The big battle for survival. 2013 is going to be a do-or-die battle for many notable mobile companies, so expect aggressive products with cutting edge technology, design and features and also good amount of marketing blitzkrieg.
Sony has declared it would like to be the third biggie in the mobile league with Apple and Samsung sitting comfortably on the top. So, the Japanese giant might be heard ‘May the force be with us’ with the launch of it’s new flagship model, Xperia Z. Going by the early indications of the device Xperia Z does indeed has the momentum in it. Oh, wait any doubts on that? We are here to find it out and let you know in our Sony Xperia Z review.
A super- slim design cased in glass slabs, crispier large display and who-cares-about-dust-and-water am born resistant makes Xperia Z pretty interesting and a phone that shouts no-nonsense attitude and commands attention, something which was rarely seen from Sony of late.
My initial thought? Sony does finally seem to have got a hint of how a flagship device really should be and the targeted buyers pulse.
The Design – Dressed to kill
First impression is the best impression has been told and retold many a times, as I caught my first glimpse on Xperia Z, it got all the right vibes to impress. A plain black slab? Yes but Sony manages to present it beautifully and the device looks all premium and high quality. Made of tempered glass both in the front and back with reflective coating and fibreglass inserts on the sides, Z looks classy with solid built. No glossy plastics and chrome embellishments here, thankfully.
Being a 5-incher , the Sony Xperia Z is undoubtedly large at 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm, occupying your entire palm though it does not sit awkward in hands and we get used to it pretty quick. Weighing 146g, it is heavier than iPhone 5 but then hey, it is quiet bigger and dwarfs the apple phone. So for the large device, it does feel light on palms and no one should be complaining.
Being water-resistant and dust-resistant, Xperia Z is well encased and closed, so all the ports and slots are closed by watertight port covers. The ports are spaced out neatly with the headphone jack up top, the microSD and charging ports are on the left, alongside contacts for accessories. The most attractive design feature that adds to the style volume is the protruding silver power/standby button similar to the crown of a watch. It is flanked on either side by the SIM slot and volume rocker. On the bottom there is no port but you get a lanyard hole.
The front of Xperia Z has only a Sony logo and front-camera along with sensors and notification LED while the rear sports the Sony Xperia logo, an NFC symbol, camera lens and LED light and a microphone. You also find various tech info printed on it in the bottom.
The device comes in a choice of black, white and purple but irrespective of what color you choose, you get a dark black slab on the front.
The hardware – dressed to perform
We mentioned Sony Xperia Z features a 5-inch display. Now more about the display, it’s a TFT display with a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution that packs in a 441 ppi pixel density. The full HD display may not be featuring a AMOLED screen or super LCD 3 but the display is quiet vivid,bright and crispier. Thanks to Sony’s own Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 what you see on-screen be it images or texts look brilliant especially when you look straight at the screen. Though, the viewing angles from the sides has small reasons to complain.
The Xperia Z is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm S4 Pro quad-core processor clubbed to a 2GB RAM and an Adreno 320 chip for processing graphics. Sneaked in is a 16 GB internal storage which can be expanded upto 32 GB via microSD card.
Another highlight of the Xperia Z is the ever-increasing camera mega pixels. Wasn’t it just couple of years back we were shooting with a 3 MP rear camera? It’s 2013 and not just the big phones are the norm but also bigger mega pixels, though there is no correlation that bigger the mega pixel better the picture quality. Ask HTC.
Xperia Z packs a 13.1 mega-pixel Exmor RS rear camera shooting at 4128 x 3096 pixels with autofocus, LED flash along with features like geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, image stabilization, HDR, sweep panorama along with other selection modes. The front shooter is a 2.2 MP quiet good for video calls and self shots. The camera app on the lockscreen means you can fire the shooter instantly from the lock screen. A dedicated physical camera shutter button would have been a welcome addition. I am surprised Sony decided to omit it in Xperia Z while it’s twin sibling Xperia ZL features it. Why Sony why?
The Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery is non-removable. We will discuss about the battery performance especially the stamina mode later in the review.
Software and Performance
Xperia Z ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and thanks to Project butter navigation is a delight and without any lags. The device is quiet fast and blazing thanks to the software and hardware setup. Though we don’t see a heavy blend of custom overlays like Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC Sense 5, Sony has added it’s own few tweaks and customizations.
When you on the phone quiet an interesting small addition is the unlocking gesture of the lock screen. You sweep you finger that opens something like windows blind and opens the home screen. It’s a refreshing screen gesture.
Two shortcuts are present in the lock screen to directly unlock and fire the Camera app and Walkman app (for playing music). Unfortunately, you cannot customize or change the app shortcuts.
So how to navigate? Sony Xperia Z does not come with physical keys nor dedicated capacitive buttons, instead you get an on-screen buttons similar to Nexus devices. So everything is done through the screen. So you get the standard back, home and multitasking – on-screen buttons. Tap them they appear and then disappear. Neat.
Sony has ditched stock android keyboard and browser and replaced it with it’s own Xperia keyboard and chrome browser. How is the keyboard? Verdict is split. You might like it or not. If you don’t , simply find an alternate from Google Play. As for me, I don’t have much to complain. It works once you get the hands on it. You can use it as a standard touch QWERTY or add few shortcuts to it, if you want to. You can also Swipe through or use it as plain old T9 input. Predictive typing is quiet decent and intuitive.
The notification tray gives access to toggle sound, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile data and a shortcut to the settings menu. There is also a widget that gives direct quick access to toggle on/off more settings.
Also included are additional apps like a Back up & restore app, McAfee Security, NeoReader for reading QR codes, a Notes app, TrackID (a Shazam like music recognition app), PlayNow, Smart Connect (somewhat similar to Samsung Galaxy Page buddy option, it lets users set an event when an accessory is connected to the phone), Xperia Link (to share Internet connectivity with Sony devices), and Wisepilot (for navigation).
Sony’s gallery app ‘Album’ allows the users to view their online pictures from online services like Facebook and Picasa directly from the gallery app in addition to displaying the pictures stored in the phone. You also get a built-in photo editor within the app.
To boost the battery performance, Sony Xperia Z offers a Stamina mode for better power management. When the phone is on Stamina mode, it disables mobile data when screen is off, thereby ensuring the battery is not wasted for juicing up apps hungry on network data. In case, you want to allow few apps to access network data, you can customize and allow the apps you want to keep running when the screen is off.
There is also other power management options like low battery mode and location based WiFi.
Irrespective of 13.1 MP camera, Sony doesn’t exactly fire up the camera department. The new Exmor sensor does provide for a good low light shooting capabilities. Yes, there is lot of scene modes to choose from but most smartphones have it these days. There are few ‘extra touches’ like smile mode. Yes, we all know smile mode is there in even budget smartphones now but Sony has added the smile mode to allow you to choose between big smiles, average smiles or small smiles. Yes, I am serious about it. No laughing matter here. How far it works, we will cover in an extensive camera shoot-out review later. As far the real image talk, Sony Xperia Z does not gives a mind-blowing result but good images that you expect from a premium device.
Sony’s Walkman app comes alive in Xperia Z to provide for a beautiful music experience. The app stands out even on visual count the way it spreads out the tunes, albums and the visualizer. Even on a basic earphone the music is lively thanks to the Walkman app pushing the sound experience to the hilt and you have lots of settings to fiddle around. Similar to DLNA, Sony has what it calls ‘Throw’ where you can stream media from your phone to other compatible devices. As mentioned earlier, the lockscreen has a Walkman app shortcut for quick access.
With a big screen real estate, it’s understood Xperia Z gives a good video watching experience. Add to that the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 backed crisp and vibrant display watching movies is a pleasure. Being a full HD display, it plays all full HD movies and plays almost all video formats. Xperia Z really comes all out as a handy media device on the move.
The massive 2330mAh battery gives a decent output and combined with smart power management options including the stamina mode we talked about earlier, you might not complain much.
Overall, the performance and user experience of Sony Xperia Z is up to it’s premium mark.
In India Sony also offers for free an ear can (MDR-ZX-100A) worth Rs. 1490 and a case.
The final verdict …
- Brilliant full HD display
- Solid build quality
- Water and dust resistance
- Great media experience
- Good all around performance
- Non-removable battery
- Side viewing angles
Sony has finally found its winning punches with Xperia Z. With a minimalistic yet captivating design, a brilliant full HD display, a spectacular media experience to bask in and good features combined with the water and dust resistance ability places Xperia Z on a winner’s pedestal.
With a price tag of Rs. 38,990 ( US $ 708) in India, Sony has smartly priced it’s flagship model. With freebies like headset and case thrown in, Xperia Z is more attractive.
But Sony has to battle it out with HTC One and not to forget the new Goliath, Galaxy S4, Samsung will unleash on March 14. The good news is this year, Sony has a worthy candidate to battle out the smartphone war. For now, Sony has sounded the war bugle in style and looks pretty armed.