Introduction

Sony's cheapest LTE smartphone - that is the Xperia E3 key selling point, but is it more to it than that? It has the same design language as the Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact so the trendy looks are also here and we have the latest Android KitKat decked out in Sony team colors.

The price point is always going to mandate some corner cutting but as Motorola's Moto G though us the overall experience doesn't necessarily need to be sub-par.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3

We can probably live with the not-quite-slim bezels, but we won't be able to forgive poor performance. Fortunately, the Snapdragon 400 inside the Xperia E3 has a good track record and the WVGA resolution shouldn't put too much strain on it.

Before we go any further, let's check the Sony Xperia E3 review cheat sheet.

Key features

  • 4.5" IPS LCD, 480 x 854px, 218ppi, shatter-proof glass, ambient light sensor
  • LTE connectivity
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Xperia UI on top
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 processor, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP camera, single LED flash, 1080p video recording
  • VGA front-facing camera with video recording
  • 4GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
  • 2,330mAh battery; STAMINA Power Saving Mode
  • Available in a variety of color options

Main disadvantages

  • Low screen resolution
  • Thick bezels make the device bigger than 4.5" peers
  • Battery isn't user-replaceable

The Sony Xperia E3 is an improvement over its predecessor in every way possible, which is probably why Sony chose to skip E2 as a successor of the E1 - the two digit improvement was needed to underline the big jump forward.

Sony prides itself on the battery performance of the Xperia E3, the company says it could go a full two days thanks to its 2,330mAh battery and STAMINA mode optimizations. We're yet to test that claim out but it could potentially become a stand-out feature in a market where entry-level smartphones can barely make it through the day.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3 at HQ

That, along with the premium on design, the LTE radio and the exclusive built-in software should help the Xperia E3 withstand the pressure from 720p screen-packing competition. While clinging close to stock Android, the Xperia E3 has the custom Xperia UI with the What's New panel, TrackID, Album, Walkman, Movies and Xperia Themes to name a few.

It isn't like us to deny a smartphone a fair hearing and the Xperia E3's trial begins after the break.

Modest package

The Sony Xperia E3 comes with a modest retail box featuring a rather low-power standalone A/C adapter (850mA) and a microUSB 2.0 cable. There were no headphones inside and that might be the case in many markets as Sony tries to keep the price down. As usual though retail package varies and you might be luckier than us.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Retail contents

Sony Xperia E3 360-degree spin

The Sony Xperia E3 measures 137.1 x 69.4 x 8.5 mm, making it slightly slimmer, shorter and narrower than the 5" Motorola Moto G (2014) and much taller than the 4.5" Moto G of old. The weight is pretty heavy for the size at 143.8g, though, that adds a bit to the solid feel when you hold the handset in your hand.

Design and handling

The design of the Sony Xperia E3 is an interesting mixture of the Xperia M2 Aqua and the Xperia Z3 Compact. The front is unmistakable Sony with no physical buttons and a flat, clean look. We would've liked the bezels to be smaller, though as the poor screen to footprint ratio takes away quite a few points from the design score.

The main microphone and earpiece are hidden under speaker grilles which can easily be mistaken for the dual, stereo speakers on the latest Xperia Z3 Compact. We've only got a single speaker here, although that's hardly a surprise considering the price range.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3

The sides go after the latest Xperia looks with rounded edges and rubbery corners that are there to absorb impacts should you drop the phone. However instead of the see-through plastic of the Xperia Z3 Compact or the steel of the Xperia Z3 the edges here are simply matte plastic with nice grip that enhances the feel. The back is where you'll see the matte back panel of the Xperia M2 Aqua with the exact same feel.

Handling the Sony Xperia E3 is a pleasure thanks to the matte surfaces front, sides and back. However it doesn't feel like a 4.5" device and more like a 4.8" one, that's due to the thicker bezels, which have made the body way taller than it needs to be.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The sides mimic the Xperia Z3 ones

On a positive note the device feels sturdy and solid, not fragile and bruise-prone. The curved edges fall nicely into place when the _phone_ meets your palm and the matte surfaces ensure it will sit stubbornly in place. Smudges and fingerprints can be an issue on the front glass panel as well.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Handling the Sony Xperia E3

Sony's phones are either glass on steel or matte plastic and while the Xperia E3 is of the latter variety that's still a good choice, giving a quality feel.

If you don't like the understated appearance of the all-black Xperia E3 you can go for one of three additional colors as well - White, Yellow and Copper.

Controls

Sony is clinging to its guns with the Xperia E3's button placement. If you've ever used an Xperia smartphone you should feel right at home with the Xperia E3.

The front is occupied by the 4.5" 480x854px LCD of 218ppi. It's an IPS unit so the viewing angles are among the better in the class, but more on that a little later on. Under the display lies the main microphone, nestled into a small grille.

The Sony logo above the display is flanked by the VGA front-facing camera and the proximity sensor. Above the logo under an identical grille as below is the earpiece.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The front of the device

The right side is where you'll find the volume rocker and the power button. Adjusting the volume is a little tricky as the rocker is rather shallow and doesn't give out as much feedback as we'd like. The power button, on the other hand, is great and responsive.

It's worth noting that Sony has skipped on the physical camera button, which we saw on the Xperia M2 Aqua. You can use the volume buttons to capture but there's no half press for focus lock.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The right side

The left side of the Xperia E3 hosts only the microUSB 2.0 port.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The left side

The bottom of the Xperia E3 has no controls whatsoever while the top is where the 3.5mm headphone jack is.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The top and bottom

The back panel is removable but only to allow access to the hot-swappable micro SIM and microSD card slots. The battery is still sealed-in so you can't swap it for another one. The SIM compartment handles microSIM cards and we found it very hard to empty. On one occasion it took us a duo of tools to release the SIM card from its slot.

The 5MP camera lens is on the top left of the Xperia E3's back. Alongside it there is a single LED flash and the second, noise-reducing microphone. There's an NFC indicator on the back showing where the point of contact is.

The main speaker is placed at the very bottom of the back panel, which isn't ideal. The Xperia E3's back is very flat, making the speaker easy to muffle when you put the device face up on a table.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The back

Aside from the non-ideal speaker placement and volume rocker the Xperia E3 boasts easily accessible controls. It's nice of Sony to include a removable back panel and hot-swappable microSD and SIM but it would have been even nicer if we could swap out the battery as well.

Screen comes short on resolution

The display of the Sony Xperia E3 has a 4.5" diagonal and an IPS matrix but the resolution isn't too impressive. Sony has gone for a 480x854 pixel resolution that stretches a little thin for around 218 pixels per inch.

While that number doesn't translate into superb sharpness, the display of the Xperia E3 isn't too bad for its class. Sure, the Moto G and a few others have it easily beaten, but WVGA and qHD screens are still very much the norm here.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The 4.5" display of the Sony Xperia E3

Viewing angles are good for the most part. There is some loss of contrast at some angles but colors remain the same. Speaking of colors, the Xperia E3 offers good, saturated colors on its LCD.

The pixel arrangement of the Xperia E3 is standard RGB with equally-sized green, red and blue pixels. Here it is under a microscope.

The display of the Xperia E3 has okay blacks, about on par with its competition. Contrast was good and the screen can get very bright too making it an overall solid offering. The only area where it's lacking is the sharpness - at just 218 ppi things aren't as sharp as on the Moto G and Moto G (2014) displays.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia E3 - - - 0.69 608 887
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact - - - 0.77 725 942
Motorola Moto G 0.35 315 906 0.57 550 967
Motorola Moto G 4G 0.42 387 916 0.7 651 929
Nokia Lumia 630 0.24 184 764 0.71 508 771
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 226 432
Sony Xperia M2 0.33 325 989 0.64 643 1000
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua 0.26 247 960 0.44 531 1094


The sunlight legibility of the Xperia E3 display is okay and about the same as the upper Xperia Z2. It's certainly usable outdoors even if it's not the prettiest sight.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Battery life

The Sony Xperia E3 has a sealed 2,330mAh battery inside. We would've liked the option to swap it out for a spare since the back panel of the Xperia E3 is removable, but we will still be okay as long as it offers good enough battery.

Sony Xperia E3

Sealed-in battery

And that's just what we got from the Sony Xperia E3, which managed to go on a charge for 75 hours or just over 3 days of use if you stick to our pattern of an hour of talking, an hour of web browsing and an hour of video watching per day. This means Sony's claim of 2 days is well justified as the Xperia E3 should last for 48h even if you use it fairly heavily (and particularly if you don't watch lots of video, which turned out to be its weak spot).

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia E3 comes in single and dual SIM flavors. It has quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support and either tri-band or quad- depending on the market. LTE is its key strength here and comes in quad-band penta-band and hexa-band options.

The rest of the connectivity features include single-band Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio with RDS. There is also NFC connectivity with support for Android Beam for sending files to other Android devices. There's no IR port, though.

The ultra-low power ANT+ connectivity protocol handles connections to various sports accessories such as heart rate monitors or bicycle speed & cadence meters.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone's built-in memory and microSD card over the USB cable.

The microUSB 2.0 port can also be used in On-the-go mode for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives.

The microUSB port doesn't have any TV-out functionality, but if you own a compatible HDTV, you can output your phone's screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol or Sony's Xperia Connectivity Throw option. The app allows you to share your media through DLNA by creating a media server and connect to a PlayStation DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller.

Android KitKat with Xperia flavor

The Sony Xperia E3 comes with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box. The launcher looks identical to what you would see on any other KitKat Xperia smartphone, like the Xperia M2 Aqua we recently reviewed. If you aren't familiar with it, you can check out this quick video below to get you up to speed.

The lockscreen is the usual affair - it supports widgets (one per pane), while the rightmost pane will fire up the camera. There are a few available default widgets, but you can always get more from the Play Store. Also third party apps oftentimes come with their own set of extra widgets.

Naturally, you can protect your lockscreen by Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Xperia lockscreen

There are five homescreen panels by default and you can set any of them as your primary one. You can't have more than seven panes at any given time though, nor can you change the order they're in.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Homescreen

You can set various live and static wallpapers, add widgets and shortcut, or change the UI theme.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Customization • Themes

The notification area lists notifications in the default tab with a separate tab for Quick Settings. You can gain quick access to the Quick Settings tab with a two-finger swipe from the top. The toggles are customizable and you can choose between 20+ different toggles and have up to 12 of them visible in their dedicated page. Holding a finger over any toggle will give you direct access to its menu listing.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Notification area • Quick settings

The app drawer is laid out across multiple pages and you can sort the apps manually, alphabetically, by the most used or most recently installed. The menu with those settings is accessible via a swipe from the left edge of the screen and you can also search and even uninstall apps from there.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

App drawer

The Xperia E3 uses the stock Android task manager that lets you switch between recently opened apps, as well as terminate them with a side-swipe.

The so-called "small apps" are also available in the Xperia M2 Aqua and are accessible via the task manager. They are similar to Samsung's Mini Apps, and pop up tiny widget-like applications on your homescreen, which you can move around and use without having to open the full-fledged app. So far, there's a default set of nine: Active Clip, Chrome Bookmarks, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Gmail, Timer, Notes, and Touch Lock. You can launch only one instance of a Small App, but you can open multiple Small Apps simultaneously.

You can download more Small Apps off the Play Store or use the option to turn your favorite widgets into Small Apps. Just hit the Plus key at the top of the list and choose a widget. Sadly you can't disable the small apps entirely and will always have them cramming your recent apps whether you use them or not.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Task switcher • Small apps

Naturally, you can access Google Now by swiping from the bottom of the UI. There's another shortcut right next to the Google Now launch key called What's new. This app has very beautiful UI and will show you the hottest apps and multimedia today, but it isn't limited to the Play Store only. It'll display content from Sony's PlayStation store too.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

What's new

Finally, Google Now integrates with your Google account and can access your daily routine, internet searches, email, etc. and give you information relevant to your interests and daily needs.

The built-in 4GB of storage filled up pretty fast and the Xperia E3 needed a microSD card to help carry the load. And while we quickly obliged and moved the images, videos and other multimedia files over to the card apps were harder to move. You can transfer most of the built-in and all of the downloaded apps into the external memory but that would take you precious time and digging through the menus.

Performance is par for the course

The Sony Xperia E3 is built upon the familiar combination of a Snapdragon 400 chipset and 1GB of RAM. The processor inside is a quad-core Cortex-A7 that's clocked at 1.2GHz and there's an Adreno 305 handling the graphics. We did notice some issues here and there but nothing major. Loading of apps was snappy overall. On the other hand when we had many apps opened up the Xperia E3 would be left with some 140MB of RAM available, although we didn't notice too many slowdowns.

Before we dive into the synthetic tests - the Sony Xperia E3 didn't cheat on any of the test and showed identical scores in our anti-cheat tests.

As always we'll start off with the CPU-focused and overall benchmarks we have on tap. GeekBench 3 and AnTuTu 5 both place the Sony Xperia E3 in the middle of the table. The Motorola Moto G trio of devices (first-gen, LTE and second-gen) were slightly faster than the Xperia E3. In AnTuTu 5 the Xperia E3 got a slightly better result. The Xperia E3 even managed to post similar performance to the Xperia M2 Aqua.

Basemark OS II shows an overall score and breaks down performance by many factors. We choose to show the overall score and the single and multi-core one. Again we see average performance from the Xperia E3 and it only ever achieved higher results in the multi-core test.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 616
    2125
  • HTC Desire 816
    1510
  • HTC Desire 510
    1471
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    1175
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1171
  • Motorola Moto G
    1120
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1118
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1106
  • Sony Xperia C
    1079
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1074
  • Motorola Moto E
    611
  • Sony Xperia E1
    607

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 510
    20756
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    19016
  • Sony Xperia E3
    18336
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    18245

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Motorola Moto G
    559
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    526
  • HTC Desire 816
    520
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    495
  • HTC Desire 510
    491
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    452
  • Sony Xperia E3
    417
  • HTC Desire 616
    378
  • Sony Xperia M2
    298
  • Sony Xperia C
    200
  • Motorola Moto E
    116

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 816
    1739
  • HTC Desire 616
    1533
  • HTC Desire 510
    1332
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    1192
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1171
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1164
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1131
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1123
  • Motorola Moto E
    1110

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 616
    12986
  • HTC Desire 816
    7071
  • Sony Xperia E3
    5697
  • HTC Desire 510
    5484
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    5012
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    5001
  • Sony Xperia M2
    4927
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    4887
  • Motorola Moto E
    2637

The Adreno 305 GPU inside the Xperia E3 managed pretty poor 1080p offscreen results in GFXBench's 2.7 T-Rex and 3.0 Manhattan tests, but it will actually never have to deal with such high resolutions. The onscreen results were okay and in line with its competition and even better on a few occassions.

Gaming benchmark Basemark X gives the Sony Xperia E3 a low score - half that of the Motorola Moto G. However, it needs to put less than half the pixels so actual gaming performance is bound to be on par.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 616
    8.7
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    6
  • Sony Xperia E3
    5.9
  • Sony Xperia M2
    5.9
  • HTC Desire 816
    5.9
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    5.8
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    5.8
  • Motorola Moto G
    5.6
  • HTC Desire 510
    5.3
  • Motorola Moto E
    4.5
  • Sony Xperia C
    2.8

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia E3
    17.1
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    15.5
  • HTC Desire 510
    15.5
  • Sony Xperia M2
    15.4
  • HTC Desire 616
    13.4
  • Motorola Moto E
    11.2
  • HTC Desire 816
    11
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    10.8
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    10.8
  • Sony Xperia C
    7.3

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.9
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.8
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.7
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.7
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    1.7
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.7
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.4

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia E3
    8.3
  • HTC Desire 510
    8.3
  • Sony Xperia M2
    6.9
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    6.9
  • Motorola Moto E
    4.9
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    4.1
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    4
  • HTC Desire 816
    3.9

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    3142
  • HTC Desire 510
    1906
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1577
  • HTC Desire 816
    1437

The Sony Xperia E3 pulled off an okay effort in the JavaScript benchmark Kraken 1.1 and a very good (for its class) HTML5 score in BrowserMark 2.1. These benchmarks evaluate the browsing performance of the smartphone.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • HTC Desire 816
    13564
  • HTC Desire 510
    14171
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    15988
  • Sony Xperia E3
    16059
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    16118
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    16129
  • HTC Desire 616
    16953
  • Motorola Moto E
    17213
  • Sony Xperia M2
    18047

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1085
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1044
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    911
  • Sony Xperia M2
    903
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    883
  • HTC Desire 510
    832
  • Motorola Moto E
    784
  • HTC Desire 816
    774
  • HTC Desire 616
    683

The Snapdragon 400 is showing its age but is still a good option for a smartphone in the midrange and particularly when it only needs to deal with an FWVGA screen. It handles tasks okay and conserves enough battery for it to not be an issue. You won't be able to enjoy FullHD gaming or superb CPU or browsing performance but you won't be left waiting forever either.

Xperia phonebook

The Sony Xperia E3 phonebook is integrated with the dialer using a tabbed interface - the Contacts, Phone, Favorites and Groups tabs can be side-swiped. The contact list has a dedicated search filed plus it offers and an alphabetical scroll bar.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Phonebook

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (as well as filter specific groups in an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers or only contacts that are online.

Linking contacts is available, quick contact feature is here too.

Good telephony

The Sony Xperia E3 was able to hold onto signal very well. We tested it even in tight spots and the bars dropped to only 3. Calls remained uninterrupted and the sound quality was okay. Voices came out loud enough. Clarity wasn't the best but it was okay nonetheless.

The dialer support smart dialing.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Dialer

The Sony Xperia E3's loudspeaker was only average. It scored average voice and pink noise tests and a good ringing phone test so it shouldn't be an issue to hear calls. But no boomboxing with this one.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
HTC Desire 616 dual sim 61.5 58.5 72.6 Below Average
HTD Desire 816 66.6 65.7 66.6 Below Average
Sony Xperia E3 67.9 66.3 70.1 Average
Samsung Galaxy Core 71.1 64.7 72.7 Good
Nokia Lumia 630 68.0 65.3 75.8 Good
Sony Xperia E1 70.2 73.5 75.8 Very Good
Motorola Moto G 4G 77.1 76 83.3 Excellent
Motorola Moto G 81.6 75.7 82.7 Excellent


Messaging and text input

Text messages and MMS use standard thread layout. Adding multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.) will convert the message automatically into an MMS.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Messenger

Naturally, the Gmail client and the default Email apps are onboard. Gmail can sync only with (multiple) Google accounts, while the generic Email app can handle POP and IMAP and offers a Combined inbox.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Gmail and Email

Text input

As for text input, the Xperia E3 offers a customizable on-screen full QWERTY keyboard. You can choose a different layout (keypad, QWERTY, QWERTY with extra symbols), add/remove the coma and period button, the smiley and voice input buttons and also enable things like bilingual word suggestions if you have more than one language enabled. Different keyboard skins are available too.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Xperia keyboard

You can also try the so-called Gesture input if hitting those keys individually doesn't give you the desired typing speed. It's similar to Swype, and even if you've never used a Swype-like input before, you'll quickly get used to it.

Single-hand size keyboard is available too, but only in portrait orientation. If enabled, it squeezes the onscreen keyboard to the left or right side of the screen so it gets more comfortable for single handed text input.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Keyboard options

Album

We should all be familiar with Sony's custom gallery - Album. It organizes images into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can change the thumbnails size by pinching.

Unlike previous versions there isn't a homepage that hosts all of your albums, instead you get the same swipe-able menu the app drawer is offering. There you can find all of your online and offline albums.

The gallery can connect to online albums (PlayMemories, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr) and also to other devices on the local network. Maps and Globe albums are also available, which use the geotagging info to sort photos by the location at which they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Album

Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

Sony Xperia E3

Viewing an image

Walkman

The Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia smartphones. It features Music Unlimited integration and is not above trying to sell you songs, but you can hide the Music Unlimited stuff.

The Walkman interface is based on a hidden swipe-able menu that sort your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (but you need to connect the player with your Facebook account). You can pop up the menu the same way you'd do it in the app drawer or the gallery - just swipe from the left edge of the screen.

The Music Unlimited stuff includes ways to discover new music - Charts, New releases and Channels. Those can be hidden individually (same goes for the artist/album/playlist tiles) or you can disable the service altogether.

The Infinite button is available in the Now Playing screen (just tap the album art) - it will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Walkman

The Walkman player offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ option is here, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music and carefully accentuated various details. Dynamic normalizer evens out the differences in volume between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

The Sound enhancements contain yet more settings. There's an equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). Then there's Surround sound mode, which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience. The Clear stereo mode enhances the perceivable stereo channel separation. Dynamic normalizer minimizes the difference in volume between songs (great if you're playing a shuffled mix).

Speaker settings include Clear Phase, which adjusts the quality, while xLOUD boosts up the internal speaker.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sound settings

FM Radio

There's also an FM Radio. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. You can even directly send an "I'm listening to..." post to Facebook.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

FM Radio and TrackID

Audio output is clean but quiet

The Sony Xperia E3 audio output is quite similar to that of its more pricy stablemates. It managed some very good scores in our test, although its volume levels were far from impressive.

The smartphone had spot-on frequency response, great dynamic range, excllent signa-to-noise ration and no distortion when used with an active external amplifier. Very solid performance with the sub-par volume levels the only thing to potentially frown at.

Plugging in a pair of heaphones causes an average increase in stereo crosstalk and introduces some distortion. Frequency response also suffers a bit, but none of the three readings are too bad overall and quite easy to accept at this price point.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia E3 +0.02, -0.07 -88.7 86.9 0.011 0.015 -89.4
Sony Xperia E3 (headphones attached) +0.46, -0.05 -81.8 86.5 0.011 0.217 -58.9
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua +0.02, -0.08 -86.5 87.5 0.0077 0.015 -87.9
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.04 -86.4 87.4 0.026 0.060 -57.4
Sony Xperia M2 +0.02, -0.08 -86.6 87.6 0.0076 0.014 -88.1
Sony Xperia M2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.05 -86.5 87.5 0.023 0.056 -49.5
LG G2 mini +0.12, -0.03 -93.5 93.3 0.0023 0.015 -92.7
LG G2 mini (headphones attached) +0.09, -0.01 -93.1 92.9 0.012 0.042 -61.7
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini +0.06, -0.05 -93.5 92.7 0.0090 0.056 -86.2
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.04 -93.2 91.8 0.029 0.089 -53.3
Sony Xperia L +0.11, -0.10 -87.0 87.1 0.0085 0.047 -88.0
Sony Xperia L (headphones attached) +0.58, -0.12 -86.7 86.8 0.010 0.169 -58.5

Sony Xperia E3 frequency response

Sony Xperia E3 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

Movies

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TVs you have on the phone. It will even download posters for them and for movies, it will download metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well for TV shows - it doesn't recognize the S01E02 format and won't pull info about individual episodes. It gets worse, Gracenote seems to be lacking info on TV shows in general, we couldn't find even popular shows like The Big Bang Theory.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Movies

The Sony Xperia E3 was able to handle videos up to 1080p resolution. It had issues with the AC-3 audio codec and failed to load sound in videos carrying it but that's mostly normal for smartphones these days. MKV movies didn't play at all along with FLV and some AVI files (most played fine). The most popular DivX and XviD played just fine.

The video player lacks subtitle support by default but offers a built-in movie editor that will let you trim videos and adjust speed.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Watching a movie

5MP camera is nothing worth writing home about

The Sony Xperia E3 has a modest 5MP camera on the back accompanied by a single LED flash. The video capture stands at 1080p at 30fps - nothing to get overly excited about but also nothing to be ashamed of. In fact the Moto G only manages 720p video recording, so the Xperia E3 has the upper hand here.

The camera interface consists of two panes and is unified with the camcorder one - you can snap a photo or shoot a video without changing modes most of the time. In some shooting modes, though, the video shutter key may be replaced by a still/video mode toggle.

In the full resolution Manual mode you also get access to "manual controls" on the viewfinder, which sounds more impressive than it really is. There's an exposure compensation slider and a white balance selector. You can also control the ISO, metering and focus modes, turn on/off image stabilization, but those are buried in the settings menu.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Camera app

Then, there are the Augmented Reality effects, which stamp one of several virtual worlds over your scene and you can even move around in this world thanks to some intriguing motion tracking effect (note that it needs real-life visual cues in the scene to track your motion). Children might love this mode, but us bitter adults are unimpressed.

Creative effects features a number of effects that you can apply to images. Each effect is showcased in real time so you can see it in action before you press the shutter. There are 17 effects in total among which are Comic, Kaleidoscope, Harris shutter, Comic, Fisheye and Mosaic.

Social live lets you share a live feed over Facebook, Timeshift burst captures a burst of photos and starts even before you're pressed the shutter and finally Sweep Panorama. You can also download additional camera apps from Sony.

Sony Xperia E3

Shooting modes

The Sony Xperia E3 might have an ample software package but it's hardly the most impressive around in terms of quality. Images captured with its 5MP shooter have only average amount of detail, but at least noise is kept under control and there are no sharpening halos. We did notice a lot of soft patches on many of the images suggesting less than perfect lens.

Colors are okay if a bit dull and the exposure was mostly spot on, but the dynamic range is very limited. The Xperia E3 was quick to focus and capture images, at least.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3 camera samples

Macro samples do better in terms of detail - the lens issues aren't visible when the focus is set to so close. However, the phone is unable to go very close to the subject and you can really capture really fine detail or achieve significant background blur.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3 macro samples

The Xperia E3 offers high dynamic range shooting in which it aims to expose the scene's shadows better and not allow the highlight to clip. The shooting mode brings back a fair amount of shadow detail back, but really ruins the contrast of the shots and the final result is barely usable.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

HDR Off • HDR On

Panorama samples weren't impressive either. The Sweep panorama software was able to stitch the different images into an up to 5MP image - hardly great resolution and while its per-pixel detail isn't too bad, the limited dynamic range is an even more obvious issue here.

Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3 panorama sample

Finally you can check out our photo quality comparison tool for more pixel peeping. Sadly the flawed camera performance of the Sony Xperia E3 is magnified in the charts we have in the tool as they showcase the resolving abilities of the sensor as well as how it deals with color rendition and more.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia E3 in our photo compare tool

1080p video is better than what competitors over

In the grand scheme of the Xperia E3 the still shots do better in their own 5MP league than the 1080p videos compare to their peers. Videos look very poor for FullHD and actually appear more akin to 720p (or perhaps even lower) upscaled to 1080p. Then again given that most of the competition does 720p clips (and not very good ones at that), it's not all bad for the Xperia E3.

Detail is scarce and there are blotches and artifacts all over the scene of the videos. The framerate is a less than perfectly smooth, fluctating between 24fps and 22-23fps at any given moment during recording. This results in a somewhat choppy video at times.

Interestingly, the bitrate is high for the result you're getting - 21Mbps. Perhaps the Sony Xperia E3 unit we have for review has issues with its optics that won't be present on all units. Still take a look at a sample below and consider yourselves warned.

Here goes a 1080p@24fps sample directly from the Sony Xperia E3.

And finally you can compare the footage of the Xperia E3 in our studio to other smartphones we've tested.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia E3 in our video compare tool

Chrome to phone

The Sony Xperia E3 comes with Google Chrome as the default web browser out of box instead of the generic Android browser. While the minimalist interface hasn't changed since Chrome launched on Android, the browser is being constantly refined by Google, and this has resulted in one of the smoothest and most powerful browsing experiences we've encountered on a mobile.

Of course, one of Chrome's strengths is its ability to seamlessly sync with the desktop version, using nothing but your Google account. This allows you to open an article on your PC and finish reading it on your mobile phone. It also syncs your bookmarks and favorite sites.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Google Chrome

Other apps

Sony's Smart Connect app comes pre-installed - it allows you to set your device to do a variety of things, like launch an app or set an alarm, whenever you connect an accessory, e.g. a headset or a charger, or during a time interval (e.g. mute alarms at night). It doesn't work with NFC tags though, which is very disappointing.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Xperia Connect

Sony Select does the same as the Sony's What's New app, but comes with much less functions and old UI. We feel Sony should retire it.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Select

The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Calendar

The Sony Xperia E3 comes with Track ID TV and it will recognize a TV show if you point the device to listen to what you're watching - neat. It also features the Office Suite 8, which supports creating, viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt), and it can also read PDFs.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

TrackID TV • Office

Calculator, Clock app (with stopwatch, world clock and timer), Sketch and File Manager apps are available by default. Interestingly there's no Notes app preinstalled.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Clock • Calculator • File explorer

There is the Sony PlayStation app too, which allows you to browse your PlayStation profile, avatar and achievements. It's far from Microsoft default Xbox app on Windows Phone, but it's something. It can also connect to your PS4 and extract various content from there.

The Power Saver - now part of the settings menu - helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold. You can also turn off the Wi-Fi if there is no saved Wi-Fi network in range or turn off mobile data when the screen is off, and more.

Sony also provides a Backup & restore app, which can use the internal storage, a microSD card or even an attached USB mass storage device. You can backup the system and downloaded apps and their data along with any media files.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The Power saver app • Backup & Restore app is a great tool to have out of the box

Final words

The Sony Xperia E3 is here but it doesn't want to rock the boat of Sony's other midrangers. And while that approach runs the risk of also not being able to stir things up for its competition, the Xperia E3 offers enough to be able to fight in the crowded mid-range market.

Bang for buck is key here and the most affordable Xperia of this generation offers plenty of it. The sub-720p screen is what we hold against it the most, but there are plenty aspects of its performance that are way above the norm in this price point.

The battery life is arguably its most potent weapon - the Xperia E3 can easily outlast all its rivals and usually by a very comfortable margin. The LTE and exclusive Sony multimedia software package also count, while the solid build earns it some more points. Unfortunately, the camera is no better than we are used to - despite the generous promises on paper.

Here's the quick sum um of our in-house tests.

Key test findings:

  • Solid build quality, matte textured plastic feels nice to the touch
  • Display is bright with okay viewing angles although sharpness isn't top notch
  • Battery life is very good, highlighted by an impressive talk time
  • Connectivity packs all the punch you'd want, LTE is nice to have at this price
  • The phone operates smoothly but easily runs out of the modest 4GB storage (microSD card slot helps fix that, though)
  • Average benchmark performance, covering the norm for the price and market position
  • Average loudspeaker, above average ringing performance
  • Good multimedia package preinstalled, spotty video codec support
  • Still imagery and video quality below average, issues with detail and softness

As the market gets more crowded with hardware from nearly every manufacturer it needs to be said the Xperia E3 certainly faces a tough battle. Some of its main rivals come from within the battle ranks in the face of the Sony Xperia M2, M2 Aqua and Xperia SP. The latter is the most outdated among the trio but comes with a bigger 720p display.

The Xperias M2 and M2 Aqua outclass the Xperia E3 in screen size, processing power, camera and the Aqua can even go underwater. All three cost more than the Xperia E3, so you can only consider them if you only feel like fixing a certain issue of the smartphone while remaining in the Sony realm.

Sony Xperia M2
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
Sony Xperia SP

Sony Xperia M2 • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua • Sony Xperia SP

The midrange space has mostly been ruled by Motorola in the past year. This year sees the company unleash a 5" 720p Moto G (2014) with microSD card and the latest Android experience for a little more cash than the Xperia E3. And if that cash seems too much for you the 1-year-old Moto G (2013) will run you around the same as an Xperia E3 - the lack of LTE and microSD card slot make that one a hard recommendation for many, though.

Motorola Moto G (2014)
Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G (2014) • Motorola Moto G

Samsung's Galaxy Core II costs the same as the Xperia E3 but doesn't really outshine it in any way. It's there for you if you want a smaller device with the same display size and prefer TouchWiz over Xperia UI.

Samsung Galaxy Core II

Samsung Galaxy Core II

If you're ready to look at other OSes there's always the Nokia Lumia 635. It matches the Sony Xperia E3 spec for spec but costs less and offers Microsoft's Windows phone with its cool live tiles, but somewhat more limited app selection.

Nokia Lumia 635

Nokia Lumia 635

HTC also has its candidates to ruin the Xperia E3's day. The Desire 510 has a slightly bigger screen of the same resolution, more built-in space and HTC's Sense UI for slightly more money. The Desire 516 has Dual-SIM slots and opts for a bigger 5.0" display of a higher resolution but lacks 1080p video recording. At least it costs around the same as an Xperia E3. Getting a Jelly Bean smartphone in this price range means having to deal with more performance issues, though.

HTC Desire 510
HTC Desire 516 dual sim

HTC Desire 510 • HTC Desire 516 dual sim

Decisions, decisions - picking an entry-level smartphone has never been this hard. But it's for all the right reasons - instead of having to pick the less evil, you can now choose between packages optimized for one usage pattern or another.

So if you do lots of reading or picture browsing you might want to get a 720p screen packing alternative. If WVGA does it for you, the Sony Xperia E3 should certainly be at the top of your shortlist.

Modest package

The Sony Xperia E3 comes with a modest retail box featuring a rather low-power standalone A/C adapter (850mA) and a microUSB 2.0 cable. There were no headphones inside and that might be the case in many markets as Sony tries to keep the price down. As usual though retail package varies and you might be luckier than us.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Retail contents

Sony Xperia E3 360-degree spin

The Sony Xperia E3 measures 137.1 x 69.4 x 8.5 mm, making it slightly slimmer, shorter and narrower than the 5" Motorola Moto G (2014) and much taller than the 4.5" Moto G of old. The weight is pretty heavy for the size at 143.8g, though, that adds a bit to the solid feel when you hold the handset in your hand.

Design and handling

The design of the Sony Xperia E3 is an interesting mixture of the Xperia M2 Aqua and the Xperia Z3 Compact. The front is unmistakable Sony with no physical buttons and a flat, clean look. We would've liked the bezels to be smaller, though as the poor screen to footprint ratio takes away quite a few points from the design score.

The main microphone and earpiece are hidden under speaker grilles which can easily be mistaken for the dual, stereo speakers on the latest Xperia Z3 Compact. We've only got a single speaker here, although that's hardly a surprise considering the price range.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Sony Xperia E3

The sides go after the latest Xperia looks with rounded edges and rubbery corners that are there to absorb impacts should you drop the phone. However instead of the see-through plastic of the Xperia Z3 Compact or the steel of the Xperia Z3 the edges here are simply matte plastic with nice grip that enhances the feel. The back is where you'll see the matte back panel of the Xperia M2 Aqua with the exact same feel.

Handling the Sony Xperia E3 is a pleasure thanks to the matte surfaces front, sides and back. However it doesn't feel like a 4.5" device and more like a 4.8" one, that's due to the thicker bezels, which have made the body way taller than it needs to be.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The sides mimic the Xperia Z3 ones

On a positive note the device feels sturdy and solid, not fragile and bruise-prone. The curved edges fall nicely into place when the phone meets your palm and the matte surfaces ensure it will sit stubbornly in place. Smudges and fingerprints can be an issue on the front glass panel as well.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

Handling the Sony Xperia E3

Sony's phones are either glass on steel or matte plastic and while the Xperia E3 is of the latter variety that's still a good choice, giving a quality feel.

If you don't like the understated appearance of the all-black Xperia E3 you can go for one of three additional colors as well - White, Yellow and Copper.

Controls

Sony is clinging to its guns with the Xperia E3's button placement. If you've ever used an Xperia smartphone you should feel right at home with the Xperia E3.

The front is occupied by the 4.5" 480x854px LCD of 218ppi. It's an IPS unit so the viewing angles are among the better in the class, but more on that a little later on. Under the display lies the main microphone, nestled into a small grille.

The Sony logo above the display is flanked by the VGA front-facing camera and the proximity sensor. Above the logo under an identical grille as below is the earpiece.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The front of the device

The right side is where you'll find the volume rocker and the power button. Adjusting the volume is a little tricky as the rocker is rather shallow and doesn't give out as much feedback as we'd like. The power button, on the other hand, is great and responsive.

It's worth noting that Sony has skipped on the physical camera button, which we saw on the Xperia M2 Aqua. You can use the volume buttons to capture but there's no half press for focus lock.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The right side

The left side of the Xperia E3 hosts only the microUSB 2.0 port.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The left side

The bottom of the Xperia E3 has no controls whatsoever while the top is where the 3.5mm headphone jack is.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The top and bottom

The back panel is removable but only to allow access to the hot-swappable micro SIM and microSD card slots. The battery is still sealed-in so you can't swap it for another one. The SIM compartment handles microSIM cards and we found it very hard to empty. On one occasion it took us a duo of tools to release the SIM card from its slot.

The 5MP camera lens is on the top left of the Xperia E3's back. Alongside it there is a single LED flash and the second, noise-reducing microphone. There's an NFC indicator on the back showing where the point of contact is.

The main speaker is placed at the very bottom of the back panel, which isn't ideal. The Xperia E3's back is very flat, making the speaker easy to muffle when you put the device face up on a table.

Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3
Sony Xperia E3

The back

Aside from the non-ideal speaker placement and volume rocker the Xperia E3 boasts easily accessible controls. It's nice of Sony to include a removable back panel and hot-swappable microSD and SIM but it would have been even nicer if we could swap out the battery as well.