The Sony Xperia Z is Sony’s next step into the smartphone market, with a completely new and a frankly beautiful design, the Xperia Z takes from previous handsets like the Xperia T and Xperia S, the Xperia Z packs some of the best specs on the market as well as the great design ethics that we have recently seen in Android handsets like the HTC One.
Packing a quad-core 1.5GHzz Snapdragon Krait processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of in-built storage, a 13 megapixel camera, a 5 inch 1080p HD screen with the Bravia Engine in-built, the Xperia Z packs a ton of great features as well as being water and dust resistant.
Probably the best part about the Xperia Z however is its design, its actually one of the best looking Sony handsets we have seen in a long time.
The handset feels premium, made from a mix of plastic and glass, I never had any worries about dropping the phone whilst reviewing it, however the glass does tend to attract a lot of fingerprints, in fact it’s that bad you will have to clean the screen constantly throughout the day.
Sized at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm, the Xperia Z is on the larger size, and can sometimes be hard to hard, although as it is quite thin, so it’s not too much as a struggle, and only weighing 146 grams, it’s not too heavy that it’s uncomfortable to hold.
To aid the phone in being both water and dust resistant all of the ports are covered up with caps, placed along the edge of the phone, you’ll find the headphone jack on the top, the charging and microSD card slot on the left, and SIM card slot on the right.
On the front of the device however, you will find the Xperia Z is actually quite minimalist, only featuring the Sony logo on the top and the front facing sensor placed next to the various sensors.
On the back, you will also find the 13 megapixel rear facing camera, NFC badge, the camera flash light, but you might want to take not that the rear cover is not removable, so there’s no chance in changing the battery.
All of that and the Sony Xperia Z is still quite cheap, in fact Vodafone are currently offering the phone on their 4G-Ready Red plan from free for £42 a month, being 4G Ready, it means that the company will upgrade the plan, allowing for 4G access, beforehand however, you just get the usual unlimited texts, calls and 2GB of data.
If you want too, you can pick up the phone on the deal I just mentioned from the Vodafone site or in store.
Being one of the biggest manufactures of displays, you would quite rightly expect the handset to take advantage of the technologies, Sony already use in a wide variety of their products, featuring a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution with a pixel density of 441ppi, which although being a TFT display and not a Super AMOLED the screen is very sharp but does lack some off the colour that is featured in other displays, alongside which at an angle the screen does tend to look a lacking.
Running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean the interface used with the Xperia Z, the handset looks similar to most other handsets within the Xperia line-up, Sony have added their own widgets and use interface, but its not so heavy that you won’t find a lot of the Android features found in stock handsets.
Probably the best custom integration however from Sony is Sony’s ‘Small Apps’ screen, which can be accessed from the multi-app button on the bottom right, once pressed it shows both your currently open applications and a selection of other mini apps along the bottom.
Sony have also added their own touch to the notifications bar, which works the same to any other Android device, but on the Xperia Z you also get various toggles for settings like the WiFi and Bluetooth.
There’s also various themes that you can choose from, which adjust both the lock/ home wallpaper and the accent colours for things like the menu etc, there’s also the usual app drawer, accessible via the dock button at the bottom of the screen.
Below that button you will find three touch icons, one for the ‘small apps’ screen, another is the back button and the third is the home button, which you can hold down and swipe up from to reveal Google Now, Android’s own personal assistant.
Sony have also done great things with the contacts system, only adding a hint of their own design ideas just to give it a new look.
When you first login at setup, contacts can be downloaded automatically from your Google account, which can be accessed by tapping the phone icon on the home screen or in the app drawer, depending on where you place it.
Photos for your contacts can also be brought in from Facebook, and they can be edited to add their birthdays, new numbers or other details.
During my tests, I didn’t find any problems during my tests with the Xperia Z, with no call drops and great connectivity at the start and throughout a call, and to add upon which, the Z also includes HD Voice which makes call quality better on both sides.
The Xperia Z uses Android’s standard messaging application to receive both SMS and MMS communications, however much like the phone application Sony have decided to add their own little touch to its design.
Alongside which there’s a couple of other new functions, allowing you to send your location via Google Maps, or add a doodle of a note or image to your message, right from the app itself.
The keyboard on the Xperia Z is not half bad, the main problem I found with it being the size of the space bar, but apart from that its quite easy to use, and actually looks great, quite similar to the iPhone.
Set out in a QWERTY format, with access to various other keys with the bottom right key, however the Z has its own little feature, allowing you to simply swipe from key to key to type out your message.
Alongside this, predicted words will appear just above the keyboard allowing you to choose the corrected word or select the word you were already working on, selecting words however can be quite the procedure, in fact I haven’t found many other phones that allow you to do this quite as elegant as the iPhone.
The web browser is of course very similar to most other Android phones, using Google’s Chrome browser for Android, it works just as well as you would expect it to, what makes it great however is the connectivity this device provides.
As mentioned before the device has 4G LTE connectivity (I have yet to try that out on this device), it also uses HSDPA+ for those who aren’t on a network currently offering 4G.
With this you can achieve great loading speeds both when on WiFi or on the way to work.
With a 13 megapixel camera on the rear, and a 2.2 megapixel camera on the front, the Sony Xperia Z is a great snapper, shooting at 4128 x 3096 pixels for the rear camera, you end up with a great set of pictures.
There is one thing that really annoying however, the phone doesn’t have a physical shutter button, which can make taking a photo quite a difficult procedure of moving your hand around the touchscreen and trying to keep it out the way of the shooter at the same time, however being accessible from the lockscreen, it can be quickly accessed when needed.
Within the app you will also find a range of enhancements for your photo, actually you will find a ton, with three different modes just for the smile selection, alongside which you will also find panorama modes as well as scene selections and picture effects.
The shutter speed of the camera is okay, but not amazing. Sony does however mention that the camera does pack a Exmor RS sensor, with HDR capablities and an LED flash.
Images shot from the camera do look pretty impressive, however they do tend to look a little better on the phones screen than on the PC, the LED flash also works okay in some occasions, but as with most phones, it’s not as good as the Lumia 920.
Of course the Sony Xperia Z’s camera also records video in full HD 1080p resolution at 30fps, video looks okay, but sometimes may find a lot of noise outputed, and even with a light on, sometimes video can look a little dim.
Video stabilization also works great, and videos never really turn out shaky and I was impressed that white balance and the focus could be changed on the fly during recording.
Playing back video on that display is a great experience, there’s no problems with stuff like movie formats and the Xperia Z can playback HD or even SD videos with ease, and when you take note of the addition of the BRAVIA Engine 2 SD videos can be up-scaled to HD.
As you would expect, the music player that comes with the Xperia Z is good, and a simple drag and drop interface for the PC makes it easy to add new content to it.
Alongside that you will also find that the application has been branded heavily with the old Walkman brand, which means you end up with a great looking music player, in which album art takes center stage.
Within the music library you can view your music as sorted by either the artist or album, or if logged into Facebook, it can even show you what our friends like to listen to, as well as allowing you to share what you like to, right from the app.
The speaker for the Xperia Z is located at the bottom right of the handset, a placement which I didn’t find to work to great when it comes to quality, and the speaker is actually extremely quiet, with quite shoddy audio quality.
I suspect this might be due to the waterproofing of the phone.
However when you used headphones, you will soon find that the Xperia Z comes out on top when it comes to a media player.
Personally I never use the speaker on any of my devices, which are normally connected up to various Bluetooth capable speakers around the home, so the loudspeaker being so bad on the Xperia Z doesn’t really bother me, and I’m willing to bet it won’t bother many of you guys either.
What I really care about is the provided audio experience, as ever since the iPhone was first released I have been using a smartphone to play music more or less everywhere I go.
To put it simply, the Z works great when used with headphones, and with added ClearAudio+ technology, music sounds crisp and clear.
Alongside this, you can also go into the settings to change things like ambiance and even the EQ.
As with any smartphone on the market today, how long its battery lasts simply depends on how you use it, however Sony do claim some times for how long the Xperia Z will last from its fully charged 2330mAh battery, claiming 11 hours total battery life on talk time and 550 hours on standby.
Which I would say is about right, you will defiantly struggle to get anywhere near a full days charge with this device, and with the lack of a replaceable battery, to some this could prove to be an annoyience.
The included Stamina mode is extremely useful in trying to help manage the battery life and keep you from charging for another couple hours, something I found worked extremely well.
Overall, I am a huge fan of the Sony Xperia Z for one main reason, it breaks the common mold that Android phones seem to have attracted for some time now and it actually looks great, even on par with the iPhone 5 or maybe even the HTC One, however the fingerprint attracting glass is kinda annoying, however with a great set of specs as well as that water and dust resistant body, the Xperia Z is certainly something to boast about.
I would defiantly recommend the Xperia Z to anyone looking for a new Android phone, however I’m just not sure if I would recommend it over something like the HTC One, or possibly the iPhone 5.
By the way here’s our table of benchmarks for the Sony Xperia Z:
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us the Sony Xperia Z for review purposes.