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Sony Xperia Z3+; and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Sony Xperia Z3+; and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Reviews: Sony Xperia Z3+and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2015)

The Xperia Z3+ has a good camera and battery life; the Kindle Paperwhite comes with a high-resolution screen and increased RAM

The Sony Xperia Z3+ (sold as Xperia Z4 in Japan) is essentially an evolved version of last year’s Xperia Z3 Android smartphone. While it is an improvement over the predecessor in certain features and overall performance, it still falls short of rival Android flagship phones. Among e-book readers, the Kindle Voyage ( 16,499 onwards) is the best out there. But its high price reduces its appeal among a wide demographic of potential buyers. Which makes this year’s refresh of the more affordable Paperwhite all the more important.

Sony Xperia Z3+

55,990

The new flagship phone is 6.9mm thick and weighs 144g, compared to the Z3’s 7.3mm and 152g. While the larger design theme remains the same, there are subtle changes. The phone still retains the IP65/IP68 water- and dust-resistance ratings. The four corners have been given a slightly different treatment to absorb shocks in case of a fall. These are internally designed as bumpers.

The 5.2-inch (1,920x1,080 resolution) IPS screen, boosted by Sony’s Triluminos display technology, can’t really be faulted. It is sharp, bright and the colours look good. But it isn’t a match to the Samsung Galaxy S6 (5.1-inch S-AMOLED with 2,560x1,440 resolution) and the LG G4 (5.5-inch IPS Quantum with 2,560x1,440 resolution), which offer screens with higher resolution.

The phone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, with 3 GB RAM. There is no doubt that the performance is the fastest among all the Android flagship phones available in the market at the moment. But heating issues become apparent when using the phone for Web-browsing or clicking photographs. The heat is most noticeable just above the Sony logo on the back panel. The Xperia Z3+ runs Android Lollipop, with some genuine improvements to the custom interface compared to the one running on the Xperia Z3—icon size can be changed, and the notification bar quick settings are more in line with what most Android phones offer.

If you listen to a lot of music, you will appreciate the new DSEE HX audio algorithm for high-resolution music files. Also, the phone automatically detects if headphones or earphones are plugged in and tweaks the audio settings.

The camera is a 20.7-megapixel snapper. The software calculations have been tweaked to boost sharpness while reducing noise. Colours look rich and well distinguished. But during our tests we noticed that the off-focus areas in some shots look soft and that compromises detailing. Low-light performance has definitely improved, and even during daytime, areas in a shadow are well detailed.

While the Z3 packed in a 3,100mAh battery, the Z3+ gets a slightly smaller 2930mAh pack. But, because of Android’s power optimization as well as Sony’s rather neat Stamina modes, you can get two days out of the phone on a single charge.

Think of the Z3+ as an evolution of the Z3, because it isn’t an entirely new phone. Even though it has a very capable camera and solid battery life, most users will still lean towards the Samsung Galaxy S6 (49,900) and the LG G4 (49,990)—the two offer equally smooth performance, have higher resolution displays, and are less expensive.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2015)

10,999 (Wi-Fi); 13,999 (Wi-Fi + 3G)

The biggest change compared to last year’s version is the higher resolution screen with improved brightness. While it retains the 1 GHz processor and 4 GB storage, RAM has been increased from 256 MB to 512 MB.

With the bumped-up resolution of the 6-inch Carta E Ink HD touch screen, the direct result is that images and text appear a bit crisper, particularly with smaller font sizes, though it is still not in the league of the Voyage.

A new typesetting engine is being introduced with this Kindle. Essentially, Amazon is reworking all the Kindle books, right down to word spacing and paragraph gaps. Till now, there were instances of either too much spacing between two words, or just an extra gap between paragraphs, which spoiled the reading experience. Also, with this Kindle, you can read even in direct sunlight, because there is absolutely no reflection. The additional RAM means that page turn is smoother and faster, and even pages with images and graphics load faster than before. However, there is still no ambient light sensor—the user has to manually alter screen brightness in different lighting conditions.

The design and dimensions of the new Paperwhite are largely the same as earlier, with very minor difference in weight.

Battery life is fantastic. If you read for 30 minutes a day, it could easily go through three weeks before you need to charge it again.

For some reason, our test unit had some issues with the Wi-Fi reception—in the same range, the last year’s edition held the signal perfectly. This could be solved with a software update, which will reconfigure the power of the internal antennas.

While all the upgrades do help with a series of subtle improvements in usability, it isn’t a very big leap over last year’s Kindle Paperwhite. However, if you are buying your first Kindle reader, you should consider this version.

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