Mobiles & Tablets

Sony Xperia Z3 review

Sabyasachi Biswas | Updated on September 25, 2014

23_Xperia_Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Is this just Sony’s best yet, or is it the best Android smartphone around?

When Sony launched the Xperia Z about two years ago, it was one smartphone that stood out from the rest – glass front and back, protection from water and dust, a brilliant camera and an even better display. But before it could sink in, in six months’ time, Sony gave us another flagship, the Z1. It was definitely an improvement over the Z, but it left many of us confused if we should opt for the new or the old.

But wait, it didn’t stop there – the Z2 was out six months after the Z1 was launched. We understood that Sony had decided to adopt a six-monthly flagship refresh cycle (for reasons that can be discussed in another story, some other time), and that it’s going to keep at it. So we were more or less ready to see Sony better its third flagship, with the Z3 in IFA.

We weren’t really expecting to be surprised when we had a go at the device in IFA, and then later back home with the device under our standard review routine. But at Technophile, we think that Sony has not just bettered its previous flagship smartphone, but delivered a device that’s possibly going to make HTC, Samsung, LG and maybe even Apple to stop and take note of a worthy competitor. Bravio!

Design and build

So why are we going gaga over the Xperia Z3? Well, mostly because it looks so darn good. The iPhone 6 isn’t the only new smartphone with curved edges and metal chassis and the works. The Xperia Z3 has been given the curved edge treatment too, along with the traditional glass back and front. The interesting bits that caught our attention were the rounded corners – they look like they can withstand a fall. And officials at Sony confirmed that the rounded edges have been added specifically for that purpose.

While nothing beats the curved-back, metal-unibody design of the HTC One M8 in terms of ergonomics, the Z3 comes pretty close. With the curved edges and slimmer bezels, the 5.2-inch display toting Z3 is actually quite easy to use with one hand. In fact, the body is also slimmer, by nearly a millimetre.

The build quality is tough, and the water and dust-proofing has gone up by a notch. That’s pretty good, considering we love smartphones that can go underwater and take 4K videos (not that we’ve had any before, but hey, we geeks are allowed to be excited about such things).

So it’s all good? Not really. We still have one complaint, and we’ve had that since the Xperia Z came out. The front and back of the device is all glass, but it’s what Sony calls “shatter-proof glass”. Sorry, but we have our faith in Corning Gorilla Glass.

Specs, performance and features

There’s plenty of power under the hood, with a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, coupled with 3GB of RAM. There’s 16GB of built-in storage, expandable via microSD card up to 128GB. The Z3 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat out-of-the-box, and is overlaid by Sony’s own UI customisation which still needs to iron out some rough edges – seriously, the weather app is atrocious and the gallery widget slows the display down. But it scores a healthy 20,800 points on an average on Quadrant, so it has us convinced about its processing power.

Then there’s the gorgeous Triluminous, 1920x1080 pixels display (no qHD, sorry) – gorgeous because it’s probably the brightest screen around and also because it tends to oversaturate the colours. The latter is something that we’ve seen on most Sony smartphones, so we’ve gotten used to it by now. The front-facing speakers are quite good, and the good news is that the device now supports hi-def audio files as well.

But that isn’t the best feature yet – it’s the PS4 support. What you get with the Xperia Z3 is that you can dock in your Z3 on to your PS4 controller, and access your PS4 as you would do on a TV (as long as you’re within the same network as the PS4). Basically, you can operate your PS4 on your smartphone from the confines of your bedroom, when the living room TV is turned off. We really hoped that the controller could have been used with the games on the smartphone as well, but that’s the mobile gamer in us wishing aloud.

Camera

Now the camera on the Xperia Z3 is quite honest – it doesn’t have the laser autofocus as the LG G3, or the UltraPixel wizardry as the HTC One M8. What it does carry, is Sony’s experience with cameras. So what we get on the Z3 is a 25mm wide-angle G lens, the 20.7MP, 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor that can shoot at even ISO 12,800.

This translates into absolutely fantastic shots, especially under low light. The noise is suppressed to a great extent. There’s some amount of smudging, though, in very dark shots. But overall, the colour reproduction and sharpness is what we’ve come to expect from Sony all along.

We loved shooting videos as well, although we think that the Z3 could have done with some better image stabilisation. The device shoots 4K videos too, but we’d recommend you to use as much expandable memory as possible, with the highest class of microSD memory cards to avoid lags. There is admittedly a heating issue with the device while it’s shooting 4K videos too. There’s a multi-cam recording mode too, if you can pair up the device (via NFC) with other Z3 or Z3 compact smartphones.

The front 2.2MP camera too, is quite good. We thought that this takes better selfies that Sony’s own self-styled selfie smartphone, the C3.

Battery life

There were quite a few surprises that came along with the Z3, but probably the most functional one was its battery life. We’ve used the LG G3, the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 extensively, and they’ve all given us a full-day power backup on a single full-charge cycle. The Xperia Z3’s 3100mAh battery gave us a little over a day and a half.

Verdict

At ₹51,990, the Sony Xperia Z3 is priced almost as much as the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and the LG G3 were priced when they were launched. While their prices may have dropped over time (at least on online retail portals), and given that the Z3 has just been launched, it does appear to be a little steeply priced as opposed to the other flagships.

However, it does offer the best of specs, superb imaging and more features that would be relevant for all kinds of smartphone users. It’s honest, looks beautiful, is easy to operate, and is brilliant for multimedia consumption.

Our only plea to Sony, now that they have almost perfected the flagship smartphone formula, is to stop this six-monthly refresh business. Let us have some quality time with a good device.

Price: ₹51,990

Love – Camera; Display; PS4 connectivity; Battery life

Hate – No Corning Gorilla Glass; Overheats with 4K recording

Published on September 25, 2014

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