Sony Xperia Z: a hands-on review

Sony Xperia Z - reviewSony Xperia Z - review

I love my Sony Vaio Ultrabook. It is slick, well made, super fast and meets all my mobile needs. This is what I was hoping to find when I was presented with the Sony Xperia Z to review.

Look and Feel

The Sony Xperia is an eye-catching device. It has a large 5 inch 1080 x 1920 pixels screen, TFT capacitive touchscreen and 441 ppi pixel density. It measures at 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm and weighs 146g. Thanks to the Sony’s Bravia Engine 2 it has a stunning sharp fonts and images which you can toggle this on or off although not sure why you would want it off.

The Sony Xperia Z feels very well made and not plasticy at all. The entire body including the back of the device, has a high polish finish to it which unfortunately seems to attract fingerprints but a small price to pay for a power-looking device.

The big selling point of the Xperia Z is that it has Shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass as well as being IP57 certified making it dust and water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes. This means that the Xperia Z should resists the daily knocks and occasional drops that daily mobile life has to throw at it and if your phone does slip into the toilet from your back pocket, no need to grab the Tastic rice – it will survive.

Sony Xperia Z - coverBeing water and dust resistant means that Sony had to be very crafty in how it covered the phone’s ports. The micro-USB charging port on the left of the phone, the microSD  slot also on the left as well as the head phone jack located at the top of the phone. Sony did this by covering these ports with a hard plastic and o-rings that fits snugly into the bevel of the device. As long as these ports are covered the phone will be protected. These covers are hard to open and so it will be unlikely that they pop open by accident whilst they are in your swimming costume pocket.

The Xperia Z has 16 GB of internal storage but it has a very accessible micoSD slot located on the left side of the phone that allows you to easily expand the storage. It is a nice touch being able to pop the microSD in and out without having to take out batteries or open covers.

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Battery Stamina

The battery is a non-removable Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery. Not my favourite. However, the Sony has paid careful attention to the power management system. There is a power mode called Stamina Mode. When you activate the Stamina mode as soon as the phone’s display is off, the data is also disabled. Tap the screen back on and the data is re-enabled. There is even an exception option allowing you add certain critical apps that will bypass this this rule allowing you to continue to receive those important Facebook updates.

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Power without Stamina mode –
1 day 17 hours

Power with Stamina mode on –
3 days 11 hours

The other battery saving feature that is impressive is the Location-Based WiFi mode. This mode activated your WiFi when you are in range of a saved networks and WiFi is automatically disabled as you drive out of range. Works every time.

Sony Software

The Xperia Z comes pre-installed with Android v4.1.2 however Sony has added their own “flavour” which is not something I am a fan of. However, Sony’s touches have ben so slight that no major irritations reared up.

There are lots of pre-installed software that comes with the phone such as TrackID, Voice Dialler, Sony Car, Sony Select and great to see the Anti-Virus program McAfee too. You can obviously connect to the Google Play store and download your usual set of apps.

Browser

What I do like is that Sony has pre-installed Chrome as the default browser. Chrome has the arguably the best features on Android devices and the fact that it synchronises with your other Chrome browsers means that all your mobile bookmarks and even historical searches just appear on every device.

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Keyboard

The keyboards is decent too. It has the Gesture Input that allows you to type by moving your finger from letter to letter without lifting your finger. I has various customisations you can do to the keyboard settings too. In the time I had the phone, I didn’t find the need to install an additional keyboard like SwiftKey. However I only had the phone for a week so did not have a chance to rigorously give the keyboard a proper go.

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Music

Sony Walkman has an immediate nostalgic effect. The Walkman app is pre-installed and allows you to play your music accompanied by various visual effects. Sony has also added ClearAudio+ that instantly enhances the music you are listening to as soon as you enable that feature.

Sharing of music is also made simple. The Xperia Z has included a Media Server option so you can share your music with your WiFi network (I accessed my music using windows 7 and Media Player). You can also enable the Throw function allowing you play your music on other devices.

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Camera

It seems like every mobile phone review is incomplete without a mention of the camera. The Sony Xperia has a vey respectable 13.1 MP rear-facing camera and a 2.2 MP forward-facing camera with the ability to record video 1080p at 30fps with  video stabilization and an HDR mode. The camera has many options for you to set ranging from complete automation to the ability to set meter and exposure compensation, HDR images, Burst, Panorama and even visual effects such as  Fisheye and sketch to name a few.

I found the Sony’s camera a bit slow when wanting to capture some fast action but overall the camera performed well suffering a bit in low light conditions as most phone cameras do.

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So in summary:

There is plenty to like about this device. It handled itself very well under all conditions including gaming and work-related activities. I am always a bit concerned about devices that add their own skin on top of Android however Sony has not fiddled too much with its underlying operating system and so there were no deal-breaker irritations.

I am not a fan of non-removable batteries. That being said, the Sony Xperia power management system seems to do the job well. I particularly like the automatically switching WiFi on/ off which is something that I constantly forget to switch off and then wonder my battery has been drained. Clever thinking.

It is this kind of clever thinking, coupled with a great feel to the device, together with the dust and water-resistance that makes the Sony Xperia Z a stunning phone and definitely one to consider.

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