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Hands on: Metallic Sony Xperia Z3 boasts two-day battery life

Sony has launched its latest flagship smartphone at IFA 2014, the 5.2-inch Xperia Z3, which adds longer battery life and plenty of new camera and music features, plus a fresh metallic design. Here’s our first look hands-on review.

Update: Check out our full in-depth Sony Xperia Z3 review, now that we’ve played extensively with the phone.

The Xperia Z3 is Sony’s third flagship phone in just a year, and while the specs haven’t leapt up much from the Sony Xperia Z2 (launched at MWC in February this year), Sony has freshened up the design, added some intriguing new features and promised significantly longer battery life.

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

Sony Xperia Z3: Sleek new design

The Xperia Z3 keeps Sony’s Omnibalance design alive, but now the phone rocks a metallic finish with smoother edges and corners, so it’s not as ‘pointy’ as previous models. Those corners are also designed to absorb impact from a drop, to make the phone more durable.

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

While it’s still undoubtedly a handful, the Xperia Z3 is also slimmer and a little bit lighter than the Xperia Z2. We found it comfortable to hold and play with, but we’re definitely bigger fans of the fantastic Xperia Z3 Compact, which can be effortlessly used one-handed.

Once again Sony is experimenting with colours, and the Xperia Z3 comes in copper and silver green, plus the standard black and white. The copper and green varieties won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and we’re big fans of Nokia’s bright and fun colour design, we do love the white Xperia Z3.

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

The 5.2-inch display is another Triluminos panel with X-Reality, and just like the Xperia Z2 it packs a 1080p Full HD resolution. That’s perhaps a shock as rivals such as LG have added ‘Quad HD’ screens into their phones, but Sony says this is a design decision, stating that the difference in visual quality is negligible but the impact on battery life is significant.

And let’s face it, that display is so gorgeous that it doesn’t demand an upgrade. Photos and video are still crisp and vibrant, with colours that really explode off the screen.

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

Sony Xperia Z3: Superior battery life

A 2.4GHz SnapDragon 801 processor provides only the slightest step up from the Xperia Z2’s 2.3GHz 801 chip, at least in terms of performance, with the same 3GB of RAM also in place.

Battery life is also a big focus for Sony, and the Japanese giant promises that the Xperia Z3 will survive a full two days of average use, compared with 1.4 and 1.2 days with the Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z1, respectively. This magical extra battery life apparently comes from the new power-efficient chipset and some subtle screen alterations, as the 3,100mAh battery is actually slightly lower capacity than the 3,200mAh Xperia Z2 cell.

We’ll be sure to test this claim in full when we do our full Xperia Z3 review.

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

If you’ve got a sizeable media collection to lug around, you’ll be glad to hear that a micro SD memory card can once again be slotted inside to expand the on-board storage.

Sony Xperia Z3: Camera features ahoy

Sony has packed another 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS sensor into the Xperia Z3’s camera, but once again there are improvements over previous models. The sensor is now ISO 12,800, previously found on some of Sony’s CyberShot cameras, for strong, noiseless images in dim lighting conditions. SteadyShot has also apparently been boosted to produce sharper videos, and you can now fit more into each shot thanks to the wider-angle 25mm lens.

The Xperia Z3 packs in more camera features too, on top of the existing range. These are:

Multi-Camera – Use another camera, such as a Sony G Lens, to shoot split-screen video

Face In – Same as Samsung’s Dual Shot mode, uses front and back cameras to capture your mug as well as whatever’s in front of you

AR Fun – You can now scribble onto your pics and launch virtual bombs or coloured turds at your mates, which is surely the camera feature we’ve all been waiting for.

Sound Photo – Record a short sound byte to accompany each photo

Sticker Creator – Stick one photo onto another

Live on YT – YouTube live streaming

Sony Xperia Z3 phone launches at IFA 2014, here's our hands-on features, screen and camera review

Above: you can now bombard your mates with bombs and ice cream turds with AR Fun

Sony Xperia Z3: High-Res Audio

Sony also wants you to rinse maximum enjoyment from your tunes with the Xperia Z3, so the new High-Res Audio (HRA) support means you can play Hi-Res audio tracks straight from the phone – of course, you’ll still need compatible headphones to make the most of that crisp audio.

And don’t worry if you’ve only got low-quality MP3 tracks. Sony’s DSEE HX is a new uprating engine that takes low-quality audio files and boosts them to near High-Res audio quality, similar to HTC’s Beats Audio mode. And you get the same noise cancellation as the Xperia Z2, to drown out irritating chodes on your bus or train.

Sony Xperia Z3: UK price and release date

Sony’s Xperia Z3 will be available to buy in the UK in the coming month, although no price has yet been announced. Watch out for a full review soon.

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