The Sony Xperia E3 comes with a modest retail box featuring a rather low-power standalone A/C adapter (850mA) and a microUSB 2.0 cable. There were no headphones inside and that might be the case in many markets as Sony tries to keep the price down. As usual though retail package varies and you might be luckier than us.
The Sony Xperia E3 measures 137.1 x 69.4 x 8.5 mm, making it slightly slimmer, shorter and narrower than the 5" Motorola Moto G (2014) and much taller than the 4.5" Moto G of old. The weight is pretty heavy for the size at 143.8g, though, that adds a bit to the solid feel when you hold the handset in your hand.
The design of the Sony Xperia E3 is an interesting mixture of the Xperia M2 Aqua and the Xperia Z3 Compact. The front is unmistakable Sony with no physical buttons and a flat, clean look. We would've liked the bezels to be smaller, though as the poor screen to footprint ratio takes away quite a few points from the design score.
The main microphone and earpiece are hidden under speaker grilles which can easily be mistaken for the dual, stereo speakers on the latest Xperia Z3 Compact. We've only got a single speaker here, although that's hardly a surprise considering the price range.
The sides go after the latest Xperia looks with rounded edges and rubbery corners that are there to absorb impacts should you drop the phone. However instead of the see-through plastic of the Xperia Z3 Compact or the steel of the Xperia Z3 the edges here are simply matte plastic with nice grip that enhances the feel. The back is where you'll see the matte back panel of the Xperia M2 Aqua with the exact same feel.
Handling the Sony Xperia E3 is a pleasure thanks to the matte surfaces front, sides and back. However it doesn't feel like a 4.5" device and more like a 4.8" one, that's due to the thicker bezels, which have made the body way taller than it needs to be.
On a positive note the device feels sturdy and solid, not fragile and bruise-prone. The curved edges fall nicely into place when the phone meets your palm and the matte surfaces ensure it will sit stubbornly in place. Smudges and fingerprints can be an issue on the front glass panel as well.
Sony's phones are either glass on steel or matte plastic and while the Xperia E3 is of the latter variety that's still a good choice, giving a quality feel.
If you don't like the understated appearance of the all-black Xperia E3 you can go for one of three additional colors as well - White, Yellow and Copper.
Sony is clinging to its guns with the Xperia E3's button placement. If you've ever used an Xperia smartphone you should feel right at home with the Xperia E3.
The front is occupied by the 4.5" 480x854px LCD of 218ppi. It's an IPS unit so the viewing angles are among the better in the class, but more on that a little later on. Under the display lies the main microphone, nestled into a small grille.
The Sony logo above the display is flanked by the VGA front-facing camera and the proximity sensor. Above the logo under an identical grille as below is the earpiece.
The right side is where you'll find the volume rocker and the power button. Adjusting the volume is a little tricky as the rocker is rather shallow and doesn't give out as much feedback as we'd like. The power button, on the other hand, is great and responsive.
It's worth noting that Sony has skipped on the physical camera button, which we saw on the Xperia M2 Aqua. You can use the volume buttons to capture but there's no half press for focus lock.
The left side of the Xperia E3 hosts only the microUSB 2.0 port.
The bottom of the Xperia E3 has no controls whatsoever while the top is where the 3.5mm headphone jack is.
The back panel is removable but only to allow access to the hot-swappable micro SIM and microSD card slots. The battery is still sealed-in so you can't swap it for another one. The SIM compartment handles microSIM cards and we found it very hard to empty. On one occasion it took us a duo of tools to release the SIM card from its slot.
The 5MP camera lens is on the top left of the Xperia E3's back. Alongside it there is a single LED flash and the second, noise-reducing microphone. There's an NFC indicator on the back showing where the point of contact is.
The main speaker is placed at the very bottom of the back panel, which isn't ideal. The Xperia E3's back is very flat, making the speaker easy to muffle when you put the device face up on a table.
Aside from the non-ideal speaker placement and volume rocker the Xperia E3 boasts easily accessible controls. It's nice of Sony to include a removable back panel and hot-swappable microSD and SIM but it would have been even nicer if we could swap out the battery as well.