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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Sony Xperia Z1: former flagship battle

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia Z1 are flagship smartphone from Samsung and Sony and were released pretty close to each other: six months after the release of the Galaxy S4, we saw the Xperia Z1 grace the consumer market. We take a look at both devices side by side and ask whether half a year more is enough time to give the Z1 a competitive advantage.

comparatif samsung galaxy s4 sony xperia z1
© AndroidPIT


The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia Z1 are both worlds apart when it comes to the design of the devices. The Galaxy S4 has a removable back cover and is surrounded in a glossy plastic that is complimented with some aluminum chrome finishing and central home button. The Xperia Z1 follows the same design process Sony has used across its Xperia line of devices, the Omnibalace: glass housing on the rear, aluminum frame, prominent power button, and a generally sober appearance. The photo sensor is relatively discrete on the back of the device and is less imposing than the S4.

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The back of the Sony Xperia Z1, complete with photo sensor. / © Sony

While held in your hand, both devices deliver a very different feel: the Galaxy S4 is more rounded while the Xperia Z1 is much larger and more square. While it may be a matter of taste, when both devices are held in landscape mode, the Xperia Z1 feels more comfortable in the hands. The Galaxy S4 does incorporate the same display size as the Z1, but in a more compact structure. As well, both devices incorporate different types of glass in the display: the S4 boasts Gorilla Glass while the Xperia Z1 boasts Dragontail Glass. Also, important to note, the Xperia Z1 is certified IP58 which means that it is resistant to water and dust straight out of the box, while the S4 isn’t.

The Xperia Z1 has no central home button, but rather relies on the standard Android capacitive buttons. The Galaxy S4 is based on Samsung Touchwiz and has a combination of capacitive buttons and the famous central physical home button.


Both devices shine when it comes to the display. The S4 has the same display technology behind it as Samsung’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S5. On paper, the Sony Xperia Z1 has a bit of a handicap: its TFT technology that the display is based on is relatively younger and suffers a bit worse than the AMOLED technology found in the S4. As such, the Z1 loses a bit in the contrast and viewing angle departments. Still, the Xperia Z1 is quite satisfactory when it comes to its display and the Triluminos technology delivers very vibrant colors.

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The Xperia Z1 TFT display at 1920 x 1080..../ © AndroidPIT
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...and the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S4. / © AndroidPIT

Overall, both displays are worth their weight. The colors and contrast of the S4 are impressive but they do not overshadow those of the Xperia Z1. For viewing angle and brightness in direct sunlight, the S4 does pull ahead a bit.


Both devices run on their respective companies UIs: Xperia UI for the Z1 and Touchwiz for the S4. Both are currently updated to Android 4.4.2 and include specific applications that are unique to both manufacturers. Setting aside aesthetic differences and opinions, both systems provide quite similar functionality.  Quick Settings can be modified to suit your own needs and there are a multitude of options for widgets, which can also be accessible on the lock screen on both systems.

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The settings menu on the Galaxy S4 is classified by different tabs. / © AndroidPIT

To summarize, the menus on the Z1 are bit more sober and the applications that come preloaded on the device are relatively useful: the Walkman app that comes with Xperia devices is one of the best multimedia apps to be found on Android The Galaxy S4 offers many controls through gestures which some find as tacky, while others absolutely love. In addition, the colorful and flashy appearance of the S4 should not mislead you, it is a smartphone with a serious interface that has proven itself among consumers.

The settings menu on the Xperia Z1 can be switched over to dark mode to help save your battery and your eyes. / © AndroidPIT


On paper, it is difficult to differentiate between the Galaxy S4 and the Xperia Z1. The Galaxy S4 has a Exynos processor that is supposed to be more efficient and despite both devices being of the “previous generation”, they can both easily handle anything that is currently being thrown at them. No slowdown, smooth menu transitions, and short loading times are all trademarks of the S4 and Z1. However, when we take a look at physical tests, such as the AnTuTu benchmarks, the Z1 edges out the Samsung Galaxy S4 as seen in the below graph.

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Despite having similar specifications on paper, the Xperia Z1 performs better in AnTuTu benchmarks. / © AndroidPIT

Technical Specifications

  Samsung Galaxy S4 Sony Xperia Z1
System Android 4.4.2 Android 4.4.2
Screen 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 (FullHD), 441 dpi 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 (FullHD), 441 dpi
Processor Qualcomm S600 quad core 1.9 GHz Exynos Octa or 5 800 Snapdragon 2.2 Ghz quad
Internal memory 16/32/64 GB, microSD up to 64GB 16 GB, microSD up to 64GB
Battery 2600 mAh 3000 mAh
Connectivity 2G/3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB OTG 2.0 4G; LTE optional 4G LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB OTG 2.0
Camera 13 MP, LED (rear) / 2 MP (front) 20.7 MP, LED (rear) / 2 MP (front)
Dimensions 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm
Weight 130 grams 170 grams


The battery on the S4 is about 400 mAh less than the Xperia Z1. As such, with the displays being the same size, we see that the Xperia Z1 fares a little better in terms of battery life. One of the downsides, however, for the Z1 is that unlike the S4, you cannot replace or change out the battery.

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A removable battery can sometimes revive an older smartphone to its former glory. / © AndroidPIT

The camera

Both cameras have been thoroughly tested over here at AndroidPIT. The Xperia Z1 offers, on paper, an impressive 20.7-megapixel camera that is supposed to crush everything in its path. You can check out our thoughts on this camera in our Sony Xperia Z1 and LG G2 camera comparison.

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A photo taken outdoors with the Xperia Z1 in full light. / © AndroidPIT

To learn more about the camera on the Galaxy S4, you can take a look at our article on the subject as well. If offers good quality and many modes, some might say a bit too may. Both smartphone can capture very decent shots, but to choose between the two, the S4 is definitely surpassed by the Z1 when it comes to quality and ease of use.

So, which one?

Depending on what kind of deals you can find, the Galaxy S4 is usually cheaper than the Z1, as well as being a bit older. The Xperia Z1 can be an easy choice for those looking for a higher quality design and camera in their device. The Galaxy S4 has bonus points in its favor for its display and removable battery. Depending on what is your cup of tea, either devices might fit into the niche you’re looking to fill.

If having the ability to change out a battery and possibly save a few bucks is your big thing, the Galaxy S4 is right up your alley. Otherwise, the Xperia Z1 is a great smartphone and you can’t go wrong with a device that is water and dust resistant right out of the box.

Which one do you prefer? The Galaxy S4 or the Xperia Z1?

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