It’s no secret that Sony has a had a tough go of it in the smartphone market, even giving rise to rumors of Sony withdrawing from the smartphone game entirely. A categorical denial of this rumor was followed up by the launch of the company’s latest flagship, the Sony Xperia Z4, in Japan. The device saw its global launch with a change in designation in tow, while otherwise completely identical to the original.
Does Sony manage to step up with their latest flagship offering? We find out, in this Sony Xperia Z3+ review!
At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to find a whole lot different between this device and its predecessor, the Xperia Z3. It is slightly thinner and lighter than the latter, but the difference isn’t discernible easily. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Sony devices do have some the best designs around, despite the way they tend to feel in the hand.
The phone’s exterior has everything you’d expect to find, with the buttons and ports in the usual places. Most of the buttons offer a nice, solid tactile feedback, apart from the standby button, which has a sense of looseness to it. Of note is the dedicated camera shutter button, which is always a much appreciated addition, and something we surprisingly don’t see enough of. Simply put, it changes the way you use the phone to take pictures, and what’s best, is that a half press can be used to focus, which is brilliant.
Related: Best Sony Xperia Z3 Plus cases
Sony’s signature design language and build quality returns with the Xperia Z3+, with its sharp and angular looks with slightly rounded corners and sides. Love it or hate it, this is a style that is very unique to Sony, and feels unlike much else. As far as the construction is concerned, the body contains a metal trim, but the retention of a glass back remains a questionable one. There’s no denying that the device looks great of course, but the use of glass means that there is a higher risk of damaging the device from accidental drops and bumps, further alleviated by the fact the glass makes for a very slippery device. You have to be very careful about the device slipping out of your hand, and even off of some flat surfaces.
Depending on what kind of device size you’re used to, the Xperia Z3+ can feel quite compact, with its angular design and thin profile lending to an awkward handling experience. The device falls within the realm of comfortable one-handed use as far as the size is concerned, but you then do have to be extra careful to avoid it slipping out of your hand. The other slight oddity comes with regards to the SIM card tray. Getting it out involves yanking it out using your fingernails, and if you tend to keep your nails trim, you may have a tough time with it, requiring you to depend on using a pin.
The Sony Xperia Z3+ retains the same display as its predecessor, featuring a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. The panel covers 130% of the sRGB spectrum, according to Sony, courtesy of their Triluminos technology. The display also comes with the X-Reality engine, that analyzes the image and adds contrast, saturation, sharpness, and more. This can help enhance the display viewing experience, but I did find it to get a little heavy handed.
Under the hood, the Sony Xperia Z3+ packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. As far as the performance is concerned, things remain as good as you’d expect from a current generation Android flagship. The device flies through the various elements of the UI, opening, closing, and switching between applications is smooth and snappy, multi-tasking is a breeze, and the device handles gaming incredibly well.
In my usage, the phone never skipped a bit, but unfortunately, there has been one standout issue as far as performance is concerned, and that is with regards to overheating. The overheating issues with the Snapdragon 810 are well documented, but it is disappointing to see that there isn’t a fix of some sort in place yet. Just browsing the net resulted in the device getting uncomfortably warm, but doing something strenuous results in very high temperatures of close to 70 degrees celsius.
The Xperia Z3+ comes with 32 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable via microSD card by up to 128 GB. The device also comes with the standard suite of connectivity options, including 4G LTE support, but it is recommended to check for compatibility with your network carrier before picking up the phone.
Of course, one of the highlights of the Xperia flagship line is the protection level it affords users with its IP68 rating, which means that apart from being resistant to dust, the device is water resistant, and can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for as long as 30 minutes, without a negative effect on performance.
Sony is one of the very few manufacturers who also pay attention to audio, which is also featured with the Xperia Z3+, with its support for high-res audio. Basically, this allows for support of high-resolution audio formats that are encoded and sampled at a higher rate. There are various audio enhancers such as Clear Audio+, surround sound effects, and a plugin to help compressed audio sound as good as hi-res audio. However, it is okay to stay away from these, as they do tend to change the sound stage a little too much. Besides the HTC One series, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is one of the best devices I’ve used for audio.
The Xperia Z3+ packs a large 2,930 mAh battery, but the battery doesn’t impress quite as much. With heavy use, the device struggles to last a full day, and allows for around 3 hours of screen-on time. With lighter use, the battery life can be pushed to a full day, and maybe even further. There are a few battery saving features baked in, but it does cut down on the smartphone experience quite a lot, and is only something you can rely on in an emergency.
Nowadays, we all tend to end up using our phones as our primary imaging device, and as such, smartphones with a great camera experience are usually the preferred choice for a lot of users. The Sony Xperia Z3+ retains the same camera hardware as previous generations, with its 20.7 MP rear shooter with an Exmor RS sensor. Technical details aside, taking photos with this device is a dream, courtesy of the dedicated camera shutter button with its half press to focus function.
Looking at the images though, the quality isn’t going to blow you out of the water. Photos look good in adequate light, but things fall apart completely in poor lighting conditions, or when you zoom in. However, the color reproduction is accurate, and there doesn’t seem to be too much post-processing going on. Detail is impressive in well-lit shots, and the camera doesn’t continuously hunt for focus.
The camera software is one of the better implementations I’ve used, and is light years ahead when compared to stock Android. There is a manual mode available for both images and videos which includes some, but not a whole lot, of controls for adjustment. There are a few novelty modes available like AR, Sound Photo, Timeshift video, and more, which are fun to use and easily accessible for those who want it. A software-based image stabilization is available, called Steady Shot, which also works really well.
The Xperia Z3+ is capable of recording video in 4K, which is a fantastic feature to have, but unfortunately doesn’t work very often, because of the overheating issues with the device. Recording in 4K recorded at most around 20 seconds before the camera shut down automatically to help the device cool down.
While everything the Sony Xperia Z3+ has to offer can be considered at par with the current crop of flagship smartphones, what makes Sony devices stand out in general is when it comes to the software experience. The best thing about using a phone from Sony is the integration across all of its services, which has been taken to a whole other level following the introduction of the PlayStation integration.
Custom applications like Music, Video, Social Life, and more, are all great, but one that I’m quite fond of is Lifelog. What this essentially does is catalogs and quantifies your day, and if you let it, it will give you data ranging from your calories and step count, to even how much time you’ve spent socializing, watching tv, and more. In typical Sony fashion though, the app doesn’t go as deep as it could, and there’s not a lot of information regarding how everything actually works.
If you have a PlayStation 4, you’ll definitely appreciate the inclusion of Remote Play, which allows you to use your phone to stream games. It works decently over a good Wi-Fi connection, even if playing first person shooters isn’t recommended. Making the experience even better is the ability to pair your DualShock controller with your phone, which is fantastic inclusion that is obviously unmatched by any other device.
All of this is wrapped in Sony’s minimalistic UI on top of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, which makes for a very smooth and snappy software experience. Some features are available though, such as the gesture based Smart Call, that lets you answer a call by bringing it up to your ear, flip to silence, a theme engine, a customizable app drawer, and a lot more, which can prove to be very useful.
|Display||5.2 inch IPS LCD Full HD, 424 ppi|
|Processor||2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
Adreno 430 GPU
|Storage||32GB, expandable via microSD up to 128 GB|
|Networks||Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL)|
|Software||Android 5.0.2 Lollipop|
|Camera||20.7 MP rear camera with LED flash|
5.1 MP front-facing camera
| Battery||2,930 mAh|
|Dimensions||146 x 72 x 6.9 mm|
Pricing and final thoughts
The Xperia Z3+ is currently available in various markets around the world, and has recently made its way to the US, available on Amazon for around $710, even though that price does tend to fluctuate.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Sony Xperia Z3+! Nowadays, it takes quite a lot to push a high-end smartphone to another level without doing completely different. Unfortunately, Sony may not do as well as the other Android OEMs out there, and that is really a shame, since there are quite a few die-hard fans of Sony devices. Their products are fantastic, but they just don’t seem to appeal to the mass market. That is something they can capitalize on though by catering to the niche market, by focusing on features such as audio, and the IP certification. There are some issues with this device, but it is nothing that cannot be fixed by future software updates, so if you are invested in the Sony ecosystem, then this phone could be great for you.