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Thinner Lighter Better

Sony Xperia Z3 vs Samsung Galaxy S5 – which one’s better?

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on September 3, 2014

If you’re after the best Android smartphone of the moment, chances are you’ll want to know how the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 fare against each other. And here’s where this post comes in handy.

From starters you should know that these two smartphones have little in common, except for the fact that both run Android, both are motorized by Qualcomm 801 hardware and both are flagships, the best each of the two manufacturers have to offer these days in their size-class.

Samsung also offers the larger and slightly beefier Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge, but the S5 is their closest match for the Z3 and remains their most popular handset of the moment.

Xperia Z3 vs Galaxy S5 video review

Design and first contact

The Xperia is a glass covered monolith, with rounded metallic edges. It’s thinner and lighter than the previous Z2, but still not as light as the Galaxy. The S5 is entirely made out of plastic, and while that helps keep the weight down, it also leads to a cheap and flimsy feeling phone, one that squeaks when grabbed a bit firmer and just can’t compete with the other heavyweight smartphones of the moment in terms of looks and build quality. Too bad it does not feature the aluminum frame of the Galaxy Alpha.

The glass and metal Z3 looks and feels stronger than the plastic made Galaxy S5

The glass and metal Z3 looks and feels stronger than the plastic made Galaxy S5

The back polycarbonate cover is however removable on the S5, allowing access to a replaceable battery, so the Galaxy has this on its side. At the same time, I do find the S5 somewhat more comfortable in hand, mostly because its case is grippier, while Sony’s glass and metal body is slippery and prone to smudges.

These aside, both handsets offer various degrees of water and dust resistance, but neither are actually ruggedized, so you’d better not drop them. As a result, ports and connectors are covered by small caps on both of these, and the S5’s back plate has a rubber membrane in order to keep water away from the main components. I do trust the Z3s approach more and think it will do a better job at keeping water at bay if needed.

Anyway, when it comes to minor details, Samsung’s handset has a few aces down its sleeve. It packs a fingerprint sensor integrated within the Home key, a heart-rate sensor on the back, an IR blaster and an USB 3.0 slot. The Z3 brings its set of front-facing stereo speakers, way clearer and louder than the backfiring speaker of the S5, and to be frank, you’ll probably appreciate these more in everyday use than all those features of the S5 mentioned above.

Screens

Moving on, both these handsets pack excellent displays. However, the Xperia gets an IPS Triluminos panel, while the Galaxy gets a Super AMOLED panel, and each has its pros and cons.

FHD panels on both of these, but an IPS panel on the Sony and an AMOLED panel on the Samsung

FHD panels on both of these, but an IPS panel on the Sony and an AMOLED panel on the Samsung

On one side the Z3’s screen is bright and pictures natural colors and whites, but suffers from somewhat poorer viewing angles, on the other the S5’s screen impresses with its deep blacks and contrast, but skews the colors, displaying them in an highly saturated matter. So it’s really up to you personal preference to choose one side or the other.

Hardware and performance

The same can be said about your daily experience with these two. They are both running Android 4.4 KitKat on one of the fastest hardware platform of the moment, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip with Adren0 330 graphics. The Z3 gets 3 GB of RAM, while the S5 only two, but that’s the only major difference between them when it comes to internal specs.


Sony Xperia Z3 specs
Samsung Galaxy S5 specs
Screen 5.2 inch, 1080 x 1920 px, IPS Triluminos panel 5.1 inch, 1080 x 1920 px, Super AMOLED panel
Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC 2.5 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC 2.5 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics
Memory 3 GB RAM 2 GB RAM
Storage 16/32 GB + microSD cards up to 128 GB 16/32 GB + microSD cards up to 128 GB
Connectivity
4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC 4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC
Ports microUSB 2.0, nano-SIM microUSB 3.0, micro-SIM, microSD, IR
Cameras 20.7 MPx main camera, 2.2 MPx front camera 16 MPx main camera, 2 MPx front camera
Battery 3100 mAh, encased 2800 mAh, removable
OS Android 4.4.4 KitKat Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Size 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm (5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 145 g (5.11 oz)
Others metallic edges, front-mounted speakers, IP68 certified side-mounted speaker, Fingerprint reader, pulse-reader, IP67 certified

However, each manufacturer offers its own take on the software, customizing and changing most of the UI elements, and bundling the phones with their own proprietary apps.

Sony’s solution is somewhat simpler and cleaner looking, closer to the stock KitKat experience, while Samsung’s TouchWiz UI changes pretty much everything that can be changed. But while somewhat cluttered and ugly, these customizations are actually powerful once you get used to them.

At the end of the day though, both phones can easily handle everything you will throw at them, from basic activities to complex tasks, from browsing to watching all sorts of video files and running the latest games. I do have to add that the S5 tends to hiccup and choke from time to time, while the Z3 does offer a smoother and more consistent experience, but Samsung’s latest software updates have addressed most of the performance issues.

Battery life

Of course, there’s no point in having all this kind of power if the phone is going to die on you quickly, but that’s really not an issue here.

Both devices pack large enough batteries to keep them going to about 2 days of average use and both offer ways of squeezing more life through some energy saving modes.

The S5 does get the replaceable battery though, while the Xperia Z3 does not.

Expect about 2 days of everyday use for these two

Expect about 2 days of everyday use for these two

Cameras

Cameras are a major do or die on a modern smartphone as well and these devices live up to the expectations.

The Galaxy gets a 16 Mpx main shooter with a fast focusing system, while the Z3 gets a 20.7 Mpx camera with a larger sensor, the same we’ve seen on the previous Z series phones. These are complemented by complex camera interfaces and plenty of shooting modes and tweaks in each case.

I cannot show you any samples for the time being though, as the tested Z3 is a pre-production model and does not feature the final camera software, thus results could be misleading. But I will update this section as soon as I get my hands on a retails Z3, which should happen in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that and follow me on Twitter if you don’t want to miss the update.

Wrap-up

All these being said, we can easily conclude that both these phones have plenty to offer. The S5 is stuffed with features, packs a very good camera and is overall a good handset, with little to complain about. But its plastic body, its AMOLED screen, tiny back speaker and cluttered Touchwiz software might not be good enough for some of you.

Sony’s Z3 is a refinement of the Z2, a phone that already checked almost all the right boxes. The major differences lie on the outside, in the lighter and slightly redesigned body, topped by a bumped-up hardware platform and a newer version of Android. The camera experience remains however the only potential deal-breaker, not because of the hardware, which is solid, but because of its faulty software. However, we won’t be able to tell for sure if Sony addressed it or not till we get out hands on a final retail unit.

The Xperia Z3 is overall the more interesting package here, but the Galaxy S5 remains a high quality smartphone

The Xperia Z3 is overall the more interesting package here, but the Galaxy S5 remains a high quality smartphone

Long story short though, I do think the Sony Z3 is the overall more appealing package here, but that’s in the end up to each of you to decide. So make sure to let me know in the comments below which of these phones you like best, the sleek and simpler Xperia Z3, or the plastic made Galaxy S5, with all of its features.

Either way, that’s about it for now, this has been my comparison of the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Samsung Galaxy S5. Thank you guys for sticking by and make sure yo check out my complete coverage of the Z3 here on the site if you’re interested in buying this phone.

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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