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Posted on June 25th, 2013 by Mike Jennings

Sony Xperia Z Ultra review: first look

Sony Xperia Z UltraISO 800Giant smartphones have become a common sight at press launches of late, and the latest to hit the scene is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. We had the chance to try one out at an event in London today, and first impressions are that it’s a serious contender.

For starters, Sony reckons it’s the slimmest big smartphone on the market. We’re not going to disagree: the Ultra is just 6.5mm thick, yet despite the dimensions, there was no hint of weakness across its aluminium frame and glass rear. It’s a remarkably sturdy piece of kit, and Sony hasn’t just concentrated on making its latest Xperia feel solid – it’s comfortable to hold, too. The brushed aluminium borders aren’t quite as angular as the original Xperia Z, and don’t dig into your palm in quite the same way. Its 212g weight is high for a smartphone, but then we’d expect a little bit of extra heft for a device this big.

The Ultra’s physical layout doesn’t stray far from existing Xperia Z devices. The metal, circular power button and slim volume rocker sit on the right-hand side, and the microSD and SIM card slots are covered with rubberised flaps. The left-hand edge houses a magnetic charger coupling that can be used with a dock accessory. The Ultra is more capable than ever when it comes to withstanding the elements: adherence to the IP58 classification means this device can withstand a dunking in around 1.5m of water for up to thirty minutes.

The slim frame isn’t the only thing we’re excited about. This is the first phone we’ve seen to use a Snapdragon 800 processor, which is a quad-core chip that runs at a mind-boggling 2.2GHz.

Sony Xperia Z UltraISO 800-2The Ultra is, to put it mildly, extremely fast. Sony’s demonstration unit blazed through SunSpider to a record-breaking time of 400ms, and it scored 861 in the Peacekeeper HTML 5 benchmark. The fastest phones we’ve seen previously have scored around 900ms in the former test, and our current A-List smartphone, the HTC One, achieved 759 in Peacekeeper. The Sony scored 11,895 in 3DMark’s extreme-level Ice Storm benchmark – 3DMark’s own figures show the HTC One scoring 6,440 in the that test.

It’s a benchmark-beating beast, and we didn’t see any signs of slowdown during our hands-on time with the Ultra. It whizzed through that 3DMark test without dropping any frames, and OS navigation was consistently smooth. The Ultra will ship with Android 4.2.2.

Sony Xperia Z UltraISO 800-3The 6.4in TFT display has the 1,080 x 1,920 resolution that we expect on large, high-end smartphones, but Sony claims it’s ahead of the chasing pack thanks to a couple of technologies it’s borrowed from its Bravia TVs: Triluminos tech for a wider colour gamut than other smartphone displays; and X-Reality – an image processing technique which analyses and sharpen images to improve clarity.

We’ll only be able to truly judge the Xperia’s display when we receive our review unit, but first impressions are good. It’s pin-sharp thanks to a pixel density of 344ppi, colours seemed vibrant, and viewing angles were excellent.

Aside from quality, the display is able to boast a touchscreen that works, not only with fingers and thumbs, but also with pens and pencils as well as standard, non-active styli. Sony says it’s compatible with any pens with tips 1mm across or wider, and it worked instantly when we tried it with a ballpoint pen as well as a pencil – although a Bic biro didn’t work.

The rest of the Ultra’s specification is suitably high-end. There’s NFC, it’s 4G compatible, and the 8-megapixel rear camera is partnered by a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter. The Ultra comes with 16GB of base storage with 11GB free for apps and files, and the microSD slot can handle 64GB memory cards.

Sony Xperia Z UltraISO 1600-4Given how powerful the Xperia Z looks to be, it’s a little worrying the battery isn’t bigger. Its capacity is 3,000mAh capacity, which 400mAh more than the Samsung Galaxy S4. Still, the phone’s stamina mode – which turns off wireless radios and other features when they’re not in use – should compensate. We’ll reserve judgement, however, until we’re able to run our 24-hour test on it.

Alas, there’s no pricing info yet, but Sony says the Xperia Z Ultra will reach these shores in September. We’ll have a full review by then, too, but less us know if you’re tempted – or if this, like other “phablets” devices, is just too large to be used as a phone.

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13 Responses to “ Sony Xperia Z Ultra review: first look ”

  1. David K Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Once again, Proof reading would not go amiss (even in = evening in).

    Otherwise, I feel that it is not a case of is this to large to function as a phone. Who is it that decided on Phablet, I prefer to think of them as Tablones. The emphasis on them operating as a tablet that also functions as a phone etc.

    Cannot wait for flexible phones, so that you can then say they are too rigid !

  2. David K Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Also in the “Leave a reply” box under the article, should there not be an additional asterix next to the “will not be published” listing.

  3. Stuart McBain Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Definitely tempted. I’ve been tied to the Iphone4S on a 24 month contact since release date and now desperate for a totally different experience. Anything new with a big screen in September will be of interest. I understand HTC are making a Windows 8 flagship, given I’m underwhelmed with the 925, that + Xperia will be my next hope.

  4. Robin Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    David K – after your admonishment about proof reading, it’s a little rich that you dropped an ‘o’ on “…is this to large…”. Glass houses and all that.

  5. Simon Mitchell Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    i rarely get to see these phones “in the flesh” so it was interesting the other day to see a Galaxy IV next to a Samsung Note 2. The Note 2 was the sort of size I would have thought the Galaxy IV would have been.

    So biggish phones are OK with me but I would say that this Sony is at the upper limit size wise. Any bigger and it’s really more tablet than phablet.

  6. David K Says:
    June 26th, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Thanks Robin, I am but a mere mortal with a low grade CSE in English and do not publish a professional magazine/website. If an idiot like me can spot a mistake, it should not make it to press.

  7. Goatboy Says:
    June 27th, 2013 at 10:55 am

    would need to feel in hand first. love the Xperia Z. if my Nexus 7 died, then the Z ultra could be a possible replacement? As for certain people using this post to become grammar police, all I can say, is get a life! A weblog is not a professional magazine,the magazine you pay £5 for off the shelf is, not the blog found via email link, sheesh.

  8. Goatboy Says:
    June 27th, 2013 at 10:57 am

    And before you start, look at the page address at the top, which says “home/blog”

  9. Goatboy Says:
    June 27th, 2013 at 10:59 am

    sorry David K, “Home/Blogs” :-P

  10. Mark H Says:
    June 27th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Is this a debate about spelling and grammar or about the Xperia Z Ultra?

    Anyway, fantastic piece of kit and all that but I’m confused about who would want to carry a phone around with them that is this big? I can see it being great as an in-car display for sat nav and incoming calls perhaps but it’ s a very expensive way of doing that. The price should be interesting since the current Xperia Z is around the £500 mark, but I guess you could argue that if you’re split between buying a phone or a tablet with 3G/4G then this is an ideal compromise. To me though it’s just bonkers. Be honest, you would be embarrased to pull that out of your pocket to answer a call – if you have a pocket it would fit in to begin with.

  11. arthurpio Says:
    June 28th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    “who would want to carry a phone around with them that is this big?”

    I want !

  12. Antonio Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Why compare these mini-pc’s to phones? Uhh, too big to carry around, can’t operate them with one hand, you look foolish making phone calls etc etc. This is not relevant. I have been extremely happy with my Samsung Galaxy Note, the first one. Best purchase in many years, does it all, in fact after using it for a few days I wanted it a bit larger. A big phone/mini pc is ideal for what you use these devices for: reading books, browsing the web, navigation, watching videos, the list is endless. Who would use these devices for making phone calls only? I have perfect sight, but it is such a pleasure to finally see text in all applications that is so easy to read. No need to do zooming/scrolling all the time, like when I see people reading newspapers on their small Iphone screen.

  13. Stuart Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Finally! A phone with enough power to run Android smoothly?

    I have a Galaxy Note and it chugs, big style, but I’m used to the form factor. Two years ago I looked like a nob when whipping the phone out to answer the occasional call but these days so many phones are that kind of size we’re used to seeing them. Yes the size can be annoying sometimes but the experience of browsing and gaming on the handset makes up for it for me.

    I’m disappointed that you need the equivalent power of a quad-core 2GHz pentium 4 plus Intel HD 3000 GFX to run Android without stuttering…


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