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Sony Xperia Z review

Luke Johnson

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Reviewed:

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Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Beautiful 5-inch Full HD display
  • Sleek, strong, waterproof design
  • Pleasing OS and UI combination

Cons

  • Handset quickly becomes smeared mess
  • Becomes excessive hot during use
  • Disappointing battery life

Key Features

  • 5-inch 1080p display
  • 1.5GHz quad-core processor
  • IP57 waterproof protection
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £549.99

Introduction

Having fallen slightly by the wayside in the recent smartphone stakes, Sony is back with its biggest and best handset to date, the 5-inch Sony Xperia Z.

Sony Xperia Z Video Review

Want to save time and see the phone up close in the process? Watch our video review below, which shows the Xperia Z's waterproofing in action.

Related: Sony Xperia Z5 vs Z4 vs Z3: What can you expect if you upgrade?

On paper a true rival to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3, Google Nexus 4 and iPhone 5, the Sony Xperia Z runs Google’s Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS from the box – although a 4.2 update is already on the cards. Pairing a selection of premium innards with a raft of new, consumer appeasing features, the handset plays host to the likes of an IP57 waterproof coating.

Officially unveiled back at CES 2013 ahead of a late February launch, the ‘Z’ hits the high notes on all fronts, with the Sony Xperia Z specs sheet boasting a veritable what’s-what of high-end innards.

Kicking things off with a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor, the Xperia Z’s zippy CPU is matched up with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, creating a base setup to rival any Android device on the market. Adding a 13.1-megapixel rear-mounted camera, a 2330mAh Lithium-Ion battery and integrated NFC connectivity options, and the Sony Xperia Z quickly stands out as a leader of the smartphone scene.

Despite the handset measuring in at a superbly svelte 7.9mm thick, the Sony Xperia Z screen is an expansive and vibrant 5-inch 1080p Full HD affair, one which benefits from a shatter and scratch resistant coating, 10 finger multitouch compatibility and an inbuilt light sensor.

With a premium price tag to match the premium components, the Sony Xperia Z is available from a selection of leading UK network providers and smartphone retailers, including the likes of Vodafone who are offering the device for free when tied to a £42 per month, 24 month contract. For those not wanting to tether themselves to a two year deal, one that will set them back a hefty £1,008 during that time, the Sony Xperia Z is also available on a SIM-free or PAYG basis from £549.99.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Design

Highlighting Sony’s renewed efforts on the smartphone scene, the Sony Xperia Z is one of the most visually impressive handsets on the market today, with the device’s expansive 5-inch Full HD display encased by a sleek, narrow bezelled design that screams of quality. Making the handset more appealing to all manner of personal tastes, the device is available in black, white and purple colour schemes.

With a glass backed finish, similar to that of the iPhone 4S or Google Nexus 4, the Sony Xperia Z design sees the high-end manufacturing components held together by a minimalist, soft-touch rubber edging, a feature that, whilst maintaining a compact classy appeal, also helps protect the device from inevitable knocks, drops and bumps.

However, as attractive as the Sony Xperia Z design might be out of the box, within minutes of use the device looks like a scruffy smearing pot of greasy fingerprints and unappealing grime marks. Dramatically exaggerated by the glass rear and expansive 5-inch touchscreen display, the handset is hard to keep in an aesthetically pleasing manner, quickly reverting to excessively smeared after frequent wipe downs. What’s more, thanks to its glass-backed design, the Sony Xperia Z is prone to sliding of all but the flattest of surfaces, an issue only marginally rectified by the slight overhang of the rubberised edging.

Despite its IP57 certification, a rating that sees the handset capable of being submerged in up to 1 metre of water for 30 minutes at a time with no damaging effects, the Sony Xperia Z, like many self-titled ‘rugged’ or ‘lifeproof’ phones, does not suffer from the same aesthetics depleting design issues.

Having run the device under a tap, plunged it into a washing-up bowl and even made a call from the shower, we can safely say that the Sony Xperia Z waterproof credentials live up to their billing, leaving the handset in need of just a simple wipe down before going about its day-to-day tasks. Aiding this IP57 rating, all the handset’s ports are covered by hinged protective caps, tethered to the handset by sturdy plastic connections, components which offer more reassurance and a longer expected lifespan than those featured on some rival devices. Helping further ensure against water damage, the handset alerts you if these ports are left open.

Although the 5-inch form factor feels sizeable within the hand, thanks to the device’s slim line design, it is by no means overpowering, presenting a largely comfortable user experience when grasped in either a left or right handed manner.

One area where the Sony Xperia Z design could be improved, however, is in its button placement. Featuring just two physical controls – the customary power/sleep button and a volume rocker – both buttons are located in the middle of the device’s right hand side, a positioning that saw a stray finger accidentally toggle the volume setting on all too frequent a basis.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Screen

One of the handset’s key selling points, the Sony Xperia Z screen is a bright, vibrant and expansive delight, offering pin-sharp detail to images whilst making video playback an immersive joy.

A 5-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen offering that boasts 10-finger multitouch capabilities, the Sony Xperia Z screen benefits from a staggering 441 pixels-per-inch image density for ultra-sharp, detailed images, as well as featuring a 16 million colour contrast ratio. What’s more, with a 1920 x 1080p resolution, Sony’s latest flagship offering is capable of supporting Full HD video playback, perfect for those keen on on-the-go movie and TV consumption.

With fluid, fuss-free screen transitions, the display found on the Sony Xperia Z helps create a more natural and engaging user experience, with tasks such as skipping between homescreens, scrolling through menus and browsing across web pages all handled with aplomb and not even the slightest hint of trouble.

Dwarfing the likes of the 4-inch iPhone 5 and seemingly set to line up parallel to the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4, the 5-inch nature of the Sony Xperia Z screen sees the handset further blurring the lines between smartphone and tablet devices, just about fitting in a trouser pocket whilst still offering copious amounts of on-screen real estate.

Sony Xperia Z

Although the handset’s viewing angles are strong, they are not quite the best on the market, dulling brightness and muting colours when viewed from an extremely acute angle. In truth, however, this is an issue which will have little effect on day-to-day usage of the device.

Standing up to performance depleting glare quite well, the Sony Xperia Z screen is coated it a protective shatter proof and scratch-resistant coating, a feature that stood up well to being placed in a pockets with loose change for a couple of days. With an inbuilt light sensor, the Z’s display coped well with jumping between areas of shade and direct sunlight, quickly attuning the handset’s brightness levels to best handle the surrounding elements.

Perfect for movie playback and app-based gaming, the full HD display brings content to life with movies downloaded from the Google Play Store packing more visual punch than on rival handsets. On top of this, games such as Real Racing 3 are accompanied by virtually no motion blur or degrading faults and stutters.

As impressive as the 5-inch Full HD Sony Xperia Z screen is, it does have one major drawback, the monumental drain it has on the handset’s 2330mAh battery reserves, an issue that we will fully address later.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Jedibeeftrix

January 8, 2013, 8:14 am

love the IP57 water and dust proofing, this will be very tempting on a handset too large to use with an otterbox style protective case.

Kevin Gordon

January 8, 2013, 1:36 pm

Nice looking phone. Is being water proof really required though? One of the disadvantages of that is the charging port will obviously have a rubberised cover - my pet hate is fiddling around when wanting to charge. I like having an easy to see and easy to plug charging port.

meerkat82

January 8, 2013, 4:10 pm

Does the waterproofing mean that you can use the phone with wet hands, it's still responsive?
This looks like the best android phone out there - the Samsung's are awfully plasticky and nothing else is catching my eye either (HTC, LG). This is probably my next phone. Just hope Sony don't cock it up somehow and sell us short

nanoktom

January 9, 2013, 8:43 am

According to a review in a local newspaper, the phone has a feature called Wet Finger Tracking. I guess, the name speaks for itself.

Saurav S

January 12, 2013, 6:42 am

Sounds promising. I'd have have gone for it if it had a smaller screen, say about 3.8" or so..

Mattias

January 31, 2013, 6:41 pm

Just buy a charging dock for it, I have one for my Xperia V and it's brilliant. Cheap aswell (Sony Original)

karzan

March 8, 2013, 1:16 pm

hi . Sony Xperia z it's the best

I like Sony Ericsson and I'm just use Sony Ericsson

simon t

March 8, 2013, 9:07 pm

8/10 for the best phone ever made? Terrible, terrible review.

Nate Ebner

March 8, 2013, 9:25 pm

Interesting review. The battery life seems to be sadly inevitable, but the excess heat issue. Isn't that a bit of a deal breaker? I mean if it is too hot to speak into for more than 10 minutes, then it is hardly a functional phone, and if it is uncomfortably hot to handle when using for more than 10 minutes, then it loses usability for media watching, and any prolonged reading etc you might want to do.

Nate Ebner

March 8, 2013, 9:26 pm

The best phone ever made according to who?

Evan

March 8, 2013, 10:04 pm

Yes it works fine with wet hands, even in the shower. The waterproofing is an amazing feature. Its one downfall was battery life. Fingers crossed this is firmware issue that may be fixed by Sony soon. If it wasn't for that we would have scored the phone higher. We'll keep you posted.

Evan

March 8, 2013, 10:06 pm

Where does it say the best phone ever made in the review? If battery life was better and it didn't get so excessively hot it could have scored higher.

Evan

March 8, 2013, 10:09 pm

I think waterproofing is a killer feature (but then I've killed an S3 in water, a big wave doused by iPhone 4 and my missus managed to drown her HTC on a wet camping trip). Wireless charging would have been very complementary to it though.

Captain Kay

March 9, 2013, 11:35 am

Of what I have read elsewherethe phone supports wireless charging, you could use the LG or Nokia wireless chargers if that is the case, but the phone for sure has speciall contacts for charging without opening a cover like Mattias is saying. The dock for that cost around $20.

Also the heat issue you are talking about appears when running games which presses the cpu and gpu to the max. I think it is inevitable for that to happen since you are putting a lot of pressure on the chips inside. I do not think that there is a phone out there that would not get hot doing that. If your phone gets hot during normal usage then you have a faulty product and you have to change it.

Steve Lane

March 9, 2013, 1:18 pm

I have a new Experia Z from Virgin and I have had no problem at all with heat. I am wondering if the review phone was all it should be? The battery life can be improved by the use of built in power saving modes.

Steve Lane

March 9, 2013, 1:19 pm

See my comment to Nate.

Nate Ebner

March 9, 2013, 2:34 pm

That seems quite likely, because if it was a systematic problem, then surely they wouldn't release it. I was slightly surprised that it scored as high as an 8, given the magnitude of the heat problem, because if that was common to all the handsets, then I'd never use it.
Are you enjoying your new phone? How would you score it?

simon t

March 10, 2013, 8:59 pm

I am saying it. Giving a phone like this an 8 out of 10 is insane. Name a better phone? It doesnt suffer from that gastly amoled screen which has horrible screen burn issues and awful colour saturation, its water proof, its got the best android camera, its got the best screen, a cocktail of sony perks like bravia, exmor rs and the playstation store. I mean, what more could you want.
The best you can come up with is a smeary mess over time and an average battery life?

Andrew Sharpe

March 11, 2013, 10:19 am

I'm really excited about this phone. The build quality looks incredible and the specs even better. I'm usually a big iPhone fan because of their design and build (no horrible plastic), but this beats the iPhone 5 hands-down: http://versusio.com/en/apple-i...

Things like the waterproofing and NFC show that Apple dropped the ball a long time ago - it's great to see other big brands like Sony keep on innovating. I just hope it's really not too good to be true....

Evan

March 11, 2013, 12:15 pm

I will be spending some time with the phone (not the review phone - we've got a second one in) and will be updating this review in the coming weeks in case it was a review handset issue.

Evan

March 11, 2013, 12:16 pm

It gets much hotter than and S3 or iPhone 4S when playing Real Racing 3

Pg

March 11, 2013, 2:23 pm

I think water proofing is a great feature and should be standard on pretty much all phones. Can only wonder at the number of wasted phones due to accidently falling in water.

Assuming the water proofing process is environmentally friendly, it would be a great addition to all phones. Whilst I've never wanted to make a call in the shower (will be happy to stay wondering about that one!) I've had to jump out to answer one wondering if I'll break the phone due to handling the phone with wet hands.

Mark Armitage

March 15, 2013, 7:44 am

Initially I had the problems with the battery life and phone getting hot in use but after a few days that abruptly disappeared and the battery life is now excellent and it doesn't heat up much in use. Suggest you test it again after using it for a week. The phone is brilliant.

mikaeljanssonbe

March 22, 2013, 8:54 am

The battery life isn't fair since the process mediaserver has a bug causing it to consume all available CPU resources, causing it never to go into standby mode. It's not supposed to use 62% of the battery life, rather hover around zero when unused by anything playing media (video, music).

Searching around tells me about broken media files sometimes causing the mediaserver to hang. It would be very interesting to see the "estimated time left" and real-world performance with mediaserver running correctly.

See e.g. http://communities.sonyericsso...

rajan p

March 22, 2013, 1:39 pm

Two days back I bought a Sony Xperia Z.. This is my first smatphone.. I am switching from Samsung Hero..

I like the Camera (But I expected more and disapointed).. Best Video Recording.. Superb Screen..

Bad Sound Quality. Bad battery backup.

The battery experience is terrible I say.. Its heating a lot when reading ebooks.. Battery seems to dry soon.. 10% for 15-20 mins.. Not sure its an issue.. Need to monitor it for another day.. I dont even inserted a SIM.

Will i get a replacement if its an issue or I am doomed?

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