Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs Samsung Galaxy S4: first look


After a lengthy rumor session, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is finally a reality for people outside of the company's home country of Japan. The 4.3-inch version of the original Xperia Z1 flagship comes with barely any downsizing in the hardware department -- the same awesome 20.7-megapixel camera is present, along with a powerful Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. These specs inadvertently put this compact warrior into the field of vision of one of the incumbent kings of smartphones -- the Samsung Galaxy S4. It's bigger, time-tested, and offers a whole bunch of proprietary functions. Let's take a look at how the two stack up against each other.


Samsung and Sony have gone down their separate paths when designing the Galaxy S4 and Xperia Z1 Compact. The former features a simple, polycarbonate build that feels refined, but doesn't exactly scream premium. It's also a different design language, with rounder corners and a lightweight construction. At the same time, Sony has appropriated a distinctively more sturdy construction, with a metal frame and a stylish, all-glass rear panel. Moreover, the Xperia design philosophy dictates a more edgy, rectangular body, one that is dust- and water-proof. In all honesty, the Xperia Z1 Compact definitely strikes us as the more premium design.


Down at the display department, the story follow quite the same tune. Despite its name, the 4.3-inch Xperia Z1 Compact definitely doesn't feel quite so compact next to the much larger-screened, 5-inch Galaxy S4. The device is smaller, of course, but not by much, showcasing the sacrifices that were made for that air-tight body. The differences don't end here, though, as the number of pixels on each screen and its particular type is also quite different. For starters, Sammy's 5-incher sports a resolution of 1080x1920 pixels, or 441ppi. Moreover, we're looking at an AMOLED panel, one that is characterized by highly-saturated colors and great viewing angles. For its part, Sony has outfitted the Xperia Z1 Compact with a 720x1280 resolution IPS panel, good for about 342ppi. It's less detailed, and colors are less punchy in comparison, but it still leaves very little to desire.


Pertaining to the UI, Sony and Samsung have, once again, gone down their own separate way. Therefore, while Sony offers a beautiful and simplified, but not entirely stock take on Google's Android, South Korean Samsung has gone all-in. Its proprietary skin, dubbed TouchWiz, is one of the most feature-filled manufacturer firmwares out there, offering a staggering amount of tweaks and options. This does come at the expense of simplicity and smooth operation, and the Galaxy S4 is not immune to stutters, unfortunately.

Processor and memory

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has a clear edge over the now older Samsung Galaxy S4. It's equipped with Qualcomm's 2.2GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 800, with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM, and it has to move a less pixel-dense screen. Put simply, we foresee no performance issues in the Xperia Z1 Compact's future. Which, of course, is not to say that the Galaxy S4 is a wimp, hardware-wise. It packs a still powerful 1.7GHz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset, with Adreno 320 graphics and the same 2GB of RAM. This is a chip that is no longer on the very bleeding edge of hardware, yet its a time-tested powerhouse that won't leave you wanting for speed.


Sony has outfitted the Xperia Z1 Compact with the same monstrous, 20.7-megapixel snapper with G Lens and an Exmor RS sensor found on the original, 5-inch Xperia Z1. Alongside the obvious bragging rights, this unit offers some seriously great shots, and is quite versatile with its functions. To that end, it offers things like lossless zoom (thanks to all those pixels) and HDR video capture. Looking at the Galaxy S4, we have a 13-megapixel rear shooter with AutoFocus and an LED flash. It's one of those all-round great cameras, and we'd argue that its software handles a wider variety of scenarios better. On the other hand, it can't offer quite as detailed snaps, and it certainly doesn't sound as cool.


Truth be told, and is the case with most everything in life, choosing between the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and the Samsung Galaxy S4 will come down to choice. Despite its bulky construction, the Xperia Z1 Compact still is the more efficient solution in terms of dimensions, though it does feature a significantly smaller screen. On the plus side, some premium materials have gone into said construction, and it never hurts to have an IP58 certification. On the other hand, and despite its slightly less impressive hardware, the Galaxy S4 is awfully good at squeezing extra screen real estate at little to no cost and offers all-around great performance.

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