Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact initial impressions

Image: The Verge
It's been a very busy week for tech heads, especially Android enthusiasts. IFA kicked off in Berlin earlier in the month, and we've been bombarded with countless new smartphones, tablets, and of course, smartwatches. Sony unveiled their new Z3 lineup, a trio of devices including the Z3 flagship, successor to the Z2 which was announced just half a year ago at MWC, the Z3 Compact, successor to the Z1 Compact, and the Z3 Tablet Compact, their first small tablet in the Z series. I'm not much of a tablet person, so I won't be touching on the Z3 Tablet Compact. Instead I'll just be sharing some initial thoughts on the Z3 and the Z3 Compact. Now for those of you who haven't read any of my previous initial impression posts, you should know that my thoughts are merely from watching videos and reading articles from tech journalists, I don't have any hands on time with any of the products. In other words, my thoughts are those of the average consumer, who is only able to gather information from the internet, not of a journalist who gets to go to trade shows and handle all the cool new toys. Now that that's out of the way, here are some of my initial impressions of Sony's new flagship, the Xperia Z3, and its smaller counterpart, the Xperia Z3 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony likes to do things a little differently compared to other OEMs. While everyone else releases one flagship a year, Sony release two. Last year, we saw both the Xperia Z and Xperia Z1. Earlier in the year, we saw the Xperia Z2, and now we already have the Xperia Z3. With such a short period of time between each flagship, you wouldn't expect there to be any significant changes between each generation, and you'd be right. Almost everything between the Z2 and the Z3 is identical. They both have a 5.2" 1080p display, they both have the SD801 with 3GB of RAM, they both come with an SD card slot, the camera still has 20.7MP, with the same 2.2MP front camera, and even the battery is still quite large, bigger than 3000 mAh. They both run Android KitKat as well, and Sony's skin is pretty much the same as it's been recently.

There are however some small changes despite the similar specs. The display for instance has better contrast-enhancing tech, to allow for better viewing in direct sunlight. The processor is clocked slightly higher, 2.5GHz in the Z3, up from the 2.3GHz in the Z2. Despite the same megapixel count in the camera, it apparently now has better low-light performance, and is capable of taking wider angle shots. The Z3's IP rating has also improved, upgrading the IP58 rating in the Z2 to an IP68 rating (read this for a quick lesson on what the ratings mean). While these changes are all for the better, the battery has actually taken a hit, dropping 100 mAh down from the 3200 mAh battery in the Z2. This however could have been done to allow for improvement in another area, the body of the phone. The Z3 is now 0.8mm shorter, 1.3mm narrower and 0.9mm thinner. The Z3 has also lost some weight, weighing in at 11g lighter than the 163g Z2. And even though the rough shape of the phone is the same as its predecessors, Sony has done away with the flat edges and gone with a more curved approach to the sides of the device, something I am very eager to get my hands on and feel for myself.

Goodbye sharp edges, hello sleek curves. Image: Android Central

In the end, it's not a huge upgrade over the Z2. Then again, if anyone had already bought the Z2, chances are they aren't looking to upgrade any time soon anyway. Most of the Z3 is similar to the Z2, with some small improvements here and there just to refine what the Sony flagship should be. I still don't like Sony's two-flagships-a-year strategy. They could have easily made an even better phone if they had waited until 2015. The Z2 is still a very powerful phone, still on par with 2014 market trends. There was really no urgent need to "upgrade" it, as evidenced by how little has changed. A great flagship, but not a game changer in any way.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

While the Xperia Z3 is the fourth phone in Sony's Z series, the Xperia Z3 Compact isn't the fourth Compact phone. The Z1 Compact was actually the first, announced in January earlier this year, there was never a Z Compact or a Z2 Compact. So despite being named two generations ahead, the Z3 Compact is actually the successor to the Z1 Compact. "Why is it named that way?" you may ask. There's a very good reason for that. Unlike the "Mini" offerings from other OEMs like HTC, Samsung, and LG, which are more mid-range than small flagship, the Compact phones from Sony are much closer to the flagship counterparts they are named after. The Z1 Compact was basically the Xperia Z1 in a smaller shell with all the same specs and hardware, apart from the display and battery. I for one was very happy to finally see an OEM make a genuine smaller flagship, instead of a diluted "mini". The Z3 Compact continues that trend, carrying with it all the great specs of the Xperia Z3, but again, compromising the display and battery capacity for the size.

The Z3 Compact has a 4.6" 720p display, which is actually slightly larger than the Z1 Compact, and a 2600 mAh battery, 300 mAh more than the Z1 Compact. Yet despite having a larger display and a bigger battery, the Z3 Compact is still the same width as the Z1 Compact, 0.9mm thinner, only 0.3mm taller, and 8g lighter. Sony did an excellent job at minimising the bezels around the display and squeezing in that larger battery into a similarly sized body. Apart from the display and the battery, everything else about the Z3 Compact is pretty much identical to the Z3, from the processor, to the IP68 rating, to both the front and rear cameras. Sony is the only OEM to truly offer a smaller version of their flagship, whereas other OEMs offer mid-range phones disguised as smaller flagships.

The Xperia Z3 Compact. A true flagship, not a "mini". Image: Sony
All in all, Sony had a good showing at IFA 2014. The Xperia Z3 is a great flagship albeit not being a huge upgrade from the Z2, and the Z3 Compact is going to be my number one recommendation to anyone looking for a smaller flagship. Add to that the Z3 Tablet Compact and the Sony Smartwatch 3, Sony's first Android Wear smartwatch, and you have a company looking to cement their place as one of the major Android OEMs. 

Popular posts from this blog

Are we witnessing the downfall of Apple?

5 differences between the black and white Nexus 5

Why Telegram is better than WhatsApp