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Sony Xperia Z Ultra Review


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  • Colourful screen
  • Powerful CPU performance
  • Sleek, slim design


  • Too big to use as a phone
  • Pen input not perfect
  • Battery drops off quickly
  • No camera flash

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £600.00
  • 6.44 inch Full-HD screen
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz processor
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 8-megapixel rear camera

What is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra?

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is a big ol’ phone. It’s huge in fact. After the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega, Sony is pushing the limits of what is acceptable to carry in your pocket with this giant 6.4-inch Android smartphone.

It has a Full HD display, is almost as thin as the world’s slimmest phone the Huawei Ascend P6, and runs on the same powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core CPU that impressed so much on the Sony Xperia Z1. It has all the ingredients to make it a hugely desirable phone. There’s just one rather large problem – did we mention it’s massive?

Sony Xperia Z Ultra product 14

Sony Xperia Z Ultra – Design

Sony has found a look for its Xperia range. It’s something very different to what Apple, HTC and Samsung are currently doing. The Xperia Z Ultra sandwiches front and back glass panels between an aluminium frame – Sony calls it the ‘Omni-Balance’ design.

The Xperia Z Ultra has an anti-scratch plastic film on both sides to protect it from your keys and coins like the Xperia Z. And it’s available in white, black and purple.

The corners are subtly curved and don’t press into the palm when holding. Compared to the Galaxy Mega 6.3 this feels like a phone you can be proud to show off, until people realise it’s not a tablet, that is.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra product 10

Like the Xperia Z1, the Z Ultra is dust-proof and IP8-certified so when the rubber-sealed latches on its sides are closed it is waterproof at five feet depth for 30 minutes. The original Z can only be dunked down to three feet.

It’s great that there’s an improvement in waterproof-ness in the Xperia Z Ultra, but the lack of a camera trigger button makes the water resistance far less useful, unless you have a habit of dropping your phone in the bath or swimming pool.

The Sony Xperia Z Ultra is amazingly thin – just 6.5mm thick. In comparison, the Mega 6.3 is 8mm and the world’s slimmest smartphone, the Huawei Ascend is 6.2mm.

At 212g, the Z Ultra it is slightly heavier than the Mega 6.3 (199g), but considering the more premium materials used, it’s not really a surprise.

If there is one thing most Samsung and Sony phones share these days, it’s the lack of consistency of button, port and speaker placement. The aluminium on/off button and volume rocker stay put and are now joined by microSD and microSIM card slots. The microUSB port is still over on the left with the 3.5mm headphone jack opposite it on the right.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra product 5

The most frustrating change is the decision to move the Xperia Z Ultra’s speaker to the bottom of the phone so in landscape mode you regularly block the speaker with your hand and drown out the sound. The good news is that the latches across the card slots are far more robust than on previous Xperia smartphones leaving us confident they will withstand a bit more punishment.

As for single-handed operation, it’s literally a tall order. Even the biggest-handed folk will struggle to get to grips with the Xperia Z Ultra. It’s a stretch to reach a thumb to the centre of the screen never, mind the top of it. 

Holding in landscape the weight does start to become a slight issue too. Once you hold it in two hands everything changes. It’s a reason to think of the Z Ultra more as a tablet than a phone.

Unlike most tablets, the Xperia Z Ultra fits in a pocket, but doesn’t leave much room for anything else. You wouldn’t want to bend down too far with the thing in there. It can fit into the back pocket as well if you want but you are probably asking for it to get nicked.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra product 3

Sony Xperia Z Ultra – Screen Quality

Where the Z Ultra wipes the floor with the Mega 6.3 is the screen. Sony taken tech from its TV business and bunged it into this phone.

The Z Ultra has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution TFT display with Sony’s Bravia Engine 2 and Triluminos display tech. The aim is to offer exceptionally natural colours and sharper images.The screen improves massively on the Xperia Z and the ‘sensor on lens’ technology clearly helps to improve the viewing angles. 

The range and depth of colours is where the Z Ultra really impresses. It offers rich, vibrant surroundings for HD video and photos. Where it does lack slightly is sharpness. Despite the vivid colours, the 344 pixels per inch density doesn’t entirely hold up on the big Z Ultra screen – in part thanks to the less-than-amazing contrast.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra product 12

Sony’s capacitive screen supports 10-point multitouch and more interestingly offers pen input. It doesn’t come with its own stylus like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but you can use a normal pencil, ballpoint pen or even a coin to interact with the screen.

It does work, but with varying results. Picking up a pencil first, the screen struggles to even register the interaction. It’s the same with a ballpoint pen, trying to apply the correct amount of pressure and angle to register a response. We actually had more luck using a coin, opening up the app launcher, swiping through homescreens and drawing in the Sketch application.

Xperia Z Ultra screenshots 3

As you can imagine, it’s quite difficult trying to write with a 5p coin and the slimness of the Ultra Z makes it difficult to rest your palm like you can on the Galaxy Note 8.0, for instance, to get a comfortable writing position. Samsung clearly doesn’t have anything to immediately worry about in this department just yet.

We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Used as our main phone for the review period

Reviewed using respected industry benchmarks and real world testing

Always has a SIM card installed

Tested with phone calls, games and popular apps

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