Sony had a dual-flagship launch cadence annually. But this year's Mobile World Congress did not see any flagship launch, so it looks like Sony is concentrating on having only one flagship a year, thankfully. This year we saw Sony launch the Xperia Aqua M4 and the Xperia C4 in India. The latest flagship, announced only a month after the previous two launches is the Xperia Z3+. So is this just a more powerful variant of last year’s Xperia Z3 or is it a new phone altogether? Let us take a look.
Build and Design: 8/10
Sony has been using a similar design playbook for years now, and with the Sony Xperia Z3+ things don’t look that different either. The metallic frame on the sides have become slimmer at 6.9mm. Sony has added in shock-resistant caps around the edges. The metallic frame is complemented by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection on the front and rear sides.
The microSD card and nano SIM card slots have moved to the left hand side and are protected by a cap. It is a bit of a task removing the SIM card slot and you will need either long nails or tweezers. On the right hand side, you have the power/standby button followed by the volume rocker button and at the base you have the dedicated camera shutter button. The metallic build on these buttons gives a good feedback. The 3.5mm audio jack is located on the top and the microUSB charging port is on the base.
The Xperia Z3+ comes with IP 65/68 certifications making it water and dust resistant. The microUSB charging port is capless as well. The metallic frame and rear side are a bit too smooth to give a solid grip, and if you are trying hard to grip it in the wet monsoon conditions, the close location of the power/standby button and the volume rocker buttons leads to lot of accidental presses. We would have preferred some gap between these buttons.
Housing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC which has an octa-core processor paired with 3GB of RAM, the Sony Xperia Z3+ has impressive internals. On the storage front, you have 32GB of which around 18GB was available to the user. It does offer a microSD card slot in case you wish to expand the storage capacity.
The phone comes with Android 5.0.2 along with Sony’s Xperia skin atop it. On first glances the layout does not look any different from what we had seen with the Z3/Z3 Compact or even Z2. Apart from Sony’s custom widgets, there are also some pre-installed apps and media content, which you can delete or uninstall.
On the connectivity front, the Xperia Z3+ comes with a single SIM slot which takes in a nano SIM card. It supports Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS and supports USB OTG.
Just like most Sony phones we have seen in the past, the Xperia Z3+ also comes with the Xperia skin on the Android 5.0.2 OS. The Xperia skin has a typical look and like always, Sony tries again to push out its custom media widgets by default. Proprietary apps such as Album, Video, Whats New, Lifelog, PlayStation, Xperia Care, Sony Live are complemented with other known ones such as LinkedIn, Kobo Books, AVG Protection and game bundles.
An interesting addition to the proprietary apps is the Movie Creator app, which makes short films after you have shot a certain number of photographs/videos. Quite a fun app when you are on a vacation. The left most screen gives you the option to arrange apps according to various parameters. Long holding onto the home screen will pull up the features such as widgets, wallpapers, themes and other home page settings.
Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, the phone is quite speedy and there are no lags whatsoever during operation, be it switching between apps, transition animations, using heavy apps, browsing with 20+ tabs open and so on. Call quality is good and the earpiece speaker is loud enough. We did not face any random call drops.
In terms of multimedia, the phone delivers the goods. Sound quality is quite good and the phone speakers can get loud. Watching videos on the phone is a pleasant experience so long as you do not have a direct light source behind you. Backlight bleeding is minimal and barely noticeable.
But the major problem with the Xperia Z3+ is the annoying heating issue. Play a heavy game, stream video or use the video camera, and the rear side of the phone will start heating up. In some instances merely having the phone for long duration in your jeans pocket is enough to heat it up. If you are going to use the AR features while shooting with the camera, then it will also keep flashing warnings that the app will shut down on overheating. This is an issue we had faced with the Xperia Z3 and the issue remains. In fact, even when you are just browsing through the photographs, the phone’s rear tends to heat up as if you are running some heavy game! This can be quite annoying. We don’t know if it is the Snapdragon 810 heating issue or something that is a given with Sony phones. Hopefully Sony could release some software updates to better manage the heat when certain apps are activated.
The Sony Xperia Z3+ comes with a 5.2-inch full HD display. Like we have seen in the past, it brings Sony’s Triluminos display for mobile with X-reality engine for mobile. The display also comes with smart adaptive display which helps to show you a balanced image even in bright sunlit conditions. We faced no issues with the phone while using it outdoors and legibility in the sunlight as well as while composing photographs outdoors wasn’t an issue. The display is bright and colours are vivid. The text appears crisp and there isn’t any pixellation that stands out. But the protective cover on the display surface makes it a smudge magnet and you will need to constantly keep cleaning the phone. You are better off removing the protective cover altogether.
Sony is one of the leading smartphone sensor makers. The Xperia Z3+ has the 20.7MP Exmor RS sensor sporting rear camera with a sensor size of 1/2.3-inch and an aperture of f/2.0. On the front there is a 5MP camera with 1/5-inch Exmor R sensor sporting sensor with f/2.4 aperture. Both the cameras sport 25mm wide-angle lenses. The rear camera is flush with the surface and does not create a bump. Camera interface is similar to what we have seen with older flagships which features such as Intelligent Auto, Manual mode, AR effects, High frame rate shooting and so on.
PS: Please click on images to download the high res files
In terms of image quality, the Sony Xperia Z3+ like its flagship predecessors, does not disappoint. In fact, you could easily use the Xperia Z3+ as a companion camera to your DSLR on outdoor trips. The daylight shots were packed with details and the image quality was really good. The greens appear more vivid than other colours, but we do not mean to say that the image output has a green tinge. Focus acquisition is generally speedy, unless you are in low lit conditions.
The Manual mode lets you play around with the settings if you are not satisfied with the auto mode. Although we have to say, the intelligent auto mode is indeed quite smart. Sony has added in a Gourmet preset, which tends to make your food shots look even tempting. Low light photography is not as impressive as the LG G4, but clearly better than what we had seen with the OnePlus One and the Xiaomi Mi 4 / Mi 4i.
The Steadyshot feature gives really steady videos, specially if you are shooting handheld while walking. It smoothens out the jerks with elan. Video quality is quite good for shooting casual home videos. It is also capable of shooting 4K video. You can also play around with the presets such as high frame rate videos, AR fun and so on. Alright, enough talking, let us see some sample images shot from the Xperia Z3+.
Battery Life: 8/10
Sony Xperia Z3 had a 3,100 mAh battery which was impressive. The Xperia Z3+ has a 2,930mAh battery and Sony claims that it can give around 2 days worth of usage. The phone supports quick charge feature which lets you charge the phone completely in 45 mins using Sony charger, but in our testing we found that it took around 70 mins to fully charge the phone, which isn't bad so to speak. With 20 mins of charging you get enough charge to keep you going for more than a couple of hours.
In terms of battery life, the PC Mark for Android test gave a score of 8 hours 51 minutes, which is quite impressive. On regular use involving calling, messaging, surfing the web, gaming, streaming videos, the Xperia Z3+ can easily last over a day and a half. Not to mention, it comes with dedicated power saving modes, which can further improve the battery life if you activate them. On the whole, Sony has continued its battery life goodness from the previous gen Xperia Z3, despite having a lesser capacity.
Verdict and Price in India
Sony Xperia Z3+ blazes across when it comes to benchmark scores and raw performance. The camera performance is one of the best we have seen among the current crop of flagship devices, specially the steadyshot videos. And the battery life of the phone impresses. But heating issues is the major Achilles heel that the Japanese company has to take care of with its flagship phone. Then you have the price point.
At Rs 55,900, the Sony Xperia Z3+ is priced way over the current flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4, Apple iPhone 6 and so on. Even with the Xperia Z3 we had observed that the price was ridiculous at Rs 51,990, so with the Z3+ at Rs 55,900 it is obvious that Sony has to rethink their pricing strategy. Specially now, when all the action is happening in sub-Rs 25,000 phones. Sony cannot put on blinders and ignore the impact of upstarts such as OnePlus and Xiaomi among others. So even though the phone is a good overall performer, except when it comes to heat management, at Rs 55k it is difficult to recommend the phone.
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