Hands-on: Sony Xperia E3 review

Sony has been busy at IFA 2014, announcing a number of new Xperia devices to its portfolio including the new Xperia Z3 flagship and smaller Xperia Z3 Compact at the premium end, but it is also going after the budget end of the market with the Xperia E3.

The company said it wanted to offer choice at each position and the Xperia E3 takes the crown as its most affordable LTE device. We got our hands on it to see what features and functions it brings those at the entry level.

Nice design

The Xperia E3 features smooth, curved edges and although it is a little thicker than the other two Xperia smartphones launched at IFA, the design is nice and it offers a slim enough build.

It doesn't look like an especially small device, bringing a little more bulk to the Xperia range and its plastic casing makes it look a little more budget, but the Xperia E3 still offers a good, solid design that's nice to hold even if it is a little heavier.

The IP65 and IP68 ratings have been taken away for this model, probably to keep the costs down, so you will find the Micro-USB slot on the left-hand side, headphone jack at the top and the signature metal power button on the right to add a hint of a premium feel, along with the volume rocker that is finished in the same colour as the handset.

There are no flaps to open or close and the speaker sits on the rear of the device, that is also made from plastic rather than tempered glass.

The Xperia E3's shape falls in line with the other Xperia products, with a flat slabbed design, curved nylon corners to help protect it if you drop it, and slightly rounded edges.

It's an entry-level product and although the plastic finish will probably be a telltale sign that it isn't a premium device, the design is good and will stand out at this end of the market, while also carrying across some tips from its more expensive brothers.

Hardware

Under the hood, the Xperia E3 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, along with 1GB of RAM and a 2300mAh battery. The battery is a lot smaller than the flagship Xperia Z3, but you'll still find the Sony Stamina software so it should still give you a good run.

The processor seemed to cope well enough when switching between tasks from our brief time with it, but we will put it under some pressure in our full review to see how it holds up.

The internal storage of 4GB is a little disappointing as that really isn't very much, but it can be expanded through microSD, although that doesn't help if you are an app lover.

Good display

The Xperia E3 features a 4.5-inch display, meaning it is slightly smaller than the Xperia Z3 Compact but it has a larger footprint. There is quite a lot of bezel on the top and bottom of the display, which seems to be redundant from the front but we are sure it has some use under the hood.

When it comes to the resolution, you are not even looking at HD for this device. Instead it offers an 854 x 480 pixel resolution, which means a pixel density of 217ppi but in actual fact, we weren't disappointed with it.

The colours were vibrant, the detail was reasonably crisp and we were pleasantly surprised by the viewing angles. Although its difficult to come to a conclusion about the display from our short time with it, our first impressions were that it was pretty good for a device at this level.

We will take a closer look when we come to review it, but on first glance, the display wouldn't give the device away as an entry-level product. 

So-so camera

There is a 5-megapixel rear camera on the Xperia E3, which is a significant reduction in comparison to the flagship Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact, both of which come with a 20.7-megapixel rear sensor.

We didn't get a chance to test out the camera so we can't judge the quality of the images from the Xperia E3, but unfortunately there has to be a compromise somewhere and with this entry-level device it looks like the camera took the biggest hit.

There is a flash on the rear though and the Xperia E3 comes with a few of the Xperia Z3's software features including Live to YouTube and AR Fun so you don't miss out on everything with this handset.

Sound

Sound is a big focus of the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact but the Xperia E3 doesn't get the same treatment. You won't find any digital noise cancelling technology, it isn't high-res audio enabled and there is no DSEE HX for upgrading lower res audio to nearly high-res audio but this is an entry-level handset after all.

As we mentioned earlier, the main speaker is housed on the rear of the device and sits under the Xperia logo but we quite like it there. It looks good and blends in well with the design rather than seem out of place.

We didn't get a chance to test the level of sound the Xperia E3 managed to produce but the Motorola Moto G had a rear-positioned speaker and that managed to give us some serious volume so we hope the Xperia E3 can give it a run for its money.

First impressions

The Xperia E3 is a good looking device that brings many of Xperia range's design features to a more entry-level product. It's plastic, not as slim and a little heavier than the premium devices in this portfolio but it has a nice feel to it and we liked it.

This end of the market is becoming more and more competitive but despite the low internal storage capacity, we think Sony has done alright here.

It will be interesting to see what the price of the Xperia E3 comes in at, as well as how it copes in the real world but we like the design, the display is good and the available colours are fun even if Nokia did take the yellow smartphone crown already.