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Review Authored by:

Sony Xperia Z3+ review: too hot to handle

Update: Overheating fix added

Authored by: Shu On Kwok — 11 months ago

When the Xperia Z4 was presented in Japan earlier this year, it didn't seem like much of an improvement over the previous Xperia. This is partly because Sony's flagships come every six months rather than yearly like most other companies'. But no matter the reason, the marketing team clearly found it necessary to re-brand the Z4 as the Z3+ in Europe (although it's still the Z4 in the US and Japan). On that note, we present our Sony Xperia Z3+ review. (Head to the performance section for our new DIY overheating fix.) 

Rating

Good

  • Design and build quality
  • IP65 and IP68 certified
  • General performance

Bad

  • Heat problem in conjunction with the camera
  • Slightly pale display

Sony Xperia Z3+ release date and price

The Sony Xperia Z3+ release date was June 11 in Japan (where it is known as the Xperia Z4) and June 26 in other parts of the world. The Xperia Z4v will be available on the Verizon network "later this summer". Black and white will be the initial color offerings (in the US), with Copper and Aqua Green options available later this year.

The Xperia Z3+ price is sitting between £474 and £549 GBP in the UK (unlocked), but there's no official US price as yet. We'll update this article as US pricing become available, but you can pre-register on Verizon's website for more information.

Sony Xperia Z3+ design and build quality

I've always liked Sony's OmniBalance design philosophy: the angular design in combination with a thin and delicate overall picture makes for a distinctive look.

This philosophy continues with the Sony Xperia Z3+, which, to all intents and purposes, looks nearly identical to the Xperia Z3. This can perhaps be expected with a device whose name suggests only a minor upgrade. As with the Z3, the sides are made entirely of matte aluminum with four so-called rubber bumpers on the corners, which act as shock absorbers.

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test 16
The plastic caps protect the corners of the Sony Xperia Z3+ in falls. / © ANDROIDPIT

The glass back on our Xperia Z3+ is an Aqua Green color. It looks fresh and futuristic, and is highly reflective; while not everyone wants a mirror-like phone rear, it's a boon if you're the kind of person who checks themselves out in the windows of parked cars. 

androidpit sony xperia z3 plus 4
The super-subtle Aqua Green finish on the back of the Xperia Z3+ looks great. / © ANDROIDPIT

The drawback of a reflective glass back is that it attracts fingerprints like nobody's business. As with certain variants of the Galaxy S6, the entire back of the Z3+ gets covered with greasy fingerprints after just a few minutes. Unless you're into the grubby look, you may well find yourself compulsively cleaning the front and back of the phone at every available opportunity.

The front of the Xperia Z3+ is as simple as ever and hardly differs from the front of its predecessors. The Xperia Z3+ features dual front-facing stereo speakers that are very discreetly integrated at the very top and bottom edges of the display glass, only noticeable when you look closely.

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test 4
Finally no awkward protective cap: The microUSB port in the Xperia Z3+ is now open. / © ANDROIDPIT

The infamous waterproof flaps that covered the microSD, SIM and USB ports on the Xperia Z3 have been deposed of. Fidgety and clumsy, they seemed a necessary evil last year, required to protect the phone against water and dust to IP65 and IP68 rating.

Sony has significantly reduced the number of flaps on the Z3+. The USB port on the Xperia Z3+ is now open with no cap, but retains the Sony Xperia Z3+'s water-resistance rating. The only remaining flap serves to protect the slots for microSD/micro-SIM and is, when compared to the Xperia Z3, much more elegant and inconspicuous.

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test 7
Simple and elegant: Sony Xperia Z3+. / © ANDROIDPIT

It is also worth mentioning that the Sony Xperia Z3+ is 0.4 mm thinner than the Z3, with a total thickness of just 6.9 mm. The design changes are small but just right and ensure that Sony's OmniBalance design is further refined, without differing too greatly from its predecessors. 

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test 3
Typically Sony: the round power button below the volume rocker. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ display

The Sony Xperia Z3+ display comes in at 5.2 inches with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (Full HD). It has the usual Sony features, including Triluminos, X-Reality and Live Color LED. This may all sound very exciting, but in truth it has the same screen as its predecessor, and so the Xperia Z3+ doesn't really score any bonus points in this section of the review.

I'd call the Xperia Z3+ an OK display, in much the same way as I'd politely call someone a 'nice' person when they've failed to make much of an impression on me. During my time with the Xperia Z3+ the display looked paler to me than the screens on the Galaxy S6 and LG G4. This is not just because Z3+ display is a lower resolution than those on Samsung and LG's flagships, but more due to the general color reproduction and brightness of the Z3+.

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test hero
A 5.2-inch display with Full HD resolution and relatively pale colors. / © ANDROIDPIT

The viewing angles are spot on but even the preloaded demo photos didn't blow me away with their vibrance, color or saturation. The bottom line is that the display of the Xperia Z3+ is good, but doesn't compete with its rivals. The competition on this front from Samsung and LG simply offer a lot more for your money in terms of display quality and definition.

Sony's lack of innovation with the Z3+ display is a great pity. QHD is by no means a necessity, but I would have at least expected Sony to make some improvements in terms of color reproduction and brilliance.

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Not much is new about the 1080p IPS LCD display. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ special features

One of the stand-out features of the current Xperia smartphones is PS4 Remote Play, which allows you to stream games from your PlayStation 4 to your Xperia Z3+ over a Wi-Fi connection. It's pretty serious game-nerd stuff and we love it.

As mentioned above, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is also IP65 and IP68-certified. This means that it is fully protected from dust and can withstand being submerged in water up to a 1.5 m for half an hour. However, Sony's product page specifically notes that the Z3+ has an exposed USB port and that "you should not put the device completely underwater"; not what you want to hear about a phone that markets itself as water- and dust-proof.

androidpit xperia z3 plus software 2
The Xperia UI does a great job of using Lollipop's best bits, like the Quick Settings menu. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ software

Sony has incorporated the already-familiar Xperia UI in the Z3+, which hardly changes from its predecessor. The only remarkable difference is that it is now built on top of Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. The Xperia UI is still a stylish combination of stock Android UI elements with Sony's own design language, which is minimal and stark.

The Z3+ UI makes use of many standard elements of Lollipop, such as the lock screen, the Quick Settings menu and the card view of recently opened apps. It's one of the better integrations of Lollipop's Material Design aesthetic with an existing manufacturer skin.

The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with a set of pre-installed apps (let's call them what they are: bloatware), which are only likely to be used by a small number of people. These include PSN (PlayStation Network), Xperia Lounge and What's New.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z3 plus recent apps high temperature warning
Sony adapts Material Design nicely, but that temperature warning seems always-present. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ performance

Sony has utilized the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor as its chipset of choice in the Xperia Z3+. This is the CPU at the center of every overheating and thermal throttling scandal this year.

Having said that, the 810 does produce decent performance on the Xperia Z3+. Compared to the HTC One M9 and the LG G Flex 2, the Snapdragon processor in the Xperia Z3+ produces higher benchmark scores. The problem is that this performance is short-lived because the CPU gets warm very quickly and is then throttled back to limit overheating.

Xperia Z3 plus Benchmark
The Snapdragon 810 performs quite well in AnTuTu benchmark tests. / © ANDROIDPIT

Combined with 3 GB RAM and an Adreno 430 graphics processor, the Sony Xperia Z3+ averages around 52,000 points in the AnTuTu benchmark. This is not as much as the octa-core Samsung Exynos 7420 processor found in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, but is still significantly more than the Snapdragon 801 of the Sony Xperia Z3.

The Sony Xperia Z3+ heats up very quickly under stress. Ground zero for the heat build up is right where the NFC logo appears on the back near the camera lens. While it is not unpleasantly hot to hold, it is quite noticeable and the heat build-up requires the CPU to be throttled back.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z3 camera overheating warning
This warning appears within seconds of launching certain features in the camera app. / © ANDROIDPIT

The throttling occurs during high-intensity tasks, like benchmarking, hi-res gaming or using certain camera functions. However, due to the proximity of the heat build-up to the camera, the camera app frequently closes. The amount of heat produced during normal texting or emailing did not seem out of the ordinary, and it didn't affect the speed of the device in everyday use.

Sony released a firmware in response to the issue, but we've tested the Xperia Z3+ since then and have found that the camera app continues to crash as a result of overheating. This is a serious problem that Sony really should have resolved by now. 

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia Z3 plus foil fix
Not the most glamorous solution but very simple and worthwhile. / © schecter7 (XDA Developers)

Sony Xperia Z3+ overheating fix

We came across this little gem of do-it-yourself Android ingenuity in the XDA Developers forum. A user there by the name of schecter7 came up with a very quick and simple solution to the Xperia Z3+ overheating problem. All you need is a case for your Z3+ and some aluminum or copper foil.

Simply layer a few sheets of foil in the case and then insert your Z3+ on top. This fix only drops the heat by a little bit, but it does increase performance considerably, as you can see in the consecutive AnTuTu benchmarks below. The first graph is just the phone, the second is phone plus case and the third is phone plus case with foil.

AndroidPIT XDA Developers Xperia Z3 plus antutu benchmarks
Xperia Z3+ CPU performance improved by seven percent. / © schecter7 (XDA Developers)

While the heat only drops by about a degree (the red line) you can see processor performance (the blue line) goes from just over 73 percent in the first run without foil to 80 percent in the last with foil. Not bad for a minute of your time and about a penny's worth of aluminum foil.

Just to be clear, the internal temperature is what you see plotted in the graph above. The cooling process is assisted by the addition of the foil and that additional heat dispersal means the CPU isn't throttled as quickly as it otherwise would be. You'll lose NFC and might have some antenna interference, but a faster phone might just be worth it.

Sony Xperia Z3 plus final test 5
Hardly recognizable: stereo speakers above and below the display. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ audio

In terms of voice quality, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is beyond all reproach. The call volume and clarity on both ends is great and there was no crackling or other disturbances during calls.

The Sony Xperia Z3+ has also proved to be a bit of an entertainer, because the stereo front-facing speakers are quite good for a smartphone and can happily produce good sound for a small group of people. Of course, the Xperia Z3+ is no replacement for 'real' speakers, as the phone simply does not have rich enough bass or volume.

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The 20.7 MP Sony Xperia Z3+ camera performs well. When you can use it. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ camera

The camera itself is really good on the Sony Xperia Z3+. The massive 20.7 MP resolution is great for those who want to shoot large, detailed images on their smartphones. But the camera has, in conjunction with the Snapdragon 810 processor, a serious thermal problem.

As mentioned above, when recording videos in 4K for a prolonged period, or using the augmented reality mode in the camera app (whereby you can place funny effects or animal faces on a moving subject in the viewfinder), the Z3+ heats up very quickly. The camera app then displays an overheating warning, and force-closes soon after that. 

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The Xperia Z3+ camera looks great, just like its predecessor. / © ANDROIDPIT

The front-facing 5 MP camera deserves a special mention here. Selfie fans will appreciate the jump from 2 MP to 5 MP. In terms of image quality of the front camera, the Sony Xperia Z3+ no longer lags behind other flagships from the likes of Samsung, LG and co.

Sony Xperia Z3+ battery

Xperia has the same peculiar backwards step with the Z3+ battery as the Samsung did with the Galaxy S6, shrinking it rather than increasing it. The Xperia Z3+ battery comes in at 2,900 mAh, compared to the Z3's, which had a capacity of 3,100 mAh.

But where the Galaxy S6 battery performs worse than the Galaxy S5's, the Xperia Z3+ battery seems up to the task. The smaller battery is optimized enough to get you through an entire working day of perusing emails and WhatsApp messages, occasional internet browsing and a quick gaming session or two.

But as with most flagships currently, the run time simply is not up to the title of 'full day'. Sony does an acceptable job with the Z3+ but that extra capacity would have been nice.

Individual results will vary based on usage habits, but you're more than likely going to be looking for a top-up at least once a day. Fortunately, the Xperia Z3+ supports Quick Charge 2.0, so the battery can be almost fully charged in as little as 45 minutes.

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Are you enticed by the simple, solid elegance of the Xperia Z3+? / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3+ technical specifications

${device-sony-710}
    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • Xperia Z3+
    • Manufacturer:
    • Sony
    • Dimensions:
    • 146 x 72 x 6.9 mm
    • Weight:
    • 144 g
    • Battery size:
    • 2930 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.2 in
    • Display technology:
    • LCD
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 5 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 20.7 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • LED
    • Android version:
    • 5.0 - Lollipop
    • User interface:
    • Xperia UI
    • RAM:
    • 3 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 32 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
    • Number of cores:
    • 8
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1

Final verdict

The Sony Xperia Z3+ is, as its moniker implies, an attempt at a careful update of select parts of the Xperia Z3 and not a true successor. There are subtle improvements in the design, such as the open USB port and the almost-invisible speaker placement. The biggest change is beneath the hood, in the form of a new Qualcomm chipset. While it should be good to see a high-performance processor in the latest Xperia, this particular one comes at the price of unreliable performance.

The camera issue related to heat is also of real concern, and the fact that Sony's attempted — and failed — to fix it is a major concern. The Xperia Z3+ is not a huge improvement over its predecessor but it is a nice one with some potential. We'd advise against rushing out to buy it just yet, on account of its ongoing overheating issues.

Since 1999, Shu has written about the colorful world of IT and telecommunications. His career started as a presenter at the five-hour TV show NBC GIGA, which led him through several career stages until he finally joined the AndroidPIT team in May of 2015. His passion for mobile devices and gadgets knows no boundaries. Whether Android, iOS or Windows, Shu feels at home with any OS.

21 comments

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  • Terrible review on the display side. They have a white balance setting that allows you to adjust the color yourself to your own standard. Almost all reviewers fail to mess with that setting before reviewing

  • The snapdragon 810 produces decent performance on the Xperia z3+, I like how despite the overheating issues the processors never ever seem to be enough for most reviewers, It could be the most advanced up to date cpu and there is always some performance issue or it just is never ever fast enough.

  • Interesting article, although I wonder what chip the Z5 will have to warrant being called the Z5, when the jump to the Snapdragon 810 obviously was too small to call it the Z4... There's an article on this over at NinjaTeched, (http: //ninjateched.com/2015/08/05/rumour-sony-xperia-z5-z5-compact-leaks-features-fingerprint-scanner-speculation-possible-specs/) which suggests it will ship with the Snapdragon 820 chip. Would this be possible?

  • Gaj B 11 months ago Link to comment

    Overheating issue?

    You're recording in 4K, most devices have a heat limit, my Panasonic LX100 lasts 15 mins before it overheats.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      I was not talking about recording in 4K mode, don't make assumptions.

      You wish it would *only* overheat in 4K mode, but for one thing, that's limited to 5 minutes and sometimes crashes the camera before 5 minutes are up.

      Beyond testing it out after getting the phone, I've never used 4K video recording. Always used 1080p mode...

      Basic 1080p recording was perfectly sufficient to destroy the glue holding the back panel in less than 6 months.
      Even just taking skill shots made the phone quite hot.

      As for your "heat limit" you bring up as if that was a standard, normal thing, that is nonsense. Its the manufacturer's responsibility to design around the thermal envelope of the components they plan to use.

      Sony's phone simply needs an aluminum back panel with a fluted surface and there would be no heat issue. But they prefer a thin, shiny and cheap piece of plastic instead. Don't try to make that the user's fault :p

      That's also why its poor form to blame Qualcomm's chipset, unless they wrongly stated the TDP of it. Even then, a Manufacturer needs to test its design and in that process, they should find out immediately if the TDP numbers they were given are incorrect.

  • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

    Shu, do you know of any Android app that may be able to throttle the 810 chip set to avoid the overheating issues?

  • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

    - No international warranty. Don't travel with a Sony phone outside your country.
    - Heavy Camera users: Overheating will cook the waterproof glue holding the back panel and it will come off.
    - Most Sony Service centers are not authorized to work on their waterproof line of phones.

    I can't justify buying my favorite line of phones anymore until Sony fixes this major issue. You cannot sell electronics that will overheat from normal use. "Don't use the camera so much," you say? Well, why buy a 20 MP phone with renowned Sony Sensor, lens and processing tech if you can't use it?


    I guess they just replaced the guy who was running that division, maybe the new guy will make them work properly, before trying to make them thinner.

  • christian Jul 23, 2015 Link to comment

    wow

  • Tom Quirk Jul 21, 2015 Link to comment

    Shu, I am still using the original Xperia Z, and I have had 3 broken screens due to bending and flexing - not from dropping and shattering - every time it was a single diagonal crack, and every time the phone was in my trouser front pocket. I'm now terrified to carry my phone like this, which completely defeats the purpose of a 'mobile' phone. I don't believe that any case will significantly reduce the flexing/bending. I also think that, in general, the cases insulate the phone and increase the heat build-up.The later Xperia Z series have reduced the thickness, along with increasing the overall length and width, which worries me as surely the flex/bend resistance is reduced and thus making the phone more susceptible to screen cracking. There have also been claims that the cracking can be due to the overheating of the device, and subsequent thermal expansion of the screen? I'm not sure about this, but there could be a situation where this is combined with flexing/bending in 'normal' use, leading to cracking? I have tried to find information regarding this cracking due to flexing/bending, but it does not appear to be distinguished apart from all screen cracking/shattering in general. Do you, or anyone else, have comments about this problem, and perhaps some recommendations? Also any comment about this type of cracking on other brand phones would be of interest, for comparison. Thanks.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      I've had the original Xperia Z, which I loved except for the short battery life, it had zero problems for me, but I also bought it more than a year after its initial release, so maybe Sony strengthened the case since then.

      I've since bought the Xperia Z2, and never had a cracked screen either, even though I've had it in tight jeans front pockets and sometimes sat down in my car without taking it out first. However, the Z2 had the same nasty heat problem as this one, which is really a knock-out argument against the phone.

  • Why is there no mention of LTE A+/Cat.6 benefits: tripling downloading speeds compared to Z3? On the sound front you've skipped over 3 cool improvements: DSEE HX, LDAC and finally DNC.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      Yes, LDAC is quite awesome!!

      Too bad I am a heavy camera user, which was already a serious problem for my Z2 :(

      Sony would rather shave a few 10th of a millimeter off the thickness for looks than have the phone work right. Pathetic.

  • I was an Xperia fan before and got an Xperia Z because of the slick design. It was an expensive phone but I guess the 'waterproof' feature justifies the price. That heating problem was present then. One fateful day I was swimming with my Xperia Z and using it as an underwater camera. One minute it was fine and doing its job then it turned off all of a sudden. When I emerged from the pool, I can see, thru the front and back camera that my Xperia Z was full of condensed water. Im sure it is because of its heating problem and the cold water of the pool. But Xperia refuses to fix it even if it is still under their LIMITED warranty.

  • I have a z3 and I regret buying it. Sony is making junk phones. The back plastic is coming off, and dust is visible on the camera lens. And lollipop update has made it even worse. There are multiple battery saving features overlaying and confusing.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      Yes, my Z2 back also came off.

      I never used it in a pool or any water, but google research showed, that camera and chip set produce so much heat, that the waterproof glue holding the back panel gets cooked and looses adhesion. With the outward pressure exerted by the improperly placed NFC chip, the back will then separate. Even when pushed back down with a finger, it will pop back off right away.

      Most Sony service centers aren't even authorized to work on the water proof phones and there's no international warranty when you're traveling with a Sony phone, you're completely out of luck.

      I had to have Amazon forward me another phone to my hotel (thanks Amazon). Needless to say, I picked something other than Sony, even though I liked using Sony's phone the best.

      Since I didn't like the S6, I'm now toting around an S5 I don't particularly like, but its reliable and hasn't overheated once.

  • Dillan K Jun 14, 2015 Link to comment

    This looks like a solid effort on Sony's part. I am a little surprised by the negative reaction many people seem to be having. It has great specs, and hopefully it will maintain the Z series' legendary stamina. I thought the Z3 was a very handsome phone in person; this should be just as good. Overall, I am impressed. Thanks for the review.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      Sony's Z phones are my favorite phones. They may not be perfect, but the UI is great (light weight and good looking) in spite of some bugs. And the case design looks great and holds up well against daily usage.

      However, the heating issue is completely unacceptable and has already cost me my Z2. I won't buy another Sony phone till they get that under control.

  • Nice first review. But why is every hands-on i read about the z3+ trying to convince me it's only a minor update? Did Samsung really do so much better with the s6? Off course they had a drastic design change, but hey, it was plastic fantastic! Sony already had that classy design years ago and it's still much nicer looking.
    Compared to the z3 there is more storage, faster ram, faster chipset, 5mp front cam, quickcharge, ip65. Besides that, Sony has the only chique android ui around.

    • n13L5 11 months ago Link to comment

      I agree with you, there's no reason to complain that the upgrade is "too small" for a version increase.

      But the dire heat issue has remained unsolved from Z1, Z2, Z3, Z3+... what the hell, Sony?
      Put more space between your heat generating components!

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