Introduction

The Sony Xperia Z3+ is the Japanese flagship we've all been anticipating, but is it really the one we've been hoping for? Or are the predictable chipset update and minor design touches simply a prelude to a proper upgrade later this year?

Starting with the original Xperia Z in February 2013, Sony's condensed update cycle for the high-end Z-series has meant a spring release was followed by another in the fall, enabling the company to adequately combat competition on either side of the Pacific. Inevitably, each new model carried few improvements over the predecessor, failing to truly wow customers.

Those are considerations for the marketing teams though, and there's obviously no way we could know Sony's precise reasoning. We can, however, work with what we've got, and at this point that's the Xperia Z3+.

A few months behind the obvious major competitors and Sony's own established schedule, the Xperia Z3+ doesn't surprise with hardware. The one major change is the Snapdragon 810 SoC, which brings a performance boost, alongside faster Cat.6 LTE.

Gone is the 16GB base storage option of the current model and the Xperia Z3+ only comes in 32GB flavor. The outdated 2MP front camera couldn't fly on a 2015 high-end smartphone, and it has made way for a new 5.1MP snapper.

A less welcome move has seen the battery capacity taken a notch down from 3,100mAh to 2,930mAh - enabling designers to achieve the highlight 6.9mm thickness and the weight has also been reduced. Points are due for the capless microUSB port too, which made the charging pogo pins redundant, while keeping the IP68 certification intact.

Key features

  • Also available as a Dual SIM version
  • 5.2" IPS LCD, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 424ppi
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with Xperia UI on top
  • IP68 certified - dust and water proof up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with 2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 plus 1.5 GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, Adreno 430 GPU, 3GB of RAM
  • 20.7MP camera, LED flash, 2160p video recording, dedicated hardware shutter key
  • 5.1MP front-facing camera with 1080p video recording (along with Superior Auto and Video stabilization)
  • 32GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Cat. 6 LTE (up to 300Mbps); Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Wi-Fi Direct; Bluetooth 4.1 with apt-X and Sony LDAC wireless High-Res Audio codec, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou receiver, Stereo FM with RDS; USB On-The-Go
  • Active noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
  • Digital noise cancellation available with certain Sony headsets
  • Front-facing stereo speakers
  • 2,930mAh battery; STAMINA Power Saving Mode
  • Stylish dual glass-panel design
  • Qualcomm Quick charge certified

Main disadvantages

  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • No wireless charging
  • Qualcomm Quick charger not included in the retail package
  • Screen has the same specs third generation in a row, when rivals have mostly moved to 1440p
  • Battery downgrade hardly justified
  • �700 introductory retail price is too steep

All by itself, the spec sheet is impressive, and you'd have to look hard to find glaring omissions other than the screen resolution. It's just that we've seen most of it a number of times already and we're no longer as impressed.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ press images

Still, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is the company's answer to this season's flagships. But if even Sony doesn't think it's worthy of the Z4 badge, can we really call it a true flagship?

We set out to determine just that, and we kick off with a look at the hardware.

Disclaimer: This review is based in a pre-production Xperia Z3+ unit, but we were informed it uses the latest available firmware version. It's nevertheless possible that parts of our test observations may not reflect the performance and qualities of the retail product. We'll revisit this review and we'll update the test findings as soon as a retail unit becomes available to us.

Sony Xperia Z3+ 360° spin

The Sony Xperia Z3+ measures 146 x 72 x 6.9 mm, which is exactly the same footprint as the Xperia Z3. Mere fractions of a millimeter have been trimmed off the thickness, 0.4mm to be precise - just enough for marketing to have something to work with. The difference is not really easily felt in real life. Sony however is rightfully proud it has achieved it without a protruding camera lens. The cameras on both the iPhone 6 (6.9mm) and the Galaxy S6 (6.8mm) are sticking out.

What is more tangible in practice is the decrease in weight. At 144g the new handset indeed feels lighter than the Z3, more so than the modest 8g worth of difference would suggest.

Body and design

If you've ever spent time with a Sony smartphone in the past two and a half years, you know the basics of their trademark design language, which the company calls Omnibalance. A rectangular two-sided glass slab held together by a metal frame makes for a premium styling which feels equally nice to look at and handle.

Sony has gone with a slightly different material for the frame this time around. While it's still matte, it has a bit more shine to it for extra flair. The bumper corners are still present and whether or not they provide additional protection in case of drops, they still are a bit of an eye-sore.

What is perhaps the most welcome design feature is the capless microUSB port. It's actually the second Sony waterproof smartphone to feature it, as the hot-off-the-assembly-line Xperia M4 Aqua is already shipping.

Apparently the IP68 certification for dust and water ingress could be attained without the hideous flap, which brought hassle to every charging session.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ and Z3 compared

What used to be a workaround to that issue - the side-positioned magnetic docking port - is now gone for good or bad. You no longer have the option of docking the handset in landscape orientation. Instead, a new dock, again sold separately, allows you to sit the Z3+ in portrait mode.

We're not great fans of the design as the dock is not completely stable with the _phone_ being wider than the dock itself. Also the dock tends to muffle the bottom speaker a bit.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

New docking station for the Sony Xperia Z3+

The speakers themselves mark a return to the Xperia Z2 in terms of placement. The relocation to the edges of the front means they are less obtrusive than on the Z3 and the front is now back to a solid glass panel with no cutouts.

Unfortunately, when listening to music they don't sound so crisp as we would have liked. Let alone that the whole _phone_ vibrates with the sound when you have the full on (that's the case with the Z3 as well), but music is not as deep as before. In comparison, even the Xperia Z3 offers deeper sounding music, while the the HTC One M9 hands down blows it away. Music reproduction there is much deeper and nicer and there isn't any sign of vibration when playing back your tunes.

Sony is keen to point out that their camera lens sits flush with the back despite the slimmer profile, unlike pretty much every major competitor. A curious little detail for those of you keeping track is that now the lens is part of the glass panel, while the single-LED flash sits in a cutout, exactly the opposite solution to the previous model.

That said, looking at the back alone, you'd have to be a true Sony connoisseur to tell the Xperia Z3+ apart from the older models. We do have a Z3 for direct comparison so we admit that made our job much easier.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ side by side with Sony Xperia Z3

Controls

The controls of the Xperia Z3+ are located on the right side of the device. The aluminum circular power button, a highlight of the OmniBalance aesthetic, is joined by the volume rocker in the middle third of the side, while the dedicated two-stage shutter button is in its expected position towards the bottom.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Right side with power button volume rocker and shutter release

What used to be two separate slots on the right for microSD and nanoSIM cards, hidden behind a long 33mm flap on the right, has become a single slot on the left, where the microUSB used to be.

Behind the single flap on the Z3+ there's a flimsy plastic tray, which can accommodate both a nanoSIM and a microSD card. The tray is a pain to take out and we wouldn't be surprised if it's easy to break if you take it out too often.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

SIM card and microSD slot behind a flap on the left

On the top of the phone you'll find the standard 3.5mm headphone jack in the very same spot as on the predecessor. For little apparent reason other than to move things around a bit, the secondary microphone has abandoned the 3.5mm jack and is now on the other end of the top plate.

What used to be a bare bottom plate is now home to the microUSB port in the middle and a lanyard eyelet towards the corner, an increasingly rare sight these days.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

3.5mm jack and secondary mic on the top plate • microUSB and lanyard eyelet on the botom

A fairly standard arrangement on the front sees the 5MP camera and the sensor cluster on either side of the Sony logo. The layout is a mirror image of the previous three generations, and back to their original position on the original Xperia Z.

The 20.7MP camera is in the top left corner on the back, where it has been since the Z1, and so is the single-LED flash.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Front camera and sensor placement • Primary camera and LED flash

Handling

As we already mentioned, the Xperia Z3+ is noticeably lighter than its predecessor, and that makes for a superior in-hand experience. The phone just feels easier to handle.

What's remained unchanged is the dual-glass design which means the grip is less than ideal. And while you could squeeze it tighter for a more secure hold, placing it on an even slightly sloped smooth surface remains a gamble.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ in your hand

One thing that bothered us is the ever so slight lip that the frame creates over the glass panels. You could argue that it's there to protect the glass panels from scratches, but your fingers won't be happy. The Z3 doesn't have that and it's almost as if Sony made the new device 0.4mm thinner, but kept the frame as thick as before.

5.2-inch 1080p Triluminous display

The Xperia Z3+ comes with a 5.2-inch FullHD display, which judging by those numbers alone appears to be the same as the one on the predecessor. Sony, however, claims that the new panel is even brighter than the already stellar unit on the Z3.

Sony Xperia Z3+

The display comes with the lot of Sony's proprietary features including Triluminous tech for a wider color gamut and the X-reality engine, which dynamically enhances images. If you're unhappy with the default output, you can manually adjust the white balance.

With Sony opting for the stock Lollipop notification shade, there's no readily available Auto brightness switch, you have to delve into the settings.

A double-tap-to-wake feature can be enabled, but it doesn't work the other way around and you have to use the power button to send the phone back to sleep. There's a dedicated glove mode for the touchscreen.

The Xperia Z3+ touchscreen also responds to wet fingers in a completely satisfactory way. The Z3 wasn't completely incapable of that either but the behavior is a lot more consistent and reliable on the Z3+.

The smart backlight control detects when you're holding the smartphone, and prevents it from entering standby. Leave it on the table, though, and the preset inactive interval takes over.

What we noticed very quickly when we first got the Xperia Z3+, and what the more observant among you picked up, are the strips of dots covering the entire area of the screen. They are clearly visible both in the studio photos and in actual use, and when you are out and about, they would even glitter in the sun. The Xperia Z3 on the other hand doesn't have those. We guess, that's the price users will have to pay for the improved touch operation with wet fingers.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

The visible touch sensor layer

Our microscope shot expectedly revealed an RGB arrangement with equal amounts of red, green and blue subpixels.

Sony Xperia Z3+

Well, our own display tests on the Xperia Z3+ showed that while the display is very bright in its own right, isn't quite up to the standards set by the predecessor. That said, no other flagship comes close to the figures posted by the Xperia Z3+ at the 100% setting. Contrast is also high, but not Xperia Z3-high, owing to the lower white brightness and a marginal increase in the black illumination.

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 Z3+ - - - 0.68 789 1158
Sony Xperia Z2 - - - 0.41 488 1195
LG G4 0.09 108 1240 0.43 532 1238
LG G Flex2 152 398
HTC One M9 0.15 175 1180 0.44 534 1221
Samsung Galaxy S6 208 473
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 291 399
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 0.17 208 1197 0.52 705 1361
Motorola Nexus 6 149 372


One area, which has seen an improvement, is sunlight contrast ratio. It sure can't fight with the AMOLEDs, but is better than both the HTC One M9 and the LG G4.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy E7
    4.485
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • 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
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • 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
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Sony Xperia Z3+
    2.824
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • 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
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • 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
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • vivo Xshot
    2.465
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One M9
    2.334
  • LG G4
    2.317
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo R1x
    2.281
  • 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
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML
    2.149
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • 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
  • 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
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • 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
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • 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
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    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
  • Acer Liquid Jade S
    1.734
  • 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
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • 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
  • Microsoft Lumia 532
    1.615
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Microsoft Lumia 435
    1.598
  • 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
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Sony Xperia E4
    1.467
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • 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
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • 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

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes in both single SIM and dual SIM versions and both of those have quad-band GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 and quad-band 3G support. LTE is available too with its bands depending on the region, and our E6553 model supports no less than 12 bands. The news here is the upgrade in speed to Cat.6 for a theoretical download maximum of 300Mbps.

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 v4.1 with A2DP and 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.

The port also has 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.

Battery life test

Sony equipped the Xperia Z3+ with a 2,930mAh battery, a downgrade in capacity compared to the Z3, and a result of the slimming down process. The company insists that the phone will deliver two days of uptime nonetheless.

Our tests proved that to be the case, but since the software isn't yet final, we won't post detailed results. For now, we'll only say that the pre-production Xperia Z3+ managed a 74-hour endurance rating, measured according to our standardized routine, which is still an admirable achievement, even if slightly behind the Z3's 85 hours.

As always, if you need longer battery life and are willing to sacrifice features to obtain it, you can resort to one of the Stamina modes, which we'll revisit in more detail in the software section.

Lightly modded Android 5.0.2

The Xperia Z3+ is among the first Sony devices to boot Android Lollipop out of the box. Unlike other manufacturers, the Japanese giant has traditionally chosen to stick close to stock Android and the Xperia Z3+ stays true to that approach.

The lockscreen has a clock widget up front in Sony's recently adopted styling with a bold hour numeral, and less striking minute digits. You can also opt for one of two other clock faces.

Lockscreen notifications debuted on Lollipop and are present on the Xperia Z3+. A double tap on one will unlock the phone and take you straight to the respective app.

Unlocking works only by an upward swipe, other directions won't cut it. You do get shortcuts to the camera and dialer, though. A double-tap-to-wake feature can be enabled in the settings.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Straightforward lockscreen with notifications and shortcuts to camera and dialer

Beyond that, there's the usual set of homescreens, of which you can have up to seven. You can choose any one of them as Home, but you can't rearrange them, nor do they cycle to the first one once you reach the end. A dock of four app shortcuts plus app drawer icon sit on the bottom. Naturally, folders are supported on the dock, as well as the homescreens.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Homescreens with app shortcuts, widgets and folder support

There's an extensive theming engine and although the preinstalled themes offer mostly the same Xperia look in different colors, a whole bunch of other custom themes is available online.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

There are simple preloaded themes as well as a multitude of downloadable ones

The app drawer displays a 4x5 grid of apps and you have a choice of small or large icons, though opting for the small ones won't display more apps. The apps can be arranged alphabetically, by most used, or in a custom user-selected order. To change the arrangement or uninstall an app, you need to evoke the side drawer, a feature of the XperiaUI used throughout Sony's proprietary apps.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

App drawer with small/large icon setting • Side drawer for settings

The notification are is the stock Lollipop flavor. That means a two stage design, with notifications displayed on the first swipe, and the settings toggles available upon expanding it. A less obvious gesture, a careful two finger pull down will get you straight to the toggles.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are not mere switches, tapping on the text below will take you to the settings of the two. Editing the selection of toggles is available with a shortcut straight from the notification shade.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Stock two-stage Lollipop notification shade without auto brightness toggle

Like the rest of Sony's Lollipop builds, the Xperia Z3+ uses standard Android app switcher with the added benefit of a kill-all button. There's more to it though, and it comes in the form of Sony's Small apps.

They 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 ten: Active Clip, Chrome Bookmarks, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Gmail, Google Keep, Music, Timer and Touch Block. You can launch only one instance of a Small App, but you can open multiple Small Apps simultaneously, though it can quickly become a mess.

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+

Lollipop rolodex task switcher with a Small app twist

Synthetic benchmarks

The Sony Xperia Z3+ is powered by other than the controversial Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset. In theory that should mean a 2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 plus 1.5 GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, but we got lower values. It could be because of the pre-release status of the device in testing, or simply Sony's way of dealing with the thermal issues. Either way, the processor is joined by an Adreno 430 GPU and 3GB of RAM, which make for a rather typical 2015 high-end setup.

Sony Xperia Z3+

We ran the entire battery of tests we typically do, and a few things became evident. One is that the phone quickly heats up when subjected to a serious load, but that was to be expected given the internals and the slim profile.

That said, it's not as bad as we've witnessed and the phone doesn't get as hot as to be unusable. It's almost full blown summer at headquarters however, so the conditions are as bad as the device would encounter in moderate climates.

The second thing to note, which is a result of the heat, is that benchmark performance drops significantly with consecutive runs. That's not surprising either, but the dip in performance meant that in Antutu, for example, the numbers plummeted from a 55K first run to as low as 46K as the runs ramped up.

The great performance in the first runs proved our initial guess that throttling down due to the heat hinders the phone's performance.

All of the above considerations apply to our pre-production review unit. The final firmware, which will make it to commercially available devices, may adopt a different approach to handling the heat and thus produce different figures.

With that preamble, we can now move on to actual scores. First up is the CPU-centric Geekbench test, where the Xperia Z3+ managed to inch ahead of the HTC One M9 and LG G Flex2, both powered by the same Snapdragon 810. The Exynos 7420 inside the Samsung Galaxy S6 is in a league of its own here.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5215
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    3772
  • HTC One M9
    3761
  • LG G Flex2
    3604
  • LG G4
    3509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    3394
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3285
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3120
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    3094
  • Apple iPhone 6
    2924
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2860
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2856
  • LG G3
    2370

We continue with Antutu, which we already mentioned above. Here the Xperia Z3+ pulls up ahead of the S810 crowd.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    69396
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    55195
  • HTC One M9
    51427
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    49803
  • LG G4
    49295
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    49273
  • LG G Flex2
    47680
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    45632
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    45348
  • LG G3
    42038
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    40393

Basemark II 2.0 is next in line of the compound benchmarks and the Xperia Z3+ posts a respectable overall score, though the G Flex2 is the highest ranked S810 device here, and it beats the Galaxy S6 too. The S808 LG G4 is also ahead of the Z3+, so the benchmark may favor LG phones for some unknown technical reason.

Both the single-core and multi-core results of the Xperia Z3+ are rather low though, and that likely has to do with the lower clock rates used by Sony.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • LG G Flex2
    1726
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1674
  • LG G4
    1584
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    1479
  • HTC One M9
    1365
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    1353
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    1267
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1267
  • LG G3
    1189
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    1160

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    6306
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    6165
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    6068
  • LG G4
    5871
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    5624
  • LG G Flex2
    5597
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    5557
  • LG G3
    5396
  • HTC One M9
    4688
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    4370

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    26799
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    21026
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    19237
  • LG G Flex2
    18856
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18386
  • HTC One M9
    18047
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    17882
  • LG G4
    17739
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    17028
  • LG G3
    16485

Graphics performance puts the Z3+ towards the top of the charts, thanks to the Adreno 430 GPU. Basemark X places the Sony flagship phone second behind the Galaxy S6 and way out of the reach of the competition. Only the company's own Z4 Tablet (also a pre-production unit) is on par with it.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    27169
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    23334
  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    23298
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    20901
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    20043
  • HTC One M9
    19848
  • LG G Flex2
    19360
  • Apple iPhone 6
    17054
  • LG G4
    15090
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    13075
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12637
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    11798
  • LG G3
    10580

GFXBench paints a similar picture, though the Z3+ loses its second spot. It's still towards the top of the current crop of high-enders. In the off-screen version (rendered at 1080p for all devices) of the lighter T-Rex routine, the Xperia Z3+ trails behind the S810 competitors, but not by much. Lesser Snapdragons are all behind. The on-screen test, rendered at the device's actual resolution continues that trend.

Not much changes in the more intense Manhattan test, where the Z3+ is again marginally behind the G Flex2 and One M9.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    59
  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    54
  • HTC One M9
    49
  • LG G Flex2
    49
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    46.5
  • Apple iPhone 6
    42.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    40
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    38.9
  • LG G4
    34.5
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    28
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    27.7
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    27.2
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    27
  • LG G3
    26

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    51
  • HTC One M9
    50
  • LG G Flex2
    48
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    46.8
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    38
  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    37
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    29.3
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    28.7
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    28
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    27.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    26
  • LG G4
    24.7
  • LG G3
    20

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    24
  • HTC One M9
    23
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    20.7
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18
  • Apple iPhone 6
    17.7
  • LG G4
    14.9
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    11.7
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    11
  • LG G3
    11

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    29.2
  • HTC One M9
    24
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    20.5
  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    16
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    14
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12.7
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    12.2
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    11.9
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    11
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    11
  • LG G4
    9.4
  • LG G3
    7.7

Browser performance is another area where the Z3+ doesn't disappoint. The JavaScript-intense Kraken 1.1 places the Sony flagship ahead of the One M9 and Nexus 6, though the G Flex2 is better. The Galaxy S6 and, quite surprisingly G4, post substantially better scores. The Xperia Z3+ scores higher in Browsermark 2.1 where only the Galaxy S6 is better in the Android realm.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    3854
  • LG G4
    4085
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4154
  • LG G Flex2
    4621
  • Apple iPhone 6
    4710
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    4745
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    5181
  • HTC One M9
    5500
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    5968
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    6088
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    6355
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    6382
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    7041
  • LG G3
    7632

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6
    3153
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    2718
  • Sony Zperia Z3+ pre-production
    2337
  • Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
    2287
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    2232
  • LG G Flex2
    2086
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    2066
  • LG G4
    1990
  • HTC One M9
    1681
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1533
  • LG G3
    1453
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1447
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1224
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    748

The benchmark scores neither surprise, nor disappoint. We had some experience with similar hardware, and the Xperia Z3+ performs largely in line with what was to be expected. The Snapdragon S810 can't compete with the Exynos 7420 in sheer power, but it's the best that Qualcomm has to offer by a long stretch. Sony has managed to strike a reasonable compromise between heat and performance, and although the figures above are achieved with non-final firmware, the smartphone delivers plenty of punch.

Phonebook

The phonebook on the Xperia Z3+ is called Contacts. It uses a tabbed interface, consisting of Contacts, Favorites and Groups. It is no longer bundled with the phone app, but you can still quickly jump to it from the dialer. The contact list has a dedicated search filed plus it offers a very nicely animated alphabetical scroll bar.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Phonebook

Single contact view opens in full screen, rather than the pop-up view of previous Xperias. You get plenty of options for adding contact details with practically unlimited number of fields.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Viewing and editing a contact

Telephony

The Xperia Z3+ had no problem with reception and we didn't experience dropped calls or other anomalies. The volume range is rather wide and you wouldn't want to pump it all the way up in all but the loudest surroundings.

The dialer is its own dedicated app and supports smart dialing. It doesn't have a built-in recorder, if you're into that sort of thing.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Standalone dialer with smart dial • in-call screen

The Xperia Z3+ continues a trend of Sony flagships where they fail to impress with Loudspeaker loudness. The whole dust- and waterproofing might be the culprit, but the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active manages substantially better numbers, despite adhering to even more stringent specifications.

In the end the smartphone posted an Average score, meaning you should check it out every now and then in noisy surroundings to make sure you don't miss a call.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua 60.2 57.2 64.5 Below Average
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3+ 66.7 66.6 67.7 Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
Apple iPhone 6 66.6 65.7 72.8 Average
HTC One M9 65.2 64.6 76.1 Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S6 68.1 66.3 73.7 Good
LG G4 66.9 71.8 74.7 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active 73.1 69.3 76.7 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy Note Edge 72.7 75.7 70.8 Very Good
Oppo N1 73.7 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 74.7 73.5 81.6 Excellent


Messaging, email and text input

The Sony messaging app has the regular functionality with threaded view and automatic transition to MMS when attaching media. Google Hangouts is also on board.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Messaging app • Hangouts is also present

Naturally, the Gmail client and the default Email apps are on board. Either one can sync with multiple accounts, both Google and POP/IMAP.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Generic Mail app • Gmail

The Xperia keyboard has every feature you may need. It has symbols on long press, smiley key, and Swype-like gesture input. There's also a one handed which squishes the entire keyboard to one side for easier access. There's also a selection of three differently color skins.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Xperia keyboard with secondary symbols • one-handed keyboard • gesture input • skins

Gallery is called Album

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with the custom Sony gallery, called Album. Images are organized into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can resize the image thumbnails with a pinch gesture all the way from a grid of tiny, tiny thumbnails to a single image view.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Gallery views with different thumbnail size • side drawer • Places

The gallery can pull images from your Facebook, Picasa or Flickr accounts for easy viewing in one spot. Alternatively, you can turn the Z3+ into a DLNA server and view photos from the device on a computer or compatible TV.

Also here are some special albums - Places, for one, which uses the geotagging info to sort photos by where they were taken, and Faces is another, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled. A simple slideshow mode with no transition settings is present as well.

There's also an image editor, which provides basic tools for enhancing your photos like cropping and color effects, but also a bit more advanced features like curves adjustment.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Viewing and editing an image

Simple, yet powerful video player

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it has a simple interface, but is strong on codec support and subtitle handling. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TV shows you have on the tablet.

The good news is that Sony has fixed up its codec support and the Xperia Z3+ plays just about everything - AVI (DivX, XviD), MP4 and even MKV and MOV. WMV files refused to play. DTS, DD and AC3 audio are not supported and that makes the videos that contain them unplayable, though you can see the picture moving underneath the error popup. The video player does support fully-customizable subtitles.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Video player • subtitles customization

Music has replaced Walkman

The music player app is named simply Music, the Walkman badge is no more. That said, the app offers largely the same interface and core functionality as before. The interface is based on tiles that sort your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (but you need to link your Facebook account).

When there's music playing, the album art serves as background for the lockscreen, with controls in the notification list. The notification area also offers the now playing screen with music controls and the option to jump into the Walkman player.

The Now Playing screen shows a carousel with the tracks in the current playlist and the usual music controls below that. You can swipe left and right to move between tracks. The Infinite button will help you find the music video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Music player looks good and works even better

Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art or you can edit it manually.

Sony has improved the Walkman player's settings. There's the familiar ClearAudio+ option, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. Dynamic normalizer evens out the volume differences between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

The Sound enhancements offer even more settings. There's an equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). There's Surround sound mode too, 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).

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

A multitude of sound-enhancing features

FM radio with RDS and TrackID

The Sony Xperia Z3+ features an FM Radio aboard, complete with RDS support. The app has multiple skins 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+
Sony Xperia Z3+

The FM Radio • recognizing a song with TrackID

Audio quality is solid, but not perfect

The Sony Xperia Z3+ did very well when connected to an active external amplifier, posting excellent scores top to bottom. Volume levels were above average too, rounding up a flagship-grade performance here.

Sadly, the Xperia Z3+ couldn't maintain that performance in the second part of the test, when we made it work with our standard headphones set. A notable amount of extra stereo crosstalk appeared, and there was also some extra intermodulation distortion and frequency response fluctuations. None of those is a deal breaker, but we've come to expect better from flagships in 2015.

Anyway, here go the results so you can do your comparisons.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z3+ +0.03, -0.01 -94.8 89.4 0.0046 0.012 -94.3
Sony Xperia Z3+ (headphones) +0.40, -0.10 -93.0 89.0 0.0049 0.227 -52.3
Sony Xperia Z3 +0.02, -0.08 -86.4 86.4 0.014 0.021 -86.6
Sony Xperia Z3 (headphones) +0.29, -0.10 -85.7 85.7 0.035 0.064 -50.8
LG G4 +0.04, -0.07 -93.4 93.3 0.0021 0.050 -92.6
LG G4 (headphones) +0.93, -0.13 -91.4 91.9 0.013 0.244 -50.4
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge +0.03, -0.01 -95.6 92.8 0.0023 0.0078 -95.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge (headphones) +0.05, -0.02 -92.6 92.5 0.0028 0.044 -76.9
Samsung Galaxy S6 +0.01, -0.04 -95.6 92.8 0.0024 0.0094 -94.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 (headphones) +0.02, -0.05 -92.6 91.9 0.0025 0.042 -83.4
HTC One M9 +0.02, -0.06 -94.8 93.0 0.0049 0.026 -93.7
HTC One M9 (headphones) +0.03, -0.05 -93.7 92.7 0.0082 0.030 -91.6
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1

Sony Xperia Z3+ frequency response

Sony Xperia Z3+ frequency response

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

Familiar 20.7MP camera

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with the same 20.7MP camera, that's become synonymous with the Z-series flagship. The lens has an f2.0 aperture and ISO can be pumped all the way up to 12800. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 pixels (20.7MP) in manual mode, or 3264 x 2448 (8MP) in Superior Auto. An LED flash is present to help you with some low-light photos.

Sony Xperia Z3+

The Xperia Z3+ also has a two stage hardware shutter key that you can set up to unlock the phone and start the camera. It can also snap a photo or start capturing video immediately. The hardware shutter key is especially handy for underwater shooting.

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.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Camera interface

There's a multitude of modes already bundled with the app, some of them useful like Sweep panorama and Timeshift video. Others are mostly one-time fun affair like the three augmented reality modes which superimpose images on top of the actual scene for an amusing, if not really useful way. You're not limited to the preinstalled modes, and there's a whole bunch of others to download.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Preinstalled modes • downloadable modes

As is typical for Sony smartphone cameras, the Xperia Z3+ shoots in Superior auto mode by default, which limits resolution to 3,264 x 2,448 pixels, or 8MP. Theoretically, the Z3+ should recognize among 52 different scene types and adjust settings accordingly. You're left with little control over the process other than a flash mode selector and a choice of 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio.

Mind you, those are still samples from a pre-production model, running non-final firmware and the output of the commercially available devices may differ. We'll certainly update this page with new samples once we receive a final unit and reshoot the images.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ sample images shot in Superior auto mode at 8MP

The more powerful Manual mode is where you get more options though not as many as on competing smartphones. For example you can select different resolutions and fiddle with exposure settings and white balance.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ sample images shot in Manual mode at 20.7MP

We shot a few images with the Xperia Z3 alongside the Z3+ for comparison, both in Manual mode, and you can view them below.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3 (top row) vs. Xperia Z3+ (bottom row)

It is in this Manual mode where you can enable HDR shooting, but that is again limited to 8MP. It raises a question then, why it isn't available in Superior auto, but it is what it is.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

8MP stills shot in Manual mode with HDR off • on • off • on

Sony's Sweep panorama remains unchanged generations on end and it is among the worst implementations on the market. It might have been easier to live with on a lesser model in the lineup, but not the flagship. And it's not like it's the first time it has been said, by us or other reviewers.

Sony Xperia Z3+

Panorama shot in portrait and landscape

The 5MP front camera produces 2,592 x 1,944 pixel images. It has a Soft skin effect toggle for covering blemishes, but no slider to control its strength. An annoying aspect of the interface is that if you switch for example from Manual to Superior auto, the app switches to the primary camera and you have to tap again to go back to the selfie shooter.

Sony Xperia Z3+

5MP front camera sample

You can go over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Xperia Z3+ stacks up to major rivals. Again, don't forget that the test shots come from a pre-production unit.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3+ in our photo compare tool

Video recorder

The Sony Xperia Z+ is capable of 2160p@30fps video recording, though as before, that option is buried in the shooting modes, instead of being available in the regular video settings. Other than that, the Z3+ can record in the standard 1080p@30fps, but also a smoother 1080p@60fps.

You can also download unedited videos straight from the smartphone's camera. We've uploaded on our server a 2160p sample (00:17min, 111MB), as well as one shot at 1080p@30fps (00:18min, 37MB).

Feel free to check our video compare tool for the studio test results.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3+ in our video compare tool

A couple of browsers

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with a pair of browsers and whether you'll opt for the skinned stock Android offering or Google Chrome, depends largely on personal preference and habit. Going for it, Chrome has seamless transition between all your devices through your Google account as well as the Data Saver feature, which compresses pages in an attempt to cut down on cellular transfer charges.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Stock browser • Google Chrome

Other apps

The Calendar app handles your planning needs. Entering a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder. The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. The calendar can also display the national holidays for a long list of countries and your contacts' birthdays too, and shows the weather forecast for each day.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Calendar

The Alarm & clock app supports multiple alarms, each with its own sound and repeat pattern. You can also set whether the side buttons would snooze the alarm, dismiss it or do nothing. There's also a desk clock option and a world clock (which shows the weather forecast for each city, not just the time). There's a nice calculator app with a side drawer for advanced functions in portrait, which are always visible in landscape.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Clock • Calculator

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with the OfficeSuite 8 document editor, which handles viewing, creating and editing of Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. It can also view PDFs. The interface is clutter-free but there are still plenty of features (font formatting, formulas, you name it).

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

OfficeSuite 8.2 can handle document editing on the go

The File Commander app is a capable file manager that features batch operations, ZIP file support and cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, OneDrive).

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

File Commander handles all the popular cloud storage services

The Power Saver 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 Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Stamina modes provide extensive options for power management

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).

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Smart Connect

There's a Backup & Restore feature on the Xperia Z3+, but it's limited to contacts, conversations, calendar entries, call log and bookmarks. The app can't backup multimedia content or documents, so you'll need to look elsewhere for archiving your photos, for example.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Backup and restore

Lifelog tracks a host of daily activities, including walking, running and sleeping, but also the music you listen and the photos you take or the apps you use. It then presents the info in a splitscreen view with a timeline on top and detailed numbers on the bottom.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Lifelog tracks more than just steps and calories

The Socialife app comes pre-installed too. It is a service similar to Samsung's My Magazine and HTC One's Blinkfeed. The interface is clean and simple yet beautiful, and there are lots of preloaded feeds. You can add your own RSS links too.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

News from Socialife

Sketch is pretty simple to use - you can select the color of the note/sketch and just start typing or doodling. You can customize a wide variety of drawing modes, backgrounds, and stencils.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Feel free to doodle with Sketch

One nifty feature Sony has had in its Android overlay is the capability to record a video of what's happening on the screen, not just your regular standard-issue screenshot. It comes in handy if you want to capture a gameplay video, for example, or explain to your mom how to remove that widget she inadvertently placed on the homescreen.

You can launch Record screen from the menu, which pops up when you press and hold the power button. You get controls for the video quality and orientation, and you can also enable a resizable windowed live feed from your front camera, for a more personal interaction.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Record screen lets you capture gameplay or interface videos

Final words

We have just finished testing the company's flagship to replace the Z3 for this season's battles at the high end. Yet, the very name might suggest that it may not be the proper successor but rather what the Z3 should have been in the first place. That's to say that the Z3+ is exactly spot on.

Sony Xperia Z3+

With the Xperia Z3+ Sony has refined its OmniBalance design to near perfection. The flapless microUSB port has brought the demise of the pogo pins and now there's only one short single flap to cover the card slot. In effect, the frame has gotten much sleeker and together with the new materials exudes even more luxury. Couple that with the slimmer 6.9mm profile and the Xperia Z3+ is again one of the top choices for the vain buyer.

The smartphone is a snappy performer, even if benchmark results showed an inherent flaw of the hardware inside. Prolonged use causes lots of heating and that in turn results in the CPU throttling down and the test scores taking a hit. A good balance has been struck though, and temperature is kept in check, while performance is hardly an issue in actual use.

The display is excellent with rich colors and nice viewing angles. Sony hasn't managed to beat the sky-high brightness of the older model, but the Z3+ is brighter than any of the high end competition. Battery endurance has seen a minor (though expected) decrease, but that may change with the final software. However, even as it is, the Xperia Z3+ will likely deliver the promised two-day autonomy.

Camera output is another area, where final software may introduce changes. As it stands now, the images come out with a lot of detail and a bit less aggressive processing, compared to the previous model - a fact that we like.

Key test findings:

  • Solid build, sophisticated dual-glass design.
  • Lighter than the predecessor, pleasant to handle.
  • Bright display; high contrast, though a step down from the Z3; improved sunlight legibility.
  • Battery life is very good, but a bit short of the Xperia Z3's 85-hour endurance rating. We'll retest with a retail unit as soon as we have one.
  • Xperia UI doesn't stray far from stock Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, it's simple and fluid. There's the added benefit of Sony's Small apps which offer a somewhat limited take on multi-window multitasking.
  • Raw performance is on par with the Snapdragon 810 rivals, it's a definitive improvement over the previous generation but is hindered from operation at peak performance due to thermal throttling down.
  • Dual stereo speakers produce clean output, though only average in loudness and sound is not as deep as on the HTC One M9 and even the Xperia Z3.
  • The multimedia package is rich in features: Album is a proficient gallery app, Movies has wide codec support and great subtitle handling, Music carries on the best from the Walkman days.
  • Audio quality is solid, but not as good as the Z3. We hope to retest a retail unit later on.
  • Camera output is detailed, with more laid-back processing than the Z3. We'll be more specific once we get a retail unit to play with.
  • 2160p video records plenty of detail and is worthy of its name. Puzzling though it sounds, 1080p could've been better.

The flagship to beat at the moment is the Samsung Galaxy S6, and the Xperia Z3+ is facing a hard time here. The Samsung flagship has a gorgeous QHD AMOLED display even if a fraction smaller at 5.1 inches. The curved version on the S6 Edge is even more impressive and actually around the price Sony will be charging for the Z3+ when it launches. The Exynos 7420 inside is the undisputed performance champion, and the Xperia is no match in benchmarks. The Z3+ does have a microSD slot for expansion, which the latest-gen Galaxy S-series has sacrificed.

The Galaxy S6 is marginally lighter and more compact and has a similar dual-glass body, but the unsightly camera bump may spoil its looks enough to tip the scales towards the Xperia Z3+ for the design-conscious. However, the Galaxy S6 has lost a feature the previous generation had, and the Xperia Z3+ is the only one of the current crop to boast IP68 certification for dust- and waterproofing.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The LG G4 takes a very different approach. A removable back with plenty of options to choose from and a user-replaceable battery will cater to customization fans and power users alike, but again, there's no waterproofing. Yes, the Snapdragon 808 is a notch below the flagship chipset, but there's an 8MP camera on the front. The 5.5-inch QHD display scores points for the G4, but the larger, thicker, and heavier body doesn't.

LG G4

LG G4

The HTC One M9 is another cautious upgrade that snubs the QHD trend. With the hardware being very similar, the design is the most likely decider. The One M9 has kept the metal unibody, synonymous with the HTC flagship lineup, and appeals with its cold beauty. Music also sounds noticeably deeper and nicer through its stereo speakers. Again though, it's the Xperia Z3+ that will remain unhurt if submerged in water.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

The Xperia Z3+ splits the gap between the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The Plus model is quite larger than the Z3+, more so than the 0.3-inch difference in display diagonal would suggest. Then again the 4.7-inch model is a lot smaller and has lower screen resolution. Whichever size you choose, if you go the Apple way, you'll be denied 2160p recording at this time, and the front camera is only 1.2MP. And did we mention the lack of IP certification, already?

Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 • Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Z-series owners will be asking whether there's enough in the Z3+ to justify the upgrade, while others may decide that now is the best time to go for an Xperia Z3. Whether you're coming from a Z2 or Z3, the Z3+ will bring a boost in performance. The Z2 proved significantly dimmer than the other two, so if you're after a bright display, the step up will deliver. There's not much that the Z3+ has on the Z3 in this respect though.

Selfie fans will appreciate the 5.1MP camera on the Z3+, the Z3 is stuck in olden days with its 2MP, and so is the Z2. The Z3+ is tangibly lighter than the Z3, despite the mere 8g of difference, and the 19g that separate the Z3+ and Z2 may mean the world to some.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z3 • Sony Xperia Z2

Viewed on its own, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is a proper flagship with all the trimmings. Next to the Xperia Z3, it's just a facelift. Perhaps Sony is ahead of us on this one, and will deliver the Xperia Z4 later this year. If this happens, the Z3+ will be reduced to a mere seat warmer. Should Sony decide to wait, the "plus" will suffice like it has for Apple, more than once. To be fair though, the question for Sony must be "when" rather than "if". But we're sure they've got it all figured out. For now, the Xperia Z3+ shapes up to be a great all-rounder and we can't wait to get a retail unit and put it through its paces.

Disclaimer: This review is based in a pre-production Xperia Z3+ unit, but we were informed it uses the latest available firmware version. It's nevertheless possible that parts of our test observations may not reflect the performance and qualities of the retail product. We'll revisit this review and we'll update the test findings as soon as a retail unit becomes available to us.

Sony Xperia Z3+ 360° spin

The Sony Xperia Z3+ measures 146 x 72 x 6.9 mm, which is exactly the same footprint as the Xperia Z3. Mere fractions of a millimeter have been trimmed off the thickness, 0.4mm to be precise - just enough for marketing to have something to work with. The difference is not really easily felt in real life. Sony however is rightfully proud it has achieved it without a protruding camera lens. The cameras on both the iPhone 6 (6.9mm) and the Galaxy S6 (6.8mm) are sticking out.

What is more tangible in practice is the decrease in weight. At 144g the new handset indeed feels lighter than the Z3, more so than the modest 8g worth of difference would suggest.

Body and design

If you've ever spent time with a Sony smartphone in the past two and a half years, you know the basics of their trademark design language, which the company calls Omnibalance. A rectangular two-sided glass slab held together by a metal frame makes for a premium styling which feels equally nice to look at and handle.

Sony has gone with a slightly different material for the frame this time around. While it's still matte, it has a bit more shine to it for extra flair. The bumper corners are still present and whether or not they provide additional protection in case of drops, they still are a bit of an eye-sore.

What is perhaps the most welcome design feature is the capless microUSB port. It's actually the second Sony waterproof smartphone to feature it, as the hot-off-the-assembly-line Xperia M4 Aqua is already shipping.

Apparently the IP68 certification for dust and water ingress could be attained without the hideous flap, which brought hassle to every charging session.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ and Z3 compared

What used to be a workaround to that issue - the side-positioned magnetic docking port - is now gone for good or bad. You no longer have the option of docking the handset in landscape orientation. Instead, a new dock, again sold separately, allows you to sit the Z3+ in portrait mode.

We're not great fans of the design as the dock is not completely stable with the phone being wider than the dock itself. Also the dock tends to muffle the bottom speaker a bit.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

New docking station for the Sony Xperia Z3+

The speakers themselves mark a return to the Xperia Z2 in terms of placement. The relocation to the edges of the front means they are less obtrusive than on the Z3 and the front is now back to a solid glass panel with no cutouts.

Unfortunately, when listening to music they don't sound so crisp as we would have liked. Let alone that the whole phone vibrates with the sound when you have the full on (that's the case with the Z3 as well), but music is not as deep as before. In comparison, even the Xperia Z3 offers deeper sounding music, while the the HTC One M9 hands down blows it away. Music reproduction there is much deeper and nicer and there isn't any sign of vibration when playing back your tunes.

Sony is keen to point out that their camera lens sits flush with the back despite the slimmer profile, unlike pretty much every major competitor. A curious little detail for those of you keeping track is that now the lens is part of the glass panel, while the single-LED flash sits in a cutout, exactly the opposite solution to the previous model.

That said, looking at the back alone, you'd have to be a true Sony connoisseur to tell the Xperia Z3+ apart from the older models. We do have a Z3 for direct comparison so we admit that made our job much easier.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ side by side with Sony Xperia Z3

Controls

The controls of the Xperia Z3+ are located on the right side of the device. The aluminum circular power button, a highlight of the OmniBalance aesthetic, is joined by the volume rocker in the middle third of the side, while the dedicated two-stage shutter button is in its expected position towards the bottom.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Right side with power button volume rocker and shutter release

What used to be two separate slots on the right for microSD and nanoSIM cards, hidden behind a long 33mm flap on the right, has become a single slot on the left, where the microUSB used to be.

Behind the single flap on the Z3+ there's a flimsy plastic tray, which can accommodate both a nanoSIM and a microSD card. The tray is a pain to take out and we wouldn't be surprised if it's easy to break if you take it out too often.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

SIM card and microSD slot behind a flap on the left

On the top of the phone you'll find the standard 3.5mm headphone jack in the very same spot as on the predecessor. For little apparent reason other than to move things around a bit, the secondary microphone has abandoned the 3.5mm jack and is now on the other end of the top plate.

What used to be a bare bottom plate is now home to the microUSB port in the middle and a lanyard eyelet towards the corner, an increasingly rare sight these days.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

3.5mm jack and secondary mic on the top plate • microUSB and lanyard eyelet on the botom

A fairly standard arrangement on the front sees the 5MP camera and the sensor cluster on either side of the Sony logo. The layout is a mirror image of the previous three generations, and back to their original position on the original Xperia Z.

The 20.7MP camera is in the top left corner on the back, where it has been since the Z1, and so is the single-LED flash.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Front camera and sensor placement • Primary camera and LED flash

Handling

As we already mentioned, the Xperia Z3+ is noticeably lighter than its predecessor, and that makes for a superior in-hand experience. The phone just feels easier to handle.

What's remained unchanged is the dual-glass design which means the grip is less than ideal. And while you could squeeze it tighter for a more secure hold, placing it on an even slightly sloped smooth surface remains a gamble.

Sony Xperia Z3+
Sony Xperia Z3+

Sony Xperia Z3+ in your hand

One thing that bothered us is the ever so slight lip that the frame creates over the glass panels. You could argue that it's there to protect the glass panels from scratches, but your fingers won't be happy. The Z3 doesn't have that and it's almost as if Sony made the new device 0.4mm thinner, but kept the frame as thick as before.

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