Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact34
Bland, but simple Xperia interface meets the overbearing, but functional Samsung TouchWiz.
Carrying the latest Android 4.4 KitKat, the Galaxy Alpha and the Z3 Compact sport very different interface overlays - it's the overcrowded and squarish TouchWiz of Samsung, against the simplified Xperia UI. Sony's coat of Android paint is closer to the stock look than Samsung's TouchWiz, and has way less extra functions. It adds some light multitasking tools like the Small Apps suite, which lets you hover up to five windowed apps, resize and move them around. It also sports the handy double-tap-to-wake function, which Samsung's handset doesn't have, and that's about it.
Samsung has, as usual, meddled with the experience in very major ways through TouchWiz. For example, the looks of the UI are nothing like what you'd get with a Nexus device, as Samsung has gone for a flatter, colorful aesthetics, which are more appealing compared with previous iterations.
The number of features has also gone up – you now have Ultra Power Saving Mode, which can turn the Alpha's screen black-and-white, and limit available functionality down to the basics – great for those stretches of time when you just can't park yourself next to an outlet. There's a special Multi Window feature which allows you to run and operate two apps simultaneously. Lastly, our personal favorite is Smart Stay – an exceedingly simple, but clever feature that will keep the screen on for as long as you're looking at it, and beyond your default timeout setting.
Processor and memory
Faster chipset and lighter interface make for a performance advantage of the Z3 Compact before the Alpha.
The Z3 Compact is powered by a Snapdragon 801AC processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, which runs the interface and apps without much issues. The Xperia UI is lighter than TouchWiz, yet we noticed a few gaps in transitions and redrawing while flicking the interface around, though nothing major. Samsung offers two versions of the Alpha – the one for the US market comes with the same 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 as the Z3 Compact, while the other is with the company's own octa-core Exynos 5430 CPU, clocked to 1.8 GHz. Both are very capable chipsets, delivering higher synthetic scores than with the Z3 Compact – our benchmarks below show the results from the 801 variation, but we have the Exynos one now, and it managed even higher stats, especially on AnTuTu. TouchWiz slows down things, though, so navigating around the interface is not the smoothest we've experienced.
The companies have placed 2 GB of RAM in both handsets, so you can rest assured you can load tens of apps in the memory, and pick up right where you left off without a hitch. The Z3 Compact comes with 16 GB of internal memory, while Samsung planted 32 GB in its Alpha, but, unlike Sony's phone, it lacks a microSD slot for expansion.
Internet and connectivity
Samsung has equipped the Alpha with two browsers – its own TouchWiz piece, and Google's Chrome, while the Z3 Compact ships with Chrome only. The browsers on both handsets perform admirably while scrolling, panning around, or zooming, but we would give our preference to the TouchWiz renderer, which is faster, and lets you sideload Adobe Flash.
The handsets flaunt 4G LTE connectivity, with market-dependent bands support and 42 Mbps HSPA+. The Galaxy Alpha LTE modem supports Cat. 6, meaning up to 300 Mbps download speeds, if your carrier can provide those at all, while Sony makes do with a Cat.4 one, featuring a 150Mbps pipeline. We also get Wi-Fi/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, DLNA, and NFC on the phones, but Sony one-ups Samsung in wired connectivity, as it flaunts an MHL port, letting you hook the Z3 directly, or through an adapter, to a TV.