Sony Xperia Z Android phone

The water and dust-resistant Xperia Z is Sony's best smartphone. Ever.

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Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • Sony Xperia Z

Pros

  • Dust and water resistant
  • Excellent performance & UI
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Lacklusture viewing angles
  • Poor quality loudspeaker
  • Camera app slow to open

Bottom Line

Boasting a 5in, full HD 1080p display, excellent performance, good battery life and water and dust-resistance, the glass-clad Xperia Z is easily the best smartphone Sony has ever produced. It's only let down by a poor quality loudspeaker and a screen that has lacklusture viewing angles.

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The Xperia Z is quite possibly the only Sony smartphone that has ever stirred up a genuine buzz before its release. Boasting a 5in, full HD 1080p display, a 13-megapixel camera and water and dust-resistance, the glass-clad Xperia Z is easily the best smartphone Sony has ever produced.

Looking through the glass

The first thing you immediately notice about the Xperia Z is its design, something Sony calls "omnibalance". That's a fancy and quite frankly ridiculous marketing term that is about "creating balance and symmetry in all directions with rounded edges, and smooth reflective surfaces on all sides." Putting aside the fluff, the Xperia Z is a well designed smartphone. It's relatively comfortable to hold, has good ergonomics and the completely flat surface on the back gives it a distinctive look and feel. However, the edges of the phone can be a little sharp and often dig into your fingers.

Despite possessing a 5in screen, the Xperia Z doesn't feel too big.

Despite possessing a 5in screen, the Xperia Z doesn't feel too big. It's certainly a large smartphone but the jump in size from a handset like the Samsung Galaxy S III, for example, is not an issue. The thickness of 7.9in certainly helps in this regard and Sony's designers do deserve plenty of credit for cramming all those internals into such a slim body. The only design decision we don't understand is the lanyard eyelet on the bottom right corner. Is anyone, anywhere ever going to hang a large smartphone around their neck?

None

The most distinctive design feature of the Xperia Z is a large power button on the right side.

Sony has used glass on the back of the Xperia Z to create a unique look. We dropped our review unit twice and it escaped with a few scratches that aren't immediately visible unless you're looking closely. While we still have some long-term concerns around durability, Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.

The most distinctive design feature of the Xperia Z aside from the flat, glass back is a large power button on the right side. The large, bulging aluminium key is perfectly positioned for one-handed use and offers excellent tactility. The low position of the volume rocker just below it is also ideal and makes it easy to adjust volume using one hand. A left-sided microSD port allows you to expand the Xperia Z's 16GB of internal memory.

Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.
Sony appears to have used a very good finish on both the front and back glass panels.

The Xperia Z's loudspeaker is poor. It's a single speaker design that's located on the right side, towards the bottom of the phone. We found it lacking in both volume and quality for voice calls and media playback, which is disappointing. Thankfully, the earpiece speaker during phone calls fares better though you really need to position the phone precisely when you hold it up to your ear to avoid a lack of punch in volume.

The Xperia Z's loudspeaker is poor, lacking in both volume and quality.
The Xperia Z's loudspeaker is poor, lacking in both volume and quality.

Taking it for a swim

The Xperia Z can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes without any issues.

One of the best features of the Sony Xperia Z is its dust and water resistant capabilities, rated at IP55 and IP57 standards. It's something not normally seen on high-end flagship devices. Because of this feature all ports on the Xperia Z are covered with plastic flaps which seal the phone and effectively keep water out. Flaps are usually annoying, but this is definitely something we can live with as Sony promises the Xperia Z can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes without any issues.

The water and dust resistant feature worked as advertised during our review, though we wish you could capture photos underwater. The video recorder works when the phone is wet but you need to press the on-screen button to start recording before the phone is underwater. The screen won't recognise any finger taps when fully submerged.

The large, bulging aluminium key on the Xperia Z is perfectly positioned for one-handed use.
The large, bulging aluminium key on the Xperia Z is perfectly positioned for one-handed use.

The Xperia Z's viewing angles are lacklustre.

The Sony Xperia Z has a 5in screen with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. The screen is exceptionally bright and clear and displays very crisp text when looking directly front on, but its viewing angles are lacklustre compared to many rival models. We don't consider this a critical issue as most people who use their smartphone will be looking at the display directly front on. However, other potential users may disagree.

The screen has lacklustre viewing angles  compared to many rival models
The screen has lacklustre viewing angles compared to many rival models

A simple Android UI?

Sony has made minimal changes to the stock version of Android.

Sony has long spoken about the Xperia Z's "simplistic design and ideology" being an attempt to bring the "wow" factor back into the brand. While we're not sure if we agree entirely, the user interface of the Xperia Z is definitely a refreshing change from previous Sony phones. The company has made minimal changes to the stock version of Android but most of the changes it has made actually add to the overall user experience. The Xperia Z runs the 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Android but Sony says an update to the latest 4.2 version will be available shortly after launch.

From L to R: The Xperia Z's lock screen, home screen and app drawer.
From L to R: The Xperia Z's lock screen, home screen and app drawer.

Among the changes include four toggles in the notifications drop down for sound profile, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and data, though you annoyingly can't edit these. The applications drawer can be sorted by multiple parameters including most used and recently installed, and there's also a revamped multitasking menu that includes "small apps". These pop-up apps can sit on top of other apps allowing you to, for example, browse the Web or type a message with the calculator sitting on screen. Third-party developers can create further small apps and there was a reasonable list in the Google Play Store at the time of review.

Sony hasn't clogged the Xperia Z with bloatware apps you'll never use.

We like the minimalist lock screen which includes an attractive, shutter unlock animation and allows users to quickly swipe into the camera and Walkman music app. Sony hasn't clogged the Xperia Z with bloatware apps you'll never use, either. We quickly disabled the default calendar app (replaced with Google Calendar), the Social Life media aggregator and the useless Sony Select app, but other inclusions are quite useful. The album app, Sony's take on the Gallery, is fast, smooth and provides better sorting and scrolling options than other Android phones. We also like the Walkman music app, which offers an equaliser, a visualiser and has an intuitive interface.

The Xperia Z's app drawer can be sorted in multiple ways.
The Xperia Z's app drawer can be sorted in multiple ways.

One thing we wish Sony didn't change was the on-screen keyboard. It's functional and also has handy, Swype-like functionality that allows you to draw over letters in a single motion to type words. However, its word prediction isn't as accurate as Google's stock keyboard or the excellent Swiftkey third-party keyboard, its gesture input system isn't as efficient or effective as Swype and the default mode lacks full stop and comma keys on the main layout. Given the stock keyboard on Android Jelly Bean is excellent, we have to ask the question: why on earth did Sony replace a great keyboard with one that is clearly worse?

The Xperia Z's on-screen keyboard is one UI element that we wish Sony didn't change.
The Xperia Z's on-screen keyboard is one UI element that we wish Sony didn't change.

The Xperia Z's camera is slow to open.

The Sony Xperia Z is a very smooth and fast smartphone. The 2GB of RAM keeps things ticking over nicely and the phone doesn't exhibit any notable lag or slowdown during basic tasks, with one exception. The camera app is notoriously slow to open, often taking about two seconds to open from the lock screen and about three seconds to open from the app drawer or home screen. Once you're inside the camera app there's no apparent lag so we can only hope this issue can be addressed with a future software update.

Decent camera, solid battery life

The Sony Xperia Z has a 13-megapixel camera with single-LED flash and there's also a 2.2-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. The rear camera takes good quality images with notable detail levels and reasonable, but sometimes oversaturated colours. Contrast is excellent and detail is notable for a camera phone, but still photos aren't significantly better than many other flagship devices on the market.

A photo we captured with the Sony Xperia Z (click to enlarge)
A photo we captured with the Sony Xperia Z (click to enlarge)

Photos aren't significantly better than other flagship smartphones.

Sony also says the Xperia Z is the world's first smartphone image sensor that can record HDR (High Dynamic Range) video. It's actually the second, as the Oppo Find 5 also boasts this feature, but it's a welcome inclusion nonetheless. Detail in recorded videos is excellent, though we found it hard to keep a steady hand when recording. The camera app itself is fast and functional and has plenty of settings to tinker with including smile detection and a sweep panorama mode.

The Sony Xperia Z is a 4G-capable smartphone that works on both Telstra and Optus' LTE networks. It's also available through Vodafone and will support the Vodafone 4G network when it launches later this year.

None

The Sony Xperia Z has a 2330mAh battery that performs reasonably well. It pushed us through a full day of use on most occasions and we experienced almost 19 hours of battery life on multiple days. Your figures will obviously vary depend on use but most average users should be satisfied with the Xperia Z's battery performance.

The addition of a "Battery Stamina mode" certainly helps. This feature prevents applications from running when the screen is locked, therefore saving battery and improving standby time. You can individually select apps to bypass the feature if you wish. The screen still drains the battery fast when it's in use but the Xperia Z is very power efficient in standby mode.

Related content

Sony reveals more pricing, availability details for Xperia Z
Sony Xperia Z: What's hot and what's not
Sony "bringing the wow back" with Xperia Z
Sony to unveil Xperia Z next week
Sony Xperia Z preview
Sony reveals more Xperia Z details
Sony Xperia Z vs. Apple iPhone 5: Head-to-head

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Recommended

Trolleyrider

1

The lanyard hole is a design element specifically for Asian markets where it is very fashionable to hang all sorts of tags from.... not dangle around your neck = way uncool.

Black

2

how i wish these kinds of xperia goes dual sim. it would simply go beyond excellent.

Colm

3

The IPhone is going in the drawer!! Love my new Xperia

rossonero

5

fuck ROMA !

Sandgroper

6

A battery that can't be replaced? What do you do, throw the phone away when the battery dies?
We are expected to pay $750 and we get a speaker that is pathetic in volume and positioning?? Give me a break!

fdsfsa

7

why the hell did they make the "white" one only white on the back. thats dumb. should be white front and back. and who cares about the viewing angle do you hold your phone at arms length on a weird angle and look at it? nope.

Kris

8

Sony Xperia Z- Excellent Design...slim, trim n glossy , long battery life, slim and easy usb and external memory card port, excellent hd video recording n photos comaratively...fast speed, sleek , love the aluminium power button,...

mobiles

9

Thank you sharing this mobile phone.

Sam

10

I work for apple therefore I bet yor technical support is pathetic compared to APPLECARE therefore buy an iPhone and you know you will get help if something goes wrong ASAP.

Killian

11

Haha, paying extra for support on a phone as basic as an iPhone? If you need support with an iPhone you should buy a doro phone.

This phone doesn't need support because the users are generally more intelligent and can figure it out.

nigel

12

Experia z is very expensive mobile phone. We expect that it should last for couple of years assuming the best care whilst in use. But what if the battery can't be replaced how do we handle this?

David Morton

13

I'd kinda like advice from Ross or other phone users about a new phone. My N95-850 is dying, rejecting the memory card and as of (27 June 2013) generating write errors. My location requires a Telstra "blue tick" (rural, in English) phone and I have been looking most of the day at options. One option is to go for the Sony Xperia Z, but data use scares me and I love maps. Four Nokia's look promising: Lumia 800, 520, N9 & C5; and maybe be the iPhone 4S (which won't take my memory card); all of which seem to store maps locally. My usage is calls, texts, & maps, photos sometimes when I forget the camera. So now it's your turn. What do you think of these or other phones while I study the various manuals. Your turn...

jim

15

Review stated,"The only design decision we don't understand is the lanyard eyelet on the bottom right corner. Is anyone, anywhere ever going to hang a large smartphone around their neck?"
** YES, a lanyard eyelet!! Someone is finally thinking.**

Ingrid Matthews

16

I use the lanyard - gorge walking and caving! Great for getting action photos! Fantastic not having to worry about it getting wet or muddy. Can download surveys and use them down caves and mines and blow up detail that you could never do with a paper survey underground. Yep! mine goes on a peice of string round my neck (but not all the time and not down the market!)

mddolar

17

সনি xperia z এ কিভাবে dricetvideocall করা যায় নাহলে তার software দাও

nathan herald

18

Sony Xperia Z has excellent display and camera quality.
http://www.sonymobilephones.com/sony-xperia-z

George

19

I have used Sony xperia z mobile phone. It has super fast processor and big display screen
<a href="http://www.sonymobilephones.com/sony-xperia-z">http://www.sonymobilephones.com/sony-xperia-z</a>

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Alex

4.5

1

Pros
water proof
Cons
speaker poor/needs bigger battery even though i get a day out of it
• • •

As a farmer, I put a plastic film on the screen and replace it when I need to but when it gets dirty, I dip it in a trough and wash it. I've dropped it on concrete a few times and still works good. i thought it was a bit big at first but you get used to it and reception is excellent. some program features could be improved on but I'd buy another one.

Roger A. Stockburger

1.0

2

Pros
Awesome mobile, Water-Resistant, nice screen, takes great photos, easy-to-use
Cons
Screen scratches very easily, also extremely fragile handset
• • •

The Xperia Z 4G replaced my iPhone 4S, first impressions, awesome! Beautiful 5" display, takes excellent photos, everything runs smoothly, hardly any lag, except sometimes going to camera from the lock screen gives a "camera not available" message. Love the idea of a water-resistant phone, so I won't have to worry about being caught out in the rain, or being thrown in the pool with the phone in the pocket, so water resistance was very high on my list after having already busted 2 iPhones.

The Sony Xperia Z was my choice, as I liked the fact that you can get a cradle for it, so you don't have to continually open the flap for USB charging, so this was the primary reason I chose the Sony over the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.

Unfortunately, the phone is of very poor build quality considering it's price being a high-end smartphone

1. Screen scratches very easily. The phone spends all its days in a leather case (except when it's charging in the cradle), together with my drivers' license, medicare card, a couple of ATM cards and a couple of banknotes. The raised digits from the ATM card started to show scratches on the display after just a few weeks. Not impressed, considering the iPhone 4S it replaced was kept in identical conditions and hardly a scratch to be seen.

2. Screen fractures extremely easy. Phone in leather case spends its time in my suit jacket pocket, one afternoon in the peak-hour rush to get on the train, I was bumped against a post. Nothing unusual, happened countless times with trusty old iPhone, but to my dismay when I went to check messages, there was a crack on the screen originating from a spot just above the silver button, rendering the top-half of the screen useless. My daughter cracked the screen of the iPhone 4 I gave her when I bought the 4S, after dropping it onto concrete without a case. Interesting that the touch-screen still worked to some extent despite the crack. Not so with the Sony, the entire top half of the screen now no longer responds to any finger touch. I presume due to the fact the Sony's so thin (8mm) and with a lack of structural strength, and no flexibility in the screen, it's considerably more fragile than the iPhone which is thicker and has a much stronger casing.

Despite it's impressive specs and beautiful display, this is not a phone I would recommend, as it's not designed to withstand normal everyday use.

JO

2.5

3

Pros
WATER SAFE
Cons
VERY POOR QUALITY CAMERA FOR A 13 MEGA PIXAL
• • •

VERY DISSAPOINTED

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