Sony Xperia Z1 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Back in March 2013 the Samsung Galaxy S4 was revealed, and it was an instant hit. Six months down the line though and a new generation of smartphones is with us with bigger specs, more features and the latest tech. So, how does the Sony Xperia™ Z1 and its new tricks compare to the older S4?

A body of plastic or an aluminium frame?

The Sony Xperia™ Z1 is a very stylish looking phone. Flat, shiny, and with an aluminium frame that glints like metallic paint, it’s subtle and well thought out. The front and back are made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3, designed specifically to be scratch and crack resistant. The metal frame is solid, and prevents heavier knocks from upsetting the device.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is made from high quality, glossy plastics. The S4 isn’t as hardy as the Z1, the frame not able to take the knocks and drops that the Z1 will bounce up from. Where the S4 does take points is its size and lightness. It’s shorter, thinner and a noticeable 40g lighter.


When it comes to repelling water, the Sony Xperia™ Z1 is a clear winner. With IP58 certification, the Z1 can go 1.5m deep for half an hour, and come out completely unscathed. The Z1 is also protected against dust, so you can take it pretty much anywhere you want.

A standard S4 cannot get wet. There is a variant of the S4, called the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, that is water resistant, but not waterproof. This means it can go into 1m of water for half an hour, so not as water resistant as the Z1.

5″ screen vs 5″ screen – but what’s the difference?

The Sony Xperia™ Z1 uses technology taken directly from Sony’s TVs. These are Triluminous and X-Reality. Triluminous technology basically lets the screen show more colours so everything realistic, brighter and, well, better. X-Reality is a technology that’s excellent if you watch a lot of medium or low quality content. It boosts the quality of anything you’re looking at.

When it comes to the S4, the screen uses Super AMOLED. This is actually a very easy type of screen to spot. It gives distinct, vivid colours. They’re not as natural looking as the Z1, but are brighter. The pixels that show black are actually turned off with this screen, meaning the parts of the screen that show black colours are actually using no power at all, which is great for the battery.

Cameras: old vs new.

The S4 appeared with its 13MP camera and was right up there with the best cameras. But Sony has upped the stakes again with the Z1. At 20.7MP, it picks up noticeably more detail.

The list of features for the Z1 is extensive and unique. Along with all the filters and excellent automatic mode called Superior Auto that was such a hit with the original Z, the Z1 has Social live, Timeshift burst, AR effect and Info-eye. Social Live is a feature for streaming live videos directly to your Facebook page. Timeshift burst is a rapid fire camera mode and takes 61 photos in two seconds, allowing you to wind back and forth in time before and after you took a photo to find the best shot. AR effect is a great little addition that lets you create photos with virtual objects in them, such as dinosaurs and wild animals. Info-eye™ is possibly the most interesting. It lets you search the internet using photos. Take a shot of a landmark, a barcode, a book or even some wine, and get information including overviews and reviews, all using just the camera and an internet connection.

The S4 also has a host of photo features, but they’re largely limited to altering the way you take photos, not utilising the camera for extra features. There’s Dual camera, Sound & Shot, Best shot, plus the typical filters and scene selection options. Dual camera lets you take photos and videos using the front and rear facing cameras at the same time. Sound & Shot takes an audio recording along with a photo – excellent for remembering how awesome a gig was. Best shot does just that – it chooses the best parts of a burst of photos. So, if they smiled at different times, the S4 can pick the faces and put them all into the same shot.

Battery power battle.

The shiny, metal framed body of the Z1 is home to a chunky 3,000mAh battery. This’ll give you a huge 850 hours of standby time, and 15 hours of talk time. The S4 can’t get close when it comes to standby time, giving up to 370 hours, but with 17 hours of talk time, it’s got some juice. When it comes to music playback, the bigger battery of the Z1 wins again, with up to 110 hours of playback compared to 62 hours for the S4.

The S4′s battery is impressive, but the Z1′s is 15% bigger, offering longer life on the whole.

The spec differences in a nutshell.
Purple highlighting shows the highest spec.

Sony Xperia™ Z1Sony Xperia Z1 WhiteSamsung Galaxy S4Samsung Galaxy S4 Black
Size144 x 74 x 8.5 mm 170g136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm 130g
Display5″ 1080p HD with Triluminous and X-Reality technology5″ 1080p HD Super AMOLED
Processor2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 quad core1.9GHz quad core Snapdragon 600
Front facing camera2MP2MP
Connectivity4G, NFC, Wi-Fi /b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.04G NFC, Wi-Fi /b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0
BatteryBattery size: 3,000mAh
Standby time: 850 hours

Talk time: 15 hours
Battery size: 2,600mAh
Standby time: 370 hours
Talk time: 17 hours
Memory16GB on board storage, microSD up to 64GB16GB on board storage, microSD up to 64GB

1. In compliance with IP55 and IP58, Xperia Z1 is protected against the ingress of dust and is waterproof. Provided that all ports and covers are firmly closed, the phone is (i) protected against low pressure jets of water from all practicable directions in compliance with IP 55; and/or (ii) can be kept under 1.50 metre of freshwater for up to 30 minutes in compliance with IP58.