For a number of years now, Sony followers and critics have been calling for the Japanese firm to transfer away from its boxy, dated hardware design language and be a part of its rivals in releasing a contemporary Android smartphone. When the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact arrived at MWC 2018 in February, we hailed them as a small step in the suitable path. Curved glass and significantly lowered bezels round an 18:9 display mixed with high-end internals and a comparatively inventory remedy of Android — a recipe that was additionally adopted for the overpriced XZ2 Premium that got here in the summertime.
It’s considerably shocking that we’re speaking about one other flagship Sony telephone so quickly, but the Xperia XZ3 stole the present at IFA 2018 and goes on sale at the start of October, simply six months after the XZ2 was launched and three months after the XZ2 Premium. The large query, then, is whether or not there are sufficient new options right here to warrant a model new product. At first look, it might seem as if that’s not the case, however with Sony’s first smartphone OLED show, an improve to Android 9 Pie, and one other refinement to the design, I feel the Xperia XZ3 is value a better look.
The XZ3 has been described as iterative in its design compared with the XZ2, however I don’t assume that tells the entire story. Sure, it appears virtually similar on the again — apart from a small part close to the USB-C port the place the aluminum body cuts into the glass — nevertheless it’s a really totally different beast on the entrance. Earlier than you even flip the display on, it’s clear the bezels have shrunk significantly, most notably on the chin. The Sony emblem is nonetheless there, nevertheless it’s arguably much less conspicuous than earlier than. With smaller bezels and the corners of the show being rounded, the XZ3 is now within the realm of rivals just like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2 XL.
On the sides of XZ2, the display stopped earlier than the glass curved, however right here we see the show goes proper into the curve. This makes for an much more Samsung-like look, and although the discoloration on the edge is slightly off-putting when you will have white content material on the display, it’s exhausting to say it’s not a reasonably gadget. It’s additionally value noting that Sony has to date shunned the dreaded notch, which might be a welcome choice to many a vocal detractor. The XZ3 is additionally slimmer than its predecessors (1.2mm over the XZ2 and 2mm over the XZ2 Premium), one more reason if feels a lot nicer within the hand.
This is Sony’s first ever OLED show in a smartphone, and it’s truthful to say the fanfare surrounding it is merited. It’s a stunning, shiny panel, 6 inches diagonally with a QHD+ decision of 2880×1440. That could be overkill on a display of this measurement, however with correct colours and HDR upscaling capabilities, every part you take a look at on the XZ3 appears unimaginable. The show right here is miles higher than the LG-made panel on the Pixel 2 XL, and it will appear to maintain up properly towards these made by Samsung for its flagships just like the S9 and Note9. I discovered the default settings to my liking, however there is additionally a Skilled mode for genuine colour and distinction or Tremendous-vivid mode for many who favor extra pop. The white stability can be custom-made.
Flip the gadget over, and also you’re met with a well-known glass again, and if I have been to purchase this telephone I’d instantly put a case on it. That stated, I haven’t used one and the Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear has held up properly. It may be slightly slippery, relying on the quantity of moisture in your arms, however even after dropping it a pair of occasions, there are not any discernable chinks in its armor.
The location of the fingerprint scanner is as soon as once more a trigger of delicate annoyance — it’s method too low down — however I need to admit I obtained used to it fairly shortly. Because the digital camera is barely raised and the scanner is ever so barely recessed, it’s straightforward to gravitate in the direction of the previous, to start with. A case may even act as a useful information in your finger when making an attempt to discover the scanner, which, by the way, is not as quick to unlock as I would really like it to be. So far as fingerprint marks on the glass go, this black mannequin has faired fairly nicely in contrast to different equally constructed telephones I’ve used.
Within the field, apart from the telephone, you get a charger (UK model is 5V/1.5A, so no quick charging), USB-A to C cable, and a USB-C to three.5mm headphone jack adapter. The retail model may even have a pair of Sort-C earbuds, though my early evaluation unit didn’t embrace these so I can’t converse for his or her high quality.
The XZ3 has solely a single digital camera on the rear — a 19MP Movement Eye 1/2.three” Exmor RS sensor, 1.22 μm, f/2.zero, hybrid autofocus — however Google’s Pixel telephones have confirmed that is not essentially a handicap. Sony is well-known for making wonderful sensors however often falls down when it comes to processing. The digital camera on the XZ3 is Sony’s greatest try but.
Outdoors within the solar is the place this digital camera is at its greatest. There’s an excellent quantity of element, colour copy is fairly spot on, and the dynamic vary is spectacular. EIS may have to make do, as Sony nonetheless doesn’t embrace OIS. Indoors or in low mild, noise turns into a slight challenge, nevertheless it under no circumstances ruins pictures utterly. Bokeh photographs are a bit hit or miss, relying largely on the space between the topic and the background, and even then nonetheless sometimes failing to make a transparent distinction. Entrance-facing portrait mode snaps are far too aggressive with the default synthetic beautification settings.
The XZ3 provides 1080p recording at 960fps which is higher than some other OEM else can boast. Circumstances together with lighting want to be completely good, and you’ve got to be exact together with your timing to catch the fitting second (see under). 4K HDR video recording is additionally potential, however with none type of stabilization.
Becoming a member of AI options corresponding to predictive seize and scene choice, ‘sensible launch’ makes its debut right here. For those who pull the telephone out of your pocket and lift it right into a photo-taking place (in panorama solely), it ought to find a way to assume you need to take a photograph and launch the digital camera. In actuality, it was fairly inconsistent so I might stick to utilizing the devoted hardware key. The digital camera app UI has been simplified, and there is additionally a guide mode that can be utilized for extra aggressive HDR in addition to extra management normally.
Maybe — relying on the place you reside. Pricing for the XZ3 is truthfully fairly perplexing. Within the UK, it is going to value £699, £100 lower than the MSRP for the Pixel 2 XL, which appears fairly truthful. Within the US, nevertheless, it should go for $899, and that’s $50 greater than the Pixel 2 XL for a similar 64GB of storage. Take into consideration that it is going to be €799 elsewhere in Europe and it seems Sony’s conversions are relatively arbitrary, making it a superb deal in some areas however extortionate in others. In the event you stay within the US, there’s little purpose for you to purchase this over cheaper/higher rivals — in order that’s a disappointing pricing determination from Sony. At the least in the event you order it from Amazon, you will get a free Xperia Ear Duo. Regardless of the place you reside, you need to in all probability wait a number of weeks and see how the brand new Pixels are priced.
For those who reside within the US, there’s little cause for you to purchase this over cheaper/higher rivals.
In some ways, the XZ3 is a pleasure to use, however there are specific software program quirks that rely towards it. Sony doesn’t fiddle an excessive amount of with Android 9 Pie, though there are notable variations in contrast to the model of the OS that you simply’ll get on a Pixel — most notably, the Overview display, which is unchanged since Oreo on the XZ3. There’s a small quantity of bloatware that may be disabled however not uninstalled.
Aspect Sense is merely not value bothering with.
Probably the most heinous crime on Sony’s half is the try to ape HTC’s Edge Sense function with its personal ‘Aspect Sense.’ With the sides of the show now curved, it’s potential to double faucet that space of the display to deliver up a customizable mini launcher or slide your finger down to return to the earlier display. Neither works nicely, each set off by chance, and I turned them off on day one. Some software program additions are extra welcome: the XZ3 is a really tall telephone, so swiping left or proper on the navigation bar to shrink it down with One-handed Mode proved helpful at occasions (see under).
General, efficiency is fairly clean, as properly you’d anticipate from a Snapdragon 845 SoC and 4GB of RAM. I did discover occasional slow-down with sure animations, and particularly when utilizing the digital camera app, however Sony assures me that’s down to my unit being a pre-production pattern. I’ll attempt to check a ultimate retail mannequin and replace this evaluation if I feel that’s been sorted out. Different disappointing issues I observed in every day use are what seems to be a not quite perfect oleophobic coating on the display and unusual feeling haptics, however they could even be down to this not being a last product.
Audio is an space the place the XZ3 principally excels — it helps a spread of hi-res audio codecs, and the front-facing stereo audio system are fairly beefy for a telephone. As I stated earlier than, USB-C earbuds must be included within the retail model, so in the event that they’re half respectable, that shall be an actual plus. Sony is nonetheless pushing the Dynamic Vibration system that analyses audio knowledge after which vibrates together with the sound, however I didn’t assume a lot of it.
I’ve no complaints when it comes to primary smartphone talents, similar to name and sign high quality. I’ve discovered myself wishing for barely higher battery life, nevertheless. It was in a position to final all day all through my time utilizing the telephone, however there have been a pair of days the place it was contact and go whereas I used to be out and about within the night. I’ve solely been getting round four hours of screen-on time per day, and that is far lower than I had hoped for.
Whereas it is not at all good, I can definitely say I loved utilizing the Xperia XZ3 as a day by day driver. I’ve been utilizing a Pixel 2 XL for many of the yr, however as soon as I’d tuned the expertise to my liking, the XZ3 didn’t actually really feel a entire lot totally different. For long-time Sony followers, this can be a worthy replace, however I additionally anticipate it to pique the curiosity of a number of individuals who might have written the corporate off totally in current years.
…in the event you reside in Europe, hate notches, and need a respectable flagship telephone with a shocking OLED show. It’s additionally the primary system to be launched with Android 9 Pie, even earlier than the Pixel three.
Don’t purchase it…
…should you reside within the US, like notches, need the perfect smartphone digital camera cash can purchase, and stellar battery life is a should.
The place to purchase
US – $899
UK – £699
Europe – €799