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Sony Z3v review – mobileFreq
mobileFreq

It has been a long time coming…the day I start actually reviewing the gadgets that I have played with over the last few months.  Heck, my colleague beat me to the review scene with his post about the Asus Zenfone 2 (4GB).  I can’t let that Welsh import show me up at my own game.  So we’re going to start off with the Sony Z3v.  My current daily driver.  Here is my Sony Z3v review.

Build Quality

Sony Z3v review mobileFreq

The build quality of the Sony Z3v is a bit of an interesting conundrum.  The Xperia Z3v represents both sides of the build quality coin.

The first side of the coin is that it feels like an absolute premium device.  Holding it in your hand induces the sense that this phone was built with precision.  Like most Sony phones it was crafted with exceptional materials and just looks gorgeous.

It has a very industrial look to it, being a bit of a brick, but at the same time the glass on both the front and back gives it a bit of sophistication and elegance.  Sony even went above and beyond to make the power button look and feel premium.  Honestly it is one of my favorite design aspects of the device.  It has a great tactile feel to it and it located on the side of phone so you can quickly lock/unlock with your left and right hands.

The Sony Z3v also has dual front-facing speakers.  Compared to the real Z3, I actually kind of like the look of the Verizon edition because the blades are unobtrusive to look at.  They are basically, i.e exactly, the same as the Sony Xperia Z2.  More about this soon.

Finally, Sony included a bright LED notification light in the top speaker that can be every single color of the visible spectrum.  I love being able to customize my email accounts to any color that I wish.

So now let’s talk about the other side of the coin in terms of build quality.

The design of the Sony Z3v is first and foremost that of a Sony Z2.  Well sort of.  If you were to look for Z2 screen protectors or cases, chances are they will not be compatible because the Z3v is just ever so slightly different in size.

There are a few reasons for this.

Like most Verizon flagships, the Sony Z3v has built-in Qi wireless charging.  Being a waterproof device this is fantastic.  So with the added coil to help it charge, the Z3v had to be a tad bit bigger.

Also, there have been reports about how the Z3v was actually supposed to be a Z2v, but Sony and Verizon couldn’t introduce it in time.  By the time the Z2v was ready to be launched, Sony had already released the newer Xperia Z3.  So Verizon and Sony decided to keep the old body and display, but redo the internals so that they matched the Z3.  Got all of that?

It’s a Z2, but it isn’t because it is a Z3…which it also really isn’t.  It’s the Sony Z3v.

Another quirky thing with the build quality is the back of the device.  It is covered in glass.  Yes I just praised the elegance of it.  Yes I think that it could have been made with something else.

Because of the glass back, I feel like I now need to protect my Sony Z3v in an Incipio case.  The iPhone 4 was a prequel to what glass-backed phones look like when dropped.  Hint: yikes.  Apparently Samsung needs to learn this lesson as well with the Galaxy S6.

Overall the build quality is still premium and I like it, except the Verizon logo on the front.

Waterproof

No fish were harmed in the taking of this picture

That’s right the Sony Z3v, like the rest of their devices, is waterproof.  Booyah.  Finally a company is embracing protection against the elements.

The Sony Z3v is IP65 and IP68 rated.  This means that it is not only dust-tight, but also able to be submerged in water for longer than 30 minutes and that it can be sprayed with a jet of water such as a faucet or shower head.  Yesterday I posted “What is an IP rating?” so take a look here to read more about it.

I have yet to have any problems with the Sony Z3v after dousing it in water.  Almost every night I will rinse it off in the sink to clean it.  Oh and if the battery gets too hot from operation?  Just pour some water on it to cool it off.  Seriously how cool is that?  The future is now.

I do however make sure that I rarely open the tabs to the USB port or micro SD card and don’t take it in our highly chlorinated swimming pool.  Constant opening can damage the seals as will saltwater.

Battery

The 3200mAh battery is great.  It gets me through a day of heavy use.  Now I’m not gaming all day, if ever, but I do have about  12 accounts constantly syncing.  I usually have the GPS turned on, I take a decent amount of photos, browse the internet like crazy, play some music through a bluetooth speaker, message on kik with an Aussie and Tobagelonian, get updates from LinkedIn/Glassdoor for job opportunities, and last but not least, text.

Whew that is quite a bit!  Now back it up with some data.

Ok here are the screenshots.

The screen-on-time (SoT) is good.  Usually it is between four to five hours depending on use.  Closer to three with power use, and five to six with light to “normal” use.

Oh and using it to browse social media, occasionally make a call, text and get on Chrome for a bit, I’ve stretched the Sony Z3v to two full days of use.  There have been nights where I just pass out and forget to charge it, to wake up with it at 40% capacity.  The best feeling is that I don’t even care.  I honestly don’t worry about getting through the day on 40% because I know it can be done.  Can’t really beat that.

The Sony Z3v battery isn’t removable so eventually when it starts to age I cannot replace it.  Not a fan of that, but the trade-off is again, the waterproof phone.

Camera

Sony Z3v camera

The 20.7 megapixel camera is ok.  If you’re really into photography, you might want to look elsewhere such as a Samsung, LG or Apple.

Coming from a HTC One M7 with a four megapixel camera, it was a HUGE improvement though and I cannot really complain.

I’m no expert photo-taker-person so maybe I am crazy, but there are some times where pictures taken on the Sony Z3v look washed out.  I recently took it hiking and you can see what I mean by the images below.

The background just becomes a blur of white and it had a hard time with the greens of the leaves.  Trust me, they were greener.

It does do a good job of replicating detail and has a ton of manual settings to get the perfect shot.  Most times I just use the “Superior Auto” (HDR).

The Sony Z3v camera does have a ton of extra modes though that I love.  Sound Photo, Face in, 4K video, Background defocus, Info-eye, Panorama, Motion Shot, and my favorite, Timeshift burst.  The last mode is just a video recorded at 120 frames per second so that you can later edit it the video to make it super slow motion.

The video quality is nice and I don’t really have any complaints.

I also enjoy that the phone has a physical camera button.  This helps when taking photos underwater or when asking a stranger to take a picture of your family.

It is not a bad camera.  It just isn’t the best camera.

You can see RAW images taken with the Sony Z3v below on flickr.  All of the EXIF is available so you can see how the Z3v took the shot!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilefreq/albums/72157656813364790

Grass Cat

Cat pic as an incentive :)

Software/features

The Sony Z3v on Verizon is currently running Android Kit Kat 4.4.4.  It is kind of a bummer considering the “real” Z3 is running Android Lollipop and Sony said all Z devices, including the Z3v, would be upgraded to Lollipop.

My Aussie friend has a Z3 Compact which is running Lollipop.  I remember the first day he got the update he was plagued with some odd bugs.

I can’t say that I’m completely upset because the Sony Z3v runs buttery smooth and gets great battery life.  Sony’s version of Android is as close to stock as a Motorola.  They barely skin it at all.

It would be nice to have the material design though since most of the Sony apps have updated to match the style.

Speaking of which, the Sony Music app is hands down my favorite on Android.  It bests even HTC’s pre-installed music player, which was my previous favorite.  It is leagues ahead of Google’s Play Music in terms of layout and organization.  It has a ton of features and settings that the audiophile will enjoy.

Using ClearAudio+ really boosts your music on the front stereo speakers.  You can even choose settings based on the type of headphones you are using to really bring out the best of the music.

The best part of the music app?  When you swipe from the left side of the screen you are met with a fantastically simple menu.  You can quickly navigate to the to the “Songs” option and scroll through all of your music.  On Google Play Music it takes about three gestures to even get to that point.

Sony is right up there with Apple in terms of understanding the music industry.

If you are a music enthusiast and are on Verizon you simply cannot pass up this phone.

Specs

I really don’t like to go hardcore about specs when recommending a phone because I feel like they aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.  Well they are, but 90% of people kind of lose interest when you say that the Sony Z3v has an Adreno 330 graphics processor paired with a quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU.  It terms of normal use and not benchmark wars, it doesn’t hold a lot of value to the mainstream market.

Will it be able to play 3D games without any noticeable stutters?  Yes.  Will it be able to get your email, browse the internet, load cat gifs, watch HD videos on YouTube and post all your stuff to social media?  Again, yes.  That pretty much answers the whole spec thing.

The only specs in my mind that matter are: screen resolution/pixel density, storage, memory, and size.  I would say battery, but we already covered that.

The Sony Z3v is 5.85 inches long by 2.89 inches wide with a 5.2 inch screen.  It is kind of big, but is easy to hold in the hand.  The rounded corners help and it is more of an elongated device that wide.  My sister has small hands and she said its easy to hold even when it’s in the Incipio case.

Incipio case and Qi charing

Incipio case and Qi charing

That LCD screen is and 1080p and has a pixel density of 424.  You won’t have to worry about seeing a pixel.  Ever.  It is a nice screen and can get very bright.  Not as bright as my father’s Galaxy S5, but plenty bright.  I’m a LCD fanboy anyway.  I like them more than AMOLED because they seem easier on the eyes (not extremely vibrant color replication).

For storage the Sony Z3v comes with 32GB.  In 2015 I think it should be a standard that every phone has at least 32GB.  It also has the option for a micro SD card up to 128GB.  You can get a lot of storage/$ with the Sony Z3v considering 64GB cards go for roughly $30.

Finally it has 3GB of memory so that multitasking a bunch of apps should not slow down the Sony Z3v at all.

My least favorite thing about the Sony Z3v is…

…that there is a severe lack of accessories.  It is kind of sad.  I mean I don’t really need a bunch of accessories, but it would be nice to have the option to choose.  I even had a hard time finding a tempered glass screen protector when I first got it.

It is one of the downsides of getting a carrier-exclusive device unfortunately.

My favorite thing about the Sony Z3v is…

…that it is the all-in-one package.  Being on a Verizon family plan it is seriously the best phone I can think of getting.  It has everything.  1080p screen?  Check.  Decent camera?  Check.  Great battery life?  Check.  SD card?  Check.  Dual front-facing speakers. CHECK.  Waterproof?  Ohhhhhh yeeeeaaaah.  A phone that even comes close to the Sony Z3v on Verizon is the Samsung Galaxy S5 and it is almost a year old as well.

It’s August 14th, 2015, would you recommend the Sony Z3v?

Sony Z3v mobileFreq review

Yes.  If you are impatient and can find one in a physical store I would definitely recommend it.  Don’t pay more than $100 for it though.  News is that the Sony Z4v will be coming out soon.  Possibly September.  If you can find it on Swappa, eBay, Craigslist, Amazon for a decent price, go for it.  You really won’t have many complaints with the Sony Z3v.

The Sony Z3v has literally everything I want in a smartphone.  A few oddities about it here and there, but the overall package is worth the superficial quirks.  If you’re patient then I would wait for what the Z4v has in store.  I love my Sony.

Recent Penn State grad who loves all things mobile. Has a knack for teaching and enjoys a bit of alliteration.

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