Sony has been improving its smartphones so much that it’s impossible not to see the electronics superpower as a serious competitor to Apple and Samsung, and here we are again with another model and what may well be the perfection of its Xperia range thus far.
If it doesn’t feel like it’s been long since we saw a new Z model Xperia, you’d be right, with only a few months of space occupying the time since Sony first showed us the Z2 at Mobile World Congress earlier in the year, and then the Z3 at IFA a few months later.
Here we are, though, with another Xperia, and it’s very much a model like the Z3 Compact we checked out recently, albeit one with a bigger screen.
The Z3 is practically identical to the Compact, making the smaller version just that: a smaller handset based on its big brother, different from the other so-called “compact” or “mini” edition smartphones that share the same name and design, but compromise on features in the process.
As such, expect much of the same technology found in the Z3 Compact in the Sony Xperia Z3, including a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 3GB RAM, an increase on the 2GB found in the Z3 Compact.
Google’s Android 4.4 “KitKat” is also found here, with Sony’s own overlay provided, and 16GB storage running alongside with room to upgrade it thanks to a microSD slot found inside the unit.
Connection options are spot on identical, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Near-Field Communication (NFC), microUSB, GPS, and 4G LTE working on a Category 4 system providing download speeds as high as 150Mbps on compatible networks and speeds as high as 50Mbps.
The camera is exactly the same also, with a 20.7 megapixel sensor with autofocus and flash on the back, also capable of recording 4K Ultra HD video if need be, while the front-facing camera is also exactly the same at 2.2 megapixels.
Water resistance is also identical, sporting IP68 certification for dust-proofing and water resistance over a metre (usually under three) for up to 30 minutes.
There have been a few changes, though, and the screen relying on a larger 5.2 inch display sporting a Full HD 1920×1080 In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen, over the Z3 Compact’s 4.6 inch HD 1280×720 IPS screen. With 1920×1080 being shown on the Xperia Z3’s display, you can expect a pixel clarity of roughly 424 pixels per inch.
Buttons are few in number on smartphones, and the Xperia Z3 keeps this trend up, with only three physical buttons on the right edge and all remaining soft buttons found as part of the screen.
As such, you can find a circular power button just above the volume rocker on the right edge, while a camera shutter and activation button is found on the bottom of that right edge. Soft buttons are all part of the display, as per what Google started using in phones from version 4.0 onwards, with back, home, and multitask found on the bottom edge as part of the operating system.
Ports are equally few in number, though you will find a microUSB port on the left edge hidden by a door, Sony’s proprietary magnetic dock connector below this, while the right edge houses a microSD slot and nanoSIM slot covered by a door, and the top features a 3.5mm headset jack on the left-most side.
The casing for the phone is made from glass and aluminium, and the battery for the Sony Xperia Z3 is rated at 3100mAh.
Sony has had a few goes with its Xperia Z flagship phones, and for its latest iteration, the smartphone design it started with in 2013 is receiving a tightening up.
In fact, if you’ve taken a look at the Z2 and then a glance at the specs of the Z3, it’d be easy to be confused at the whole thing: they look identical, or close to it.
Similar processor, similar screen, similar camera, similar design, similar water resistance, similar so much that you have to wonder how much is new, and whether it was worth Sony releasing a totally new product in time for the holiday season.
First the look and feel, and really, this is an evolution of the previous Z2 smartphone, with softened aluminium edges, glass on the front and back, and a feeling that can only be described as premium.
The overall design seems modestly improved from the Z2, which itself has been a gradual refinement from the first Sony Xperia Z from March last year, but the addition of an aluminium frame helps the Z3 feel so much better in the hands, as well as resistant to the elements, which is good seeing as this is rated for IP68, which means dust-proof with a little over a metre of water-resistance for up to half an hour. As you do.
Sony’s switch to a nanoSIM is also a welcome one, especially if you already have an iPhone 5 series phone and you’re looking at jumping ship, as it means you won’t have to cut down or convert, though you will if you have a previous generation of Xperia handset outside of the Z3 Compact, as they were once microSIM and are now sitting on the smaller version.
Switch it on and you’ll see the phone come to life, the 5.2 In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen lighting up and providing a lovely Full HD image for your eyes. While it’s not the same sort of high-resolution that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 boasts, we’re very much reminded of the excellent display Sony used in the Z2 smartphone, with great colours, excellent angles, and a crispness that your eyes will love.
With 424 pixels per inch, Sony’s Z3 display is easy on the eyes, making it very hard to pixel peep in a screen that can survive a bit of a whipping from water and what-not.
Using the phone won’t be hard, either, because Sony is relying on its flavour of Android 4.4 “KitKat” that is similar to Google’s own, though with more of that Bravia and PlayStation look, with the option of a live wallpaper that changes colours and offers that PlayStation swish in a lightly animated wallpaper, while the home screens, the dropdown bars, and the menu are easy to get used to, making it a cinch to place shortcuts and organise your app menu.
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