IFA 2014: Sony's impressive new Xperia Z3 is officially here

IFA 2014: Sony's impressive new Xperia Z3 is officially hereSo the Sony Xperia Z3 is finally here, and we're struggling to get too excited about it to be honest – it's been leaked to death, after all, and is only a modest step up from the current Xperia Z2.

But maybe that's not being entirely fair, as the Z2 is pretty good in its own right, and it's being replaced just six months after launching by a handset that's smaller, lighter, faster and better equipped. And that's just the start.

Sony's been making some of the best looking smartphones around for a few years now, so it's no surprise that its latest flagship scores highly on the aesthetic front.

There's plenty of glass and metal as you'd expect from a premium device. And while the display size is unchanged at 5.2in, the Xperia Z3 manages to shave a little off all three dimensions to come in at 146 x 72 x 7.3mm. It's also 11g lighter than its predecessor, weighing in at 152g.

The water-proofing Sony hinted at the other day is present too - the Xperia Z3 will be happy to go for a swim in up to 1.5m of water, and interestingly can do so with the audio jack uncovered.

The screen size hasn't changed as we said, but some might question the decision to stick with a 1080p panel rather than step up to QHD to match the likes of the LG G3. There's more to display quality than just pixel numbers, however, and as with the Xperia Z2, the Xperia Z3 has all sorts of added-value technologies layered on top, such as Triuminos, X-Reality and Live Colour LED.

There's no change to the chipset running the show on the inside either – it's still a Snapdragon 801 – but the speed has been boosted from 2.3GHz to 2.5GHz.

As for the camera, at first glance it's also unchanged, with the Xperia Z3 packing the same 20.7MP sensor found on its predecessor, and the Xperia Z1 before it.

But improvements have been made elsewhere: the Xperia Z3 boasts a new 25mm G Lens and pushes the ISO up to 12800 – the highest ever seen on a smartphone. There's a clutch of new imaging apps on board too, and video sharpness and image stabilisation have also been improved.

Sony has been a leading player in both mobile and gaming for years now, but previous efforts to combine the two – Xperia Play anyone? – have flopped badly.

With the Xperia Z3, Sony's decided to try a different approach and one we like the sound of: bring the Z3 within Wi-Fi range of your PlayStation 4 console and you'll be able to play PS4 games directly on your phone. Sony says the feature will only be rolling out from November, but will eventually find its way not just to the Z3 but other Xperia handsets too.

The often-overlooked area of audio quality has also been given a shot in the arm. The Xperia Z3 supports high-resolution audio and comes with new software capable of upscaling lower quality audio too as well as digital noise cancelling tech.

Surprisingly given all of that, the Xperia Z3's battery is a shade smaller at 3100mAh, but Sony says battery life could be as much as 50% better.

The OS is of course Android, and specifically the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat.

That's quite a package overall, despite the lack of any real blockbuster improvements over the incumbent Xperia Z2.

You'll be able to pick up Sony's latest flagship at the end of the month in your choice of black, white, copper and silver green, directly from Sony or via high-street retailers and of course all the leading service providers.

The price? It hasn't been confirmed yet, but it'll almost certainly be the other side of £500.

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