"Oops, we did it again" should be Sony's slogan for the new Xperia Z3, as barely have six months passed since the Z2 introduction, and now we are getting a successor. Granted, the phone is not as futureproof as, say, the Note 4, which has a Snapdragon 805 processor, and a QHD display, but it doesn't have to be. Its main rivals will still be the spring crop of flagships, like the Galaxy S5, that's we pitted Samsung's finest, and the new Xperia Z3 against each other.
The Z3's dimensions are actually the biggest change from the Z2, at least on the surface, as the phone is listed with 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm, making it slightly shorter, narrower, and much slimmer than the Z2. Thus, the Z3 remains taller than the S5, but less wide, so the phones' one-handed operability is on par. What's not on par, however, is the design language, as the Galaxy S5 looks rather crude with its plastic dimpled battery cover, compared to the sleek 7.3mm tempered glass-and-steel unibody of the Xperia Z3, which on top of that sports a higher waterproof rating than the S5. Granted, Samsung counters with biometrics like a fingerprint scanner, embedded in the home key, and a heart rate sensor on the back, but those are an acquired taste, and not some indispensable advantage for now.
The Z3 screen remains a 5.2" 1080p Triluminos display, and Sony is now touting its ability to hit 600 nits of peak brightness, rivalling the Galaxy S5's 5.1" 1080p screen, which our test showed is one of the best in terms of outdoor visibility. Provided that Sony has kept screen reflectivity in check, the Z3 should be great for use outdoors, even in direct sunlight. As for the color representation, Sony usually has the upper hand, though in the gallery and video player the colors could look as gaudy as with the AMOLED panel on the S5, due to Sony's proprietary X-Reality engine.
Sony's Xperia interface has never been as complex as Samsung's TouchWiz, providing fewer unneeded options, and keeping the balance between stock Android looks, and a branded UI imagery. The Galaxy S5, on the other hand, sports a smorgasbord of options and functions like Air View and other modes, but its TouchWiz looks a bit ragtag, with different iconography design decisions in the different sections, making it look like a patchwork compared to the uniform Xperia UI.
Processor and memory
Both phones share the same processor - a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, but the Z3 offers 3 GB of RAM, whereas Samsung has kept Galaxy S5 making do with 2 GB only. Still, none of the handsets feels particularly underpowered compared to the other, and both offer a microSD slot for storage expansion.
Despite the highest camera resolution in the Android world, Sony's Xperia Z2 couldn't really do the 20 MP sensor justice, and scored lower than the S5 in our camera comparison tests. The new Xperia Z3 has the same sensor, but new G Lens kit, so hopefully Sony has significantly optimized the camera software to take advantage, otherwise the 16 MP shooter on the S5 will most likely still produce superior still shots and 4K video, when pitted against the Z3.
Sony Xperia Z3 vs Galaxy S5 - first look
Sony Xperia Z3 vs Galaxy S5 - first look
The Xperia Z3 upgrades only slightly on the Z2, but exactly where it counts to put it on an equal footing with Samsung's finest. Its screen brightness and processing power now rival or surpass those of the Galaxy S5, while its pretty unibody glass chassis is made even thinner, still keeping the higher waterproof rating. Samsung's phone, however, offers an excellent 16 MP rear camera, which could produce better results than the 20 MP shooter on the Z3, if our comparisons with the Z2 are any indication. Still, the pictures taken with the Z3 will more than likely be good enough, while its certainly looks more premium than the S5, so if you aren't using Samsung's biometric features like the fingerprint scanner or the heart rate sensor, the Z3 deserves your serious consideration, depending on the price difference with the S5.