Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Sony Xperia Z: When worlds collide

GSMArena team, 31 March 2013.

Screen comparison

The Xperia Z and Galaxy S4 are built around a 5" screen each of 1080p resolution, which seems to be the flagship standard in 2013. The pixel density is ridiculously high at 441 ppi, which is par for the course, but frankly, even if there were any difference it would've been impossible to spot at over 400ppi.

However, this is where the similarities end, as the two phones use polar opposite display technologies. Traditionally, Samsung has equipped its Android flagship with a Super AMOLED screen, while Sony opts for an LCD. As you'd imagine, the differences between the two screens are immediately apparent once you put them next to one another.

Here's a close up shot of the Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4 display matrixes from our digital microscope.

Sony Xperia Z
Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4 screens up close

Naturally, the contrast and color saturation of the Super AMOLED screens is beyond the reach of any LCD out there, which makes even the dullest image appear remarkably vibrant. And even if you are not a fan of the oversaturated look of AMOLEDs, Samsung is giving you the option to tune the saturation down for a natural look and enjoy the best of both worlds. There's a dedicated Adobe RGB setting that sees to it.

Another nice thing about having Android 4.2 and an AMOLED screen is that you can download a Daydream for the Galaxy S4 that shows a simple clock on a black background and you can run this overnight without losing too much battery.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC One 0.13 205 1580 0.42 647 1541
HTC Butterfly 0.14 173 1200 0.45 501 1104
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III 0 174 0 330
Sony Xperia Z - - - 0.70 492 705
Oppo Find 5 0.17 176 1123 0.51 565 1107
Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II 0 215 0 402
LG Optimus G Pro - - - 0.41 611 1489
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 417 1438
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

The impressive pixel density of both screens ensures that sharpness is as good as it gets on a handheld display. 441 ppi is actually so ridiculously high that it makes the Galaxy S4's PenTile matrix a non-issue. Typically, fewer sub-pixels (two per pixel instead of three), which is what PenTile means, would produce visible defects. Well, not on a 1080p screen obviously. Hardly surprising, given that jaggies were only occasionally visible from up close on the 306ppi Super AMOLED screen of the Galaxy S III.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

The Sony Xperia Z counters with the second generation of the company's Mobile Bravia Engine, a technology which on paper should make the biggest difference in video playback and image viewing. This may as well be the best smartphone display the Japanese have produced so far - especially considering the jump in resolution. Being the least reflective so far too, the screen does very well outdoors.

However, that just isn't enough and the Xperia Z screen still falls short of the Galaxy S4 display in just about every aspect of its performance. The difference in viewing angles is particularly striking as the mediocre viewing angles of the Sony flagship look shocking next to the paper-like screen of the Galaxy S4.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4. Samsung has done an excellent job with the display of its latest flagship. Not only does it easily bests the Xperia Z in terms of sunlight legibility and contrast, but it can also gives you the option to get rid of the over-saturation with the Adobe RGB mode.

Battery life

The batteries of both phones are Li-Ion units and with capacities exceeding 2000mAh. The Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets (minor differences accounted for) powering both smartphones have so far demonstrated rather good power efficiency.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a slight advantage in battery capacity - 2,600mAh over 2,330mAh - but its chipset is overclocked so we'll see how that balances out. Also, the screen types will make a difference, LCD usually does well on the web browsing test, while AMOLED typically fares better in the video test.

Starting off with the Talk time test, the Sony Xperia Z swoops in to win it beating the Galaxy S4 with a lead of over 2 hours. In fact, it's the second best phone we've ever tested, which is truly impressive.

Talk time

  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    21:18
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    20:45
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    20:24
  • Motorola RAZR i
    20:07
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    16:57
  • Sony Xperia Z
    16:03
  • LG Optimus G
    15:30
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    14:17
  • Oppo Find 5
    14:17
  • Google Nexus 4
    14:17
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    13:53
  • HTC One
    13:38
  • HTC One X+
    13:31
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    12:45
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    12:30
  • HTC Butterfly
    12:18
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    12:14
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    11:58
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    11:30
  • Asus Padfone 2
    11:20
  • HTC Droid DNA
    11:07
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    11:07
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    11:07
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    11:06
  • HTC Desire X
    11:03
  • HTC One X (AT&T, LTE)
    10:35
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    10:20
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    10:15
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    10:03
  • HTC One V
    10:00
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    10:00
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    10:00
  • HTC One X
    9:57
  • HTC One S
    9:42
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    9:40
  • HTC Sensation XL
    9:30
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    9:05
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    9:05
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    9:05
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    9:04
  • HTC Vivid
    9:02
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    8:56
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    8:51
  • HTC Rhyme
    8:48
  • Apple iPhone 5
    8:42
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    8:42
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    8:41
  • Meizu MX
    8:39
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    8:35
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    8:28
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    8:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    8:23
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    8:22
  • BlackBerry Z10
    8:20
  • HTC Desire V
    8:20
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    8:20
  • Sony Xperia T
    8:15
  • HTC Rezound (LTE)
    8:10
  • Samsung Galaxy Note (LTE)
    8:02
  • LG Optimus Vu
    7:57
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    7:41
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    7:41
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    7:25
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE (LTE)
    7:21
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    7:14
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    7:09
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    7:09
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    7:09
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    6:57
  • Nokia N9
    6:57
  • HTC Radar
    6:53
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    6:53
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    6:52
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    6:42
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    6:22
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    5:54
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T (LTE)
    5:53
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    5:52
  • Sony Xperia P
    5:33
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    5:16
  • LG Nitro HD (LTE)
    5:16
  • HTC Titan II (LTE)
    5:10
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    5:00
  • Pantech Burst
    4:46

The Xperia Z was quick to waste its great advantage in the Web browsing test though with a score of 6 and a half hours. A mediocre score, considering the phone's LCD display, which in theory should work much better with the mostly white web pages. In comparison, the Galaxy S4 achieved the very good rating of 8 hours and 42 minutes.

Web browsing

  • HTC One
    9:58
  • Apple iPhone 5
    9:56
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    9:12
  • Apple iPad mini
    9:05
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    8:48
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    8:42
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    8:20
  • Asus Padfone 2
    8:20
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    8:01
  • HTC One X+
    7:56
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    7:42
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    7:38
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    7:23
  • HTC Radar
    7:17
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    7:09
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    7:09
  • Motorola RAZR i
    7:06
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    6:56
  • HTC One V
    6:49
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    6:40
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    6:40
  • HTC Droid DNA
    6:40
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    6:40
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    6:40
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    6:40
  • Sony Xperia Z
    6:37
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    6:35
  • BlackBerry Z10
    6:27
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    6:27
  • HTC Butterfly
    6:24
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    6:15
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    6:13
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    6:01
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    5:56
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    5:53
  • Pantech Burst
    5:51
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    5:45
  • HTC Desire V
    5:44
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE
    5:41
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    5:40
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    5:34
  • Oppo Find 5
    5:33
  • Sony Xperia T
    5:33
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    5:33
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    5:28
  • Samsung Galaxy Note LTE
    5:24
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    5:23
  • HTC Sensation XL
    5:20
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    5:19
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    5:17
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    5:16
  • HTC Rezound
    5:16
  • HTC Desire X
    5:16
  • LG Optimus G
    5:15
  • HTC Rhyme
    5:08
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    5:07
  • HTC One X (AT&T)
    5:03
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    4:50
  • LG Optimus Vu
    4:49
  • HTC Vivid
    4:46
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    4:45
  • Meizu MX
    4:35
  • Google Nexus 4
    4:34
  • Nokia N9
    4:33
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    4:32
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    4:24
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    4:24
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    4:20
  • HTC One X
    4:18
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4:14
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    4:10
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T
    4:10
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    4:07
  • HTC Titan II (LTE)
    4:05
  • HTC One S
    4:03
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    4:02
  • LG Nitro HD
    4:00
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    3:59
  • Sony Xperia P
    3:59
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    3:51
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    3:50
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    3:47
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    3:35
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    3:23
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    3:01

The Samsung Galaxy S4 lasted a solid 10 hours in our video test before the battery hit 10% (many phones refuse to play video below that threshold, so that's where we end). That's quite the movie marathon to while away a long flight (note: we do the test in offline mode).

The Xperia Z paled in comparison, only just making halfway, at 5 hours 39 minutes before reaching the 10% stop.

Video playback

  • Motorola RAZR MAXX (ICS)
    16:35
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX
    14:17
  • Apple iPad mini
    12:51
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    12:51
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
    11:27
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    10:16
  • Apple iPhone 5
    10:12
  • HTC One
    10:02
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    10:01
  • Samsung Galaxy Express
    10:00
  • Samsung I9105 Galaxy S II Plus
    10:00
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    9:53
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    9:42
  • Samsung Rugby Smart I847
    9:34
  • HTC One S
    9:28
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (JB)
    9:27
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    9:24
  • HTC Evo 4G LTE
    9:07
  • BlackBerry Z10
    8:44
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    8:40
  • Nokia N9
    8:40
  • HTC Butterfly
    8:28
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    8:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos
    8:11
  • HTC One X+
    8:11
  • Motorola RAZR i
    8:11
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    8:00
  • Samsung i937 Focus S
    7:55
  • Samsung Wave 3 S8600
    7:52
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    7:46
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
    7:45
  • Asus Padfone 2
    7:38
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    7:38
  • Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G
    7:33
  • HTC Droid DNA
    7:30
  • Samsung Galaxy Note LTE
    7:30
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    7:30
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    7:23
  • LG Optimus G
    7:16
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    6:33
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    6:32
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    6:27
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    6:27
  • Nokia Lumia 810
    6:27
  • HTC Desire V
    6:26
  • HTC One X (AT&T)
    6:26
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    6:25
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos
    6:25
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    6:23
  • LG Optimus Vu
    6:23
  • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R
    6:21
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    6:19
  • HTC Sensation XL
    6:12
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    6:06
  • Samsung Captivate Glide
    6:04
  • Sony Xperia ion LTE
    6:03
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
    6:02
  • Sony Xperia T
    6:01
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    6:01
  • HTC Vivid
    6:00
  • HTC Radar
    5:54
  • Nokia Lumia 800
    5:52
  • HTC Titan II
    5:50
  • BlackBerry Bold 9790
    5:47
  • HTC One X
    5:45
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro
    5:44
  • Sony Xperia Z
    5:39
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    5:38
  • HTC Desire X
    5:38
  • Pantech Burst
    5:38
  • Meizu MX
    5:27
  • HTC Rhyme
    5:23
  • HTC One V
    5:20
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    5:18
  • Oppo Find 5
    5:18
  • Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T
    5:18
  • BlackBerry Curve 9380
    5:09
  • HTC Rezound
    5:03
  • Google Nexus 4
    4:55
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    4:30
  • Sony Xperia P
    4:30
  • LG Nitro HD
    4:17
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    4:14
  • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
    3:28
  • Nokia Lumia 710
    3:27

All things considered, the Xperia Z can give you two full days on a single charge, if you do an hour each of calling, web browsing and video watching a day. In the same usage pattern, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will last nearly three days. As we pointed out earlier, the battery of the Galaxy S4 is easily replaceable and Samsung will be selling a dedicated charger for a spare battery.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4. The Samsung flagship not only has a larger battery but also uses it more efficiently. The Xperia Z posted better 3G talk time, but lost ground in the rest of the tests. Moreover, its non-accessible battery means you can't just pop a spare in.
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