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.

Related phones

Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Display 4.3" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2300 mAh(18h 3G talk time)
iPhone 5s
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A7, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1570 mAh(10h 3G talk time)



1. zuckerboy

Posts: 898; Member since: Dec 22, 2011

İf I had decided to buy midranger, definately it would be z1 compact ( frankly its not a midranger )

2. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

S4 is still a great phone, one of best all-rounders in business, especially 4G+ model, which has Snapdragon 800. But between these two I'd take Compact, because of better performance, camera and newer and fresher feel.

3. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Two great devices. If I had to choose GS iv for its features, Z1 for its durability for water/dust resistance overall be the Z1s for price

4. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

I want a Z1 Compact with AMOLED screen...

5. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012


8. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

Won't an AMOLED be fragile for waterproof devices? Because Samsung changes AMOLED to LCD when they make Active versions.

9. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

No, they changed it because LCD is cheaper :)

11. buccob

Posts: 2980; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

no. spiderpig is actually right,,, Amoled displays are more suceptible to water and vapor than LCDs... Thats why you wont find an Amoled in any Galaxy Xcover/Rugby or Galaxy Active version... LCD has simply more chances of surviving if the caps fail

6. tenho1982

Posts: 68; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

No matter what, people will end up picking the S4 when they are at the shop for better software features and ... the bigger non-compact screen.

7. yudi.nemesis unregistered

I think what you're saying is not completely true, because despite having a smaller screen and less features iphone has become one of the best selling smartphone in the world. And in Japan Z1f (the japanese version of the Z1 Compact) is able to become the best selling smartphone , beat Ip 5s, S4, Note 3, Z1, Galaxy J and many more.

10. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

If I want more software features, I add them myself :)

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