Sony joined the Android bandwagon literally late. Till the launch of Xperia Z, Sony’s devices were more or less obsolete. Back in May 2013, Sony found a way to perish in the form of Xperia Z. The Z(ee) looked phenomenally well made with lots of Industry leading goodness and that’s when Sony cashed in with its 6 months upgrade cycle. While Z1 left little to be admired, Z2 covered the right grounds and now we have the next flagship, Xperia Z3. The real caveat here is the timing. It comes right on the heels of Z2 but Sony Xperia Z3 is arguably slim, gentle, well-made and of course Sony in every way. Should you buy one? Should you upgrade? Read our review before you start demanding great.
The design idea is simple here, keep the Z DNA but in an ever so subtly crafted slim chassis. Yes, we are looking at a 7.3 mm slim device. On pure numbers, Z3 is almost a millimeter slimmer than Z2. Are you applauding Sony engineers? Go ahead if you are. This slimness is the only uncommon factor between Z3 and Z2. Z3 still sports that 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminous Display with X-Reality engine. No rewards for guessing, Sony might be reserving its QHD score for MWC. Did we spill the bean? That’s exactly when Sony would unveil the Z4. Let’s stay with Z3 for now. Sony Xperia Z3 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5 GHz processor with Adreno 330 GPU. It’s unclear why Sony didn’t opt for 2.7 GHZ Snapdragon 805, seen with the likes of Galaxy Note 4. Z3 also gets that now familiar 20.7-megapixel camera with lots of software add-on(more on that later) and runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with custom UI and a promised upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop early next year.
Xperia Z3 looks even more premium than any of its predecessors thanks to those matte finish metal edges. On close inspection, you’ll find the corners done with nylon — which can prevent the device from any dents — if you drop it. You might mistake one of those corners for a stylus. Seriously I did. Finally the design has perfectly blended with the bodywork.
Front and the rear of my black review unit looked extremely identical. Worry not Sony does offer Z3 in Copper and White trims. On tour, you will find Micro-SD card slot and a slot for Nano-SIM on the right edge under sealable caps. The same edge hosts the power button, volume rocker and shutter key. The left edge is now home to micro-USB port. The 3.5 mm headphone jack is atop on the left hand corner and the base is plain-Jane. Like Z2, Xperia Z3 comes with 3GB RAM and 16GB Internal memory and yes, it does look taller than any other phone around because of those slender bezels. They should take some cues from Sharp’ aquos crystal.
Sony Xperia Z3 weighs 152 grams, a tad lighter than its predecessor and gets IP 65/68 certification making this the most amphibious smartphone available. If you don’t know, the certification makes Z3 fully dust-resistant and waterproof upto 1.5 metres for full half an hour. I tried this and it works and the way port covers fall in place with design makes this premium. All Things considered, this is Sony’s best to date.
Every time I had an Xperia Z device for review, I consumed more videos than ever because of the display. Like before we are looking at a 5.2-inch display, that’s 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall. Again, it’s LCD that offers deeper blacks and warmer colors and as I wrote in my Z2 review, you’d be better off disabling X-Reality Engine to enjoy more natural colors especially while using some third-party themes. Also set up the White balance as per your desire and you’re looking at a display that offers relatively richer colors.
The readability of this device under direct sunlight is terrific. At 660 nits, this display is incredibly brighter that Z2’s 428 nits. The goodness extends to viewing angles too and color reproduction is natural and balanced. Yes, it’s still not close to Samsung’s AMOLED panel which offers deeper blacks and superior viewing angles. We are yet to look at 2nd Gen Moto X’s OLED panel before declaring any verdict.
Camera was the only takeaway in Xperia Z1 and that story continues. The sensor size, megapixel count, two-stage dedicated shutter key – – – all still present. The real difference is in the lens. It’s now even wider at 25mm and you can pull in a lot of things in the frame. For those keeping count, the Z2 had 30mm lens and as Sony MD SachinRai mentioned that 5 mm leap can mean a lot in the world of optics. The difference in the camera hardware ends right there.
Sony has introduced a handful of software tricks this time. Namely, Face In, Multi Camera Mode, AR Fun, Live on YouTube et cetera. Face In lets you use both the cameras at the same time while Multi Camera Mode lets you combine the pictures from two Z3’s. AR Fun lets you bring augmented reality to your photos while Live on YouTube simply allows you to broadcast directly. Neat.
These are notable additions but I doubt if you are going to use any of these. All are basically use and desist type add-ons. While Background Defocus and Live on YouTube are kinda useful, fun around AR Fun ends too early. Most users are going to click pictures in Auto mode and Sony has bumped up the ISO to 12800 which works only in Superior iAuto mode and during my discussion with Sony executives, there is hope for more manual controls in near future.
We can’t resist but use those exact words from our Z2 review “this is the best camera among Android flagships”. With great pictures in good light and relatively less noise in low-light, you won’t go wrong with this and we do expect Sony to better its camera software, offer more manual controls for cell shutterbugs and I’m hopeful to Optical Image Stabilization next.
Not much has changed here too. This is still Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Sony’s custom UI. The customization is light compared to Samsung’s TouchWiz UI or HTC’s Sense. Removing those Sony-centric widgets will get you near Vanilla flavor and we strongly recommend getting rid of those widgets. Like before, the multitasking window has handful of shortcuts and you still get free music/video subscription.
Pressing the power button, now gives you access to Record Screen. One neat addition that let’s you record whatever you are doing on your phone. It pretty much makes the right case for demonstration like in this case. Also there is a lifelog app, the companion for Sony’s Smartband that now counts your steps even when if you aren’t wearing a smartband. Good work there.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE
This is another area where Sony scores big, really big. The Z3 delivers great performance at most of the tasks. As we wrote before, there isn’t any significant jump on the processor front. It’s just a speed boost and the silicon is pretty much the same and benchmarks do signify the case. Xperia Z3 turns out better scores on Quadrant, Antutu, Vellamo when compared with its predecessor but if you check across the board, it does fall short of wrestling with the likes of HTC One M8 or LG G3. In GFX Bench, the scores were identical like Z2 and that doesn’t bring any inspiration. In browser test, the pages loaded quicker than Z2 and the Z3 falls little short of the likes of HTC One M8 or OnePlus One for that matter.
Playing graphic rich games Asphalt 8 or Real Racing 3 is a cakewalk for this device but playing these games for a longer duration will make the back warm. It gets heated up when loaded with more intensive tasks. Even I was able to get upto 6Mbps downlink on my Vodafone HSPA+ network. WiFi offered better reception than my Moto X and the download speeds were significantly better. For an average user, Xperia Z3 will scream past most of the things. If you are going to click more pictures, read emails, check social network feeds, do some browsing, this is the best device to buy. That brings us to the battery life.
Sony Xperia Z3 has an epic battery life. Friends at PhoneArena have a better proof for that. For my usage, it lasted nearly two days. When I decided to test the device intensively, that is when I bench-marked this phone, played Asphalt 8, Walking Dead, did some casual browsing, I was still left with 32% juice at the end. Yes, most emails and social networks were syncing in the background.
A user case for instance where I had an early morning flight and started with 100% battery and had Google Navigation On to guide me to Airport. The drive to airport was nearly 45 minutes. At airport, I checked in to Foursquare, posted Facebook status, made few calls and had around 73% battery left. Note: Google Navigation is a big battery drainer because it uses GPS and internet radios extensively. During the 2.30 hours flight(Airplane mode ON), I watched a two hour movie and I did click some pictures while flying 35000 feet above bad weather. By the time I landed in Mumbai, there was nearly 55% battery left which could definitely get me through a day. Yes, if you only care for battery life, Xperia Z3 it is to buy. This phone will never give you nightmares on that front.
If you have never bought an Xperia Z series phone before then this is the right time. Z3 is fast, slim and beautiful at every straight edge of it. There is no aluminum there but it still holds its designs right. The benchmarks may not be inspiring but that epic battery life covers up every nuance of it. For record, your host uses a 2013 Moto X that delivers 10 hours on heavy usage and easily gets past the work hours.
If you own Xperia Z1 or Z2, you might be better off skipping this upgrade. Sony Xperia Z3 is a nearly perfect device for flagship category but at MOP of Rs. 47,990 it doesn’t seem like a deal. The 2nd Gen Moto X at INR 31,999 on Flipkart makes a compelling deal. With lower prices on HTC One M8/Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony is in for big price war.
If you want to enjoy the luxury of Sony, prefer a near point and shoot like camera and crave for a huge display, Xperia Z3 is the phone to buy. It’s definitely Sony’s best till date and with best-in-class battery life, you won’t be trading for chargers through the day.