Sony Xperia Z3 hands-on: thinner, faster, bolder


Introduction


To no surprise, Sony announced its newest flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z3, at its IFA 2014 press conference. The phone was leaked extensively over the past few weeks, which is why we knew what to expect seeing at the event. Now, however, we're given the opportunity to spend some personal time with Sony's new gadget. Yup, it is hands-on time with the Sony Xperia Z3! 

Design


We have zero doubt that looks and feel have been top priorities for Sony's team of product designers. And they've once again done their job well – the Sony Xperia Z3 looks outstanding, as any premium phone should. Sony's new flagship follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by adopting a number of their staple design traits, including the metal-made frame and that awesome-looking glass back. The result is a gorgeous phone that's neither too similar to, nor too different from the previous Sony high-ends. And don't be worried about fingerprints ruining the look of that glass back we just mentioned. The surface's coating ensures that little to no finger smudge stays on the phone's surface.

Oh, and did we highlight that the Sony Xperia Z3 is just 7.3 millimeters (0.28 inches)  thick? Yup, and this makes it the thinnest Android flagship ever produced by the company. Adding the extra-rounded corners to the mix produces a phone that's quite comfortable to grasp. It's also a bit smaller and lighter than the Z2, and its dimensions now sit at 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm (5.74 x 2.83 x 0.28) and the device weighs 152 grams (5.36 ounces). At the same time, making the Z3 smaller, thinner, and lighter, hasn't negatively impacted Sony's ability to put a generous battery inside it. The Z3 packs a 3100mAh battery, which is only about 3% smaller than the Z2's 3200mAh cell. 

As is now typical for Sony's high-end models, the Xperia Z3 is resistant to dust and water damage – a notable perk that few other phones can brag with. It carries an IP65/68 rating, to be more specific, which means that it can withstand being submerged in fresh water at up to 1.5 meters and for up to 30 minutes, and also withstand low-pressure jets of water shot at it. Another feature making the Z3 stand out ahead of its competitors is the set of front-facing stereo speakers. They are a valuable asset, there's no denying that, but their openings seem to somewhat spoil the look of the phone's front side, and we weren't told if any improvements have taken place over the implementation in the Z2.

Around the sides of the Sony Xperia Z3 we have the usual set of buttons – a well-exposed power key resides on the right side, along with a volume rocker and a 2-stage camera shutter. The microUSB port is on the left, together with Sony's proprietary docking port. Flaps protect the phone's microSD and SIM card slots, ensuring that no water or dust reaches any of the circuitry inside. A 3.5-millimeter headphone jack is placed on the handset's top edge.

Lastly, Sony is finally changing things up in terms of color – the usual palette of just black and white now also includes copper and silver green. A purple-colored Z3 is nowhere to be found, however.

Display


Like it or not, things here have been pretty much left unchanged. The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with a screen that's very similar to the one on the Z2, with the same diagonal size of about 5.2 inches and identical resolution of 1080 by 1920 pixels for a pixel-per-inch figure of 424 PPI. Also, the screen is still of the IPS LCD variety and features the usual set of Sony's proprietary technologies, including TRILUMINOS and the X-Reality display engine. These are supposed to improve color representation and help the screen produce sharper, clearer images, but we won't know until we have a chance to test the screen properly. Still, there's one thing that has been improved – the screen's brightness output. Sony claims that the panel is its brightest TRILUMINOS display for mobile, so we're expecting to see a sizable improvement in this area. To the naked eye, the screen looks bright and vivid even under the powerful projectors installed in the hall, but again, our measurements will show how bright the panel can really get.

Interface


The latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat update – that's what the Xperia Z3 is loaded with. Obviously, Sony's proprietary Xperia theme is loaded on top of it, and it is as light and simple as ever.

Indeed, Sony is among the last-standing manufacturers to keep to a mostly stock-looking and feeling layout, meaning that there's no excess of extra features and little clutter. Oh, and no interface lag – you'd think we've moved on from having to mention this, but that's not really the case with all flagships just yet. The list of goodies includes a number of different-colored themes, STAMINA mode (prolongs battery life), and xLOUD and ClearPhase tweaks for better loudspeaker and in-call quality.

Lastly, and to answer a question that is likely on your mind – we don't yet know when Sony will update the Xperia Z3 to Android L, but we're plenty sure the update will make it to Sony's new hardest-hitter.

Processor and memory


The Sony Xperia Z2 was already a beast when it came to hardware specs, but there was still a little bit of room left for improvement. The gap has been filled now with a faster SoC, namely Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801, model MSM8974-AC. The chip packs a quad-core Krait 400 CPU with a 2.5GHz maximum clock speed and an Adreno 330 graphics processor. On a side note, the very same SoC powers a number of other high-end phones, including the LG G3, the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the HTC One (E8)

Now, you should keep in mind that while the Z3 will be one of the most powerful smartphones around thanks to its Snapdragon 801 SoC, it won't be the top performer of them all. Handsets, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, featuring the even faster Snapdragon 805 are already on their way to consumers. Should you care? Not really. The Z3's hardware specification is still top-notch and should stay relevant for at least of couple of years from now on. 

The amount of RAM you get with the Sony Xperia Z3 is 3GB, just like the case was with the Z2. Again, that's plenty of memory – enough to handle some serious multitasking. And as far as storage goes, you'll get a choice of two models – one with 16GB and one with 32GB, both with the option to add extra gigs (up to 128) by sliding in a microSD card. 

Camera


A 20.7MP auto-focus camera with a single LED flash – that's what you get with the Sony Xperia Z3. And yes, this is the same 1/2.3'' Exmor RS sensor that we know from the Z2 and the Z1 flagships, but the camera is not at all without improvement. For example, Sony's proprietary G Lens are now wider at 25 mm (vs 27 mm in the Z2). This would allow you to fit more in a single frame without having to step back. All in all, knowing how capable Sony's 20.7MP snapper already is, we're excited to see what the new combo can do, and not at all complaining.

Besides, the software is no less important in determining whether a photo would turn out good or not, Sony has obviously done some work in that regard. For example, the company's SteadyShot tech that compensates for hand shake during video capture has been apparently improved, and the company has also added a number of new features. Those include Multi-camera and Face in (shoot video/take a picture with front and back camera simultaneously), AR Fun (draw over images), and Sound Photo (photos with... sound). Plus, Sony brags that its snapper can now reach ISO of 12800, which is impressive, we must say, but only real-life images will confirm whether or not such high sensitivity would produce usable results.

Price, release date, expectations


So there you have it! The Sony Xperia Z3 is here and it rocks even though it is but a minor upgrade over the Xperia Z2. But when is it coming, and how much would you have to pay, and is it going to be worth it?

Well, in typical Sony fashion, specifics are essentially non-existent. Sony limited itself to just vaguely pointing out that we should expect a global roll out in autumn, though that's not much to go on. As for price, Son was again mum, but we're fairly sure the Z3 will follow the pricing model of the Z2 – between €599 and €699 in Europe without a contract, and, if it ever gets to the States, around $750 contract-free. But, hey, who knows? Perhaps Sony will surprise us all, and finally work a deal with US carriers.

As for whether you should be excited about the Xperia Z3 if you're in the market for a flagship, we see no reason not to. Sure, if you already own the Xperia Z2, it would be hard to justify a new purchase, but if you don't – the Z3 is certainly looking amazing and is likely one of the best picks right now, especially if Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 does nothing for you.

Related phones

Xperia Z3
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3100 mAh(14h talk time)

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29 Comments

1. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Surprisingly it packs quite an outdated 801chip considering there's already 805 available in the market. Sadly the Z3 is outdated even before its launch.

3. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

The difference is minimal. But I agree it's weird it doesn't pack 805 it should even just for the fact that it's the latest model

25. XaErO

Posts: 353; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

I believe, the difference is noticeable .. may be not much in performance .. but there is a significant improvements in battery efficiency (SD805 is 20% more efficient) and also in the graphics (SD805 comes with Adreno 430) ..

6. kaleo

Posts: 6; Member since: Sep 03, 2014

who cares? D snapD 801 is fast enough, samsung 805chipset doesn't make prev. chipsets mediocre esp. d 801. Perhaps when d speed of both flagships are compared, there would be little to no difference.

10. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Yes but the 801 is STILL pretty good, I mean the difference between the 805 & the 801 are minimal. Now if you were talking between a 801 & a 810 would would have a point. Also Sony made other improvements in the camera, & in the dual speakers. For me personally if I were looking for a non phablet phone, this would be it. It bests the S5 and anything else. I really like the Z3 Tablet though... that is super sweet!

11. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I am liking the Z3 tablet compact as well... Want to get one of those :D the fact it is water resistance just makes the tablet even better.

28. ILikeBubbles

Posts: 525; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

regardless of anyone's complaints... (i'm talking about the compact here) it's the ONLY moderatley sized phone on the market with decent specs. anything else is people just complaining because they can. you find me another 4.5-4.7" phone with these specs. good luck. :)

18. rkoforever90

Posts: 459; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

it dont have quad hd display like the sd805 carrying phones ,

22. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

yes it is. think the Z1 will be my last SONY PHONE my next one will be the NOTE SERIES. Plus they never change or update their UI.

2. bossthatruth

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

how is it outdated and the 801 came out this year just because its not as powerful as the 805 doesnt mean anything 801 is perfectly fine to get the job done people are just obsessed with the bigger number as long as it fairs well in real world performance who cares.

4. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

That's what I'm thinking.... I agree

5. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

They'll both be very outdated once the 810 hits the market regardless. I don't see much point for the 805, to be honest.

17. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

the question is if you can pack better processor with better efficiency why not?

23. jeeta444

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 24, 2014

Dont bother them, these all saying about s805 are plastic fans. S805 + QHD = s801 +1080p

7. Feanor

Posts: 1379; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Looks very generic and monolithic in comparison to the older Z phones. Disappointed with new Sony design direction.

8. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered

Sony's phones always look better than Samsung's and Im very sure it will be fine with the snapdragon 801........like I mention before what company do you like more? That's the question...if Sony then ride with them if sammy then with them....for me I don't care how updated Samsung is with the latest and greatest.....I still won't pick up a galaxy over an Xperia....# loyalty...... #these consumers ain't loyal #lol

14. T.Law

Posts: 423; Member since: May 10, 2014

Being loyal to a brand is stupid. I know what I'm talking about, I used to be loyal to Nokia.

9. dil2abu

Posts: 315; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

I agree with you.. I am just like you, I don't care how updated other oems are, I prefer only Xperia.. Sony Make.believe

12. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

At least Sony could change the UI. But who cares, that cooper color is great

13. hockc17

Posts: 13; Member since: Apr 01, 2014

I see and hear that it's coming to the US on T-Mobile, which is great for me lol I have the Z1s and was sad I couldn't get the Z2, but since it will be released this autumn just in time for my upgrade I'll be happy! And I agree the 801 vs. 805 is minimal and the 805 is made to handle qHD displays better but I'll be happy with the 801.

15. zpaul2fresh8

Posts: 19; Member since: Mar 27, 2013

Honestly I'm disappointed in Sony, this is not much different than the Z2 I already have. Note 4 isn't much to me without water proofing... I guess I'll just wait until the next batch of phones are announced :-(

16. Bioload25

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

The black one looks so much better than the white one.....-.-'

19. Adi87

Posts: 8; Member since: Jul 24, 2014

Seriously people get a life..!!! Who cares whether it is snapdragon 801 or 805 chipset. At the end of the day all we would be doing is twittering, Facebook, instagram and whatsapp. No body is going to do programming on their mobile phones.

20. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

But still more of the same. It's like a ZS from 2012. Well, it should be at least.

24. jeeta444

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 24, 2014

ok,then you dont buy this.

21. sunnyfpy

Posts: 288; Member since: May 12, 2013

Not much improvement ,give 801,805,810 chipset a miss!

26. jessychiao

Posts: 3; Member since: Sep 04, 2014

nice phone but a bad phone

27. Elusivellama

Posts: 73; Member since: Aug 26, 2014

Not a QHD screen - thank goodness. 1080p is here to stay until they sort out all of the issues with QHD panels, including battery drain / brightness / overheating / etc. Also it's IPS LCD, not AMOLED - another big plus. It also comes with 32gb internal memory as an option, plus the magnetic charging / data pins on the side can be adapted to a magnetic charging cable (there are a few on monoprice or dealextreme, or you can buy an attachment from a company called Deff (clove UK distributes these) - no need to fiddle with micro USB, just place it and let go.

29. Fellwalker

Posts: 538; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

Oh no, your no 14 photo showing a glass back killed it for me. That was the only part of my nexus 4 that broke, and I'd never broken a phone before. A seriously big mistake by Sony.

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