PROS / Water resistance, dust resistance, a solid processor and a dedicated, dual-stage camera button make the Xperia Z3 a powerful entry in the smartphone market.
CONS / Its 1080p screen can feel somewhat dim next to flagship competitors.
VERDICT / Don't let its mid-tier position on our top 10 fool you: The Xperia Z3 might not be the best smartphone out there, but it's a solid contender nonetheless.
Sony's Xperia line of smartphones has gained popularity for its simple, yet striking, aluminum-and-glass construction. Just slightly thicker than the industry-leading iPhone 6, the new Xperia Z3 is a phablet with one chief selling point: water resistance. You can submerge the phone under 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes and have it come out nary the worse for wear. It's a fun feature, and combined with the generally solid performance the device turns in everywhere else, it makes the Z3 a top smartphone worthy of consideration.
The Xperia Z3's design is understated, yet easily identifiable: Both the front and back of the phone are solid glass, while the sides are made of gently curved aluminum. The result is comfy in your hand, if rather large – at 5.75 inches tall, with a 5.2-inch screen, this is definitely a phone for people who don't mind bigger devices.
The screen itself is somewhat disappointing. You don't have to have a QHD display to be competitive these days, but you do need a bright, vivid screen with brilliant colors that's viewable from any angle. The Z3 screen is 1080p and uses IPS LCD technology, yet we were left underwhelmed by its performance. Viewing angles aren't as wide as you'll find on other devices, and sun glare makes outdoor use difficult. It's a fine screen, but it won't turn any heads.
The camera on the back of the phone is like its screen: perfectly acceptable, but by no means exceptional. An ƒ/2.3 aperture opens onto the phone's six-element, 20.7-megapixel sensor. It's large and impressive, but thanks to substandard image processing, it turns out photos that are noticeably overexposed and tend more toward warmer hues than other smartphones we've reviewed.
If you're a gamer who owns a PlayStation 4, the Z3 offers a unique feature among smartphones: the ability to play PS4 games right on your phone. There are a few limitations – you have to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your home console, and you'll need to buy an attachment that will let you use your PS4 controller with the device – but if you want to play top-tier console games while away from the couch, it's a possibility.
The best smartphones have powerful processors, solid cameras, decent battery life and fun extras. With its water resistance and PS4 compatibility, Sony's Xperia Z3 certainly fits the bill. It's not on top of our list of favorites, but it's a capable entry that you'll definitely enjoy if you’re a Sony fan.