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Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on: Keeping up with the times
If you can’t keep up with Sony’s releases, you’re not alone. The Japanese manufacturer is known for the rapid cadence at which it launches new smartphone iterations, and we’ve come to expect a (slightly) revamped Xperia model at every major mobile trade show. IFA 2018 is no exception.
The Xperia XZ3 is here to show that Sony can keep up with industry trends, naysayers be damned. The new phone comes with an OLED display, some spiffy edges, and, for good measure, a dose of AI. Here’s what you need to know about the Xperia XZ3.
The Sony Xperia XZ3 features a 6-inch Quad HD display. For the first time, Sony is joining virtually every other major OEM in using an OLED panel. It’s an 18:9 screen, which makes the XZ3 feel much more compact and easier to handle than the Xperia XZ2 Premium.
Sony has worked to reduce the size of the Xperia XZ3’s bezels. Don’t expect anything crazy, but the phone is a clear improvement over some of Sony’s other recent designs. The top and bottom bezels are still chunky, but the curved lateral edges are very thin. Overall, the Xperia XZ3 looks a lot like the Google Pixel 2 XL. There’s no notch – that’s one trend that Sony bucked, and we’re happy about it.
Turning to the back of the phone, the Xperia XZ3 comes with the same shiny glass design as the XZ2. The Gorilla Glass 5 (front and back) is a total fingerprint magnet, but when it’s clean, it looks stunning. We really liked the wine-like purple version, which is extremely stylish. The other color options are black, white, and a luscious sea green.
One thing we didn’t enjoy was the slightly odd placement of the Xperia XZ3’s fingerprint sensor and camera. They are positioned lower on the back of the phone compared to most phones out there. You’ll probably need a little time to get used to it.
As you’d expect from an OLED screen with Bravia influences, the Xperia XZ3’s screen features inky blacks and beautiful, vibrant colors. We didn’t spend a ton of time with it, but Sony’s first foray into OLED looks promising. Also, staples like Triluminos and X-Reality have made the jump from LCD to OLED.
The Sony Xperia XZ3 is powered by the Snapdragon 845, in line with the best Android devices out there. Where the phone falls a little short is in the RAM department. 4GB of RAM may be enough for day-to-day use for most customers, but we still would’ve liked to see 6GB on the spec sheet. Phones that sell for under $300 now offer 6GB of RAM, so there’s little justification for Sony to stick to 4GB. It’s the same story with the storage space: 64GB feels mid-range these days.
Sony is the premier camera sensors manufacturer, but ironically, its smartphones are not really known as the best camera phones in the industry. Still, you can always expect a solid camera from Sony, and that’s the case with the Xperia XZ3 as well. Sony has gone back to a single camera, but kept the same 19MP sensor it used on the Xperia XZ2 Premium. The lens is a little faster though, potentially allowing for some better results in low light.
The Sony Xperia XZ3 runs Android Pie! It’s actually the first phone to launch with the new Android version on board, confirming Sony’s reputation of actually caring about software updates. You can expect many of the AI-powered features that Google baked into stock Android, including improved battery management and predictive actions.
Read: Sony Xperia XZ3 camera review: Great sensors, not so great cameras
Sony’s own take on predicting which apps you’ll want to use involves a new feature called Side Sense – you can double tap the edges of the screen to bring out a mini app drawer containing the apps you’re most likely to need. In our experience, the feature doesn’t always work from the first try, possibly because it requires you to tap the curved edge of the screen, rather than the side of the phone. It works a bit like HTC’s Edge Sense, a feature that is ironically missing from the phone that HTC announced at IFA 2018, the U12 Life.
As usual, Sony loaded up the Xperia XZ3 with tons of other little features, including 3D Creator, a customizable vibration engine that works in concert with your media, and the ability to quickly launch the camera when holding up the device in landscape mode.
To wrap up, the Xperia XZ3 brings welcome changes to Sony’s ever-evolving lineage of high-end smartphones. The move to OLED was long overdue, and we’re glad to see Sony modernize its design. Android Pie out of the box is a strong selling point, as is the powerful camera. But the core specs are slightly behind the curve, and Sony has the terrible habit of not supporting its releases with proper marketing.
The Sony Xperia XZ3 will become available in the U.S. starting October 17, via Amazon and Best Buy. The price tag is a hefty $900, though Apple and Samsung have proven you can sell premium phones for much more than that.
Thoughts on the Xperia XZ3? Let us know in the comments.