First introduced to the world at Las Vegas during the annual Consumer Electronic Show earlier this year, the new Sony Xperia Z is Sony Mobile’s welcome beacon into 2013. Featuring a huge 5-inch full HD 1080p display and a design that is rather different from what Sony Xperia smartphones usually offer, the new Sony Xperia Z is definitely made to command serious attention from consumers.
Said to represent the best of Sony in a smartphone, we take the new Sony Xperia Z out for a spin in order to learn what the latest flagship smartphone by the Japanese electronics giant has to offer for users out there. Click on the Read More link below to begin.
With its almost perfect rectangular shape and fully flat surface, the Xperia Z’s design is indeed a departure from Sony Xperia TX’s (the company’s previous flagship smartphone) arc design. Through a new design philosophy that Sony called as the OmniBalance, Xperia Z’s build quality is quite good especially with the use of tempered glass on both sides of the device. While that might have helped Xperia Z’s achieved its premium feel and look, there is one downside to it though: the smartphone is a huge fingerprint magnet.
Despite standing tall at 139mm thanks to its humongous 5-inch display, the Sony Xperia Z features a relatively sleek profile with a thickness of just 7.9mm. Weighing at 146 grams, it is certainly not the lightest smartphones out there but it is still not what we considered as hefty. The device feels really solid to hold although users with smaller hands might want to be careful or else it might slip or tip over from their hands.
One of the most touted feature of Sony Xperia Z is its IP55 and IP57 durability rating which means that it is able to last for at least 30 minutes being submerged under water with a depth of 1 meter and is also dust resistant. They are pretty much the reason why there are flaps covering almost all of its input/output port with the exceptions of its audio speaker, microphone and docking port.
Personally, I’m not in favor of those flaps since you now require slightly more effort to use those ports but they are indeed a necessity for Xperia Z to defend itself from threat of liquid and dusts. On another hand, I do love the fact that you can easily insert micro SIM card into Xperia by just openig the flap, take out the SIM tray, put your SIM on, slide it back and close the flaps – no need for any tools or tiny pins to pop out the SIM tray.
Just like many Sony Xperia smartphones before it, Sony continues to provide Sony Xperia Z’s with an interface that is clean and minimalist although the overall look and feel is rather new. The UI is actually not far off from Android’s stock interface but there are still quite a number of differences between them.
[L-R] Xperia Z’s lock screen and multi-tasking menu which also features the Small Apps functionality.
One of them would be the Xperia Z’s lock screen which features a different animation all together with shortcuts to camera and music. Additionally, Sony’s Small Apps function made a return once again and can be utilized through the multi-tasking menu. In terms of pre-loaded apps, majority of them comes from Sony itself such as Sony Car, WisePilot, Xperia Link and Walkman audio player.
[L – R] Sony Car and Walkman audio player.
However, the PlayStation Mobile is missing from the device though as the app is not yet available in Malaysia for the time being. The Xperia Z also comes with a number of third party apps such as McAfee Mobile Security and MobiSystem OfficeSuite 7.
In addition to the sleek and commanding design, the new Sony Xperia Z is also equipped with top-notch hardware such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 chipset and 2GB worth of RAM which really suit its status as Sony Mobile’s new flagship device. Hence, it is not a surprise that the smartphone didn’t have any problem to excel at almost all the performance benchmarks that we threw at it although we do found that the keyboard in our review unit is slightly sluggish at times.
Thanks to its full HD 1080p resolution and high pixel density count, the Sony Xperia Z’s display output is quite good with crisp graphics and with the help of the Mobile Bravia Engine 2 visual enhancement, it offers great color contrast as well. However, the same thing can’t be said about the brightness level of the display though as it is lower than what we expected and thus, we found ourselves pushing the brightness settings really close to the maximum level in order to achieve the satisfactory level of brightness.
At the same time, the Sony Xperia Z is built with only a single speaker which is located on the lower right side of the device. As you can imagine, the output is rather mediocre, lack of bass response and often soft unless you increased the volume level closer to maximum and make sure the device’s xLoud volume booster is activated as well.
How about it’s much touted water resistant feature? Well, it definitely functions as claimed by Sony and has already been proven by tons of water test videos that are readily available on YouTube as well as our own little “test” right here:
As long as you make sure that all the flaps on the smartphones are closed tightly before you decide to toss it into water although we not sure what kind of users that would simply toss their smartphone into water for fun. That being said, we have to say that dunking the Sony Xperia Z into water is actually a great party trick.
The Sony Xperia Z is equipped with a main camera that features a 13.1-megapixels Exmor RS sensor which Sony claims able to perform well in low-light conditions. The sensor also comes with HDR function that users can apply to both still images and video recording as well as 16x digital zoom capability.
At the same time, Sony has also equipped a 2.2-megapixels Exmor R sensor into Xperia Z’s front-facing camera which also comes with HDR function. Both camera supports full HD 1080p video recording as well.
Another various options that Sony has equipped into the Xperia Z’s main camera is a mode called Superior Auto which automatically applies HDR and noise reduction whenever the device feels the need for them. Hence, we choose to utilize the mode for all of our sample images from the main camera below.
Main camera on Superior Auto mode with flash disabled.
Truth to be told, many of these sample images and videos looked pretty good on the Xperia Z’s display but once we take them out and loaded into our computers, things are often different. Many times the actual colors are not as vibrant as shown of Xperia Z’s display even though the overall quality of the camera’s output is still slightly better than an average smartphone in general.
Main camera on Superior Auto mode with flash enabled.
Furthermore, samples taken under low-light conditions are not as great as what Sony claimed to be. In our indoor test (our HQ uses warm white compact fluorescent lamps), we observed that the camera tried to compensate the output’s white balance when we shot our test subjects without flash and did fairly OK but when shot with flash (shown above), the white balance is rather off.
Additionally, there are times where there is a noticeable delay of 2 to 5 seconds to activate the camera. Granted that such delay didn’t happen all the time but they do happen often enough for us to take notice.
Front-facing camera, auto mode.
As for Xperia Z’s front-facing camera, its output is fairly alright as compared to most of the smartphone out there but of course, the quality is still not quite there yet. The noise is even greater when the camera is used under low-light conditions.
Our experience with the Sony Xperia Z has shown that the smartphone is able to go through heavy usage (which include prolonged data-related activity such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp as well as gaming) for at least 5 hours, with 3G connection activated and display brightness is set to 50% with the option adapt to lighting conditions enabled. With the same 3G and display settings, we also found that the device is able to last for more than 8 hours through average usage.
When put through the GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C24Z16 Battery Test with 100% Brightness 60 FPS Max settings, the Xperia Z able to last for 2h 55min from a full-charged battery to empty. That figure outnumbered HTC Butterfly by a significant margin as we ran similar test on the HTC 5-incher and manage to achieve around 2h 03 min of battery life.
Another thing that we believe worth a mention is Xperia Z’s power saving modes which enable users to prolong the smartphone’s battery life even further than what we have mentioned above. One being the STAMINA mode which disables mobile data and Wi-Fi whenever the display is turned off. However, users still able to receive phone calls, SMS/MMS, calendar notifications and alarm signal.
Any downloads and uploads in progress will not be affected as well. Additionally, there is also the low battery mode which would disable certain functions once the device’s battery hits a certain limit. Both the functions and battery limit can be set by users themselves. Last but not least, the third power saving mode in Xperia Z would be the location-based Wi-Fi connectivity where users are able to set the device to connect to Wi-Fi network whenever the network is detected.
Even though the device is built around a brand new design philosophy, the arrival of Sony Xperia Z marks yet another continuation in Sony Mobile’s long-standing tradition of producing fine flagship devices. This is obviously due to Xperia Z’s sleek design and high quality construction that are paired together with a good selection of powerful hardware.
We particularly love Sony Xperia Z’s 5-inch 1080p display which is a joy to look at – thanks to its crisp colors and good level of contrast – even though its brightness level is slightly lower than what we expected. We also love how Sony pays a lot of attention into extending Xperia Z’s battery life via the STAMINA mode. Being water and dust resistant only sweeten up the whole package.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect device and for Sony Xperia Z, we are left feeling a little bit underwhelmed by its rear camera. While it is still able to churn out images and videos with higher quality than an average smartphone but we expect it to be able to perform better especially in low-light conditions. Additionally, we are also quite baffled at Sony’s decision to include just one tiny speaker into Xperia Z especially since the company is the creator of Walkman and is experience enough when it comes to audio experience.
At RM 2199, Xperia Z’s price tag is neither too high nor too low and is expected for a flagship device especially with features and hardware that are packed into it.
At the same time, we do realized that its existence might be soon shadowed by a number of other high-end Android smartphones that are heading to the market in the very near future such as HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S IV. It is a tough market after all with new devices coming into the market very frequently but nevertheless, Xperia Z’s premium design and hardware are capable enough to help it stays relevant in the market for quite some time.
– Premium and sleek design that is rather different from previous Xperia releases.
– Water and dust resistant, increases Xperia Z’s durability against natural elements. It is also a great party trick.
– Powerful hardware that should be able to keep users feel capable for quite a while.
– Non-intrusive UI skin.
– Crisp display output with good contrast, thanks to its 1080p resolution and Mobile Bravia 2 Engine.
– Main camera is packed with user-tweakable settings and features.
– Battery life is rather good.
– STAMINA mode that really focuses on battery life longevity once activated
– Fingerprint magnet due to the glass surface.
– Equipped with only a single speaker which often resulted in weak output especially for slow, less upbeat music.
– Display’s brightness level is rather low, in general.
– Keyboard slightly sluggish at times.
– Noticeable slow start up time for its camera.
– The actual quality of the camera output might not be the same as shown on the device’s display.
– The main camera slightly underperformed in low-light conditions.
The new Sony Xperia Z is available in the market right now for RM 2,199. Visit www.sonymobile.com.my for further information.