Sony Xperia Z3 vs Sony Xperia Z2: first look


It takes only a glimpse at our home page to learn that the Sony Xperia Z3 is now official. To figure out what exactly makes Sony's new flagship better than its predecessor, however, isn't quite as easy of a task. Luckily, we're perfectly fit for the job, having the Sony Xperia Z3 at our disposal. Here's how Sony's new high-end compares to the Sony Xperia Z2.


On one hand, the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Xperia Z2 have a lot in common. They both follow the same design principles, sporting a solid metal frame around the sides and a flat, stylish tempered glass panel covering the back. Both are resistant to dust and water damage and have stereo speakers. And the two look awesome, we must say, just as a contemporary high-end phone is supposed to. But on the other hand, there are several things that set the Z3 and Z2 apart. Sony's new flagship is thinner than its predecessor, and the difference is quite easy to notice when the two handsets are laid flat side by side. Also, the Xperia Z3 is narrower and has more rounded sides – traits that make it is a bit easier to grasp. At 152 grams, the Xperia Z3 is also a bit lighter than the 5.75 oz (163 g) Z2 slab. The arrangement of both phones' physical buttons is practically identical. On their right sides reside their power buttons, volume keys, and camera shutters. Their SIM and microSD card slots are protected by flaps to ensure that no dust or moisture gets inside of the phones. Speaking of moisture, the Z3 sports the same waterproof rating as the Z2, meaning you are able to dunk it in up to five feet (1.5m) of water with no regrets.


There's not a whole lot to say, folks, as the IPS LCD screens on the Sony Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z2 are nearly identical. They have the same diagonal size of about 5.2 inches and the same resolution of 1080 by 1920 pixels (424 PPI). The two screens exhibit pretty, popping colors and produce excellent details, with only the Z3 appearing slightly colder to the naked eye. Still, there is a large difference in the peak brightness regime between the two. Sony's newest Z3 touts 600 nits of brightness, which puts it on par with the best flagship displays out there in terms of outdoor visibility, as this output rivals the one of the Galaxy S5, which our screen tests pegged as top dog when it comes to visibility under bright sunlight.


Sony's Xperia interface has never been very complex, like, say, HTC's Sense, or Samsung's TouchWiz, providing fewer unneeded options, and keeping the balance between stock Android looks, and a branded UI imagery. The Z2 and Z3 have practically identical interface editions, so you won't have a learning curve if you are upgrading from the predecessing Xperia phone.

Processor and memory

When the Sony Xperia Z2 came out, it was one of the most powerful Android phones in town. And it still is a pretty capable handset, sporting a 2.3GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC, model MSM8974-AB. Still, the Sony Xperia Z3 is a step ahead when it comes to raw processing power. It has been equipped with the slightly faster Snapdragon 801 version, the quad-core MSM8974-AC, which can reach higher clock speeds. Yet the performance gap isn't huge and we don't see any major difference in the ways the two phones perform. As far as RAM is concerned, the two phones have the same amount at their disposal – a whopping 3 gigabytes. In other words, both are capable multitasking machines. 

You get at least 16GB of storage with the Sony Xperia Z3, exactly as much as the Z2 has to offer. Thankfully, one is free to use a microSD card with either to add up to 128 gigs extra.


If you were hoping for Sony to put a next-generation camera in the Xperia Z3, then you're in for a disappointment. The new flagship has a 20.7MP sensor with a single LED flash, and it appears to be identical to the one on the Xperia Z2. Therefore, the two phones should produce photos of the same quality, right? Well, not exactly. Sony is touting its new and improved G Lens optics adorning the Z3. As a result, the latter's camera has a wider field of view – when shooting from the same distance, the Z3 can cover a larger frame than the Z2. Another trick that the Xperia Z3 has tucked up its sleeve is the option to shoot in ISO 12800. Sounds impressive for a phone, but we're not quite sold yet and we won't be until we get to see some actual photo samples taken at such high sensitivity. Only a proper shootout will demonstrate whether the new mode is useful or not.


Given Sony's six-month flagship refresh cycle, we weren't expecting for the Sony Xperia Z3 to be much different from the Sony Xperia Z2. And our expectations were on the right track, as it turns out. At the surface, the Z3 brings along only some non-major design tweaks and a slight specs bump, which isn't enough to justify an upgrade from the Z2 to the Z3. Still, upon handling the two, we have to admit that the thin and light Z3 feels more elegant, and upgrades where it counts, with a sleeker frame, much brighter display, and a better camera kit. It is definitely a phone worth keeping an eye out for if you're on the look for a zero-compromise Android high-end handset.

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