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Review: Sony Xperia Z3 for T-Mobile

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Nov 24, 2014, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Sony's Xperia Z3 is an excellent addition to T-Mobile's lineup. Anyone invested in Sony's gaming and content services would do well to consider it. Even if you're not a Sony fiend, the Z3 is a tempting, premium Android handset.

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Is It Your Type?

The Xperia Z3 is best approached from a Sony-centric way of thinking. First and foremost, it is one of the finest phones ever made by Sony. The Z3 is a powerful device in its own right, but it is also just a cog in the larger Sony ecosystem. If you like premium stuff and you're a hardcore gamer who can't get enough PlayStation action, the Z3 should be your first stop.

Body

T-Mobile is selling the Sony Xperia Z3 in its pure form. Sony debuted the device earlier this year, and it was immediately commended for its design aesthetic, excellent materials, and top-class construction. It's nice to see a U.S carrier support Sony's best effort in the handset space.

As I noted in my review of the Z3v, the Z3 represents several years' worth of design evolution from Sony, including the Z1, Z1s, and Z2. Each relied on what Sony calls its Omnibalance design language, which means glass panels on front and back, a distinct, round screen lock button on the side, and a minimalist look. Most previous Z-series phones had rather sharp sides and angles that made them somewhat uncomfortable to hold. But with the Z3, Sony finally listened to consumers and rounded off all the edges.

The aluminum frame looks and feels good. The device is also slimmer and shorter than its predecessors, with less bezel surrounding the screen. It's about the same size as the HTC One (M8), but its corners are more square. It's still a large phone, but it's the most usable of Sony's Z series. People who have large hands should be able to use it one-handed if they stretch, but people with average or smaller hands will need both to use the Z3 effectively. It should fit into most pockets without issue.

Body  

The quality of materials and construction is excellent. I really like the combination of glass panels and metal. Everything fits together nicely. It's like carrying a tuxedo in your pocket.

The front is entirely absent of buttons or controls. Only the Sony logo is visible when the screen is off. The device uses on-screen controls to manage the Android operating system.

Most of the Z3's ports and slots are hidden from view thanks to hatches. Sony prefers using hatches to trays. The USB port is accessible behind a hatch on the left side of the phone. The hatch is small, but easy to interact with. There's also a set of metallic contacts on the left edge, which are meant for a dock. The hatch that protects the SIM card and memory card slots is much bigger, but no less easy to use. The stereo headphone jack on top doesn't need a hatch.

The Z3 is waterproof, but only if the hatches are sealed up tight. I tested this, and found it to live up to Sony's claims. You shouldn't worry about dropping it in the tub or sweating on it during an intense workout.

The volume toggle, screen lock button, and camera button are all placed on the right edge of the phone. Sony has long used an over-sized, round button for the screen lock. It's chrome and has a great profile; it's incredibly easy to find and use. However, I wish the feedback was a bit better. The volume toggle is below it. It's a thin dash that's too short. Travel and feedback are pretty bad; it's very mushy. The two-stage camera button works perfectly. Both stages are clearly defined, making it a nice option to use when taking photos.

The glass panel that forms the rear surface cannot be pried from the frame, which means you're not swapping batteries. Moreover, the Z3 doesn't support wireless charging like the Z3v.

Aside from a couple of mushy buttons, the Xperia Z3 is a great piece of hardware.

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