There are a handful of smartphones out on market currently that aim to bring a sexy form factor to the masses. Phones like the iPhone 5, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 to name a few. However, Sony is taking a shot at those handsets with their Xperia Z, which is available for T-Mobile.
The Xperia Z boasts a 5-inch screen that is housed by a glossy black and glass chassis that looks great and feels smooth, while keeping its face without any physical buttons. One of the highlights of course of the phone, is its full HD screen (1920 x 1080 pixels) which produces some very bright and sharp images, making pictures, text and video look fantastic. The screen’s viewing angle wasn’t as great however as say the HTC One’s, or the Galaxy S4s.
A 3-megapixel front-facing camera adorns the top area of the screen, as well as an earpiece and a speaker. Did I mention the Xperia Z looks great? Oh right, well it does. And it’s durable as well as you can actually stick the phone in up to 3 feet of water for about a half an hour without problems, while it’s also resistant to dust. The black glossy finish does seem to show off fingerprints though, so if you like to keep your phone as clean as possible, you’ll likely find yourselves wiping the phone down frequently.
Users will find a Micro-USB port on the side, as well as a microSD slot that can take additional memory. Coming in at .31-inches thick and 5.47-inches tall, the Xperia Z is very thin and fits extremely well in a typical front pocket. As for the battery, it’s embedded into the device, so it’s not removable.
Getting into the phone’s overall performance, the Xperia Z comes with a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, with 2GB of RAM. Flipping through a few apps while surfing the web and playing a couple of YouTube videos, I found the device speedy and didn’t come across any real issues or lag. One area that I feel Sony didn’t put much love into however, was the battery life. The phone drained its battery in about 6 hours during typical everyday usage, such as running a few apps, making some phone calls, checking email, etc. By comparison, the HTC One averaged nearly 9 hours, while the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 gave me about 10 hours or so. So this wasn’t even close. Fortunately, Sony includes a feature called Stamina Mode, which does extend the battery life of the phone when it's on standby. Essentially what it does, is it doesn't allow apps in the background to sync, or do much of anything, which conserves energy. By default, this mode is off, so you have to go turn it on, but you can also list any apps that you do want to be able to function in the background as well.
As this is a T-Mobile device, the carrier slipped in a few of its own apps into the Xperia Z, such as My Account, which lets you check usage, billing and other info regarding the plan its on. There is also the T-Mobile TV app which gives you access to a few favorite channels such as ESPN and Fox, but requires a subscription. Running on Android (Jelly Bean), the Xperia Z uses a tweaked version of the OS, which has Sony flavor all over it. Fortunately there’s nothing over the top and merely offers up an altered lock screen and a notification shade, including a total of six home screens.
Camera wise, the Xperia Z has both good and bad points. For starters, the rear-facing camera is 13-megapixels, while the camera app looks like many of the company’s digital cameras, so anyone who has used one before, should feel right at home, being able to change scene modes and other settings. Having taken photos both indoor and outdoor in a variety of lighting situations, I thought that the image quality was lifelike with solid white balance without being overly exposed or too vibrant; close-up shots also resulted in crisp detail.
Users will find modes for panorama shots, as well as those for HDR, which is useful for capturing higher quality images. On the downside, the camera uses what’s called “Superior auto” mode by default, which tries to choose the correct scene type for photos, though it can cause double images or slower performance. Slower speeds are also a problem when trying to snap consecutive photos, as the camera takes a little too long for my tastes to get ready for the next shot after taking one.
When taking a look at the Xperia Z on its own, it’s quite frankly the best smartphone I’ve seen from Sony. That being said, with competition from some of the aforementioned devices, it’s going to be a tough sell, though the resistance to water and dust could add another feather to its cap. There is of course, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, which is also made for that market, but I dare say that the Xperia Z looks much sexier than its counterpart.
Final Score: 4 out of 5