Sony Xperia Z review: first look

8 Jan 2013
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If you’re sick of all phones looking the same, then Sony’s Xperia Z – the first phone from Sony’s design team, as opposed to Sony Ericsson’s – is well worth a look, a feel and the occasional coo of appreciation.

The first thing you’ll notice may well be the colour, with Sony opting for a striking purple design to accompany the standard black and white.

It’s fair to say my photo, below, doesn’t do the purple justice.

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In reality, the look is reminiscent of polished marble, largely due to the glass finish all around. Sony promises ruggedness, with the makers of the “Dragontail” glass boasting that it’s six times stronger than Gorilla Glass 2. An “anti-shutter” film should also help when you inevitably drop the Z onto your own marble floor. Note, though, that it can still scratch.

Rounded edges add to the marble-like feel, but it’s surprisingly lightweight. If anything, the Xperia Z feels a little too light in the hand.

The clean lines aren’t just for show: sealed ports mean the Xperia Z is water resistant and dust protected to IP55/IP57 levels. Should you have the urge to fire water jets at your phone for three minutes from 3 metres away, then it’s safe. The same is true if you decide to immerse it in water for 30 minutes.

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Another piece of standout technology is the screen. Measuring 5in diagonally across, it packs in 1,080 x 1,920 pixels. Watching movies is a much more pleasant experience than you have any right to expect on a phone, with vivid colours helping to add punch.

Sony even claims that it’s viewable in bright sunlight, but we weren’t able to test this claim in a dark exhibition hall.

Sony uses its photo heritage to include a 13-megapixel camera with its own Exmor RS photography. In practice, that should mean it can take well balanced and detailed photos in trying conditions – thanks to automatic HDR, that includes taking photos against a bright background.

It’s fast too, with the latest 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB of RAM meaning that Android Jelly Bean flies along. Even demanding tasks such as processing a horde of photo thumbnails proved no problem.

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What does this mean for battery life? For now, we’ll hold back on making any judgements. We can say that a stamina mode could make a dramatic effect: using Sony’s built-in estimate, it moved from three days of standby time to nine days.

It does this by turning off any apps or functions you don’t actively request to stay on (think Facebook, for instance). Naturally, it can still take calls, receive texts and activate alarms. When you pick up the phone and start using it, everything springs back into life.

There are a few more nice additions to Jelly Bean as well. An enhanced music player with smooth cover flow handling, mini apps such as a calculator that don’t fill the whole screen, and a couple of neat ways to jump between open programs.

It adds up to a tasty looking phone, and we hope to have one in our Labs for a closer look within the next month.

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