Sony Xperia Z3: Solid, classy and pleasing

Sony Xperia Z3: Solid, classy and pleasing

First announced at Berlin IFA in September, Sony's new flagship smartphone Xperia Z3 is a beauty with impressive specs.

Measuring 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm and weighing 152g, the Xperia Z3 is 0.9mm thinner and 11g lighter than its predecessor, the Z2. It has a 5.2-inch full HD LED display which uses Sony's Triluminos technology to produce more vivid images on the 1920x1080 screen. The 2mm-thin bezel is a beautiful design element, but it can occasionally cause problems as your fingers can 'spill over' the edges when you hold the phone. That said, the generous display makes reading and viewing easy on the eye.

The Xperia Z3 is available in four colours - white, black, silver green and copper. Both the front and back cover are made of shatterproof glass, and impart a classy, glossy feel to the handset. However, I would strongly recommend getting a case for the phone as the glass casing can be a tad slippery. Although the phone is best used with both hands, one-handed operation is still possible.

By now, everyone would know that Sony's premium phones are water- and dust-resistant. The Xperia Z3 is IP65 and IP68 certified - you can swim in freshwater with the Z3 for up to half an hour without incurring water damage. Its water-resistance means you can take the occasional underwater shot in the pool - just make sure that all the phone's ports are securely closed first.

The Xperia Z3 runs Android 4.4 (Kitkat) on a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 chip. Apps load quickly and there is little lag when transitioning between screens and apps. The built-in 3 GB RAM is more than sufficient for typical users, and the phone's memory can be extended by a microSD card of up to 128 GB.

Like many other Android phones, the Z3 comes equipped with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity. This makes pairing with headsets and speakers a breeze. Pairing the Z3 with the Sony SBH80 Stereo Bluetooth Headset took mere seconds, and the sound quality was good for about an 8m radius.

The Xperia Z3 boasts Sony's 3D Surround Sound technology as well as its proprietary DSEE HX technology which upscales the quality of your compressed music files. This, according to its press release, "refines and restores the audio signal to recreate the subtle high-frequency harmonics that are typically lost in heavily compressed MP3 and AAC files". In our review, sounds were generally fuller and richer, although the differences were sometimes so subtle that it would take a true audiophile to appreciate them.

The Xperia Z3 boasts some of the most impressive specs for a smartphone camera. On paper, the 20.7 megapixel camera has almost twice the resolution of other smartphone cameras, which typically weigh in at 8MP or 13MP. It also boasts a top ISO speed of 12800 - meaning that it can capture more detail in low light conditions.

The default camera setting gives you 8MP in Sony's Superior Auto Mode, which is supposed to autodetect and apply the best settings for each shot. However, I found that this often produced less-than-stellar results, especially if you often take photos under low light or if you have shaky hands. Taking some time to go into Manual mode to select more appropriate settings (such as activating the 20.7MP resolution or selecting the "Hand-held twilight" mode) will usually give you much more pleasing shots.

That said, the Z3's camera is best-appreciated by users who like taking carefully composed and set-up photos. It performs less admirably when used to capture candid moments, as you would not have enough time to set the best camera mode.

One bugbear is that the battery tends to heat up quickly when you take multiple photos or videos. At times, the camera app would shut down completely - I presume this is an in-built safety feature of the Xperia Z3 to prevent overheating.

Sony claims that the Xperia Z3 has a battery life of two days - and that is without activating Stamina Mode. When activated, Stamina Mode can stretch the battery life to five days or more, depending on your phone's settings and usage. In my experience, the Z3's battery is indeed an improvement over its predecessors. With so-called 'normal activities' such as messaging, surfing the internet, playing music through a Bluetooth speaker and the occasional phone call, I could go for almost two straight days without charging the phone.

Speaking of charging, the Z3 allows for wireless charging via a magnetic dock. Simply place the phone into the charger, which doubles up as a video dock, and you can charge your phone while playing audio and video content on it at the same time.

Conclusion

The Xperia Z3 is a solid, classy premium phone that boasts excellent specs and generally pleasing performance. Its long battery life, vivid display, powerful camera and the 'just-right' screen size are major plus points.

The Xperia Z3 retails for a RRP of $998, without contract.

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