You know, I remember my last Pre-order i went and collected in store on release day, yeah i've had pre orders since, but the last one that i didnt want to chance UKMail messing up somehow, was the Xperia Z3 in Mint silver from O2, and it was so, so great. sold at the very peak of the smartphone boom, reviewers, tech sites and many more praised its ability to perform better than most, and protect against all of lifes mishaps. it was seen, as one of Androids finest, and became symbolic of what Xperia was about. The best of Sony, in a Smartphone.
But then, it seems others started seeing the ''gimmicks'' it had, as actually pretty useful additions to have, IP ratings on phones became the norm, as did advanced camera controls and functions, suddenly 4K recording actually was useful and hi res audio wasn't ''too niche'' anymore. The best of Sony, became The best of anyone and everyone, and the fruits of Sony's work, never truly came to pass.
Roll the clocks forward 4 years, past many technical advancements in the Smartphone world and we come to the now, the present, and with as much bias put aside as i physically can, I believe, truly as much as i can, Sony has done it again. They have released to the world the Xperia XZ3, and it is immediately proving its worth, proving its power and proving that sometimes waiting for something, such as an OLED screen, can be worth every second in its rewards. This is my review, of 2018's most beautiful phone.....
So, Let's get it out the way, this phone is IMMENSELY good looking, with a far thinner design than XZ2, the device now sits more ergonomically in the hand, its narrow frame sandwiched between two pieces of curved Gorilla Glass 5 with the rear having a more curved appearance, though not as protruding as the XZ2, its narrow shape is attained by adopting the same 18:9 aspect ratio (or 2:1 as cinema goers know it) with some portions of the display curving round the sides. the top and bottom portions of the front panel also curve onto the mid-frame creating a seamless feel to a device from a family known for their squared, industrial look. and its a thing of pure design beauty, Each colour variant is anodised on the frame and the rear panel in the most metallic of metallic colours, adopting the same style we've seen in the XZ2 Premium but with a slightly different finish. They still reflect light in an amazing way, but its not like a NASA mirror, but more like a deep colour shifting iridescent wet oil paint, again.. its so pretty.
lets take a usual look at the box and more importantly.. the device.
Heres ya box
some basic specs
and box contents
inside you will/might* find:
Paperwork that everyone reads
USB-C Power lead
Dongle adapter that converts USB-C to 3.5mm
*Contents vary by retailer
And now the Device
Obviously Sony has taken note of the current trend of adding ''Notches'' to devices, and i'm pleased to reveal the XZ3 has a notch too, thankfully Sony has placed the 'notch' where it belongs, and you can find it on the XZ3's backside, where notches belong.
The Family portrait
Apologies for the angle, its hard to find one where you can see the colours at the same time.
Ive covered design, so lets take a look at some of the other features of XZ3
Pie, Android 9
The Xz3 is the first phone to ship with the latest version of Android, Pie. its a brilliant match with Pies user interface looking amazing on the 6'' OLED display, the animation is fluid and the overall feel is one of speed without any stutters or glitches anywhere to be seen. Apps load fast, really fast, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 inside, paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 ram. the device feels very well optimised, and makes every use act and feel exactly as it should. Pie also brings enhanced learning for aspects of the phone that utilise learning AI functions, the device learns your regular apps, battery charge use, brightness preferences as well as the setting you use most and adapts itself to these preferences, meaning less fumbling around for the end user.
The ui also includes a handy small screen control method for one handed use, simply swipe left or right on the navigation bar to enter this mode. also along for the ride, is Side Sense, a function built in to XZ3 that registers a double tap on the side of the device and brings up a popup overlay that displays all your most used phone features. Apps, settings, and quick functions can be found here and whilst i did find it a bit hit and miss at first, it now feels a lot easier to control.
You can also use this mode to operate the camera for either recording or taking photos, speaking of photos...
The XZ3 will also detect when you're taking your phone out to take a photo and will automatically open the camera, and it actually really works well, in fact i haven't had a false register or it not worked once, it's pretty awesome. The device registers going from a static position, to a landscape orientation facing outwards and then opens a small window asking for confirmation by tapping the screen, even if it does auto misread the scenario and you're not taking a photo, leaving the landscape upward orientation will immediately cancel the auto capture. this feature also uses learning AI to adjust to the users standard position for photo taking.
The camera inside XZ3 is the same Motion eye camera seen in XZ2 but has clearly been tweaked in both lens glass and the Processing of images, now you'll find much better depth of field in some scenarios, great bokeh without app control in others, you'll also find a much more true to life colour enhancement thanks to the better tuning of the RGB sensor, and much better low light shots, thanks to the advancement learned through development of XZ2 Premium. the Video can record in 4K HDR using the HLG standard as well as the usual super slow motion shots in up to 1080p at 960fps.
hand on heart truth, I feel a new camera will appear soon as Motion eye has served Xperias well, providing great technology advancement to Xperia and other manufacturers alike, whilst others may not like images from Motion eye, I have always believed it to be one of the best sensors in the business, providing stepping stones for other manufacturers to create their own form of instant motion video in the blink of an eye, as well as Xperia customers to create HDR content, in an age where HDR video cameras cost huge amounts. I'm sure whatever comes next, will not only be awesome, it will be epic for all consumers of all Exmor RS sensors, in whatever device.
It's the big one isn't it, the main talking point... the first OLED display on a Sony Phone.
Are the stories true?, is it really better than any other?, what OLED is it?, Does this mean an XZ4 Premium with 4k OLED?.... it's a HUGE selling point and talking point, so lets talk about it.
Firstly, ..Yes, Yes it is a nicer looking panel than the S9, Note9, IphoneXS. I sit here in a very biased position, but .. you all know where i do have bias, i dont lie, it just looks better. I cant fully explain why when the note9 is the ''most accurate display ever'' the XZ3 looks better? maybe its because we dont look at displays though Displaymates spectrum monitoring station, we use eyes, and to my eyes as well as a few thousand others tested by an independent body, the XZ3 IS the best looking display on any phone right now, it just is. But does it really surprise people that the team behind Bravia would tune an oled panel to be this good? not really.
The panel itself is a 6'' P-OLED manufactured by JDI and then tuned by Sony's Bravia team, it is a 1440p HDR10 compatible display running at 537ppi. it upscales any media content to near-HDR colour and can natively play just about any HDR10 encoded content, without additional apps.
when displaying the same video on two separate devices, using the same settings, the XZ3 does output better colour, better contrast and better adaptive brightness, some comparisons...
the Note9 loses definition of colour separation on the DJ booth, it also somewhat crushes the very dark top right of the scene where the very faint blue lights are still visible on XZ3
The XZ3 adds vibrancy to highlighted colours, and maintains definition in smoke clouds.
colour overall is more evident, the background and light reflecting on rear window just has a bit more ''punch''
The XZ3 adapts the contrast so the background sky is more colourful, but also that the space between the bright points is more contrasted.
slight contrast adjustments make the actual firework more defined, and sharper... but if honest. not by much in this scene.
Burn in prevention is also a discussion point many raise, the XZ3 prevents burn in by using a pixel shifting method seen in many smartphones today, where static images such as nav bar icons, or notification icons, the XZ3 shifts then slightly to avoid burn in, The Always On Display also shifts positions, allowing a clock, notifications and pictures to be displayed always on a locked screen, with no risk of burn in
The sound coming from XZ3 is the best I've heard from a sony to date, by far. the speakers sound so rich that I suspect they might be Hi-Res speakers, i've actually gotta find that out. the overall sound is boosted by 20% more than XZ2, and is as clear as ever in mids and highs, the bass is acceptable but can be further boosted in the audio options equaliser, i also found the DSEE HX to be especially pleasing on the XZ3 as well as clearaudio+ when listening to higher fidelity tracks. USB-C to 3.5mm is included for favourite 3.5mm headphones, and bluetooth audio is supported by all standards including Sony LDAC codec for HI-Res audio support.
I love it, I love every d@mn thing about it, the look, the feel, the performance, the display, the camera, the sound and the overall ability to do more than ever before. it's a truly amazing device and if i wasn't already as biased as someone could be, I actually would be after using this thing. Sony has done something, for me, that I last physically saw with the release of Z3, 4 years ago. I feel excited for the future of Sony, after a few wobbly years, they have come back and presented something that has woken everyone up once more. people can't comprehend that the first OLED on Xperia, looks so much better than anyone else's, including the OLED kings, Samsungs. It's an exciting device, in an exciting time where everyone is reaching for the £1,000+ category, Sony bangs this one out at £699.00, even less in some cases. They hit the nail on the head, once again proving that 3, is indeed the magic number, and once again made October, a special month for Xperia fans, especially this year....
but thats another story......... for a different date.
Xz3 is available now from O2 in Midnight black and Bordeaux Red, and Forest green on O2 from Carphone warehouse
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