Testmodo: Three Readers Give Their Final Verdicts on the Xperia Z3 from Sony

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It's the final week for our Xperia Z3 Testmoders Alex, Simon and Ray. There are sure to be a few tears of sadness it's all over among our plucky crew of reviewers, but luckily those waterproof smartphones are up to the test of fending off the occasional sob. But having rinsed the camera, battery and waterproofing capabilities of Sony's new flagship, what has a month in its company taught our guys?

It’s the fourth and final week of using the Xperia Z3 and it still continues to please. Most of my work colleagues and friends tend to judge a piece of technology depending on how long I keep using it and how enthusiastic I continue to be – well, I'm not ready to give this beast up yet. The phone continues to have fantastic battery life and take really good pictures. Check out this from my recent jaunt to Egypt…

It's also, thankfully for said recent jaunt, a phone you don’t need to worry getting wet. That said, there have been a number of areas that we haven’t touched upon yet – the likes of audio, gaming, general performance and some of the additional Sony applications – so I thought I'd round them up here.

Audio-wise, the phone is excellent, with the two front-facing stereo speakers pumping out great sounding tunes, while not quite as bass-rich as some. Sony’s Walkman software is really good, too, and allows more out-of-the-box setting tweaks than the standard Android software. My Z2 came with a set of dynamic noise-cancelling headphones and using these with the Z3 was excellent, as your music listening is not interrupted whether you're on a plane, train or Tube.

For those of you who are a bit more gaming-minded, the Z3 is bordering on fantastic. The screen is immensely bright and crystal clear, with razor-sharp images, while the PlayStation 4 Remote Play connectivity is great if you've got Sony's game console at home, screencasting top-end games to the Z3's display.

While the Z3's interface is a slightly skinned version of Android, it's still nippy and rarely slows or shows any signs of sluggishness. There are a variety of downloadable themes for free, which is good, or you can pay for more – it's a simple thing but something I like – and the phone's not filled with bloatware, either. In fact, I find myself using the Album and Walkman software quite often. Movie Maker, similar to Google+'s Auto Awesome in making a short film out of your photos and videos from the past week, is simple to use, too, and there's also TrackIt, Sony’s Shazam, which has a companion app for TV shows for pub-quiz heaven.

Looking back across the past few weeks, it's clear we have a phone here with an outstanding pedigree: battery life, great camera, powerful processor, waterproof exterior. In my opinion, it's one of the leading smartphones out in the market and holds its own easily against any Android rival or iPhone you put next to it. It's modern, smart, eye-catching and extremely usable.

So, what to do now after these four weeks? Well, one thing is simple: I’m keeping the Z3 as my main phone.

Simon is a lifelong tech addict born in Scotland, living in Macclesfield, with a love of beer, fish and chips, and all things technical and shiny. Follow him on Twitter here.

From the past few weeks' reviews we already know that the Xperia Z3 is waterproof, has a decent camera and a battery life that blows pretty much every competitor out of the water. They’re certainly the big selling points, but what is it like to actually own?

My Nexus 4 had sported a 4.7-inch screen and my hand stretched perfectly to its size, so I was apprehensive about the move up to a 5.2-inch display. Fortunately, I’ve adapted quickly – I can’t reach the top of the screen singlehandedly, but most apps have a top menu bar that matches the height my thumb gets to.

The phone’s footprint is big, but seems on par with the HTC One (M8) when you hold them side by side, and the Z3 is far skinnier to boot. Personally, I find the Z3 quite a looker, too, playing to my minimalist preferences, yet it’s also built like a tank. The screen is hard to flaw and the processor doesn’t trip up unless I’m pushing it as hard as I would my computer.

But then you could argue that’s smartphones now – when all devices, even the competition, are hard to fault, what’s left to make them stand out from the crowd? Well, the Z3’s biggest “extra” feature for me has to be PS4 Remote Play, which lets you stream PlayStation 4 games to play on your phone.

You can even pair a DualShock controller over Bluetooth while playing on the phone’s screen if you like (with attachable clips available).

Both onscreen buttons and controller integration work great, with barely any lag on feedback or display, despite streaming the graphically intensive Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. If the iPhone can use the Apple ecosystem as a seller, it certainly makes sense for Sony to bring in their universe of devices.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses with brand interoperability, though. My Sony car radio couldn’t link up, charge or play any streaming services, which is a shame as it works perfectly well with my five-year-old iPod Nano. Maybe I need to upgrade that, too.

The final important consideration is user interface. Of course, it’s never too much of a problem on Android, with so many downloadable launchers to choose from, but if you do stick with the stock launcher, Sony has chosen to emulate clean Android as much as possible. There are a bunch of preinstalled apps, but most are easy to uninstall and some are even useful: Navigon, for one, is a decent Google Maps competitor, and Lifelog seems pretty effective if activity trackers are your thing.

A month ago, I didn’t think I’d be so taken with the Z3, but the device has seriously impressed me and shown the benefits of a bigger screen. It's fairly taken the crown as the current "one to beat", so it looks like I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable.

Alex is a full-time student and part-time gadgeteer from Aberystwyth. Find him online here or follow him on Twitter here

Having been an iPhone user for many years, before switching to the Google Nexus 4 for its pure, unbloated Android experience, the first thing I noticed about the Z3 was how much bigger the device was than what I was used to due to its 5.2-inch screen. The term one-handed use should certainly be used lightly.

That said, with those metal edges and glass back, the Z3 exudes premium quality. The top and bottom edges are smooth, with the side edges busy with various buttons and flaps for waterproofing, and the huge bezels at the top and bottom house the excellent stereo speakers. If you like your hardware looking pristine, invest in a case, though, as while Sony provides a matte screen protector for the front in the box, it doesn't for the back and it's prone to picking up scratches.

The bright Bravia screen is vivid and gorgeous to view. I’m glad Sony didn’t feel the need to go beyond HD (1920x1080), too, as with the screen-saving tech and the 3100mAh battery you can get a day and a half's usage out of it without using any of the stamina modes; turn those on and you can stretch it to two and a half. I only wish the battery recharged quicker when it has finally run down.

The Z3 zips along with its 2.5GHz quadcore processor and 3GB memory. Sony’s take on Android is enjoyably gentle, with anything too offensive tweakable – the default launcher wasn't to my taste so I switched to the Google Experience Launcher with Google Now with little fuss, as I did with the default keyboard – but with some stuff that stock Android should jump on, such as the handy Close All function.

Although much has been made of the Z3's waterproofing, I actually think the best things about it are the camera and 4K video capabilities. It takes some tinkering and patience to get the best out, but it's really worth persevering, with the Superior Auto mode a really great fall back.

Overall it’s a great proposition from Sony, a top-end phone with great specs, excellent battery life, camera, screen, and, importantly, with hardware build quality to match.

Ray Liu is a London-based web developer and part-time photographer. Follow him on Twitter here or check out his photography site here.


Previously on the Xperia Z3 Testmodo Challenge…

Testmodo Challenge #1: Three Readers Put the Sony Xperia Z3's Battery Life to the Test
While our three lucky Testmodo winners get to keep the phone, they have to sing for their supper first – and first up is taking on a smartphone with some serious staying power. Read More >>

Testmodo Challenge #2: Three Readers Put the Sony Xperia Z3's Waterproofing to the Test
Those downpour-tolerant properties that the British weather was born for are given a full and thorough investigation. Read More >>

Testmodo Challenge #3: Three Readers Put the Sony Xperia Z3's Camera to the Test
Our Testmoders take another of the smartphone's big selling points for a spin: this time its 20.7-megapixel, 1/2.3”-sensor camera. Read More >>