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.

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