Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs Sony Xperia Z1
While the Xperia Z1 features Android 4.2.2, the Galaxy Note 3 is treating its users to the slightly newer experience of Android 4.3. Of course, both handsets are also equipped with custom user interfaces. On the Xperia Z1, we have Sony's custom UI, which covers pretty much all of the core OS applications. The same goes for the Galaxy Note 3, which features Samsung's TouchWiz Nature UX. As far as polish and uniformity goes, we'd say that Sony has done a slightly better job overall, but in terms of bonus features, Samsung has created one really impressive list of additional goodies, including S Health, Samsung Hub, Samsung Apps, S Beam and so on and so forth.
Samsung's TouchWiz is really the more colorful UI here. Whether to showcase those ultra-saturated colors of the AMOLED screen or for something else, we don't know, but TouchWiz makes use of a very wide palette of colors. It's almost cartoonish-looking with its appearance, but as we said, it lacks a bit in the polish department. For example, icons don't even have tap effects – they don't indicate that you've tapped them. Meanwhile, Sony's UI has a bit more strict, maybe even boring look, but it's nicely animated and feels mostly lively. It's all up to the user to decide which one they like better at this point.
Processor and Memory
There are no compromises when it comes to the silicon powering these two, as both are featuring the state-of-the-art Snapdragon 800 chipset. This ultra-powerful SoC brings a quad-core Krait 400 CPU, clocked at 2.2 GHz in the Xperia Z1 and 2.3 GHz in the Galaxy Note 3. Naturally, there's also the Adreno 330 GPU, which is one of the best GPUs one can find in a mobile device right now. It goes without saying that these are two devices are completely future-proof, having the potential to flawlessly execute each and every app or game there is.
The Note 3 does come with a bit more RAM, as it packs 3 gigs, versus the Z1's 2 gigs. That wouldn't make that much of a difference, as long as you aren't trying to run a dozen of heavy apps on your smart device at the same time.
When it comes to storage space, the Xperia Z1 comes with just 16 GB of internal storage, while the Note 3 is offered in 32 GB and 64 GB flavors. This isn't such a problem, though, having in mind that both handsets offer memory expansions through their microSD card slots.
There isn't anything shocking or irregular when it comes to the contacts applications on both devices. Still, we tend to prefer the phonebook of the Xperia Z1, due to its cleaner and more intuitive design. However, what we don't like about this one is how the dialer and call log share the same screen, leaving a limited amount of space for your recent calls — and we know that's the screen which many people use to dial their contacts. This problem isn't present on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, where there are separate tabs for the dialer and the call log, however, the Note 3 lacks a tab for the contact groups, while such is present on the Z1.
Thankfully, we like how both devices offer us the option to find our contacts using smart dialing, or in other words, by using a T9-style typing in the dialer.
The Xperia Z1 and Galaxy Note 3 sport all the must-have organizer tools, such as versatile note apps, voice recorders, calendars and so on. There are certain differences between the two, of course. In general, Samsung's offering tends to offer a bit more flexibility and options, especially with the S Note app which packs a bunch of tools for drawing. Meanwhile, Sony's apps have more simplistic and less cluttered layouts.
The Galaxy Note 3's onscreen QWERTY keyboard may be a bit more versatile as it features an additional row for numbers, but its landscape layout doesn't seem to be so comfortable to use, due to the device's excessive width. The Note 3's portrait keyboard, though, is very comfortable for two-handed typing. Thankfully, you aren't out of luck in case you'd like to type with one hand only, as you can easily switch to a special layout designed to make it easy for you to type with just a thumb. On the other hand, the keyboard of the Xperia Z1 is quite good – we like its overall design, and have experienced no issues with it.
Those things that we said about the layouts of the apps a bit earlier are fully valid here as well, as we do prefer the clearer interface of Sony's Email app. Sure, you can always grab a third-party one if you don't like what's coming built-in, but if you'd prefer to stick with the stock software, the applications on the Xperia Z1 prove to be slightly more convenient to use, with regards to the user experience.
Internet and Connectivity
While the Galaxy Note 3 comes with two browsers, Chrome and the custom Samsung one, the Xperia Z1 has totally ditched any custom solutions in favor of Google's own browser. Having a second browser doesn't hurt, of course, but we tend to be fans of the more streamlined experiences, which is what the Xperia Z1 will offer you. Samsung's custom browser used to be quite useful when it was significantly faster than Chrome and featured support for Flash Player, but at this point we no longer see that much use in it.
Both the Xperia Z1 and Galaxy Note 3 sport up-to-date cellular radios with support for LTE Cat4, which translates to 4G speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s downlink and 50 Mbit/s uplink. Of course, it should be kept in mind that these are theoretic figures, which one is highly unlikely to achieve in the real world. Should you not have access to LTE, there's always HSPA+ support for download speeds of up to 42.2 Mbit/s and upload of up to 5.76 Mbit/s up.
Aside from these standard connectivity features, the Note 3 keeps adding more, as it also packs NFC, MHL and infrared, while the Z1 only has NFC. All the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocols are supported on both handsets.