Monday, February 18, 2013

Sony Xperia Z hands-on

The Xperia Z is one of the most awaited smartphone coming out this year. Sony's flagship ticks most of the boxes when it comes to what people want from a 2013 phone - a full HD 1080p 5" display, quad core Snapdragon S4 SoC, 2GB RAM, decent camera and expansion slot.

In case you miss that, yes, this is the first smartphone with a 1080p (that's a resolution larger than my laptop!) display to be marketed here. The pixel density of this 5" display is at a ridiculous Retina-destroying 441 pixels per inch, or 1323 sub pixels per inch! Truth be told, I am already spoiled by the 4.3" 720p display on the HTC 8X, but this is on a whole new level - and if I am being honest, I can't really tell the difference when it comes to sharpness. But higher is better, right?
The Xperia Z is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC, with quad core 1.7 GHz Krait processors and the latest in GPU technology, the Adreno 320; 2GB RAM, 16GB of NAND storage, NFC, 13 MP camera with Exmor-R sensor and a microSDXC card slot. The phone is also water resistant (rated up to 1m deep for 30 mins) as well as dust resistant. Like the Motorola Defy, the Xperia Z features flaps over its ports to protect the innards from such electronic murdering thing such as moisture and dusts. However, unlike the Defy, the Xperia Z actually looks like a stylish flagship premium phone it is.

The entire body is surrounded with a proprietary glass, the Dragontrail. This brand of glass is supposed to be tougher than the Gorilla Glass (which I have never been impressed with), and thus, Sony claims, it is able to withstand more abuse. A Sony PR demonstrated this by banging his phone onto the table - which most reviewers would not dare do. Still, it is not known if it is able to withstand a fall to a concrete floor.
While the glass was used to maintain a uniform design, it appears to attract fingerprints and oil more efficiently than other devices I have held in the past. Thank goodness you can simply throw the phone under a tap and wash it! Speaking of design, the Xperia Z is simply beautiful, in white. I do admit I miss the curvaceous back of the Xperia Arc, but despite the square'ish design, it isn't too uncomfortable to in my bog standard human palms. The placement of the power button on the side is also a good move by Sony. The Z will be available in black, white and dark purple - with the white version being my favourite. I would love to see Sony releasing this and future devices in other bold colours - just imagine an Xperia Z in orange or yellow!

A stylish device the Xperia Z is, but how will it perform as an everyday device? Thankfully, it is speedy. Qualcomm's Krait-based Snapdragon has proven itself to be the SoC to beat the whole of last year and probably for much of this year as well. There were moments, very slight moments, where the screen would stutter. It wouldn't be an Android phone if there wasn't even a tiny moment of lag. You could install Android on a IBM Sequoia and it would still lag, even if it was only momentarily. Thankfully these moments are rare, and while I suspect Google will never ever eliminate lag, you would have to be really impatient to be annoyed.
The Xperia Z we had were running on Android 4.1.2 - not quite the newest. Customisations are kept to a bare minimum - though you will find plenty of bundled apps, such as Sony's own camera app. Considering the default Android camera app is pretty rubbish, this is actually welcomed.

Do keep in mind that these were merely engineering samples running on prototype hardware and software, so things could change with the final retail release. In any case, I can't wait to get hold of one now, so do keep an eye peeled for a full review in the near future. The sim-free version is currently available on pre-order for £499.


Anonymous said...

i am from Hong Kong. Just to correct you with the statement about Xperia Z being the first smartphone with 1080p. Actually in Asia HTC launched J Butterfly in Japan in Q4 2012 already.

Jon Choo said...

Apologies, I should have been clearer in my post. I meant first to be marketed in the UK.

Anonymous said...

I read that only Japan's version has Infra red port that allows the Phone to be used as a remote for TVs.

Is the lack of IR port a big loss for the EU version of phone?

Is it worth it to import the docomo japan version of the xperia z just for the IR? Would it be compatible with the global mobile network and 4G connections?

Jon Choo said...

Only reason for an IR port is to use your phone a TV remote. For anything else like contact sharing Bluetooth, NFC and even QR codes on the screen is quicker.

Personally I wouldn't care to import a phone just for IR, but that's just me...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon

I recent read that Sony is going to discontinue the walkman line altogether.

Can you please verify this claim and if so does this mean no further walkman models will be made beyond the F series?