Phone Comparisons: Samsung Galaxy Note9 vs Sony Xperia XZ3

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Introduction

Both Samsung and Sony are expected to introduce their new flagships next month, in February, but until then, the Galaxy Note9 and Xperia XZ3 are still the best the two companies have to offer. These two handsets have been in the market for months at this point, and we do have a pretty good idea as to what to expect from each of these phones. Now, it's safe to say that they're both quite compelling devices if you're in a market for a new flagship smartphone, and they're more affordable now than they were at first, which is also a good thing. That being said, let's compared the two, and see which one comes out on top, at least based on our opinion.

Specifications

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Design

Both of these phones are made out of metal and glass, but the Xperia XZ3 sports more curves than the Galaxy Note9, and it's also thicker in addition to being narrower, so the in-hand feeling is considerably different. Both devices are quite slippery, though, so using them with one hand can be a chore sometimes, depending on the situation and the size of your hands, of course. That being said, the Galaxy Note9 does sport a larger display, an is both taller and wider than the Xperia XZ3, while it's also thinner. The Galaxy Note9 sports noticeably thinner bezels than the Xperia XZ3, though, and the placement of the phone's rear-facing fingerprint scanner is much better than what Sony did on the Xperia XZ3, even though the Galaxy Note9's fingerprint scanner is quite a bit smaller than the Xperia XZ3's. The Xperia XZ3's fingerprint scanner sits in the middle of the phone's backside, and reaching it comfortably while holding the phone with one hand seems odd, though you do get used to it. Taking everything into consideration, the Galaxy Note9 takes the cake here, it looks more appealing overall, while the placement of its rear-facing fingerprint scanner makes more sense. If you're looking for a narrower phone for better usability with one hand, the Xperia XZ3 is the way to go, though.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note9

Display

In terms of display quality, these two phones are closely matched. Both phones sport OLED displays, the Galaxy Note9 comes with a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel, while the Xperia XZ3 features a 6-inch P-OLED display. Both displays offer QHD+ resolutions, and both support HDR. Viewing angles on both displays are really good, no objection there, while colors are nice and punchy, as you'd expect out of OLED displays. The Galaxy Note9's display does look a bit better (as it's quite probably the best panel out there at the moment), in all honesty, but the different is really minimal, both of these displays are amongst the best in the market, and truth be said, your choice will probably depend on the size more than anything. The Xperia XZ3 sports a smaller display which is still quite large, and that display is the main reason why the phone is considerably narrower than the Galaxy Note9. If you don't mind the extra size, and a bit of added bulk, the Galaxy Note9's display is also a great option.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note9

Performance

Both of these smartphones come with top-of-the-line specifications, and both offer really solid performance as a result of it, and software optimizations, of course. Each of these phones has its own Android software overlay, as the Galaxy Note9 ships with Android 8.1 Oreo and Experience UI (Android 9 Pie and One UI coming), while the Xperia XZ3 has Sony's skin on top of Android. Sony's iteration is lighter, for sure, as the company does not pack as many services as Samsung, but the global variants of the Xperia XZ3 also comes with less RAM than the Galaxy Note9. As a result of everything, both phones offer great performance, even though you will notice a stutter or two here and there, which is nothing to be alarmed about, but it's worth noting. Both companies have optimized its software further since launch, and are quite evenly matched when it comes to sheer performance.

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Winner: Tie

Battery Life

So, what about battery life? Well, the Galaxy Note9 comes with a larger battery pack, but the phone also has a larger display to deal with, so… the truth is, both phones offer solid battery life, but the Galaxy Note9 did pull ahead in our tests. We were able to get far more screen on time during our regular days with the Galaxy Note9, than with the Xperia XZ3, and a large chunk of the reason why lies in that battery size, probably. Sony's optimizations may have something to do with that, but still, the battery life could have and should have been better. Truth be said, the Xperia XZ3 comes with some battery-saving options as well, but we're talking about default settings in this case. If the battery life is what you're after, the Galaxy Note9 is a better option between the two.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note9

Cameras

Camera comparisons when it comes to Sony's smartphones are always interesting, as Sony makes camera sensors for the vast majority of smartphone OEMs, and yet the company's phones often end up being inferior to the competition in that regard. The same can be said for this comparison, actually, as the Galaxy Note9 is the better of the two in this regard, even though the Xperia XZ3 sports the best camera Sony ever included in a smartphone. The Xperia XZ3 does not lag far behind the Galaxy Note9, just to be clear, its camera is really good, especially in good lighting, but the lack of a secondary telephoto camera means that you'll need to use a digital focus, and the phone's camera cannot match up to the Galaxy Note9's offering in low light. The Xperia XZ3's front-facing camera had some focusing issues in our testing as well, even though it's quite a compelling sensor we're looking at. All in all, the Xperia XZ3's camera is really good, due to some issues, it cannot really match up to smartphone camera heavyweights, even though Sony is getting closer and closer, and it will be interesting to see what will the company do with its upcoming flagship, the Xperia XZ4, which is expected to drop at MWC 2019.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note9

Conclusion

There are some things that we did not go over in our five categories above, of course. Like fingerprint scanners, for example, both phones offer really responsive and fast capacitive fingerprint scanner, and both are quite comparable despite the fact the Xperia XZ3's unit is larger. Both devices come with stereo speakers, though the Galaxy Note9 offer 32-bit/384kHz audio compared to the Xperia XZ3's 24-bit/192kHz audio (speaking of audio capabilities, not audio output via speakers, of course). The Galaxy Note9 also comes with the S Pen stylus which offers a lot of software capabilities, which the Xperia XZ3 cannot match… on the other hand, if you're a gamer, the Xperia XZ3 does come with Remote Play for the PS4, so… it's up to you. The Galaxy Note9, over the categories that we usually go over, is the winner, though. The phone has a better camera, we prefer its design, and the display is ever so slightly better than the Xperia XZ3's. You're free to disagree, of course, opinions differ, but in our book, this one goes to the Galaxy Note9.

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Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note9