When was the last time I actually liked holding a smartphone in my hand? I don’t really remember. There were many devices that I appreciated for the good design, comfort to hold but the Sony Xperia Z3 is different. While it doesn’t have the size that fits into the hand, the comfort given with the curved edges and the smooth back makes this the best designed device from Sony, and I feel this is very much better than all the flagships of 2014.
For those who were skeptical about the Xperia Z2 because of the sharp design that didn’t really stand out, the Xperia Z3 can change your thoughts, and this will be a phone one would want to buy. Read below on my thoughts about the smartphone, after a week of usage.
Design & Form Factor
From the front, there is no much difference from the Xperia Z2, and the display is the same 5.2-inch 1080p triluminos one protected by a shatterproof glass. Earlier in the Xperia Z2, both the earpiece and microphone were located out of the glass area, near the corner of the device as a very thin strip. But now, the Xperia Z3 has both of them again similar in shape, and the earpiece is located just above the Sony logo on the front while the mic in the bottom is just below the display area.
Why has the Xperia’s flagship series always looked classic? it is because of that glass body on the back. It stands out well, and Sony has made sure there is no much difference in the Xperia Z3, compared to the previous devices because all is good there, with the 20.7MP camera on the left top corner, the NFC area with logo towards the center and the branding of Sony and Xperia. Sony’s phones haven’t given much of an issue to the users about the slot doors, and these give a good protection against the entry of water and dust.
It has the IP 65 / IP 68 certification, thus each of the slot except for the headset jack are well protected. The slots for MicroSD card and the Nano SIM card are both under the same slot door, above the power key on the right side. The MicroUSB port is on the left side, and even the covers over these ports retain the same curve like the entire perimeter does, which gives a very good feel and comfort. Check out the Xperia Z3 photo gallery and over design overview to understand what we actually liked with this device.
The phone although is smooth, it is slippery and even on a flat surface if there is a little tilt, you will see the phone slowly moving down and ending up falling down. Disadvantage of being so smooth, some might say.
But, here’s a drawback. Sony had specifically mentioned that the touchscreen responds well under water. That wasn’t the case while we were testing the Xperia Z3. The screen wasn’t responsive to the finger touch at all, and the screen automatically gets touched with the water pressure. There were many trials done for this before we could come to a conclusion that the screen doesn’t really respond to the finger touch once the phone is in water.
The display in the Sony Xperia Z3 is bright, with the Triluminos display for mobile included just like in the predecessor, and Sony has put in some efforts to make the images sharper with the X-Reality for mobile, but we would still say this is not the brightest displays of all. The Super AMOLED display in the Samsung Galaxy S5 still impresses us more than this, and we are yet to see how good the 2K display of Galaxy Note 4 is, so till then, the outdoor viewing on the display of Xperia Z3 is not the best, but the color reproduction, the sharpness and noise reduction is done in a brilliant way.
Operating System & Interface
The interface, as always is very intuitive but still we won’t call this as one of the best interfaces you would have seen on the flagship smartphones, because the Sense UI on HTC is more elegant in looks but there is no complaints about the UI during the initial use. There is bloatware, a lot of it and that can be annoying for some who might have preferred to download the apps they wished to, only depending on their usage. Apart from the entire Google Play Services apps (Chrome, Maps, Youtube, Gmail, Hangouts, Google Plus, Drive, etc.), there are other apps like Playstation, Lifelog, Sony Select, News from Socialife, Smart Connect, Wisepilot for Xperia, Support, Update Centre, Backup & Restore, TrackID, BigFlix, Kobo, Line, Liv Sports, Sony Liv, Movie Creator, OfficeSuite, Xperia Lounge, Games Store, Sketch, LinkedIn, PartyShare and these are already 4 pages of apps in the app drawer.
The settings in the Sony Xperia Z3 are countless. This in the end is going to increase the user experience, and one can personalize the device a lot. Gesture controls, themes, wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper, notification clearing, managing notifications and selecting which icons to show in the status bar, is all possible through the Personalization settings. The display settings has image enhancement options, glove mode, brightness and white balance settings, smart backlight control, daydream, tap to wake up and notification LED settings.
Sony has done a lot for the security of the content and personal files of the user in the Xperia Z3, as the Security section has the screen lock options (Swipe, Bluetooth unlock, Face unlock, Pattern, PIN, Password), Find my Device using “my Xperia” service, Phone encryption, SIM card lock options.
The performance is really smooth though, and this is even on heavy testing. We tried playing the top-end games such as Asphalt 8, Dead Trigger 2 and Grand Theft Auto, and there was not even a very little lag. You would end up feeling like being a part of it, with the beautiful graphics output added by the great performance. But here comes the biggest issue – “temperature”. The Sony Xperia Z3 got heated up very fast, and that was noticed even within first 10 minutes of gaming, and although this didn’t pose any problems and we were still able to play the game with the same good pace, it does make your experience bad. This was seen even in the Xperia Z2 and one would expect this major problem to be addressed by the company in the upgrades, but the Xperia Z3 is no better in this particular issue of heating up of the device.
If you check out the Xperia Z3 camera review, we discussed how heated up the device gets on around 7 minutes of video recording. It is the same, around 50 °C after a few minutes of high-end gaming and you cannot try to use this for phone calling with that much heat on the back of the device. The major heating was beside the camera near the top, and that only makes the user experience bad.
The camera app has a lot of stuff to play around with, including the 4K video recording, although that again couldn’t record video for a long time because the heating issue is still there, but the company did manage to make the device record video for a longer time before giving up and saving the video (that is at least good because with the Galaxy S5, we lost the video content as it was not saved by the app).
Read: Sony Xperia Z3 Camera Review where we have showed the camera samples, and detailed about the heating issues and also, if you were interested to check out how good the camera app is. Though, below are a few capture samples for a quick look.
The battery life in the Sony Xperia Z3 is brilliant. The company had claimed a battery lasting for about 2 days, and the results we got on standard usage were no less. The Wi-Fi was turned on all the time, the phone was on standby for long and we used the camera for about 30 minutes, the internet browsing and Youtube was used for about an hour in total, and music for around 40 minutes. Still, the 3100 mAh battery in the Sony Xperia Z3 stayed on for over 48 hours before getting below 10% remaining battery percentage.
Before this, if we had seriously liked a smartphone for its battery life, it was the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The battery was massive, but still the optimization was properly done so that the device can survive on a single charge easily for more than a day. Any user who is paying a good amount for a device, expects the battery to be good, apart from the other good things. The Sony Xperia Z3 for sure is going to be a good value for money product, at least for those who have the battery as one of the important factors to check.
Apart from the excellent battery, Sony has included a few options for the users to take advantage of, if they wanted to optimize the interface and extend the battery life, especially when traveling:
- Stamina mode: Here, the Wi-Fi and data network is temporarily disabled when the screen is turned off. The functions are back to normal when the screen is turned on. The hardware performance is also restricted, and thus power is saved.
- Ultra Stamina mode: The battery life is prolonged extensively by just keeping the basic phone functions on, and this helps when the battery in the phone is critically low.
- Low-battery mode: The user can select the options to turn / off. You can set a level of battery, below which this mode turns on automatically.
- Location-based Wi-Fi: The Wi-Fi connectivity automatically gets activated when the device is near the saved Wi-Fi network, thus saving the battery if it was being used by data network.
- Queue background data: Using this, the battery is saved by sending background data at ser intervals, rather than continuously sending and receiving it.
The internal storage of 16GB in the Xperia Z3 is just about 11.5GB available to the user, but the option of MicroSD card is indeed helpful as for a smartphone of such a calibre, the 11GB storage isn’t going to be enough. The device supports USB OTG connectivity as well, if someone wants to transfer the content from the smartphone to the OTG directly, and vice-versa.
Another beautiful thing to talk about – Audio Output. Sony has included the dual speakers on the front, which come with the DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and the sound quality is brilliant. The volume output is quite high, and you notice bass and shakes when the device is held in hand, and due to the High-res Audio, there is lesser distortion. We did love the quality of audio output from the Xperia Z3, while playing random music videos from Youtube, and even in the walkman app in the device.
Some personalized options added to the NFC connectivity, only makes things better and easier for the user. Sony has a list of one-touch features, namely One-touch connection, One-touch listening, One-touch mirroring, One-touch sharing and One-touch backup. All of these take advantage of the NFC connectivity.
No complaints about the connectivity options, as the Sony Xperia Z3 has a great signal reception in both 2G and 3G networks that we tested in India, and there is no big difference in the Wi-Fi signal reception when compared to the other flagship smartphones this year, but did we ever see any disappointment with the connectivity in the flagship smartphones from Sony? this comes as no exception as the device tries to pull in Wi-Fi and automatically switch from data network to Wi-Fi whenever available, in a faster speed than the Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8.
For the price tag the Sony Xperia Z3 is launched, it is clear that Sony isn’t going to be aggressive with the pricing against its competitors, but there is a reason for the same. Sony hasn’t compromised with anything in this particular smartphone, and although it comes as a sad news for the Xperia Z2 owners, this strategy of launching a new flagship within a few months is only going to help the company, as this smartphone for us is one of the best of the year 2014. Why? the IP65/68 certification, the brilliant design, great battery life and the camera improvement.
With the camera, although there is no major upgrade, Sony has made the low light capturing a little better. There are a few drawbacks, the major one being the issue of device getting heated when gaming or using the camera for a long time, but if that is not something you might worry about, there is no device really beating this one (although LG’s G3 has a better display resolution, it drains the battery faster) right now.