Reviewing The Sony Xperia Z
Way back in January, Sony announced a brand new smartphone at CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Branded as the Xperia Z it was the first phone with a 1080p display that was due for release in the U.K. March came around and merely days after the Mobile World Congress trade show the Z was on sale.
A beautiful device. Nearly all who see it marvel at the amazing design of it, especially in white. The Glass front is broken only by the Sony logo and speaker cutout. The sides are plastic with glass inserts and the back of the device is one expansive slab of glass, with a camera hole.
The phone uses much the same materials as the Nexus 4 and yet it manages to feel so much more premium. As I wrote in my review of the Nexus 4, the rubberised edges make it feel cheap. Well, the Xperia Z shows that with a little less processing and a tiny bit of glass you can make the rest of the phone feel twice the price.
At a not too hefty 146g it weighs more than both the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 5, yet somehow feels lighter than the former, and just as balanced as the latter. The battery charges very quickly, in around 1.5 hours and it lasts a pretty long time too – pushing two days with light usage which is around 40% longer than the Nexus 4. Most of which is down to the optimisations Sony put in place with battery drivers.
With the internals being spec for spec the same as the Nexus 4 I was only really looking for one thing on the Z. The display. Boy, what a display it is. Turning on the Xperia, with the machined aluminium button on the right side, you’re greeted with an astonishing 440PPI (Pixels Per Inch). The Xperia Z is adorned with a 5″ 1920×1080 TFT IPS display which is gorgeous to view; when you are looking at it dead on. Sadly the display, or the Sony factory applied screen protector, really do not work at angles other than 0°. At first I had assumed it was something to do with the display being of poor quality. However this notion has been dispelled after a software update I received on the phone. It came with the base ‘.350’ software which was soon updated and both had a grey tone to the Navigation and Status bar. These versions of the software led to appalling white out as soon as you tilted the device in any direction. I have since updated the software again (to .253), which brings with it a black Nav and Status bar and also a screen calibration tool. Sadly the tool is only good for white warmth. I can now only come to the conclusion that something else has been changed as at angles where the display looked very washed out it is now noticeably less so.
In the end though I almost feel wedded to the pixel density and so my next device will have to contain a display of the same PPI. The clarity of it is very obvious, especially when viewing text.
Sony have applied a very light number of changes to Android, but they are still there and I found myself installing a stock Android based keyboard, using Nova Launcher as well as a stock messaging app. Sadly I feel that I am allied to the look of a Nexus based Android system.
One feature that I did notice and enjoyed was theming. The Sony themes offer a nice touch – when you chose a colour based theme it takes that pretty much all over the OS and changes graphics to suit.
The next big difference is the camera. I know that Google do not optimise their camera software at all and as such we are hindered, but man the Sony 13 megapixel EXMOR sensor really does a good job. The results are sharp without being overly so. Also, I don’t know what Sony are doing in their viewer but there is no blurriness when moving the phone around. None whatsoever. I almost get motion sickness from it being so clear. Maybe it’s capturing things at 48FPS, similar to the issues people had when watching the new Hobbit movie, but it’s honestly insane to see.
Oh, this phone is waterproof too. IP55 & IP57 mean that it is dust resistant and can be submerged at depths of up to one meter for 30 minutes. Admittedly scared to do so at first, it’s quite crazy to be able to dunk the device into a sink of water and have it keep recording your face while doing so. There are some drawbacks; the screen is barely responsive while in contact with water – I’m guess because it’s reading a touch all over instead of being able to discern your individual digits. I also encountered the phone going crazy when under a shower, if the water is hitting the screen directly the droplets all get registered as touches. Amazingly the phone kept up with the barrage of supposed inputs to it. Still it’s a neat feature and something that should be built into more phones, I feel this would stop a lot of toilet accidents from having to be insurance jobs.
With all that said, the Sony Xperia Z is not the device for me. You know how fickle I am with my mobile phones and in the end the fact that I can’t easily get a ‘with Nexus user experience’ onto the phone, I know is a compromise and because of that, I have to say no. As wonderful as the display and camera are, I just can’t bring myself to give up the beauty of Stock Android on the Nexus 4.
Does that mean that the Xperia is a bad phone? No, far from it, this is easily one of the best phones you can buy. It’s just not for me.