Sony Xperia Z1S vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3: first look

A few months ago, Sony embarked on a global journey that would see its latest and hottest flagship -- the Xperia Z1 -- unleashed. For a list of reason that only the Japanese company is fully acquainted with, its cruise stopped short of one of the biggest smartphone markets on the planet -- the US. Sort off. So, while Sony did sell the handset at its full, unlocked price of $649, it had nothing to offer in way of the preferred method for obtaining a new handset for US consumers -- subsidized, and through their carrier. The just-unveiled Sony Xperia Z1S solves this deficiency, though only those of us that are T-Mobile bound will be able to make use of the new deal, as the Z1S is an exclusive for the "uncarrier". This is certain to get a lot of people to bust out their rulers and start measuring, comparing. One likely candidate with which Sony's Z1S will have to prepare to square off is Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, which, despite its bigger size, isn't all that different, after all.


While the premium design on the Xperia Z1S, with its metal frame and glass back, makes easy work of most, it may have just stumbled onto a sophisticated adversary. The Galaxy Note 3, despite its still mostly-polycarbonate build, has a few aces up its sleeve that serve to differentiate it both from the competition and existing Samsung offerings. It features a metal frame, one that aligns perfectly and conceals the existence of the hole that houses the S-Pen stylus on the bottom profile. Looking at the back, we have a faux-leather cover with an imitation of stitching on the sides, giving the Note 3 a distinguished, if not truly premium look. 

In other words: which will fit your taste better is up to your own understandings.


The Sony Xperia Z1S is fitted with a 5-inch, 1080x1920 TFT LCD panel using Sony's proprietary Triluminos tech. The fancy word really boils down to a supposedly wider color gamut and overall better quality, though typical TFT tech limitations still apply, i.e., poor viewing angles. On the other end sits the behemoth 5.7-inch, 1080p AMOLED display found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It's a tad less crisp, less realistic in its color reproduction, but features far more saturated colors in comparison, not to mention the better viewing angles and superior outdoor visibility. Best of all, the seemingly large difference in display size doesn't directly translate into an equally bulkier exterior -- the Note 3 sure is bigger than the Xperia Z1S, but not by too much.


There's a clear distinction when comparing the approach that the two companies have taken, as pertains to the interface. Japanese Sony has gone for a fine balance between extra functionality and simplicity, ending up with no extremes in either direction. The UI is clean, but not without its tricks, including a number of pre-installed themes, mini apps and so on. Samsung, on the other hand, has taken a markedly different, all-inclusive approach towards the interface on the Galaxy Note 3. It's super-functional, allowing you to tinker with a ton of settings and options, yet that has come at the expense of cleanliness and simplicity. Whether that's up to your particular taste is a question for you to answer.

Processor and memory

The Sony Xperia Z1S finds a near equal in the Galaxy Note 3, at least when it comes to pure horsepower. Both devices are equipped with what is the most powerful, commercially available chipset on the market -- Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 800, with an Adreno 330 GPU -- but there are still some notable exceptions. For starters, Sony has appropriated the lower, 2.2GHz bin of the Snapdragon 800, whereas Samsung went for the slightly more potent, 2.3GHz one. Moreover, while the Xperia Z1S enjoys a healthy dose of 2GB RAM, Sammy has gone a step farther, and outfitted its most premium device with the whopping 3GB of RAM.

All said, however, the actual differences between the two, performance wise, are negligible at best.


Who comes out on top, when the Xperia Z1S' 20.7-megapixel camera is put elbow-to-elbow with the 13-megapixel snapper found on the Galaxy Note 3? A tough question to answer, as it gets real complicated, and fast. 

Generally speaking, Sony's unit, with its G Lens and Exmor RS sensor, manages to capture more detailed photos that are slightly superior to those snapped with the Note 3. It's also got a wider, F/2.0 aperture compared with the Note 3's F/2.2, meaning better low-light shots, at least theoretically. On the other hand, Samsung's snapper excels with its wide array of features, including 4K video capture, and its ability to shoot 60FPS video at 1080p resolution. Last, but not least, the Note 3 is capable of producing some slow-mo footage, thanks to its 120FPS capture mode.


In reality, it might seem like we're comparing two markedly different devices. After all, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 does feature a significantly larger, 5.7-inch display -- far into phablet territory, or so our imperfect minds reason. As it turns out, however, the slim, compact bezels on the Note 3 actually put it not too far from the Xperia Z1S in terms of size. If you've been nodding along this far, then it does appear reasonable for you to further explore what the Note 3 may hold for you -- it is, after all, more hardware-packed, with its S-Pen and more spacious RAM. In practice, however, the Xperia Z1S is just as potent when it comes down to performance, and it is the a more compact solution at the end of the day. Lastly, it's built with more premium materials, and it is water- and dust-proof, which is a worthy consideration.

Related phones

Xperia Z1
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(15h 3G talk time)
Galaxy Note 3
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 3200 mAh(21h 3G talk time)



1. bkzebraphone

Posts: 38; Member since: Dec 12, 2012

I still can't make up my mind between the 2 :(

14. meeaaoon

Posts: 25; Member since: Oct 02, 2012

I was confused just like you then I bought Note 3 and I think I did the right thing. Note 3 is far better but Sony is getting there...

21. Bioload25

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

It depends on what you value on a smartphone if you are a productive person,values multitasking and can live with its size,note 3 for you if you like the design,clean UI but can live with poor viewing angles,heavy construction and protective flaps over every opening for water proof capabilities,sony for you

28. christwill

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

Actually not totally true. I'm a little disapointed they didnt talk about the waterproffing more. The headphone jack is actually cover free. it is a new design that allows it to be waterproof while still being able to use the headphone jack. Of course I have a Note 3 but my brother has a Z1S Waterproofing is a pretty cool feature. i have had a water proof phone befor and it does come in handy a lot.

29. christwill

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

I think sony even actually has some waterproof headphones you can buy for this phone. which if you were a swimmer or something that is pretty awesome you can listen to music as you swim.

2. Kishin

Posts: 706; Member since: May 30, 2013

Thats huge for a 5''. Both are superphones.

4. james004

Posts: 486; Member since: May 15, 2013

you can find tons of complains in any thing if u cant afford it and cant buy it, if you had the money, you wouldnt have even bothered with review of other people and just purchased it. atleast thats what i did. i wanted good camera and this phone has answer above all the other android phones.

7. Kishin

Posts: 706; Member since: May 30, 2013

The truth is I already have a great phone, but to upgrade i require proof??

3. Vireak unregistered

Too big of a phone for a mini.

5. YodhaMali

Posts: 49; Member since: Jan 05, 2013

Xperia Z1S is the T-Mobile variant of the international Xperia Z1, and not to be confused with the Z1 Compact.

19. Vireak unregistered

Thanks. I didn't know that.

11. RizwanYaqoob

Posts: 27; Member since: Dec 14, 2013

exactly and its all because of those bezels.

26. strikercho

Posts: 156; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

yes, indeed

6. deepblack

Posts: 50; Member since: Oct 09, 2013

I don't understand why sony keep using TFT..

8. the_matchless

Posts: 64; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

I can think of two reasons 1- Technological rivalry as Sony no longer produces IPS displays. 2- To keep the cost low. (take the example of HTC One) However I do think they should shift to a better tech

23. TMach unregistered

See comments above relating to the Xperia Z Compact and its IPS LCD Display!

17. Insignificant

Posts: 192; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

I don't understand why you don't understand even amoleds use TFT. You and the author of this article both need to learn basics about displays. Virtually every display on a mobile uses TFT.

22. Bioload25

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

Bro,TFT is a LCD variant...Amoled works with tiny organical LEDs that can be turned off individually for deep blacks,and when turned on,produces pure colors with high saturation LCD (a TFT panel for example) has white LED panel underneath a liquid cristal coating that breaks the white color and emits color.These LEDs cannot be turned off individually (blacks are grayish) but can emit pure whites without killing battery

24. the_matchless

Posts: 64; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

True! "insignificant" must have confused led backlit etc. with Amoled. By the way I personally am not an Amoled fan and would rather prefer IPS. Amoled sure may be the future Tech for displays but IMHO it still is far from any thing spectacular compared to the best IPS out there. The point is if a display achieves unbeatable contrast ratio at the cost of images appearing unreal then it actually is not as perfect as many would like to put it. Galaxy S2 had the worst display, however, it was hyped mainly by the Media enthusiasts. S4 and specially S3 displays might have really progressed greatly since then, however, they are still not as good as what htc, iPhone, or Nokia have to offer. 2014 might change quite many things as it is expected to be the year when full LED displays will begin become the mainstream Tech. Specially since the Japanese are planning to jump into this Tech race to compete with Korea. Hopefully Sony will make something even better.

25. calim

Posts: 40; Member since: Mar 09, 2013

AMOLEDs also use TFT. The display on the Z1S is a VA type, and the author should know that.

27. the_matchless

Posts: 64; Member since: Apr 01, 2012


10. RizwanYaqoob

Posts: 27; Member since: Dec 14, 2013

Sony, WHY SUCH HUGE BEZELS? Z1s has almost same dimensions as Note 3. In my opinion Note 3 is truly compact comparatively to its predecessor (Note II). Another disappointment is TFT Screen.

12. redmd

Posts: 1949; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Now I remembered why I chose to get the Note 3 over the Z1.

13. zuckerboy

Posts: 898; Member since: Dec 22, 2011

z1s as tall as note 3 , very bad

15. Leonis

Posts: 338; Member since: Jan 08, 2014

This is the biggest 5" phone out there. Since this is almost the same size as the note 3 which I think is too damn big for my pocket, I would have taken the 4.3" if I wanted a sony z1.

16. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

People are still confused with Z1S and Z1 Compact? lel Both are great phones. It;s just a matter of what you want.

18. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Note 3 anytime !


Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 08, 2014

10 difference between Z1 and Z1s see here :​prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&​F

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