Typically, this would be a two-part face-off. First, we’d take Sony’s newest hero device, size it up against its predecessor and explore all the changes and upgrades brought to the table. Then, we’d throw it in the cage with the Samsung Galaxy S6, fresh off a crushing win over HTC’s One M9, trying to conclude if the Xperia Z4 has enough moxie to play in the big leagues.
The thing is the verdicts are so predictable, we see ourselves compelled to combine the two ordinarily separate comparisons into a joint one. Yes, Sony screwed up so badly there isn’t even an argument. The Z4 is literally the same exact phone as the Z3, and matching it up to the GS6 is a waste of time and web content space.
There, we said it and stand by it. Only in the spirit of fair chances and equality for all, we’ll waste your time and overanalyze the underwhelming Xperia Z4. Just because we genuinely like Sony and believe they can turn things around… someday.
Sony Xperia Z4 vs Z3 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 – design and build quality
This writer loves his hyperboles as much as the next guy, but “literally the same exact phone” literally means that as far as the Z3 and Z4 are concerned. No exaggeration. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you get an infinitesimal profile trim, 8-gram bulk reduction and a few other BS microscopic tweaks no one will care about or notice.
At the end of the day, familiar glass mixes with metal for a premium yet worn out construction, and the “OmniBalance” design has become plain old boring.
Speaking of premium, although both the Z3 and Z4 are quite handsome and breathe quality through every pore, the Galaxy S6 is simply more attractive. Like, say, Chris Hemsworth next to Chris Pratt. Wait, I meant sexier like Kate Upton compared to Kate Moss. Machismo regained!
Pricing and availability
It may feel like we skipped a few chapters there, but really, this is the only chance Sony’s got to stay in the fight. The aging Xperia Z3 can be found on Amazon starting at $478 in an unlocked, international flavor coated in black. A copper gold model costs just 4 bucks extra, $510 buys you the Z3 in white, and a fancy silver green variant is a fairly steep $540.
Last but not least, you can get the erstwhile flagship in a repackaged version made exclusively for Verizon. The Z3v nowadays commands an on-contract price of $0.99.
It goes without saying the Z4 is unavailable anywhere in the world at the moment, and unfortunately, we don’t have the skinny on its MSRP either. Hopefully, it’ll hover around $550, $600 tops, since the vastly superior Galaxy S6 costs $765 SIM-free and $200 with Sprint, Verizon or AT&T pacts.
Display and cameras
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but what if it’s simply… old and tedious? You don’t try to “fix” it anyway, at least that’s Sony’s motto. The Japanese OEM probably thinks it achieved perfection at 5.2 inches, Full HD screen resolution and 20.7 megapixels, or else they wouldn’t Xerox all that from the Z3 to its “sequel.”
Thank God the front-facing camera gets a little lift, to 5 MP, which is enough to tie S6’s selfie-friendly shooter. Samsung’s 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED panel is obviously better, while the 16 MP main photographic unit sounds like a featherweight, but performs stupendously in real life, thanks to optical image stabilization and so on.
Processors, RAM and battery life
Octa-core Snapdragon 810 vs. quad S801 vs. octa-core Exynos 7420. Who wins? The Exynos, no doubt, courtesy of improved frugality, energy efficiency and no overheating concerns. Still, Snapdragon 810 power ain’t half bad and it’s the one big thing the Xperia Z4 has over the Z3… if warmth doesn’t become a problem. Please, oh please, don’t let it become a problem, Sony!
Random-access memory? Nothing to analyze there, really, as all three devices should facilitate silky smooth multitasking with 3 GB RAM (each) in tow.
Autonomy? That’s an unanswered question for the time being, as you may have guessed, given the Xperia Z4 is barely a few hours old. On paper, things don’t look great for any of our three contenders. The cells are all non-removable, GS6’s is hands down the tiniest, and believe it or not, Z4’s is smaller than Z3’s.
2,550, 2,930 and 3,100 mAh are the precise numbers, for all you statisticians tuning in. With fast charging technologies across the board, plus wireless charging only for the Galaxy S6.
Software, storage and others
Let’s save the Android skin debate for another time. What’s important is Lollipop goodies are offered all around, in packages short of vanilla virtue. Also, none of the three gadgets is ready for 5.1 yet.
What’s this, a duel Sony can actually prevail in? Why, yes, because the Z3 and Z4 both allow for microSD expansion beyond the 32 GB native storage mark. Samsung doesn’t, instead going all the way up to 128 GB internal space.
Don’t forget about Z3 and Z4’s IP68 shield against dust contact and water immersions, which the S6 abandoned when transforming S5’s all-plastic exterior. Still, we feel Sony slacked off between last September and today. Big time!
They have nothing new to show off in the “others” section, no fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor or homebrewed mobile payment service. “Aqua green” is a coat of paint we didn’t see the Z3 in, but that, alongside the beefier CPU and GPU and slightly better front cam, hardly justify Z4’s existence.
Back to the drawing board you go, Xperia architects, and perhaps in the fall, you’ll have something special to challenge the Galaxy Note 5 or LG G4 with.