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Sony Xperia Z3 review: Designed to impress

Sony’s third premium device of the year is the most beautiful Android phone we’ve ever tested

With two previous versions of the premium Xperia Z series already hitting the shelves this year, Sony has been quick to get its latest creation, the 4G-enabled Z3, on to the shelves to combat increased competition. When you first get your hands on a Z3 you know you’re handling a premium device. The aluminum frame offers no flex and gives the whole phone a nice sleek look, while the reinforced glass back is as beautiful as ever. When in hand, the device is light and the curved nature of the phone helps make it easy to hold for prolonged periods of time. It’s without doubt a simple design, but one where there truly is nothing we can fault. All the usual ports can be found on each side of the device, with the only noticeable additions being support for nano-SIM cards and the inclusion of a camera button. There’s now two quality speakers located on the fascia of the Z3, instead of the one singular speaker found on older Xperia devices.

Sony’s not really changed much with the custom skin they implement on all their Xperia devices. You’ll find updated versions of their Movie, Walkman and Albums apps, but they pale in comparison to Google’s suite of stock apps. PS4 owners can now take advantage of the Remote Play function to play console games straight on the phone, but this will soon drain the 16GB of internal storage and instead you’ll need to use the provided microSD slot that’s expandable up to 128GB. To fully enjoy these games you’re going to need a powerful processor and a superb screen. On the processor side of things you’ve got a fairly standard quad-core Snapdragon 801 offering clocked at 2.5GHz that handles all tasks well. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a monster processor, but one that most flagship devices have implemented this year – although the 3GB of RAM is a nice bonus. The screen of the Z3 has also undergone some improvements and although the 1920 x 1080 display still isn’t as crisp as what Samsung are producing, it’s without doubt the best one we’ve seen on an Xperia device. Viewing angles are really good and colours are so vivid that you’ll definitely want to tone down the brightness when you first turn the device on.

As with all of their premium Xperia devices, the Z3 is waterproof for up to 30 minutes at a time. We’ll always have some trepidation about putting a £500 phone underwater, but there are no issues with it not working here. If you’re planning to take the device underwater, make sure to explore the new camera that’s been used. Again it’s a noticeable improvement over both the Z1 and Z2 and the 20.7-megapixel offering works alongside a Exmor RS sensor to provide all the tools needed for detailed shots in low light conditions. We’d happily put our necks out here and say that the Z3 has the best camera we’ve ever seen on an Android phone, so far. For of all of the positives, we can’t help but feel that Sony has missed a trick by not packing a bigger battery into the non-removable backplate of the Xperia Z3. The 3100mAh Li-on battery is said to last 2 days of use, but with the device needing to handle a bigger processor, better screen and more battery-intensive stock apps than before, it drains fairly quickly. We’d say you’ll get close to a day of use before needing a charge.

Sony’s ticked all the right boxes when it comes to the Xperia Z3. It’s without doubt the best-designed Android phone we’ve seen, includes arguably the best smartphone camera and has noticeable improvements throughout. Don’t be deterred by misleading battery life claims, as the Z3 is up there with the best that Android has to offer.

For further reviews on the best Android phones and tablets, make sure to check out the latest issue of Android Magazine.