Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One (M8) full review

HTC One M8 vs Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: UK price and availability

At launch, the M8 cost a classic £550 on a SIM-free basis – and since the device has been around for a few months now, you can find it for less, too. Amazon has the smartphone for £519 in the glacial silver colour but you can get it for just £459 from Simply Electronics.

The Xperia Z3 is on sale at £549 inc VAT for the 16GB model. There is a 32GB model likely to be available in some territories. It's newer than is the HTC One M8 so you are less likely to find a bargain when shopping around.

In essence, both of these phones cost the same. But the HTC One M8 is marginally easier to find, and therefore a little easier to get a little cheaper. See also: Best smartphones.

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: design and build

The Xperia Z3 utilises the classic styling of an Xperia smartphone: square shape, side mounted buttons and rounded sides. It continues the combination of glass and aluminium, with the introduction of nylon corners which should prevent damage in the occasion of dropping the phone.

Sony continues to offer a dust- and waterproof design so that means all ports apart from the headphone jack are underneath flaps. The phone is IP68 rated which is slightly higher on the dust side of things and can be submerged in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. You'll notice that new colours are available beyond black and white so you'll be able to choose from copper or silver green too.

The new Xperia Z3 is 7.3 mm thick and weighs 152 g. However, at 72 x 146 mm it's still a big phone. The HTC One M8 has a uni-body aluminium design. At 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm and 160g it is bigger, thicker and heavier than the Xperia Z3, albeit a little slimmer in profile. Importantly it doesn't feel too large in the hand. Of all the Androids the HTC One M8 is the only one that feels like an iPhone-like premium smartphone. Ergonomic, but also sturdy. This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate. There is a case for the HTC One M8, but we doubt you would need it. From launch, the M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold'.

On pure aesthetic terms we marginally prefer the HTC One M8, but is a subjective view. The fact that the Xperia Z3 is thinner and lighter, as well as dust- and waterproof, gives it the objective edge. (See also: Xperia Z3 vs iPhone 6 comparison review: Sony slaps Apple in a flagship smartphone face off - but both face challenges in a competitive market.)

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: display

The Sony Xperia Z3 has an IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with 16M colours. It's a 5.2in display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. That gives a pixel density of 424 ppi - not up there with the best QuadHD displays, but impressive nonetheless. Sony also offers its solidly impressive display technology including Triluminos and X-Reality (intuitive contrast enhancement).

HTC has given the One M8 a 5in display, so there's a little less real estate for whatever you're doing but the difference isn't too noticeable. The screen's resolution, as with rival flagships, remains at Full HD (1920x1080). The smaller screen size means a bump in pixel density to 441ppi but that is not noticably sharper than is the Xperia Z3. The HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks stunning. The new panel has an improved contrast ratio and viewing angles.

One thing we particularly like about the M8's screen is its silky gloss finish which, more than other phones, means your finger glides brilliantly across its surface. It's just another detail which makes this phone feel so premium.

But in the end it is impossible to pick a winner here. The Xperia is a tiny bit bigger. The HTC a sliver better. Call it a draw.

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: specs and performance

The Xperia Z3 comes with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor - no 64-bit here in preparation for Android L. It is clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 3GB of RAM. As with other high-end Android handsets, the M8 has been given the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. In this case the 801 quad-core chip has a slightly lower clock speed of 2.3GHz. And there is 'only' 2GB of memory.

We've spent quite a while with both the Xperia Z3 and the HTC One M8, and performance was excellent. Both of these handsets offer outstanding performance.  

So with the proviso that synthetic benchmark results are only ever useful as a guide, and should be treated with some caution... let's have a look at benchmark results to see if we can split the Sony and the HTC.

The Xperia Z3 gets outstanding figures. A GeekBench 3 multi-core score of 2805, as well as 29fps in the GFBench T-Rex graphics benchmark, and a Sunspider Javascript benchmark score of 804ms. And the HTC One M8? Make that 2761 points in the GeekBench 3 multi-core test. In Sunspider we measured 583ms, and in GFXBench's T-Rex test the HTC One M8 managed 30fps. I make that too close to call in GeekBench and GFBench, and a minor victory in SunSpider for the HTC. All of which is probably meaningless: these are too exceptionally fast and powerful handsets. Expect similar battery life of around 24 hours of use for each, too. For more on speed benchmarks, see What's the fastest smartphone 2014?

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: storage

Both the HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Z3 come only with 16GB onboard storage. You will need more storage than that, and you can add it: both handsets have an SD card slot that allows you to mount an additional 128GB. So that is the very definition of a score draw.

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: cameras

The Xperia Z3 offers a 20.7 Mp camera that captures video up to 2160p at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, and 720p at 120fps. It's also an HDR video camera. Around the front there is a 2.2Mp webcam.

By contrast HTC has eschewed the megapixels arms race in speccing up the cameras for HTC One M8. And that is probably a good thing. The HTC One M8 has a HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera including a 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens. There isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals but because its pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations. The dual-focus feature is interesting and fun. Sadly video quality is poor.

It is a close-run thing but the Xperia Z3 camera is one of the best money can buy inside a smartphone. So we're giving Sony the nod here.

Sony Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison review: software

Both devices run Android KitKat, so there is little to compare here. Sony's user interface remains essentially untouched with a clean, simple and stylish look and feel. For some users, keeping things simple this is a good thing HTC's BlinkFeed feature is more in your face, but beloved by some.

The Z3 comes with quite a few pre-installed apps including Kobo, AVG AntiVirus, Garmin Navigation, Vine and OfficeSuite. From November 2014 PlayStation 4 owners will be able to play games on their handsets with Remote Play (as long as they are in the same network as the console).

As mentioned the HTC One M8 also comes with a new version of HTC's Sense user interface. Sense 6.0 brings some new features, including on-screen buttons, full-screen mode, and Motion Launch Gestures. There are other minor tweaks, but customisation has been improved with the ability to select different theme. In a similar way to other phones which use themes, a wallpaper is tied in with a particular colour which is then used throughout the software such as the settings menu. We haven't tried this out yet but you can also choose a different system font to create a very different look and feel.

It's a personal thing. What you need to know is that both these handsets have mature and full-featured operating systems with access to Google Play and other stores. They are easy to use and good to look at. Personally we prefer the cleaner Sony UI, but there is nowt wrong with HTC's more customised approach.

Xperia Z3 vs HTC One M8 comparison: the verdict

These are two stunningly closely matched handsets. Both are well built and powerful, fast and with great displays. Ultimately your choice will be a subjective one on design and build, with the added spice that the Xperia Z3 probably marginally shades the objective comparison - but you can get the HTC One M8 a little cheaper. See also: The UK's 40 best Android smartphones of 2014.


HTC One (M8): Specs

  • 5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
  • 16GB, available capacity around 10GB
  • microSD (up to 128GB)
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM
  • Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
  • dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
  • micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
  • Infrared
  • HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
  • HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
  • 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
  • 160g

Sony Xperia Z3: Specs

  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS
  • 5.2in Triluminos Display (1080x1920, 424ppi)
  • 2.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD slot (up to 128GB)
  • 20.7Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
  • 2.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording at up to 2160p
  • Wi-Fi up tp
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • 4G LTE Cat 4
  • Nano-SIM
  • 3100mAh battery
  • Dust and waterproof (IP68)
  • 72x146x7.3mm
  • 152g