Oooh it is thinner and ….. um … lighter.
That is what most people who pick up the new Z3 will say. Beyond that there are few visible cues to the fact that they are holding a newer phone. For the phone aficionados (like us) we will pick up the obvious changes between this and the older version. So let’s spend some time going around the device and taking in those monumental changes in design.
Design and Feel
First things first. If you like Sony’s Omni-balance design language then you will not be disappointed here as this is a fundamental aspect of the phones form. The edges are ever so slightly more curved than the previous gen Z2 and this is something that has been happening as the Z range has evolved and grown over time.
At the top we still have the uncovered 3.5mm headset port and a mic. Moving around to the right hand side we have the flap that is covering a nano SIM slot and a micro SD card slot and that’s capable of holding a 128GB card.
The flaps on both sides of the phone do feel a lot better this time around and they are like the rest of the phone – brushed aluminium – giving a premium feel to the device. Lower down this side is the now synonymous Xperia power button with the volume rocker and camera button below.
As always the camera button will allow a quick launch for the camera, it is also a 2 stage press allowing focus before taking the actual picture.
On the base there is nothing at all. The left side is dedicated to getting power into the phone either via the micro USB port under the last flap or the magnetic proprietary dock which can be bought separately. Those of you who bought a dock from previous gen devices will be pleased to know that it will work on the new phone as well (with the purchase of an adaptor from Sony).
Up front there is a very nice screen measuring 5.2” diagonal which supports 1080p with a PPI 424. The screen seems to be more vibrant that that of the Z2. What is different is how the speakers are now integrated into the screen this time around. Where the last ones where on the very top and bottom of the screen respectively. The new ones are embedded into the screen and have been halved in size, however initial usage suggest that there has been no reduction in volume output. This is a nice touch and the phone looks better for it, as it is more difficult for pocket debris to get caught in the slots.
On the back it is virtually identical to its predecessor as there have been no significant changes between models. The camera has been tweaked in that the sensor has got a wider angle lens and a higher ISO of 12800. Apart from that there is little difference in the camera hardware.
Underneath the lovely body the phone has had a bit of tweaking to bring it back up to date. We are now seeing a higher speed Snapdragon 801 with quad core 2.5ghz 400 krait processor and an Audrino 330 GPU, however we still have he same 3GB of RAM from last time. The battery is lower by 100mah at 3100mah this time around which is concerning but, as the battery was superb on the previous gen, I am not too worried.
It still retains all the other hardware goodies from its forerunner, 802.11 a,b,g WiFI, BT 4.0, LTE, HSPDA and GPRS radios. NFC is built for future contact-less payments and quick pairing with the ever increasing range of accessories. GPS and GLONASS are supported for all your location requirements.
What I will say is if you have used an Xperia device in the last year everything is very familiar here. In fact it is virtually identical to the Z2 bar a few additional camera functions that are potentially coming to the Z2 very soon. There has been one big change to the look of the UI and this is something that I personally don’t like. Sony have made the icon size much bigger than that of the Z2 and previous handsets. The reason for this is to make it more like a Google Experience device so, although well intended, I just don’t like it as it feels cluttered and cramped. I don’t know how James is finding it on the Z3 Compact but if I find it cramped im guessing he will be the same. This is however something that can at least be easily addressed by changing to a new Launcher.
Here is a brief video showing what I mean recorded using the awesome screen record function built into the phone.
The usual Google Android features are here. Your life will be sync’d with the cloud. You contacts, appointments and email will instantly appear and you can choose from many, many different apps in the Google Play store to suite your needs.
Sony have also worked with Google to make sure that Chromecast is now supported natively to the whole Z3 range which is a brilliant addition.
All the icons on the homescreen can be moved and adjusted to fit your requirements and widgets can be dropped in too.
This is a quality handset which oozes style and has a premium feel. The Z3 is a lot lighter and easier to hold that the Z2 but, as Leigh stated when he looked at the HTC One M8, if you already have the Z2 you’d be fine to hang on to it.
The Z3 has great battery life and is very powerful. It’s up there with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8. It has a great design, good camera and is fully waterproof along with excellent audio. Although there’s a number of Sony services getting “pushed” in the phone, it’s no worse than other handsets I’ve reviewed. Overall, a top quality phone which doesn’t disappoint.