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Sony Xperia Z3 vs iPhone 5s - which should you buy?

Katharine Byrne
24 Sep 2014
Sony Xperia Z3 vs iPhone 5s
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We compare the Sony Xperia Z3 to Apple's iPhone 5s to see which is best

The Xperia Z3 is the successor to the well-reviewed Xperia Z2 and is launching just six-months later. This doesn't leave a lot of time to introduce any radical improvements to the Z3, but despite its similar specs to the Z2, Sony's latest range-topping handset still has plenty of attractive features to help tempt customers away from other high-end smartphones.

Specs are only part of what makes a good phone, though, and with Apple's iPhone 5s still one of the best phones around, we've pitted the two against each other to see which one you should buy. Be aware that this is purely a specification comparison to highlight the differences as they stand on paper. To find out how well Sony's latest phone did in our extensive performance benchmarks and battery life tests check out our Xperia Z3 review. For a more in-depth look at Apple's handset read our iPhone 5s review.

DESIGN

Dimensions: The Xperia Z3 is a large handset, but it only measures 146 x 72 x 7.3mm. This is 0.3mm thinner than the iPhone 5s, which measures 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm. This is quite an accomplishment for a handset with such a big screen, but the downside is that it's a lot heavier, weighing 152g as opposed to the iPhone 5's featherlight 112g

Materials: The Xperia Z3 has new nylon corners this time round to help take the brunt of any falls or tumbles, but the rear of the phone is still made of tempered glass. There's also a rounded aluminium frame that runs round the edge of the phone, making the Z3 feel like a premium handset. It's available in white, black, copper and silver green. 

Sony Xperia Z3 vs iPhone 5s side by side

Apple, by comparison, has always had impeccably-designed phones and the iPhone 5s is no different. Made from anodised aluminium with diamond cut chamfered edges, the iPhone 5s is available in gold, silver and grey. Its full-metal body feels fantastic and it's tough, too; even after almost a year of carrying it around, the iPhone 5S still looks pristine.

DISPLAY

The Xperia Z3 has a huge 5.2in screen with a resolution of 1,920x1,080. This gives it a pixel density of 423ppi, which goes way beyond Apple's "Retina" display on its iPhone. It will play Full HD video at its native resolution and much like Sony's previous Xperia handsets, the Z3 will use Sony's Triluminos display technology to supposedly deliver brighter, more vivid colours. Sony also claims the Z3 will have the world's brightest smartphone display, measuring a huge 600cd/m2, but we'll have to test this ourselves before we can deliver a final verdict.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 5s has a tiny 4in display with a screen resolution of 1,136x640 - a slightly strange size which is a hangover from older iOS devices. That means it is unable to play Full HD video, or even 720p footage at its native resolution, but a 377ppi pixel density means it is still impossible to see individual pixels from an average viewing distance.

PERFORMANCE

Processor: The Xperia Z3 has the same quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor as the Z2, but this time Sony has increased the clock speed to 2.5GHz instead of the usual 2.3GHz. While we've yet to test the device for ourselves, the Samsung Galaxy S5 also uses a 2.5GHz version of the Snapdragon 801 processor and it scored a lightning fast 391ms in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark test, so hopefully the Z3 will be able to deliver similar speeds when browsing the web.

The iPhone 5s has an ARM v8-based 1.3GHz dual-core processor. This translates to an excellent score of 416ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test, which theoretically puts it just behind the Xperia Z3. However, considering the Z2's 2.3GHz processor was almost 200ms slower than other phones with this model such as the HTC One m8, it's possible that the Xperia Z3 could also suffer from the same decrease in speed when we finally get our hands on a review sample. With this in mind, it's possible that the iPhone 5s may still pip the Z3 to the post when it comes to web browsing performance.  

Memory: Sony has included a massive 3GB of RAM in the Xperia Z3, which should be plenty for handling multiple tasks at once in Android 4.4. It's also more than double the 1GB of RAM inside the iPhone 5s. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for Apple, though, as despite the low number, 1GB is still more than enough due to the way multitasking is handled in iOS. 

Storage: The Xperia Z3 will be available with 16GB of storage, although Sony has also revealed a 32GB variant in its white paper for the device. All models will be compatible with microSD cards up to 128GB as well. The iPhone 5s, by comparison, has three versions – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

CAMERA

Like the Xperia Z2 before it, the Xperia Z3 uses one of Sony's 20.7-megapixel 1/2.3” ExmorRS sensor and Bionz mobile processing engine. It has an 8x digital zoom and can record video in 4K. Sony hasn't revealed what frame rate it can record video at, but it does have an ISO sensitivity of 12,800 (a world first for a smartphone), which means it should be able to perform well in very low lighting conditions.


Sony Xperia Z3 vs iPhone 5s camera

The iPhone 5s has a 8-megapixelback side illuminated (BSI) rear camera sensor, which is paired with a dual LED flash. It captures 3264 x 2448 resolution stills and records Full HD video at 30fps, with a slow motion function. The 1/3in sensor has 1.5µm pixels, which are significantly larger than most smartphone cameras to capture more light information.

FEATURES

The Xperia Z3 improves on the Z2's waterproof and dust-prevention capabilities even further. It's now been certified as IP65/68 compliant, which means you can use it up to 1.5m of fresh water for up to 30 minutes and is completely dust-tight, which means it's completely protected against the ingress of dust. This is an improvement on the Z2, which was simply protected against dust but couldn't guarantee a complete lack of ingress (IP55/58). 

The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, doesn't have an IP rating, making it less durable if you happen to drop it down the loo or in the bath, but you can buy dust-proof cases for it. Apple's phone is more secure than the Xperia Z3, though, as it has its own fingerprint sensor. The TouchID sensor can be used to unlock the phone, or confirm payment when making purchases on the App store, but no other apps support it yet because Apple hasn't made the API public. It takes less than a second to unlock, but it can struggle to register a print if you have any moisture on your fingers. 


Sony Xperia Z3 PS4 mount

The Xperia Z3 will appeal to PS4 owners, as it will be the first Sony phone (along with its smaller cousin, the Xperia Z3 Compact) to use Sony's PS4 Remote Play app. This lets you use your phone as a remote screen to connect and control your games on your PS4. This means you can still play games if other members of your family want to watch something on TV (a similar idea to the Nintendo Wii U's Off-TV Play feature). You'll need to connect the phone to your console via Wi-Fi and use the GCM10 Game Control Mount to connect it to the Dualshock 4 controller, but this effectively turns your PS4 into a handheld gaming console - something that will surely appeal to gamers who want to be able to play their games anywhere in the house. 

CONCLUSION

The iPhone 5s remains one of the best smartphones around, and those that need a new phone straight away certainly won't be disappointed by what Apple has to offer. It is expensive, though, and iOS may not suit those who are already very familiar with Android. 

The Xperia Z3, meanwhile, is an incremental improvement on Sony's Xperia Z range, but the phone's larger, higher resolution screen, waterproof capabilities and PS4 compatibility certainly give it the chops to make it an excellent alternative. Sony hasn't announced pricing or availability of the Xperia Z3 yet, but PS4 owners will definitely want to keep their eyes peeled, particularly if they like the idea of being able to play games around the house. We'll deliver a final verdict once we get our hands on a review sample.