Six months ago we were reviewing the Sony Xperia Z2, which we appreciated. Now it is already time for a third version of the Xperia Z (or Zed). Reading the specs, it sounds pretty great. We had the opportunity to review this device for a few days, here’s our thoughts on Sony’s latest flagship.
|Screen||5.2" IPS LCD 1080x1920|
|Memory||16/32GB, micro SD up to 128GB|
|Network||HSPA, LTE Cat4|
|Camera||20.7mpx, LED flash, 2.2 mpx front|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad Core 2.5GHz Krait 400|
Table of Contents
To talk about the design of the Xperia Z3 it is relevant, in my opinion, to compare it to the one on the Z2. Indeed, the two terminals are very similar in this aspect, the untrained eye can be confused easily. That said, the Z3 brings some interesting changes that give some freshness to the new smartphone from Sony.
The first item to be addressed is the optimization of its size. The Z3 has a screen of 5.2 inches, like the Z2, but its design is shorter, narrower and thinner. It is also lighter. You can feel all those changes when manipulating the product. The Z3 has rounded sides while the Z2 was more straight. You could see small edges around the screen of the Z2, its all flat on the Z3, which is nice.
So yes, the style has changed a bit, but the materials used are still the same : aluminium, glass and some plastic, which makes for a very premium smartphone.
Above the screen you’ll find the LED notification, the audio output for phone conversations, the front camera and, of course, the double frontal speakers.
On the sides there’s the classic Sony mechanical buttons, on/off lock/unlock, volume and a dedicated camera button that has a way better design than the one on the Z2. As the phone is waterproof (IP68 certified) it uses covers for ports, which is okay because necessary but can sometimes stick out a bit when a SD card or SIM is inserted. About that, the Z3 uses a nano SIM. Note that Sony hasn’t yet dropped the weird dock connector that’s on the left side, its ugly and doesn’t feel good when holding the phone. You’ll also find the audio jack and another microphone on the top of the Z3.
With a 5.2 inches screen, it is pretty difficult to use the Z3 with one hand. That said, for a 5″ inches and plus device the Z3 is doing a fairly good job with relatively thin bezels and well made buttons. The phone is light and thin so you can tuck it in your pockets without problems. Also, the double tap to wake function is very useful.
The Z3 has a 5.2 inches Full HD IPS screen using Triluminos and X-Reality. To make it short, its very similar to the display on the Z2 but with better white balance. The colors are vivid (a bit too much for my taste when X-Reality is on), view angles are good and outdoor visibility is also pretty decent.
Reading “IP certified” on a spec sheet is always a good feeling, and with Sony we knew for sure that their latest premium device would be waterproof and dustproof, like the previous ones. This time, the Z3 is IP68 certified, which means that it is water resistant (up to 3 meters / 10 feet) for 30 minutes. It is also dustproof. Note that you still have to make sure that all the covers are closed otherwise the certification does not apply.
UI and Features
The Xperia Z3 runs Android KitKat at release, with Sony’s UI that we already could experience on the Xperia Z2. Fact is, the Z3 doesn’t bring that much changes in terms of features.
The “double tap to wake” feature is still there and we love it. You can easily unlock the screen without using the physical buttons, just by taping on the screen. The home screen is your typical Android UI with Sony’s touch. You can add widgets and shortcuts to apps, access your multitasking menu and launch “micro apps” which are windowed apps that you can use on top of what you are currently doing. The notification drawer gives access to quick settings and the app drawer regroups your different apps with sorting features to easily find the content you’re looking for.
Using the Z3 as a phone, we didn’t encounter any reception problem whatsoever. The UI itself is pretty basic, you enter your number, you have suggested contacts, call logs and a full list of contacts if you need to go further. Your text messages are sorted by conversations by contacts, pretty straightforward. The default keyboard is pretty good : suggested words, autocorrection and a “Swype” mode. Of course you can download any other keyboard on the Play Store. The e-mail and calendar apps bring the usual features, you can sync with Google’s services and more, use widgets, you also have the weather of the next days automatically shown on the calendar.
Web browsing is working great using Chrome for Android. Sony brings a few media apps to the device, with which you can easily play music or videos. They all look pretty good and work as they should. We just didn’t really enjoy Sony’s way of pushing their services (Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited) everywhere. Sound quality through the speakers is good and the maximum volume is higher than what the Z2 was capable of. You also have an equalizer, a ClearAudio mode that “cleans” the sound and makes it a bit more clear and the support for Hi-Res audio.
The camera UI on the Z3 doesn’t bring many new features but is still very well done and easy to use. You have an automatic mode, for those that hate fiddling with settings, and a manual mode that opens the possibilities (exposure, stabilization, white balance, ISOs…). The Z3 comes with a lossless zoom (around x2) that is not that effective and a bunch of “apps” that you can use in the camera UI. Slow motion video, burst mode for photos, Background Defocus (that simulates depth of field). You can record videos in 4K, note that the device is heating very quickly when doing so (which forces the camera app to close after a couple of minutes).
The Z3 is compatible with Remote Play. If you have a PlayStation 4 you can connect the console with the phone (through your home WiFi) and play your favorite PS4 games on the smartphone’s screen. The idea is that you don’t have to use the TV to play the console, which can be useful.
The Xperia Z3 has a 3100mAh battery, 100 less than the Z2, but seems better optimized. In fact, we always got at least a full day without having to recharge the device. Two days seems clearly possible, especially if you are not spending too much time playing games or using the GPS.
During our time reviewing the device, the Z3 has always been real fast at launching apps, the transitions between screens was snappy. In benchmarks, the Z3 scores 40k in AnTuTu and 1700 in Vellamo, which is around the ones of the Note 3, S5 and LG G3.
In daylight the Z3 captures pretty good pictures with the exception of colors that can either look a bit pale or, on the contrary, too saturated. Autofocus in macro mode is often complicated. At nighttime, white balance can be off but the picture is pretty clean, without too much noise.
In video, during the day, colors are good, focus can be harsh sometimes. At night its “okay”, without being impressive. Recorded sound is clean.
The Xperia Z3 is a pretty good device, is has a great design that you can use underwater, a very nice screen, a rather good UI with a bunch of features, a really decent camera, the speakers are good, performance is top notch and battery life is, for once, nearly impressive.
There’s not a lot to blame on the Z3, still it is too bad that the device is heating while taking pictures and that Sony is pushing its services a bit too hard.
The real issue with this smartphone is related to the market itself. The Z3 costs around 550€ / $600 (november), the Z2 around 400€ / $430. The two devices share the same strong roots : great design, great screen, water resistance, good camera and nice features overall. If you are looking for a high end Sony smartphone and you don’t have $600 to spend, the Z2 is a better choice, but if you have some money to spend, go for it. Of course, this implies that if you already own a Z2, we strongly recommend that you wait for the next flagship.
- Great design, water resistant
- Good screen
- Decent camera
- Device heating
- Sony's media services are everywhere
- What's new, really, compared to the Z2 ?