Despite being six months apart coming to market, the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3 are very closely matches phones. Each offers a similar size Full HD screen, 20 Mp camera, great battery life, similar connectivity and a microSD card slot. Overall it’s probably worth saving £200 odd by opting for the Xperia Z3 which has the advantage of waterproofing, High Res audio and PS4 Remote Play. However, if those are features that you won’t use then the HTC One M9 is a stunning piece of kit which has future-proof power, great speakers and decent software.
As expect, the HTC One M9 was unveiled at MWC 2015 in Barcelona just hours before the Samsung Galaxy S6 but Sony simply brought along its new Xperia M4 Aqua and Xperia Z4 Tablet. It might seem unfair to compare the brand new M9 to last year’s Z3 but the two will have to compete in shops and at mobile operators until the Z4 arrives. We will, of course, do a comparison between the Z4 and M9 when that’s possible.
HTC One M9 vs Sony Xperia Z3 review: Price
Now on sale across the UK, the HTC One M9 is yours for the cool price of £579 which is the premium price tag you’d expect from a flagship phones. The nature of retail means that the old (in smartphone terms) Xperia Z3 is a lot cheaper than when it first went on sale. At the time of writing, you can pick it up for around £390 so that’s a significant saving compared to the HTC One M9. Also see:
HTC One M9 UK release date, price and specs.
So the big question is whether the HTC One M9 is worth paying almost £200 extra for. See how they compare across design, hardware and software below.
HTC One M9 vs Sony Xperia Z3 review: Design and build
The HTC One M9 looks almost identical to last year’s
HTC One M8 and that’s not exactly a bad things since it’s one of the most stylish and attractive smartphones money can buy. We like the new two-tone colour look but it’s a shame that the device is a little thicker at 9.7 mm and remains a fairly weighty 158 g.
Sony’s Xperia Z3 is less striking in design but still premium with an aluminium frame and glass on the front and back. It uses the now classic Xperia square shape which to most doesn’t look as attractive as the curvy M9. It’s a thinner phone at 7.3 mm but is almost as heavy weighing in at 152 g.
You’ll know which you prefer the look of but a key difference in design and build is that the Xperia Z3 is, like previous generations, fully dust- and waterproof to an IP68 rating. This means you can use it in the bath, drop in down the loo and in other H2O situations without worry.
HTC One M9 vs Sony Xperia Z3 review: Hardware and performance
HTC and Sony haven’t budged much on screen size over the last couple of years so the HTC One M9 remains at 5in and the Xperia Z3 is a little bigger at 5.2in – a difference which isn’t going to make a dramatic impact. It’s worth noting that Sony has a smaller version called the Xperia Z3 Compact while HTC hasn’t yet announced an alternative model of the M9.
Each phone offers a Full HD resolution so there’s also no real difference in quality at 424 ppi for the Z3 and 441 ppi for the M9. With the screens on par with each other, look elsewhere to decide between the two phones.
Inside the Sony Xperia Z3 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, which is quad-core 2.5 GHz and there’s 3 GB of RAM. Being newer, the HTC One M9 has the more up-to-date Snapdragon 810 which is octa-core (quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57), also with 3 GB of RAM.
There’s more raw power inside the M9 then, and you can see the difference across most of our benchmark tests – the Z3 closely matches the results from the M8. However, from a user perspective there isn’t quite the same gap. Both of these phones offer top end performance.
When it comes to storage, the Xperia Z3 offers more choice with 16- or 32 GB capacities and as usual, the larger will be harder to come by. There’s just one model of the HTC One M9 but you get 32 GB out of the box which give it the advantage in this area.
Each phone has a microSD card slot capable of dealing with up to 128 GB memory cards to this negates the internal storage difference a little.
Wireless connectivity and additional features is closely matched with both the M9 and Z3 coming with built-in dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, GPA and 4G LTE. Neither has a fingerprint scanner or heart rate monitor (look to Samsung for those) but the M9 does have an IR blaster and slightly newer Bluetooth with version 4.1 compared to 4.0.
HTC and Sony both go big on audio features on these phones and the M9 is the best in terms of built-in speakers with BoomSound front facing stereo drivers and now supports 24-bit audio playback. The Z3 also has decent front facing speakers, though and supports High Res audio playback, too.
With HTC’s move from UltraPixel to a simply higher resolution camera, the M9 and Z3 are once again closely matched on photography. At 20.7 Mp apiece the sensor is very similar and both can shoot video in 4K. One thing we like about the Z3 in this area is the inclusion of a dedicated shutter button which can also be used to quick launch the camera app.
For selfie fans, the M9 is slightly ahead with the UltraPixel from the M8 on the front of the phone offering excellent quality. The Z3 is hardly bad though, with a 2.2 Mp front facing camera.
Removable battery fans will need to look elsewhere as both these phones have designs which hide the battery away. Sony’s Xperia Z3 has the larger battery at 3100 mAh compared to 2840 mAh and we found that both last a couple of days with varies usage before needing to be charged. Both offer battery saving software with Stamina mode on the Z3 and Extreme power saving mode on the M9. Neither has wireless charging built-in.
HTC One M9 vs Sony Xperia Z3 review: Software
Although the Xperia Z3 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4 KitKat, it’s upgradable to
Android 5.0 Lollipop – the HTC One M9 comes with Lollipop out-of-the-box.
It’s not as simple as the two running the same core version of Google’s mobile operating system, though. Sony has its Xperia user interface while HTC’s One M9 comes with Sense 7.0. While each is recognisable as Android the style and the way you interact with the phone varies.
For example, Sense has a vertically scrolling app menu and BlinkFeed as part of the homescreen panels (although you can remove it). New features of Sense 7.0 include greater customisability with themes and Sense Home which dynamically changes which app icons are shown base on whether you’re at home, work or on the go.
Sony’s Xperia interface is closer to stock Android and doesn’t have any major tweaks, but some useful widgets and some decent apps such as Walkman. We’ve already mentioned High Res audio support but the Z3 also has PS4 Remote Play which is good news for PS4 owners. You can play full blown PS4 games on the phone over the same network as the console which is pretty cool.
There are pros and cons to each user interface here and it really comes down to a personal choice. We recommend trying each out in person before making a commitment.
Reasons to buy the HTC One M9:
Gorgeous design, Snapdragon 810, 32 GB storage as standard, IR blaster, BoomSound speakers.
Reasons to buy the Sony Xperia Z3:
Waterproof design, cheaper, High Res audio, PS4 Remote Play.
Tech Advisor's Reviews Editor, Chris has been reviewing all kinds of tech for over 10 years and specialises in audio. He also covers a range of topics including home entertainment, phones, laptops, tablets and more.