Sony’s upgrade to the Xperia Z3 is out. Called the Xperia Z3+ in keeping with Sony’s habit of releasing ‘+’ devices that carry some additional features and improved specs topped on top of previously full-numbered devices (similar to how the world perceives Apple’s ‘S’ devices that are launched every other year).
The Xperia Z3+ does come with upgrades – the major one being the inclusion of a Snapdragon 810 processor and a wide angle camera, however these upgrades do not peg the Z3+ at the same spot as devices like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4 (which are its main rivals)?
Sony had already fallen behind in the game of competitive premium devices and the Z3+ doesn’t seem to be bringing Sony back into the stadium.
The Xperia Z3+ uses the same 5.2 inch IPS LCD screen as used on the Xperia Z3. There’s not much new in the display area, at all.
The screen continues to have Full HD resolution (1920×1080 pixels) while it ideally should’ve had QHD to race with the pack. The pixel density on offer here is 424 ppi, which is good – since it’s a “smaller” screen than other devices, the Z3+ benefits from having a lot more pixels packed into the smaller area. And it helps Sony narrow the difference between a QHD and Full HD in this particular case.
There’s something else to consider, if you’re picky – being an IPS LCD panel this screen is believed to not be as good at displaying deep blacks as some of the AMOLED panels out there and the contrast balance isn’t as good either. But what’s worth noting here is that Sony has indeed borrowed processing tech from the televisions that it produces, and used that in this device. That sort of compensates for a lot of the ‘shortcomings’ of the LCD technology, while reaping all the benefits from the same!
Now, one thing that is expected from an IPS LCD panel is good viewing angles. Unfortunately that is not the case here and this is the one and only thing that disappoints us. Having said that, the screen is plenty bright which means excellent outdoor visibility.
We are not saying that the display is a washout. Far from it. The screen displays colors beautifully and it feels rich. Legibility wise too, the display on this device is a delight – it is sharp, it is vibrant and the texts are neat.
A lot of the naysayers are actually misinformed by the AMOLED/LCD argument, which really is not worth that much of attention in the first place. We aren’t unhappy about the screen being an LCD one, but what gets our goat is the fact that Sony’s not done much to upgrade the screen from that on the Z3.
Sony has made a lot of right moves with the Z3+ in the design department.
The design seems to have improved and it is one of the better looking Xperia devices.
Sony seems to have put some real thought into the design of the phone . The phone looks good and it feels expensive too. The rear panel is made of glass which makes it a little slippery but it does give the device a classy finish.
Another example of consideration toward user experience – there’s a dedicated camera button which allows you to launch the camera app even when the phone is locked.
Overall, the design of the phone is much simpler and smoother than previous products, and the reduced number of protrusions and smoother edges make it a very good device to hold and handle. Sony has in fact, ditched all the extra flaps and buttons that made the Z3 uncomfortable to use as a phone.
The standby and volume buttons are now easy to reach and the new micro USB port has been moved to the bottom and is now without that easily-breakable flap.
And the best part – the device retains Some of Sony’s key features such as water and dust resistance. It is rated at IP68 for water and dust resistance. This is a nice feature to have as it lends so much peace of mind, knowing that you can’t damage the phone inexorably in a bad moment. This has become a Sony trademark and we’re really happy for it.
So…. you get all the features that you expect to get on a high-end phone, and the design-improvements made by Sony have really helped this device and made it so much better in terms of handling, and in the ‘looks’ department too.
Performance wise, the Xperia Z3+ rates well. However, there’s a quirk to consider.
It uses a Snapdragon 810 chipset (which is an octa-core unit with four cores running at 1.5 GHz and the other four doing 2.0 Ghz). Which sounds good.
The phone performs surprisingly well. The 810 is a little hot headed but it is a very fast processor. As a result, games run ever so smoothly and your day to day tasks do not pose any challenge for this device. The device has benchmarked pretty well too.
But, the use of the Snapdragon 810 at this time is a little surprising to me because it is like throwing fire on oil. Didn’t get the metaphor? Allow me to elaborate. Previous Xperia devices were themselves plagued with heating issues and the Snapdragon 810 too has a reputation of heating issues of its own. Several other models across all Android manufacturers have already suffered significant heating issues with the 810. So using the 810 on hot-running Xperia devices is a lethal combination wouldn’t you agree?
The Z3+ smartphone does get more than a little warm while playing games and even more so when you switch on the camera. The phone heats up to an extent where it is not even possible to hold it and that is not good!
So, in a nutshell the phone is a cool performer but a little hot headed.
The Xperia Z3+ runs the Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. That said, its been a long time since I have enjoyed the OS experience on a device this much. It is just delightful. Sony seems to have struck the sweet spot right in between retaining the authentic Android experience and customizing it.
I say delightful because it really is, in the way of its simplicity and smoothness. It is neat and clean and still has everything you will ever need. It really makes you wonder about why manufacturers need to skin their devices when they have the capability to make their consumers feel this good with just the stock Android experience.
What Sony has done is that it has reduced the number of Sony-style apps and the rest of the glitterati in order to make the OS simpler. The main elements of Android have been retained and the the notification view and settings dropdown are unchanged. You do get the option of customising a lot of stuff, and that I guess is a good, balanced approach.
What has happened because of all this is that the authentic stock Android experience has been retained and unlike other Android skins, it has not been drastically re-imagined, it stays sleek and swift. Also, you do not have to worry about bloatware. A few of the Sony apps such as Sony’s music and photo apps are non-removable but there are many other third party apps that you can remove at your discretion.
The Xpera Z3+ comes with a 20.7 megapixel rear facing camera, and it’s performance device is decent, not outstanding. The features that you get with the camera include geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR and panorama; all of which are pretty standard.
First the good stuff: the Camera App on this phone is better than the apps on most other phones by way of feature-richness. The standout feature here is the Manual mode which provides you a significant amount of control and options to fester creativity.
The app also has Sony’s ‘Superior Auto’ mode which helps you in choosing the right settings for any given shot, with icons popping up at the bottom left as it switches.
The app launch speed is also decent thanks to the dedicated shutter button, you can go from a locked phone to clicking photos in practically a split second.
The camera hardware is about okay – it does capture decent snaps with an appreciable amount of detailing. In optimal shooting conditions the camera does take pictures that you can easily crop and edit without being worried about distortion.
Now for the not so good experiences:
The HDR mode, is not very effective and the Backlight mode too, is something that Sony needs to improve upon. Apart from that the video quality of the camera is good too, but the lack of image stabilisation impacts the overall output while moving around.
Having said all of this, the biggest issue with the camera remains it’s tendency to heat up the phone. Infact, the problem is so severe that if you use the normal camera for clicking photos for say five minutes, you will get a heat warning and the camera app will shut down!
Sony has promised fixes for this but even so, launching a phone with such ailments is just not acceptable. Now, whether the Snapdragon 810 chipset is at fault here or it is the Sony hardware, we do not know. And quite frankly it does not matter. It really is a big put off.
The entertainment on this device is decent. The phone offers you a decent video watching experience even thought he screen is a little small.
The speakers are good enough for playing videos but for serious music, it does not pack adequate punch.
Playing games on this device is fun too, but only for a while – till the phone gets hot and then you have want to put it away (unless you have a home remedy for blisters).
Business functionality on this phone is the usual Android-experience and accounts can be set up easily requiring just a username and password.
There is no fingerprint scanner on this device which means it has the usual screen/pattern lock for security.
Be a little cautious when unlocking in public areas!