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printed October 20, 2017
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Review: Sony Xperia Z3 for T-Mobile

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  

Screen

The Z3's screen matches the size (5.2 inches) and resolution (full HD) of its competitors. It's one of the better screens to adorn a Sony handset. It's bright, sharp, and colorful. It holds its own against phones from Samsung and LG. I was able to use it indoors and outdoors without trouble. Viewing angles are my only complaint; there's no color shift, but brightness drops off sharply when you tilt the phone.

Like many of Sony's smartphones, the Z3 lets you tweak the screen's behavior a bit. For example, the X-Reality engine is on by default. Sony claims this makes things "clear and vibrant." You can turn it off. You can also select Super-Vivid Mode, which makes colors stand out even more. The screen has a glove mode for use with gloves, and lets you adjust the white balance. I found the glove mode worked only about 50% of the time.

Signal

In general, the Z3 did well on T-Mobile's network in the metro NYC area. It always remained connected, even in weak coverage areas. However, calls took a lot longer to connect under weak coverage conditions, and data was noticeably slower. The phone didn't drop any calls while I tested it, but at least one went straight to voicemail. Data speeds were best under strong network conditions. I've seen better performance from other handsets on T-Mobile's network, but the Z3 was average if not slightly better.

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Sound

Call quality was a bit uneven. The volume is great, there's no question about that. I was able to hear conversations pretty much everywhere I took the Z3, even in loud spaces. I experienced a fair amount of crackling and interference, however, that sometimes made me miss words coming through the earpiece. People I spoke to said I sounded a little choppy from time to time. The speakerphone delivered similar behavior. The volume is fantastic; I was able to use the speakerphone in a bustling lunch spot with no problem. However, voices were a bit robotic and scratchy. If you set the volume all the way up, ringers and alerts will grab your attention every time. The vibrate alert rates about average.

Battery

The Z3 has a 3,100 power cell on board. Sony claims it's good for up to 16 hours of talk time and more than a month of standby. The reality is somewhat less. The phone consistently delivered a solid day of uptime, with plenty of power to spare at bedtime. Like most phones, your mileage will vary a bit, but unless you're streaming YouTube videos all day, you should be fine.

Like other Sony smartphones, the Z3 offers several tools to help manage battery life, too. For example, it includes Sony's Stamina Mode, which turns off the data radio whenever the screen is off. There's also a Low Battery mode that automatically turns off a customizable set of features (such as brightness, vibrate, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, sync, mobile data) when the battery drops below 30%. The controls don't necessarily offset the lack of removable battery, but can help extend battery life to the end of the day if you run into trouble.

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