When Sony released the Xperia Z3, it was released as sort of a refinement and improvement on the Z2—nothing massively ground-breaking different, just a better version and some fat trimmed off the sides. With the Moto X (2nd Generation), it was much of the same. They changed a little bit here and there to refine it and they improved things they needed to and kept the core experience of the device pretty much the same. But how do these two compare? We’re going to find out in the dogfight.
The Moto X and the Xperia Z3 are perhaps two of the best-looking devices on the Android market. Both use a combination of premium materials to great effect. Sony Z3 is the picture of elegance. Particularly in black, the undisturbed flat black glass on the front and the back is stunning. The slate-colored curved edges are beautiful too. Even the flaps that protect the ports and the connection points have a metal finish to fit in with the chassis. It’s all very well considered, except for one thing: the glass on the front and back make the device extremely slippery. Even on flat surfaces, it has a tendency to fall off.
But despite having the same size display as the Z3, the Moto X is a full 5mm shorter. Most of that is shaved down at the bottom bezel on the Moto, which thoughtfully leaves space on screen for the virtual buttons. And the beauty of the Moto X is that you can customize its look. You can pick colors and materials using Motorola’s Moto Maker to coat the back in leather, wood or plastic. I chose the black leather with blue trim and it looks and feels amazing. I’ve never had a phone that feels as good as this. Not even the iPhone 3GS, which many of you know is one of my favorite phones ever, felt this good in hand. It’s fantastic. The leather’s warm and all its curves, slants, and edges on the back are practically perfect. And the metal chassis is noticeably sturdier than the Z3.
Moto X is slightly water-resistant but not waterproof and it doesn’t have the same extent of waterproofness as Z3, with its official IP68 certified rating. All aspects considered, the Moto X wins the design round. It feels better in hand and looks how you want it to look. And it looks like if you dropped it on the floor, it would probably survive better than the Z3 will.
And then we get on to the displays—both of them are 5.2-inch and 1080p resolution. But that’s where the similarity end. Because it’s the same old LCD versus AMOLED battle, where each does exactly what you expect it will. The Moto’s AMOLED display is much warmer in tone, whites show as sort of a yellowish tint in certain angles and the colors really pop on the screen. From my own personal taste though, a little oversaturated.
The Z3 appears clearer, a little sharper. Colors are vivid but naturally enough that they look great. What’s more is that you can adjust the white balance to give it a cooler or warmer feel. The whites still aren’t perfect but overall, I think that Sony has a better quality display. It may not be as bright but its other qualities make up for that. That’s not to say the Moto X has a bad display. It’s a great display—it’s fantastic for gaming and watching movies. Stuff comes to life on that screen so please don’t not buy the Moto X just because of the display. But for this round for its quality, the Z3 wins.
On to the camera battle, we’ve got a 13MP camera on the Moto X versus the 20.1MP on the Z3. The Moto has a dual LED flash and an iconic ring around the lens. There’s a single LED on the Z3. Both can record 4K videos.
Sony has been a champion of all sorts for cameras for a long time on mobile phones and there’s no real difference here. Pictures and videos are sharp and you can have tons of cool features to choose from. There are AR effects, Slow Mo time shift photos, the list goes on. It’s an excellent media creation tool.
The other phone is particularly good in low light but both cameras can produce fantastic images in good light. Sony does tend to overexpose stuff a lot in automatic mode, something which can be fixed by adjusting the ISO settings and all sorts of settings that you can do when you switch it to manual. Motorola can create bright, sharp, and detailed images with good colors and is very quick to focus. And that’s the key difference here. The Z3 seems to struggle a lot on focusing on subjects, especially when they’re close up. And even more particularly when you use a third party camera app like Google camera. Unless you’re using the built-in Sony made camera, it doesn’t seem to want to perform very well.
So in that case, Sony’s is actually harder to get a really good shot because you spend so much time with adjusting the settings, trying to make sure it’s in focus before you take the picture. And as much as I prefer the quality of the images on the Z3, the Motorola’s ease of use and the lack of wanting to punch my own face while I’m using it makes me tend to want to use it more. In terms of image quality, the Z3 wins but in terms of ease of use, the Moto X is the one that I would rather use.
Performance and Battery
Then we get on to performance and battery. Both phones have the same chipset. It’s a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 chip paired with an Adreno 330 GPU. The Z3 has an extra GB of RAM. But saying that you don’t really notice it that much. Sometimes, the Z3 might load up a game slightly quicker but in daily use, you won’t have a hard time with either phone. And Sony’s custom UI is clearly heavier than the virtually stock Android on the Moto X.
Battery life is a different story. While you might get up to 2 days use on the Xperia’s 3100 mAh battery, the Moto X’s 2300 mAh might even struggle to get to even a day and a half. And that’s when it’s doing well. In my experience, the Z3’s battery is one of the best on the market. Not just one of the best between these two phones but actually one of the best that’s ever been on a smartphone. It can last two days easily on a full charge. So for that reason since performance is so similar, the round goes to the Z3.
Comparing audio briefly and looking at sound speaker quality and loudness, the Moto X is the winner here. Listening to music on loudspeaker, you get much more (in terms of tonal variety) on the Moto X. The basses and middle levels are much clearer to here and it’s much louder. Now both will distort if you pump them up to the maximum volume, particularly if you’re listening to music. But where you will find the difference is that the Z3 seems to miss out the middle and the bass tones that the Moto X manages to pick up and produce.
Now if you’re using Sony’s own headphones plugged in, you do get digital noise cancellation and that’s fantastic. But just say you like using your own headphones, however particular brand you like to listen to, whether it’s Beats or V-Moda or Audio-Technica, you’re not going to notice that much difference between them because they both have a built-in equalizer so you can adjust it to sound exactly how you want to. So because of the loudspeaker performance, the Moto X wins the audio round.
Now overall, if I’m looking at individual bits of hardware and how they perform on the phones, the Z3 seem to be the winner here. It has the better display, in my opinion. It has the slightly better quality camera, it has a much better battery life. But if you were to ask me personally which phone I would choose of these two, the Moto X for me is a clear winner. It feels better in hand, warm and comfortable; it’s fast and fluid when you’re scrolling through screens. The camera’s easy to use and it can produce good shots. And no it doesn’t have the best display or battery life but I’m willing to forget that because actually, the phone is superb. But that’s just my own personal preference.
So the winner, objectively, of this dogfight is the Xperia Z3 but my personal favorite is the Moto X.