The Sony Xperia Z3 is a great device and can definitely hold its own. It features a Snapdragon 801 processor backed by more than enough RAM, a huge 20.7 megapixel camera, and best in class battery life... by far.
The Xperia Z3 is Sony’s latest flagship device and I got my hands on one ahead of the release of the unannounced Xperia Z4. The Z3 is looking to build off a strong performance of the Xperia Z2, which was just released six months before the Z3. Sony is sticking with what they know: battery life, water resistance, and design. Is it worth the upgrade? Let’s take a look.
The Xperia Z3 as recoginzable as its ever been and it even comes in a thinner, sleeker package. The device features a 5.2 inch display, slim bezels, and a flat profile. The Xperia Z3 comes in a very slim package; it is slimmer in every aspect compared to its predecessor. The Z3 comes in at 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm compared to 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm of the Z2. The Z3 is also lighter, coming in at 152 grams vs. the 163 grams of the Z2. This is quite impressive how much they narrowed the device down while keeping the specs at the top of Android.
Sony has stuck with the classic design of the Xperia series. That consists of a metal outer chassis that is flanked by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on both the front and back of the device. The metal edges have a slight curve to it that makes it comfortable to hold in the hands, but does affect the gripability of the device.
The Z3 has a very solid build construction that definitely puts it into the ‘premium’ category alongside the iPhone and the One M8. The only thing that really takes away from the great form of the Xperia Z3 is the unwanted flaps hiding the microUSB port on the left side and microSD card and SIM card slots on the right side. On the plus side of things, it does feature dual front-facing speakers and an LED notification light at the top left corner of the device.
The left side of the device is button-less, but houses the aforementioned microUSB charging port which is adjacent to the magnetic charging port. The right side of the device is packed full with the circular Xperia style power button, volume rockers, microSD/SIM card slots, and a camera shortcut button.
All of the buttons are very tactile and are tight against the chassis. There is no movement or play, which is hard to come by on smartphones these days. I find that there are still too many things on the one side of the device. It hasn’t changed the way I hold the device at all, but it’s just all packed into one side. I think they could do without the camera shortcut button personally. There have been issues reported with the camera shortcut button launching the camera, but not snapping pictures on the secondary press. A slight press focuses, whereas a firm press snaps the picture.
On top of the slim and sleek design, the Xperia Z3 boasts IP68 water and dust resistance. This has been one of Sony’s strong points and it doesn’t go unheralded. I’m a firm believer that this should be a standard on flagship phones, especially when the price eclipses $500. It is good to see Sony sticking with their guns and continue leading the pack in IP certification.
On the Xperia Z3, Sony continues their strong play by bringing a very crisp display to the market. The 5.2 inch full HD display features Sony’s TRILUMINOS technology with Live Color LED. It comes in at a very respectable 424 ppi.
The colors are very vivid and not over saturated like other manufacturers. This is helped by the Live Color LCD in which red and green phosphorus has been added to the display. Long story short, it widens the color range without causing it to over saturate. It really shows off what its capable of when watching videos with high color. Dark colors are replicated well and it shows when watching darker videos. The blacks are very deep and dark; it makes the colors pop even more.
The display is also able to get quite bright and has a dimness to match it. The IPS LCD display is able to get much dimmer than my Nexus 6 with an AMOLED display. The brightness also allows for the device to be used quite heavily in the daylight. I had no problem seeing the display in direct sunlight, even at more extreme angles.
It is also worth noting that the device features tap-to-wake which in honesty should be default for any Android phone these days. Makes turning the device on so easy and convenient.
Sony has always been in the top of the pack in the performance category and the Z3 build off of that. Although the Xperia Z3 came out in late 2014, it did not feature the Snapdragon 805, instead opting for an upgraded Snapdragon 801. The S801 is clocked at 2.5 GHz compared to the 2.3 GHz of the previous S801. Backing the Snapdragon 801 processor is 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of ROM (T-Mobile variant only). The Xperia Z3 runs Android 4.4.4 out of the box and the Android 5.0 Lollipop update is already rolling out.
Unfortunately the device does come pre-loaded with a good amount of Sony applications. They range from PlayStation, Xperia Lounge, Movie Creator, etc. There are definitely more pre-loaded apps this time around over the Z2, but it doesn’t affect performance for the time I used the device.
The Sony UI is very slick and isn’t heavily overlayed. Multitasking is a breeze as the 3 GB of RAM powers the device through just about anything. I’ve never really encountered any stuttering or staggering as I do on other devices. Every soft key press was registered and the transition quickly followed. On other devices, such as Samsung, I tend to change the animation, transition, and window scale to .5 x, but it was not necessary on this device.
I didn’t do much of any gaming, but I am a heavy internet/video user. I could switch from apps such as YouTube, to text messages, to full web pages no problem. It actually impressed me quite a bit and I am excited to see how Lollipop will enhance the experience. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has begun rolling out the update yet. I’ll be sure to do a follow up.
The camera on the Xperia Z3 is packed full with 20.7 megapixels, F2.0 aperture, and a 1/2.3″ sensor. It is nearly identical to the camera on the Xperia Z2, aside from the fact that it features an improved ISO up to 12800. Now, I am no camera expert, but the Z3 definitely has the ability to take quality shots.
One issue I have always had with Sony phones is not the camera itself, but Sony’s image processing software. In the right conditions, the camera takes amazing shots, but sometimes the software ruins it. What I am excited for is the ability to get RAW images when the Z3 gets updated to Lollipop, if Sony includes that API. At the end of the day, a camera is only as good as its image processing… or is photographer.
Like I said earlier, I’m not an expert on cameras, so if you’d like to know more about the Z3 camera, you can find some info here.
Another thing Sony has exceeded its competitors at is battery life. The Z3 comes with 3,100 mAh battery, which is actually 100 mAh less than its predecessor. With the optimizations Sony has made, the loss of ‘juice’ doesn’t make the Xperia Z3 skip a beat. The Z3 would consistently get me through a day of use, which consists of going to school with terrible reception then off to work before I get home.
4.5 hours of screen on time
A normal day for me is usually around 12-15 hours and I would easily end with somewhere around 50% battery left in the tank. It really depended on my usage for the day, but I could easily squeeze out three hours of screen on time in around 50% of the battery. Some days with light usage, I could stretch the battery life through a second day, ending around four to five hours of screen on time with anywhere from 10-20% left in the tank.
One thing that Sony didn’t include on the Z3 was quick charging. Obviously it isn’t very necessary because the device has more than enough life to go one to two days, but it definitely takes a good while to get back up to 100%.
For this review I stayed as stock as possible and didn’t disable any notifications from Twitter, email, Facebook, etc.
The Sony Xperia Z3 is definitely a flagship device and features top of the line specs for a 2014 device. There wasn’t anything that really stood out to me that wanted to push me away from the Z3, aside from the lack of Lollipop, but I can’t hold that against it. It definitely meets Sony’s requirements: great battery, great design, and water resistance (IP68).
At the end of the day, the Z3 is a very high quality device that has premium specs, design, and on top of it all, a premium experience. The device is fast, responsive, and runs buttery smooth. The device will only get better once it gets upgraded to Android Lollipop. On top of that, it seems as if Sony keeps up with all its devices, as the Z1s is expected to receive Lollipop as well.
If you are looking to upgrade to a new device, but don’t want to drop the big bucks on a 2015 flagship, the Xperia Z3 may be for you. On the hand, while it is a solid device, I don’t think an upgrade from a Z2 is at all necessary.