Sony Xperia Z1 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Sony announced the Sony Xperia Z1 at the IFA 2013 in Berlin as the company’s latest flagship. Sony Xperia Z1 is the successor of Xperia Z and gets improvement in almost all the departments.

Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced during March and was available in the market since April. Galaxy S4 was the successor of Galaxy S3 and it featured an all-round improvement and it was the first smartphone to come with an octa-core processor.


Today, we bring you the comparison between the best of Sony – Sony Xperia Z1 and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. Both the phones are completely different right from the internals to the looks and build quality. Lets check out how they compete against each other. You can check out the in-depth comparison video right below.

Design and Build Quality

In terms of looks, both the phones are very different as Sony Xperia Z1 follows an industrial design with a rectangular build and it is made out of single piece of aluminum while the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks like typical Samsung Galaxy phone with an all plastic build.


Despite packing a similar 5inch display, Xperia Z1 is taller, wider and thicker than the Galaxy S4. The Xperia Z1 is a heavy phone weighing around170g while the Galaxy S4 weighs considerably less at 130g.

The display dominates the front and we can note that the Z1 has a slightly larger bezel when compared to the thin bezels on the Galaxy S4. On the Xperia Z1, above the display, the earpiece is along the top edge and on the right side of the Sony logo, we have the 2MP front camera. On the left side of the Logo, we have the proximity and Ambient sensors.On the Galaxy S4, we have the proximity and ambient sensors to the right of the earpiece along with the front camera and there is a special light sensor on the left side of the earpiece.


Below the display, there are no navigation keys on the Xperia Z1 while the Galaxy S4 has a typical Samsung arrangement with a physical home button at the center and two capacitive keys on either side. The primary microphone seems to be hidden on the Xperia Z1 and its display is protected by shatter proof and scratch resistant glass while Samsung uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the Galaxy S4.


On the right side of Xperia Z1, we have circular icon Sony power lock button, microSIM slot, volume rocker and a camera shutter key while there is just the power lock button on Galaxy S4.


The bottom of Xperia Z1 has the loud speaker grill while there a microUSB port and a microphone on Galaxy S4.


On the left side of Xperia Z1, we have a dock connector, microUSB port and a microSD card slot while there is just a volume rocker on the Galaxy S4.


On the top there is just a 3.5mm audio jack on the Xperia Z1 while we have a secondary microphone and IR blaster also on the Galaxy S4.


The glass non-removable back on Xperia Z1 is good to look at but is reflective and can be a fingerprint magnet, not to mention it scratches easily. The plastic back of Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with the same disadvantages of being glossy, slippery and scratch prone. The Xperia Z1 has the 20.7MP camera sensor on the top left corner while the Galaxy S4 a 13MP towards the top center. Both the phones come with a single LED flash below the camera.


Sony Xperia Z1 is a sealed unit while Samsung Galaxy S4 has a removable back cover. On removing the cover, we see a hot-swappable microSD card and a non-hot-swappable microSIM card slot.


In terms of handling, the compact and curved design of Galaxy S4 fits the hands much better than the big and slab like Xperia Z1. Xperia Z1 is water and dust resistant which gives it a slight advantage.

Overall, it is a matter of personal preference between the compact plastic body of Galaxy S4 against the big slab like industrial design Sony Xperia Z1.


Sony Xperia Z1 comes with Sony’s Triluminous Full HD display while the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a Full HD SuperAMOLED display. Both the phones – Xperia Z1 and Galaxy S4 have a 5inch Full HD display with a pixel density of 441ppi.


When looked at directly, both the displays are quite good in terms of saturation and contrast although Galaxy S4 has the advantage. But when it comes to viewing angles, the Xperia Z1 suffers heavily and all contrast is lost. The display on Galaxy S4 seems slightly over-saturated at times.

Overall, the display on Samsung Galaxy S4 seems better.

Hardware and Performance

Sony Xperia Z1 brings along with it one of the fastest quad-core chips in the market – Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.2GHz, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM while Samsung Galaxy S4 brings an octa-core SoC clocked at 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM and PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU.


Both the phones come with 2GB RAM and out of the 2GB RAM, Xperia Z1 has 1.7GB usable RAM and when the device is idle, around 1GB is free while on the Galaxy S4, there is 1.8GB usable and when the device is idle, around 1GB is free.


The newer processor gives the Xperia Z1 a clear advantage in terms of performance. Because of the newer processor, the Xperia Z1 scores better in the benchmarks and games too perform way better on the Xperia Z1, as expected.


Sony Xperia Z1 is the company’s first step towards a camera centric flagship as it comes with the biggest sensor on an Android smartphone. The Xperia Z1 comes with a 20.7MP Sony G Lens sensor and houses Sony’s own Bionz Image processor for superior image quality. Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 13MP camera along with LED flash. Both the phones record 1080p videos from both front and rear cameras.


In terms of camera UI, despite coming from the same manufacturer, there is some notable difference. Apart from the general UI changes, there are different shooting modes available as the Xperia Z1 includes the regular Superior Auto mode, Manual mode, and various other effects. If there is one that stands out, that would be the live AR mode. The Xperia Z1 produces over-sampled 8MP images in Superior Auto mode making it one of the first, in the android world. The camera UI of Galaxy S4 is quite different and it comes with a wide variety of shooting modes like Drama Shot, Sound & shot, Eraser mode and so many other options.


In terms of image quality, the photos and videos taken on the Xperia Z1 are better with nice details and accurate colors. Xperia Z1 has the advantage here. You can check out the camera comparison video right below.

Software Features

Sony Xperia Z1 runs on Android 4.2.2 JellyBean currently and Samsung Galaxy S4 came with Android 4.2.2 out of the box while there is an official update ot Android 4.3 already out. Sony Xperia Z1 comes with a typical Sony UI along with small floating apps and the general look and feel which is more Sony than ever. Galaxy S4 has a typical Samsung TouchWiz UI with a whole bunch of features most of which won’t be probably used by the majority.


The app drawer on both the phones is different and both of them allow you arrange the icons in any order, alphabetical order. On the notification bar, Xperia Z1 has exactly ten and fixed toggles for various connectivity options like Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC and so on while Galaxy S4 can have customizable toggles. Xperia Z1 comes with Sony’s small apps which can be accessed by pressing the third navigation key that also opens the list of already open apps. There are various small apps like calculator, recorder, timer, bookmarks and so on. You can open any number of these apps at a time and have them on screen. They are always present on the screen unless you close them. Instead of closing them, you can drag them to the right side of the screen where they become small icon and attach themselves to the right side of the screen. On clicking those minimized icons, they are visible again. These small apps can be very useful for taking down notes and doing small things in a fast manner. Galaxy S4 has multi-window option for multi-window option for mulit-tasking allow users to open two apps at a time.

The software features are quite good on both the phones, but Samsung’s expertize in this area has to be appreciated as it out does Sony.

Battery and Connectivity

One of the surprisingly good things about the Xperia Z1 is its amazing battery. The Xperia Z1 comes with a 3000mAh non-removable Li-ion battery while the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 2600mAh Li-ion battery which is removable. The bigger battery of the Xperia Z1 definitely gives it an advantage in terms of battery life. Sony Xperia Z1 comes equipped with Sony’s Stamina Mode while Samsung Galaxy S4 has its own power-saving mode.


Connectivity is pretty good on both the phones as they come with WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth, 3G, NFC, USB OTG and much more.


In the end the Sony Xperia Z1 is very much a better Xperia Z, with almost all round improvements. Almost everything seemed to be better. Galaxy S4 too takes over the crown from Galaxy S3 quite well. When it comes to a matter of choice between Sony Xperia Z1 and Samsung Galaxy S4, there are quite a few things to be considered. The Sony Xperia Z1 retails for Rs. 40,000 while the Galaxy S4 also retails for around Rs. 39,000.


Advantages of Sony Xperia Z1 over Samsung Galaxy S4

  • Water and dust resistant
  • Better camera
  • Solid build quality and industrial design
  • Better performance

Advantages of Samsung Galaxy S4 over Sony Xperia Z1

  • Relatively cheaper
  • Relatively compact
  • Better display
  • Better software features
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Author: Monish Kumar

Monish is passionate about smartphones who is also interested in User Experience and Design. He is currently using Samsung Galaxy S3. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+