The Sony Xperia Z3 was released just 7 months after its predecessor the Z2, which leaves you wondering what Sony could have done in this short amount of time! At first glance it doesn’t seem like Sony have upgraded all that much on the phone, but rest assured the Z3 is improved!
Design-wise the Xperia Z3 is a very slick phone and something which impressed me straight out of the box, even if it doesn’t differ massively from the Z2. However Sony have managed to shave 1mm of the thickness of the phone which is great news. They’ve also decided to keep the speakers front facing which goes someway to justifying the massive bezels on the device – the audio produced is also pretty good.
They’ve continued with the combination of glass and aluminium which despite looking very fetching and ‘premium’, can actually be quite troublesome if you’re wearing gloves or decide to rest your phone on the sofa arm, as it’ll slip right off.
The edges of the phone have an increased curve which is meant to make the phone more comfortable to hold, and in my experience it worked. In terms of overall ergonomics though, there is still room for improvement.
The port covers which keep the phone waterproof when submerged lie absolutely flush with the aluminium bezel and feel a little more heavy duty than they did on the Z2 which is reassuring. Sony have taken the decision to keep the dock connector on the left-hand side of the device which I, and I’m sure many other users at first kept feeling as a volume rocker when the device is in your pocket. This also brings up the question of just how many people actually use the dock? In my opinion I’d like to see it removed.
The Xperia Z3’s display is absolutely outstanding, and is incredibly bright. It boasts a 5.2-inch screen which still makes it larger that the iPhone 6 and S5. It’s ideal for outdoor use with a claimed brightness level of 600cd/m2. This means that when the sun is shining down on your phone the images will still be clear and the colours vibrant. It’s also worth noting that the viewing angles are superb.
Inside the phone you’ll find a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor which has now been clocked to 2.5GHz (instead of 2.3GHz found in the Z2) and 3GB of RAM. This small change makes the phone feel more responsive and I felt no lag at all when browsing or playing games.
You’ll find Sony’s version of Android 4.4.4 KitKat running on the device, with a planned upgrade to 5.0 Lollipop. You’ll want to do a little bit of a clean up when you first get the device however, as you’ll find quite a few bloatware applications from Sony and others spread across the various home-screens. You’ll also find the animated Sony ribbon background which over time changes colour – we love this!
The Z3 packs a Adreno 330 GPU which can handle pretty much any game you throw at it from the Google Play Store. The 330 is a powerful chip which allows you to set any in-game settings to the highest and still receive a smooth gaming experience. However after playing for quite a short amount of time the back of the phone started to heat up quite considerably, this obviously isn’t helped by the fact it’s glass.
A 3100mAh battery will ensure you always have power to game, watch a film or just listen to music. This again makes it bigger than the battery you’ll find in devices such as the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.
On our continuous SD video playback test, the battery lasted for 14.5 hours which is pretty darn good. Through normal use you’ll quite easily manage to get through a few days without having to activate the power saving features which Sony includes.
Located on the glass back panel is 20.7-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor. With the dedicated camera button you can launch it quickly simply by holding it down. This button also allows for easier capturing underwater.
The mode I like the best was called ‘Superior Auto’, and I think this is what most other people will use as well. Our test images in this mode had great detail, while the colours were accurate and toned correctly leading to a well-rounded image. This mode does only shoot 8-megapixel pictures, so for the full 20.7-megapixel shots you’ll have to switch to manual. However I did actually find the colours were more vibrant when shooting 8-megapixel pictures.
The manual mode is much more flexible and allows you to change settings such as ISO and exposure. There’s also an array of different scene modes which you can choose from, as well the now often included HDR feature.
Something we did run into was an overheating issue, again… When trying to record in 4K we had this pop-up as few times and the camera shut off to allow the phone to cool back down. A rather annoying occurrence.
Moving back onto the front you’ll find a 2.2-megapixel sensor which supports Full HD 1080p video.
If you happen to own a PlayStation 4 console, then you’re going to love this next feature – Sony’s remote play. This basically allows you to control and play your PS4 games using your Xperia device. Setting the feature up is incredibly easy to do and will take just a couple of minutes at most.
The virtual on-screen controls work surprisingly well and you have full access to all buttons including both joysticks, d-pad, the circle, triangle, square and x buttons as well as the L1, L2, R1, R2 bumper buttons, PS Home, Share and Options buttons. The on-screen controls work well for most games, however if you will be moving around a lot in games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare then you’ll probably want to use a Dual Shock controller.
Overall we found it a pleasant experience and it worked relatively well. I will say though that the performance is very dependent on how fast your connection is and how strong your home network is.
The Sony Xperia Z3 is a very good, well-rounded smartphone. There aren’t any major changes as such from the Z2, just small updates to the camera, design etc, yet these still make it Sony’s best mobile to date.
Is it worth buying? While the phone is excellent, I’d recommend hanging around a little longer to wait for the Z4 or whatever Sony decided to name it. If however, you can’t wait that long you can read more about the phone below:Sony Xperia Z3 – Sony.com
(Thanks to Vodafone for supplying the review product)