Sony Xperia Z Review
The Sony Xperia Z is due to launch on 28 February 2013, but I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-launch model for this review. I have to say I am very impressed!
Key selling points
- 5 inch LCD screen
- First phone with a full HD 1080p display
- Superslim design
- Amazing camera
- Strong battery life
The screen (Full HD at 1920×1080)
Let’s start with the screen. It’s amazing. At 5 inches diagonally, it’s even bigger than the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3. And with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, this gives it 443ppi (points per inch) compared with the iPhone 5’s 326 ppi. Now, according to Apple, the Retina display has pixels so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. So this must mean that a higher resolution has no benefit, right? Wrong! The differences between the Xperia Z and the iPhone may be subtle, but they are definitely noticeable when watching HD videos on youtube or viewing photos. Certainly we’re into diminishing returns with this kind of pixel density, but if you want the very best display available, you’ll choose Sony instead of Apple.
I should also mention the benefits of having such a huge screen real estate. It’s not just while watching videos that you’ll appreciate the size. You’ll benefit every time you press a button or use the keyboard or browse the web. In short, you’ll benefit 100% of the time. If you’re a Galaxy S3 or Nexus 4 user, you won’t need convincing of this. If not, I urge you to try a large screen smartphone for yourself.
Sony has always been hot on design, and the Xperia Z has been very carefully conceived and put together. Despite the huge screen, the phone doesn’t feel too big once you get used to it. That’s partly because it’s so thin (marginally thicker than the iPhone 5, thinner than the Galaxy S3).
It’s quite a heavy phone, but it does not feel heavy. That’s because the weight is spread over a larger area, so it feels lighter. The front and rear faces of the phone are covered in flat edge-to-edge glass panels. The back has a mirror effect, which is nice apart from all the fingerprints that rapidly accumulate! The flat, square design is not that easy to pick up off a desk, however, and a bit more curvature would have made it more ergonomic.
I’m also going to mention that the phone is waterproof. Search YouTube for “Sony Xperia Z water test” if you’d like to see this feature in action.
13 megapixel camera
Sony have given the Xperia Z it’s best ever phone camera. Taking advantage of Sony’s new Exmor RS sensor, this gives it an extraordinarily wide dynamic range so it can handle areas of brightness and shadow without losing detail. It’s an impressive performance, especially for a phone!
The camera can also capture full HD 1080p video and supports HD video calling through a second front camera.
It’s Android and it has a huge screen, so a “battery life” alarm sound should be sounding in your head. But in fact, battery life turns out to be an asset of the Xperia Z. Not only is it equipped with a large 2330mAh battery, it also comes with a new “Stamina mode” that switches off certain functions of the phone when the screen is off. This is customisable, so you can choose whether or not to keep Facebook notifications turned on, or whether the device switches off all notifications apart from calls & texts when in standby mode. This can extend the battery life of the phone quite considerably.
The Xperia Z isn’t just Sony’s best smartphone, it’s arguably the best smartphone currently available. But competition is cut-throat in the Android world right now. The HTC One is snapping at Sony’s feet and Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S4 is expected to match or beat many of the Sony’s specs. But for a brief moment in time, it’s quite reasonable to declare the Xperia Z the best of the best.
About the author: Steve Morris writes about smartphones for technology review website S21.