Sony Xperia Z review
Abbas Jaffar Ali
When Sony introduced the Xperia Z a few months ago, it was, without doubt, the sexiest Android handset but with the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 revealed, we find out in the Xperia Z is still able to make it’s mark.
The Xperia Z I relieved came in a white box, presumably a review sample and included a 1.5 amps charger which helps charging the Xperia Z a little faster, a USB cable and a headset with replaceable ear buds. The included headset is a bit better in quality than the cheap ones that are generally bundled with most phones while the inclusion of the 1.5 amps charger is very much appreciated as it helps your device charge pretty fast- 30 minutes on it give the phone a decent charge. I’ve been told that the retail package includes a charging dock as well.
Design & Looks
Measuring 139 x 71mm, the Sony Xperia Z is certainly a very sexy looking device. Its just 7.9mm thin however a bit on the weighty side at 146 grams and part of the reason for this is probably the glass back which adds a bit of weight- very much like it did with the Google Nexus 4 and the iPhone 4/4S. Like those devices, it is also a fingerprint magnet and unless you wipe the phone every few hours, it generally looks rather smudged up.
That being said, the Xperia Z has an impressive build quality and feels very solid in your hands- though I’m not sure how far the glass back will support a drop test- I certainly didn’t try it. One of the selling features of the Xperia Z is the dust free and water free construction and that we did try. Here is the result.
Surely impressive to see that the Xperia Z can survive a dip in the water- and the sound levels did come back up after a few minutes. This will surely help many people that have accidentally taken a dip in a pool or the sea with their phone in their pocket. A downside to that is that you have to deal with the inconvenience of removing the covers off each port when you want to use it. For example, I use the 3.5mm jack in my car quite often and having to use my nails to pop open the cover wasn’t always the fastest experience.
Other than the 3.5mm jack hidden behind a door on top, you have the USB connection and microSD slots on the right and the power button with volume keys on the right. The power button is large in size and easy to press on, however, I would have preferred a camera button that looked like that and had a two-step input to launch directly into the camera as well as take pictures. Below Sony has chosen to not add any buttons on the front of Xperia Z and instead using soft buttons like Google Nexus for navigation which works well.
Screen and Camera
The Sony Xperia Z features a full HD 1920×1080 pixel 5 inch screen that you will probably fall in love with the first time you power it up. With a PPI of 440, th Xperia Z has a screen that packs a lot more pixels that iPhone’s retina screen and you’ll have a really hard time finding anything that is pixelated. The screen also looks superb when you’re watching videos as the Bravia engine kicks in.
However, over the next few days, I became a little less fond of the Xperia Z screen. First of all, the viewing angles aren’t necessarily the best and often times, I could not read the time on the lock screen clearly when the phone was sitting on my desk. The screen is also harder to read outdoors in the shiny Dubai sun even with the brightness cranked up.
It’s not just the screen that packs a bunch of pixels on the Sony Xperia Z. The 13 megapixel camera is also quite capable given the right lighting. While shots taken outdoors during daytime look stunning, indoors and/or during low light pictures show up a bit grainy. Flash can somewhat compensate depending on how far you are but again, I wasn’t as impressed as I was hoping to be from the camera.
Software and UI
Like all major manufacturers, Sony has also skinned their Android phones with a custom UI called Timescape. What I like about Timescape is that it’s a lot more subtle than some of the other interfaces we’ve seen. Sony uses minimalist colors and icons with panels that show off some alpha-blending but nothing above or beyond that.
You also get some custom widgets such as Socialife for a social feed from your networks as well as a flick-thru-your-pictures widget and the quintessential weather widget which sadly, is directly from Accuweather and does not match the look and feel of the rest of the UI. Finally, Sony also adds some of their apps such as The Walkman music player and Sony Select, Sony’s front-end for Android Market.
Add a huge screen, LTE and a fast processor and you’re looking at a mix that screams for power. And during normal operations, you’d b lucky to get a full day out of Xperia Z’s 2330mAh battery. However Sony has done a smart thing by introducing stamina mode that basically turns off all data usage when the screen is off. That might not sound like the best way to use a Smartphone, but you can add exceptions to this list- for example IM clients like WhatsApp or Google Talk. This will make sure your messages are still instantly received but for all other apps such as GMail etc. you can keep data usage off until the screen is switched on at which time, all mail starts pouring in. With stamina mode enabled, I was able to get a full day and then some under standard usage. Over the weekend, the battery stretched closer to two days.
The Xperia Z is a pretty amazing Android phone but my expectations from it were a little higher. While it’s construction quality is superb, the screen loses its charm after a few days of use and the camera isn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. Priced at AED 2499, the Xperia Z is definitely one of the better Android handsets but it loses the lead with the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 around the corner.