Review: Sony Xperia Z
The Xperia Z is a premium smartphone that manages to be waterproof and dustproof without looking at all 'rugged' on the exterior.
Zara Baxter | Thursday, March 07 2013 | 4 Comments
Product type: Smartphone
RRP incl GST: $999
- Full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) screen
- Waterproof to 1m for 30 minutes
- 1.5GHz quad-core processor
- 2GB RAM, 16GB onboard storage
- microSD card slot
Summary: Beautiful, talented... and waterproof.
The Xperia Z is nothing like any rugged smartphone I’ve ever seen before. But perhaps that’s because it isn’t strictly ‘rugged’. It’s waterproof and dustproof, yes - you can dunk it in a bucket of freshwater and it will still receive calls. It has shatterproof, tempered glass, yes. But when it comes to dropping it – I’m not game to find out how resilient it is.
The glass front and rear of the Xperia Z make it look fragile - okay, very attractive, but fragile. It’s paper thin - sony states that it's just 7.9mm, and contrives to seem even thinner because of its 5-inch screen and rubberised surround. Unlike most consumer phones – but in common with the iPhone 5 – it’s a monolith of a phone. It’s a simple black slab – as is the Xperia Z tablet – and it proved to be a head-turner while out and about.
A square black slab isn’t the most comfortable thing to hold, though, and I found the Xperia Z’s size and blockiness less comfortable than, say, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which has a screen around the same size. I also find the iPhone 5 uncomfortable to hold, though, so I acknowledge that I may be an outlier. The only thing that protrudes from the rubber surround is the on-off button, placed squarely where your thumb rests while you’re holding it in portrait mode. Even the headphone jack, power port and sim-slot are covered under reasonably robust rubber covers that keep out water and grime.
Underneath that monolithic black exterior is an amazing screen - at 5 inches and with 1920 x 1080 resolution, it boasts 440 pixels per inch, which is higher than the iPhone 5’s retina screen. While it’s perhaps not as bright as some screens, it’s in no way inferior because of that. Text is crisp, contrast is good and colours are vivid.
The Xperia Z runs Android Jellybean (4.1), with a few Sony specific additions. The software in general runs pretty smoothly. Aside from quick-access to music or camera from the home screen, the phone uses an up-swipe or down-swipe to access the home screen. There are five screens to hold widgets and apps - mine was set up with music widgets on one, quick-settings widgets on another, and two blank pages for me to fill.
The Sony additions to Android include Socialife social media stream, Sony Select apps, a Sony Album rather than the standard Gallery app, Movies, WALKMAN and Wisepilot drive navigation. These apps are generally good – slight tweaks on the usual Android apps without eliminating anything you want or need. The Album, for example, puts your most recent photo and video at four times the size of the other thumbnails for easy viewing and you can geotag items, “throw” them to a TV, or create a SensMe slideshow, with music and themes, that automatically adds face recognition.
Also a Sony addition is One Touch, which lets you tap your phone to a One Touch enabled device, such as the MDR-1rbt headphones that Sony loaned us, to pair the devices and start playing music through them. It’s a nice addition, and it will be interesting to see how many One Touch devices appear in the near future, from Sony and other manufacturers. Unfortunately, the OneTouch system didn’t work when we tried it with the headphones, but we had an early release phone, without the final version of the software, so we hope that any issues will be solved in the final release.
Apps are slower than I expected with the Xperia Z - not only does swiping to the home screen give you a momentary pause, but intensive apps such as Super Monsters Ate My Condo were a little sluggish. It’s by no means a dealbreaker, however. The 1.5GHz quad-core processor in the Xperia Z combined with 2GB RAM means that running your apps is no chore, and it’s pretty zippy – it’s just not as fast as we’d expected. The Antutu benchmark, a measure of overall Android performance, gave us results that were very high - slightly lower than the Galaxy Note II, but above the Galaxy S III.
You get 16GB of storage to store apps on the Xperia Z, which seems low given the emphasis on high definition multimedia.
The camera on the Xperia Z is excellent. It handles low light, bright daylight, macro, portrait and landscape with aplomb. I’ve not met a camera phone that could deliver such crisp looking macro shots, ever. It takes 1080p video, too.
Audio playback is a little distorted and muddy at higher volumes, even with the Walkman app, but it’s good, as long as you keep the volume below half. The issues are reduced when you use headhones, so this seems like mostly a speaker problem. Another speaker problem is its placement at the lower right hand side of the phone – I put my thumb over it all-too-often when listening to songs.
The only aspect of the Xperia Z I didn’t much like was the battery life. I didn’t get 24 hours of use out of it, even with relatively light usage - Wi-Fi on, twenty minutes of web access on the way to and from work, and only email sync. When I switched off Wi-Fi and switched on Stamina mode - which stops syncing when the phone’s screen is off, I managed a slightly better 30 hours. It’s still less than I’d hope from a 2300mAh battery. It’s one of the Xperia Z’s few downsides, though, so if you always have a charger handy, or can be ruthless about avoiding the smarts that a smartphone is most handy for, it may not seem such a huge flaw.
Overall, the Xperia Z is sleek, good-looking and powerful. It runs a modern Android operating system, with Sony software that adds to, rather than detracts from, the Android experience. Rarely will you find a water-resistant phone looking this good and working this well, let alone one that’s waterproof and dustproof.
Posted by NZtechfreak at 22:49:32 on March 11, 2013
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