Sony Xperia T3 review: A solid mid-range large-screen phone

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Distinctive slimline design
  • Solid build quality
  • Large 5.3-inch screen
  • Plenty of bundled apps

Cons

  • Moderate screen resolution
  • Large bezels above and below the screen
  • Only 8GB of internal storage

Sony's Xperia T3 is a mid-range 5.3-inch Android handset aimed at those seeking a big-screen smartphone at a reasonable price. The design is unmistakably Sony, and it also comes with a range of Sony-specific UI tweaks and add-on apps.

sony-xperia-t3-main
The Xperia T3 has a 5.3-inch screen with a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels (277ppi). It's powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC with 1GB of RAM and has 8GB of internal storage. Image: Sony

Design

The Xperia T3, which costs £299 (inc. VAT, or £249.17 ex. VAT), is a distinctive-looking handset. The blocky outline and Sony's trademark circular power button a little over halfway down the right edge are just two of several distinguishing features. Sony also likes to provide a physical camera button, which sits at the bottom of the right edge. There's also a volume rocker here.

sony-xperia-t3-colours
The Xperia T3 is available in black, white and purple. Image: Sony

Silver panels along all four thin edges of the handset look particularly striking on our black review unit -- the Xperia T3 is also available in white and purple. Because they are much narrower than the 7mm-thick edges, these panels emphasise how thin this phone is. It isn't flimsy, though; the build feels quite robust.

These features are welcome, but there's one design feature of the Xperia T3 we don't care for -- the over-large bezels above and beneath the screen. This can be useful when you hold the phone in widescreen mode, as it stops fingers accidentally prodding the screen. But it also adds to the height of the handset, making it overly tall at 150.7mm and harder to fit into a pocket.

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Sony uses glass for the back of its flagship Xperia Z2 (soon to be updated by the Xperia Z3), but the back here is a less expensive rubbery material that curves slightly into all four edges. We prefer this, as it makes the handset easier to grip and the finish is less showy.

There is no waterproofing here, as you'll find on the Xperia Z2, for example. The back is not removable, and your MicroSIM and MicroSD slots sit under a long protective cover on the right edge of the handset.

The 5.3-inch screen will defeat most people who try to reach across it one-handed. The screen resolution is 720 by 1,280 pixels, giving a pixel density of 277ppi. We browsed web pages, read ebooks and watched video with ease. Sony's Triluminos and Mobile Bravia Engine 2 technologies are employed to enhance colour reproduction and sharpness respectively.

We did find viewing angles a bit lacking, and while there's nothing wrong with legibility on the Xperia T3, 277ppi is a relatively low pixel density for a modern handset. It's not difficult to get a higher-resolution screen if you prefer: Google's Nexus 5 offers full-HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) in a slightly smaller 4.95-inch screen at 445ppi, while the 5.2-inch Xperia Z2 also delivers full-HD at 424ppi.

Features

Sony powers the Xperia T3 with a 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM. This combination did not trouble us with performance glitches, and is about right in a handset at this price. However, it's disappointing that there is just 8GB of internal storage. Sony's various embellishments take their toll on this, leaving just 4.9GB accessible for your own use. You can add a MicroSD card, of course, but the Xperia T3 only supports up to 32GB of external storage.

This is a 4G (LTE) handset with dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n (but not ac) wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. The main 8-megapixel camera has an LED flash, and the side button means you can launch it quickly. There are plenty of shooting modes: Superior Auto makes settings for you, but turn this off and you can adjust white balance, select a scene mode, set the flash, select HDR shooting and even set the ISO. Other settings allow you to take burst-mode shots and select the one you want to keep, add virtual scenes, take a panorama shot and more.

Android 4.4.2 is embellished with Sony's skin and a multitude of apps. The skin includes a Simple Home screen offering a single screen of options and choices, eliminating a lot of the complication -- or features, depending on how you look at it -- from Android.

sony-xperia-t3-screens
Settings for the Xperia T3's main 8Mpixel camera (left); Sony's 'small app' web browser and calculator (right). Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Sony adds a selection of what it calls 'small apps', which you can open up on top of whatever you're doing at the time. Accessed via the multitasking button, they include a web browser, a calculator, a calendar, a timer and Gmail. Only some can be resized, and they can't be made transparent like the QSlide apps on the LG G3 .

Sony's add-on apps fall into several categories. Its Walkman, Movies and Album apps are music, video and photo apps that duplicate Android app features, while adding in extra capabilities. Sony also offers stores such as Video Unlimited and What's New.

Third-parties provide a mix of free (eg, File Commander file manager), trial (eg, Garmin Navigation) and feature-limited (eg, OfficeSuite Professional, which offers read but not write document access) apps. First-time Android users, or first-time Sony Android users, may be somewhat overwhelmed by the software choices on offer.

Conclusion

Sony's Xperia T3 is a distinctive-looking and well-built large-screen smartphone with no serious failings. But it isn't great value at £299 (inc. VAT, or £249.17 ex. VAT). If you like Sony's style and want a really large screen, then the even bigger 6.4-inch first-generation Xperia Z Ultra might be worth a look: now selling for around £250 (inc. VAT, or £208 ex. VAT), the Ultra runs Android 4.4 on a quad-core processor.

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Specifications

Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Application Software Google Chrome, Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, Webkit, Xperia Link, Notes, Sketch, Smart Connect, Social live, Sony Select, Tasks, Timer, WALKMAN application
Type smartphone (Android OS)
Integrated Components FM radio, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation A-GPS, GLONASS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Mobile Broadband Generation 3G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 4.4 (KitKat)
SIM Card Type micro SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, magnetometer, gyro sensor
Additional Features Radio Data Service (RDS), DLNA Certified, sharing media via DLNA, Screen capture, xLOUD technology, SensMe technology, Wi-Fi Miracast, Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, battery STAMINA mode, TRILUMINOS display, Clear Phase technology, Clear Audio+, Clear Bass, Clear Stereo, Dynamic normaliser
Details
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, FM radio, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Black
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Messaging & Data Features handwriting recognition
Mobile Services Google Chrome, Google Maps, Smart Connect, Social live, Sony Select, Tasks, Timer, WALKMAN application, Webkit, Xperia Link, YouTube, gpsOneXTRA, Google Maps Street View, Google Play, Google Search, Google Search by Voice, Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, Notes, PlayNow, Sketch
Messaging Services Google Hangouts, MMS, SMS
Supported Email Protocols IMAP4, POP3
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Facebook, Google+
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, magnetometer, proximity sensor
Communications
Communication Features Internet browser, mobile Email client
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n, NFC
WLAN Security AES, TKIP, WEP, WPA, WPA2
Bluetooth Profiles Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), Phonebook Access Profile (PBAP), SIM Access Profile (SAP), Dial-up Networking Profile (DUN), File Transfer Profile (FTP), Generic Attribute Profile (GATT), Hands-Free Profile (HFP), Headset Profile (HSP), Message Access Profile (MAP), Object Push Profile (OPP), Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN)
Processor
Clock Speed 1.4 GHz
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty quad-core
Display
Technology IPS
Display Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Diagonal Size 5.3 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 13.5 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.3 in
Color Support color
Organizer
Personal Information Management alarm clock, calculator, calendar, reminder, stopwatch, synchronization with PC
Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Camera Light Source LED light
Features AR Effect mode, Burst mode, Timeshift burst, face detection, picture stabilizer, tap to focus, video recording, Exmor RS sensor, Geo-tagging, Object tracking, Red-Eye Reduction, Scene recognition, SteadyShot, Superior Auto, Sweep Panorama
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MKV, AVI, XviD, MPEG-4, 3GP, H.264, H.263, M4V, WebM
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, WMA, AAC, ASF, PCM, Ogg Vorbis, AMR, MP3, FLAC, AAC-LC, XMF, AAC +, OGG, eAAC+, MKA, MIDI
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 305
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC - up to 32 GB
User Memory 4.9 GB
Location
Navigation Software & Services Google Maps, Google Maps Street View, gpsOneXTRA
Battery
Run Time Details Talk: up to 766 min
Standby: up to 688 hrs
Playback (music): up to 63.5 hrs
Playback (video): up to 8.2 hrs
Navigation System
Navigation Software & Services Google Maps, Google Maps Street View, gpsOneXTRA
Digital Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Self-Timer Delay Yes
Camera Light Source LED light
Video Recorder Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
Features AR Effect mode, Burst mode, Timeshift burst, face detection, picture stabilizer, tap to focus, video recording, Exmor RS sensor, Geo-tagging, Object tracking, Red-Eye Reduction, Scene recognition, SteadyShot, Superior Auto, Sweep Panorama
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony XPERIA
Model T3
Edition D5102
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, magnetometer, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Additional Features Clear Audio+, Clear Bass, TRILUMINOS display, Wi-Fi Miracast, battery STAMINA mode, sharing media via DLNA, xLOUD technology, Clear Phase technology, Clear Stereo, DLNA Certified, Dynamic normaliser, Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, Radio Data Service (RDS), Screen capture, SensMe technology
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, WAV, WMA, XMF, eAAC+, AAC-LC, AMR, ASF, FLAC, MIDI, MKA, MP3, OGG
Supported Digital Video Standards 3GP, AVI, H.263, H.264, M4V, MKV, MPEG-4, WebM, XviD
RAM
Installed Size 1 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 8 GB
Max Supported Size 32 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC
User Memory 4.9 GB
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 305
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 8 megapixels

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