The Xperia Z features a 1.5 GHz quadcore processor, 2 GB of RAM, 13.1 megapixel camera, HDR even in video mode, 16GB internal memory and a microSD memory card slot.
All this is packaged in a jacket that is certified to withstand a splash in the water and also keeps dust out. Where Sony Ericsson often followed the crowd in the past, it is now at the forefront of a generation of smartphones with the latest specifications and large screens that will be released this year. Think of the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Still, we shouldn't forget the Nokia Lumia 920.
What's with the device?
In the flat, square, white box, half of the surface is taken up by the device. In the layer below, we find a headphone and a microUSB cable with an adapter plug for the socket. Furthermore some paperwork to make it easier to use the Sony Xperia Z. In the device we found a 2GB microSD memory card. Although the headphones are of the in-ear model, the caps are quite large. The rubber sleeves also seem a bit difficult to remove. The 2,330 mAh battery is stuck in the device.
It won't surprise anyone that the Xperia Z isn't a little boy. What do you want with a 5.0-inch display? Still, our white test specimen looks pretty elegant. The back and sides are lined with white plastic and the edges are made shockproof using, what looks like, plastic with a brushed metal look. Besides white, the Xperia Z is also available in purple and black.
The size of the Xperia Z sees it not in the width but more in the length. The edges along the screen are kept nice and thin on the side, but at the bottom it is proportionally wide. Because the back of the device is very smooth and the edges feel relatively sharp, the device is not really comfortable in one hand. On the right side of the device are the speaker, power button and volume buttons. The buttons are easy for a right-handed person to operate with their thumb.
The tight lines of the sides are further interrupted at the top and left and right sides by the flaps that cover the various openings of the unit. Even though it has been fitted as neatly as possible, this is a bit messy. The respective openings are to the left for the USB cable and microSD memory card. On the top for the headphones and on the right for the microSIM card.
Because the inside is not accessible and the appliance has to withstand dust and water, there is little to be said for its construction quality. After a week it turned out that the back side is somewhat sensitive to scratches. Fortunately, this does not apply to the camera lens. The camera lens is sunk a little bit into the camera. The advantage of the white version is that you do not see these scratches very quickly, just like fingerprints.
Although it is of course a nice idea to know that your phone is dust- and waterproof, there is also a shadow side to it as far as we are concerned. The covers are not very sturdy and are especially in the way when connecting the charger and headphones. Moreover, the device is no longer waterproof if you are listening to music through the headphones. It is also not possible to use a second battery to increase the standby time.
It has long been a recurring item in our reviews but also in the smartphone world in general. A larger screen often does not have a good influence on the endurance of the phone. Despite the fact that the Xperia Z has a fairly large battery, this device does not seem to be an exception to this rule. A significant part of the battery charge is absorbed by the screen.
With some art and aerial work, the 24 hours can just be filled on one battery charge. In part, Xperia Z is able to facilitate this art and flying by means of energy-saving modes. There are the Stamina, low battery and WiFi on-site modes. The latter two will speak for themselves, but the Stamina mode requires some explanation.
This turns off mobile data as soon as the device enters standby mode. This means that emails, WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages and Twitter mentions will no longer be automatically received by the device when the screen is turned off. However, you can add apps, such as WhatsApp, to the exceptions list to keep them active.
In addition to all this, as a user you will also have to train your self-control to keep yourself from taking the device out of standby mode a lot. In this way, Xperia Z can accompany you away from home and the power outlet for an entire working day, but whether it is very practical is of course questionable.
Sony has provided the internal speaker with the necessary options to improve the sound quality. Clear Phase automatically adjusts the sound quality and xLOUD improves the sound level. These are options that you have to tick yourself in the settings menu and we would have preferred Sony to just make sure that the sound quality is fine by default.
For example, the volume may not be very high during a conversation, sometimes the conversation partner sounds a little silenced. We also experienced an echo in our own voice during a few conversations. Our conversation partner did not hear this but it was no less annoying. Funny is that you can even turn on the equalizer for calls. Strange is the function to slow down the sound of the other caller.
The Xperia Z is the first device with a Full HD display and you can see that. Or rather, not to be seen. In our opinion, it is impossible for the naked eye to distinguish individual pixels on the screen. This screen has 1920 x 1080 pixels. In addition, Sony has embedded its mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 in the Xperia Z. This ensures a fantastically beautiful image with good colour quality and contrast, especially when viewing multimedia. The screen brightness can be adjusted automatically, allowing the user to set a maximum brightness. Not unimportant to help the endurance of the phone.
A small note is that some icons of apps and images in apps are occasionally not displayed correctly, but otherwise applications do not seem to have a problem with this exceptional resolution.
The menu has been set up as we know it from Android in grid form and at Sony it has to be browsed horizontally. When you leave the menu it will automatically return to the first page. We think it's a bit exaggerated to leave the sorting menu constantly visible in the main menu. This can also be accommodated with the rest of the settings. A grey tint might dominate a bit too much in the Sony interface and unfortunately Xperia Z does not yet have Android 4.2.
Furthermore, there is of course the collection of start screens that the user has at his disposal. These are five by default and two more can be added. The start screens can be filled with widgets, icons of apps and shortcuts. At the top of the screen we find the status bar with switches for sound, Bluetooth, WiFi and mobile data. There is also a shortcut to the settings menu. Messages and other notifications that arrive on the device are displayed here and parts of messages can already be read.
Another, not to be forgotten, part is the locking screen that unlocks via a slat animation. Although it has very limited functionality on Xperia Z. Next to a clock, there are two shortcuts to the music player and the camera respectively. These shortcuts cannot be changed by the user.
The phonebook and the calling function of the unit form a single unit. This makes it easy to have everything at hand and you don't have to put multiple icons on your home screen. Basically, the contact list is just an alphabetical collection of your contacts, and that's the way it should be. The great thing is that you can synchronize multiple accounts with your phonebook and also change the way you view it.
The options make it easy to select from which accounts contacts should be displayed. There is also the possibility to search for link candidates. So that you can link a phone number with an email address and contacts are not listed twice. By default, these contacts are not bundled so you will have to manually link a lot with multiple accounts.
Sony's own mail application resembles the Gmail app in many ways and is nicely organized. Adding an account is just a matter of seconds after which the mail is synchronized in intervals. Unfortunately there is no push notification. For this you need an Exchange account. We did notice that the synchronization went smoothly and the application sometimes had trouble to open mails in one go.
As we indicated earlier with the Sony Xperia T, the keyboard requires some adjustment before it works as well and as accessible as possible as far as we are concerned. The keyboard is standard rather bare. A comma key and a dot key can be added on either side of the space bar. In addition, so-called symbol shortcuts can be displayed on the keys. Furthermore, it is useful to automatically enter spaces. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity regarding the spelling check has not yet been resolved.
In addition to entering text by simply typing, words can also be formed by dragging a finger across the keyboard. Actually, the device is just a bit too big for that and as far as we are concerned, it lends itself perfectly to typing with two thumbs at the same time.
Xperia Z has many options and applications to exchange data or establish connections. These include NFC for wireless data exchange with another device, Mirror link to control your Xperia Z from another device via USB, Screen reproduction to display the Xperia Z's screen on a television, Xperia Link to connect to the internet from a tablet or PC via your phone's network connection and finally Throw to play Xperia Z's content wirelessly on other devices.
For all these techniques, however, you are dependent on other devices that also have to support it.
Unfortunately, Xperia Z does not score flawlessly when it comes to the functioning of internet connections. It seems to have trouble maintaining a stable connection with both WiFi and mobile internet, even if the icons in the status bar indicate that there is sufficient range. The connection to the phone provider even dropped out completely in one area while we still had at least one GPRS connection with other devices there.
Where the Xperia T still had two browsers, the Xperia Z only has Google Chrome at its disposal. As far as we're concerned, that's not a bad thing at all. Although this browser is not super fast, it is stable, easy to use and has plenty of functionality in house. Moreover, Google is still working hard to improve it.
Despite the shortcut on the lock screen, the camera is slow to come to life. The interface that then emerges is elementary and takes some time to become completely familiar with it.
The Xperia Z's camera has different settings. These are superior automatic, normal, burst, effect, wipe panorama, scene selection and front camera. In the superior automatic mode, the maximum photo resolution is 3920 x 2940 pixels. In normal photo mode, the entire 13 megapixels are used, but when the HDR function is turned on it changes to 10 megapixels.
Further options for normal picture mode settings include resolution, self-timer, quick start, light value, white balance, light metering, geotags, shutter sound, flash, laughing shutter, focus mode, HDR, ISO, image stabilization, touch capture and data storage.
The settings options for video mode include scenes, photo light, quick start, light value, white balance, image stabilization, microphone, shutter sound, resolution, self-timer, focus mode, video HDR, light metering, geo-tagging, touch-and-go capture and data storage.
The camera is equipped with a completely new sensor and offers support for HDR not only in photo mode but also in video mode. Colours are very vivid and details are displayed well. In some cases there is a little too much noise. We especially liked the superior automatic mode. Photos and videos are displayed together in the album. Because the photos are taken in a 4:3 ratio, a black border is visible on both sides when displayed on the large screen.
The following programs are installed on Xperia Z by default: Alarm and clock, backup and recovery, downloads, Facebook, movies, FM radio, voice search, Google, Google+, Maps, McAfee Security, movie studio, NeoReader, news and weather, notes, OfficeSuite, Play Music, PlayNow, calculator, Smart Connect, Socialife, Sony Select, Sony Car, Support, Talk, TrackID, Update Center, voice dialer, Walkman, Wisepilot for Xperia, Xperia Link and YouTube.
Since Xperia Z has an external memory card, it is somewhat odd that an app for data management is missing from this list.
Sony car is a kind of dashboard with the most important functions for while driving. Despite the fact that Wisepilot is installed on the Xperia Z, the navigation function of Sony car is linked to the Google Maps Navigation. WisePilot is therefore only a temporary trial version.
Socialife is a fairly successful attempt by Sony to unite multiple social networks in one app, but there is still room for improvement.
Although of course the Google Play Store is available on the Xperia Z, Sony chooses to supply PlayNow and Sony Select. Two half-hearted and malfunctioning alternatives in which the first offers relatively expensive apps and the other links to the Play Store.
The Xperia Z is without a doubt Sony's best phone available right now. With its excellent build quality, monitor and camera, Sony seems to have rediscovered itself. The camera works smoothly and has sufficient memory. However, with its size, the Xperia Z is also a bit of a large square plate that can hardly be hidden inconspicuously in your pocket, thanks to its sleek design.
In addition, a well-stocked box of tricks is needed to last a full day on a single battery charge. The best way to do this is to leave the device alone. Moreover, there seems to be a number of annoying bugs that will hopefully be fixed with an update. Nevertheless, the Sony Xperia Z is not a bad choice as a new smartphone at the moment, but it is very questionable how long it can keep up with the competition that is in the starting blocks.
Our special thanks to CoolBlue for providing us with a Sony Xperia Z.