Interface and functionality

Both the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and the Samsung Galaxy S4 run on the same Android platform (4.3 Jelly Bean, to be exact), but it’s hard to say so by just looking at them. Sony’s Timescape user interface is elegant, filled with animations, and it features clean, realistic-looking icons, while Samsung’s TouchWiz is wildly cartoonish, with extremely colorful, rounded icons and funny sounds. The difference is obvious. TouchWiz is definitely more feature-packed - you just don’t get the fancy air gestures and smart stay/scroll/pause on Sony devices, but then again, it’s true that not everyone needs those features and not everyone uses them.

Handling notifications is almost identical on both - it all happens in the dedicated notification dropdown that you can access any time (within an app also, of course) by just swiping down from the top of the screen.

Phone and messaging, the two core apps, are similar in functionality, and the phonebook easily syncs with the cloud on both. You’d expect typing to be easier on the larger, 5-inch Galaxy S4, and it indeed is when you can use both of your hands, but for single-handed typing the smaller screen actually works out to be a big advantage for the Xperia Z1 Compact.

Processor and Memory

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has just launched, and it’s got time on its side - it features the latest and most powerful Snapdragon 800 system chip, whereas the Galaxy S4, a handset released nearly a year ago, is still sold with the now dated Snapdragon 600 chip. Both are quad-core and very powerful, but the Snapdragon 800 is just faster, capable of reaching higher peak clock speeds of 2.2GHz.

In real world use, you won’t notice any slowdown or lag when doing your daily business and scrolling around the interface and menus. What’s more, both are perfectly capable to run the latest and most demanding games like Modern Combat 4 and Asphalt 8. With higher loads, the advantage of the Z1 Compact, however, grows, and becomes more noticeable.

Good news is that both the Z1 Compact and the S4 support expandable storage via microSD cards. On the Sony phone, you can even hot swap microSD cards as the slot is conveniently located on the side, while the S4 requires you to take out the battery to change the microSD card. Internal storage is set at 16GB on both.

Quadrant Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 20567
Samsung Galaxy S4 12078
AnTuTu Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 33468
Samsung Galaxy S4 24701
GFXBench Egypt HD 2.5 onscreen (fps) Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 54
Samsung Galaxy S4 39
Vellamo Metal Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 1183
Samsung Galaxy S4 704
Vellamo HTML 5 Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 2947
Samsung Galaxy S4 1702
Sunspider Lower is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 744.7
Samsung Galaxy S4 1082.9
Basemark X off-screen Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 14.689
Samsung Galaxy S4 8.566
Basemark X on-screen Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 32.949
Samsung Galaxy S4 9.148
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 35
Samsung Galaxy S4 16

Internet and Connectivity

The default browser on the Xperia Z1 Compact is Google's Chrome, while the Galaxy S4 offers you the choice between its own custom Android browser and Chrome. Google has decided to make Chrome the browser of 4.4 KitKat and future Android versions, and for a good reason - it has the better optimized for touch interface and great cross-platform syncing capabilities. Most importantly, loading pages is quick and navigation - smooth on both phones.

Both feature 4G LTE connectivity, but the Xperia Z1 Compact has the newer and faster hardware. Sony’s device comes with support for 4G LTE Category 4 that allows peak download speeds of up to 150Mbps, while Samsung’s Galaxy S4 features an older, Category 3 LTE modem, that supports up to 100Mbps. In reality, that has more to do with future-proofing your device, as currently there is only a handful of carriers that run Category 4 LTE networks.

The Z1 Compact, however, also has the tangible advantage of supporting more 4G LTE bands. Most notably, it supports band 4 (used by most US carriers), as well as bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 20, and this allows it to basically roam the world on many FDD-LTE networks. The international Galaxy S4, in contrast, has more limited LTE support (bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 18). For all other users that don’t live in an LTE-covered area, both handsets support HSPA+ at speeds of up to 42Mbps.

The two also come with dual-channel Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS, Glonass, Bluetooth 4 and NFC support.

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