Sony Xperia XZ3 Review

Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony

August, 2018
6.0" P-OLED display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, 19 MP primary camera, 13 MP front camera, 3300 mAh battery, 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
EUR:€500 | USD:$565 | PKR:79,315 | INR:40,000

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Sony Xperia XZ3 Review

Sony Xperia XZ3 Review


Introduction

2018 has been the year of smartphone innovation with almost every brand releasing something unique, especially in display department. However, there's been one brand which didn't show something modern in design, and that is Sony. But now, Sony has caused quite a big stir with launch of Sony Xperia XZ3. Sony dropped its first curved OLED Xperia device, seemingly out of the blue at IFA 2018, reactions have ranged from overwhelming excitement, through confusion but it's about time that a Sony Xperia device features a swish new design in a range of new colors, with camera capabilities much improved and perhaps best of all, Sony's first ever smartphone with an OLED screen. For once, Sony isn't lagging behind when it comes to screen quality and it's about time one of Sony's flagships levels out with competition. Now you must be thinking, is this truly a smartphone to reckon? Is this what Sony needs to dominate smartphone market once again? Well, let's fine out!

Design

Sony Xperia XZ3 takes some hints from its predecessor, Sony Xperia XZ2 when it comes to design. There's a 3mm aluminum frame around outside of phone, with glass that protrudes from that making it much thicker. It's actually quite thick as a whole at 9.9mm, but I didn't particularly notice that when holding it in hand. There's curved glass on rear of phone too, which probably helps it feel thinner. It looks pretty similar to Samsung Galaxy phones, with shiny glass and metal sandwich design.

At front of Sony Xperia XZ3, you'll meet an all new curved display, which is quite large. There are considerably smaller bezels on top and bottom with side bezels shrunk as well. Display curves seamlessly with phone's body and gives off a quite premium look. There's a front facing camera on top bezel, together with earpiece and sensors, with bottom bezel carrying Sony's logo. At back of device is where magic begins. Sony Xperia XZ3's design is a treat to your eyes, with its curved glass refracting light and giving a classy, premium look. On top middle of phone is where you'll find a single camera lens, with LED flash light right above it. To my surprise, fingerprint scanner isn't places right below camera lens, and is instead a good inch and a half lower in middle of phone.

Right side of phone is where you'll get a power button, and volume keys places lower it. Left side is kept clean which allows metal rim to shine.

Bottom edge of Sony Xperia XZ3 features a USB Type-C port, but there's no 3.5mm headphone jack on this phone so you'll have to use Bluetooth headsets or an adaptor in order to be able to listen to audio privately on move. On top of device there's a sim-card tray and a noise cancelling mic for better audio.

Both front and back are protected by Gorilla Glass 5, while you can easily use this phone in wet environments with its IP68 dust and water resistance. Sony Xperia XZ3's Black and white color looks good, but I particularly liked red and green variants as they look different to a lot of other devices on market. Darker shades help it look premium, but I found back of phone to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet even though I only used it for an hour or so.

Overall, it's very refreshing and satisfying to see Sony finally revamping design on its flagship devices. Device feels great and looks stunning, surely a top contender for best designed phone in 2018.

Display

Display on Sony Xperia XZ3 is core upgrade, and you can expect to see Sony start pushing this tech as being among the best on the market. Phone comes with a 6-inch P-OLED QHD display with a resolution of 1440x2880p, aspect ratio of 18:9 and pixel density of 597 ppi. First off, no notch design seen on Sony Xperia XZ2 is back here, but that's all Sony has brought forward from last generation phone when it comes to display. There's a curved display squeezed in here, and Sony is embracing a new tech for the first time on its phone range.

Specifically, Sony Xperia XZ3 includes OLED tech for first time, (usually Sony uses IPS LCD panels) and it comes from Sony's BRAVIA tech division. It's a similar tech to what company uses for its A1 TV range and it makes video and images look bright, vivid and striking as soon as you lock eyes with this phone. Sony Xperia XZ3's contrast ratios are effectively perfect and phone is capable of reproducing 99% of sRGB color gamut in phone's "professional" display setting. It made a genuine impact, and its QHD+ resolution is more than enough to make video look great. After two days of use, it's clear that default display settings showcase a wonderful balance of deep, slightly muted color, plenty of detail with an incredibly broad tonal range. There's less punch, pop and contrast than found in phones like Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing though, with results producing more of an HDR look. This applies to everything from pictures right through to user interface. So, while Sony may be late to OLED game, I am glad they've arrived.

There's a slight issue with this display, though, that's most noticeable when white text is displayed on a black background. There's clear evidence of color fringing here, with hints of purples or blues in outlines of text. While this issue is common with OLED-fitted smartphones, OnePlus 6 suffers from it to a lesser degree, it is much more noticeable on Sony Xperia XZ3 than with any other phone screen I've tested. As I said, it's a small thing, rather than a deal-breaker but it's a shame that it happened when Sony gets so close to smartphone screen perfection.

Display is protected with Gorilla Glass 5, so it won't scratch or break easily. Furthermore, HDR BT.2020 compliance, Triluminos display tech and Bravia's X-Reality Engine really improved content viewing on this gorgeous display on Sony's beautiful new flagship device.

Hardware

When it comes to hardware, Sony Xperia XZ3 is on par with Sony Xperia XZ2. Phone is powered by Snapdragon 845 processor and Adreno 630 GPU, coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of on-board storage. There is 6 GB RAM variant as well, but it is only limited to Taiwan. On-board storage is relatively small compared to some newer devices, specifically Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and its 512GB option, however, Sony Xperia XZ3 does have microSD storage expansion support for up to 512GB so storage shouldn't be an issue.

Performance, as you might expect, is practically same here as with every other Snapdragon 845 equipped handset launched in 2018. Running Geekbench 4's duo of single- and multi-core CPU tests, Sony Xperia XZ3 reached similar performance speeds as its predecessor, Sony Xperia XZ2, and Samsungs Galaxy S9. No surprises there, but Apple iPhone 8 is ever-so-slightly faster than Sony's equivalent, thanks to inclusion of Apple's own A11 Bionic chipset.

Similarly, GPU performance is as good as you might wish for from flagship phone in 2018. GFXBench's Manhattan test was capable of reaching an average frame rate of 45fps (which is slightly slower than its rivals, thanks to demanding 4K native resolution display) and PUBG: Mobile ran without any noticeable frame drops, even during high-paced frenzied firefights.

For juicing up your device, a USB Type-C port is on bottom with Qi wireless charging support included as well. Like Sony Xperia XZ2, this phone has no 3.5mm headphone jack but it does support Hi-Res, LDAC and aptX HD, while Sony's Dynamic Vibration System is also on board again. This system can add vibration to anything you are watching or playing, and you can opt in or out for each app you open. Also worth mentioning, Sony Xperia XZ3 also has a 20 per cent boost in sound compared to its predecessor, thanks to its dual stereo speaker setup.

Overall, Sony makes a good comeback with hardware department of their latest flagship device, as Sony fans will be quite happy with performance of this device.

Battery

Sony Xperia XZ3 comes packing a 3,330mAh battery which, on paper, sounds quite average for a 6 inch display. During my battery test, phone performed fairly below flagship standard, scoring at very bottom of charts with just 6 hours and 5 minutes, while average for a 2018 flagship is closer to 8 hours. Comparing this to results I got from other flagship phones, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with its large, 4,000mAh battery lasted nearly 9 hours, almost 50% as long as Sony Xperia XZ3. Unfortunately, having a smaller battery than average paired with a super high-resolution, Quad HD 6-inch screen might not be that great of an idea after all. I have already used phone for a while and it will last you through the day if you don't use it that much, but for those heavier users, getting through one day of use will be a concern.

Furthermore, Sony Xperia XZ3 supports a different fast-charging standard than most phones these days and it comes with a slow charger in box, which takes nearly 3 hours to fully charge up phone. This is way too slow and I recommend that you pick up a charger with USB Power Delivery support (such as the charger for latest Google Pixel phones) to get faster charging times. As a comparison, Google Pixel 2 XL with a larger battery takes only 152 minutes as compared to Sony Xperia XZ3's 178 minutes of charging time.

On a bright side, together with USB Type-C port, you can also charge this device wirelessly using any Qi wireless charger. I just wish Sony did better in this department as this would've really made Sony Xperia XZ3 a nuance for its competition.

Camera

Sony is one of the few manufacturers left to stick with a single-lens rear camera on its flagship smartphone and that's exactly what we see on Sony Xperia XZ3. It reserves a dual camera setup for higher-end Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium device, while Sony Xperia XZ3 has a 19 MP Motion Eye camera with an f/2.0 aperture. There have been some refinements from Sony Xperia XZ2, but hardware is same, which means there is no optical zoom and no wide angle, as you'll find on Samsung Galaxy S9+ and Apple iPhone X.

Sony Xperia XZ3 benefits from Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) for super steady shots. Sony's effective predictive phase-detect and laser autofocus setup is also included. In use, though, camera performs phenomenally well. Images taken outdoors in unusually-bright September weather are packed with detail, with subjects outside, such as walls, trees and statues picked up beautifully. HDR mode also effectively helped subtly boost images by brightening up shadows, without losing intricate details such as cloud layers and shadows. Colors looked nice and natural, especially in low-light conditions, and images are packed with contrast. I just had one thing to say once I entered camera app, this is a great camera for stills photography!

Sony has changed front camera on this device to a 13 MP sensor offering a f/1.9 aperture and it comes with beauty modes and bokeh effects. Camera app has also been updated, something that has been a long time coming and Sony has also expanded its AI camera functionalities beyond Superior Auto and Predictive Capture with a new feature called Smart Launch, which will automatically open camera when it thinks you're picking up your device to take a photo. You'll also be able to touch the side of the curved display to take a photo.

In terms of video capture, Sony continues to offer super slow-motion at 960fps, but Sony Xperia XZ3 can do this in Full HD whereas most competitors only offer 720p. It also offers 4K HDR video capture on this device, which is a great feat for any smartphone. Videos look crisp with loads of detail and, although 4K HDR footage is capped at 30fps, I didn't notice any framerate fluctuation issues.

Overall, there's an important thing that I noticed with Sony Xperia XZ3' camera experience. There's no doubt Sony has skills to turn out excellent camera hardware, as evidenced by the fact that so many manufacturers use its sensors, but it's software and tuning that really elevates camera performance to the next level and that's where Sony falls down. Sony needs to work on camera software and post-processing of images to really transform their camera results to the level of devices like Huawei P20 Pro, Googles Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Apple's iPhone X.

Software

Sony Xperia XZ3 is one of the first few smartphones to ship with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, however, it sure isn't a stock Android experience. To my surprise, however, Sony reduced software duplication, offering a more stripped-back experience with a nice Android feel without too many unnecessary extras. Phone does come with a few pre-loaded apps including 3D creator, Netflix and Sony apps for gallery, music and videos. Sony's software continues to be fast and clean, following footsteps of Google Pixels albeit with a little extra Sony style, something most people either love or hate.

There are a couple of extra software additions with Sony Xperia XZ3 as well, one of which is called Side Sense, which takes advantage of that new curved-edge display. Double tapping side of display will offer access to apps, a little like swiping side of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will bring up Apps Edge and People Edge.

What's good about Side Sense is that you can double tap anywhere on side of the display and either side of the device too, but there's also a "More Apps" option allowing you quick access to all apps installed on your device, as well as access to settings. It will also learn what apps you use and when, ensuring you see those first when you open Side Sense. For example, if you regularly watch YouTube on your morning commute, you'll see YouTube if you double tap side in morning, while if WhatsApp is most used app, that's what you'll see first when you double tap then.

Unfortunately, I spent several minutes trying to get it to consistently trigger and just couldn't make it happen with anywhere near 100% accuracy. You need a pretty firm double-press, which can be tough on a phone with such a thin metal edge. It's a very neat idea that could be incredibly useful if Sony fine tunes this system and makes it more configurable. Unlike HTC U12+, it isn't a core part of phone's navigation, so I'm willing to give it a "wait and see" pass for the moment.

Other than that, things are as they were on Sony Xperia XZ2 so you should get a smooth and stable experience on with Sony's latest flagship offering.

Conclusion

Sony Xperia XZ3 will be available in market on 5th October for around 800 Euros. It'll be available in four different colors: Black, Silver White, Forest Green and Bordeaux Red. A welcome return to form, following an abundance of middling handset launches from Japanese firm, Sony Xperia XZ3 successfully ticks most boxes that matter, notably, top-tier performance, screen quality and a beautiful redesign.

However, I won't easily recommend this phone to everyone out there, especially non-Sony fans. Why? Well, £800 is asking a lot for a phone that doesn't do anything significantly better than its cheaper rivals. OnePlus 6 is just as good in all departments, if not better in some, and it costs a whopping £330 less. I would have loved to have seen Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium's dual camera on board on this device, but I have to say that there are some things really attracting about this phone, especially its lovely design and curved display. Being able to rival top-end devices from Samsung and Google with a brand-new OLED screen is impressive. Few days into use and every time I take it out of my pocket, screen impresses me all over again. Rest of phone has plenty of potential as well, with a speedy performance, a much better software experience and slightly improved camera software. Only thing that really bothers is battery on this phone, but if you are forgiving of that, then this phone has everything a good flagship should carry.

To sum it up in a few words, Sony Xperia XZ3 is without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting Xperia device for years. Welcome to the game, Sony. It might have taken a few years longer than others but you're finally in it.