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Sony Xperia Z3 Plus review

 Review: July 2015  
 

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: We've been huge fans of Sony's Xperia Z series, and the Z3+ should have been another slam dunk phone. But massive overheating problems make this one to avoid. It's a shame, because in every other way, this is the best Sony smartphone ever.

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Introduction

We've been praising Sony's Z series of phones ever since the original was released, and each new version has improved the design and features. The new Z3+ is in many ways the best ever, and yet we can't recommend it, because of a major problem with over-heating. The short story is that we recommend the Z3 instead, but if you want the full story, read on.

Design & looks

Like previous incarnations, the Z3+ retains the winning design that so impressed us before. Made from two perfectly flat tempered glass surfaces, bonded to a strong and lightweight aluminium frame, the Z3+ is strong, practical and with a real premium feel. It's available in a choice of Black, White, Copper or Aqua Green.

The Z3+ is the thinnest, lightest version ever, measuring a wafer-thin 6.9mm thick. Its smooth glass surfaces and rounded edges make it perfectly tactile, and despite its big 5.2 inch screen, it doesn't feel large or heavy. It feels almost perfect to hold.

Like its predecessors, the Z3+ is waterproof and dustproof, meeting the IP65 and IP68 specs. This means that you can use it underwater (in freshwater, not salt water) to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. You can even use the camera underwater. The Z3+ perfects the waterproofing, using a USB port that requires no special outer sealing, for maximum convenience. A dedicated camera button is present too, which is a definite bonus.

The IPS display is the same as before. It's a large 5.2 inch Full HD display, featuring Sony's best display tech - Triluminos colour and the X-Reality engine. While it lacks the exceptional sharpness of Samsung's Galaxy S6, it's a very strong performer, and one of the top screens available on a smartphone.

As smartphone designs go, it doesn't get much better than this.

The overheating problem

This is where things turn nasty. Sony has upgraded the processor in the Z3+, from the quadcore Snapdragon 801 in the Z3 to the latest octa core Snapdragon 810. This should have given a useful extra burst of speed to the already very fast Z3. Instead, the Snapdragon 810 suffers from severe overheating problems when performance is pushed. Heavy-duty apps such as games can cause the phone to become uncomfortably hot. Even watching videos can do this. Worst of all, using the camera for periods of a few minutes can push the phone right over the edge, causing the camera to shut down completely. It's really an unacceptable state of affairs.

Other matters

It seems almost pointless now to praise the fact that the Z3+ has a massive 3GB of RAM, or that it's been given a very welcome memory upgrade to 32GB of storage, plus the ability to accept microSD cards of up to 128GB. If the phone didn't overheat, we'd really be able to make good use of these features.

We'd also enjoy the brand new Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system.

The cameras on the phone are largely the same as before. The main rear-facing camera offers 20.7 megapixels combined with Sony's excellent Exmor RS sensor. The camera can also record 4K video. It's an excellent performer, at least until it shuts down after overheating. Sigh.

The front camera has been upgraded to 5 megapixels and uses an Exmor R sensor.

Connectivity

Connectivity is excellent, with pretty much everything you could think of here. It supports a wide range of 4G LTE bands, plus 3G and GSM. You'll also find Wi-Fi, GPS, Glonass, USB, NFC, as well as screen mirroring, MHL and ANT+.

Battery life

The slimmer, lighter design has come at the expense of a smaller battery - 2930mAh instead of 3100mAh on the Z3. It's still a decent size though, and the "shutting down when things get tough" feature of the Snapdragon 810 helps to reduce power consumption, although all that waste heat must surely consume a lot of unnecessary energy.

The battery can provide power for up to 10 hours of continuous use, but quite what this means when apps shut down is a moot point. The overheating problem means that this really isn't a phone for heavy users, and if you're not a heavy user, why buy a flagship phone in the first place?

Conclusion

We wanted to love the Z3+, but it's fatally flawed. While Sony has worked hard to perfect the design and specification of its flagship phone, the choice of the Snapdragon 810 and its resulting overheating and shutting-down problems has rendered all of that pointless. We'd encourage you to stick with the tried and tested Xperia Z3 instead, or else opt for the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4 or iPhone 6.


Sony Xperia Z3 Plus features include:

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Reviewed by Paul B from England on 30th Aug 2015
This is my wife's upgrade but I have used it...............

Well, first things first - The overheating. Yes, it gets warm. But, neither my wife or I have and any issues with the camera shutting down or getting various messages about the handset needs to shut down etc (as viewed on YouTube.) Admittedly it is used as normally as possible with general day to day use. A bit of music, Facebook, Twitter, camera etc. It hasn't been used for satnav yet and I guess that would be the mother of all tests as my iPhone gets warm using that.

Anyway, a general summery of the phone is that it is very, very good. Yes, it is very similar to the rest of the flagship Xperia phones and I personally don't think that this is a bad thing. It is easy in the hand and not slippery (contrary to some reports) and is a good size. The screen is superb. Very bright and crisp. Battery life so far seems good. Over a days worth of moderate use. The camera is fantastic. Good depth of colours and a very fast start up time with the dedicated shutter button on the side (which all phones should adopt in my opinion.)

Apps launch very quickly and there appears to be no lag at all.

This is a good phone from Sony. My wife came from the LG G2 so it was well worth the upgrade. If you have the Z2 or Z3 it is still a good choice but there's not too much difference.
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