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Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on review

Introduction

Sony has always had its own, rather unique approach to mobile design. Whether you liked the boxier look of old, favour the curves of the new “Ambient Flow” concept or don’t really find either appealing, it is hard to ignore one irrefutable accomplishment of the Japanese design team – continuity. It’s a hard thing to describe but it basically boils down to some kind of core aesthetic that has been preserved year over year, making most every Sony phone instantly recognizable in a sea of “slab” sameness.

Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on review

Naturally, that’s the predisposition we approached the new Xperia XZ3 with, expecting it to be new, yet somehow familiar. In a lot of ways, that’s true, but if we have to be perfectly frank, it’s probably the first Xperia that didn’t instantly give off that distinct “Xperia” vibe, once placed in the hand and turned on. Of course, whether or not that’s a positive change or not is strictly a matter of personal taste. However, another irrefutable fact about the XZ3 and probably the most apparent one is that a lot has changed.

Sony Xperia XZ3 Specs

Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass 5 back and front; IP65/68; 183 x 73 x 9.9mm, 193g.
Screen: 6.0-inch, 18:9, QHD+ OLED, HDR, TRILUMINOS and X-REALITY tech
Rear Camera: 19MP, 1/2.3″ Sony IMX400 camera, f/2.0 lens, predictive hybrid laser/phase detection/contrast AF, burst AF, IR sensor for white balance, LED flash, dedicated hardware shutter key, Smart Launch, BIONZ for mobile image-processing engine; ISO 12,800
Video Recording: 4K video recording @30fps, HDR video up to 4K, 1080p @60fps, 1080p @960fps, 720p @960fps, Steady Shot; Stereo audio recording; Predictive capture; ISO 4000
Front Camera: 13MP, f/1.9; 1080p video
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Kryo 385 (8x custom Cortex-A75 @ up to 2.8GHz), Adreno 630GPU
Memory: 4GB RAM, 64GB UFS + microSD (up to 512GB)
OS: Android 9.0 Pie
Battery: 3330mAh; USB PD; Wireless Charge (QI)
Connectivity: Hybrid dual SIM (4G), 4G VoLTE, 5CA LTE Cat.18, 4×4 MIMO, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, USB 3.1 Type-C
Audio: Dynamic vibration system, High-res audio, DSEE HX, LDAC, Stereo speakers with S-Force surround, aptX HD audio
Misc: Fingerprint sensor, SIDE SENSE, 3D creator scan with back and front cameras, SDR to HDR video upconversion

No one can remain oblivious of the trends of the day in a market as volatile and harsh as the smartphone one. The decisions that do into each and every new handset design stretch far beyond any personal preference. So, like it or not, Sony deemed it best to make the jump to OLED in the Xperia XZ3. The dive is clearly head-first, when you take into account the curved sides of the panel, splashing over seamlessly into the sides of the device, in keeping with the modern Samsung-inspired fashion.

Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on reviewSony Xperia XZ3 on top, Samsung Galaxy S9+, on bottom

Coming in as sort of contrast, the internals of the XZ3 seem oddly familiar. That’s because these are mostly borrowed from its XZ2 predecessor. That is hardly surprising, given the short time span between the release dates of the two. Both are based on the still flagship Snapdragon 845 platform and even share their main camera hardware (with a few tweaks). In fact, calling the XZ2 a predecessor might not be entirely accurate, since Sony will continue to sell the XZ2 and its Premium and Compact sibling in its current lineup.

Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on reviewLeft: Sony Xperia XZ2, Right: Sony Xperia XZ3

That, in turn, offers a rather interesting alternative perspective on the Xperia XZ3. Despite the name, it could easily be considered a branch-out effort on Sony’s end? Perhaps, an ambitious experiment and potentially the start of a new line? But, all this is purely speculation, and only the future and the market success and fan reception towards the XZ3 can shed some light on the matter.

In the meantime, we were lucky enough to spend some early hands-on time with Sony’s latest flagship. Join us on the following pages as we explore what has changed, what it borrows from the rest of the Xperia line and how the XZ3 fits into the Sony family and future.