Which is better: a phablet or a smartphone? And exactly where do we draw the line between these two types of smart devices? Is it the size of the screen that determines if we should place a device in one category or the other, or is it the overall dimensions of the device itself? Why do we ask all these questions? Well, it's because the next pages will be dedicated to our in-depth comparison between the Galaxy Note 3 phablet and the Xperia Z1 smartphone. The thing is that the Note 3 is actually among the more gracious phablets money can buy right now, while the Z1 is definitely among the bigger Android flagship smartphones at the moment. These facts will definitely make this face-off quite interesting.

Let's dive in and see how the two devices are going to counter each other in this fight of epic proportions!


Let's stick with the design topic for a moment. We absolutely have to make the point that in terms of size, the Xperia Z1 (5.69 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches) is dangerously close to the Note 3 (5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches). So close, actually, that it makes this comparison completely relevant, despite the fact that the two should technically be considered part of two different device categories. Still, as big as the Z1 is, it's still slightly smaller than the Note 3, making it feel a bit more comfortable to use. So, even though it's unprecedentedly big, the Xperia Z1 is still the easier to operate handset of the two.

Size is really important, but appearance and build quality should also be considered. This is where the Sony Xperia Z1 simply blows the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 out of the water. The glass and metal casing of the Z1 presents users with a much more exquisite design that not only looks better, but feels much more solid as well. Meanwhile, the Note 3 offers you a run-of-the-mill plastic body that simulates a leather finish. The Samsung doesn't feel cheap or anything, but it's far from the classiness presented by some other companies on the market, such as Sony, HTC, or Apple.

Sadly, when it comes to the feel of the physical buttons, the Z1 doesn't do anything that much better compared to the Note 1, as its keys are quite small and don't necessarily feel so clicky. It does, however, feature a camera shutter that is quite good. The Note 3 lacks such a key.

Both handsets are charged using their microUSB ports, but there's an important difference here, as the port of the Note 3 is USB 3.0 compatible, meaning that if you have a USB 3.0 port on your computer, you'll be enjoying faster transfer speeds and charging, as long as you're using the compatible cable.

So, the Xperia Z1 doesn't have a fancy microUSB 3.0 port, but what it does have is a certain degree ruggedness with its IP 58 certification, which means it's both dust- and water-proof. Meanwhile, the Note 3 has its hallmark feature, the S Pen stylus, which allows you to take handwritten notes or why not even draw on that 5.7” canvas.


Even though they are very close in terms of size, the Note 3 sports a significantly larger, 5.7” 1080p screen, compared to the Z1's 5” 1080p one.

High-quality LCD displays are usually considered more accurate and mature compared to AMOLED-based screens, such as the one of the Galaxy Note 3. That's mostly due to the LCD's higher brightness output and natural-looking colors, but the exact case we're dealing with here isn't so typical, and here's why...

Samsung is introducing regular improvements to its Super AMOLED screens, and we're happy to see that with the Note 3, the company has almost eliminated the problem with the troublesome outdoor visibility such displays usually suffer from. As a result, the phablet's panel is almost as bright and easy to see as that of the Xperia Z1. The other specificity in this case is the fact that the Z1 utilizes a so-called TFT panel (no IPS tech here), which makes it appear quite washed out when viewed at an angle, despite the 'Triluminos' enhancements.

That said, there's no escaping the fact that the screen of the Z1 produces a much more realistic image quality, due to its color temperature of 7000 K (kelvin) and Delta E (grayscale) of 3.96. With the Note 3, everything is somewhat unpleasantly greenish/bluish, due to insufficient red (color temperature: 8100 K; Delta E (grayscale): 6.34). It may not seem so obvious if you don't use a reference, but the moment you see both screens side by side, it becomes blatantly obvious that Samsung still has a lot of work ahead of it when it comes to ironing out all the kinks of its AMOLED screen technology.



1. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Greatest phones of 2013 I will go for note3 because of its abundant features.

17. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Clearly the Note 3 is the superior phone here. Z1 has a 5" display and is barely smaller than the N3.

19. yudi.nemesis unregistered

I’m sure you forget about 1.2/3” Camera sensor and IP58 If samsung make 5” waterproof phone with the same specs like Z1. It will be taller, wider and thicker than Xperia Z1 just like what they have done with S4 Active its taller, wider, and thicker than Xperia Z.

33. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

The N3 is no slouch in the camera department either. It ranked close to the Z1. As for IP58, yeah that's great, but I don't care much for it. (I don't use my phone in the rain or near water, I don't like water damage.) Note 3 wins in my book.

41. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

ever partied hard and been pushed into a pool? or got invited into a vegas suite full of chicks?? use ur phone while makin an intimate video w/ a special lady and wanted to go into the shower? cook while looking at a recipe on ur phone ?? live more @papasmurf , lifes to short :D !!!

59. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

"use ur phone while makin an intimate video w/ a special lady and wanted to go into the shower?" You mean a pr0n? Yea.. not a good idea.

69. Ronny666

Posts: 128; Member since: Jun 08, 2013

Well, I can see how you force yourself to have your electronics to get wet when electronics are not meant to be in the water. Long time ago, i was pushed into a pool once with my first Galaxy S in pocket, soaking wet... suprisingly it survived after keeping it dry for few days. I guess there are quite number of smartphones out there that can survive in water for a while. I'm not sure how handy to have a device water-proofed unless you swim with electronics.

65. anshulkatare

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 16, 2013

Well that is because samsung is not making unibody phones unlike most oems... unibody doesnt allow for removable battery option.

50. samsoiph

Posts: 6; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

"clearly the note 3 is the superior phone here".?? Are you reading the same review. Z1 is better built (a lot better built), better screen (realistic), next gen exmor RS sensor with a G-lens! (note 3 uses the last gen one in use in the Z), better interface (just look at how poor the Samsung music player is) and all in a ip58 rating... Clearly the best engineered device

58. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

Well no. The screens are about on par because a lot of people prefer AMOLED blacks. Also, that viewing angle disaster on the Z1 is just unfortunate. I would actually give the edge to the Note 3 in regards to the screen. If you were smart, you'd get the Note 3. At the very least it'd keep 90% of its value 6 months from now unlike the Z1 which will probably drop 35-40% by then if not more. Best engineered device? At nearly the same size and a measly 5" display, it's kind of a failure in engineering there. Most people dont care about waterproof phones. They'd much rather have the bigger screen if the phone's nearly as big anyway.

62. samsoiph

Posts: 6; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

What?? the Z1 is water resistant to a high standard. Any Chinese company can make a phone similar to the note 3. The z1 is completely different, it uses premium material and is almost the same thickness as the non waterproof note 3. A G-lens which are some of the best lenses in the world. Latest camera sensor. the note 3 is a generic phone with no distinctive design excellence. It may hold its value but this is only because of fanboy fever over overpriced Samsung products. I think samsungs vtech looking OS is atrocious, and matched with an amoled, it just looks like colourful vomit.

2. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Both are superb at their places. Difficult to choose.

3. danny_a2005

Posts: 365; Member since: Oct 06, 2011

Go Xperia Z1

4. silencer271

Posts: 254; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

note 3 at least can get that on contract at a reasonable price

5. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Z1 for me. It's cheaper than the Note 3 as well.

9. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

The Z1 is for me (as in myself) is far more suitable for me. A better camera, great screen and outdoor visibility, a well build premium body and thanks to the bezels it is easy to handle the phone without touching the screen and more comfortable to hold in landscape.

29. Immolate

Posts: 310; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

Ah yes, the old "bigger bezels are a feature" gambit. Well played old chap!

38. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

I do actually like the bezels. I owned the ZL and it occurred to me that how important bezels are when holding the phone. Thank god.

60. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

I'm sorry, but just look at the Note 3's browser vs Z1. EVEN if they were carrying the same size displays, the Note 3 would have more usable space due to a lack of those hideos onscreen buttons that hog a chunk of screen space. The different presently is HUGE. Note 3 for me.

64. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Okay, so it's for you. Good then. Just be happy what device you have owned. If it satisfied you, so be it.

44. Tito73

Posts: 17; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

I understand you do not understand about anything!!! On screen keys with all that bezel is just ridiculous!!! Amoled note 3 screen is visible under the sun! Spen is fantastic! I also like z1 but isn't superior!

46. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Have you actually read my post? This is just my preference. My perspective. Me as in myself. I like both devices but in the end of the day, the Z1 got my pick.

6. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Both great devices! I would go for Z1 though.

7. timaustin2000

Posts: 42; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

Shame that the Z1 firmware was .518 rather than the newer 5.34 (which I have) or the just-out 5.37 (which brings better battery life and lower-noise low-light stills). Phone Arena are right, though: it's a tough choice and a matter of personal preference. Personally, I prefer Sony's build quality and classy UI, and the camera is always a USP for me. With that in mind, I have a lovely shiny Z1 beside me. If productivity and feature-richness are your thing, go Note 3.

8. Andrewtst

Posts: 697; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Base on not compact size did by Sony Xperia Z1 and weak, poor, outdated screen panel. Z1 is completely out. Not even need to think about it. --------------------------------------------------​---------------------------------------- Note 3 wise is well build in compact size, great display, Note 3 panel is rate one of the greatest display at DisplayMate professional display review site and a lot of others review site. Not as said not accurate here.

13. jb4674

Posts: 145; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

No disrespect man but, you really need to proof read your replies before posting.... It's incredibly annoying to read a person's post when he/she writes like an elementary school student.

18. Feanor

Posts: 1429; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Pff... I may hate the poor viewing angles of the Z1 (it's actually the only reason I'm not buying it) but I must praise Phonearena for being amongst the few that point out the overblown, untrue and cartoonish colours of Samsung displays. Poor viewing angles is one thing but that doesn't mean that Samsung screens are really better. Only iPhone, One and maybe G2 have really better screens than the Z1. Definitely not the Galaxy models.

23. ianbbaa

Posts: 332; Member since: Mar 20, 2013

The oversaturated colours of AMOLED is not that big issue anymore. Colour reproduction of S4 and Note3 actually can be switched in display settings in order to produce more natural colours if you wish. AMOLEDs produced its own "WOW" factor in the past - and stay so in stock settings - but these panels can be actually very nice when you choose the right thing for you. I have S4 - nice one, but NOTE 3 panel is just the best one i ve seen so far.

25. yudi.nemesis unregistered

In sRGB color gamut even with movie mode S4 and Note 3 is still oversaturated. S4 122% Note 113% HTC One 101%

61. saffant

Posts: 274; Member since: Jul 04, 2011

If you don't like AMOLED then don't buy a phone with it. I, as well as many others, love the deep blacks of AMOLED displays as well as how the colors pop. Different preferences.

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