Sony’s latest 2014 flagship mobile the Xperia Z3 seems to be one of the hottest phones to be beat to date, launched just ahead of the much anticipated Apple iPhone 6. Does this sleek looking mobile match up in functionality to its beauty?
The Z3 feels wonderfully light in the hand and easy to handle at a relatively lightweight 152g.
With the quiet elegance of Sony’s Omnibalance design language, the Z3 feels smooth to hold with an aluminum frame sandwiched by the front and back glass. There is nary a hard edge for a comfortable grip at all sides.
One thoughtfully added design feature would be the nylon-like corners which functions like a bumper of sorts to cushion any drops. Sony discovered that most phones were most likely to land on their corners on accidental drops and added this feature as result.
However the glass surfaces; rumored to be Gorilla Glass 3, do not give the greatest of confidence in hardiness and seem prone to scratches. The glass might seem a bit too smooth to hold with hardly any traction resulting in a slippery feel and wanted slips out of the hand.
Rated to the IP65/68 standards, the Z3 is dust and water-proof to a certain extent. You are able to operate the phone up 1.5m depth of water for 30mins. Sony’s product literature states that this applies only to fresh water.
Not something you would want to go swimming with in the open sea.
All this is made possible by the flaps which cover the microUSB, microSD and nanoSIM slots. In addition, exposed grooves such as the headphone jack, microphones and speakers are apparently waterproofed by the clever use of atmospheric pressure difference to keep water out.
However the curious blend of delicate materials such as glass (breakable) and aluminum (bendable) juxtaposed with the waterproof functionality of the Z3 seems to go against the hardy outdoorsy kind of phone it wants to be.
Under the hood of the Z3, Sony has packed in the Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5 GHz. It performs tasks without missing a beat, humming along with a silky smooth performance despite not having a top of the range processor. Applications switch back and forth seamlessly. Coupled with very generous 3GB of RAM, Chrome browser refreshes were absent with over 30 tabs open.
The internal storage provided is a measly 16GB. Despite the added microSD card support of up to 128GB; this is something to worry about given that as of Android KitKat, Google has disabled the moving of apps to external card storage and gamers might find themselves in a tight spot with space hungry app store downloads.
One of the most striking features of the Z3 would be the amazing 1080p IPS LCD 5.2-inch screen. Contrast for colours are eye-popping with very inky blacks. 1080p videos were a pure joy to watch on the lovely 5.2-inch 1920×1080 resolution display.
Reading under bright sunlight was not an issue as the maximum screen brightness was astounding. With a 424 PPI pixel density, working on documents and reading web pages was hardly a strain on the eyes.
This is definitely the kind of phone you would want to watch your movies on a plane with instead of being stuck with the outdated 4:3 screens in cattle class.
A 3100 mAh battery coupled with a slew of power-saving software features, this phone was able to last us more than a day despite the non-stop heavy usage thrown at it.
Sony’s clever stamina mode turns off your phone’s data connection when the screen is off resulting in more than 20% battery life at the end of the day for us.
The sound coming out of the dual front facing speakers seemed promising at first, until you bump it up to the maximum.
Everything starts to sound rather distorted and the phone body starts to vibrate strongly in your hand, a trifle irritating if you’re holding it for a long time. Place it on a flat surface and it starts to rattle itself all over, something to be aware of if you intend to place it near the edge of a tabletop lest it rocks and rattles itself off.
One of the headline features of this phone would be the 20.7 megapixel sensor camera with a wide-angle 25mm lens. The lens had a ‘G’ lens badge to it, meaning it belongs to the premium range. You would expect photos taken to be of top of line quality and performance to it.
This is not the camera you would want if you would like to shoot from the hip, take a quick picture to capture the moment and back to the pocket it goes. The auto focus seems frustratingly slow for a flagship model.
So expect your photos to be a hit or miss affair if you choose the default Superior Auto mode (8-megapixel downscaled) that the Z3 camera app offers. Most of the time details seem to be blurry and muddy if the ambient light is less than sun-lit. Once in a while, it will surprise you with shockingly good quality pictures but don’t count on it. Autofocus proved to be frustratingly slow as well when you want to shoot from the hip.
Hardly the low-light powerhouse it’s touted to be as well. Details once again are turned to mush by Sony’s in-camera postprocessing software in what seems to be an attempt to remove all traces of grain and noise.
Our review unit’s camera got too hot, unceremoniously insisting on shutting down and cool itself off. No taking pictures until it’s happy to shoot once again. This issue reared it’s ugly head once again in 4K video recording.
To buy or not?
If you are looking for a phone that is the perfect media consumption device, look no further than the Sony Z3. Be it listening to music, watching videos or enjoying social media, one couldn’t ask for a better phone to be stuck with all day. Unfortunately Sony’s 2014 flagship model’s road to perfection is met with a minor speed bump in form of a disappointing camera.