Display: Still "Triluminous"

There aren’t many surprises when it comes to the Xperia Z3’s display. We’re looking at a 5.2-inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p), equating to a pixel density of 424 ppi. Once again, Sony uses several pieces of marketing jargon to describe this display, including “Triluminous”, which refers to the wide gamut of the panel; “Live Color LED”, referring to the uniform nature of the backlight; and “X-Reality”, which is a post-processing software feature.

If you’ve been closely following Sony’s hardware releases this year, you’ll probably assume (like I did) that the display in the Z3 is identical to the display in the Z2. However, like many aspects of Sony’s latest flagship, the display has actually been improved slightly compared to its predecessor through a series of tweaks. The hardware is mostly the same, but a side-by-side comparison reveals a few traits in the Z3’s favour.

The Xperia Z3’s display has a better color temperature, falling closer to the ideal 6500K mark. This makes whites appear whiter, and gives the panel a more pleasing (though cooler) tone. Like previous Sony phones, you have the option to adjust the display’s white balance in the settings menu, though I would recommend leaving it as it is by default. I did play around to see if I could get the Z2’s display to look like the Z3 (and vice versa) in the white balance menu, but this wasn’t really achievable with only limited options.

The Xperia Z3’s display is also marginally brighter than the Z2, with slightly improved viewing angles. The extra luminance does come in handy when attempting to view the panel outdoors: the Z3 is pretty easy to operate in the bright Australian sunlight. While the difference between the devices isn’t as huge as the jump from the Z1 to Z2, it’s nice to see that Sony is still striving to reach that perfect smartphone.

Aside from the comparisons to past devices, I was very impressed with the quality of the Xperia Z3’s display. The LCD panel is vibrant without having the oversaturation issue of an AMOLED, which contributes to images looking awesome yet balanced. The high display resolution and supreme clarity makes reading text a great experience, while images and videos also look sharp and filled with detail.

Sure, it’s not a cutting-edge Quad HD display, but like I’ve mentioned in my past reviews I’m not sold on the benefits of 1440p when 1080p is more than adequate. With current SoCs and smartphone batteries, I’d gladly take better performance and battery life over a slightly sharper display.

As for other aspects of the display, I was happy with the Z3’s brightness range and its automatic brightness functionality. The lowest brightness the display is capable of is perfect for watching YouTube videos late at night, while the top brightness is great for outdoors as I’ve already mentioned. I also welcome the high sensitivity touchscreen mode, which is sure to come in handy for using the smartphone when you’re wearing gloves in cold climates.

Sony still includes the X-Reality engine for “enhancing” how photos and videos look when you view them in the stock photo or video apps. Unlike some other smartphones with display ‘enhancing’ features, the engine is not applied throughout the entire OS: it’s only active in the aforementioned stock apps, for better or worse.

The X-Reality engine, when enabled, basically applies a few filters to images and videos that sharpen, reduce noise, and increase saturation. In some situations this can make a photo look subjectively better (although accuracy is thrown out the window), especially when said photo is dominated by a single color. In photos or videos that portray a scene with a wide range of colors, like a landscape of a city street, the X-Reality engine typically makes things look worse.

For even crazier display-side image post-processing, Sony has added in a “Super-vivid mode” that boosts the saturation beyond AMOLED levels, making photos really pop. While it can produce decent results, like with the X-Reality engine, the increase in saturation comes at the expense of fine color detail. This can make images look flat, and if the intention is not to have a vibrant image, can also make them look far worse.

My recommendation is to switch off any image enhancements and just let the Xperia Z3’s great display do all the work. Maybe these enhancements were necessary back when Sony used substandard panels in their flagships, but not anymore.