Sony Xperia Z3 review
|Review: October 2014|
In a nutshell: The Sony Xperia Z3 is quite possibly the best Android superphone of 2014. With premium styling and awesome specs, it's one of the best camera phones ever, able to record 4K UHD video. Battery life is superb, and it's waterproof and dustproof too!
Today's best buy: Sony Xperia Z3 16GB from SmartTeck (£298.36)
We fell in love with Sony's Xperia Z series the moment we first laid our lusty eyes on the original Xperia Z and slowly caressed its silky smooth glass surfaces. The original Z seemed like the perfect Android phone until we put it flat on the desk and struggled to pick it back up again. Sony corrected that particular design flaw with the metallic trim around the Xperia Z1 edges, and then the Z2 made the design even slimmer, the screen even larger and the camera even better.
But if the Xperia Z2 was already the perfect Android superphone, how can the Xperia Z3 improve on anything that has gone before?
The answer is that very little has changed. And that's good, we say. Because with a phone this good, there's no point making changes for the sake of it. Sony has sensibly left the basic design unchanged, but has uprated the processor speed (it was already superfast) and enabled 128GB memory cards. It's also shaved nearly 20g off the weight, which is most welcome. The phone no longer feels like a stone in your pocket. And it's half a millimetre thinner still, making us worry that one day the Z series will simply disappear to a flat nothing.
As a result, most of what we want to say about the Z3 we already said about the Z2. So let's say it all again.
Design & looks
The Xperia Z3 keeps the same design features that made the Z1 and Z2 so stunning. It's made from a rounded aluminium frame with tempered glass panels, making the phone strong, giving it a lustrous premium feel and making it ergonomic to hold too.
The size is almost the same as the Z2, but it's half a millimetre thinner and lighter too. The phone features twin stereo speakers.
The Z3 is waterproof and dustproof, just like its predecessors. And it goes further than the Samsung Galaxy S5, which is only water-resistant. The Z3 meets the full IP65 and IP68 specifications, so you can actually use it underwater as a camera. When properly sealed it can be used up to 1.5 metres underwater for 30 minutes. The Z3 is even more dustproof than the Z2.
The Full HD 5.2 inch Triluminos display IPS display technology for a wider viewing angle. The display also features Live Colour LED, a new technology for increased colour depth and gradation. It's an excellent screen, although it can't match the Samsung Galaxy S5 for overall brightness and zing.
Top camera performance
Photography has always been one of the Xperia Z range's best features, and the Z3 offers the same brilliant performance as the Z2. The main camera is a 20.7 megapixel camera with a large 1/2.3" Sony Exmor RS sensor. Sony’s G Lens has a 27 mm wide angle lens with a big f2.0 aperture, allowing it to capture more light. Like Sony's digital cameras, the Z3 uses the intelligent BIONZ image-processing engine for noise reduction and detail enhancement. This is particularly impressive in low lighting conditions. Sony claims that this camera offers the highest ISO of any smartphone.
The camera can record video at 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixel) resolution. You can now edit your videos on the phone.
The front-facing camera is also impressive, being able to capture full HD 1080p video.
There are many pre-installed camera apps, including one for creating Vine videos for Twitter. Another lets you adjust depth of field so you can blur the background while keeping the subject sharp.
The Android operating system runs the latest KitKat flavour.
The internal specs have changed only slightly from the Z2. The processor is a super-fast quad-core 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, making this one of the very fastest smartphones available. The Adreno 330 GPU handles graphics at lightning speed. And with a huge 3GB of RAM at its disposal and little software baggage to slow it down, this is a phone that will surely burn through any apps you care to throw at it. We'd say that in general use it outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.
The onboard flash memory is limited to 16GB, but there's a microSD card slot that will now accept cards up to 128GB.
This beast comes with every connectivity option that we can think of. 4G, 3G, quadband GSM and Wi-Fi are all here, of course, as is a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB and NFC. There's Bluetooth 4.0 and some more exotic options too, such as ANT+ and MHL.
The battery is almost the same as before, at 3,100mAh. This is a very heavy duty battery and in combination with Sony's Stamina Mode, battery life in standby is very impressive. Stamina Mode disables Wi-Fi and data traffic when the display is off, while keeping calls and text notifications active. As soon as you turn the screen back on, normal activity resumes. You can customise this setting, for example to keep Facebook notifications active when the screen is off.
Sony's official figures claim up to 16 hours of talktime, 10 hours of video playback time and an incredible 920 hours of standby time, making this one of the strongest battery performances for any Android phone.
What can we say? If you haven't realized already, we think this is pretty much the perfect Android superphone. It's stunningly gorgeous to look at, ergonomic to use, and has premium styling to match the iPhone 6. It has a delicious large screen, superfast processor and awesome specs. It's waterproof too, if you like that kind of thing. We think it's the best phone we've reviewed in 2014.
Sony Xperia Z3 features include:
- Operating system: Android 4.4 (KitKat)
- 20.7 megapixel Exmor RS camera with 8x digital zoom, autofocus, HDR, face recognition, smile detection and pulsed LED flash
- 4K UHD video capture with HDR and video light
- 2.2 megapixel front-facing 1080p Exmor RS video camera, Google Talk with video chat
- Display: Full HD touchscreen, 1920 x 1080 pixels, (5.2 inches), X-Reality engine and Triluminos colour
- Media player with album art, shuffle, smart playlists, TrackID and PlayNow
- xLoud Experience, Clear audio+, Clear bass, Clear Phase and Clear stereo, 3D surround sound
- FM Radio with RDS
- aGPS & GLONASS with Google Maps
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, email, chat, conversations
- 3D and motion games - PlayStation Certified
- Vibration alert
- Internet: WebKit web browser, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Chrome, Google voice search
- Processor: 2.5 GHz Snapdragon quad core processor
- Memory: 16GB flash memory plus 3GB RAM plus 128GB memory card slot
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI, DLNA, NFC, WiFi hotspot support, ANT+, MHL
- LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20), UMTS HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz), GSM GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
- Size: 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm
- Weight: 152g
- Battery: 3100mAh
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Sony Xperia Z3 user reviews
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Average rating from 8 reviews:
Reviewed by sean
on 23rd May 2015
Think its only fair that I provide a further update after a further 3 weeks using this phone. I should point out that this phone has the best battery life of any phone I have ever used. You can easily get 2 days out of it even with regular use.
The photos this phone produces in good light are stunning. The photos are so clear and bright. In poor light the photos whilst not bad can suffer from someone poor contrast and blur.
The Android operating system is simple and user friendly.
The phone is very fast. Connectivity is good too. As I said in my other review the phone is an absolute beauty both to look at and to hold. It's the best looking phone in the market in my view.
I've stuck a 64gb micro so card in the device so huge memory to cater for my music needs.
I'm have to admit. I made a poor review of this phone.
On further reflection it's one me over.
Reviewed by sean
on 10th May 2015
Decided to upgrade early from my Samsung Note 2 and was really excited about getting this top spec phone. Having played with it for a week I have been disappointed with this phone.
Firstly, this is a fragile phone and I get the impression one fall and your phone would easily break. A case is an absolute necessity. The phone is light which might please some but feels too light for my liking adding to my fear that one slip and your expensive phone is badly damaged. The phone is made of glass and is very slippy. It will definitely slip out of your hands.
The camera on the phone is average. Decent photos in good light but average shots in poor light.
The phone overheats when taking pictures or videos after only a few minutes.
The phone vibrates when playing music. Leave it on a flat service and watch it move. The sound quality of this device is average and far too low to get any listening pleasure from it.
It's not all bad of course. The device is beautiful to look at and to touch. The waterproofing will please those who appreciate gimmicks but I'm far from impressed.
Anyone want to swap my Z3 for a Note 4?
Reviewed by Nigeve
on 15th Jan 2015
Stunningly well constructed phone. Absolutely top quality. Iíve not compared it to an iPhone 6 but I canít imagine it would be better. Comes with Android 4.4 and the promise of an upgrade to 5 from Sony. I use my phone every day for calls, texts and a bit of web browsing and games and it lasts a week between charges with clever use of stamina mode and disabling location unless I specifically need it. Iím careful about what I load onto my phones and donít install free apps that display lots of ads and that probably helps. I have no issues with slowness or battery life and this is down to being VERY choosy about what I load on my phone. Most Aps cost about £1(ish) and this is a small price to pay for keeping your phone in top order.
I canít fault this phone, itís the best phone Iíve ever owned by a very long shot. Water proof as well.
Reviewed by Bethany
on 8th Jan 2015
I've only had the Z3 for a week and it's a huge improvement on my iPhone 4!! My only gripe is the fact that the messenger software is painfully slow! Why should this be? is it only like this on my phone or do other users suffer?
Reviewed by Humayon Saeed
from United Kingdom
on 2nd Nov 2014
This is now my third android purchase, z2 tablet (feel free to read my comments in the tablet section) z2 and now this - coming from an apple background this is the best phone in all aspects - build, performance,quality all in all a brilliant digital experience. This has shown how you can get some much in a phone and works perfectly. I would recommend this phone anyday!!!
Reviewed by Mark Hulme
on 3rd Oct 2014
Got the z3 the day it was released. Upgrade from galaxy s3. Can't fault it. Best fone I have owned by far.
Reviewed by adrianeds
on 3rd Oct 2014
I bought myself a Sony Xperia Z Ultra just before last Christmas and I was mightily impressed. I just fell in love at first sight & bought it. It is a fantastic piece of kit, and I wanted to buy the Xperia Z2, but decided to wait until the Z3 came out. Monday morning went to my local Three Store and bought it.
I have to say it is one mighty beast, small compared to the Z Ultra, but twice as fast in every way. The screen is brighter, sharper from every angle, having better colour mix, and more depth. It just does everything so sublime, sound is so much better with two speakers on the front, with the Walkman sounding so much louder and sharper. Photography is simply spectacular, as I have mentioned on here before, photography is part of my work and now I can leave my compact at home as this is just as good, even better I'd say. This is a superphone most definitely.
However, what a shame that all the networks have been so pre-occupied with the iphone 6 release that the Z3 has been launched with no fuss, & my best mate has bought an iphone 6. But by today he is regretting it big time, he probably won't sleep now for the next 24 months. Xperia Z3 is the best Android phone by far.
Reviewed by waxy
on 3rd Oct 2014
5 stars ? Really ? And the note 4 gets 4 stars ? Is this much different to the z2 ? No.. is it better than the note 4 ? NO. S21 I really liked your site's reviews but after seeing this you are clearly biased Sony and apple fans . You really need to be honest and unbiased as this review is nothing but utter nonsense ..
Reply by Adrianeds
on 5th Oct 2014
Waxy, I think S21 are quite good with their reviews, it's just on pricing that they have deducted a star for the Note 4. As for everything else they give it high praise, which is fair. As for favouring Apple, to be fair they have been slating Apple in the past, which is justified, as they felt they were lagging behind Android. As for Sony, they have been giving Sony a hard time, it's just now the Z2 & Z3 which has been given good reviews. We all have favourites to some degree, I have had a varied range of phones over the years, it's hard to please all the people all of the time.
Reply by redfitz
on 29th Oct 2014
The xperia is better as cheaper and fully waterproof