Sony Xperia Z3 Compact vs Apple iPhone 5s: first look


Folks, in case it isn't obvious by now, the 'mini', or 'compact', segment is now a thing. Everyone does it -- LG does it, Samsung does it, and even HTC does it. But none of those get close to the way Sony does it, and we first got the sweet taste of that difference in approach with the original Xperia Z1 Compact.

Where Sony and its competitors differ in this particular tier is simply the level of hardware the company endows its compact flagship handsets with. Unlike the rest, Sony feels like there's an actual market for flagship-spec'd devices that are still relatively comfortable to use with one hand. The just-announced Xperia Z3 Compact continues that tradition, and we're sure that the many of the fans of the original will be relieved to hear that the display has grown to 4.6-inches at essentially zero cost to dimensions.

But how does the Z3 Compact handle a proven device like the iPhone 5s? When we last compared Apple's flagship with the Z1 Compact, the difference in size was pretty negligible. Thanks to Sony's engineering efforts, this is still so, which, again, makes the Z3 Compact one of the most logical alternatives to the latest iPhone So which one should you pick if you find yourself on the fence? Let's take a preliminary look.


Few modern phones in existence say 'premium' the way the iPhone 5s does, and it just so happens that the Z3 Compact is a member of that elite club. Sure, on the whole, we still are leaning towards the latest iPhone in this particular category, but the Z3 Compact is not too far behind.

Perhaps the most amazing part about the Z3 Compact is how Sony has managed to literally fit a larger screen in the exact same body. This makes the Z3 Compact very... well, compact. What's more, while the materials used with the construction are not exactly outstanding (glass and plastic), the feeling of the phone definitely is. We also like the way it feels in the hand, and that, to a large extent, has to do with the pleasantly-rounded corners of the gadget.

Looking at the iPhone 5s, we've gotta say that it's definitely the more premium device in terms of its build. Instead of plastic and glass, Apple has instead used aluminum, and the craftsmanship here is honestly superb. That said, Apple could definitely learn from Sony -- for a 4-inch display, the iPhone 5s is a relatively large device, even though it's still tiny compared with most Android flagships. 

To put the above in context, the dimensions of the Z3 Compact measure in at 5.01 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches (127.3 x 64.9 x 8.64 mm), while the iPhone's read 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm). So the iPhone 5s is definitely the smaller device of the two, but the sacrifice in screen real estate is also there. 


Speaking of screen real estate, the Xperia Z3 Compact has significantly more. Its 4.6-inch, 720 x 1280 pixel resolution IPS LCD display is noticeably larger than the 4-inch, 640 x 1136 pixel resolution one on the iPhone 5s. Better yet, the increased size doesn't come at the expense of image clarity, as the Z3 Compact nearly ties with the iPhone 5s in terms of pixel density: 319 ppi vs 326 ppi.

The one thing we don't yet know about the Z3 Compact's screen is how well it is calibrated, and whether it can go as high as the iPhone 5s when brightness is concerned. What we do know, however, is that the iPhone 5s is among the best in those two categories, so we're hoping Sony has done a good job. Time will tell.


The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and the Apple iPhone 5s are two very different devices, but nowhere is that distinction as obvious as with the software.

That's a given, of course -- after all, we're talking about handsets that run on two completely different mobile platforms, Android and iOS. And while the iOS-faithful will (with good reason) brag about the simplicity and intuitiveness of their system of choice, Sony is among the very few manufacturers that can actually claim that its Android 4.4 KitKat-touting Z3 Compact can compare in that regard.

Indeed, Sony is quite conservative with the amount of features and design changes it introduces with its custom Xperia skin. Quite frankly, the software is very close to what stock Android is all about -- little to no bloat, and no-nonsense approach towards features. To that end, the few extra features you'll find on a phone like the Z3 Compact that you won't find on a Nexus-line device include STAMINA mode for when you're running low on battery, and ClearPhase and xLOUD -- two features that help with the quality and loudness of the earpiece and speaker, respectively.

As for the iPhone 5s, it runs on the latest commercially-available version of Apple's OS -- iOS 7. Like we said before, the UI on the iPhone is very clean -- so clean, that some actually consider it stripped down. And while that has a negative overtone, the hundreds of millions of iPhone users obviously disagree. In other words, it really comes down to what you prefer.

Processor and memory

We already mentioned that Sony doesn't kid around when its 'mini' line is concerned, and the Z3 Compact's Snapdragon 801 chip is a great example of that. The quad-core Qualcomm chip makes use of four Krait 400 cores, clocked at 2.5GHz, alongside an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. This is the most powerful version of the Snapdragon 801, and trust us, when it comes to speed, this configuration just flies.

As for the iPhone 5s, we have a seemingly underwhelming dual-core A7-chip of Apple's own make. The 64-bit silicon utilizes two Cyclone CPU's, ticking at 1.3GHz, a PowerVR G6430 GPU, and 1GB of RAM. And though it may sound inferior to what the Z3 Compact has to offer, it definitely needs to be said that this setup is extremely powerful and ensures no slowdown at any time with the iPhone 5s.

Where the Z3 Compact objectively bests the iPhone 5s, however, is internal memory. Sure, you can always order a 64GB iPhone 5s, but it still won't have the ability to cheaply expand that through a microSD card.


When it comes down to imaging, we again have two very different approaches. Sony, which makes its own sensors for use in its smartphones (along with nearly the entirety of the Android industry), is betting on a 20.7-megapixel CMOS sensor with an LED flash. Obviously, that's a lot of pixels, but keep in mind that, by default, the Z3 Compact will shoot 5-megapixel stills, and use the remaining resolution to enrich the ones that make the final cut through a process called pixel binning.

Looking at the latest iPhone, Apple's traditional conservatism towards camera resolution is obvious -- the 5s makes use of an 8-megapixel snapper. We've come to regard the 1/3'' sensor as great, however, and that dual-tone LED flash plays a part in that. 

Obviously, we haven't had the chance to put the stills of both devices side-by-side, so it will be awhile before we can conclusively say that one is better than the other.


Looks can be misleading, and with the Xperia Z3 Compact that rings true more than ever. Sony dared to, once again, do what no else has dared to so far, and is refusing to compromise with its comparatively petite new flagship 'mini'. After all, the 5.2-inch Xperia Z3 isn't everyone's cup of tea -- just ask the millions of people sticking to Apple's iPhones.

Indeed, if anything, the Z3 Compact is one of few devices that can claim to be a very direct competitor to the iPhone 5s. And while its impressive specs sheet speaks for itself, there's no denying the superior build of the iPhone 5s, and it's appealing, clean software.

In the end, it really comes down to taste and preferences.

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