As advertised, Sony Xperia Z is ‘the best of Sony’ in smartphones. Are feature packed internals and a durable design enough to make a successful smartphone in 2013? Let us find out!
The Sony Xperia Z is Sony’s flagship smartphone for the rest of 2013. It comes with a 5 inch full HD LCD display at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The phone is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Pro processor with Adreno 320 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. There is 16 GB of internal storage which can be expanded using a micro SD card slot. There is a 13 MP autofocus camera with LED flash at the back and a 2.2 MP shooter up front. Both the cameras can do full HD video recording at 30 fps.The phone is water resistant, dust resistant and shatter proof which is touted as its stand out feature. Packing all the latest connectivity options, it has a 2330 mAh battery. This phone will compete with Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One for the rest of the year for the crown of the best smartphone of 2013. Let us have an in-depth look at the phone, its features and its performance.
Clad in durable glass on all sides, Xperia Z comes in 3 colours: black, white and purple. The front of the device houses a large 5 inch screen which is protected by Dragon Trail glass and an additional anti-shatter film. There is a 2.2 MP front facing camera along with earpiece and a microphone which look almost identical and symmetrical. The right side has a big and very noticeable power button which almost overshadows the volume rockers and a seriously hidden micro SIM slot inside a body coloured flap. The power button is one of the best built on a smartphone till date. The top of the phone has a 3.5 mm audio jack, which is again well protected within a plastic flap. The left side of the phone houses micro SD card slot, micro USB slot and a dock connector. Bottom of the phone has the EMI and a strap hole. The back of the Xperia Z carries a big Xperia logo, 13 MP camera and an LED flash.
Almost all the open holes and ports are hidden beneath safe and tight plastic flaps to prevent water reaching the internals of the phone, thus making it water resistant. The phone is IP54 (dust & drop protection) and IP57 (water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes) military grade certified. On the corners of the phone, you can see an ‘exoskeleton’ which protects it from drops and absorbs most of the pressure. Sony Xperia Z is the only premium mobile phone that is durable enough and it almost laughs at its competition.
The in-hand feel of the phone is not so comfortable though, due to its very straight design. But it looks very stylish and is noticeably different from other comparable smartphones.
When you read the display related specifications of the Sony Xperia Z, you must have shouted wow. With a full HD resolution display and 440 ppi pixel density, it is one of the sharpest smartphone displays out there, only after the HTC One at 468 ppi. The LCD panel is adequately bright and its 10 point capacitive touchscreen detects and traces fingers like a charm. But is this enough to make it the best display in the market today? No, the screen lags behind others in terms of contrast ratio and viewing angles. This maybe due to the anti-shatter film used on top of the display which affects its contrast and viewing angles. At certain angles, the colours look nice but at others, there is a huge shift of colours to faded pallettes.
Sony has actually managed to ship the worst full HD display this year which doesn’t make you go wow when you look at the screen. It is not even in the league of last year’s flagships such as Galaxy S3 and the moderately recent Nexus 4, let alone the HTC Butterfly and Samsung Galaxy S4.
UI & Features
The Sony Xperia Z comes with Android 4.1.2 JellyBean and its custom UI on top of it. Although the operating system shipped with the phone is not most recent, Sony has promised an early update to Android 4.2.2 JellyBean. Sony’s UI customization is very light and the UI looks suave and slick. It gives me great pleasure to say that finally, someone other than Google has used on screen buttons in their flagship smartphone. Also, there are some useful additions to the UI. There are various themes and colour schemes which you can apply according to your liking.
There are some useful mini apps which can float around on top of other apps, no matter what you are doing and help you with easing the task. For example, you can use the mini calculator while viewing a document or the voice recorder while browsing. These mini apps are extremely useful and make your life easier. The notifications bar has some quick setting toggles such as Bluetooth, Data, GPS and Wi-Fi. You can arrange applications in the app tray alphabetically or manually or in a way which shows the most used apps first.
There is deep social networking integration with the whole operating system on the Sony Xperia Z. There are some widgets which show all the updates from your friends and contacts while some other widgets show you latest news and feeds from your Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and other media. The widgets are particularly smooth and nice looking.
It comes with Walkman Music player which is one of the best looking music players on a smartphone around. It has a lot of options to enhance and tweak the sound quality, be it through loudspeaker or headphones. Sony has also provided Sony Music and Sony Max applications which lets you stream unlimited music, free for 6 months and watch the channel respectively.
The dialler is nice, big and has clean looks. It comes with smart dialling which lets you type alphanumeric keys to short list or search for a particular contact. The Sony Xperia Z comes with a custom on-screen keyboard from Sony. Its design is very clean and resembles the iOS keyboard very much with regards to styling and colour schemes. There is a swipe like option with the keyboard which lets users slide their fingers over the keys instead of lifting the finger and pressing the keys every time. The keyboard also learns your words and suggests them as you keep using it.
Overall, the UI and features of Sony Xperia Z are very good looking, fast and practically useful. Sony has done a commendable job of not stuffing the phone with gimmicky features (which Samsung does).
The 13 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and first ever full HD video capture in real-time HDR, makes it stand tall among other flagship offerings from competitors. The camera with a new Exmor RS sensor performs decently in daylight, capturing balanced colours and sharpness. But the low-light performance is not good at all. It manages to capture images with high amount of noise and you can notice it when you zoom into the image at 100%. You can notice very high amount of algorithms working on the images to suppress the noise which fades away the fine details that you expect from a 13 MP camera from Sony.
Also, the HDR videos are not as amazing as you would have thought. Although they help in certain situations such as when the camera is directed towards bright light source or when the frame contains areas with both, bright light and darkness. Apart from that, don’t expect much from HDR videos as of now. Non-HDR videos are decent but there is some stutter when you pan around the device due to the lack of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). The low-light camera performance is nowhere near the likes of HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920.
Although, some things work perfectly well with the Sony Xperia Z. The sweep panorama works like a charm and it is crazy fast. Also, the star of the show is Sony’s Superior Auto mode which identifies the situation and takes care of all the settings and changes them to optimum levels. Overall, the camera is good with a lot of features and nice UI, but the final image and video outputs are not great as we would expect from Sony, which is revolutionising the digital camera industry through its NEX series of mirror-less cameras.
Shots taken from XPERIA Z
Processing & Other Performance
The Sony Xperia Z is powered by an ultra-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon Pro processor and 2 GB of RAM. This is a quad-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and each of the ‘Krait’ cores are very similar to the ARM Cortex A15 CPU’s performance. Qualcomm has taken the ARM Cortex A9 architecture and modified it heavily to nearly match the pace of ARM Cortex A15 performance without sacrificing too much battery usage which is the problem with the original Cortex A15 architecture. This fact appears even true when you see Samsung ditching the use of Cortex A15 CPU cores and switching to ARM’s big LITTLE architecture which combines power hungry high performance Cortex A15 CPU cores with power efficient Cortex A7 cores.
The Adreno 320 GPU makes sure that every game released on Google Play Store runs fast and fluid without a hiccup even on the full HD screen of the Sony Xperia Z. I tried out Real Racing 3, Modern Combat 4 and Nova 3 for heavy game performance testing and they all ran perfectly smooth. But the back of the phone gets heated to alarming levels during extended usage for heavy gaming.
The call quality was okay but not great and the proximity sensor was not performing as it should have because of its placement on the far right corner of the screen. The screen was sometimes turning on even when being on call and phone being nearer to my ears. Also, the loudspeaker on the Sony Xperia Z is a disappointment as its volume is already low and due to its placement on the right-bottom of the body, it gets usually covered by a user’s palm or fingers, muffling the sound. The sound quality in the headphones is good but you better turn off the sound enhancements in the Walkman music player as it makes the sound appear to be heavily modified. The in-ear headphones are of premium quality and do a very good job in producing good sound. They are actually one of the best headphones ever shipped with a smartphone in recent times.
The multitasking is quite smooth but the UI appears to be slightly stuttery sometimes, especially while opening the app launcher tray or while using widgets with bling animations. But according to me, it is not because the phone is using an under powered hardware, but because there are still some optimizations to be done on the UI by Sony.
With it’s 2330 mAh battery, which is less than the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4’s and almost similar to the HTC One’s, the performance is surprisingly decent. After being fully charged, the phone almost always made it to the next day with 24 hours of endurance with slightly higher than moderate usage. I want to specifically praise its ‘Stamina Mode’ which lets you conserve the battery by closing all the unwanted applications from the background. It also lets you selectively white-list some applications which are allowed to run in the background.
Price in India
There is still time for HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 to be available in the market and Sony can take advantage through its ‘first move’ to the market availability. With a lot of marketing, hype and low cost (Sony Xperia Z’s price in India is INR 35K), the Sony Xperia Z is bound to do very well this year.
Sony Xperia Z Quick Specs
|OS||Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean (upgradable to 4.2.2 Jelly Bean)||Processor||Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait|
|Touchscreen||Capacitive touchscreen||Display Resolution||1080 x 1920 pixels|
|Display||5" TFT||Primary Camera||13.1 MP|
|Dimensions||139 mm x 71 mm x 7.9 mm||Weight||146 g|
Buy Sony Xperia Z online
|TheMobileStore||In stock||Rs. 34990||Shop Now →|
|Flipkart||In stock||Rs. 29999||Shop Now →|
|Tradus||In stock||Rs. 30799||Shop Now →|
|Amazon||In stock||Rs. 32450||Shop Now →|