Sony Xperia T3 full review
Phablets are still a strange category in the smartphone market but that's essentially what the Sony Xperia T3 is. However, with a mid-range price tag it's not taking on the Galaxy Notes of the world. See: What's the best phone you can buy in 2014?
Sony Xperia T3: UK price and competition
Sony's official price for the Xperia T3 is £299 placing it at exactly the same cost as the Nexus 5. However, you can pick it up cheaper, around £245, at retailers such as MobiCity, so you can save money in comparison.
We'll mention it again later on and in the verdict but Sony's own Xperia Z Ultra – a 6.4in phablet – has been around for a while now and is therefore obtainable for only a few extra pounds in comparison to the Xperia T3 at around £250.
Sony Xperia T3 review: Design and build
Sony has used the same square design for the last couple of years and the Xperia T3 is no departure from this. With its mid-ranged price it's not surprising to find a less premium design compared to Sony's more expensive like the Xperia Z2.
It's a big square slab with thick bezels but an attractive stainless steel frame. The rear is not glass like premium Xperias and instead uses a soft touch plastic cover which reminds us of the James Bond Xperia T. The Xperia T3 is available in black, white and purple.
Unlike other Xperia handsets, the rear cover is contoured at the edge so the phone sits in the hand better than usual and the rear cover has a good amount of grip to it.
The firm claims it's the thinnest 5.3in phone in the world and this might be the case but we can't think of many other phones with that sized screen. Nevertheless, it is nicely svelte at just 7 mm and it's also light for a large phone at 148 g.
It is still a phablet sized phone and the screen size is difficult to use one-handed. The Xperia T3 is a two-hander from our point of view.
Sony is well known for offering waterproof (and dust) smartphones but the Xperia T3 isn't one of them so don't go jumping in the shower, bath, pool or other water filled area with this device.
Build quality is reasonable but nothing special with mostly plastic on offer. It's solid thanks to the steel frame so we wouldn't hold our breath if it should accidentally get lost but there are obvious signs of its mid-range price tag with elements like the clicky and wobbly buttons and those chunky bezels.
It's something of a caveat but the recess for the ear piece (which also houses the notification LED) collects dust and dirt very easily.
Sony Xperia T3 review: Hardware and performance
In terms of hardware the Xperia T3 delivers about what you'd expect for a mid-range smartphone. The 5.3in screen uses a reasonable but not great 720p resolution but uses Sony's Triluminos technology for good colour reproduction. It has a nice natural look and the IPS panel makes for great viewing angles, although we've seen better.
At this point it's worth noting that the slightly more expensive Nexus 5 only has a slightly smaller screen at 5in and improves on resolution at Full HD. If you're set on a large screen but don't want to spend shed loads of money, then it's worth checking out Sony's own Xperia Z Ultra which is only a few quid more expensive but it is massive at 6.4in.
The Xperia T3's other hardware specs are distinctly mid-range with just 8GB of storage, although there's a microSD card for adding a further 32GB. You can move media like photos to the removable storage and some apps (depending on the apps).
Hidden away is a middle-of-the-road Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, a quad-core chip clocked at 1.4GHz. Backing this up is an equally average 1GB of RAM but we're pleased to report smooth performance from the Xperia T3 across the board – even if we didn't record outstanding benchmark results.
The Xperia T3 scored 1389 in GeekBench 3, 11fps in GFXBench's T-Rex test and 1342ms in SunSpider.
A 720p screen resolution coupled with the Snapdragon 400 processor and a 2500mAh battery (non-removable) results in decent battery life. Users should get a couple of days from the Xperia T3 and with light usage (no video playback or gaming) will manage three.
Sony loves NFC so you get that with almost any of its products (even headphones and such like) but beyond this, the Xperia T3 only has basic connectivity. There's 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and A-GPS.
That means no additional gizmos like an IR blaster which you'll find on top-end devices. However, there is support 4G LTE networks which is good to see and could be a deal breaker for some.
Sony Xperia T3 review: Cameras
We've come to expect good photography from Sony smartphones and it's nice to see the Exmor RS for mobile image sensor in the Xperia T3's 8Mp camera. As per usual, and something we love, is the dedicated camera shutter button which means you can launch the camera app anytime, half press for focus and second press to take a shot.
Sony's Superior Auto Mode will suit most users and achieve decent results in most lighting conditions but don't be scared to switch to manual where you'll find various different shooting modes. The most useful is HDR and you can see results from both the aforementioned below.
There are also other camera apps/modes/lenses including Creative effect, Timeshift burst, Sweep Panorama and AR effect. These are all fun or helpful and sometimes both but we're not really taken with the Portrait retouch option.
On the video front you can shoot in Full HD quality and there's a 1.1Mp front facing camera which can take decent selfies in good light. It's limited to 720p video recording.
Sony Xperia T3 review: Software
Like Sony's product design, the firm's software hasn't changed much over the last couple of years (if it ain't broke). The Xperia T3 comes with Android 4.4.2 KitKat with the now familiar Xperia user interface.
While we like the fact that Sony's interface is clean, simple, stylish and easy to use it doesn't really add any major features. It's pretty much stock Android but with Sony styling which means some decent wallpapers, widgets and a slightly different lockscreen.
As you might expect, Sony does pre-load some additional apps so it's not just Google's own when you boot the phone up for the first time. We like Sony's Walkman, Album and Movies apps for browsing and accessing different media. Less attractive are the ones enticing you to buy content from the Sony Entertainment Network like What's New and Sony Select, unless you're already a customer. You can always just ignore these.
Other additions include OfficeSuite (handy for opening various documents) and Gamin Navigation which sounds good but is just a 30 day trial.
Sony Xperia T3: Specs
- Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS
- 5.3in HD (720 x1280) display, 277ppi
- 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB Internal storage
- 32GB MicroSD card slot
- 8Mp rear camera with LED Flash
- 1.1Mp front-facing camera
- video recording up 1080p
- Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- 2500mAh non-removable battery