Sony Mobile isn't the smartphone manufacturer you go to for a device that pushed boundaries. The company has been a stickler when it comes to design especially, but also things like display resolution, display panel and even software experience.
Something shifted at Sony Mobile at the beginning of 2018 though. The Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Premium finally shook things up on the design front but what we didn't know when they launched was, they were only a taster of what was to come.
Six months on from the Xperia XZ2 announcement and we finally have the Xperia flagship we've been waiting a very long time to see. Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the Xperia XZ3.
Sony Xperia XZ3 design
- 158 x 73 x 9.9mm; 193g
- IP65/68 waterproofing
- Curved edge display
- Gorilla Glass 5 both front and rear
- Four colours
You can forget about all the other Sony Xperia devices we've seen launch over the last five years because none of them come remotely close to the XZ3 when it comes to design. The Xperia XZ2 made some huge improvements with its curvy Ambient Flow design, but even that looks dated compared to the new device.
The Xperia XZ3 is beautiful. Its metal core is sandwiched between a Gorilla Glass 5 front and curved rear as it was on the XZ2, but the edges of the device are much softer. They are curvier and glossier than the XZ2, resulting in a much more premium finish.
The XZ3 is noticeably slimmer (around 2mm) than XZ2 too and it's an absolute delight to hold and easy to manage one-handed. The glass and glossy finish mean it's on the slippery side as many flagships are these days, including the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone X, but that's the compromise you make for those lovely finishes.
On the rear, the XZ3 has the same symmetrical central positioning for the single camera lens and circular fingerprint sensor as the XZ2. That means the fingerprint sensor is in a slightly awkward position - it's too low - resulting in the camera lens getting more action from your paws than the sensor, but it's something you'll likely get used to, as those who bought the Galaxy S8 no doubt did.
Turn the Xperia XZ3 over to the front and you'll find where the biggest changes lie for this new device. Sony is one of the few companies that hasn't opted for a "notched" display, so you'll still find yourself with a forehead and chin above and below the display. Housing the speaker and front camera at the top and Sony branding at the bottom, these are a little larger than the likes of the Galaxy S9+, but they are significantly smaller than previous Xperia devices. Goodbye bulky bezels, we will not miss you.
There is no longer a border on the edges of the display either because Sony has opted for a curved OLED display this time round and what a difference it's made.
Sony Xperia XZ3 display
- 6-inch Quad HD+ display
- 18:9 aspect, 2960 x 1440 pixels
- HDR compatible and upscaling
So let's talk about that display. The eagle-eyed among you may have picked up on the mention of OLED above. It's not a spelling mistake, Sony has made the switch from LCD for the Xperia XZ3 and an excellent switch it was, even though we did like the XZ2's display for its natural colouration.
Based on our first impressions, the XZ3 has a fabulous display though, one that's up there with the likes of the fantastic Galaxy Note 9 and the iPhone X. The colours displayed offered a serious amount of punch and vibrancy, blacks were deep, whites were lovely and bright, while those curved edges take the Xperia design to a whole new level. Samsung's level.
Switching to OLED and curving those edges aren't the only steps Sony has taken out of its comfort zone with the XZ3 though. It's also upped the resolution to Quad HD+ (2960 x 1440 pixels). The Xperia fans among you will know that Quad HD+ has long been a game Sony has notoriously avoided playing, despite being one of the few manufacturers to offer a 4K display on a phone.
It's argued for many years that there is no native Quad HD content and therefore it isn't necessary, nor worth the trade in battery life. The Xperia XZ3 goes against Sony's morals though, offering a 548ppi pixel density across its 6-inch screen.
Like the Xperia XZ2, the XZ3 also has an 18:9 aspect ratio, something we've now come to expect from smartphone flagships, along with HDR. Sony doesn't just support mobile HDR content however, it will also upscale content to HDR-like quality thanks to Sony's X-Reality software. This is something that's been on Sony devices for some time, so it isn't new to the XZ3, but it's a nice addition nonetheless.
Sony Xperia XZ3 hardware specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage + microSD slot
- USB Type C
- 3330mAh battery, Qi wireless charging
When it comes to hardware, the Xperia XZ3 is on par with the XZ2, though it does add a little extra battery capacity. The XZ2 offers good performance with plenty of power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset and 4GB of RAM support, so we'd expect the XZ3 to offer the same.
There is 64GB of storage, which although is actually relatively small compared to some newer devices - specifically the Galaxy Note 9 and its 512GB option - the XZ3 does have microSD support for storage cards up to 512GB so storage shouldn't be an issue.
A USB Type-C port is on the bottom of the XZ3 and Qi wireless charging is supported too, as it is on the XZ2 and XZ2 Premium devices. We weren't as impressed with the XZ2's battery as we have been with previous Xperia devices so it's great to see a couple of hundred extra milliamps added to the XZ3. Whether the jump from 3180mAh to 3330mAh will make enough of a difference in the XZ3 remains to be seen for now but it is at least closer in capacity to the likes of the Galaxy S9+ and its 3500mAh battery.
Like the XZ2, the XZ3 has no 3.5mm headphone jack but it does support Hi-Res, LDAC and aptX HD, while Sony's Dynamic Vibration System is also on board again. This system can add vibration to anything you are watching or playing, and you can opt in or out for each app you open.
The Xperia XZ3 also has a 20 per cent boost in sound compared to its predecessor. The XZ2 offers good stereo separation and volume so we're expecting good things from the XZ3.
Sony Xperia XZ3 camera
- 19MP Motion Eye camera (1/2.3in type sensor with 1.22µm pixels), f/2.0 aperture
- 13MP front camera, f/1.9
- 4K HDR video capture
- 960fps super slow-motion in Full HD
Sony is one of the few manufacturers left to stick with a single-lens rear camera on its flagship smartphone. It reserves a dual camera setup for the higher-end XZ2 Premium device, while the XZ2 and XZ3 have the 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera that launched on the XZ1 last year.
There have been some refinements from the XZ2, but the hardware is the same, which means there is no optical zoom and no wide angle, as you'll find on the Galaxy S9+ and the iPhone X. Despite lacking auto HDR and touch focusing however, the XZ2 offers a good performance with plenty of detail and photos with wide dynamic range so we'd expect the same from the XZ3.
Sony has changed the front camera on the XZ3 to a 13-megapixel sensor offering a f/1.9 aperture and it comes with beauty modes and bokeh effects, but we will let you know how this performs when we review the XZ3 in full.
The camera app has also been updated, something that has been a long time coming and Sony has also expanded its AI camera functionalities beyond Superior Auto and Predictive Capture with a new feature called Smart Launch, which will automatically open the camera when it thinks you're picking up your device to take a photo. You'll also be able to touch the side of the curved display to take a photo.
In terms of video capture, Sony continues to offer super slow-motion at 960fps, but it can do this in Full HD whereas most competitors only offer 720p. It also offers 4K HDR video capture on the XZ3, as it did on the XZ2.
Sony Xperia XZ3 software
- Android Oreo 8.0 base operating system
- Some Sony apps pre-installed
- Side Sense
Sony reduced the software duplication for the Xperia XZ2, offering a more stripped-back experience with a nice Android feel without too many unnecessary extras. The same applies for the XZ3, which will launch on Android Pie with a few pre-loaded apps including 3D creator, Netflix and Sony apps for the gallery, music and videos.
There are a couple of extra software additions with the XZ3 however, one of which is called Side Sense, which takes advantage of that new curved-edge display. Double tapping the side of the display will offer access to apps, a little like swiping the side of the Galaxy S9+ or Note 9 will bring up Apps Edge and People Edge.
What's good about Side Sense is that you can double tap anywhere on the side of the display and either side of the device too, but there's also a "More Apps" option allowing you quick access to all the apps installed on your device, as well as access to settings. It will also learn what apps you use and when, ensuring you see those first when you open Side Sense.
For example, if you regularly watch YouTube on your morning commute, you'll see YouTube if you double tap the side in the morning, while if WhatsApp is the app you use most regularly during lunch time, that's what you'll see first when you double tap then.
Other than that, things are as they were on the Xperia XZ2 so you should get a smooth and stable experience on the XZ3.
The Sony Xperia XZ3 is the Xperia flagship we've been waiting a long time for. It finally pushes design boundaries, while offering what appears to be a great display, plenty of power and a refined software experience with some good extras.
We would have loved to have seen the XZ2 Premium's dual camera on board, but if the XZ3 remains around the £700 mark like the XZ2, we suspect it will become a serious consideration for many, especially with that lovely design and curved display.
Welcome to the game Sony, it might have taken a few years longer than others but you're finally in it. The XZ3 is without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting Xperia device for years.