The Telegraph
| Sunday, October 19, 2014 |


Phones with the smarts

Sony's Z3 and Z3 Compact don't offer big bang changes but are both extremely competent and attractive packages, says Tushar Kanwar

Glitzy big-bang once-in-a-year refreshes or quick, incremental enhancements to stay ahead of the curve? Sony's clearly shown a preference for the latter, quietly turning out the flagship Z3 and the Z3 Compact after launching the Z2 in May. I took both for a spin, but it was the diminutive-by-comparison Z3 Compact that truly surprised... and here's why.

Design-wise, Sony's taken a new twist to its now familiar "Omnibalance" design, with both phones offering a more comfortable and ergonomic design replete with rounded edges all around. The slightly more premium aluminium edges are reserved for the pricier Z3, while the Compact gets a translucent plastic frame, but beyond that there's little to tell the two apart. Both are durable and waterproof — a Sony hallmark — and there's a neat trick that Sony achieves with a hydrophobic coating to give the phones an open headphone jack. What's vital is that the durability doesn't come at the cost of looks — a rare combo.

As flagship devices go, Sony hasn't missed a step with the hardware on either — both pack a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 16GB of storage, which is expandable via microSD, and ample RAM (2GB on the Compact and 3GB on the Z3). In terms of grunt, you'll only be able to discern the difference in operation in high-end games and if you're opening large documents, but little else.

The camera is a capable 20.7MP shooter with good 4K and low-light shooting. The major difference is in the displays, with the 720p 4.6in on the Compact and the 1080p 5.2-incher on the Z3 both offering colour accuracy and good contrast levels. Sure, neither has a headline-grabbing Quad HD display, but the benefits I noticed in terms of battery life alone were worth it. The 2,600mAh and 3,100mAh batteries on the Compact and the Z3 respectively easily last two days on moderate use, a clear indicator that Sony's manages its batteries, the processor power usage and overall power management far better than its peers. And this was without activating the phones' Battery Stamina mode!

Software-wise, it's a Sony story as usual — uncluttered UI save for some apps for Sony-branded services — and there's a neat feature coming up in November called PS4 Remote Play which will enable these to play PS4 console games by streaming them over the same WiFi network.

There's little to fault either the Z3 or the Z3 Compact, okay maybe the speakers could have been less tinny. As great as the full-sized Z3 is, if I had to choose, I'd pick the more manageable Compact — a rare sub-5-inch phone with no compromise on durability or performance.

Rating: 9/10
Price: Rs 51,990 (Z3), Rs 44,990 (Z3 Compact)

Making a clean sweep

Does the household help turn up late or do a half-hearted job? Milagrow's Black Cat 2.0 floor cleaning robot may be just what you need. Charge the little guy up and set him loose on apartments as large as 3,000sqft, and it goes around the house cleaning up dirt and dust particles, and wet mopping too with an additional attachment. Its sensors avoid obstacles and falls (staircases) and the robot maps its way around your house, cleaning as it goes until the job is done. It also has a UV light in its base to disinfect the surface as it cleans along, and there's a remote to let you schedule a cleaning session for a certain time of the day. Interestingly, when it runs low on battery, the robotic cleaner finds its way back to the charging base and juices up until it is ready to go again. In my use, the only places it couldn't reach were under low furniture, but save for that, it went about cleaning the floors on its own, no attendance required!

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 23,990