Sony Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact: First Impressions

Today, we were treated to a delightful keynote, where the Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact were unveiled to the Asian media for the first time. Read on to find out why we were impressed by the offerings that debuted in IFA 2014.

Specifications

Xperia Z3 Xperia Z3 Compact Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Display 5.2”, 1080p (Full HD) IPS LCD 4.6”, 720p IPS LCD 8.0”, 1080p IPS LCD
Camera 20.7 MP, Exmor RS sensor, BIONZ Image Processing, 1/2.3 inch sensor 20.7 MP, Exmor RS sensor, BIONZ Image Processing, 1/2.3 inch sensor 8.1 MP, 1/3 inch sensor
Video Recording 2160p/4K 2160p/4K 1080p
Processor 2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
GPU Adreno 330 Adreno 330 Adreno 330
RAM 3 GB 2 GB 3 GB
Storage 16 GB, micro-SD expandable 16 GB, micro-SD expandable 16 GB, micro-SD expandable
Battery 3100 mAh, non-removable battery 2600 mAh, non-removable battery 4500 mAh, non-removable battery
Other IP65/68 (waterproof and dustproof), aluminium unibody, front-facing speakers IP65/68 (waterproof and dustproof), front-facing speakers IP65/68 (waterproof and dustproof), front-facing speakers, lightest (270g) and thinnest (6.4mm) tablet

As you can see, all three devices have nearly identical specs, with the only key variations being the display sizes and resolution. Let’s dive into how we felt about each device, shall we?

Sony Xperia Z3

IMG_1625E

The Xperia Z3 is Sony’s latest flagship – the fourth in 21 months – and is at best an incremental upgrade from the Xperia Z2 we saw in April. However, if you are an Xperia Z or Z1 user, then the Z3’s upgrades will certainly interest you greatly.

Design

From left: Xperia Z1, Z2, Z3
From left: Xperia Z1, Z2, Z3

The Xperia Z3 and Z2 (and by extension Z1) look almost the same, with the key differences only being the location of the front-facing speakers. While they were tucked into the top and bottom edges with the Z2, they are now in slightly more obvious locations.

The main difference here is in the weight and thickness. It is now an extremely thin device, being just 7.3mm thick and weighing in at 152g. The durability has also been greatly improved, with the Sony representative happy to smash the device (corners only) hard on the counter as a demonstration of the slightly rubberised corners.

While it looks largely similar, this quirky demonstration by Sony caught our eye, and has got us interested in wondering how much damage the Z3 can actually take.

Display

From left: Xperia Z1, Z2, Z3
From left: Xperia Z1, Z2, Z3

Comparing with the Z2, Sony has kept the Z3’s display diagonal and resolution constant at 5.2″ and 1080p, but the white balance has seen a huge boost. Previously, the white luminance and balance in the Z2 was wildly off – even more so than the Z1 (which suffered from other issues) – but now the Z3 is brighter and the whites pop as they should have.

Sony has often come into criticism for its poor displays, and fairly so. The Xperia Z and Z1 shipped with TN (twisted-nematic) panels which had terrible colour reproduction and viewing angles, and as mentioned above, the Z2 lacked an accurate white-balance. However, with the Z3 Sony has done everything right as far as I could tell under the convention centre’s lights.

The decision to remain at 1080p, while seemingly backward at first glance, is a much welcome one. For one, it preserves battery life greatly, and secondly it has allowed Sony to spend more time developing a proper 1440p panel, so as to avoid the mistakes LG made with their G3.

Sony was loathe to confirm the launch of the Z4 in April 2015, but it’s quite safe to assume we’ll be seeing it launch then as 2K resolution displays would have been around for quite long by then, featuring now in the LG G3, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Oppo Find 7.

Camera

03_Xperia_Z3_camXplode

The camera sensor has not seen any changes. It is still a 1/2.3 inch sensor (the largest for an Android device) and packs 20.7 megapixels. However the lens assembly has seen improvements, with the angle seeing a 2mm bump to 25mm. Software side improvements have also been implemented, with the main highlight being the ability to shoot at ISO 12800, for those times when even flash is insufficient.

4K video recording has also been improved, with the overheating issue found in the Z2 largely mitigated. The Z2 already had a near-perfect camera, with only minor niggles that we could identify, so we’re interested to see what changes the Z3 has brought about on the software-side.

It’s also really nice to see that Sony has included the same camera module in the Z3 Compact, including the wider angle lens and ability to hit ISO 12800.

Performance

The Snapdragon 801
The Snapdragon 801

Another area where there has not been much of a change is the processor. They main System-on-Chip (SoC) is the same as the Z2; the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, however the variant has changed from AB to AC, allowing for a faster clock speed of 2.5 GHz per core.

The GPU is still the Adreno 330 and RAM has also remained constant at 3 GB. Nothing much to see here.

Again, Sony has included the same SoC in the Z3 Compact.

Storage

Storage options also remain unchanged at 16 GB plus a micro-SD card slot (up to 128 GB), which we found slightly disappointing for 16 GB is a little less for avid mobile gamers. However, Sony is experimenting with a feature that allows you to install your apps to the micro-SD card again, after Android 4.4 KitKat had prohibited this.

The Z3 Compact also shares the same storage options.

Battery

Battery capacity has taken a slight dip to 3100 mAh, for reasons we were not told, but the projected battery life has increased vastly to 48 hours of normal usage.

During our time with the Z2, we got the device to run for 37 hours with a 5.5 hours screen-on time, so we tend to believe Sony when they claim a 48 hours battery life.

Miscellaneous

The ingress-protection rating of the Z3 and Z3 Compact has increased to the maximum possible value to IP65/68 from IP55/58, which means the device will keep out 100% of dust, and be able to survive for 1.5 hours at a depth of 2m.

FIFA 14 on remote play
FIFA 14 on remote play

Speakers are still front-facing and offer a nice stereo sound experience for both devices as well, but what’s most interesting is the introduction of Playstation Remote Play, where you can connect the Dualshock 4 controller of the PS4 into the device, and carry it around your house while continuing your PS4 game on your smartphone over the WiFi network.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

IMG_1663E

The Z3 Compact is essentially a mini-version of the flagship Z3, although it is only the second device in the Compact line after the Z1 Compact which we loved (there was no Z2 Compact). It features the full power of the larger device in a much smaller body.

Design and Build

Identical to the Z3 at the front and back, the Z3 Compact is forced to grow thicker and shed its aluminium unibody in order to pack the large camera sensor, display and processor. It retains the dimensions of the Z1 Compact even with the display diagonal seeing an increase to 4.6″ from 4.3″ and trimming its thickness to 8.6mm (that’s 0.9mm thinner!).

The device is extremely light and feels solid in the hand, although the tiny physical shutter key leaves something to be desired.

All in all it’s a tidy little design, albeit a slightly chunky one.

Display

IMG_1752E

The Z3 Compact features a 4.6″ 720p display, which preserves the resolution of the Z1 Compact but increases the diagonal by 0.3″. While Sony must be lauded for keeping the dimensions identical, we were slightly disappointed it did not have a 1080p display, for individual pixels were quite visible (iPhone 6 users, be warned as well).

Resolution aside, it’s a tidy little display, featuring all the strengths we saw in the Z3, and none of the issues of the Z1 Compact.

Battery

With the larger display and more powerful processor, we’ve also seen the battery capacity rise to 2600 mAh from 2300 mAh in the Z1 Compact. which is extremely impressive considering the Z3C is thinner, yet the same height and width.

Credit: GSMArena
Credit: GSMArena

According to GSMArena, the device can last for 101 hours if you do an hour each of web browsing, calling, and video watching per day. Damn!

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Design and Build

Thin is seriously in
Thin is seriously in

What Sony has done with the Z3 Tablet Compact (Z3TC for short) is nothing less than incredible. It is a device that weighs just 270g and is just 6.4mm thick, making it the lightest and thinnest tablet on offer today.

Furthermore, even though some may complain about the bezels of the Z3TC being extraordinarily wide, hands-on usage found that the device required them to hold it comfortably, be it in landscape or portrait orientation.

Again, it’s not fully aluminium, featuring a polycarbonate backing instead, but it feels great and is less susceptible to scratches or cracks than the glass panels on the Z3 and Z3 Compact.

Display

IMG_1728E

While it doesn’t up the display resolution to 4K, the 1080p IPS panel is nearly identical to the one in the Z3, save for the diagonal being upped to 8.0″. This is a slight disappointment, considering the iPad mini Retina has a 2048 x 1536 resolution. Pixel peepers will be able to spot individual pixels, however that’s only when you’re practically glued to the display – normal usage will look extremely sharp.

The Z2 Tablet is still going to be taking up the 10″ tablet market for another 6 months at least, with Sony hinting at alternating between the 8 inch and 10 inch tablets every six months.

Camera

Sony has included an 8 MP camera module in the Z3TC, however forget trying to take good photos with it. Image quality is not very high, and what’s more you look foolish while doing so.

Battery

With the larger display, Sony has decided to include a 4500 mAh battery to keep the device going for long. We expect the device to be able to hit battery life identical or greater than the Z3, considering the resolution of the display is constant.

Pricing and Availability

IMG_1568E

 

The Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact will see their launch on the 4th of October, at S$998 and S$798 respectively. Pre-orders will be starting next week, and the early-birds who reserve it then will receive a wireless charging dock for free.

The Z3 Tablet Compact is also slated for a release around the same time, however Sony is still “deciding on pricing” for it. We can assume the price to be around how much the iPad Air costs, which is S$548 for the 16 GB for the non-LTE version.

Conclusion

The Z3 family
The Z3 family

The Xperia Z3 family is a bunch of extremely exciting devices. The Z3 seems to be the best overall package on the market right now, and the Z3 Compact has a complete monopoly over the “mini” smartphone market as they are the only one with flagship specs in a smaller frame.

The Z3 Tablet Compact is also the first proper answer to the iPad mini Retina, although it does fall short in terms of display resolution. All in all, we came away from the event suitably impressed and we can’t wait until we get our hands on review units soon.

What do you think about these three devices? Are you going to be purchasing any of them? Leave your comments below!

Do also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on these devices in the future, as well as the Note 4 and Note 4 Edge media preview tomorrow.

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