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Sony Xperia Z3 review

Michael Sawh




Our Score:


User Score:


  • Sharp, vibrant display
  • Massive battery life
  • Slick overall performance
  • Hi-Res Audio support


  • Still some overheating issues
  • No PS4 Remote Play yet
  • Too much Sony bloatware

Originally reviewed on 9 October 2014

Update 22/06/2015: The Sony Xperia Z3 has been with us for nine months, but it is still the formidable flagship we once knew? When it comes to the performance, our Z3 is still running power-hungry apps without issue, and the camera is as good as ever. The once-interminable battery life has dropped off a bit now though, so you’re looking at about one day’s use. Also, the Micro USB flap refuses to tuck in anymore – goodbye, waterproofing.

That said, the price has fallen significantly from when we first reviewed it. You can now purchase the Xperia Z3 brand new for around £360, which is a big drop from the original £525 tag. By contrast, you can currently get the iPhone 6 for £470, the LG G3 for £260, or the HTC One M8 for £305. The Xperia Z3 is pricy for an ailing Android smartphone, but it’s still a cheaper proposition than Apple’s latest handset.

Don’t forget that Sony runs a 6-month release cycle for its smartphones, so the Sony Xperia Z3+ has just launched here in the UK. That’s retailing over at Clove for £400 right now. If you’ve got a Z3, don’t bother upgrading, but those with older phones will want to consider the sequel if you’re looking for a new device – the price difference is a mere £40.

Here’s the bottom line: the Sony Xperia Z3 is still a great phone, but you can get the equally impressive LG G3 for £100 less. It’s also been superseded by the Z3+, so it’s not even Sony’s flagship anymore. It’s a good phone if you can bag one cheap on eBay, but we can’t recommend it as new.

Related: Sony Xperia Z5 vs Z4 vs Z3: What can you expect if you upgrade?

What is the Sony Xperia Z3?

Sony seems intent on sticking to its crazy-short phone refresh cycle, with the Xperia Z3 arriving just six months after its predecessor, the Xperia Z2. Sony's latest Android-powered flagship, The Xperia Z3 lands alongside the Z3 Tablet Compact and the Xperia Z3 Compact, to complete the Z3 family. Given its speedy turnaround, the question is how much could Sony improve? The answer, not a great deal, it seems.

For looks, it’s not a radical departure from the Z2, though the body is svelter and lighter. Power’s been increased a little, there have been some improvements with the camera, and with an upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop it should prove to be even slicker still. The best news is that all of the things that made the Z2 so great, such as the superb screen, lengthy battery life and super-fast performance have all remained.

As you'd expect of a flagship, this is the best Sony phone yet, and despite the small improvements, the Xperia Z3 manages to keep pace with the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3 and the iPhone 6. If you own an Xperia Z2, or even a Z1 though, you may be best served holding out for later this summer, when its successor, the Xperia Z4, is pencilled in to arrive.

We sincerely hope the Xperia Z4 makes a more momentous leap forward.

Need help choosing a new phone? Read our Mobile Phone Buyer's Guide

Watch our Sony Xperia Z3 video review

Sony Xperia Z3 – Design

There’s still the same combination of glass and aluminium with features like front-facing speakers and the camera sensor positioned at the back. At 7.3mm thick, it’s slimmer than the Z2 but not quite as svelte as the iPhone 6. It weighs 10g less than the Z2, not that you are really going to notice. What is more evident is the narrower frame, making it better suited for one-handed use.

It’s available in black, green, white and copper, the latter of which we had the pleasure of pulling out of our pocket. It’s actually not as garish or tacky as it first seems and is a colour that kind of grows on you.

The anodised aluminium finish has a very iPhone 6-look about it until you flip it over and see the glass rear. It might look nice, but it has irritating habit of slipping off sofa arms and pretty much any soft, not totally flat surface you leave it on. The S5’s dimpled back and even the all-metallic One M8 offers a more reassuring feel.

SEE ALSO: Best Smartphones Round-up

Z3 final 6

The corners are curvier, too, which ought to make it more comfortable to hold. It doesn't. Why? Because on every edge you your hand rests there's a button, a vanity seal or a charging dock. Buttons are at least well placed and thinner and while there’s nothing else out there like the Z3, we’d say the iPhone 6 and the One M8 have the more attractive, less fussy design.

One thing those two phones lack, however, is the Z3’s resistance to dust and water. Sony has moved up to a higher IP68 certification, which means as long as the latches covering the charging port and nano SIM card slot are closed, you can now dunk it into water for up to 1.5 metres for thirty minutes.

Those latches guarding the micro USB charging port, nano SIM and micro SD card slot feel more robust than the ones on previous Xperia Z handsets and should hopefully do a better job of keeping those vital internals protected.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Phones Round-up

Xperia Z3

SEE ALSO: Sony Xperia Z3 vs Z2: Should you upgrade?

Sony Xperia Z3 – Screen

Sony hasn’t budged from the 5.2-inch IPS LCD scren from the Z2. That means 424 pixels per inch (ppi) and it is still one of the sharpest, most pleasing phone screens around. It's also a bigger screen than the S5, the One M8 and the iPhone 6, although the G3 is still out in front with its 5.5-inch display. Some might be disappointed it’s not a 2K display like LG’s flagship, but this still a fantastic screen.

It’s not all entirely the same in terms of performance, either. One thing you instantly notice is how much brighter it is. Crank it up to the max and this is one of the brightest phones we’ve seen, especially compared to the S5 and the One M8. Coupled with the adaptive display mode where brightness is automatically adjusted depending on the environment, it’s well equipped for outdoor use.

The strategy to borrow screen technology from its Bravia TV range continues to pay off as well. Adopting Triluminous, X-Reality for Mobile and Live Colour LED display technology, images are still immensely sharp, with strong contrast and accurate colours. Unlike traditional LCD displays, Sony uses blue LED as opposed to white ones to produce the more colourful, vivid images. In the bright outdoors, you can actually see the blue LED array.

If there's a criticism it's that colours can look slightly oversaturated, but this can be addressed in the display settings. Adjust the white balance and turn on or off the X-Reality for mobile and Super-vivid modes the image enhancement menu and you get slightly less overcooked colours.

Running a Full HD version of the Interstellar trailer on the Z3, the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S5, the Z3 still holds up exceptionally well. Faces look natural, viewing angles are strong and whites are nice and bright. Where it lacks in comparison particularly to the S5’s AMOLED display is the deep blacks that make Samsung’s better suited for watching films. That minor gripe aside, this is still a top quality smartphone display.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


October 9, 2014, 11:40 am

>> but if you value power and battery life then this is a good phone for you.

I would think if you value the IP68 rating it could be good too, after getting my HTC One M7 wet and having to send away to get repaired, the Sony looked like a potential buy.

But, the overheating issue is very/very/very..../bad.. What would worry me here is how the overheating will also be damaging the phone internals, even with overheat protection. Technology and overheating don't go well together, as Microsoft found out with the 360, and with that in mind I'm really surprised Sony have this issue.

Oh well, it's now down too HTC Butterfly 2, Galaxy Note 4, and maybe the IP6+.

The HTC Butterfly 2, seems a good option as you get ip57 protection without the flaps, of course not as good as ip68 here. But something just keeps pulling me towards the Note 4.


October 9, 2014, 2:21 pm

> "No PS4 Remote Play yet"

How can this be a negative point?!
What phones actually do have PS4 Remote Play?


October 9, 2014, 3:10 pm

Because it's supposed to be a feature of the phone. If you were considering the phone for this feature, it's kind of pointless until it's actually there.


October 11, 2014, 6:28 pm

why not get a one plus one or the Huawei phone just reviewed here, both much cheaper than those in our list


October 29, 2014, 7:22 pm

How can you give the Xperia Z3 a score of 8/10, yet you give both iphones a 9/10. When everybody knows that Apple are about 2 years behind other manufacturers as regards specs. Apple have taken near on 2 years just to catch up with screen size, yet they are applauded for the fact now that they have big screened phones. The screen on the iphone is 326ppi, come on that's a joke, & not even a 1080p screen, & you can tell the difference believe me. All the iphone is, just a slightly bigger more of the same, & yet you reviewers drool over them. The Xperia Z3 is up to the minute in specs, & there is no restrictions, you can tweek away as much as you want. Yet, below you criticise the Z3 for the "no PS4 remote play yet", because it's a feature. Apple pay is a feature on the iphones, yet it's not functional yet, however, the iphone is applauded yet again for this feature. This is blatant favouritism towards Apple, however you may try & defend yourselves you cannot. The iphone rocks when you put it flat on a table, if that was any other phone it would be slated, & points deducted, yet it's acceptable, just because it's an iphone. They haven't even boosted the mega pixels on the camera, but they don't need to, they're Apple & can get away with it. And I know about the mega pixel argument, photography is part of my work. To be fair to Sony, the Xperia Z3 wipes the floor with both iphones, all you need to do is read the spec sheets. And where you get the to much Sony bloatware I will never know, fair do's to Sony, they are one of the few manufacturers who do not play to much with Android, Samsung are guilty yes. My youngest son has the Motorola Moto G, compared to my wife's iphone 6, as regards screen etc there is no difference, the line between iphone specs & low end Android are becoming very blurred.


October 30, 2014, 1:44 pm

I have personally tested the overheating issue on the Sony Xperia Z3, & I have absolutely no issue whatsoever. However hard you work it, there is no sign of any heat build-up. Where they get this issue here is beyond me.


October 30, 2014, 1:50 pm

And where do you get the overheating issue? I have trounced the Z3 to oblivion, taking photos, & shooting hours of video, even 4K video, with no heat build up at all. There is no way the iphone 6 should be considered over this phone, this is on a different planet. The HTC One M8, Samsung G5, could be considered, but not the LG G3. All though the LG has a stunning screen, & nicely built, but it's not quite up there with the big three.

Michelle Leong

November 5, 2014, 3:30 am

I guess i need some help i just start to use Sony Xperia Z3 3days ago and i'm a Samsung user switch to Sony Xperia then i found out why the Walkman player when the song is play but din show out any lyrics??? I still very confuse now ;/


November 11, 2014, 6:06 pm

You are criticising the Xperia Z3 as the "PS4 Remote Play" isn't functional yet. The reason being, that Sony say it's a feature. However, Apple is being applauded for including "Apple Pay" in both iphone 6's, yet, this feature is not functional either. At least "PS4 Remote Play" is functional now on the Xperia Z3, as I have been using mine, & it works great. And as for the Iphone's, Apple have no idea when "Apple Pay" will be available either in Europe nor the USA. I would very much appreciate if you would be so kind as to explain, why one is criticised & the other applauded.


December 13, 2014, 2:40 am

Please DO NOT GET THIS PHONE. I've had it for 1 month and used it to snap photos of my son swimming in the pool. The waterproofing is a sham. It failed after 20 minutes in non-continuous water immersion despite ensuring the flaps were firmly flushed with the chassis. I suspect the weak flaps slowly gave way during the course of usage - major design flaw. Sony refused to provide repair warranty. So, BUYERS BEWARE!


December 31, 2014, 1:09 pm

If you judge everything by specs on paper and now how seamlessly they work in perfection, then why bother looking at sample pictures at all?


Joey Keen

December 31, 2014, 1:10 pm

If you judge everything by specs on paper and not now how seamlessly they work together, then why bother looking at sample pictures or reviews at all? Just go look at the numbers then.



January 19, 2015, 8:50 pm

Wow! Name calling now, that's just my opinion, keep calm!!

Joey Keen

January 19, 2015, 10:00 pm

Okay I keep calm :)


January 29, 2015, 4:57 am

Well, mostly because apple has better reputation and has done a better job in advertising the phones. Spec-wise apple is not worth the dollar. for the average person who isn't really good with tech, they tend to trust apple, just because its easy to use. Yet ATM android is just as good and is probably a better choice, considering how common the iphone is.


January 29, 2015, 5:00 am

So the IP rating is incorrect? well, might as well try the S5 at the pool. So what happens when that fails?


January 29, 2015, 5:02 am

You could always cool it in water ;)

Niklai Sanji Langez

March 3, 2015, 5:07 pm

What is worse: if you get a fault on the phone and you have a crack in the screen you will HAVE TO get a new screen regardless of its usability, since its not considered "waterproof" (which its not) and you will have to pay 200£ for that new screen, since the repair warranty wont pay for the screen. They will not fix the phone unless they can deliver it with a warranty. Soooo screw SONY and its fucking warranty.. Never going to get a Sony phone ever again.

Damien Fitri Gagne

March 23, 2015, 7:15 am

Mine cracked within 2 months. I agree with you!

Damien Fitri Gagne

March 23, 2015, 7:16 am

Same here brother


April 18, 2015, 4:13 pm

so pissed with the camera quality! its disgusting to have blurred photos most of the time! my very old s2 phone take better photos!


July 11, 2015, 4:50 pm

I have had my phone now for two months. My battery lasts two days. The battery life is absolutely amazing. I dont even have to have it in any type of battery saving mode. One time I ran the phone down to 14% and then imposed the battery saving mode it stayed at 14% for the two hours I had left at work. The UI is very neat and clean. The sound quality is very good but not quit as good as the HTC M8. All the comments about smashed screens are what they are. <<-- Handled by users who didnt take care of their phone. If you are surprised that the screen smashed when you drop or throw it then a phone with a large screen is not for you. The WiFi hot spot has the best range of all the phones I have owned to date. I just traded in a NOTE 3, HTC M8 and IPHONE 6+ for three Sony Z3's. The Iphone 6 at my house location only gets 1 bar of 4g and the Sony's get four full bars. The call quality is awesome. My Note 3 had the best quality for its day and the Sony easily bests the Note 3.

Camera quality is the best in its class. I closely compared pics form the S6, Note 4, Iphone 6+ and Sony Z3. All the camera features are loaded with the native OS on the Z3 where the other phones seemed to need downloads to make all the extra features work. Pictures are super crisp and clean on the Sony.

Professional feel of the phone is what makes it so comfortable. The phone is very thin, even with a case attached. Accessories are very cheap too. I highly recommend this phone to anyone that is a pro or novice in the cell phone world. Sony really took their time to craft this device

Ensure you update to Android 5.0.2 after getting your phone. This new OS is what gives the sony its long battery life. The OS loaded drains the battery at average speed but the new OS gives power management a real boost.

Denis Dean

January 13, 2016, 8:16 pm

After some time of usage, the Z3 demonstrates how cheap design and easy to break it is. Side cover of the charging USB compartment - 0 of 10 in quality. It gets either broken or damaged in few months, ruber wather proof is a joke, gets of after 4 months of usage and charging.
External lateral painting, black model has this painting through its laterals - 0 of 10 in quality. It gets easily scratched and after 6 months (using pad like protection cover) the parts of lateral side painting went of, scratched or depeeled. Camera, this is the worst of all in this phone. The back lens cover has a cheap plastic lens, terrible design, not covered in warranty and easily gets scratched or deformed. Not heat resistant, and gets also internally marked which leads to blurry photos. No fixing for this problem otherwise pay a lot of money in a repair shop, or do it yourself and loose completely the warranty. Do not buy this phone if you're looking for a robust and good added value smartphone. I will never more buy absolutely anything from Sony.


January 16, 2016, 9:38 pm

i thought i'm the only one who thought the camera is bad i have the z3c

Denis Dean

January 16, 2016, 10:21 pm

Yes, there are many people but in several websites of mobile phones review, all comments about that have been "deleted". I have made many, all gone. But when you ggle it, you can find several posts and people selling the glass vertion of the protetion lens in ebay, of course from China. Z3 is cheap crap. Never more.

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