Review of the Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Xperia Z, dubbed as the best smartphone that Sony has ever built, would go on sale in Singapore this week. The Android Jelly Bean-toting (albeit only 4.1.2), water resistant Sony Xperia Z comes with some of the best specs available on the market – and is one of the most eagerly awaited handsets of recent months.

Hardware of the Xperia Z

Poised advantageously to launch just before the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony is clearly hoping to gain an early foothold versus its competitors and it may just have a potential winner on its hands.

xperia-z-unboxing 2 xperia-z-unboxing 1

xperia-z-vs-samsung-s3

Sony passed me a review set and here are some of the unboxing photo of the phone. I was previously using a Samsung Galaxy S3 and the phone at 139 x 71 x 7.9mm and 146g did not feel much bigger or heavier. The phone itself felt like a quality, well built product. From the front, it is a tad too squarish and the black colour looked similar and slightly non-descript as compared to other mobile phones out there. Notably, the black is also made of glass, and exudes a certain chic style to it with just the Xperia wording in the centre. However, the bottom CE mark and logos are sort of out of place. Glass does however make it a fingerprint magnet and if you have OCD, you would find yourself wiping it all day long. The sides are fully flushed, except for a set of pogo pins and a chrome power button and volume controls on the other side. The other ports are spread out with the headphone jack up top, the microSIM slot on the right – while both the microSD and charging ports are on the left, alongside contacts for accessories. They are all well protected by a watertight cover, making the phone able to survive a dip in the swimming pool for a depth of up to 1m and for up to 30 minutes.

The fact that it is water resistant / waterproof makes the Sony Xperia Z great for active outdoor users, like engineers or people who wishes to take their phone out on sporting activities or just to use as a party trick. It’s pretty amazing to see the reaction on people’s faces when the phone goes drink diving. I tried it in the shower, while playing music or putting it under the sink to give it a good wash and that didn’t unfaze the phone with it still working perfectly as it should.

As for the camera, I had anticipated better with the 13-megapixel Exmor RS for mobile sensor for the rear camera. It was quite average, with night shots still a little noisy and weren’t as sharp as I would have wanted, though the colour saturation wasn’t too bad. Interesting enough it did not come with a hardware camera button, which would have been really useful for instances such as underwater photography.

Here’s sample shots from the camera.

xperia z sample shot 1 xperia z sample shot 2

Even with that, the phone itself has very good and noteworthy specifications, the quad-core 1.5GHz Snaprdragon Krait processor, 13MP camera, 16GB storage(with an expandable memory card slot), 2GB RAM, water and dust-resistant, 1080p HD screen with Bravia Engine, LTE should make for an attractive phone. In the relative day and age where hardware becomes rather insignificant in practical daily use, the Sony Xperia Z is a slick, fast, phone that’s a pleasure to use, so we’ve no complaints. It comes with a 2300 mAH battery which lasted me throughout a typical day use which includes about 1-2 hour of gaming/video playing. I am guessing the HD screen drains the battery quite significantly and continuous video playing is expected to last only about 5 hours on the phone.

Xperia Z User Interface & Media Features

Sony seemed to have take styling tips from Google directly, with the look and feel to be quite similar to the Nexus 4 / 7. Google Chrome is the default browser on the Sony Xperia Z – this follows a choice made by Google to ditch its stock Android browser and there are no hardware physical control buttons with Sony similarly opting for a sleek look and soft keys. Sony had mentioned that the upgrade to Android 4.2 is not too far away.

sony smart connect

Overall, there’s quite a bit of emphasis on media content and I was suitably impressed. The default Walkman app worked well for sorting music loaded to the phone memory or sd card. For videos, the default app is similar to XBMC in that it will pull media information such as episode synopsis etc. However, the default application was limited in terms of codec support and while it could handle certain MP4s, MKVs were foreign to it. Instead I had to rely on either XBMC or MX Player. There’s also the addition of the Bravia engine 2 which helps make colours more saturated. I wasn’t that big a fan of the effect.

The Xperia Z comes with HDMI support over MHL and also support wireless mirroring to sony TVs or Playstation. I am not sure if it is Miracast-compatible though.

Adding to the media offering is Smart Connect. It’s been on Sony devices for a while, allowing you to set-up various automated responses when you connect a particular device. Plug into the charger at night and you have set your phone to silent and open the clock, unplug it in the morning and you can load your favourite news app. We will cover the rest of the media and software features more closely in the coming days.

Availability

The Sony Xperia Z goes on sale from Singtel, starting from 27 Feb 2013. Interested people who had pre-order would have receive details from Singtel. Pre-registered parties would be able to get additional goodies including a set of NFC speakers from Sony. Similarly M1 and Starhub subscribers can register your interest with your respective telco for pre-order benefits.

For M1 user, the price of the phone is at $268 for $59monthly plan (liteSurf+).
However, in comparison, Starhub and Singtel are cheaper with the following price plans. Starhub Smartsurf Value @ $58/mth with the phone costing $218. Singtel Flexi Value ($59.90/mth) with the phone similarly at $218.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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