Review: Sony Xperia Z3+

Called the Xperia Z4 in Japan, but Z3+ everywhere else, here’s how the new Sony Xperia Z3+ stacks up. The Xperia Z3+ is Sony’s newest flagship smartphone, but it’s title might soon be usurped when the rumoured Xperia Z5 arrives next quarter.

Design

Sandwiched by two layers of glass, and all around metal body and aluminium trimming gives the Xperia Z3+ sleek, premium look. I particularly like that the Xperia Z3+ is only 6.9mm thick. Featuring the same “Omnibalance” design style, the Xperia Z3+ looks like a carbon copy of the Xperia Z3, and even the other siblings. But there are improvements, the reduced thickness of 0.4mm makes the Xperia Z3+ easier and lighter to hold. Although it seems like the trade off spec was the battery, which is now reduced from 3100mAH to 2900 mAH. Another new addition is bumpers to the Xperia Z3+ corners to give it reinforced strength.

The right side of the Xperia Z3+ features the volume rocker, power button, and retains the same dedicated camera shutter key from the Xperia Z3, to help with taking photos.

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Hardware

The Xperia Z3+ sports a 2.0 GHz Snapdragon 810, 3GB of RAM, 5″ full HD triluminous display, and is a decent step up compared to the Xperia Z3 Snapdragon 801. However, the Snapdragon 810 is a problem chip with many reported overheating issues. That remains evident on the Xperia Z3+, as the phone does get uncomfortably hot when gaming.

The 1080p screen is bright and vibrant, and is paired well with the stereo front facing speakers. Sony’s commitment to the media experience shows with the support for Hi-res audio as well as LDAC, which is an improved wireless streaming standard that allows three times more data as compared to Bluetooth. If your mobile phone is the centre of your audio setup, then the Xperia Z3+ will be a great companion.

The internal storage of 32GB provides a decent amount of space for media and apps. Memory can be further expanded with a micro SD card. The battery was reduced to 2900 mAH and while the Xperia Z3+ is able to generally survive a day’s usage, and Sony’s stamina mode is pretty useful in extending battery life, there were instances when I wished it had a little more juice and had to scramble for a nearby power point or battery pack.

Water and dust resistance

There were a number of other manufacturers who offered flagship phones with waterproof features last year, but the particular feature no longer seem as popular. Sony was the original leader of waterproof phones, and Sony shows that you can do a classy look while retaining waterproofing capabilities. It has in fact been improved further with the Z3+ now boasting an IP68 rating (1.5 metres deep for 30 minutes). It’s the standout feature for the Xperia Z3+. A physical hardware camera button means you can engage in some underwater photography too.

Furthermore, the essential ports are no longer covered by flaps. This is one of the biggest improvement compared to the Z3+. The microUSB and 3.5mm audio jacks are uncovered and that’s extremely convenient, which means you do not need to prise open a flap ever time you want to charge the handset.

Good Camera

The Z3+ uses the same 20.7 megapixel camera as the Z3. Sony makes most of the camera sensors for the other smartphone manufacturers, but it always seem like they are one step behind when it comes to their own lens optimisation. This year, the Xperia Z3+ seems to do better, with DXOMark ranking them 4th, above the iPhone 6 Plus.

Once again, Sony’s camera app comes packed with features and settings so you can easily switch modes, add overlays, icons and play with alternate reality lens, if the camera doesn’t overheat, that is. The Z3+ is plagued with overheating problems, and especially evident when you use the camera. The worst scenario is when you are timing that crucial shot, and the dreaded overheat – camera shut down message pops up.

xperia z3+ overheat

That being said, the camera performed admirably since the first couple of overheat messages pop up. Maybe it was a software upgrade, but since then, the Xperia Z3+ has been my daily camera and accompanied me for several events. I enjoyed the convenience of the physical camera button and that I can easily launch the camera even when the phone is in standby.

Here’s some of my photos with the Z3+. The superior Auto mode caps the resolution to 8MP, and you would need to switch to the manual mode to allow for the full 20.7MP to be used. Most of the low light shots are a little noisy, but still acceptable.

Xperia Care 

Sony wants to ensure that Xperia users are not just buying a phone, but buying into the whole Xperia experience with Xperia Care. It’s actually nice that the Sony Xperia Care is tuned towards the Singapore market. There’s promotions such as contests, Grabcar discounts, free movies, Singapore-related (SG50) themes and offers. The movies are a nice touch, and you can enjoy them on the brilliant screen.

Verdict

As it is, the Xperia Z3+ plays it a little too safe. It’s a nice phone by itself, powerful, decent camera, but at it’s current flagship level price range (S$998), it’s a hard sell compared to its own predecessor and the other phones on the market. Unfortunately, like what HTC demonstrated earlier, consumers aren’t too forgiving when a phone manufacturer releases a similar phone year on year. Honestly, only Apple can pull off something like this. If you like the Sony design styles, do consider the Sony M5 or even the C5 Ultra. The M5 is a worthy Z3+ competitor, while specs are slightly reduced, it sports an even better camera, the same “Omnibalance” design and waterproof capabilities.

Pros

  • Nice design
  • Waterproof
  • Xperia Care

Cons

  • Overheats
  • Incremental upgrades
  • Frustrating battery life
  • Doesn’t have a wow factor

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

2 thoughts on “Review: Sony Xperia Z3+

  1. I like the z3 because of the good battery life and great outdoor visibility under direct sunlight. Based on your review, battery life in z3+ poor. I will skip this version.

    Thanks for your review..

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