As competition continues to heat up in the smartphone market, Sony have hurled an Xperia Z hand grenade into the fray and this time Samsung, HTC and Apple may have to sit up and take notice as it goes off.
For one thing the Xperia Z packs some pretty serious specs. Not only is there a 13MP camera on-board that'd give most point and shoots a real run for their money, the Xperia Z is also water and dust proof. Then there's a 1.5GHz Snapdragon quad-core processor under the hood plus Android Jellybean all delivering the goods via an eye-popping 1080p HD screen.
These salivation inducing specs are there for a reason the HTC One isn't far away, and Samsung's Galaxy S4 has already been announced. Sony are clearly making a grab for buyers before competition really gets out of hand.
Look and Feel
Unboxing the Xperia reveals a sophisticated looking device. In the hand, it feels more like a piece of custom jewellery than a smartphone.
That Sony managed to make a black slab resembling a scaled down monolith straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey into such a sexy smartphone is a pretty impressive feat. Instead of delivering something that resembles a tarted-up version of a previous model, the Xperia Z has a distinct look that feels great in the hand. About the only drawback I could see was that the glass finish on both its front and black was bit of a finger print magnet. I also wisely decided not to drop test it, just in case, even though the Gorilla Glass 2 used is supposedly virtually indestructible. In short, The Z looks great, but it'll need a protective case if it is to hold its looks over time.
A big part of its look and feel is due to the near complete lack of Tupperware, which gives it a really premium feel. Measuring 139 x 71 x 7.9mm, it isn't a small device. That said, at a mere 7.9mm thick, it is also slimmer than many others, and doesn't feel like a brick in a pocket or purse. The Z also has plenty of on-screen real-estate available thanks to its 5 1080p display.
On the connectivity front, there are plenty of options. Ports are scattered along the sides of the phone, all hidden by waterproof covers (the Z also issues a reminder to make sure these are all closed after it has finished charging). All the usual suspects are present, ranging from a headphone jack on top of the phone, a SIM slot and volume control on the right hand side. A round silver standby button is located on the left as well as microSD and charging ports. About the only annoyance was the speaker which happened to be where I'd hold the phone when gaming, leading to muffled in-game sounds.
Physical connectivity aside, the Z is also a virtual Swiss army knife when it comes to wireless , supporting wifi (802.11n), Bluetooth 4 and NFC. Nicer still, the Xperia Z is also 2G, 3G and 4G LTE capable, so the odds are that it'll offer mobile data throughput comparable to or faster than most copper-based ADSL2+ broadband connections when Vodafone and Telecom finally go nationwide with LTE.
The Z's 5 screen doesn't disappoint either. Powering up the Z reveals a 1080 x 1920 pixel dazzler, with a pixel density of 441ppi. Sony have gone with TFT screen technology, which sometimes looked a little washed out compared to Super AMOLED displays used by others. This said, the Z's display was razor sharp and delivered some truly eye popping HD video via its built in media viewing app (which let me stream content off my network drive).
Helping things along display-wise, Sony have also made use of the same image processing technologies used their TVs to make the Z's screen really hum. Sony have Branded this the "Mobile Bravia Engine 2" and it is enabled by default, resulting in more vibrant colours, greater contrast and less pixilation.
Let's Get Wet
It'd be fair to say that the Z is literally able make a splash and come back for more. According to the bumpf supplied with it, the Z was supposedly fully water resistant. Testing this was a fun experience, even if taking a thousand dollar smartphone for a dunking felt more than a little wrong. I was however pleased to report that the Xperia can get wet and keep working - provided all the port covers are closed.
After launching a raft of average smartphones, Sony seems to have really got the Xperia Z right. It is a beautifully finished piece of hardware that thanks to the liberal use of premium materials feels great in use. A zippy quad core CPU, full HD screen make it a joy to use and it'll doubtlessly go like a rocket once 4G is finally live. Add to this the ability for it to take a dunking and there's a whole lot to like.
RRP:Varies depending on telco and mobile plan
Wireless:2G GSM GSM 850/900/1800/1900
3G HSDPA 850/900/2100
(HSDPA, 42 Mbps max)
(HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps max)
(LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP
GPSA-GPS and GLONASS
Size:139 x 71 x 7.9 mm
DISPLAY: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours
Resolution:1080 x 1920, 5.0 inches (441 ppi)
MEMORY Card slot microSD (up to 64 GB)
Memory:Internal16 GB, 2 GB RAM
CAMERA:(rear 13.1 MP), autofocus, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
(front 2.2 MP, 1080p 30fps)
OS:Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
CPU:Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait
Sensors:Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery
Stand-by:Up to 550 h (2G) / Up to 530 h (3G)
Talk time:Up to 11 h (2G) / Up to 14 h (3G)