Sony unveils new Z3 smartphone and tablet lineup, with better cameras and battery life

Sony Z3 Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact

Sony has revealed its latest top-end Xperia mobile lineup: the 5.2-inch Z3 smartphone, the smaller but similar 4.6-inch Z3 Compact smartphone, and the 8-inch Z3 Tablet Compact. The new devices were shown off at IFA in Berlin on Wednesday.

On the smartphone side, the big news here is really battery life: Sony is claiming a full two days of normal usage, thanks to improvements like the caching of static images so the screen doesn’t need to keep refreshing. The Xperia Z1 was rated for 1.2 days and its successor, the Z2, for 1.4 days. I currently have a Z1 Compact and it gives me a full two days of light-to-moderate usage, so I’m intrigued to see how the new phones fare in reality.

The phones also now have improved 20.7-megapixel cameras. Sony’s new G lens for Xperia gives a 25mm focal length, which is a bit wider than the 27mm lens found in the Z1 and Z2 lines. With ISO sensitivity up to 12800, it should also produce low-light shots with less graininess. Video capabilities now include improved steady-shot and an intelligent active mode for people who are shooting in-motion subjects while also being in motion. Those shooting video can now also pause and resume recording, and the devices record in 4K.

There’s also an updated camera app with features such as multi-camera – an interesting toy if you have multiple Xperia devices – as well as sound-augmented photos and so on.

Z3 tablet Compact with PS4 controllerIt’s worth noting, though, that the Z3 Tablet Compact (pictured right attached to a PS4 controller — it’s the only tablet that can manage this) has a poorer camera than the phones – only 8 megapixels. It also has less battery life, offering up to 13 hours of video playback. That said, Sony is touting its credentials as the thinnest (8.6mm) and lightest (270g) waterproof tablet out there.

On the subject of hardiness, all three devices are now dust-tight, with an IP68 rating. As with earlier models, they’re also waterproof down to 4.9 feet for up to half an hour.

In terms of audio, an area where Sony has a fair amount of pedigree, the flagship Xperia devices now support hi-res audio, which is good news for those shelling out big bucks to buy special versions of their favorite albums from the likes of iTrax, and who have capable headphones or speakers to match. The mobile devices can also “upscale” standard local tunes and streaming music to a higher quality, Sony says – I remain skeptical about the ability to detect audio information lost in compression, however.

Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 CompactAll three devices are based on a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset – a mild bump up from the 2.3GHz variant found in the current flagship Z2 smartphone and the Z2 tablet, and a bigger upgrade from the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 801 processor found in the Z1 Compact.

The Z3 is 7.3mm thick and slightly lighter than the Z2 at 152g rather than 163g, though it has the same screen size as its predecessor. It also has more rounded edges, to protect the phone if dropped.

The Z3 Compact is again a bit thinner and lighter than the Z1 Compact (8.6mm and 129g, rather than 9.5mm and 137g) but remains roughly the same size, even though its screen is bigger than the 4.3-inch affair on that model (say bye-bye to much of the bezel). As with the earlier version, it has a 720p rather than 1080p screen – suitable for its size. It also has 2GB of RAM whereas the bigger Z3 has 3GB, and uses translucent plastic rather than aluminum around the edges.

Sony also outed a new phone on the cheaper side of things. The E3 comes with a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, has a 4.5-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera, and isn’t waterproof – this one is intended for Latin America and India, though it will probably also be available in the U.S.

None of these devices have prices yet, though as Sony hasn’t shared those details.

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