Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Sony Xperia Z3
Galaxy Note 4 shoots a bit more pleasant-looking and detailed photos than the Xperia Z3.
The Note 4 comes with a 16 MP camera sensor, like the Galaxy S5 before it, but for the first time in Samsung's history the module is outfitted with an optical image stabilization system, called Smart OIS. Sony's flagship sports a 20.7 MP 1/2.3” Exmor RS sensor with 1.12 micron pixels, like the Z2, but Sony touts the new 25mm G Lens optics (f2.0), and other improvements under the hood, such as boasting up to 12800 ISO sensitivity. As for the frontal cameras, Samsung added a little more pizzazz this time, placing a 3.7 MP sensor with the whopping f/1.9 aperture, that is capable of wide-angle selfies at up to 120 degrees, while Sony makes do with the usual 2.2 MP front camera. The handsets are very fast to shoot and record a snap, with a slight preference going to the Note 4, but Xperia Z3 has a dedicated shutter button to the scale, so you can take a photo from a locked screen in a second or two.
The two camera interfaces are anything but bland, as they sport a bewildering variety of shooting modes, color effects, and neat depth-of-field tricks. You can bet that there are all the basics, such as real-time HDR, Panorama, and so on, as well as plenty of others, down to the Food Shot of Samsung, meant to splash your breakfast on Instagram and the like, for the annoyance of your hungry friends. Samsung's interface is a bit easier to use than the cluttered Xperia camera app, but if you are shooting in the default automatic modes, taking pictures with both phones is a breeze.
The Xperia Z3 takes blander-looking, colder photos than the Note 4, which in contrast dials up the color saturation a bit, and shoots with a slightly warm overcast, compared to the scene in front of the lens, but to a pleasant extent. Sony also does some more aggressive post-processing to keep noise in check, resulting in a softer, mushier photos than what the Note 4's camera manages to churn out. Samsung's phone also captures a tad higher amount of detail than what the Z3 musters, especially when you use it in the default mode, which captures 8 MP photos. Indoors, the Xperia phone inserts a bit too much noise in the frame when the light goes down, while Samsung's phablet keeps noise in check, and makes sharper, more distinct snaps. The LED flash of the Note 4 also does a better job at illuminating a small scene, as it is stronger than the one on the Z3, though both splash light evenly on the objects in front.
Both handsets can record 4K video at 30fps, and 1080p footage with fluid 60fps, as well as HD slow- motion at 120fps. The videos come out detailed, with credible color presentation, and no artifacts or skipped frames. The Note 4 records a slightly better sound than the Xperia Z3 in terms of quality, although the strength of recording is on par for the two. Somewhat surprisingly, Sony's digital image stabilization, called SteadyShot, performs almost as well as the mechanical OIS system in the Note 4 when it comes to keeping the footage fluid and steady regardless of the hand tremor.
Plus one for video for the Note 4, plus one for music on the Xperia Z3 – that's the multimedia consumption takeaway.
The larger screen of the Note 4 is a bit more welcoming for media consumption like watching movies or browsing photos, though the Z3's 5.2” display isn't far behind. Both galleries offer grid thumbnail views, and allow for rich picture editing from within the apps, as well as sport plenty of sharing options. Video playback is excellent on both handset, too, as they support DivX/Xvid/MKV files out of the box, and the players offer plenty of extras like zooming, previews, and subtitles support. Naturally, if you want to watch 2K movies in their native resolution, Note 4 is your guy, but we doubt you'd find many of those, and will want to load and watch them on your phone.
When it comes to the music players, we'd have to give one up for the Xperia phone, as it has a much sleeker and more comfortable interface. Both Z3's Walkman player, and Samsung's TouchWiz one have plenty of equalizer and visualization options built in, but the graphical environment on the Sony looks much more stylish than the squarish Samsung UI. The Xperia Z3 also flaunts Sony's Digital sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), which brags to upconvert crappy tracks to a higher-resolution format - we can attest that there is a slight difference, though not as stark as if the tunes were high quality in the first place. Sony offers two waterproof stereo speakers at the front, which sound clean, but are somewhat muffled, while the Note 4 only offers one speaker at the back, and with average quality at that, though strong enough.