Sony Xperia Z review
14th Feb 2013 | 12:25
The Sony Xperia Z has a massive screen, fast processor and it's even waterproof
What makes a good smartphone? It’s more than just ticking all the boxes where specs are concerned. It’s not just a couple of striking innovations.
Sony’s latest is its biggest push yet to join the ranks of top-tier smartphones like the iPhone 5, LG Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s also the biggest phone the company has made. So how does it stack up?
Sony Xperia Z: Size and build
Well, despite the 5-inch display, this isn’t the hand-stretching experience you might expect. It ain’t petite, but the 7.9mm thickness makes it reasonably comfy even if you don’t have giant hands.
It’s helped by the fact that the excellent build quality makes it feel good in the hand – shatterproof glass front and back, plastic edging and a solid finish.
The power button, used to wake the screen from sleep, is two thirds up the right-hand side and unlike some phones where you have to fumble to find it, this one is unmissable. It’s a metal circle, carefully detailed.
This level of precision and subtle marking epitomises the phone. It’s a satisfying experience handling the handset (and that’s before we’ve even turned it on).
Sony Xperia Z: Features
Sony has made sure all the features you’d expect in a high-end smartphone are there. NFC? Check. Quad-core chip? Check. Decent camera? Double-check. And 4G connectivity? Check – in fact it comes with all the frequencies of LTE that the UK will have, so all networks will be happy.
One more thing: it’s waterproof, so you can retrieve it from the toilet bowl (maybe rinse it afterwards, mind) or bath. Texting in the shower is now a possibility, though, seriously? Must you? Note that the price you pay is that there are fiddly flaps to keep water out of the earphone socket and so on.
The camera is great: the 13MP resolution is higher than most rivals can muster and has lots of features including Sweep Panorama – a Sony camera speciality with a simple sweeping movement that came along before the similar iPhone feature.
There’s also Smile Shutter which recognises when your subject is smiling and takes the shot without you even having to touch the screen. It’s reasonably fast and even works well in lower light situations – usually a cameraphone’s Achilles’ heel.
Sony Xperia Z: Screen
The shots you take, or the video you film, looks great on the Xperia Z’s screen. Actually, anything looks pretty good on this screen because it’s exceptionally high-resolution (443ppi, against 324ppi on the already pretty impressive iPhone 5 screen).
And it uses Sony technology from the company’s TV department to make those plentiful pixels gleam, in what’s called the Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2. Whatever the black magic it works, the results are highly impressive: rich, detailed, colourful without being over-saturated and butter-smooth for video playback.
Sony Xperia Z: Performance
That Qualcomm quad-core 1.5GHz processor is, as you’d expect, very swift indeed. As more demanding apps arrive it should have more than enough slack to keep things ticking along happily enough. For now, it’s lightning-fast.
The phone comes with Jelly Bean but not the very latest version, though an upgrade is planned.
Sony Xperia Z: Battery
A big and detailed screen like this is bound to be demanding on the battery, so no wonder it’s a sealed unit so every cubic millimetre of cell can be utilised.
Even so, the battery life is not exceptional. It’s not bad, either, but you’ll need nightly recharges. However, there is an option to boost the battery life. Battery Stamina mode extends the life considerably.
A screen in the program reveals how long your phone will keep going on its current charge (a handy innovation in itself). Turn on Battery Stamina and watch the numbers jump. It only calculates standby time, but for example an 8-hour estimate leapt to 2 days 17 hours with Stamina invoked.
It achieves this by shutting down almost everything. You can still receive texts and phone calls but wireless and mobile data are disabled. Alarms will still sound.
In practice the estimates weren’t wholly reliable, but it’s great to be able to eke out what juice there is when you know you otherwise be able to charge the phone in time.
Sony Xperia Z: Verdict
The Sony Xperia Z is a pretty spectacular phone. It has an amazing display, a strong camera and that pub- pleasing extra that your phone is waterproof, even if it does mean you have to work to get at the headphone socket.
It may be too big for some hands but is manageable by most – don’t let the measurements put you off. Battery life is okay, but improved with Stamina mode. Above all, it looks just great – easily the classiest Sony mobile yet, and an equal with the best Android phones out there.
Sony Xperia Z release date: Out end February
Sony Xperia Z price: £500