Gaming and media
The Sony Xperia Z3 is a phone which, you could say, was born for media and gaming. Whether it’s the impressive GPU at the heart, the ultra-bright and colourful screen or the sheer level of options for content from the Sony ecosystem, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
But the Sony Xperia Z3 brings more than that this time around – after all, the above was all found on its predecessor. In terms of media, the Z3 has the ability to not only play hi-res audio files, but also can upscale your current music to sound a lot closer to the high-end music we all want.
The system is called DCEE HX, and resides many, many layers down from the music app. So much so that you’ll not really know it’s there unless you hit ‘Settings’, then ‘Enhancements’ and then tag the box to ‘On’.
I’m not sure why such a key feature is so hidden away. Nor why ‘Clear Audio+’, a kind of default sound enhancer, is given higher priority.
And here’s the kicker with DCEE HX – it doesn’t actually do a great deal. You can tap it on and off over and over, but it’s very hard to hear much difference, despite trying it with a number of files. One other person believed that the guitar reverb was higher with the feature turned on, but double blind tests showed this wasn’t the case.
So it’s a nice feature to have, and possibly with multiple tracks over a long time might show some worth, but why have it as an option that’s turned off by default?
The hi-res audio is destined to be a very limited use case; in fact, it’s probably on there only for marketing purposes at this time given the lack of such material and the fact you need USB-powered amp headphones to make it work.
But I’m never one to begrudge a brand trying to add more into a phone and hopefully this is a step towards better quality music.
The other trick, which came from Sony’s Xperia Z2, is the internal noise cancelling. The phone can process sound from the microphones and then cancel out the sound of a train on the commute, for example.
However, you’ll need dedicated earbuds to achieve this, and the ones that Sony are touting don’t come in the box (although some networks might add them in). With this in mind, it seems sensible to just spend the money on other options which can be used with any source, although the ones Sony require only cost between £20 and £30.
Despite being rather large the sound quality is OK – I wouldn’t call this a great feature, but it’s one that’s good to have if you want to buy specific earbuds.
Watching movies on the phone is a different ballgame altogether though. I’ve already said how fabulous the screen is, but that brightness really comes into its own when you’re chewing through video. It’s actually too much for some scenes, which is a nice problem to have, but darker images will no longer be the problem they once were.
The improved colour and Bravia technology used here really does add a lot to the phone, and with the excellent Movies app giving a strong way to actually watch this stuff, it’s a nice mix of premium feel and quality output.
It’s just a shame there’s competition here between Google Play Movies and Video Unlimited. I appreciate Sony is trying to get you to buy into its ecosystem, but we need fewer video lockers, not more. Right now it’s like buying a movie from a local shop and finding it only works on DVD players purchased from the same shop, where I want movies I buy online to be anywhere I damn well please.
The gaming element of the Sony Xperia Z3 is strong too, although no better than most others on the market. Using the Adreno 330 GPU, the Z3 is as capable as the Z2, and also the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
However, with Stamina mode turned on things can get a little juddery, so make sure you disable that battery mode before going for a long gaming session.
But colours and graphics are well reproduced for even the toughest games, and combined with the dual-facing front speakers (which are richer and stronger than they were on the Z2, although not quite in the same league as the HTC One M8) you can really enjoy a long session of play… if the battery holds out.