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Sony Xperia Z1 vs Z2 vs Z3: What’s the difference and should I upgrade?

We compare Sony’s three Xperia flagship phones of the last year, the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z3, to see what the difference is and whether you should upgrade to the latest model.

Sony’s Xperia Z3 is the Japanese giant’s third flagship phone in just a year, boosting the specs and features of the Xperia Z2, which in turn fixed some issues with the original Xperia Z1. So which Sony smartphone should you spunk up for, and if you already have the Xperia Z1 or Z2, is the Xperia Z3 worth an upgrade?

Here’re the main differences between the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z3.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Sony Xperia Z2 vs Sony Xperia Z3 compared: what's the difference and is it worth an upgrade?

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3: Design

Phone Screen size Dimensions Weight
Sony Xperia Z1 5-inches 144 x 74 x 8.5mm 170g
Sony Xperia Z2 5.2-inches 147 x 73 x 8.2mm 163g
Sony Xperia Z3 5.2-inches 146 x 72 x 7.3mm 152g

With each successive Sony Xperia smartphone, they’ve got a little slimmer and a little lighter, although as you can hopefully see from the above photo, there isn’t a massive amount of difference in reality. The Xperia Z3 is still a serious handful, and if you want a phone that can be comfortably used with just one hand, you should check out the Xperia Z1 Compact and Xperia Z3 Compact instead.

All three phones are water resistant, so they can survive a tumble in the brine (up to 1.5 metres at least).

In terms of looks and general feel, we definitely prefer the Xperia Z3. Those curved metallic edges feel a bit nicer in the palm and the corners are apparently impact-resistant too, to soak up any shock if you drop the phone and hopefully keep the Z3 from harm.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3 comparison what's the difference and should I upgrade?

All three phones come in black and white versions. The Sony Xperia Z2 also comes in a fetching purple colour, while the Xperia Z3 has copper and silver green models.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3: Media

The original Sony Xperia Z1 was frowned upon for its sub-standard screen, with viewing angles taking a particularly solid hammering, although we found that removing the shatter-proof membrane from the screen improved the visuals.

The Xperia Z2 was a significant step up when it came to the display. The 5.2-inch screen is only a mite larger and it isn’t any sharper, with the same Full HD 1080p resolution as the Xperia Z1. However, colours bleed beautifully from the Xperia Z2’s screen thanks to Sony’s ‘Live Colour’ technology. In comparison, the Xperia Z1’s images look rather lifeless and washed-out.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3 comparison what's the difference and should I upgrade?

The Xperia Z2 also added noise-cancelling technology, so you can enjoy your movies without background interruption from screaming babies and noisy scrotes on your bus.

With the new Xperia Z3, Sony decided not to mess with a winning formula. That means the 5.2-inch screen is once again 1080p, even though rivals such as the LG G3 now sport ‘quad HD’ displays.

There’s no real upgrade in visuals, so movie fans don’t need to sling their old Xperia Z2 just yet. However, in the Xperia Z3 Sony has added support for Hi-Res audio, including upscaling of lower quality MP3 tracks, so music fans should definitely cast an eye over the latest flagship.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3: Performance and battery life

Phone Processor RAM
Sony Xperia Z1 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2GB
Sony Xperia Z2 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 3GB
Sony Xperia Z3 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 3GB

Since these three phones have come out in quick succession, just twelve months apart, there isn’t a massive gap in performance. In fact, the Xperia Z1 runs the latest Android, plus all of your games and apps, just as well as the fresh, new Xperia Z3.

That said, anyone looking for serious future-proofing should definitely aim for the latest model, if budgets allow.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3 comparison what's the difference and should I upgrade?

As for battery life, both the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z2 comfortably managed to survive a day of regular use, but not much more. With the Sony Xperia Z3, however, Sony has promised two full days of life from a single battery charge.

We need to fully test this ourselves to see if it’s true, but if so, that makes the Xperia Z3 the perfect smartphone for regular travellers who are often stranded miles from the nearest plug socket.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3: Cameras

All three Sony Xperia flagship phones boast a 20.7-megapixel rear camera with Exmor RS sensor and LED flash, but there are significant changes between each model.

The Sony Xperia Z1 packs a great auto mode that can capture sharp, bright photos in most conditions. There’s a number of extra modes too, including the trippy AR mode which adds gnomes and fish to your pics and Info Eye, which gathers info from the web on whatever you’re shooting.

If you love shooting video, you’ll definitely get more from the Xperia Z2, which keeps all of the Z1’s features and adds a new 4k video mode for super-sharp home movies, plus a reliable SteadyShot mode for cutting down on hand judders. However, the 4K video mode isn’t perfect, overheating the phone something rotten. Sony’s response? Just shoot shorter videos.

The Xperia Z3 upgrades the Z1 and Z2’s hardware, thanks to a new 25mm wide-angle lens to capture more in each shot. The improved ISO 12800 sensor should make for brighter, sharper low-light photos too.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3 comparison what's the difference and should I upgrade?

Sony has also added in a few extra features, including a boosted AR mode (now you can chuck colourful turds at your friends and family) and more ways to stream live video online. Check out our Xperia Z3 hands-on review for more info.

All three handsets also boast a capable front-facing camera which can shoot 1080p video.

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z3: Verdict

If you’re looking to buy one of the new Xperia smartphones, we’d highly recommend skipping the Xperia Z1 and diving straight in with the Z2 or Z3. The Xperia Z2 boasts the same brilliant screen as the Xperia Z3, with the latest model only offering a slight increment in performance and camera tech. However, if that 2-day battery life holds up under our scrutiny, the Xperia Z3 would be better suited to anyone who’s always on the move.

If you’ve got the original Xperia Z1, we’d whole-heartedly approve an upgrade to the Xperia Z3. The brilliant screen alone makes it a superior machine for enjoying movies, apps and games, with the added bonus of improved audio.


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