Sony Xperia Z3v Review

The Sony Xperia Z3v is one of the best smartphones of 2014. Simply put the Sony Xperia Z3v delivers features you cannot find on competing Android smartphones. Users get a stunning display, incredibly capable camera and the ability to play PS4 games in a small, beautiful package that is also waterproof.

This Verizon Wireless smartphone includes the features that we’ve asked for on multiple devices over the years, and while it lacks a 2K display like some of the competition, the quality of the display and all the features that consumers will use go a long way to making up for this.

With a 5.2-inch display, the Sony Xperia Z3v is not a small phone, but it is very easy to hold and use even though it is larger than the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S5. The angled edges are easy to hold on to and the overall design is a stunning mix of glass and premium materials.

Sony smartphones are not as common as Samsung and Apple in the U.S., especially on Verizon, so this may be the first time you are looking at buying a Sony smartphone in some time. After using the Sony Xperia Z3v for almost a month it is clear that this is a winner and one of the best Android smartphones you can buy.

Check out why we like the Sony Xperia Z3v.

Check out why we like the Sony Xperia Z3v.

For the overall quality, consumer friendly features like a waterproof design, the ability to play PS4 games with a controller and a great camera, the Sony Xperia Z3v earns a Gotta Be Mobile Editor’s Choice award.

The Sony Xperia Z3v is available in white or black and is $199 on a two-year agreement at Verizon Wireless. You can also find the Sony Xperia Z3v on sale at Amazon for as low as a penny on a two-year contract, but don’t be fooled by the low price — this is an exceptional smartphone.

Sony Xperia Z3v Review Video & Summary

Watch the Sony Xperia Z3v review video below to see part of what makes this Android smartphone so special, including the ability to play PS4 games when connected to WiFi.

Here are the most important Sony Xperia Z3v review details from our time using this Android smartphone.

What we Like: Large screen with great colors, PS4 Remote Play, Wonderful Camera, Nice Android customizations, Water resistant

What we Don’t Like: PS4 Remote play is WiFi only, finicky outside of home network

Bottom Line: The Sony Xperia Z3v is one of the best Android phones on the market and delivers a physical camera button and the ability to play PS4 games that competitors don’t touch.

Read the rest of the Sony Xperia Z3v review to learn what this phone does well, what could use an improvement and whether the Sony Xperia Z3v is the right phone for you.

Sony Xperia Z3v Design

Buttons and a glass back are key parts of the Sony Xperia Z3v design.

Buttons and a glass back are key parts of the Sony Xperia Z3v design.

The Sony Xperia Z3v features a slightly older look than the original Sony Xperia Z3, with blockier edges, but the phone still looks and feels like a premium device. Even with a glass back I didn’t feel the worry that it would shatter during my daily use. The blockier edges help avoid the problem of a slippery phone that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus present thanks to curved edges.

I love the waterproof design that means I can enjoy using the Sony Xperia Z3v in the snow, hot tub or just in the kitchen without the need for a case. The phone can survive 30 minutes in up to 5 feet of water, and thanks to a physical button  you can take photos and videos underwater.

The Sony Xperia Z3v is waterproof up to 5 feet.

The Sony Xperia Z3v is waterproof up to 5 feet.

Sony covers the charging ports to keep water out, but there is no need to cover the headphone jack, so using headphones is still very easy. There is also a slot for a Micro SD card on the edge to expand storage. The openings feature small rubber gaskets to keep the water out, and when shut they stay shut throughout an active day.

Sony Xperia Z3v Display

It’s hard not to swoon over the vivid colors that the Sony Xperia Z3v display delivers. This is a 5.2-inch 1080P display, like the Galaxy S5, and a higher resolution than the iPhone 6. It is not a 2K display like on the Galaxy Note 4 or LG G3. While I do like the added detail that these higher resolution screens deliver, it is an omission I can overlook thanks to the overall quality of this display.

This is a beautiful display.

This is a beautiful display.

The 5.2-inch Sony Xperia Z3v display makes for a larger than average smartphone, but thanks to the design it is still fairly easy to use with one hand for most tasks. The display looks wonderful while watching videos and playing games. There is a wide viewing angle, so if you want to share a video with a friend you can both enjoy what you are watching.

At the 5.2-inch mark, the Sony Xperia Z3v is large enough watch a TV show or to watch NFL games with NFL Mobile. Playing a PS4 game on this screen is fun and it is a large enough canvas for most games, but you’ll still want to head to your HDTV to fully immerse yourself in games like Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Sony Xperia Z3v Camera

Sony is able to overcome the limitations that hold any Android smartphones back to deliver a great camera in the Sony Xperia Z3v. This 20.7MP sensor leverages Sony camera technology from the Handycam and Cyber-shot product lines to deliver impressive results. There is a physical shutter button that turns the camera on with the press of a button and activates the shutter.

The Sony Xperia Z3v captures great photos.

The Sony Xperia Z3v captures great photos.

By default the camera app uses a smart auto mode that detects what you are shooting and then picks the best settings. There are also many others, including a Manual mode, live time shift video, multi camera option, AR Fun that lets you interact with the photo, 4K video recording and the option to put your face in the photo. Other options like Info-Eye can detect information in the viewfinder and there is an AR effect that adds virtual scenes to the photo or video. You can also broadcast live to YouTube and post quickly to Facebook as well as user other options like panorama and download other apps.

There is also a Background Defocus option that allows you to create a blur-like effect on the background of a subject. This doesn’t always work with subjects that move or are too close to the background, but overall it is a handy option that can produce great results.

Sony Xperia Z3v Performance

The Sony Xperia Z3v delivers snappy performance across the board. Apps open quickly and switching from one app to another is quick. The smartphone is powerful enough to handle games like ShadowGun with ease. The PS4 Remote Play feature streams the game to the Sony Xperia Z3v, so it doesn’t need to do any of the heavy lifting on the phone.

The Sony Xperia Z3v is a snappy smartphone with great battery life.

The Sony Xperia Z3v is a snappy smartphone with great battery life.

Sony Xperia Z3v battery life is impressive thanks to a 3,200 mAh battery that lasts all day under moderate to heavy usage that includes syncing multiple accounts, using social media, watching videos and reading an eBook for two hours.

Call quality on the Sony Xperia Z3v varies based on coverage, but overall it is good. When speaking with the phone to your ear you’ll need to adjust to a speakerphone type sound. It’s almost like the sound comes off the front panel. This doesn’t degrade the call quality, but it is a small thing that you need to adjust to.

Two front-facing speakers deliver crisp and clear audio that is loud enough to fill up a small room. Most users will still want headphones or a bluetooth speaker for longer listening sessions, but for a quick video or listening in the shower these speakers are good enough.

WiFi, Bluetooth and 4G LTE worked great during the Sony Xperia Z3v review period, but keep in mind 4G LTE speeds and connectivity varies based on coverage.

Sony Xperia Z3v Software & Features

The Sony Xperia Z3v runs Android 4.4.4, but Sony promises an update to Android 5.0 in early 2015, so you’ll gain access to the new software features.

The Sony Xperia Z3v runs Android 4.4.4 with a Sony overlay.

The Sony Xperia Z3v runs Android 4.4.4 with a Sony overlay.

Sony places a skin on top of Android that changes the overall look, and there is an option to choose a theme. The theme changes the overall color of the system to a different color. While this is not a major change, it is something that helps the average user customize the phone without trying to root, rom or install a new launcher.

With NFC built-in users can make mobile payments using Soft Card or Google Wallet, which allow you to make a payment by tapping the phone to a credit card terminal after you set up a credit or debit card.

The biggest feature is PS4 Remote Play, which is a feature already found on the PS Vita, but now it’s part of your smartphone. While it is possible to use on-screen controls, the best experience comes with a PS4 controller that connects via Bluetooth. This is designed to work inside your home, so you need WiFi to make it work. 4G LTE should be fast enough in some areas, but the app will not proceed without a WiFi connection.

Play PS4 games on your phone with a PS4 controller.

Play PS4 games on your phone with a PS4 controller.

If you attempt to play while outside of the house results will vary. If both connections are fast, you can play with some success, but if either is slow or unreliable you’ll disconnect. If you want to try outside of the home I suggest you stick to single player games if your internet connection is anything like my Time Warner Cable service that has trouble maintaining speeds.

Sony Xperia Z3v Review Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z3v is an impressive Android smartphone and it is about time Verizon offers a flagship smartphone from Sony. It is hard to find things not to like on this very capable smartphone. Before you walk in and upgrade from your old iPhone to the iPhone 6, or jump from one Samsung smartphone to another, you need to go hands on with the Sony Xperia Z3v.

With a stellar camera, great software features, the ability to play the PS4 games and the option to buy for as low as a penny on Amazon this is a smartphone you need to try before you buy any other device on Verizon.