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Sony Xperia Z3 review: unbeatable battery

Sony said it was leading a smartphone revolution with the Sony Xperia Z3, but did the device truly live up to this claim? With the Xperia Z5 having recently been released, we look back at last year's major Sony flagship to discover if it is still worth the asking price in 2015. Find out in our Xperia Z3 review.



  • Looks and feels great
  • Multimedia features
  • Great Sony camera
  • Strong battery life


  • 16 GB of internal storage is too little for a flagship
  • Side-flaps can become annoying

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Sony Xperia Z3 release date and price

The Sony Xperia Z3 release date was September 19, 2014, shortly after IFA 2014. The Sony Xperia Z3 price started at US$799.99, but now, one year later, you find it for half that price, at around US$400 off contract. 

Sony Xperia Z3 design and build quality

In 2013, Sony first presented its trademarked Omnibalance design on the Xperia Z, which set the design standard for all of the subsequent Xperia Z smartphones. Sony incorporates premium materials, such as aluminum and glass, into a thin waterproof body.

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This is the Sony Xperia Z3. / © ANDROIDPIT

The glass face and rear hasn't changed much since the first Xperia Z, but other alterations have been made to the frame of the Z3. Sony clearly listened to user feedback, and the handset is far more pleasant to hold than the previous generations. The rounded sides feel smoother and more comfortable than ever before.

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The Xperia Z3 doesn't look too different from previous models, but it is more comfortable to hold. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony has also added rubberized bumpers to the four corners, which helps protect the display if the phone is dropped, reducing the chances of a cracked screen. These stand out from the aluminum frame, but don’t tarnish the pristine look of the unibody design.

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Sony added bumpers for the four corners of the Z3 to help protect the display. / © ANDROIDPIT

The power and volume keys on the right-hand side are accessible, though it's a stretch to reach the 'volume down' button. Another minor complaint is that the camera sensor on the rear is placed so close to the edge of the handset that it's easy to accidentally cover it with your index finger when taking a landscape photo. 

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That tiny round power button must be one of the cutest on the Android platform. / © ANDROIDPIT

Overall, the slimline, metal handset looks and feels like a high-quality product, with just a few usability complaints undermining the overall effect.

Sony Xperia Z3 display

Although 2014 saw the introduction of a number of devices with a 2K displays – such as the Note 4, LG G3 and Nexus 6 – Sony stuck with Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) for its Z3's 5.2-inch screen.

Thanks to the TRILUMINOS and ‘X-Reality for Mobile’ technologies, the display looks fantastically bright and offers good visibility in direct sunlight. The viewing angles are also excellent: photos and videos are natural, restrained and not oversaturated. The Z3's screen has a more radiant appearance than the Zperia Z2's, and is definitely superior.

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The colors are sharp and natural on the Xperia Z3. / © ANDROIDPIT

While it can't compete with the pixel density of some of the more modern devices, the lower pixel count of the Xperia Z3's display does have a benefit to its battery life, a benefit that you may find extremely compelling. 

Sony Xperia Z3 special features

The Sony Xperia Z3 is water- and dustproof, with IP65 and IP68 certification, meaning the it's protected from dust and pressurized jets of water from all directions. It can also be dunked under water to 1.5 m for a maximum of 30 minutes, but only fresh water (in other words, don't jump into the ocean with it). 

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Protective flaps are a Sony staple. They're what keeps the phone waterproof. / © ANDROIDPIT

To acheive its water-resistant and dust-resistant properties though, the Xperia Z3 uses protective flaps on its microSD card/SIM card slot and USB slot. While it's comforting to use a device with such protection, charging the device – which you will do as regularly as with any other smartphone – means opening and closing the cover almost every day. 

This is a minor frustration, but any minor frustration repeated 100 times becomes a major frustration eventually. The USB cover can be removed from the device, but it's not intended to be. Still, you may end up taking this action.

Sony Xperia Z3 software

Sony has incorporated a well-rounded software package into the Z3, making it a real multimedia champ. In the music area, it has included a DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Hi-Res Audio, which improves the sound quality of MP3s with lower bitrates.

The sound is improved as a whole, but the DSEE HX feature is only found in the Walkman app; other apps from the Play Store don’t come with this feature. Some other sound effects include EQ and virtual surround sound.

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The Z3 comes with some new sound effect features. / © ANDROIDPIT

For gamers, the Xperia Z3 has a new PS4 function called Remote Play which allows you to play PlayStation 4 games on the Z3 by docking it on the PS4 controller. This way you can start a game on your TV and continue it in a different room with the phone. It's an interesting feature, but doesn't provide a huge reason to invest in a Z3. 

Another new feature is an Ultra Power Saving Mode. When activated, the Z3 turns into a 'basic' phone with no internet connection, a reduced home screen, and access only to the contacts, SMS/MMS, camera, album, calendar, alarm clock, clock, calculator, UKW radio, and settings apps.

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The Z3 comes bundled with a number of Sony apps. / © ANDROIDPIT

When using this mode, the Xperia Z3 will last for three to five days without needing to be plugged in to charge. This mode is especially useful if you are going on long backpacking tours or anywhere where you don’t have electricity, or need for internet.

Sony Xperia Z3 performance

The Sony Xperia Z3 specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3 GB of RAM. 3 GB of RAM is still plenty, even in 2015, but the Snapdragon 801 processor lags behind some of the more modern flagships. Check out the benchmark results below. 

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Sony Xperia Z3 in the  AnTuTu-Benchmark results. / © ANDROIDPIT

We completed three AnTuTu Benchmark tests for the Z3 performance which provided an average of 44,380 points. The Z2 just missed out on the 40,000 cut-off. As you can see, the Xperia Z3 now ranks below a number of more recent devices.

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The Geekbench results for the Xperia Z3. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Xperia Z3 feels fast during normal use though. Swiping between apps and menus takes no time at all. Where it does differ noticeably from more modern devices like the Galaxy S6 is in the time it takes to launch the camera. That's not to say it's slow, just that it's slower.

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The Vellamo results for the Xperia Z3. / © ANDROIDPIT

Additionally, the Z3 is able to capture up to 10 minutes of 4K video without overheating, as opposed to the Z2 which only lasted about five minutes. But it’s still a pain: the Z3 camera simply shut down, even though the phone was hardly warm. It's the same camera overheat problem that plagued the Xperia Z3+ this year, but it's nowhere near as pronounced.  

Sony Xperia Z3 camera

The rear camera shoots photos at 20.7 MP, with an Exmor RS sensor of ½.3 inches, the same as the Z2. This time around, though, Sony increased the max ISO from 3,200 on the Z2, to 12,800 for the Z3. Pictures taken in low light situations are far stronger on the Z3, but it's a minor camera improvement overall.

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Colors are well-represented, aside from the real-life reds which tend towards a pinker hue in photos. / © ANDROIDPIT
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The 20.7 MP of the Sony camera ensure highly detailed images. / © ANDROIDPIT
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An overcast sky. © ANDROIDPIT
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The Z3 camera always produces life-like images. / © ANDROIDPIT
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The Xperia Z3 failed to impress one of the AndroidPIT dogs. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3 battery

The battery capacity of the Z3 is just 100 mAh higher than the Z2's, so both have similarly excellent battery life. In our test, we had the automatic brightness on, while syncing three different accounts, and we listened to about an hour of music, surfed the internet for two hours (internet, Twitter and Feedly), played games for 15 minutes, and took pictures. After 13 hours, it was still at 50 percent. Two-day battery life with moderate use is no problem for the Xperia Z3 – it has one of the strongest batteries of any 2014 flagship. 

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The Xperia Z3 has one of the best batteries on Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sony Xperia Z3 technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • D6603
    • Manufacturer:
    • Sony
    • Dimensions:
    • 146.5 x 72.4 x 7.3 mm
    • Weight:
    • 152 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3100 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.2 in
    • Display technology:
    • LCD
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 2.2 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 20.7 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • LED
    • Android version:
    • 4.4.4 - KitKat
    • User interface:
    • Xperia UI
    • RAM:
    • 3 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 16 GB (D6603, D6653, D6633, D6643)
      32 GB (D6616)
    • Removable storage:
    • microSD
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
    • Number of cores:
    • 4
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2.5 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • - (D6603)
      HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 (D6653, D6616, D6643)
      HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.0 (D6633)

Final verdict

The Sony Xperia Z3 is beautifully designed, with a fantastic high-resolution camera and great battery life; it's a really difficult device to find fault with. You might not be a fan of Sony's Xperia user-interface, or the fiddly SD-Card/charge port flaps, but the minor flaws pale in comparison to the myriad positives. 

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The Xperia Z3 is still a top phone in 2015. / © ANDROIDPIT

For US$400 the Xperia Z3 presents outstanding value and its stellar battery life is going to get even better once the device gets Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the near future. It might be lacking some of the more current Android features such as wireless charging and fingerprint scanning, but for us, it still ranks as one of the best Android phones in the world.

What do you think of the Sony Xperia Z3? Let us know in the comments below. 


Write new comment:
  • Dreadful, dreadful build quality. Both my wife and I have cracked back panels and my screen has cracked twice. The smallest crack makes the surface of the screen unresponsive, unlike most phones. Will not buy another, build quality is worse than a child's toy.

  • Sony Xperia Z3 user: Right after 1 year when warranty void I received 5.1.1 android update and got to know there's hardware bloatware which causes wi-fi/bluetooth malfunction.
    I learned from many forums that after android update many faced hardware crash and motherboard had to be replaced(see people renting out at many forums). I had given my phone for repairs and I was asked for INR 25k(US $378.22) which included mandatory replacement of screen which I specifically asked not to be replaced as it was working fine even though it was popping out a little.
    Now the phone's dead within few days I got it back from service center. Though the quality of phone was good but it is not reliable because of hardware malware and not at all long lasting. Sony should take responsibility of such malware and provide hand to hand replacement/rectification instead of diluting their brand value. No more Sony Mobile.

  • ITS ME Aug 27, 2015 Link to comment

    I AM SELLING MY SONY XPERIA Z3....Excellent condition with box and all cables and booklets (tmobile). Color- Blk. Please contact me -

  • n13L5 Jul 26, 2015 Link to comment

    I have to say, my Z2 did not have excellent battery life when using google navigation, the battery drained extremely fast and still kept draining even when plugged into an original Sony car charger.

  • Armandas Jun 30, 2015 Link to comment

    The phone is waterproof and has a nice screen and long battery life, but other than that it sucks big time! When I've bought mine I had it for a month when first cons showed up. SPEAKERS . Top speaker started making noises and when playing music it sounded like it was a male teenager going thru voice change, very ANNOYING! FRAGILE - was taking 4k video and phone got hot. When it was cooling down a hair line crack appeared on the screen... but worse... that crack disconnected the touch CONTROL - the phone was useless. ... Few months after when screen was already replaced (for 200euro) COVERAGE just went... in the city centre you might get two bars of coverage, but if you're in suburb...good luck... ''the phone is switched off, please try again later...'' Since then, phone is deep deep in my drawer. Wouldn't recommend this phone to my worst enemy !

  • Folks, it's rather irritating to find out, just after having bought the D6603 version, that the D6616 one has twice the internal memory (32 GB instead of just 16). How come this wasn't mentioned in the your article?

  • Just bought one of these SIM free to use with low cost NTT Docomo reseller BIC SIM. Best mobile I have used. Fast, stable with great battery life.

  • Nathan Apr 8, 2015 Link to comment

    The Z3 has 100 mAh less than the Z2!

    But the battery life is better.

  • it cost a little bit too much but it is still worth. i am sony fan

  • Worst after Sales seservice, never by sony mobile

  • Only Sony phone I used was Xperia S. it was amazing even though it was the first Sony phone. Later phones did not attract my brother so he bought me a nexus 5 which is also amazing but had lot of problems with 5.0 but now after update it has become a lot better. Enjoying it now.

  • My sister has the Z3 and it suffers from overheating when filming in 4k. The phone stops filming after a couple of minutes with a message like "too hot, can't continue".
    I suspect that the sealed body is the main reason to this issue.
    Anyone else had this problem?

    • Absolutely normal.

      • sacocheio Apr 10, 2015 Link to comment

        I don't think a forced stop due to overheating is normal. I have never heard of it in any cellphone...
        That said, it's very impressive to make a 4k movie with such a tiny thing. But it's supposed to work as long as it takes.
        And my wife has just bought a Z3 Compact with my blessing, fantastic phone.

      • Armandas Jun 30, 2015 Link to comment

        The screen might crack if it's overheating. Happened to me

  • Jamie K. Oct 27, 2014 Link to comment

    I've had the Z3 for a little over two weeks now and can say its the best phone I have owned.
    First it was the iPhone 3G, great phone for the time but the sandbox software pushed me away to the Android side of things. HTC Desire S for a short time till their Sensation really hit the nail on the head. I stayed with HTC for quite a while moving onto the HTC One X briefly before hitting up the HTC One (m7). The latter was awesome though the camera did disappointing at times but only a few.
    What really sold me the Z3 was friends recommendations; one with a Z1, one with a with a Z2 and to top it off, my brother hitting up the Z2 Compact.
    So I took a road not HTC and even though they make awesome phones, and will most likely be hitting their products again as I can highly recommend them, I really am loving my new Sony Z3.

  • Do the xperia z3 has hand gesture features?

  • It's definitely something for us to consider! In the meantime, if you're interested in smartphone camera technology, check out our best smartphones for photographers guide:

  • Make a full comparison with G3, S5, and Iphone 6 on camera sector, will be interesting review....I'm impressed with the camera performance from this things....very good indeed.

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