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Sony Xperia Z3 review

 Review: October 2014  
 

Rating: 5 stars

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!



 

Introduction

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.

Android KitKat

The Android operating system runs the latest KitKat flavour.

Specs

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.

Connectivity

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. 

Battery life

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.

Conclusion

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:

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