The Xperia Z is Sony’s latest, most advanced smartphone to date. However, in a world full of iPhones and Galaxys, does it really offer much to separate it from the competition? Keep reading as we lay it all out for you.
The Sony Xperia Z is a ginormous bit of kit – there’s no getting away from that fact. However, it’s also amazingly slim, measuring just 7.9 millimeters thick and weighing in at a very respectable 146 grams, making it quite comfortable to carry.
Height-wise, however, it’s still quite a handful and may feel slightly unwieldy if you have small hands, as your thumb won’t easily reach some of the menu options located at the top.
While looks are subjective, we think the Xperia Z is a very polished and handsome looking device that will surely catch a few admiring glances for its slick, monolith form.
What really separates the Xperia Z from the competition, however, is that it’s certified water and dust resistant.
With Ingress Protection ratings IP55 and IP57, the Xperia Z can withstand being submerged in one metre of water for up to thirty minutes and won't easily get clogged up inside too.
The handset also features a Dragontrail glass front and back to keep scratches and scuffmarks to a minimum. We dropped the review unit numerous times for “test purposes” and the front panel received only the smallest of scrapes.
Suffice to say, these are all very impressive credentials for what is essentially a very high-end smartphone. Naturally, this makes the Xperia Z an ideal choice if you’re prone to - or even worried about - dropping your handset a lot – be it on the ground or in a tub of water.
Display and processor
The Xperia Z has a five-inch full HD Reality Display with an eye-popping 441 pixels per inch density that’s over a 100 higher than even the iPhone’s Retina Display.
Better yet, it uses Sony’s latest Mobile Bravia Engine 2 video processor, offering a silky smooth framerate that really brings movies to life. The touchscreen itself is incredibly responsive, providing an enjoyable experience in every situation we’ve come across.
The only thing letting it down is a less-than-stellar viewing angle and a contrast ratio that we wish were higher to take advantage of those extra pixels.
Under the hood, Xperia Z straps a brawny 1.5GHz quad core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor that keeps things ticking over smoothly and handles both multimedia and multitasking with aplomb.
As with most Sony smartphones, the Xperia Z has a very impressive camera too. At the back it has a 13-megapixel autofocus shooter, equipped with LED flash and the new Exmor RS sensor that takes great snaps in low-light conditions. Basically, it’s perfect if you live in Britain.
We’re particularly impressed by how fast the autofocus is and how the lens is able to keep with up with fast movements without breaking a sweat.
Of course, like most high-end kits, the Xperia Z records videos in full HD and ups the ante with High Dynamic Range (HDR) video recording as well, which should please any keen videographer.
At the front of the handset is a 2.2-megpaixel webcam, which also offers 1080p HD recording and is great for making video calls too.
Connectivity and extras
In terms of connectivity, the Xperia Z is packed with options. Chief among these is Near Field Communication – aka NFC – which lets you use the handset to pay for low-ticket items – say coffee or travel – by simply swiping the handset over an NFC reader.
Although it’s still early days for NFC, with most major handset makers adopting the technology, it’s bound to become standard eventually.
There’s also Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Wi-Fi Direct for fast wireless data transfer. And there’s DLNA support and Wireless TV out too to let you wirelessly stream video on the handset to a compatible HD television.
In terms of storage, you have 16 gigabytes onboard to play with, plus a microSD slot to expand that further.
Last but certainly not least, the Xperia Z is 4G ready, which means it will work with the high-speed network standard out of the box.
Interface and software
The Xperia Z runs on the latest Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android operating system, which means it has all the newest features and improvements the platform has to offer.
It also comes with Sony’s bespoke user interface slathered on top, but a good thing is that this is not as heavily customised as proprietary skins on some other Android handsets and is much closer to what you expect from the vanilla edition of Android.
To unlock the screen you swipe upwards, which has a rather neat blinds-like animation. You also have two shortcuts, which you can tap and swipe sideways to jump straight into an application.
Inside, there are seven home screens, which you can personalise with a host of widgets, apps and themes to really make the handset your own.
Apps can be organized using folders, while many of the widgets can be resized as you see fit. You can also change the appearance of the homescreen using themes and wallpapers.
For the most part, the software on the Xperia Z is pretty much what you expect if you’ve used an Android smartphone before. However, it also packs some great Sony apps such as Music Unlimited, Walkman and PlayMemories – plus all the best Google apps and services like Gmail, YouTube and Maps installed out of the box.
Of course, the real action is at the Google Play store where you’ll find hundreds of thousands of great applications, as well movies and music to download - all of which should run with a real sense of snap on the Xperia Z thanks to its powerful processor and ample memory.
The Sony Xperia Z is a brilliant handset. It’s crammed with cutting-edge technologies - not least of which is a gorgeous screen, a brawny processor and a fantastic camera.
Of course, the fact that it’s water and dust resistant too also deserves serious consideration when you’re thinking of spending a substantial amount of money on a new handset.
If you’re in the market for a truly high-end smartphone, you can’t go wrong with the Xperia Z.
Thanks to O2 for supplying the handset used in this review.