Sony seems to be making the most of their recent resurge into the smartphone market. After years of not quite feeling the pulse of the market, they launched the Xperia Z series and never looked back. This time they’re back with another budget smartphone, curiously-named the Xperia E3.
Look and Feel
It's a chunky monkey, especially when compared to the more upmarket Z3 or the Z3 Compact. It does have good bones and it shares a lot of the same design genetics as its posher siblings.
Looks-wise the E3 is pretty indistinct at first glance. The review unit was a black slab with a silver Sony logo on its front and a power button down its right-hand side.
As with the Xperia Z, Sony has also branded the design “Omni balance”. It use sits in the hand more like a high end kitchen knife than a black rectangular plastic coated slab of tech.
Thin bezels are the current smartphone fad, but they’re something that Sony has missed this with the E3. Given it has a 4.5” screen, these definitely added to its width, but in use this isn’t a big deal.
The Z range makes extensive use of glass and alloy. The E3 sports a gorilla glass front and plastic body, with an impact resistant nylon outer edge.
In use it felt solid. Other phone manufacturers could learn a thing or two from this. If they could build their Tupperware budget offerings to the standard of the E3, they’d sell a hell of a lot more of them.
As you’d expect given its reasonable budget sticker price, the E3 isn’t waterproof. This would have added quite a bit to manufacturing costs.
Its back is removable, providing access to both micro-SD and SIM card slots. Its battery is also bolted in under a metal cover.
Under the Hood
Given the E3's budget price, its 5MP rear camera was a pleasant surprise. The inclusion of an HDR mode was a definite bonus. The E3's camera did a good job of snapping pictures with reasonable colour saturation and shadow detail.
Inside the E3 is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU along with 1GB of RAM. In use it translated to smooth and lag free operation and shows just how far the budget smartphone has come on a bang per buck basis. You only get 8GB of storage, but there is a micro-SD slot.
I was also impressed with the E3’s battery life. The 2330mAh battery and Sony’s energy saving Stamina Mode kept things trucking along for a day and a half.
While its screen was bright, vivid and crisp, its resolution of 854x480 pixels isn't exactly state of the art.
This said for a sub $300 phone its screen leaves many similarly priced budget handsets for dead.
The E3 may be a budget phone, but there are a few nice features such as the 5MP rear shooter plus a solidly built chassis. It's also a good looking black slab that takes design cues from its more upmarket Z series siblings.
The camera’s HDR mode and its vivid screen also lend it a premium feel. Given the E3’s sticker price of $299, it bats well above its budget market niche.
OS: Android 4.4
Dimensions: 137.1 x 69.4 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 144 g
Display: 4.5 inches, 480 x 854 IPS LCD
Camera: (Rear) 5 megapixels
(Front): 0.3 megapixels VGA
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 8926, Quad core, 1200 MHz, ARM Cortex-A7
GPU: Adreno 305
RAM: 1,024 MB RAM
Storage: 4GB, micro-SD (up to 32 GB)
Battery: 2330 mAh
Network: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz/ 3G 850, 900, 2100 MHz/4G 800, 850, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600MHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g, n