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Sony Xperia Z Review - Interface, Usability, Contacts, Calling and Camera

Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson



Our Score:


Sony Xperia Z Interface and Usability

Simple, fluid and, for the large part efficient, the Sony Xperia Z interface is much of what you would expect from Google’s Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS, with a few additional Sony UI features thrown into the mix for good measure.

With seven fully customisable homescreens available, the Sony Xperia Z interface benefits from the usual Android furniture such as app shortcuts and widgets, all easily changed simply by holding down on the screen and dragging items at will into desired locations. As well as the usual email and calendar widgets, both of which integrate seamlessly to offer stunningly simple business benefits, the handset also offers interactive homescreen access to the MP3 loving Walkman features, photo galleries and video content, all welcome additions that improve the handset’s entertainment capabilities.

Although the Sony Xperia Z keyboard benefits from Swype style input options, the handset is less naturally instinctive to use than some rival offerings, including many which run the same Android OS. Creating a slightly stilted experience, the handset’s keyboard fails to naturally integrate key punctuation on the base input option, such as full stops and commas. As a result, typing an email, message or note is broken up by repeated jumping between input menus, a needless irritant that could so simply have been avoided.

Sony Xperia Z

As has become the case with high-end Android handsets of late, multitasking on the Z is a breeze with fast, single touch access bringing up instant shortcuts to all currently opened and recently used apps and services. Further enhancing the user experience, a tap of the multitasking button, one of the trio of touch-based controls found on all Android devices alongside ‘Home’ and ‘Back’, offers shortcut access to a number of handy features such as note pad.

With a calculator, voice recorder and timer also featuring on this shortcut list, the quick access tools handily sit as an overlay on any content currently being viewed, perfect for quick note taking or on-the-fly business needs. What’s more, these self-titled ‘small apps’ can be added to through the Google Play Store.

In terms of usability, the Sony Xperia Z has one major drawback attributed more to the handset’s hardware than software offerings, during continued use it gets very, very uncomfortably hot.

Concentrating its excessive heat to the top of the handset’s rear (presumably where the 2330mAh battery is located), this handset becomes noticeably warm following just five minutes of use, becoming uncomfortable to hold around 20 minutes into continued use. As well as becoming uncomfortable to hold, if required to make or receive call, this excess heat quickly transfers to your ear, making for an extremely unpleasant user experience.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Contacts, Calling and Browser

Once again featuring slight enhancements of the already strong Android Jelly Bean base, the Sony Xperia Z is brimmed with simple, user appeasing features that make creating and syncing contacts a breeze.

Allowing you to sync contacts with the likes of Gmail and Facebook, the contacts list quickly becomes filled with all manner of communication methods, as well as adding Facebook images to contacts for the added personal touch that brings the otherwise stoic list of names to life.

In terms of call quality, the Sony Xperia Z is a strong, albeit far from ground-breaking performer. Whilst calls are without excessive distortion and dropped calls were a non-existent concern, during our time we the device at least, we still felt slightly distanced from those we were talking to.

In reducing excessive background noise, the Sony Xperia Z allows you to focus on the voice of the person you are talking to. However, in doing this it gives an almost tunnelling effect to the audio, with the hollow sounds feeling slightly distant and without much substance.

On the browser front and the device is classic Android fodder with Google’s Chrome browser running the show, although alternatives can be downloaded via the Google Play Store.

Brimmed with handy, easy to use features, the Sony Xperia Z browser, is beautifully simple to use although, like when crafting messages, the handset’s text input methods are lacking slightly in intuitive options. Missing a dedicated ‘.com’ button, the handset’s keyboards forces unnecessarily laborious URL entry, an issue that although slightly irritating at first quickly becomes increasingly annoying.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Camera

Kicking the smartphone camera scene into a higher gear, the Sony Xperia Z is one of the first devices to come boasting a 13-megapixel sensor, and, what’s more, one that is capable of producing largely impressive shots in all manner of shooting conditions.

Although the Sony Xperia Z camera can, at times, be a little slow to kick into action, images produced are, for the large part relatively impressive. That said, in settings of poor, middling lighting, the handset can quickly become unstuck, failing to swiftly and accurately meter the light sources to produce well balanced images. Instead, whilst the flash works well in indoor environments, shooting outside in dull, shaded conditions, pictures can frequently be downcast and lacking any form of detail or clarity.

Sony Xperia Z

The overall impressive nature of the Sony Xperia Z, however, is highlighted when shooting in areas of good light. Testament to the snapper’s prowess, a number of manufacturers have acquired the same camera optics for use in their own high-end handset, including the likes of Huawei for the newly unveiled Huawei Ascend P2.

An area of shooting where the Sony Xperia Z camera produces surprisingly strong results, is when utilising the snapper’s digital zoom capabilities. Although usually a sure fire way to secure yourself terrible images of blocked pixelisation, on the Z, the zoom is surprisingly inoffensive. Although still some way off the benefits of an optical zoom, the digital offering allowed us to narrow in on targeted subject matter with only minor degrading of the end results.

Sony Xperia Z

Playing host to a raft of additional, performance enhancing features, the Sony Xperia Z benefits from the likes of ‘smile shutter’, ‘quick launch’ and a bevy of effects and filters. Although these do not improve the image quality of captured images in any way, they are a welcome addition that provides a pleasing selection of options for fussy users.

With the Xperia Z capable of capturing 1080p Full HD videos, the handset further enhances its camera credentials by allowing users to take stills shots whilst recording video. Although these mid-recording shots are limited to 1-megapixel, in practise the results are not without merit and offering a welcome addition to the handset’s features list.

Sony Xperia Z

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


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.


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


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..


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)


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?


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.


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.


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/appl...

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....


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.


March 11, 2013, 12:16 pm

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


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.

Mikael Jansson

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.sonyeric...

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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