Introduction

To say we are eager to get the Xperia Z3 out for a spin would be a massive understatement - with the race track still warm from the Compact. After all, if the Robin in Sony's IFA lineup can do that well, we can only imagine what Batman is capable of. The Z3 is certainly one you wouldn't want to miss.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 official pictures

Sony's shorter update cycle sees the Xperia Z3 clock in just 6 months after its predecessor. At first glance, the next flagship isn't too generous with the upgrades, but anyone who has handled the Xperia Z2 will see most of its key issues addressed.

Curved at the edges for a fresh new look, the handset is supposed to offer improved ergonomics. Add the slimmer bezels, the loss of weight and the slimmer profile, and the Sony Xperia Z3 is already looking strong in the only area where its predecessor was open to criticism.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 official pictures

But it's not just the weaknesses that need looking at and the Xperia Z3 knows that. It tries to work on the main strengths of the Xperia Z2 too - it's got a higher IP certification while the 20MP camera has received a few cool new modes. Yet, it was the image processing that wasn't quite spot on last time around and we are really curious if Sony got it right this time.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves and stick to the plan - here goes the Sony Xperia Z3 review cheat sheet.

Key features

  • 5.2" IPS LCD, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 424ppi, ambient light sensor
  • LTE connectivity
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Xperia UI on top
  • IP68 certified - dust and water proof up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset with quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM
  • 20.7MP camera, single LED flash, 2160p video recording, dedicated hardware shutter key
  • 2.2MP front-facing camera with 1080p video recording
  • 16/32GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
  • 3,100mAh battery; STAMINA Power Saving Mode
  • Stylish dual glass-panel design

Main disadvantages

  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • Slightly larger than most direct rivals

On the list of not-so-major improvements brought by the Sony Xperia Z3 we have a slightly faster CPU, wider audio format support and a longer list of compatible LTE bands. Curiously however, the battery capacity has been reduced - we can't help but wonder if the new flagship can match the excellent time of its predecessor?

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 live shots

So, a seemingly subtle update is already raising several interesting questions and it's about time we set to find the answers. Join us after the break where we examine the exterior and see if the new, curvier design works as well in real life as it looks in those pictures.

Retail package

Our Sony Xperia Z3 review unit came in a modest retail package that only included the _phone_ and a two-piece charger - wall mount plug and a microUSB cable.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

There wasn't a lot in our review unit's box

We also got some leaflets, but no headphones or other cool accessories. As usual retail packages are strictly market dependent and as far as we know most units will come bundled with a pair of headphones.

Sony Xperia Z3 360-degree view

The Sony Xperia Z3 stands at 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm, which is somewhat more compact and notably slimmer than its Xperia Z2 predecessor (146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm). However, the bezels around the screen have been reduced somewhat more than the raw number difference suggests as the new flagship has rounded edges, which normally add to the overall footprint.

Still, if you compare the Xperia Z3 to a couple of its direct rivals - the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), you immediately notice that it's a larger, if slimmer device. The difference to the One (M8) is easily offset by the slimmer waistline (not to mention that's it's made up for by the larger screen), but the Samsung handset does feel more compact.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The Sony Xperia Z3 sized up against the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5

Design and handling

As we already mentioned, Sony has taken a new turn with the design of its current flagships. Much like the Xperia Z3 Compact, the Xperia Z3 drops the familiar flat sides for rounded edges, only this time they are made of metal rather than plastic.

The difference in both look and feel is notable and is clearly in favor of the full-sized handset. The glass back and front panels are still here, though, so you'll easily recognize that this is a smartphone belonging to the top tier of the Xperia family.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The rounded edges benefit both design and handling

The overall result is great and is helped in no small part by the excellent build of the Sony Xperia Z3. Despite the different materials for the front and back panels and the sides, which pose some engineering problems, the smartphone is well put together and there are no unsightly gaps between the panels to spoil its looks.

The difference in size may not be too great, but the handling of the Sony Xperia Z3 is a marked improvement over that of its predecessor. The rounded edges and the slimmer waistline make the company's new top dog far easier to both hold in the hand and pocket.

As smartphone get larger and larger with each passing generation, we start to appreciate sloping edges, which give you a comfortable spot to rest your fingers against. The slimmer profile also makes sure you'll need to stretch your fingers less and you won't get too big bulges when you put the Xperia Z3 in your pockets.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 held in hand

An important note has to be made here - since the Sony Xperia Z3 has a perfectly flat back - a fact it was keen to point to when Apple announced the iPhone 6 and its bulging camera. However that and the glass panel on top makes the _phone_ very slippery when placed on similarly non-textured surfaces - like glass tables for examples. You have to be very careful so the smartphone doesn't slide off an edge and goes crashing against the ground.

Controls

Despite moving to all-metal rather than metal-inlaid plastic edges the Sony Xperia Z3 retains much of the control layout of its predecessor.

There are the usual sensors above the 5.2" display, next to a 2.2MP front-facing camera. The stereo speakers are also carried on from the Xperia Z2 to make your gaming and video watching experience more immersive.

Sony Xperia Z3

The familiar array of sensors

Each speaker is hidden underneath a very thin but elongated grille carved out of the front glass. The top speaker doubles as an earpiece and the LED notification light is integrated therein too.

Sony Xperia Z3

The second front-facing speaker

The right side of the Xperia Z3 is very busy. In the upper corner is the microSIM compartment under its protective flap. The microSD card slot has also been moved here, which is the only change over the outgoing model. Just below those is the signature power key, followed by a volume rocker. Finally, there is the two-stage shutter key.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

It's quite busy on the right

The design of the keys has been slightly altered but their usability is about the same as on the Xperia Z2 - that is to say the buttons are usable but aren't quite the most comfortable around. Still, achieving that while reducing the thickness should earn Sony some credit.

The left side has microUSB port under a protective lid as well. Naturally, it should be properly closed if you want your Xperia Z3 to stay true to its IP68 dust tight and water proof rating. The dock connector pins and the lanyard eyelet are also on this side.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The microUSB port, the dock connector pins and the lanyard eyelet

The top of the phone holds the exposed but waterproofed 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary microphone allowing stereo sound in videos and keeping ambient noise out of calls. The bottom is completely bereft of functional elements.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The audio jack and the secondary microphone sit on top • the bottom is clean of controls

The entire back is covered by a scratch-resistant glass of undisclosed origin. In the top left corner you see the 20.7MP camera lens - it's a 26mm wide Sony G lens with a fast F/2.0 aperture that sits above the Sony Exmor RS backside illuminated (BSI) sensor.

If you were hoping for a more powerful LED flash, dual or a true-tone LED, you'll be disappointed. The Xperia Z3 uses the same tiny singe-LED flash we saw on the Xperia Z1.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The 20.7 MP camera lens is the star backstage

One final note on controls - Sony is planning on releasing complete PS4 connectivity exclusively to the new Xperia Z3 series this coming November. This means that you'll be able to connect the Xperia Z3 Compact to a Dualshock 4 controller (there's also going to be a mount accessory if you want them fused together) and stream full PS4 games directly from a PS4 system on the same wireless network.

You can either use the screen of the phone and play on the controller or use the phone as a stand-alone controller and play on your TV. In very desperate cases you can use the phone as a controller and a display, but most games require too many buttons and the according number of fingers over them so it's impossible to see anything.

Display comes with improved sunlight legibility

The Sony Xperia Z3 has a 5.2" IPS LCD of 1080p resolution so on paper the screen doesn't seem to bring any improvements. However the company has actually used a brand new panel, which brings a few key improvements.

The color temperature has been adjusted, but more importantly the battery draw has been reduced, which has allowed Sony to push the maximum brightness here.

The secret behind these improvements lies in the Live Color LEDs that Sony has incorporated into the TRILUMINOS display technology found in previous Xperia mobiles. Live Color LED combines red and green phosphor with blue LEDs to produce brighter and more uniform light without consuming extra power.

Here's how the display looks under our digital microscope:

Sony Xperia Z3

The Sony Xperia Z3 posted great scores in our display test. Its brightness was among the highest we have seen, while the blacks were deep enough to secure great contrast.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia Z3 - - - 0.65 866 1333
Sony Xperia Z2 - - - 0.41 488 1195
Nokia Lumia 930 149 347
Oppo Find 7 0.22 248 1135 0.40 448 1123
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
Samsung Galaxy S4 201 404
HTC One (M8) 0.20 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

The brightness also helped the smartphone in the outdoor visibility test, where it posted a very respectable score. We have seen phone do better, but the Xperia Z3 is easily good enough to be usable outdoors and that's what matters the most.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    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
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    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
  • 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

Overall the Sony Xperia Z3 screen is a solid performer, delivering excellent sharpness and image quality. The company decided not to jump on the QHD bandwagon with the smartphone, which might be seen as its only weakness.

At this size the benefits of QHD resolution would have certainly been small (and only visible by people with perfect eyesight) so we can't say we are too mad about it. On the other even minimal advantages and the bragging rights that come with them are important to quite a few people shopping in this rather expensive market bracket, so it might cost the company a few upgraders.

Battery life

The Sony Xperia Z3 saw a comes with an ample 3,100mAh battery, but compared to its predecessor's 3,200 mAh juice pack that is actually a downgrade. Yet Sony is adamant that it has improved the power accuracy enough so the Xperia Z3 can match the power autonomy of the Xperia Z2.

As our dedicated battery tests completed we found that was exactly the case. The Sony Xperia Z3 came out with an excellent 85h endurance rating, but that was just short of the Xperia Z2's 89h. For purposes practical these two scores are identical and mean that you will be getting three and a half days of battery life if you use the smartphone for an hour of web browsing, calling and video watching per day.

Sony Xperia Z3

Naturally, power users, which are be the main target of the Xperia Z3 will be getting far less time between charges, but they should still only need to charge every other day.

And if you absolutely must extract the longest endurance out of your new Sony smartphone, you should check out the Stamina mode. It helps 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 receiver if there is no saved Wi-Fi network in range or turn off mobile data when the screen is off, among other things.

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes in both single SIM and dual SIM versions only and both of those have quad-band GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 and penta-band 3G support. LTE is available too with its bands depending on the region.

The rest of the connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X, 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.

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 USB.

The microUSB 2.0 port can also be used in USB On-the-go mode for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives. There is also MHL support for tethering the Xperia Z3 to your TV, and if you own a compatible HDTV, you can output your phone's screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol.

Latest Android KitKat with latest of Sony

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of box with the latest Sony improvements to its custom Xperia overlay.

Here's a demo of what the Xperia Z3 can do:

The lockscreen is the usual affair - it supports widgets (one per pane), alongside a camera shortcut at the bottom. 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. With the Xperia Z3, Sony has also included tap to wake, which lets you activate the screen with a quick double-tap.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The lockscreen

The Xperia Z3 lets you add or remove homescreen panes (you start with five) and set any of them as default. You can't have more than seven panes at any given time though, nor can you change the order they're in.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Xperia homescreen

Adding stuff on the homescreen is easy as customizing it. You can set various live and static wallpapers, add widgets and shortcut, or change the UI theme.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Managing homescreens • Themes

The notification area loses the quick toggles, which have been moved into their own separate tab. 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 on their dedicated pane.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Notification area

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 these 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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

App drawer

The Xperia Z3 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 Z3 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.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Task switcher • Small Apps in action • Small apps UI • Download more 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 a very slick UI and will show you the hottest apps and multimedia today. It isn't limited to just the Google Play Store, and will display content from Sony's PlayStation store too.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony's 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.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The Google Now and What's new shortcuts • Google Now

Synthetic benchmarks and performance

The Sony Xperia Z3 is powered by an MSM8974AC Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, which runs the Krait 400 CPU at the maximum 2.5GHz and clocks the GPU at 578MHz. The MSM8974AB chipset that powers the previous Sony Xperia Z2 is slightly behind with the CPU at 2.3GHz and the GPU at 550MHz.

To get the numbers sorted, the Xperia Z3 has a Snapdragon 801 chipset with four Krait 400 cores clocked at 2.5GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU @578MHz and 3GB of RAM.

Our opener is GeekBench 3, which is a multi-thread CPU benchmark. The Sony Xperia Z3 did well to match the performance of the Xperia Z2 and the Xperia Z3 Compact but the Snapdragon 801-powered Galaxy S5 and Oppo Find 7a are still the leaders here.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    3229
  • Oppo Find 7a
    3093
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    3011
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    2968
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2860
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2856
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2856
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2638
  • LG G3 - EU version
    2563
  • HTC One (M8)
    2367

The new compound AnTuTu 5 shows a rather underwhelming result - close to the rest of the recent Snapdragon 801 smartphones but still quite a few points behind. Naturally, the LG G3 is last, because of its higher resolution display - AnTuTu gauges onscreen GPU performance too.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    46857
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    46566
  • HTC One (M8)
    44020
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    43164
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    40393
  • LG G3 - EU version
    39905

The Basemark OS II gives an overall CPU score and breaks down the single and multi-core performance of smartphones. The Sony Xperia Z3 matched the overall performance of the Snapdragon 801-powered flagships, but for unknown reasons its single-core and multi-core scores are behind the curve.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1167
  • HTC One (E8)
    1146
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1126
  • HTC One (M8)
    1126
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1109
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    1101
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1082
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1080
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1057

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7a
    2580
  • HTC One (E8)
    2579
  • HTC One (M8)
    2428
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    2415
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2282
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2253
  • LG G3 - EU version
    2213
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2114

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7a
    10256
  • HTC One (E8)
    10219
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    10063
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    10063
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    10044
  • HTC One (M8)
    9860
  • LG G3 - EU version
    9611
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    8792

When it comes to offscreen benchmarks, the higher clock speed of the new Adreno 330 easily sees the Xperia Z3 among the best performers.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7a
    28.4
  • HTC One (M8)
    28.4
  • HTC One (E8)
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    27.8
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    27.7
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    27.4
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    27.2
  • LG G3 - EU version
    27.2
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    23
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    22

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    12.3
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    11.8
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11.8
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    11.7
  • LG G3 - EU version
    11.4
  • Oppo Find 7a
    11.4
  • HTC One (M8)
    11.1
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    9

The GFXBench onscreen suite tells a different story. Lower resolution phones (720p or so) like the Xperia Z1 Compact and the most recent Xperia Z3 Compact climb on top, but as far as 1080p devices go, the Sony Xperia Z3 matches the results of the S801-running HTC One (E8) and Oppo Find 7a, beating the Samsung Galaxy S5 by a whisker.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    41.3
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    34
  • HTC One (M8)
    30.1
  • HTC One (E8)
    29.9
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    29.3
  • Oppo Find 7a
    28.8
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    28.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    28.1
  • LG G3 - EU version
    20.5

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    25.4
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    17
  • HTC One (E8)
    12.9
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12.7
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    12.2
  • HTC One (M8)
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11.7
  • Oppo Find 7a
    11.4
  • LG G3 - EU version
    7.2

The Sony Xperia Z3 turned out to be the best performer we've tester so far in the on-screen BaseMark X graphic benchmark.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12637
  • HTC One (M8)
    12396
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    12080
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11744
  • LG G3 - EU version
    11552
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    9399
  • HTC One (E8)
    3063

With web browsing central to the smartphone experience, the Xperia Z3 is the best in class at both browser benchmarks - the JavaScript-centric Kraken and the compound BrowserMark 2.1. Good job!

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    6043
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    6355
  • HTC One (E8)
    6460
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    6480
  • Oppo Find 7a
    6660
  • LG G3 - EU version
    6987
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    7041
  • HTC One (M8)
    10296

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1533
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1500
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1474
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1398
  • HTC One (E8)
    1362
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1327
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1224
  • HTC One (M8)
    1069

The Sony Xperia Z3 clearly showed some great scores - close to the top in most of the tests. Indeed, the Xperia Z3 manages to deliver a buttery-smooth UI and hiccup-free high-performance gaming. That's hardly a surprise with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset inside, proven time and again as a really capable flagship platform.

Phonebook

The Sony Xperia Z3 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 field plus it offers and a cool alphabetical scroll bar.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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, and the quick contact feature is here too.

Telephony

Calling on the Sony Xperia Z3 is okay. It held onto signal just fine even in tight urban spaces and the sound coming from the speaker was loud enough. The clarity is only average on our side while the other line reported we came in fine enough.

The dialer support smart dialing.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Dialer

The Sony Xperia Z3 scored an Average on our loudspeaker test. The quality of the sound generated is good, but is just not that loud, likely due to the waterproofing. Here's how it stacks up to other devices.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 60.9 66.6 58.7 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z1 65.7 61.3 66.7 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 65.9 62.1 73.5 Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
HTC One (M8) 65.8 64.7 75.7 Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Sony Xperia ZL 74.8 66.2 82.7 Very Good
Motorola Moto G 4G 77.1 76 83.3 Excellent


Messaging and email, text input

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

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Gmail and Email

As for text input, the Xperia Z3 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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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 Z3

Single-handed keyboard

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 offers. 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 geotagging info to sort photos by the location where they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Album

Editing can also be done from within Album app. It pops up a minimalist interface very similar to Google's Photos app, offering the ability to enhance your photos with a verity of filters, as well as adjust from a slew of settings including hue, levels, curves, and many more.

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

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Viewing an image • Editing is compact yet powerful

There's a slideshow using the SensMe brand and much like the music player feature, this one scans files and groups similar photos together.

Walkman and FM Radio

The Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia smartphones. It now features wider audio support - in addition to popular formats such as MP3, AAC, WAV, the Walkman player also handles ALAC and FLAC.

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 sorts your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (via a connected 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.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Walkman

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.

Digging into the settings your can select custom presets for a wide range of Sony headsets, including the bundled NC31E/EM noise cancelling headset, which takes advantage of the built-in noise cancelling features of the Xperia Z3.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Downloading track info • Selecting a headset preset

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).

The Xperia Z3 also includes Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), which upgrades the quality of compressed music files by using upsampling, but as can be expected from such an operation the results are hardly spectacular. We'd suggest you steer away from it as the added artifacts don't justify the benefits.

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

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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

FM Radio

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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Video player

The Sony Xperia Z3 was able to play most of the video files we threw at it but had some issues with AC3 audio and videos that combined AAC audio with the AVC video codec. MOV files played without problem, a rarity on an Android device. In any event, you can always download a more capable (codec-wise) third-party app from the Google Play store.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Watching a video

The video player supports subtitles, and you can customize their looks. Unfortunately, you cannot manually pick the subtitle file, it has to reside in the video folder to load up.

Clean audio output

The Sony Xperia Z3 did well in the first part of our audio quality test, which is where we plug it into an active external amplifier. The smartphone produced excellent scores all over the field as befits its flagship status. Volume levels however were rather disappointing so we can' give it full marks here.

Plugging in a pair of headphones leads to a moderate spike in stereo crosstalk, but the rest of the readings remain pretty good. Loudness deficiency hasn't been addressed, though, preventing the Xperia Z3 from matching its rivals despite a solid showing.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z3 +0.02, -0.08 -86.4 86.4 0.014 0.021 -86.6
Sony Xperia Z3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.10 -85.7 85.7 0.035 0.064 -50.8
Sony Xperia Z2 +0.02, -0.08 -88.2 90.1 0.0063 0.013 -88.9
Sony Xperia Z2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.04 -84.7 87.6 0.120 0.066 -60.2
LG G3 +0.02, -0.08 -99.4 98.9 0.0016 0.035 -100.0
LG G3 (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.09 -93.7 93.3 0.0060 0.032 -78.5
Samsung Galaxy S5 +0.02, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0017 0.0089 -95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones) +0.01, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0095 0.018 -61.9
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7
Oppo Find 7a +0.03, -0.16 -92.7 92.6 0.0057 0.072 -92.0
Oppo Find 7a (headphones) +0.05, -0.07 -91.5 92.7 0.0042 0.054 -15.7

Sony Xperia Z3 frequency response

Sony Xperia Z3 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

20.7MP camera sensor with ISO 12,800 support

The Sony Xperia Z3's camera uses the same 20.7MP sensor that was introduced back with the Xperia Z1 and is currently in the Xperia Z3 Compact too. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 pixels (20.7MP) in manual mode, or 3264 x 2448 (8MP) in Superior Auto.

There is also a LED flash to help you with some low-light photos. Speaking of, the sensor in the new Xperia Z3 series supports ISO 12,800 to let the phone handle even very dark scenes.

The Xperia Z3 also has a hardware shutter key. It's quite tiny and many people would probably find it uncomfortable. The good thing about it is that you can set it up to unlock the phone and start the camera. It can also snap a photo or start capturing video immediately. This might come in handy for those occasions when you just don't want to miss a good shot. The hardware shutter key is especially handy for underwater shooting, as on-screen controls tend to not respond well in those situations.

The camera interface is laid across two panes and is shared with the camcorder - you can snap a photo or shoot a video without changing modes most of the time. Depending on the shooting mode selected, the video shutter key may be replaced by a still/video mode toggle.

The mode selector (button in the bottom right) now offers an additional tab that lets you download more proprietary and third-party shooting modes.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Superior Auto UI • manual mode

In Manual mode you get limited controls: Exposure Compensation, White balance, Metering, Image stabilization and ISO. The maximum selectable ISO is 800 at full resolution, 3,200 at 8MP or less. There's a 12,800 ISO setting as well but that's only available in Superior auto and cannot be manually forced.

The Xperia Z3 comes with two Augmented Reality modes and you can shoot photos and videos in both. The AR Effect can, for example put a T-Rex in a jungle, while AR Fun lets you toss fruits, bombs and other stuff into the scene. Since AR Fun is interactive it works much better on video.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The robust camera interface features downloadable shooting modes

There are two picture in picture modes. Face in puts your mug in the shot and uses face recognition to center the small image right on your face. Multicamera uses other devices - Xperia smartphones or Wi-Fi/NFC-enabled Sony cameras (including the QX models). You can connect up to three devices (two if you use a camera) and record a combined video with all of them.

Sound Photo records a one-second 1080p video with sound, except it uses the uncommon MPO format.

There are two livestreaming options - Social Live (for Facebook) and Live on YouTube.

Timeshift replaces the regular burst mode, capturing 30 shots in just 2 seconds. The handy thing is that the camera saves images from before you even hit the shutter key so you'll never miss the right moment.

Other modes include the Creative effect mode, which lets you browse a range of effects in a scrollable carousel on the right and see them in real time.

Traditionally, with the 20.7MP Sony Xperias we've noticed that Superior Auto mode captures sharper images than Manual mode but this doesn't seem to be the case here. The two modes have a similar amount of per-pixel detail.

Photos have good dynamic range though contrast is on the low side and images have a slight tendency to be overexposed. Color rendering is restrained in its use of the saturation dial (compared to previous models) but the photos had a cool white balance, especially Normal mode shots.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 Superior Auto mode: 8MP

The 20.7MP Manual mode images preserve more detail than 8MP Superior auto shots but take up twice as much storage, or more. Superior auto shots have slightly less noise (but it's not completely eliminated) and sharpening halos are less visible.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 Manual mode: 20.7MP

You can get to HDR mode in the Manual settings menu and only when you pick 8MP resolution - far from ideal, this is about the slowest way to enable HDR in the industry. It brightens up shadows way too much (making the contrast issue worse) and doesn't do too much for highlights. Also note that detail is less than 8MP Superior auto shots.

The auto mode is supposed to auto-detect situations where HDR is applicable but in our experience photos turn out differently. That said, having it turn on less frequently may not be that bad as the results are nothing to write home about.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

HDR On • HDR Off

There's Sweep panorama but Sony's is one of the worst implementations on the market. It's picky about sweeping speed and we found it difficult to stop the sweep when we decide. When we managed to, the Xperia Z3 filled in the rest with grey color. Resolution is fairly low - 5MP in total with 1080px vertical resolution when you shoot in landscape mode. Stitching is far from perfect and leaves plenty of squiggly lines and misshapen objects.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 panorama: shot in landscape mode

We tested out Sony's claim of improved low-light performance. Superior auto mode hides noise better than Normal mode and in low light there isn't enough detail for 20.7MP resolution anyway. The flash doesn't have a particularly long range but it managed to drop the ISO and light levels slightly. The full resolution Normal mode photos benefit from the flash even less.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Superior Auto flash OFF • Superior Auto flash ON

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Manual Mode flash OFF • Manual Mode flash ON

And finally, here comes the High ISO mode in which the Xperia Z3 can go up to ISO 12,800. This sort of ISO levels are only accessible in Manual mode and High sensitivity scene. Again, despite the mode's name you don't have control over the ISO setting. Also the resolution drops to 8MP.

Here's a sample shot at ISO 12,800. Naturally, the resulting image is quite soft with high noise, but you can't really expect much better than that. In fact we are surprised the result isn't even worse and we think the super high ISO mode might find its uses.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 in High ISO mode (ISO 12800 sample)

If you want you can do some extra pixel peeping in our dedicated comparison tool below.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 (20.7MP) in our photo compare tool

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 (8MP) in our photo compare tool

4K video recording

The Sony Xperia Z3 captures 2160p videos at 30 fps at most. There are the usual lower fps and resolution options like 1080p@60fps and even a slow motion mode at 720p. There's also HDR video, but only in 1080p resolution.

4K (2160p) videos carry a bitrate of 55Mbps and are pretty good at staying close to the 30fps mark, although you will see the occasional stutter. The audio track bitrate is high at 156 Kbps and it sounds good thanks to the noise-cancelling dual microphone setup.

The videos are quite sharp at this resolution, but tend to suffer from the same mediocre contrast, cool white balance and slightly oversaturated colors as still photos.

1080p videos are shot at 17.5Mbps and obviously don't carry the same amount of detail. Still, they are sharp and suffer the same issues as 2160p videos and still photos. We did notice that the field of view shrinks slightly but it's not a major issue. 1080p videos keep the file size low and are easier to share (both because you have to upload less and because not all devices can play 2160p videos).

A middle ground in terms of storage is the 1080p@60fps mode that uses 30Mbps. The payoff is that without losing image quality you get much smoother motion - perfect for capturing fast-paced scenes like sport events.

The Sony Xperia Z3 offers digital image stabilization but do keep in mind that it eats up a significant portion of the field of view.

You can check out these video samples directly off the device: 2160p@30fps (0:08s), 1080p@30fps (0:08s) and 1080p@60fps (0:08s).

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 (2160p) in our video compare tool

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 (1080p) in our video compare tool

Chrome

The Sony Xperia Z3 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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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 like a headset or a charger. You can also set events to occur during a time interval (e.g. mute alarms at night). As for NFC compatibility, the Smart Connect app doesn't work with ordinary NFC tags, but only Sony's Smart tags, which is kinda disappointing. However, one of our readers duly pointed out, you can purchase cheap generic NFC tags, which are programmed as SmartTags so the app can recognize them just fine.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Smart 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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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.

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with a Track ID TV app that will recognize a TV show if you have the device to listen to what you're watching - neat.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Calendar • Track ID TV

Sony Xperia Z3 also features the Office Suite 7, which comes with a Premium license for one month, allowing for viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt), and it can also read PDFs.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

OfficeSuite 7

Calculator, Clock app (with stopwatch, world clock and timer), Sketch, Notes and File Manager apps are also here by default.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Clock • File Manager • Sketch

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.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony PlayStation app

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 Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

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

The Lifelog app is onboard too. If you enable its tracking functions - it will record your motion via phone's accelerometer and GSP and then it will convert the data into steps, distance, sleep hours, burnt calories. The app basically tracks and records all of our activity - in addition to the steps, walking/running/sleeping hours, it also saves time spent on communications, taking/browsing pictures, listening to music, watching videos, playing games, reading eBooks, and web browsing. The app is way more accurate if you are using some of Sony's wearable accessories (SmartBand, SmartWatch).

Finally, there is the Movie Creator. It automatically creates small video clips from your pictures taken with the camera. You don't have to do anything, just open it and see what will happen.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Movie Creator • Lifelog

Final words

Light touch or a complete overhaul is a likely dilemma when upgrading a flagship. Users have been seeing more of the former recently while clearly hoping for the latter. Now, that's the real dilemma most manufacturers have to deal with. Customers are increasingly harder to please at a stage when the technology simply isn't evolving as fast as it used to. Or the benefits of evolution are not making as big of a difference.

Sony Xperia Z3

We can't blame Sony for playing it safe. Sometimes risks just don't pay off - the HTC One M8's dual camera and LG G3's battery life among the prominent examples. The company's shorter release cycle is another thing to consider. They had to be careful not to make their ex-flagship obsolete - what if you just bought the Xperia Z2?

OK, recent Z2 adopters will find little to no reason to upgrade. No matter what spin you put on it, it's a bad thing to say about a brand new flagship. Owners of the original Xperia Z and the Z1 are the main target obviously, as well as outsiders. Here's what they'll be getting:

  • Top-notch build quality should be no surprise but the improved looks and handling count big time
  • The display is very bright, with great contrast and superior sunlight legibility
  • Battery life is excellent even without the rich power-saving options
  • It has an all-round connectivity package including LTE, USB Host and FM radio
  • Speaker loudness is Average, likely due to the dust and water-proofing
  • PS4 Remote play
  • Benchmark performance is flagship grade
  • Audio quality is good
  • Video player handles all the major formats except AC3 and AAC audio and AVC video
  • Still camera is competitive, but not quite up there with the best of them. 2160p videos come out smooth
  • Proprietary Album, Movies and Walkman apps

Minor touches on the outside have made the Xperia Z3 the most beautiful smartphone Sony has built to date. The curved sides not only look good but help the handling too. The phone is slimmer and the screen bezel has been reduced. The rubber finish at the edges provides better protection against accidental drops.

Pity the internals received an equally minor upgrade, which simply doesn't make that much of a difference. The quad-core processor is clocked higher at 2.5GHz, the Adreno 330 GPU is a bit faster too. Sony also upped the dust proofing to IP level 6.

This is where the list of new features ends - you get better looks and handling, higher IP rating, and a minor speed boost. A slightly better screen with improved outdoor performance should probably count too.

Again, that's a direct comparison with the six-month old Sony Xperia Z2 which, at almost €200 cheaper, is a more than compelling alternative.

The recently released Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is perhaps an even bigger threat, providing flagship-grade experience in a compact form factor. True, it comes with a smaller 720p display but the flipside is phenomenal battery life!

Sony Xperia Z2
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z2 • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

As for the actual competition, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a natural rival, and one that finally matches Sony's water-proof design. It also boasts a new ISOCELL camera sensor with phase detection autofocus, a fingerprint scanner and hear-rate monitor. At around €150 less, this is an impressive package that only doesn't look as hot.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

The one that does, HTC One (M8), makes a questionable choice of camera tech and isn't water-proof, pretty much equal elsewhere. It is about €100 cheaper than the Xperia Z3.

HTC One (M8)

HTC One (M8)

If a 1080p screen is not enough, the LG G3 offers a massive 5.5" display of QHD resolution and a similar Snapdragon 801 chipset. Its 13MP camera with laser-assisted autofocus and optical image stabilization is really capable, but the Optimus launcher might not be everyone's cup of tea. The 32GB version of the LG G3 with 3GB of RAM costs as much as an Xperia Z3, while the 16GB flavor with 2GB of RAM is about €150 cheaper.

LG G3

LG G3

Oppo makes a stand with a pair of flagships, the Find 7a and its QHD-screened sibling, Find 7. Both have large 5.5" displays, Snapdragon 801 chipsets and solid 13MP cameras. Oppo is charging €399 for the 1080p Find 7a and an extra €100 for the Find 7 - and it seems like a reasonable deal.

Oppo Find 7a
Oppo Find 7

Oppo Find 7a • Oppo Find 7

Finally, the brand new Apple iPhone 6 Plus is probably the only one that costs more - and among the few that can rival the Xperia line on looks. It features a 5.5-inch display of 1080p resolution, making it quite bigger, but even slimmer at just 7mm (not counting the camera hump, of course). The bigger iPhone offers optical image stabilization in the camera and a fingerprint scanner against Sony's water-proof design.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Overall, Sony's timing for the Xperia Z3 pair is spot on if they're trying to make a statement that they don't fear Apple. Our gut feeling is the Z3 Compact just might do better against the iPhone 6, the full-size Xperia Z3 struggling against the 6 Plus. The late arrival compared to the major Android flagships, whose premium features (fingerprint scanners, QHD screens) it fails to match, could possibly raise questions too.

Sony probably have it all figured out, with a holiday season sale that can possibly do wonders for the Xperia Z3 - giving the company a good deal of publicity right on time for the Xperia Z4 announcement at CES or MWC early next year.

Retail package

Our Sony Xperia Z3 review unit came in a modest retail package that only included the phone and a two-piece charger - wall mount plug and a microUSB cable.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

There wasn't a lot in our review unit's box

We also got some leaflets, but no headphones or other cool accessories. As usual retail packages are strictly market dependent and as far as we know most units will come bundled with a pair of headphones.

Sony Xperia Z3 360-degree view

The Sony Xperia Z3 stands at 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm, which is somewhat more compact and notably slimmer than its Xperia Z2 predecessor (146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm). However, the bezels around the screen have been reduced somewhat more than the raw number difference suggests as the new flagship has rounded edges, which normally add to the overall footprint.

Still, if you compare the Xperia Z3 to a couple of its direct rivals - the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), you immediately notice that it's a larger, if slimmer device. The difference to the One (M8) is easily offset by the slimmer waistline (not to mention that's it's made up for by the larger screen), but the Samsung handset does feel more compact.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The Sony Xperia Z3 sized up against the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5

Design and handling

As we already mentioned, Sony has taken a new turn with the design of its current flagships. Much like the Xperia Z3 Compact, the Xperia Z3 drops the familiar flat sides for rounded edges, only this time they are made of metal rather than plastic.

The difference in both look and feel is notable and is clearly in favor of the full-sized handset. The glass back and front panels are still here, though, so you'll easily recognize that this is a smartphone belonging to the top tier of the Xperia family.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The rounded edges benefit both design and handling

The overall result is great and is helped in no small part by the excellent build of the Sony Xperia Z3. Despite the different materials for the front and back panels and the sides, which pose some engineering problems, the smartphone is well put together and there are no unsightly gaps between the panels to spoil its looks.

The difference in size may not be too great, but the handling of the Sony Xperia Z3 is a marked improvement over that of its predecessor. The rounded edges and the slimmer waistline make the company's new top dog far easier to both hold in the hand and pocket.

As smartphone get larger and larger with each passing generation, we start to appreciate sloping edges, which give you a comfortable spot to rest your fingers against. The slimmer profile also makes sure you'll need to stretch your fingers less and you won't get too big bulges when you put the Xperia Z3 in your pockets.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 held in hand

An important note has to be made here - since the Sony Xperia Z3 has a perfectly flat back - a fact it was keen to point to when Apple announced the iPhone 6 and its bulging camera. However that and the glass panel on top makes the phone very slippery when placed on similarly non-textured surfaces - like glass tables for examples. You have to be very careful so the smartphone doesn't slide off an edge and goes crashing against the ground.

Controls

Despite moving to all-metal rather than metal-inlaid plastic edges the Sony Xperia Z3 retains much of the control layout of its predecessor.

There are the usual sensors above the 5.2" display, next to a 2.2MP front-facing camera. The stereo speakers are also carried on from the Xperia Z2 to make your gaming and video watching experience more immersive.

Sony Xperia Z3

The familiar array of sensors

Each speaker is hidden underneath a very thin but elongated grille carved out of the front glass. The top speaker doubles as an earpiece and the LED notification light is integrated therein too.

Sony Xperia Z3

The second front-facing speaker

The right side of the Xperia Z3 is very busy. In the upper corner is the microSIM compartment under its protective flap. The microSD card slot has also been moved here, which is the only change over the outgoing model. Just below those is the signature power key, followed by a volume rocker. Finally, there is the two-stage shutter key.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

It's quite busy on the right

The design of the keys has been slightly altered but their usability is about the same as on the Xperia Z2 - that is to say the buttons are usable but aren't quite the most comfortable around. Still, achieving that while reducing the thickness should earn Sony some credit.

The left side has microUSB port under a protective lid as well. Naturally, it should be properly closed if you want your Xperia Z3 to stay true to its IP68 dust tight and water proof rating. The dock connector pins and the lanyard eyelet are also on this side.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The microUSB port, the dock connector pins and the lanyard eyelet

The top of the phone holds the exposed but waterproofed 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary microphone allowing stereo sound in videos and keeping ambient noise out of calls. The bottom is completely bereft of functional elements.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The audio jack and the secondary microphone sit on top • the bottom is clean of controls

The entire back is covered by a scratch-resistant glass of undisclosed origin. In the top left corner you see the 20.7MP camera lens - it's a 26mm wide Sony G lens with a fast F/2.0 aperture that sits above the Sony Exmor RS backside illuminated (BSI) sensor.

If you were hoping for a more powerful LED flash, dual or a true-tone LED, you'll be disappointed. The Xperia Z3 uses the same tiny singe-LED flash we saw on the Xperia Z1.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The 20.7 MP camera lens is the star backstage

One final note on controls - Sony is planning on releasing complete PS4 connectivity exclusively to the new Xperia Z3 series this coming November. This means that you'll be able to connect the Xperia Z3 Compact to a Dualshock 4 controller (there's also going to be a mount accessory if you want them fused together) and stream full PS4 games directly from a PS4 system on the same wireless network.

You can either use the screen of the phone and play on the controller or use the phone as a stand-alone controller and play on your TV. In very desperate cases you can use the phone as a controller and a display, but most games require too many buttons and the according number of fingers over them so it's impossible to see anything.