Review Price to be confirmed

Sony Xperia Z3 Hands-on from IFA 2014

Sony is back with yet another flagship phone. The Sony Xperia Z3 comes just five months after the Xperia Z2 hit retailers, yet features only a few minor tweaks with which to set the devices apart. Boasting the same screen, same camera and same storage, the Z3 has little new to offer. That doesn’t mean it’s not an impressive handset in its own right, however.

Improved battery management sees the new phone go for two days on a single charge. Software tweaks make the phone’s camera better at shooting in low light, and PS4 games are now playable through the device.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3: Design

The Xperia Z3’s design is what you would expect from an iterative update. Slimmer, lighter but largely similar, the Z3 is a refinement more than a revolution.

Like its predecessors, the Z3 is IP65 and IP68 certified. To lay-folk that means dust resistant and waterproof for 30 minutes in up to 1.5 metres of water. This will be handy for those who take their phones into the wilds or are just a little accident prone. Newly reinforced corners and a tempered glass display (like Gorilla glass without Corning’s branding) further help the phone stand up to the rigours of daily use.

Sony Xperia Z3

As is the current trend high-end smartphones (think iPhone 5S and HTC One M8), the Z3 will come in a selection of metallic colours. Copper and ‘Silver Green’ colour schemes join the more traditional black and white options.

At 7.3mm thick and 153g in weight, the Z3 is particularly svelte. Despite this refined design, however, the phone doesn't feel unnervingly slight or fragile. Its glass back not only gives it an aesthetical edge over some plastic clad rivals, but helps the phone feel suitably robust and solid.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3: Screen

The Sony Xperia Z3’s screen is the same as that found on the Xperia Z2. A 5.2-inch panel with a 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD resolution, it is strong, familiar addition without being ground-breaking. Although Sony has overlooked an LG G3 rivalling QHD display, from our early play, we really don’t mind.

We found the display to be bright and detailed. Video playback was fluid and engaging, with strong black levels and bright, vibrant colours that really popped. It's bright, too, with a maximum 600 nits brightness that should help make it viewable in bright conditions.

That was my impression from the time I had with the Z3. Tested in bright, direct sunlight, artificial indoor lighting and dull, gloomy areas, the Z3’s screen looks sharp and stunning in all situations. There was no ghosting or motion lag while we watched clips from Spider-man and text was deliciously crisp when we viewed text documents and web pages.

Given the quality of the Sony Xperia Z3’s Full HD display, rivals’ jumps to QHD panels seem like negligible, battery destroying moves – we’re looking at the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 here.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3: Features and Camera

Hugely impressive visuals aside, the Xperia Z3 is no slouch on other fronts despite its marginal improvements.
Powered by the same 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor as found in the Galaxy S5, the Z3 has failed to kick on in the specs race.

As you would now expect, the usual array of 4G, NFC, Wi-Fi and low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity options feature on the new Z3. But despite the addition of stereo speakers, we were less than impressed with the Z3’s audio abilities during our hands-on time with the device.

The phone’s audio output is powerful but not that deep or clear. Audio felt artificially enhanced, overblown in parts and lacking in refinement in others. What’s more, at higher volume levels, the phone’s back suffered from irritating vibrations. This is something we'll look at more closely in our fill review.

Sony Xperia Z3

For those with heavy duty storage demands, the Z3’s 16GB internal storage can be enhanced by the addition of microSD cards up to 128GB.

This mass of storage will come in handy when utilising the phone’s newly enhanced camera.

Despite packing the same 20.7-megapixel sensor as its predecessor, the Z3 camera has a number of software improvements.

Partnering a new, 25mm G lens for wider, clearer shots, the camera’s ISO rating has been bumped to a smartphone-leading 12,800. The result is better shooting in low light conditions, though we suspect any photos that use that level will be very noisy. Improved Steady Shot features, an Intelligent Action Mode and 4K video recording capabilities are set to improve shooting.

From our early tests, Sony appears to be on to a winner with the Z3’s camera. Shooting in challenging indoor lighting, test shots look crisp and well balanced when viewed on the phone. A more in-depth test of the phone’s camera is need, however, before we can pass any final judgement.

For the more vanity conscious photographers out there, the phone’s 2-megapixel front-facing camera has also been improved. Wide Selfie mode has been added for easier group shots.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3: Software

It’s not just the phone’s camera that has been bolstered by software improvements. Fitness and gaming advancements have also been made.

LifeLog – Sony’s answer to Apple’ HealthKit – is a new addition to track all of your fitness and well-being activities. LifeLog works with the phone’s integrated sensor package – as well as a number of wearable accessories – to collate all manner of data in one place.

Distances covered, calorie burn, workout intensity and steps taken are all catalogued and analysed in one location. This is nothing new or groundbreaking, but it's a nice addition if you choose to invest in Sony's ecosystem of devices.

Sony Xperia Z3

What really has us excited, however, is the Z3’s PS4 Remote Play capabilities. Like the PS Vita, the phone will let you play games running on your PS4 console through the phone.

It requires the handset and PS4 to be running on the same Wi-Fi network and simply mirrors the gaming content to the Z3’s display. A handy DualShock 4 controller mount is also on the way to make next-gen mobile gaming even easier.

Sadly, we have not yet had the opportunity to put this PS4-themed feature fully through its paces. We will bring you a full analysis on the service in our full Xperia Z3 review shortly.

The Z3 runs Google's Android 4.4 KitKat OS skinned with the company's familiar UI, so there's nothing new to report there.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3: Battery Life

Staying power is one area where the Z3 looks set to trump its predecessor.

Despite dropping from the Z2’s 3200mAh offering to a new 3100mAh Lithium-Ion battery – and adding a higher clocked iteration of the same processor – Sony claims the Z3’s battery will last a full two days on a single charge.

With the Z2 offering just 1.4 days of juice between trips to the mains, this is a bold claim. Given our limited time with the device we have been unable to verify these claims at this point, but we'll put it to the test in our full review.

First Impressions

This is an iterative update, so it's not hugely exciting and won't bother any existing Z2 owners. That said, the PS4 Remote Play features are interesting and (if true) the extra battery life is welcome.

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