The Xperia Z represents the first steps in Sony’s plan to focus on mobile, gaming and imaging devices. Whilst it addresses all of those areas, it also marks a new direction in Sony smartphones by introducing a new design language that uses sharp angles, glossy surfaces and premium materials.
It is also the company’s first 1080p resolution smartphone and the first boasting a five inch screen. New technological advances also include the company’s new Bravia Mobile Engine 2, a 13-megapixel camera (featuring the HDR video capable Exmor RS sensor) and a Snapdragon 1.5GHz quad-core S4 Pro processor.
On top of this, the handset has a water and dust resistant casing to protect all of those high end electronics.
Over a series of three articles, we take a detailed look at this important new smartphone.
The Xperia Z feels solid with very few plastic parts and those which are present are of high quality. It is certainly a good looking phone, easily Sony’s best-looking smartphone ever, although compromises have been made to get these slender good looks. The lack of a removable battery panel limits the ability to carry a spare battery and makes it harder to replace failing batteries, but is does allow the components to be squeezed together in order to achieve the impressively thin 7.9mm (0.31 inch) thick chassis which weighs just 145g (or 5.16 ounces).
The glass-coated rear casing brings the Sony up to the quality levels achieved by the new HTC One and Apple iPhone 5, although to give the handset a unique element Sony has extended these glass panels around the sides. The back panel and front screen are made of shatter-resistant glass (although not Corning Gorilla Glass), while a glass-fibre polyamide chassis with slightly rounded corners connects the glass panels together.
Overall the Sony comes across as a high end smartphone, only bettered in terms of quality and feel by the fabulous HTC One. In our opinion the Xperia is a nicer device than the iPhone 5 and a great deal better than Samsung’s top smartphone, the Galaxy S4 which just has too much average feeling plastic to appeal to those looking for a quality feel to their new phone.
Although it’s a good looking device, the lager casing dictated by that huge 5-inch screen and associated bezel mean that it isn’t very comfortable to hold unless you happen to have gigantic hands and reaching the phone’s top edge is a bit of a stretch during one-handed use. The sharp 90-degree corners also hinder usability a little.
It is worth noting that Sony plan to introduce a slightly smaller version, dubbed the Xperia ZR, for those who feel the full sized Z is a little too large.
Other design features worth mentioning are the (unfortunately) tiny speaker which doesn’t really offer anything other than acceptable sound quality, with the HTC One and its front facing stereo speakers still well ahead of the smartphone pack when it comes to sonic performance.
The rear mounted 13MP camera lens is slightly recessed, which it a nice touch that will help to prevent it from getting scratched whilst the front-facing 2MP camera is situated just above the screen. Apart from the microphone there is nothing below the screen as the Xperia Z employs on-screen buttons rather than any physical keys.
The handset will be available in black or white, with a purple edition soon to join the line up.
5-inch 1080p HD screen
While several manufactures have announced handsets with 5-inch, 1080p screens, the Xperia Z is one of the first to be made available. Thanks to the upgrade to a 1080p resolution screen, the Xperia Z offers a higher screen density than its predecessor the Xperia T (at 443 pixels per inch). This is despite the increase in screen size from 4.6 to 5-inches. The screen really is impressive, and almost rivals anything we’ve seen to date in terms of sharpness and richness.
We say almost rivals, because the HTC One’s Super LCD 3 smartphone screen offers better viewing angles and outdoor performance whilst being a little sharper thanks to its slightly smaller 4.7-inch display. Sony claims that the new OptiContrast display should reduce reflection and make it better to read in bright sunlight. Despite this certain lighting conditions made it difficult to read the screen at times when other smartphones would have probably fared a great deal better.
Contrast also seemed to be a little inferior to rivals smartphones such as the Galaxy S4, with blacks becoming slightly grey when using higher brightness settings which are sometimes necessary due to the above issues.
Sony Xperia Z summary
The Sony research and development team have obviously been working hard on this new model. The technical specification represents a huge improvement on earlier models and brings it on a level equal to its three smartphone rivals – the iPhone 5S, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. The high quality materials used in its construction also allows it to match the first two of its rivals and easily beat the Galaxy S4. Look out for our other reviews on the Xperia Z.