Sony didn’t really have the chance to give the Galaxy S3 and HTC One X a good fight last year. This time around, they’re looking to take some attention away from the top players by releasing better engineered products. Sony has made a habit of using every letter in the alphabet and the ‘Z’ is probably one of their last cards from the Xperia deck if they’re hoping to make a difference this year. Can the Xperia Z take them to the top of the android war? Check out our full review after the break.
A new wave of Quad-Core wars is upon us and the Sony Xperia Z has been out for quite some time now, giving them a slight advantage over its rivals that have yet to launch in the Philippine market. The Xperia Z is Sony’s Flagship for 2013 and it comes well-equipped with a 5 inch 1080p HD Display, partnered with a top of the line 13MP camera and powered by the powerful Quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon Krait processor. Enclose all of that in an IP57 dust and water resistant body and you have Sony’s hope of reclaiming a larger chunk of the market that it once enjoyed.
The Box and Contents
In contrast with 2012’s Acro S, the Xperia Z’s box is significantly smaller, but it comes with everything you would expect from a smartphone. Sadly, the standard package is all you get. The retail box includes a USB Cable, a charger, manuals and a very good headset – nothing special.
Build Quality and Design
Above its 5-inch screen, you’ll find a 2.2-megapixel camera capable of 1080p recording @30fps. It’s also important to note that the screen is shatter proof and scratch resistant.
The volume rocker and power button can be found on the right side, and they’re pretty much the only hard buttons you’ll find on the device. Along the sides, you’ll also find the micro SD slot, SIM card slot, micro USB port and 3.5mm jack. Each of the aforementioned ports and slots has its own respective covers to achieve a sleek and unbroken look while aiding the phone in keeping water out.
On the back, you’ll find a top of the line 13mp camera and it shares a similar design as the front camera, meaning they both have.
Overall in terms of build, Xperia Z may not bring anything new in terms of looks, but it feels as it should – a high-end phone with a very sturdy build partnered with a great design, making it a great piece of eye candy.
The Sony Xperia Z sports a 5-inch 1080×1920 Full HD screen that is no doubt one of the best out there. That Full HD display is partnered with Sony’s famous Bravia Engine, so it bursts with vibrant colors and the clarity is really something to look at. You can further appreciate the display if you compare it with 2012’s 720p phones. If the display is important to you, the Xperia Z will not disappoint. Though I should point out that the Xperia Z has poor viewing angles. Once you start looking at it a few degrees off from the standard viewpoint and it starts looking pale to unreadable and poor sunlight legibility on low brightness could also be an issue with some.
Looking past those issues though, movie playback, image browsing and just looking at the phone is a great leap from last year. Even if you don’t get the Xperia Z, it will certainly get you excited for what 2013’s wave of flagships have to offer.
Sony has rarely disappointed when it comes to multimedia, and the Xperia Z continues that solid tradition. Audio quality with earphones attached is one of the best you will ever experience. Partner that with their stock headset and listening to music will seem like a brand-new experience. Sadly, the loudspeaker is below average as the output isn’t that strong. Though I don’t think this will be an issue since putting any phone on loudspeaker is a bad idea anyway.
As for Video Playback, it has an app called Movies that will automatically make all your videos accessible from it. The stock video player is great as it played almost everything I threw at it, yes, 1080p videos included. Video playback is smooth and looks great on the gorgeous display. Copy and paste to your Xperia Z from your video library and you’re good to go! The Sony Xperia Z also has Google Music preinstalled.
Browsing on the phone is also a great experience and if you’ve been using Android for a while, you’ll certainly appreciate how far it’s come. Video streaming, such as on YouTube, is also quite enjoyable and it’s as smooth as if you were playing standard videos.
The stock Android Gallery app has been replaced with Sony’s home-grown Album app. Aside from a small scanning delay of your SD Card (if your microSD card is slow), flipping through your images is fast and smooth. The Bravia Engine does give a very good job of making even your lowest resolution pictures appear vibrant and crisp.
The Xperia Z features a 13-megapixel camera that allows you to shoot VGA, 2MP, 5MP, 9MP and 12MP shots. The camera has other nifty options to choose from if you prefer more control over the outcome of your shots. The camera is arguably one of the most important parts of a smartphone and Sony has always been my preferred brand when it comes to smartphone cameras, so I had high expectations for their latest flagship.
Sadly, I was a little bit disappointed as the images looked almost the same as the 2012 Galaxy Note 2 (read our review here). It should also be noted that there is a slight delay when the shutter is pressed and when the image is taken. The autofocus response of the camera is also not as snappy as I expected. Lastly, it’s also not that good of a low light performer and image stabilization will also be an issue for people with shaky hands. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but it did not bring anything new and impressive in terms of the camera. The HTC One offers a 4-UltraPixel camera that is said to have great image stabilization and low-light performance while the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13MP Camera with a new feature called Dual-Capture that lets you simultaneously take videos and photos using both the front and rear camera.
Despite the somewhat disappointing rear-facing camera, the front camera maybe one of the best that you can find. Images are clear, bright and sharp and it has the capability to record 1080p videos at 30fps, which is perfect for Skype and self-portraits. Video recording is remarkable as it produces a relatively small file size.
The Sony Xperia Z pulls no punches when it comes to gaming. I have tested popular games such as Temple Run 2, Pou, Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, all of which played smoothly. As for HD Games, I have tested NBA 2k13 and NOVA 3. Both games play great, though I did notice some graphical glitches on the former. Nevertheless, the glitch can be ignored and the the gaming experience is one of the smoothest out there. Another point to keep in mind while playing is the temperature of the device. The Xperia Z does not heat up quickly, but when it does, it’s best to stop playing because it does get quite hot.
This phone will definitely deliver you a great gaming experience, You will notice and appreciate the great visuals on virtually any game you play, especially the ones that are heavier on the system.
The Sony Xperia Z runs Jellybean 4.1.2 out of the box, although the UI is still reminiscent of previous Xperias that ran Ice Cream Sandwich. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though and fans of the brand will instantly be familiarized with the phone’s wallpaper and layout. Newbies can easily go through the phone in a couple of minutes, and with the hundreds of customization options to suit your taste from the Play Store, you can have yourself a personalized phone in no time. To those who tend to use custom roms, developer support for the Xperia Z is growing, so you’ll also have more options if you want to really maximize your phone.
The Xperia Z is powered by the quad core 1.5GHz Krait, making it undeniably one of the fastest smartphones out there today. There was no lag when switching between apps and swiping between screens was absolutely smooth. Add 2Gb of RAM to the package and you have yourself a device that can simultaneously perform numerous tasks without lagging or stuttering.
Of course one of the most important aspects of a phone in the world’s texting capital is telephony and messaging. The Messaging app features the most recent Android Keyboard’s capabilities, particularly being able to learn how you text, giving it a much more extensive predictive input as it learns from texts, tweets, emails, and Facebook messages. The stock messaging keyboard also offers swiping gestures and offline voice recognition. Sadly, it does not have Filipino word recognition so you have to stick with English to take advantage of this. If you do not like the stock messaging app or the keyboard, again, the Play Store is your friend. Calling is also a delight as it is very simple to use and the speaker and mic are loud and clear. Looking at Antutu and Quadrant Scores Xperia Z produced relatively high results.
The battery of the Sony Xperia Z is about above average. On standby, the Xperia Z only drained about 5% after 7 hours and should undoubtedly last more than a day on strictly texting and the occasional call, although I highly doubt anyone who buys this will be satisfied with using just its telephony applications. Browsing and music playback does not consume much juice, but playing games and watching videos will quickly drain your battery life, especially if you play after the device has heated up. It will definitely last a day, but overnight charging is unavoidable.
In terms of looks, the Sony Xperia Z offers nothing new aside from the peculiar placement of the hardware buttons. What it does bring is Sony’s answer to 2013’s flagship war. As much as the brand’s fans hate to admit it, their phones do not get as much recognition or air time as Samsung does. The IP57 Water and Dust Resistant protection might appeal to a niche audience that likes taking pictures underwater, but that is a very small fraction of the market. Hitting the market earlier does give them an advantage over their competitors since the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy SIV have not yet officially hit the Philippine Market, and those looking for a new phone may find what they are looking for in Xperia Z already without having to wait.
After some time with this phone, I have to admit, I was really blown away. If you have managed to keep yourself up to date with mobile phones, you will definitely appreciate the significant improvements over anything else you might have seen before, especially with the 1080p display and non-plastic build. The Xperia Z emerged looking like a phone to beat and in this review, it did its best to perform like it.
Sony Xperia Z Specs
- Android 4.1.2 Jellybean
- Sony Mobile Bravia Engine II
- Dustproof (IP5X) and Water resistant (IPX57)
- 5-inch Full HD Dragon Trail Glass Display (1920×1080 pixel resolution), 443ppi
- 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm MDM9215M Snapdragon S4 processor
- Adreno 320 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB internal storage, microSD support up to 64GB
- 13.1-megapixel autofocus main camera with LED flash
- 1080p video recording at 30fps
- 2.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
- DC-HSDPA 42Mbps, LTE 100Mbps
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
- GPS, A-GPS support, GLONASS
- Bluetooth v4.0, microUSB
- Dimensions: 139 x 71 x 7.9mm
- Weight: 146g
- Li-Ion 2330mAh battery
- Price: Php 32,490
However, the Xperia Z feels like it pulled some punches, such as with the TFT Screen, which is outclassed by the upcoming Galaxy SIV’s Super AMOLED screen or the HTC One’s Super LCD. It has pretty disappointing viewing angles and speakers, and a camera that brings nothing new to the table. There is no doubt that the Sony Xperia Z will have a tough time ahead as it will definitely be flamed for its lack of creativity and innovation. Still, compared to 2012’s flagships, the Xperia Z is an improvement, but it feels like it only took small baby steps.
With that being said, those itching for a 2013 flagship phone may find what they are looking for in the Xperia Z. However, I don’t think it will get a serenading ‘Nasayo Na Ang Lahat’ from Daniel Padilla, especially once the more anticipated flagships start hitting the market.