Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone comparison review

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z

With the promise of a new Galaxy smartphone just a week away, the comparison of Sony's flagship Xperia Z with Samsung's much older Galaxy S III will seem bizarre. However, with plenty of customers expected to trade in their S III for a soon-to-be-released HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S IV or this here Sony Xperia Z, chances are you'll be able to find a great deal on Samsung's older handset. See Android Advisor.

And, of course, the fact that it's old doesn't mean it's past it: the Samsung Galaxy S III was one of the best phones of 2012. So, how does the Samsung Galaxy S III stack up against the Sony Xperia Z? See Group test: What's the best Android smartphone?

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Price

The brand-new Sony Xperia Z has an RRP of £549, but you can pick it up online for around £515 SIM-free. By comparison, a new Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB) is more affordable at around £375 SIM-free, and you can pick up a secondhand model on eBay for closer to £250-£300. When the Samsung Galaxy S IV is announced next week (14 March), prices may drop further still.

If, however, you decide to obtain your smartphone free with a two-year mobile contract, to get the most for your money we'd advise selecting the Sony Xperia Z or waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S IV. You'll save very little money by opting for an S III in this scenario. 

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Dimensions

The two smartphones are very similar in their sizing. The Sony is marginally larger and heavier, at 71x7.9x139mm and 146g against the Samsung Galaxy S III's 70.6x8.6x136.6mm and 133g. Given that the Sony Xperia Z has a slightly larger screen, this comes as no surprise.

Sony Xperia Z video review

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Build 

The Sony Xperia Z's design is very much in keeping with previous Xperia smartphones. It's super-thin at 7.9mm, but a massive 5in screen and squareish corners mean it feels very large in the hand. With far gentler rounded corners and a chunkier 8.6mm profile, the Samsung Galaxy S III seems less awkward. Nevertheless, both smartphones are easily operated in a single hand. 

A tempered glass front and rear is sufficiently sturdy and makes the Xperia Z feel like a premium device, but the effect is somewhat spoiled by a narrow grime-attracting gap that runs the circumference of the glass. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S III usefully has a removable battery, but its perceived durability suffers as a result. The removable rear cover has a plasticky feel, yet the Galaxy is otherwise very well made.

Because the Sony Xperia Z is water-resistant to 1m, and also dustproof, all ports are covered by small flaps. These lie flush with the case and are of a decent quality, but we're not convinced their white legends are necessary and think they spoil the finished look. 

There are no hardware buttons on the front of the Sony Xperia Z, while the Samsung Galaxy S III features a bottom-centred Home button, with touch-sensitive Back and Menu either side. 

The Xperia Z is available in black, white and purple; the Samsung Galaxy S III comes in pebble blue and marble white.

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Screen

Although the Xperia Z has the larger screen on paper, at 5in versus Samsung's 4.8in, the bottom section of this display houses the touch-sensitive Back, Home and Menu buttons. The Samsung Galaxy S III features these buttons below its screen, which explains the similarity in the two smartphones' chassis sizes. 

Which setup you prefer will come down to personal preference. I hardly noticed a difference until I switched the Xperia Z into landscape mode to play Jetpack Joyride. In this running game you have to keep an eye on upcoming zappers and missiles, and I found myself constantly looking to the Home, Back and Menu buttons rather than the edge of the playable screen area. It's something you should get used to with time, of course. 

The major difference between these two screens is not size, then, but resolution. Both are HD panels, but the Sony Xperia Z offers full-HD 1080p, while the Samsung Galaxy S III offers lower-quality 720p. This means the Sony offers 443 pixels per inch, which is fewer only than the forthcoming HTC One, while the Samsung has 306 pixels per inch. The naked eye will be unable to distinguish individual pixels within either panel, although the Sony will be the better choice for enjoying multimedia. 

Sony's Xperia Z has what the company calls a 'Reality Display', which is said to offer the same quality as its Bravia TVs. Sony has also added its Mobile Bravia Engine 2 technology, which supposedly analyses content and optimises the image sharpness, colour, contrast and noise reduction to suit.  

The Samsung Galaxy S III is fitted with a Super AMOLED display. It offers bright and punchy colours and deep blacks. Some might find this a bit garish, but we like the effect. 

Viewing angles are excellent with either smartphone, although we found reflections more of a problem with the Samsung Galaxy S III. This is because Sony has actively worked to eliminate the problem with its Xperia Z, removing a layer of air from the screen to reduce glare. 

Sony has also tweaked the screen layering technology to integrate sensor and lens, which improves responsiveness. We can't argue with the results, but neither would we say the Samsung Galaxy S III's unadulterated screen technology is slow to respond.

Samsung Galaxy S III video review 

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Processor & performance 

We wouldn't expect the Samsung Galaxy S III to stand up to the much newer Sony Xperia Z in our performance tests. The Sony feels incredibly snappy in operation, with absolutely no lag. But in our real-world experience it was impossible to fault the Samsung Galaxy S III's performance either.

As one of the first phones out the door in 2013, the hardware inside the Sony Xperia Z isn't entirely on a par with the likes of the HTC One and what we hope to see in the Samsung Galaxy S IV. You might say the Xperia's hardware is Nexus 4-standard, rather than 2013-standard - not that we're complaining, as the Nexus 4 is still the fastest phone we've ever tested.

Running the same 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and Adreno 320 graphics as the Nexus 4, the Sony Xperia Z recorded slightly lower scores of 1,986 points in Geekbench 2, 30fps in GLBenchmark 2.5 and 1,791ms in SunSpider. This suggests that the software in use is affecting performance from the same hardware - the Sony Xperia Z is stuck on Android Jelly Bean 4.1, while the Nexus enjoys version 4.2. Sony has promised an update to Jelly Bean 4.2 shortly after launch, which may improve performance.

Although it has now been updated to Android 4.1, the Samsung Galaxy S III was running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich when we put it through its paces in Geekbench. However, we suspect the fact it scored some 300 points fewer than the Xperia Z (with 1,659) is more likely courtesy of the slower-clocked processor and halved RAM allocation (1GB). The Samsung Galaxy S III pairs its own 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad (a 32nm chip based on the ARM Cortex-A9) with ARM Mali 400 MP graphics.

The Samsung Galaxy S III is also expected to be updated to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean in due course. 

NEXT PAGE: We continue our Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III comparison review with a look at storage, cameras, connectivity, software and battery life

We continue our Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III comparison review with a look at storage, cameras, connectivity, software and battery life 

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Storage 

Whereas the Sony Xperia Z is available in 16GB capacity only, the Samsung Galaxy S III is also available with 32- or 64GB of storage. It's easier to add capacity later with the Samsung, too. Both smartphones feature removable memory slots, but the Samsung's microSDXC slot (up to 64GB) accepts twice the capacity of the Sony's microSDHC (up to 32GB). 

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Cameras 

Samsung's Galaxy S III features a typical camera setup for a 2012 smartphone. It has an 8Mp BSI sensor at the rear, and a 1.9Mp snapper at the front. This means you can also video-chat in HD, and shoot movies in full-HD. The results are perfectly acceptable for a smartphone, with sharp detail and suitably saturated colour, and the camera shutter has zero lag. Samsung has also added a Social tag feature, which lets you link people within a photo to their social-networking profiles.  

By comparison, Sony has fitted its Xperia Z with what looks set to become the standard for smartphones in 2013. The Xperia Z has a whopping 13Mp Exmor RS BSI sensor that, thanks to the Sony's water- and dustproofing, takes excellent pictures wherever you are.  

Whereas the Samsung Galaxy S III supports an HDR mode for its still images, the Sony Xperia Z is the first smartphone to also support HDR video recording. Additional features include a burst mode that can continuously capture 9Mp shots at 10fps until you either run out of storage space or battery life (the Samsung's burst mode maxes out at 20 shots), and a 16x digital zoom. We also like the single camera interface, in which you can begin video recording or capture still images, whereas with the S III you must be in either video or camera mode.

Sony has also fitted an Exmor R sensor to the front of its Xperia Z. This 2Mp-rated cam offers decent picture quality in low light. 

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, there's little difference between the Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S III. Both support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, DLNA, GPS, Glonass and Micro-USB. 

The Sony Xperia Z additionally offers HDMI support via MHL, plus 4G LTE connectivity as standard. A version of the S III is available with the latter, so check you have the right one before you buy.  

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Software

At the time of writing, both Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S III run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The latest version is 4.2, to which both will eventually be upgraded, but in the smartphone market this is currently available only to Google's own Nexus 4. 

If you're a previous Sony Xperia or Samsung smartphone owner, you'll be in familiar territory with the software interface. Neither is a huge departure from standard Android, although both manufacturers have added some of their own tweaks. Samsung has added its TouchWiz overlay, for example, while Sony provides its Music Unlimited and PlayStation Mobile apps as part of the Sony Entertainment Network. 

Samsung has also added a few apps that help differentiate it in the Android market. Similar to Apple's Siri, S Voice uses voice recognition to unlock the handset, bring up a weather forecast, send a text message and more. There are also motion controls in the form of Smart stay, which prevents the screen switching off while you're looking at it, Direct Call, which lets you call an onscreen contact by lifting the phone to your ear, and Smart Alert, with which a simple nudge alerts you to any missed calls or messages. Then there's Samsung's Music Hub, and AllShare apps that let you share content with other devices over the web, and beam your handset's display to a larger screen.

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Battery 

Android smartphones aren't usually reknowned for the longevity of their batteries, the main cause of which is the display. With a large full-HD panel fitted to the Sony Xperia Z you might expect things to get worse. However, Sony says its 8.6Wh (2,330mAh) cell will stretch to 11 hours of talk time and 550 hours on standby, and there's a Battery Stamina mode that turns off unnecessary functions such as Wi-Fi and data traffic when the screen is off (you still receive incoming calls and texts).

Samsung, by comparison, has fitted a 7.8Wh (2,100mAh) battery to its Galaxy S III. Unlike the vast majority of smartphones coming on to the market, this is a removable battery. This means you can easily replace a faulty cell without having to replace the entire phone, and you can swap in a spare should you run out of juice on the road. The Samsung, too, has a battery-saving mode.

It's impossible to accurately compare battery life, since everyone uses their phones in different ways. In our informal tests we found the Samsung could last two days, but the Sony would need a recharge at the end of the first day.

Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III: Verdict 

We would be insane to suggest that the Sony Xperia Z is not a better proposition than the Samsung Galaxy S III. It's faster, has a larger, higher-resolution screen and a superior 13Mp camera. But the Samsung Galaxy S III is a very good handset in its own right, and will continue to find plenty of fans at its cheaper price point. If you have your heart set on a Samsung phone, but want the best tech you can get, hold out for the Samsung Galaxy S IV.

NEXT PAGE: Our original Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z comparison review, by Chris Martin.

Sony's new flagship smartphone for 2013 is the Xperia Z, but how does it compare to the most popular Android smartphone of 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3? We’ll explain all the differences in our Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z comparison review.

The Galaxy S3 has been around for quite a while now but until the Galaxy S4 arrives some time later this year to replace it this is the most relevant comparison between Samsung and Sony.

We had hands-on time with the Xperia Z at CES so this article focuses mainly on the specifications of each phone with comment where appropriate.

We'll be bringing you a full Xperia Z review as soon as we can but for now check out the following articles.

Sony Xperia Z review

Sony Xperia Z release date, price and specs

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Price

Sony hasn't announced an official retail price for the Xperia Z although many online retailers have it pegged for about £520 SIM-free. Provided this price is correct, the Samsung's Galaxy S3 is the cheaper of the two since it sells for under £450 on a SIM-free basis.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Design and build

Although the two smartphones have different screen sizes they are almost identical in their dimensions. Both are 71mm across and the Xperia Z is only 2mm taller at 139mm. Sony's handset is also the thinner of the two at 7.9mm compared to 8.6mm.

In terms of weight the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the lighter at 133g. The Xperia Z weighs 146g because it uses more glass in its design rather than plastic.  

Which is more attractive is down to opinion but it's worth pointing out that the Xperia Z benefits from a dust and waterproof design (IP57 certified). After spending time with both handsets, it's the Xperia Z which has a better build quality.

Sony Xperia Z in water

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Screen

Samsung's Galaxy S3 has one of the biggest screens we've seen on a smartphone (ignoring the Galaxy Note) at 4.8in. Sony has opted for a larger 5in 'Reality Display' screen, the biggest it has ever put into a smartphone.

The Galaxy S3 has a resolution of 720 x 1280 but this is trumped by the 1080 x 1920 on offer from the Xperia Z. The Full HD means the highest pixel density we've seen on a smartphone of 441ppi making the Galaxy S3's 306ppi look quite paltry.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Processor and memory

The core internal specification of the Samsung Galaxy S3 consists of a 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad, an own-brand quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. The Xperia Z uses the same 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro found in the Google Nexus 4with 2GB of RAM.

The Galaxy S3 managed a respectable score of 1659 in GeekBench 2. Although we haven't been able to benchmark the Xperia Z yet since we only saw it at CES, we expect it to achieve a similar score to the Nexus 4 which scored 2009.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Storage

Sony has only made the Xperia Z with 16GB of internal storage but Samsung offers much more flexibility. The Galaxy S3 comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, matching the iPhone 5. Both handsets have a microSD card slot for expansion but the Samsung supports cards up to 64GB – twice the size that the Xperia Z supports.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Cameras

At 8Mp, the Galaxy S3's camera was a pretty standard resolution for 2012 but if the Xperia Z is anything to go by then 13Mp is a new standard for this year. Both cameras have the ability to record video in full HD 1080p quality but Sony's Exmor RS sensor promises higher quality results.

The Sony Xperia Z also has a better quality front facing camera at 2.2Mp which can shoot 1080p video. The Galaxy S3's camera is restricted to 1.9Mp and 720p video.

Sony Xperia Z camera

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Connectivity

Connectivity features are on a par consisting of dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, near-field communications (NFC) and digital living network alliance (DLNA) certification. Neither have any physical ports beyond microUSB and headphone.

As standard the Xperia Z has 4G LTE connectivity and there is a 4G LTE specific model of the Galaxy S3.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Software

The Xperia Z and Galaxy S3 are both Google's Android smartphones running version 4.1 Jelly Bean. There is a newer version of Android which the Galaxy S3 is waiting for and will be available for the Xperia Z after launch.

Android looks quite different between the smartphones since both vendors use their own interface overlay. Much like the looks of a phone, which overlay is better is mostly down to personal taste.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Android

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Sony Xperia Z: Battery

With a 7.8Wh (2100mAh) removable battery we found the Galaxy S3 lasted a couple of days of general use. The Xperia Z has a larger 8.6Wh (2330mAh) but non-removable battery, but how long it can keep the phone going with its Full HD screen is yet to be seen.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter. 

Sony Xperia Z: Specs

  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS
  • 5in Reality Display (1080x1920)
  • Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2
  • 1.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
  • 2.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at 1080p
  • HSDPA, 42 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • 4G LTE, Cat3
  • 2330mAh battery
  • 71x139x7.9mm
  • 145g
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS
  • 5in Reality Display (1080x1920)
  • Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2
  • 1.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 13Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
  • 2.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at 1080p
  • HSDPA, 42 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • 4G LTE, Cat3
  • 2330mAh battery
  • 71x139x7.9mm
  • 145g

OUR VERDICT

We would be insane to suggest that the Sony Xperia Z is not a better proposition than the Samsung Galaxy S III. It's faster, has a larger, higher-resolution screen and a superior 13Mp camera. But the Samsung Galaxy S III is a very good handset in its own right, and will continue to find plenty of fans at its cheaper price point. If you have your heart set on a Samsung phone, but want the best tech you can get, hold out for the Samsung Galaxy S IV.

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