Sony Xperia E3 review-in-brief: unflappable but uninteresting

The Sony Xperia E series is the budget battler of the company’s Xperia range, catering for more of a mid-range audience than its other phones in the stable. While you could say that this means it offers lower-end features, you could see it as a cheaper phone offering mid-end features.

I prefer the former definition though.

The Sony Xperia E3, launched back at IFA 2014, isn’t the best phone in the Sony arsenal so stop right now if you think it’ll hold a candle to the likes of the Xperia C3 or the much more expensive and impressive Sony Xperia Z3 Compact cousin. It’s a phone for the masses, and will aim to keep Sony in the top three smartphone manufacturers in South Africa.

But can it compete against the likes of Microsoft and Huawei at this price point?

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In terms of styling, I’d have to say no.

I think its safe to say that it’s one of Sony’s ugliest phones. Our review unit was the slate grey example with paddle-sized bezels on either side of the device, and a rough stone-like finish at the rear that just loves fingerprints. Snapping images of the device was a challenge, as every move left a large smudge or print behind. This may not be the case with a device of a different colour though (perhaps the white variant). The finish isn’t particularly nice to the touch either, and definitely a departure from the more premium and sleeker Sonys that we’ve seen in years gone by.

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There’s a 4.5-inch IPS screen with a rather mundane 854×480 display, which leaves users with a 217ppi pixel density — a little lower than the likes of the 220ppi 5.0-inch Microsoft Lumia 535. It’s not going to turn any heads. But for what its worth, the device is fairly balanced and suitably adept as a workhorse.

That continues through into the device’s internals, with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset running at 1.3GHz and 1GB of RAM to accompany 4GB of internal storage. Annoyingly, those 4GBs are swallowed up extremely quickly by the Android KitKat OS, but there’s room for expansion of up to 32GB thanks to the microSD card slot.

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On paper, these stats aren’t much better than the Sony Xperia E1 that’s around R1000 cheaper, so there’s something to keep firmly in mind.

Improving on the E1 though, there’s now a host of new wireless communication standards support, including WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. The FM radio comes in particularly handy too for quick news updates or if your music collection gets particularly boring.

Sony Xperia E3 sample images
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It's not the best snapper in the world, but it will do.

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Low light images taken inside buildings aren't too shabby.

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There's more than enough to work with for every day snaps to friends and family.

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And of course, the camera really excels for those shots of vistas.

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Moving away from the internals, there’s a set of VGA (front) and 5MP (rear) cameras, which really aren’t all that great. It would seem that it shares its rear snapper with the Sony Xperia C3’s front snapper. Look, if you fancy snapping pictures of flowers, glowing vistas or the average grocery shopping list, the camera will suit just fine. Just don’t expect fireworks — this isn’t the Sony to get if that’s what you’re after. It can record 1080p at 30fps, so the little snapper deserves some respect.

Read more: Sony Xperia C3 review: more than just a selfie phone

As one would expect, battery life is really where the Sony Xperia E3 excels. We find a 2330mAh reservoir but my, it takes ages for that bugger to drain. I averaged a good two days of solid use with this thing, and thanks to Sony’s brilliant battery saving software, this was almost a given every time. Sony has done a wonderful job here.

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As mentioned earlier, the E3 is a workhorse and I didn’t quite feel out of place using the phone in a crowded street or a bustling train. But don’t drop it. There’s no Gorilla Glass in sight, and that could be a problem when the phone meets a particularly hard piece of concrete. With that said, the phone always felt safe in my hands, and for what its worth, was a rather pleasant if “meh” experience.

Verdict: For around R2200, the Sony Xperia E3 is one of the cheaper Sony devices you can get. It isn’t loaded with awesome things like the flagship Xperias but it will get the everyday mundane job done. I do think there are better value-for-money devices out there though, but the Sony does have the brilliant battery life in its favour. With that said, Sony should be doing more to entertain buyers in this ridiculously competitive segment.

Score: 6/10

Andy Walker
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