What is the Sony Xperia T3?The Sony Xperia T3 is a 5.3-inch Android smartphone with a super-slim body. It doesn't steal the Huawei Ascend P6's status as world's thinnest, but it’s not far off. With Moto G-like specs and a £299 SIM-free price, it’s in the same big mid-range _phone_ bracket as the HTC Desire 816.
A cross between Sony's enormous Z Ultra and the Xperia M2, the T3 is a decent big _phone_ for watching video if you can't afford to pay the extra for a more expensive phone with a superior quality screen.
Sony Xperia T3: Design and FeaturesSony has found a formula it clearly thinks gives the Xperia range a more distinguishing and stylish look compared to rivals and it's largely intact for the T3. It's not the full glass outfit like the Xperia Z2 is but a halfway house between top-end and mid-range Sony phones. That's not to say it's any less attractive and it's not really surprising it doesn't get the same luxurious treatment as the Z2 when you consider the price difference.
There’s glass up front and a plastic back that’s not removable and comes in purple, white or black shades. But the real standout quality is just how slim the T3 is. Sony claims this is the world’s slimmest 5.3-inch smartphone and the feel reminds us a little of the Z Ultra, Sony's huge 6.4-inch phone.
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Like the Z Ultra, the T3 is light as well as skinny. It weighs 148g and measures at just 7mm thick. It's roughly the same size in the hand as the HTC Desire 816, but it’s not as tall as the HTC phone and has flatter, less accommodating edges than the curvy 816.
There are other areas of familiarity here, like the silver trim and metal buttons with a dedicated camera button and the headphone jack situated up on the top edge. Camera and speakers are around the back while a micro SD card slot on the right edge means you can expand 8GB of on-board storage up to 32GB.
One surprising omission is the lack of waterproofing. That's signalled by the lack of latches to cover ports. When this feature has become one of Sony’s big selling points, it’s disappointing not to see this on the T3.
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The Sony and HTC Desire 816 side-by-side
Sony Xperia T3: ScreenThe large body is down to Sony's decision to feature a 5.3-inch screen. That’s larger than the displays on high-end phones like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 giving it the stature of a more expensive phone than it actually is.
That is until you discover that it has a 720p HD screen and not a Full HD panel like the M8 and the S5. To put it into perspective, the significantly cheaper Moto G has a 720p HD screen as well but on a much smaller screen, which makes it look much sharper.
Despite that, this is still a very good 720p HD screen that's particularly good for watching video and playing games on the go. Sony also throws in its Bravia TV engine and Triluminous display technology to help make it more video-friendly.
It’s an IPS panel as well, which helps produce the solid viewing angles. It's also bright enough to retain decent visibility in bright sunlight.
Sony Xperia T3: SoftwareIt’s familiar setup here as Sony uses its custom interface on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. It’s not an overbearing UI and the tweaks Sony makes don’t radically change the way you use it compared to pure Android-running smartphones.
Among the changes, the notification drop down bar has been slightly redesigned and the recent apps feature now has a favourites bar for quick access to your most used apps. There’s a host of themes and wallpapers to personalize homescreens as well, but where Sony really makes its presence felt is apps.
There are more than ten Sony-centric apps included alongside the usual Google apps. You will most likely want to de-clutter most by removing them from the main homescreen or putting them away in folders. One notable omission is the TV Sideview app, which can be found on the cheaper Xperia M2 and that’s down to the lack of an IR blaster to turn the T3 into a remote control replacement.
WALKMAN and Shazam-like TrackID apps are some of the most useful of the pre-installed batch, while basics like calendar and email apps are well designed and easy to use. If you’ve bought into Sony’s ecosystem across other devices, like the PS4 and TVs, you’ll have more time for these add-ons than most.
Sony Xperia T3: PerformanceKeeping the T3’s UI running largely lag-free is the same quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU found in the Xperia M2 and the likes of the Moto G and Moto E. The 1.4GHz cores use Cortex-A7 architecture to give it a more energy-efficient profile as opposed to being a power-mongering handset.
As expected, a 1,305 muti-core score in Geekbench 3 shows there’s very little in it compared to cheaper Android phones like the Moto G, which scores a 1,155 and the Xperia M2 (1,061). It's not hugely fast, then, but in real-world use it remains smooth and largely lag-free.
Gaming is more problematic. It can run graphically demanding games like Real Racing 3 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout, but there’s some moments of lag and slight framerate issues even when you are in the menu screens.
Moreover, one of the more unwelcome characteristics with Sony Xperia phones is the tendency to get a little warm around the back and it’s something the T3 shows signs of as well. It’s not as bad as it is on the Xperia Z2, but when you are gaming or streaming video for long periods, the rear can heat up.
Sony Xperia T3: CameraThose expecting Xperia Z2-like camera quality are going to be disappointed. Despite Sony’s intentions to unify the photo-taking experience, the T3 delivers good photos for sharing, but it’s nothing you’d swap a dedicated camera for.
There’s an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, again matching the Xperia M2 for megapixel count, with an LED flash and even a torch mode to aid low-light shooting. A 1.1-megapixel front-facing camera is also in place to produce reasonably decent selfies in the right lighting conditions.
Visually, core camera features are well laid out and easy to access through the main camera app UI. It's when you need to go digging to shoot in full 8-megapixel resolution or switching to HDR mode things are more confusing as you need to muddle through the manual settings to find them.
For more experienced photographers there's a manual mode where you can adjust elements like metering and ISO sensitivity. Of course, most will stick with the Auto mode, but it's a nice option to have if you know what you're doing.
The camera is a little slower into action in comparison to more accomplished camera phones and that can often lead to problems with the sluggish autofocus capturing out of focus shots. The most rewarding results are from a distance, where the T3 produces good detail and punchy colours. Up close, in good and low light images are generally good, but there are some issues with noise.
8-megapixel resolution photo shot in Superior Auto mode
Low-light photography is decent but images can look muted on closer inspection
HDR mode can brighten up images and add punch to photos in general but as the images below illustrate, it doesn't always work with great results.
HDR mode off
HDR mode on
On the whole, this is a camera equipped for sharing-friendly images, you just won’t want to get up close and personal with them on a computer to see the real quality of your efforts.
Video recording shoots at a maximum out Full HD 1080p from the main camera and 720p HD for front-facing action. Like most phones, you can simply switch between stills and video from the main camera UI. Additional settings include HDR mode, microphone support and Sony’s SteadyShot, which is aims to prevent video from looking shaky.
It handles motion well even if overall sharpness is lacking and colours are rich. You are not going to swap this for a proper camcorder but it does a good, if not fantastic job of filming.
Sony Xperia T3: Battery LifeThe Xperia T3 features a 2,500mAh capacity battery and the combination of the power-efficient Snapdragon 400 processor and a 720p HD screen helps the T3 last comfortably through a normal day.
Venture into the Power Management section in the settings and you’ll also find STAMINA and low battery power saving modes to push things even further. On top of that, the phone can be set to switch to Wi-Fi when in range of a saved Wi-Fi network and has the option to queue background data to help preserve battery life.
A 720p HD video on loop lasted around nine hours. In more general use with some browsing, gaming and checking in on Facebook, this is a phone with the battery reserves to push through the one day barrier. It’s a quick charger as well. After 30 minutes plugged to the main charger it can jump up just under 40% from fully flat. So if you forget to charge it overnight, a quick charge in the morning should give it a much needed boost.
Sony has done a more comprehensive job than most expensive phones providing the resources to make sure your phone goes the distance and it really pays off for this big phone.
Sony Xperia T3: Sound and Call QualityUnlike the Xperia M2’s bottom edged speaker, the T3 reverts to positioning the single speaker at the back of the phone. Holding the phone in landscape, as most will to watch a video, means you can cup and muffle the speaker.
For music playback the emphasis is definitely on loudness over the kind of warmth you get with HTC’s Boomsound speakers. Crank things up to full volume and the sound is harsher and far less refined than it has at moderate volume levels. It’s better than most mid-range phones if you value loudness over anything else.
For call quality, it’s undeniably a mid-range experience despite the inclusion of a secondary microphone to provide noise cancellation. Clarity is good, but not exceptional and call volume could be higher.
Should I buy the Sony Xperia T3?The Sony Xperia T3 is a good-looking, mid -ange phone that won't blow you away in any one department. It’s a similar story to the HTC Desire 816. Both hide their hulking bodies well and have similar deficiencies in the screen and camera departments.
Despite having similar specs sheets, it’s probably unfair to compare the £299 Xperia T3 to the significantly cheaper Moto G based on the different screen sizes. When you square it up to the 5.5-inch, £229 OnePlus One however, then it’s a big phone where you can get better value for money elsewhere. The OnePlus One has a Full HD screen and a more powerful CPU wrapped in a slim, attractive body.
Of course, the OnePlus One is much tougher to get hold of — it's only sold direct and you need an 'invite' from an owner to get one. So if you want a big phone that’s slim and has the design allure of a more expensive phone, then the T3 is a good option.