One of the best phones around: Sony’s Xperia Z3 reviewed

Features are also smack dab what they were with the Xperia Z3 Compact, so apologies if it sounds like we’re repeating ourselves.

You’ll find high-resolution audio playback, a gesture keyboard, a “Stamina” mode for getting the most out of that battery, and even a PlayStation 4 app that will let you play a PS4 (if you own one) in your home from your WiFi network on the phone from any room in your home.

Over to the performance, and we’re pretty pleased with what the phone can do, the extra 1GB of RAM helping out to make sure apps load quickly, with multitasking never a problem as we jumped from the Chrome web browser to Google Play Music to messaging to Twitter to Instagram and so forth.

Sony’s Z3 phone is speedy and effortless, and generally does what it’s supposed to, which is fantastic for people who love to load apps.

The positives keep on coming with the battery life which is even better than its smaller brother, the Z3 Compact.

In that handset, Sony sacrificed the screen resolution to get more out of the battery, dropping the display to 720p (1280×720) to make sure all of its 2600mAh battery could be used, which resulted in a god day and a half if you weren’t a power user, and a solid day if you were.

Over in the larger Xperia Z3, you get the Full HD resolution and a 5.2 inch display, as well as a 3100mAh battery, so what does that mean for battery life?

In our tests, we found power users would find a solid day without any problems with a little life heading into the next day, while casual users would see close to two full days, or enough to keep you going for two days until you got back home to plug the phone in for a charge.

Those tests were conducted while making phone calls, taking photos, surfing the web, social networking, sending messages, emailing, playing the odd game, and listening to music, and we need to note that this model — the Xperia Z3 — actually has 100mAh less power than its slightly older brother, the Xperia Z2, which we checked out earlier in the year.

We’re not exactly sure what Sony is doing in the battery optimisation department, but whatever it is, it needs to keep it up because this is one phone that astounds, demolishing other 5 inch phones it competes with in battery life.

Battery usage with light to moderate usage will see two days. Pretty impressive.

Mobile broadband performance also manages a solid score, with a Category 4 LTE modem found in this handset, capable of pulling in downloads speeds up to 150Mbps, while uploads can net as high as 50.

Testing in Sydney, we weren’t able to achieve the full 150Mbps, but did get close on the Telstra 4GX network, with a speed as high as 130Mbps.

That’s pretty good, and while every network will yield different results, if you’re using 4G, you should be happy.

You’ll also be pleased with what the camera can do, and since the modules are more or less identical from the Xperia Z3 to the Xperia Z3 Compact, we’re not surprised by the former’s ability to match the latter in our testing.

In this phone, you’ll find a 20 megapixel shooter producing 8 megapixel images on the back, often resulting in images with decent low-light results and spectacularly solid daylight samples.

Sample image from the Sony Xperia Z3's camera

With the sun out, the camera handles its own, resulting in pictures that are more than suitable for uploading to social networks, while printing is also possible, and even when the lights drop and night sets in, the camera’s night-time mode produces some decent imagery with only a modest amount of blur.

Overall, it makes for one of the best smartphone cameras you’re likely to see, and is also helped by the inclusion of a shutter button, which sits on the right edge at the furthest point (lowest right edge if you hold your phone upright), making it easy to attain focus lock and firing without touching the screen.

Sample image from the Sony Xperia Z3's camera

That shutter button also means you can load the camera from standby simply by holding the button down, which means you can go from your pocket to taking pictures in a second, which is great news for when you need to take a photo in a pinch.

And just like how the Compact featured some playful modes, some of which can be downloaded, the Z3 supports these too, catering to Ultra HD 4K video, augmented reality, slow motion video, creative effects, panoramas, and more.

Like the Xperia Z3 Compact — which we checked out before its big brother — there’s a lot going for the bigger Z3, which we’re beginning to call the Z3 Major because of its size difference. It’s well built, lasts a while in action, boasts water and dust resistance, has a great camera and solid multimedia support, can play a PlayStation 4 if you have one in the home, and generally feels like an all-round excellent smartphone.

Those larger bezels on the top and bottom are still there around the screen, and while it’s not necessarily a design we adore, it is at least a very Sony thing at the moment, at least until the design big wigs at Sony decide something else should be there instead, like perhaps nothing at all.

In fact, there are only a couple of things we found wrong with the Z3, and neither of them are particularly large deal breakers.

The first of these stems from the design, and that is, well, it’s a slippery phone.

Take two panels of glass, some softened aluminium sides with a slight curve, and throw the guts of a smartphone in between, and then place it on surfaces with vibration on. What happens when the phone vibrates?

Well, quite frankly, it falls off the desk, or table, or night stand, as has happened with our Z3 during its test.

It’s slippery enough to fall off even without the vibrations, which it has done to us also, so make sure you put it somewhere length-wise or with a reasonable amount of space so it doesn’t move too much.

The specs are a little out of date, now that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 has rocked up with its Snapdragon 805, but the differences aren’t a huge life-changing deal, so we’re not exactly bent out of shape about this issue.

One other quibble is the heat, and if you make the processor do a lot — heavy games and what-not — this phone will get hot. It’s not a total surprise, mind you, and can happen with pretty much any phone, but it’s something to be aware of, as the glass simply doesn’t help here.

Sony's Xperia Z3 (left) next to the Xperia Z3 Compact (right).


In terms of all-round performance and feature packing, Sony’s Xperia Z3 is a slam dunk as far as smartphones go, packing in plenty of camera, multimedia, and gaming smarts in something still recognisable as a phone.

There is just so much here to love, from the top notch display to the premium materials to the excellent battery life and water resistance, and the phone is easily one of the best all year, if not the best.

This is our new phone. There, we said it.

Highly recommended.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Lovely build and finish that fits nicely in the hands; Water and dust resistance at IP68 certification; Unlike the Z3 Compact, the sides actually fit in well, boosting that water resistance; Great performance; Solid 4G speeds with Category 4 connectivity (150Mbps maximum); Excellent battery life; Can play the PlayStation 4 remotely if you have one; Supports high-resolution audio; Camera shoots 4K UHD video; Shutter button lets you start up the camera phone quickly; Supports Sony's magnetic proprietary dock, making it easy to charge while displaying the phone in a horizontal form facing you;
Very, very slippery -- it fell off our desks several times!; Can get a little hot; No infrared controller;