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Sony Xperia Z vs Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone comparison review

£520 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Sony

With the promise of a new Galaxy smartphone just a week away, the comparison of Sony's flagship Xperia Z to Samsung's much older Galaxy S III will seem bizarre. However, Samsung's handset isn't past it yet, and the chances are you'll be able to find a great deal on the Galaxy S III. Here, we look at how the two Android smartphones compare.

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

Sony Xperia Z Expert Verdict »
Sony Xperia Z Scores 8.5 out of 10 based on 466 reviews
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

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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