With its glass and aluminium design, Sony's flagship Xperia Z2 is among the most visually striking phones around, and it would be very much at home in a first class business lounge or a fancy cocktail bar. It's packed full of the best tech around though so it comes with an unsurprisingly high price. If your budget is more modest, but you don't want to skimp on the good looks or Sony name, turn your attention to the Xperia T3.
This 5.3-inch Android KitKat phone has a sleek black and silver design that looks and feels good, it has an 8-megapixel camera that takes shots more than good enough for social network use and its vast display, while not high resolution does at least provide plenty of room to show off your favourite Netflix shows.
You can pick the Xperia T3 directly from Sony's online store in the UK now for £299. It's not currently available in the US or Australia and Sony is yet to officially say whether it will ever go on sale there, but it converts to about $500/AU$540. I wouldn't get your hopes up however -- Sony has a long history of only releasing some phones in certain markets and the flagship Xperia Z2 is yet to see a US launch.
With its matte black, plastic back panel you won't mistake the Xperia T3 for the flagship, glass-clad Xperia Z2. That's not to say it's bad looking though -- far from it, in fact. It has a stark, minimalist design, with the plain black offset nicely by the silver sony logo, camera lens and the shiny, mirrored edging. The matte finish feels good to hold -- thanks also to the curved back, which fits quite snugly in your palm -- but it's a total fingerprint magnet.
With a 5.3-inch screen shoved inside, it really doesn't qualify as compact. It's wider and longer than phones like the Galaxy S5, which isn't helped by the fairly fat bezel, because the body is quite a bit larger than it really needs to be. It's not going to suit if you're after a small phone to go unnoticed in your jeans. You may want to look instead towards the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, which packs the same high-end specs as the Xperia Z1, but shrinks it into a 4.3-inch form. Still, it's only 7mm thick, so it's not exactly what you'd call large.
The speaker at the top of the front of the phone also houses an LED light that glows when you have notifications, which means you don't need to turn your screen on every minute when you're waiting for an important text to come through. Around the sides you'll find the usual lineup of volume and power buttons, micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a dedicated camera shutter button too, and a microSD card and SIM card slot are hidden underneath a small flap.
The 5.3-inch display has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution. While that's the same number of pixels you'll find on the superb Xperia Z1 Compact, it's spreading them out over a much larger area -- an entire inch more, to be precise. The T3's pixel density comes in at 277 pixels-per-inch, while the Z1 Compact has a more respectable 342ppi. There's no denying that the T3's display lacks the pin-sharp clarity of higher resolution displays, but it's far from fuzzy.
Icons have well defined edges and even small text on Web pages can be read fairly comfortably without needing to zoom right in. High definition video on Netflix is perfectly watchable and it's only really when you put it side by side against a full HD display that you'd notice that there's a lack of resolution from the T3 -- which I doubt you'll find yourself doing very often.
It's reasonably bright, although not quite enough to counter the worst of the overhead office lights in CNET Towers. It does have decent colours though. They're nice and rich, without looking oversaturated, making my test images look vibrant, and colourful Netflix shows like Adventure Time look great.
Inside, it's running on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is almost the most recent version of Android -- the most up-to-date release being version 4.4.4 KitKat. It's been given the same skin you'll find on the other recent Sony Xperia phones. The overall architecture is much the same as it is on other Android devices -- multiple homescreens are available for apps and widgets, four app icons sit on the bottom for quick access and any apps you don't want on the homescreens are stored in an app tray.
Sony has made quite a few tweaks though. To the left of the app tray is a little settings bar that lets you easily reorganise your apps into alphabetical order, by most often used, or to show only apps you've installed. The multitasking carousel lets you switch between open apps and also open mini apps (a Web browser, notes app, calculator) that hover over the top of the interface as you swipe around. Sony has replaced the Android image gallery with its own image and video galleries, which I'm not particularly keen on as they're a little convoluted.
Sony has thrown a few of its own bits of software in too, including its Music and Video Unlimited streaming services and Xperia Lounge, which shows things like upcoming movie and game trailers and artist interviews -- it's not a fascinating selection of content, but it's sensible of Sony to use its wide range of content in film, gaming and music as a sweetener to draw you into its mobiles. Sony hasn't loaded its phone up with nearly as much junk as Samsung likes to do on its handsets, so it's perfectly easy to get to grips with when you first turn it on.
Processor and battery performance
At the heart of the T3 is a 1.4GHz Qualcomm quad-core processor -- again, a big step down from the 2.3GHz beast found purring away inside the Xperia Z2. It's the same chip you'll get inside the Motorola Moto G, which is perfectly adequate for the everyday basics. The Xperia T3 has much the same performance -- navigation is reasonably swift, with little delay when opening menus or swiping down the notifications bar.