Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Review: Sony Xperia Z smartphone


Sony which sold a hundred of million phones just a few years ago has struggled to in the era of smart devices, facing withering competition from US and Korean vendors which have all but captured the market.

The Japanese company isn't giving up however, and is fighting back with the new Xperia Z smartphone that's built to a very high standard and which should appeal to those looking for a high-end Android device.

Out of the box, the Xperia Z is big, black and feels solid with a scratchproof glass case and also, moisture and dust sealing.

Unfortunately, Sony's PR people wanted the Xperia Z back after a short amount of time so I wasn't able to put it through its paces as thoroughly as I would've liked. I was able to verify that the Xperia Z survives dunking in water, a feature that will endear it to my peculiar friends who regularly drop smartphones into the toilet.

The sealing is accomplished by little flaps covering the USB and earphone connector as well as the slots for the SIM and memory cards.

The glass body is meant to be scratch resistant too, something Sony will be pleased to know I didn't test.

A standout feature is the large five inch screen: indoors, the screen with an astounding 1,920 by 1,080 pixel resolution (441 pixels per inch density) is fantastic. It's sharp with great colour and the digitiser tracks your fingers accurately.

Outside in harsh New Zealand sunlight the Xperia Z screen can wash out however and at times be difficult to see. Also, all the beautiful glass means the Xperia Z is a real grease-magnet and needs to be wiped down all the time.

With a four-core processor running at 1.5 Giga Hertz, the Xperia Z runs Android 4.1.2 as quickly as anyone could want: it scored 20825 points on the AnTuTu benchmark, making it one of the quickest Android phones currently.

In practice the Xperia Z never lags and opens web pages and applications with little or no delay. The quick performance extends to the wireless side of the Xperia Z which is LTE 4G enabled and as a Category 3 capable phone, provides up to 102 megabit/s downloads and 51 megabit/s uploads in theory.

On Vodafone's fast new LTE network that has few customers on it currently, I regularly saw the Xperia Z hit over 50 megabit/s downloads and around half that on the uplink - very impressive. If you don't have LTE, there's dual-channel 42 megabit/s HSDPA and standard 3G too, as well as 2.4 and 5 gigahertz Wi-Fi wireless.

One drawback to the high-speed networking is that apart from killing your data cap at frightening speed the phone gets rather hot on LTE.

Perhaps more important than raw speed, the Xperia Z has a big battery (2,330mAh) that's not removable but lasts a long time. By enabling Stamina Mode on the phone which turns off the radios when the screen goes out, the Xperia Z kept going for almost two days before needing a recharge.

As you'd expect from a high-end device, the Xperia Z is loaded with sensors and wireless connectivity including Bluetooth 4.0 and Near Field Communications (NFC).
The latter can be used to connect the phone to audio devices and TVs that support NFC, allowing you to play music, videos and photos without cables - a very nice and useful feature.

Call quality, again over Vodafone's network, is also good thanks to active noise-cancellation using a second microphone on the Xperia Z.

Sony has made gentle customisations to the user interface of Google's Android operating system that work well and don't get in your way; the task manager is especially useful, making it easy to switch between running applications with just a few finger pokes.

On the software side, the Xperia Z comes with social media integration, Sony's Walkman brand music player to go with the good audio electronics and ear buds and a video player among the usual Google stuff.

A good navigation and map application is also included that you have to pay for (boo!) but my favourite feature was the swipe-text keyboard that's very accurate and quick to "type" with.

Sony's making much of the 13 megapixel camera with an Exmor RS sensor, bright f/2.2 wide-angle lens and Superior Auto mode that aims to guess what sort of picture you're taking and adjust the Xperia Z settings accordingly. Overall, the camera doesn't disappoint: images are sharp and well-exposed even in tricky light situations and high-definition 1080p video looks good too.

The flash is only so and so however and there is no separate camera shutter button.

Android device buyers are spoilt for choice currently and even more so in the future. The Sony Xperia Z does however have some unique features such as the environmental sealing, LTE and long battery life along with the high definition screen that makes for a well thought-out smartphone package.

Rating: 4/5
Price: $999 including GST to buy outright
Contact: sony.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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