, Pentaband 3G, up to pentaband LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4*
(* updated under Lumia Black) 
Quad band GSM, pentaband 3G, octaband LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4
Processor, performance 1.5GHz dual core, 2GB RAM, pretty fast at almost everything (though often hidden by Windows Phone transitions), 6s to load the nytimes.com desktop site 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801, 3GB RAM, screamingly fast at everything, 3s to load the nytimes.com desktop site
Capacity 32GB 16GB (12GB free out of the box), plus microSD expansion
Imaging (stills, good light) 41MP PureView 1/1.5" sensor, flexible software control over settings, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, 3x lossless digital zoom. Great results, even zoomed or reframed 21MP (at 4:3) 1/2.3" sensor, flexible software control over settings, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, 2x lossless digital zoom. Decent results when zoom not used, poor/noisy results without oversampling
Imaging (stills, low light/indoors) The much larger sensor, OIS, and Xenon flash all mean that the 1020 is just at home in poor light as in the sun. Go easy on the digital zoom and the oversampling produces noiseless results Single LED flash, smaller sensor and no OIS mean that results are often poorer than you'd expect. In relative terms, at least
Imaging (video) 1080p video capture, with 4x lossless zoom during recording and true OIS helping, especially while zoomed 1080p video capture, 3x lossless zoom, software stabilisation, plus raw 4K video capture as an option (with no zoom/stabilisation)
Music and Multimedia Decent mono speaker,  3.5mm headphones, DLNA through manufacturer Store utilities Decent stereo speakers, quieter individually than the 1020's, about the same in combination, 3.5mm headphones, DLNA and 'Throwing' built-in
Gaming  Plenty of decent games for Windows Phone 8 these days. A slightly bigger games catalog to choose from, though, if I'm honest, almost all my favourite mobile games are on Windows Phone these days (discuss!) A score draw overall!
Navigation  Nokia's HERE Maps/Drive suite is unrivalled, with the 100% offline routing and maps. Plus live traffic, good public transport advice and innovative 'live sight' functions Google Navigation is very comprehensive, but aside from limited (in size and time) caching of small areas, struggles mightily when out of data coverage. The Z2 also comes with a trial of Garmin's commercial offline sat-nav
Battery, life  Sealed 2000mAh battery, just about gets me through a heavy day as long as camera isn't used too much Sealed 3200mAh battery, very good battery life, aided by a bevy of 'Stamina'-style functions and utilities
Applications and ecosystem  Windows Phone now has just about every mainstream app covered, with great strides in the last few months. Niche/boutique apps are sometimes an issue if you're being picky, though... Also anything to do with Google services! Android's Play Store is very fully stocked, second only to the iPhone Store for depth. Everything mainstream is here, plus plenty of boutique/niche apps. Perfect access to both Google and Microsoft platform services
Upgrades and future Windows Phone 8.1 is due out formally in a couple of months time, bringing (among other things) a revamp of notifications in the UI. Updates to the 1020 will continue into 2015, it is hoped, plus at some stage we'll see a 1030 under the Microsoft badge Will probably get updates into 2015 (Android 5?)

1020 and Z2 together

It's quite telling that, adding up the green 'wins', the two devices were level apart from the extra prod I gave to the 1020 because of the current price difference, the 1020 being a much older smartphone. And a great many categories above are simply too close to call. The 1020 pulls ahead on still imaging, arguably, while the Z2 pulls back with raw horsepower and the might of the Android Play Store.

A very close-run thing, then. As noted in the table above, the 1020 is gradually being overhauled - what Microsoft's (ex-Nokia) engineers need to get out the door is a 1030 with much faster Snapdragon 800 processor and 3GB of RAM. Faster benchmarking, faster application resuming, faster web browsing - and faster shot to shot times for dual capture photos (down below a second, ideally). Make it happen, Mr Belfiore, please?

Comments welcome, as always!

PS. Thanks to Vodafone 4G in the UK for the review Z2 hardware