Sony had recently revealed the 3 family members of the Z3 family, the flagship Sony Xperia Z3, the smaller sibling Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and the tablet cousin Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. The Z series are the best offerings from Sony where they will update the series every 6 months to keep their best devices relevant. You may or may not like the shorter update cycle, but Sony thinks that their strategy will help to attract more customers.
Sony Xperia Z3
So what can Sony bring to the table within 6 months? It turns out that the improvement is rather expected. The omnibalance design of the Xperia Z2 is kept in Z3 too. There will be 2 pieces of glass sandwiching the aluminium frame. The corners are made of nylon instead of aluminium to increase the durability. Although you could definitely tell that the phone is from Sony at a first glance, you probably cannot tell the difference from afar. However, it is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. Although there are only slight changes to the design, it is still acceptable for me as they looks really nice and simple.
For specifications, the improvement is not mind blowing but welcomed. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor has a higher clock speed which is 2.5GHz and the RAM is increased to 3GB, which is great for floating apps and multitasking. The internal storage will start from 16GB and supports micro SD expansion to 128GB. Water resistance is one of the major attraction for Sony smartphones and Sony has improved the waterproof ratings. Z3 is now IP65 and IP68 certified. The display is a 5.2″ 1080p display, just like what we have on Z2. Although LG and Samsung has embraced 2k displays on their flagship phones, Sony did not follow the trend and they claimed that the extra pixels will only reduce the battery life. Personally I feel that this excuse is not really acceptable. As they have reduced the battery capacity from 3200mAh to 3100mAh, this shows that battery life is not truly their concern. While the company is already not doing great in mobile space, the reluctance to get to the top of the line will not help them.
The rear camera is still a 20MP shooter, but equipped with a wide-angle lens and a new sensor for better low light photography. The special thing here is that the ISO can be bumped up to 12800, which is a crazy value for smartphones. The front facing 2MP camera is nothing special and selfie-lovers might find it not good enough given that there are plenty of phones which has front facing camera with pixel count of 5MP and above. I am not suggesting that higher megapixels will bring better picture quality but 2MP is really limited for a flagship in 2014. Z3 is packed with high resolution audio playback and upscaling machine to upscale low resolution audio to better resolution. However, high-end headphones and good pair of ears will be needed to take full advantages of this.
One feature exclusive to the Z3 family is Playstation 4 Remote Play, which allows you to enjoy your Playstation 4 games on your Z3, Z3 Compact or Z3 Tablet Compact. You can connect your mobile device and Playstation via same WiFi network for best performance and also via different network but there will be lag present. Sony also designed a mount to improve the experience of playing PS4 games on phones. You can attach your phone to the DualShock 4 controller by the suction cup on the mount.
In short, the Sony Xperia Z3 has improved here and there from the Z2 and these are incremental improvements. There is nothing mind-blowing and what they did is to pack in the best components (except the display) in to the package and call it a new phone. It is like the update of iPhone X to iPhone Xs. So you should decide if packing up all the best parts will produce the best phone for you or not. Actually this is nothing wrong and a lot of companies are doing the same thing. However, if Sony has any intention to win more market share, this is not enough. Comparing to a 6-month old Samsung Galaxy S5, the Z3 holds no clear advantage at all. In my opinion, the phone Sony really needs to put in more effort to attract more eyes on the Z3.
However, Sony Xperia Z3 is still one of the best phones out there. For people who are after a water resistance phone or looking for an Android phone with better camera, the Z3 is an appealing option. Even though Xperia Z2 owners have almost no reason to upgrade to Z3, for new buyers it should be good enough. I just hope that there will be eye-catching innovations on the Z4.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Although I do not really understand some of the decisions that Sony had made, there was one decision that I cannot agree more with. It is the introduction of compact flagships. While the mini version of other flagship phones such as HTC One Mini, Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini are the watered-down version small phones from their larger siblings, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is not. The idea of compact phones, as opposed to ‘mini’ phones from other OEMs, is to pack all the same sweetness from a larger body to a smaller one. There is market for this as flagship phones are slowly growing in size. Most flagships in 2014 have display larger than 5″. However, there are people like me who prefer a phone that can be used with one hand easily. This is why Sony Xperia Z3 Compact exists.
So, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is the compact version of Z3. The design, material, processors, camera, storage, waterproof and dustproof ratings are all kept the same. The Z3 Compact supports PS4 Remote Play too. The biggest difference lies in the size. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is sized at 127 x 64.9 x 9mm as compared to Sony Xperia Z3’s 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm. Although being thicker, the Compact is smaller than its full-sized brother in all other dimensions. It weighs 129g, 23g lighter than Z3.
So what things are being cut here? Sony Xperia Z3 has a 5.2″ 1080p display with pixel density of 423ppi and the Z3 Compact has a 4.6″ 720p display with 319ppi. The lower resolution is actually fine with such screen size. 319 ppi is fine and I totally can live with that. The Z3 Compact has only 2GB of RAM, 1GB less than its brother. But 2GB of RAM should be fine for all of your activities you can do with the smaller display. The floating applications you can run should be less so I guess this is acceptable too. The battery has a smaller capacity too at 2600mAh, which is larger than average for phones with that size.
So the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is a smaller version of Z3 instead of the watered-down version. Compromises have to be made to fit all the components into the smaller chassis and luckily, the departments being downgraded are selected smartly and it will not affect most users. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact did catch my eyes ever since its launch and I would seriously consider the Z3 Compact once it reaches Malaysia.
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
The name of the device pretty much suggested what kind of device is this. Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is a small tablet with similar specifications with the Z3. Sony calls it the world slimmest and lightest waterproof compact tablet. It is just 6.4mm thick, which is very, very thin for any smart device, including phones and tablets. By having a 8″ screen, it weighs only 270g. Speaking of the display, it sports a 8″ 1080p display with pixel density of 275 ppi, which is a healthy number for a tablet. Like the Z3, it is IP65 and IP68 certified.
The tablet is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Quad Cpre 2.5GHz processor with 3GB of RAM. It has a 8.1 MP rear camera and 2.2MP front facing camera. It has a 4500mAh battery which is big enough so by right you should not worry about the battery life. The internal storage is 16GB and also supports micro SD card up to 128GB. The high resolution audio upscaling and the PS4 Remote Play is supported too. There will be both WiFi only and LTE version and it will be available in black and white.
Sony Xperia Z3 Family
So Sony has released 3 members of the Z3 family in one shot. The Z3 is a incremental update and it does not really improve a lot from the exciting Z2 so I am a little disappointed with it. The Z3 Compact, on the other hand, is a bigger upgrade from its predecessor, Z1 Compact (there is no Z2 Compact). With the interesting form factor, I feel that it is more appealing than its full size brother. Z3 Tablet Compact is the first 8″ tablet from the Z series and if you want a waterproof tablet with that size, I do not think you have other choice. But taking away the water resistance capability, the Z3 Tablet Compact is still a good choice if it priced reasonably. I have no clue on when will they reach Malaysia. So stay tuned for that!