Sony Xperia XZ3 review

A jaw-droppingly good screen on a decent smartphone

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There’s something heart-breaking about the Sony Xperia XZ3. It is, without a doubt, the best phone Sony has ever made. A beauty to hold and to look at, at first glance it’s everything a modern smartphone should be.

The design is sleek… and boy, that screen. It’s so, so good, and every single person who saw it was gobsmacked. We never saw this one coming, but Sony has set a new standard here.

There are a few pain points including some UI elements that start to stutter, but most of these can be solved by diving into the settings and turning off certain features, such as Side Sense if you find it irritating.

There's no getting around the fingerprint scanner placement though, and these frustrations makes the XZ3 an imperfect smartphone with glimmers of brilliance.

Who’s this for

If you spend a lot of time on YouTube or gaming and don’t care about much else, the Sony Xperia XZ3 is pretty much your perfect phone – provided you don’t mind topping up the battery throughout the day.

If you need the best camera, a flawless user interface experience or the most bang for your buck, you may want to look elsewhere.

There is a third group of people who should consider the XZ3: people who like the Sony Xperia range and don’t mind deactivating the buggy features, at least until potential software updates render them less buggy.

Should you buy it?

Whether you should buy the Sony Xperia XZ3 depends on the price you’re paying and your expectations of the phone.

Will it last a full day? Only just. Will it take excellent pictures? Yes, but other phones like the Google Pixel 2 and Huawei P20 Pro will take better ones. Does video look incredible on its OLED screen? Most definitely – and the 4K HDR video it captures looks fantastic too. Will it take some tweaking to eke the best out of it? Definitely.

First reviewed: October 2018

Looking for other options? Check out the following alternatives:

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 has a similar sized screen to the XZ3, and it’s one of the only phones in the size category that can compete in terms of OLED quality. It has an excellent camera that supports dual apertures, edging ahead in low light, and packs a headphone jack.

The fact that it’s been out for a while now is the big thing in its favor – you can now pick it up for around £550 / $600, saving a big chunk of cash compared to the Xperia XZ3.

The two phones pack similar internals, so the main reason to spend extra for the XZ3 would be HDR video recording, the slightly larger battery and the design, if you prefer it.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review

Huawei P20 Pro

With its triple camera, the Huawei P20 Pro is a real threat to any smartphone on the market. It has an inferior screen to the Sony Xperia XZ3, but double the storage and a less laggy interface.

It also lacks wireless charging, but with its 4,000mAh battery it lasts significantly longer, so will definitely see you through a full day.

Read our full Huawei P20 Pro review

iPhone XS

The iPhone XS is the only iPhone currently available that goes toe-to-toe with the XZ3 in a few key areas: high-resolution OLED screen, premium design and powerful chipset.

The iPhone’s UI – iOS 12 – is much more refined than Sony’s latest Android experience, and the camera is better across conditions. That said, the XZ3 undercuts the iPhone XS by £300 / $100.

Read our full iPhone XS review

OnePlus 6

If value is your main driver, the OnePlus 6 costs less than the Xperia XZ3 while still offering a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 64GB of built-in storage and a large OLED screen, albeit an inferior one. It hasn’t got the camera features the XZ3 has, and its design isn’t as refined.

That said, OnePlus is all about balancing flagship elements with bang for buck, and there’s no denying that, side-by-side with the XZ3, that’s what the OnePlus 6 offers.

Read our full OnePlus 6 review

Basil Kronfli

Basil Kronfli is the Head of content at Make Honey and freelance technology journalist. He is an experienced writer and producer and is skilled in video production, and runs the technology YouTube channel TechEdit.