Recently Sony continued their phase of slim, waterproof phones with the release of the Sony Xperia Z3, which was released just a few months ago, replacing the Sony Xperia Z2 that was released just six months before it.
This might seem like a short time scale, especially when you notice that the phone looks similar to its predecessor from the outside, however Sony say that it is a much-needed release due to the fast pace of the smartphone market.
Thankfully this does mean that you can get a brand new, and good-looking phone that includes some of the latest specs way before you might have expected, allowing you to grab a lead on the trends before everyone else.
And you will definitely be pleased by that.
In terms of design the Sony Xperia Z3 comes in four different colours that includes white, black, gold and green. It also has a waterproof rating up to the IP68 rating, is fixed at 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm and weighs just 152 grams.
That IP68 rating is probably one of the biggest features that Sony thinks you will buy this phone because of, making it one of the most waterproof and dust proof resistant phones that is currently available to buy.
In fact the smartphone can be kept in up to two metres of water for up to 60 minutes, and even withstand the pressure created by jets of water. It also has an IP6X dust rating too, which means that the body should be able to keep pretty much any kind of dust out of the insides of the phone, of course to keep the front of the phone dust free you’ll need a case.
For some this may not be a particularly important feature, however we think that it is definitely a nice addition.
Sony has still kept to their usual techniques for design, fitting the Z3 with a glass panel on both the front and the back, with a metal band wrapped around it that is both easy to hold yet easy to drop, due to the fact that the phone is form fitted, yet the metal band can be quite slippery.
Thankfully Sony has rounded off the edges of the phone, making it more conformable in the hand.
In terms of the rest of the design, the Z3 is pretty similar to the rest of Sony’s smartphones, featuring the same Omnibalance key on the right hand side that is both easy to see and easy to press, alongside similar flaps that protect the phones ports and slots.
The bigger problem however is where these ports and flaps are placed, the position for the USB charging slot is probably the most annoying, however I can’t also help but think that the volume button might have been better placed at the top right of the device (where the SIM/ microSD card slot is currently placed) rather than in its currently awkward position on the bottom half of the right hand side of the device.
On top of that the wireless charging connector on the left side also makes the phone look a little strange, although that feature is extremely handy and does mean that you are not required to unclip the microUSB port flap to charge the phone, which is always a good thing.
One good thing however is that the phone graciously has a dedicated camera button on the bottom right of the device, this makes snapping quick shots both quick and easy, without having the fiddle with tricky UI controls.
The front is also pretty tidy and symmetrical, featuring two front facing speakers that are situated in the middle of both the top of bottom.
These help to create a good audio experience that makes viewing or listening to content without headphones an enjoyable experience. All on the front of the device you will find both the front facing camera, and the Sony logo.
Obviously you will also find the display on the front of the device, which is a 5.2 inch LCD display that has 600 nits of brightness, Live Colour LEDs and a Full HD resolution.
The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with a ton of new features to use when compared to previous smartphones in the line, one of which is the new lifelong feature which allows you to track a ton of information about your life including the amount of steps taken, how many hours you have spent doing physical tasks like cycling, sleeping or walking, but a lot more.
It can also track how many hours you use apps within the phone too, allowing you to see how long you spend listening to music on a daily basis, or how many hours of video you have consumed.
This means you end up with a lot more information than your basic smartphone, allowing you to not only track your health, but also how you use your phone and the activities you take part in daily.
The next key software feature of the Z3 is the Remote Play features that allows users to stream games over Wi-Fi from their PlayStation 4 to their Sony Xperia Z3, this makes the Z3 a great option for anyone who is a dedicated gamer and would like to play top-level games on their mobile.
The strange thing is that although this is an integrated feature in the Z3, you do need to download the PS4 Remote Play application from the Google Play Store before you can get going, however once you have done that you are pretty much good to go. Unfortunately we didn’t have a PlayStation 4 to test this with, however we have heard a number of good things from the people we have spoken to about the feature.
To tie all this together the Sony Xperia Z3 uses Android 4.4.4 with Sony’s minimalistic overlay, which is as close as close as Sony can get to a clean and easy to use version of the stock version of Android, but with a number of their own small touches.
What Sony has done with this interface is a breath of fresh air, when compared to Samsung’s TouchWiz it’s actually fantastic, with a number of features like their menu and sorting that make Android a lot more personalised and helpful.
When in the app screen for instance you can swipe to the left to bring up a small sub menu that allows you to change how the apps are sorted in the grid, including a number of options that includes own order, alphabetical, most used and installed, allowing you to quickly view the apps that you want to use rather than swiping through multiple pages to find a single app.
Sony have also added their own things to the home screen and the notifications bar, with a cleaner interface and a number of changes to the font that makes it a little more simplified.
If you are a fan of Android but want a little more than what it offers that Sony’s interface is great, however for those who want even more HTC’s Sense might be a little cooler for you.
In terms of performance the Z3 is pretty speedy, and everything seems to go ahead more or less instantly after a swipe or touch.
We tested the phone on the Geekbench 3 benchmarking app and the Sony Xperia Z3 scored 2737, which is a little lower than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, despite the clock speed of the CPU being higher than the Xperia Z2.
In terms of actually running apps however, the Z3 definitely copes well with all interactions despite a few bugs that hand around with random things like the keyboard not responding properly.
Running games on the phone also works well, and the Z3 can easily cope with a range of options that are available, especially some of the top end games that are available.
In terms of the stuff that you would normally expect from a phone, the Xperia Z3 works as you would expect for the essentials.
The calling and messaging interfaces are pretty much the same as most Android smartphones have, this means that id you have picked up and Android phone at some point in your life then you should know how to send a text message, or make a phone call more or less instantly.
That said some people may find the keyboard slightly irritating, and it can sometimes be rather flimsy, meaning that typing out long texts can sometimes end up like a dubious task, filled with a number of typos.
Thankfully you can change that with a quick download from the Google Play Store, so let that not be a deciding feature in your purchasing decision.
The Z3 also uses all of Google’s basic services, meaning that it comes with things like Hangouts, Gmail and Google Chrome as default. That last part is probably the most important as it means you get a great internet browser from the get go.
In terms of our own testing we found that the Z3 worked great for phone calls and internet use, calling in particular is extremely great. We used the phone to make calls in a number of different situations and never found the phone to lose connections, and during this time we found that call quality remained perfect.
In terms of internet usage, the Z3 worked without a hitch, downloading is quick, and thanks to the 4G connection we were able to get tremendous speeds more or less anywhere we went. That said there are some dead spots across the UK were you can only get 3G or below.
Thanks to the Full HD display and an included range of Sony technology, media consumption on the Sony Xperia Z3 is also really good.
The first thing we looked at was the music playback on the device, which was updated with the release of the Z3 to include the ability to not only play high-resolution audio files, but also upgrade your current audio files to be closer to that of the studio quality that was intended.
It does this with new technology that has been named DCEE HX, which can be enabled by heading over to the settings in the audio app and then clicking on enhancements and the on button next to DCEE HX.
During our testing we couldn’t really notice the difference between when DCEE HX was enabled and when it wasn’t. That said it is definitely a nice feature to have on a phone, and some of the ‘audiophiles’ out there might notice it more than we did, that said you do need to have high-res headphones in order for these features to work, making hi-res audio playback a very limited use case.
Sony have also included internal noise cancellation in the phone, which means that it will use the microphones to detect outside noise and then cancel out this sound from the headphones you are using, this does however only work with dedicated earbuds, thankfully those earbuds only cost between £20-£30.
Viewing movies and other video content is also a joy, thanks to the screen’s amazing quality, visual are both bright and clear. Also thanks to the brightness that we mentioned earlier, the quality of movies is even better, it’s almost like you have a mini HD tv in your pocket.
Sony’s updates to the BRAVIA technology within the phone has also made that quality even better.
Mix all of this display greatness with the Adreno 330 GPU and you have a pretty great gaming experience too.
Sony likes to think that the Xperia Z3 has one of the best cameras available on the market, fitted it with a 20.7 megapixel sensor and Exmoor RS technology, a Bionz processor and a G Lens.
You will find that with the camera you will be able to take brilliant looking outdoor shots in some of the brightest conditions, but it also works great in low light conditions too, which is thanks to Sony boosting the ISO settings up to 12800.
Whilst actually in use, the camera works great for actually taking photos, however some aspects of taking that photo can be rather annoying, with the time between pressing the shutter button and the phone actually taking the photo lasting a little too long.
This is because of the focusing time (which is slower than both the LG G3’s and the iPhone 6’s focusing time), which could mean that with the Z3 you could end up missing some of the moments that you want to capture.
In terms of the camera app however, you do get a ton of different features including Superior auto, manual, sound photo which takes photos with background sounds, AR fun which allows you to play with virtual objects and add characters and objects to your photos and videos, multi camera that allows you to record the same scene from multiple angles and face in which adds your face in photos and videos, using the front camera for your face and the rear camera for the main part of the photo.
And still not all, with the camera app you can also record 4K and high frame-rate video, broadcast video live to Youtube and use a number of other effects and settings like Background defocus, AR effect and creative effect.
And if that’s not enough you can also add even more features to the camera app by downloading extra apps.
One of our most favourite features within this however has to be the background defocus, which always you to take photos with the background unfocused, providing a similar effect to what you get from something like a DSLR.
However one of the main reasons for purchasing the Z3 would have to be the ability to record 4K video.
When they announced the Z3, Sony claimed that it could last two days from a single charge with real use conditions, however in our opinion this is close to being true, but not close enough.
Without Stamina mode enabled we definitely managed a day and a bit with normal use, including web surfing, some game and app usage, and listening to music.
With Stamina mode enabled however you can get a huge amount of time out of the battery on this phone, the problem with this enabled is that it disables a lot of the phones core features like constant network access in order to boost battery life, so if you are to enable the setting it should only really be in the most needed of situations, such as if you are out longer than expected, or forget your charger on a shopping trip and on have 10% battery left.
That said, even with the Full HD resolution, the Z3’s battery life definitely out performs some of the other top-end phones like the iPhone 6, which is all thanks to its non-removeable 3100mAh battery.
However if that is simply not enough for you, you can enable something called Ultra Stamina Mode which turns off all the battery intensive options, and makes everything black and white.
This should mean that the phone’s battery will last a crazy amount of time, bumping the battery life from something like a few hours to over a few days.
We really enjoyed our time reviewing the Sony Xperia Z3, as we do with many of Sony’s smartphone products which mostly feature a sleek, clean design that makes the phones really stand out from the completion, this is part of their new design techniques, featuring a premium glass and metal design that makes the phone feel sleek to hold, and look great to the public.
Inside of the Z3 they have also fitted it with a ton of specifications, featuring everything you could want like a Full HD display, 4K and slo-mo video recording, a fast processor and GPU and a lot more.
That said the Z3 is missing out on a few things, a can’t help but think that the addition of waterproofing may be a little gimmicky and undefended, however it is definitely a bonus.
If you do want to pick a Sony Xperia Z3 up you can do from Vodafone, who are currently offering the smartphone in both black and red on their Pay Monthly plan for free on plans from around £38.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us the Sony Xperia Z3 for review purposes, the phone was sent back to them at the conclusion of this review.