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The Z3 might not be a significant change-up of Sony's flagship Xperia formula, but the combination of a bunch of minor tweaks and upgrades has made this handset one of the best on the market.
I'll start with the standout feature of this handset: its battery life. There's nothing more frustrating than a high-end, powerful device that doesn't manage to last through to the end of the day. Sony has recognized this, packing a monster battery into a relatively slim smartphone body. The fact that I can use this handset normally for nearly two days without running for a wall charger is something that every smartphone company should strive for.
The excellent 5.2-inch display on the Xperia Z3 perfectly complements its focus on media consumption. The powerful hardware leads to a smooth experience in both games and apps, while Remote Play is a very handy addition for those PlayStation 4 gamers out there. Combine that with high-quality audio playback and noise-cancelling headphones, and the Z3 becomes a daily part of your entertainment.
Sony's elegant smartphone style returns with some improvements. The lighter, slimmer frame feels more portable despite its still-sizable bezels, and the curved edges are a better fit for your hands. On top of that, the use of premium materials in the Xperia Z3's construction such as aluminium and tempered glass makes it look and feel like a high end device. And it's waterproof too, which is always a bonus.
As for the camera, the hardware that we first saw in the Xperia Z1 is still capable of some fantastic images. It's not the best camera on the market - a lack of OIS is starting to hurt - but get it in the right conditions and you'll be capturing great photos and 4K video. Unfortunately the camera app isn't great, and comes with some stupid restrictions on full resolution photography. If Sony could fix the software side, the camera might just be able to really shine.
Speaking of software, Sony's offering is one of the main downsides to the Xperia Z3. The skin the company uses is visually outdated, especially compared to Android 5.0, and just generally pretty bland. Although there are quite a few useful features scattered throughout, Sony needs to give everything a modern makeover. Oh, and the bloatware: there's a lot of it.
But is the software experience enough of a deterrent? Not at all. The Sony Xperia Z3 is a fantastic, well-balanced device that scores well in nearly every department. It may be just six months on from the launch of their previous flagship smartphone, but the upgrades certainly feel worth it.
Pros: Awesome battery life without sacrificing high-end performance. Refined design is comfortable, stylish and waterproof. Fantastic display that's both crisp and vibrant. Familiar camera hardware is still pretty decent.
Cons: Frustrating app prevents the camera from reaching its true potential. Software feels bland and outdated compared to the competition.