Our full Sony Xperia T3 review takes an in-depth look at Sony’s new 5.3-inch phablet-esque phone, with a mid-range price tag, 720p HD display and 8-megapixel camera.
Fancy a phablet? Don’t have half a grand to spunk on the latest Samsung Galaxy Note or the snazzy-yet-pricey Nokia Lumia 1520? Well, there’s a few affordable phablets out there for the taking, such as Acer’s Liquid S2. And now Sony’s providing stiff competition with the shiny Xperia T3, a mid-range mobile that’s quite a handful.
Priced around £250-£299 here in the UK, depending on where you shop, the Xperia T3 offers some decent specs for that cost. There’s a 5.3-inch 720p display, which offers even more screen space than the premium Xperia Z2, plus an 8-megapixel snapper and a fair few extras like NFC. But does it make for a sexy all-round package?
Sony Xperia T3 design: Big softy
Despite the Xperia T3’s bulk, Sony has made the thing impressively slim and light. At just 148g and with a 7mm frame, I barely felt it in my pocket – quite an accomplishment for a phablet-sized phone. Of course, that also means the phone doesn’t feel as premium and high-quality as more expensive Xperias.
The light build means the Xperia T3 isn’t uncomfortable to use one-handed, although I had to really stretch my thumb across the screen to reach the top corners. As with all phones this size, you’re best off doubling up and using both hands.
Sony has stuck with the same design for its Xperia phones for almost two years now, and the Xperia T3 certainly doesn’t buck the trend. It’s another rectangular slab (served in white, black and purple) with metallic edging, although the other materials are cheaper than the premium Xperia Z2’s (hence the lightness).
The biggest change is to the rear, which is now soft-touch plastic. On the plus side, it’s a lot less prone to fingerprint scuffage than the glass backing of the Xperia Z2, and it feels quite nice against your palm. The sharp angles will almost certainly put some people off, however, not helped by the size of the phone, which makes it a real hand-filler. We’d recommend having a play with the Xperia T3 in-store before committing.
Another downgrade over more expensive Xperias is the lack of water resistance. If you drop this fella in the bath, don’t expect it to survive, although I fiddled with it in a full-on rain storm and it didn’t frazzle (just the usual wet touchscreen shenanigans).
Sony Xperia T3 screen: Roomy Trilumy
The Xperia T3’s 5.3-inch screen sports a reasonably sharp 720p resolution, as well as Sony’s Triluminos technology for natural colour reproduction. While the Xperia Z2 opts for stronger colours that really pop off the screen, the T3 produces more subdued tones that look true-to-life.
Viewing angles are strong, and the sheer size of the screen means a couple of family members can crowd around it to enjoy an app or movie. It’s also bright enough to comfortably read even in harsh glare.
Of course, if you’re a stickler for sharpness and demand a device that can make the most of your HD movies, the Xperia Z Ultra can now be had for just a few pounds more than the Xperia T3. That mega-phablet packs a massive 6.4-inch screen with full 1080p super-vibrant visuals, and as long as you can handle that extra bulk, it’s a better handset for media and apps.
Sony Xperia T3 features: Covered KitKat
Android 4.4 KitKat comes pre-installed and should look pretty familiar to Sony fans, as it sports the usual Xperia overlay. As well as a visual makeover, you get a handful of extra features such as Small Apps (allows you to multi-task by running apps side-by-side) and Sony’s collection of custom apps.
If you don’t use any of Sony’s services, or have a collection of fellow Sony gizmos cluttering your pad, then these extras are basically just bloatware. But if you happily toss your cash at Sony for its media streaming/download services then all of the gateway apps are ready and waiting, and you can use NFC to connect with your telly, speakers and so on.
Sony has thankfully found room for 4G support too, so you can browse the web at a decent speed. You get 8GB of built-in storage, and there’s a microSD memory card slot to expand.
Sony Xperia T3 performance and battery life: Mid-ranger
A SnapDragon 400 quad-core processor powers the Sony Xperia T3, backed up by 1GB of RAM. and it comfortably handles Android KitKat as well as HD video playback and the latest games.
I did see the occasional weird glitch when using the Xperia T3, which I never quite managed to resolve. For instance, a couple of my apps delighted in crashing at specific points, even when freshly reinstalled, and the Chrome browser also occasionally froze or threw up blank pages without explanation. Still, these little episodes were infrequent enough that they didn’t kick off a full-on rage fit.
Battery life is quite respectable considering the size of the Xperia T3’s screen. I got a full day of use from each charge, or five hours of video streaming before the screen went black. That’s about average for a modern smartphone.
Sony Xperia T3 camera: Superior shooter
It’s good to see Sony’s Exmor sensor tech wedged into the 8-megapixel camera, complete with the excelent Superior Auto mode which takes attractive photos in almost any light. You don’t get the same level of detail as Xperia Z2 photos, of course, but our snaps generally came out well-lit with enough clarity to enjoy on a decent-sized monitor or telly. Only in dimly-lit interiors did we occasionally struggle, especially when our subject wouldn’t keep still – good thing there’s a flash to help out.
You can drop to full manual mode to activate features such as HDR, and change resolution. There’s a handful of other modes chucked in too, including the weirdly addictive AR mode, which throws virtual dinosaurs or elves into your shot. And you can film 1080p video too, complete with a nifty Steady Shot feature that helps to cut any wobble from your home movies.
Also worth a mention is the front-facing 1.1-megapixel snapper, which can be used for those essential selfies. Sony’s even thrown in a ‘Portrait retouch’ mode, which adds terrifying virtual effects to your self-portraits.
The rather terrifying results of Sony Portrait retouch mode. Party (left) and tan (right).
Sony Xperia T3 verdict
If you’re craving a phablet-sized screen for consuming apps and media, the Sony Xperia T3 is a reasonably affordable solution. It packs all the features you’d expect, including 4G support and a capable 8-megapixel camera. It’s just a shame that the screen isn’t 1080p to make the most of that space, so sticklers for a gorgeous display will be better served by the mammoth Xperia Z Ultra.