At the very top of the smartphone tree it's possible to get a fast superphone that you don't have to handle with kid gloves. The Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4 Active are feature-packed, super-fast and tough, having been independently tested for water and dust resistance, but which is best? Here's Carphone Warehouse's comparison of these two herculean smartphones.
Both the Galaxy S4 Active and Xperia Z have been through rigorous testing to ensure that the challenges of everyday life, such as using them in the rain or taking them to a sandy beach, won't be too much for them. In terms of water resistance both have been given an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of 7, meaning they should be perfectly happy under up to 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes, assuming all the ports are closed and the back is on properly. So they should both easily cope with a rain shower.
In terms of dust resistance the S4 Active edges it with an IP score of 6, which means no dust can get into the phone, compared to a score of 5 for the Xperia Z, which means dust may get into the phone but not enough to stop it working. So the Samsung edges out the Sony in this tough test but it's not going to make a huge difference unless you work in the dustiest of places.
The processor battle is a pretty one sided affair with the Galaxy S4 Active taking top spot. The Samsung has a Snapdragon 600 processor clocked at 1.9GHz, compared to the slightly older Snapdragon S4 Pro processor in the Sony that runs at 1.5GHz. Being more than 25% faster than the Xperia Z means the S4 Active can load apps much faster and switch between them more smoothly, you'll also get much slicker game play if you like high end mobile games. The extra power is also managed better in the S4 Active as it was built around Android 4.2 Jelly Bean while the Xperia Z was built with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, although the Z can be upgraded to the newer software.
The camera is where the Xperia Z fights back with an impressive 13MP unit, compared to an 8MP snapper on the S4 Active. Sony developed an Exmor RS for Mobile sensor for the Xperia Z, a shrunken version of what you'd usually find in a Sony DSLR camera. It gives you great features like HDR mode, which lets you take perfect photos even if your subject is in front of a bright light. And if you don't know what setting to use, put it in Superior Auto Mode and the phone will do the rest. The S4 Active's camera does have a couple of advantages; it has an underwater mode for perfect shots even when you're testing the water resistance. You'll also get HDR mode like the Xperia and dual camera mode, which lets you take photos with the front and back cameras simultaneously, meaning you can get in all of your pictures.
The Samsung has a slightly larger battery than the Sony at 2,600mAh, compared to 2,330mAh. That shows in the official battery life stats for talk time, where the S4 Active wins with up to 17 hours compared to up to 14 hours for the Xperia Z. Strangely though the Xperia is much more efficient on standby and can last for up to 530 hours compared to 312 hours for the Galaxy, which should mean light users will be better off with the Sony. However, an independent endurance test, which checks how long the battery lasts if you watch 1 hour of video, talk for 1 hour and surf the net for 1 hour each day, showed the Samsung winning, lasting for 57 hours compared to 48 hours for the Sony.
Both smartphones have 5" full HD toughened TFT displays that have great brightness, reflect little and have amazing pixel densities of 441 pixels per inch. Where they differ is in the software that runs them. Sony uses its Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 to ensure you get the best colours and contrast by automatically changing screen settings based on what you're viewing. Samsung's software on the other hand goes little beyond an ambient light sensor changing the screen brightness to combat strong sunlight. In short you get better depth to your movies and brighter colours for your pictures on the Xperia Z.
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