iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison review

Cards on the table: here at Macworld UK we love our iPhones, and the recent launch of the brilliant iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has reconfirmed our commitment to the iOS world. But we like to keep our fingers on the pulse of the Android world, and compare the best iPhones with the best of the rest. We like to make sure we aren't missing anything.

In this article we have reviewed the excellent Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, comparing it to the iPhone 6. Both are 5in handsets, both are powerful, and both boast a great feature set. But is there anything about the Xperia Z3 Compact that is sufficiently great to make us ditch our iPhones? Honestly, no.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't areas in which the Xperia Z3 Compact matches or betters the iPhone. It just means that it isn't so much better as to make us take a leap into the unknown. The Xperia Z3 Compact really is an excellent handset, as you will find out. (For more iPhone vs Sony fun, read my piece: iPhone 6 vs Sony Xperia Z3 comparison.)

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: UK price and availability

The iPhone 6 starts at £539 inc VAT for the 16GB model. You will likely need more space than that, and the 64GB will set you back £619, £699 gets you a 128GB iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 is widely available throughout the UK. Meanwhile the Xperia Z3 Compact comes in only a 16GB flavour, and is available to buy from Sony at £429 inc VAT.

iPhone 6

However, shop around and you can get it for a much more attractive price of £349 inc VAT. Even at that £429 inc VAT SRP the Sony is cheaper than the iPhone 6 - so is it worth your consideration? Read on to find out. (See also: iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5 comparison review.)

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: specs, benchmarks

The iPhone 6 comes with an Apple A8 processor - a dual-core chip running at 1.4 GHz. And it has only 1GB RAM. It is a super fast handset, and the iPhone's benchmark scores are excellent.

Inside the Xperia Z3 Compact is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5 GHz. It has 2GB RAM. Both phones are rapid and powerful, but how do they compare in terms of benchmarks? Very well. The Xperia Z3 Compact has an excellent multicore Geekbench 3 average of 2800 points, showing that in general use it is a fast and responsive phone. This compares to the iPhone 6's score of 2794 points. Within the margin for error, these are basically the same score.

Moving on to the GFXBench T-Rex test to find out how good are these handsets at handling graphics, and the Xperia Z3 Compact achieves 41fps compared to the iPhone 6's 49fps. This is a decent win for the iPhone. On the more stringent Manhattan test the Sony scores 26fps and the iPhone 6 26fps. Overall then we can say that the iPhone 6 is a marginally better smartphone than is the Xperia Z3 Compact when it comes to handling graphics. To be entirely fair we should point out that this is unlikely to affect you unless you like to play intensive games. (See also: iPhone 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison.)

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review

Finally we ran the Sunspider Javascript test which measures Javascript performance and is a good indicator of responsivenes in handling web pages and general zippiness. Here a lower score is better, and the Xperia Z3 Compact turned in an impressive score of 944ms (anything under 1,000ms is snappy). The iPhone 6 blows even this away, however, with a staggering score of 351ms.

Overall then we can say that both of these phones are measurably fast, and good at handling even the most complex graphics. But the iPhone 6 is a little better.  

In terms of other specs the iPhone 6 offers 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and is an LTE 4G phone. The same is true of the Xperia Z3 Compact, which also adds NFC. The iPhone 6 has NFC of course, but only for Apple Pay (not yet available in the UK). If you have a use for NFC, that's a win for the Sony, I suppose. (Related articles you might like: iPhone 6 review | iPhone 6 release date | iPhone 6 Plus release date | iPhone reviews.)

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: battery life

Meanwhile the iPhone 6 has a non-removable Li-Po 1810 mAh battery and the Xperia Z3 Compact a bigger, but also non-removable 2600mAh cell.

In our tests we've found the Xperia Z3 Compact's battery life to be simply immense, lasting comfortably for two to three days between charges. If left alone, the device will only drop a few percent each day. By contrast the iPhone 6 is good, but not as good. So if battery life is a killer consideration, opt for Android in this case. (See also: iPhone 6 vs LG G3 smartphone comparison.)

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: storage

As we mentioned above the iPhone comes with onboard storage of either 16GB, 64GB or 128GB. These are great options, although we can't imagine anyone being satisfied with 16GB these days. And, of course, the Xperia Z3 Compact comes in only a 16GB flavour.

But before you accuse us of bias, the situation is more nuanced. For one thing the 64GB and 128GB versions of the iPhone 6 are much more expensive than is the Xperia Z3 Compact. For another: the Sony has a storage expansion slot that allows you to add up to another 128GB of storage.

iPhone 6

A quick search online shows that you can get a 128GB SD card for between £50 and £100. There are potential performance issues with using expandable storage, of course, and if you want the best phone experience you should get a high-capacity iPhone. But if you are counting the pennies the Xperia Z3 Compact really does offer superior value.

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: display

The iPhone 6 sports a 4.7in display. It is an LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen with 16M colours. You get, as you would expect, shatter proof glass with an oleophobic coating. Into this display is packed 750 x 1334 pixels, making for a pixel density of 326ppi. This is very much an iPhone screen: sharp and colourful, with realistic colour reproduction and good viewing angles.

The Xperia Z3 Compacts screen is a smaller 4.6in. The resolution remains at 720p so we see a minor drop in pixel density to 319ppi. But even with our Apple fan heads on we can say that this isn't really a big deal.

The Sony screen is crisp, bright. The display is also responsive and has optional glove and double tap to wake options. The 'smart backlight control' will keep the screen on as long as you're looking at it. We can't honestly say that either display is better.  

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: design and build

Indeed, the most important thing about the Xperia Z3 Compact's screen is the amount of real estate on offer for the diddy size of the phone. Or to put it another way, the display is almost as big as the iPhone 6's, but our Apple phone is a much larger device.

At 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm the iPhone 6 is certainly not a small phone, but it is uncommonly thin. And 129 g is very light for a large-screen smartphone: much as you would expect from Apple. The iPhone 6 is a very different device from the iPhones of the past four years. The new phones have rounded edges - not just the metal, but the edges of the glass front are curved. This and the overall thinness make it a very comfortable fit in the hand.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review hardware

The Xperia Z3 Compact is thicker, but lighter than its rival at 8.6 mm and 127 g.

Waterproof design is becoming synonymous with Sony and the Z3 Compact has a high rating of IP68 meaning it's fully dust proof and can be plunged into water up to 1.5m deep continuously. This does mean slightly annoying flaps - although not for the headphone port - but that's the price you pay. You can barely notice them when in place.

Once again, build quality feels top-notch with Sony's combination of glass and aluminium. The Xperia Z3 Compact feels desirable in the hand. A new feature to the design are nylon corner pieces (where it's more likely to land) to avoid damaging the metal if you drop the phone.

Overall we'd say the iPhone 6 is the more beautiful handset, but the Xperia Z3 Compact is more robust. And it is waterproof. You pays your money you takes your choice, but if you are the sort of person who regularly dunks their handset in the sea, a move to Sony may be on the cards.

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: cameras

The iPhone 6 sports an 8Mp rear-facing main camera that can capture video up to 1080p at 60fps, and 720p at 240fps. The Z3 Compact has a 20.7Mp rear camera with Exmor RS sensor. It includes a new 25mm wide-angle lens and a super high ISO of 12800 for improved shooting in low light. By default, it takes photos at 8 Mp but in manual mode you can switch up to 15.5 Mp (16:9) and 20.7 Mp (4:3) if you like. The Compact can now shoot video in 4K and there's an improved Steady Shot with Intelligent Active Mode for keeping content smoother. It's a great phone camera. We'd say it is better than the iPhone 6's, although not necessarily so much better that anyone other than the confirmed shutterbug will care. It is a consideration, though.

Around the front both boths have webcams, the iPhone's being a 1.2Mp camera and the Sony's a 2.2Mp. If the quality of phone camera is critical to you, you may find yourself casting admiring glances outside the iPhone world.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review nylon corner

iPhone 6 vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison: software

Android vs iOS is a conundrum. Android isn't like it used to be: if you are new to the smartphone game there's no obvious winner. These are the two most popular and best mobile operating systems around so it's about picking which one is right for you.

In essence, if you are a long-term iOS user you are probably best off sticking with what you know. You have after all almost certainly spent a lot of cash on apps that you'll have to spend again in Android. But it is worth considering that your iTunes music files will work in Android, and Android offers the opportunity of shopping around for music, movies, books and TV shows. See also: Just another opinion about Apple's new iPhones.

OUR VERDICT

We're Macworld UK, and we love Apple products. But even we accept that in the smartphone world Apple's rivals are catching up. The Xperia Z3 Compact is a stunning mid-sized, mid-priced handset. Indeed, that price is the major thing that catches our eye. Given that you can get more accessible storage than that of the £699 128GB iPhone 6 by shelling out around £500 for an Xperia Z3 Compact and an SD card, it is indisputably a better deal. Performance only slightly lags the iPhone 6's, and we even prefer the Sony's camera. And although it doesn't look as good as does the iPhone, it is more lifeproof. And whilst thicker, smaller and marginally lighter. So if you want to keep costs down, and are prepared to switch from iOS to Android, you could do a lot worse than the Xperia Z3 Compact. But if you are prepared to pay for the ultimate smartphone experience, we will be sticking with our iPhones.

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