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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Sony Xperia Z
The Sony Xperia Z's 5-inch screen, whopping 1080p resolution, fast quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM are all top-notch specs. Plus its camera can record HDR video and it's waterproof to a depth of 1m, something we wish more phone makers would add. It's likely to be pretty pricey though, and it may have trouble standing out from similarly specced competitors.
Full HD screen
Waterproof to 1m
Can record HDR video
Sure to be pricey
Not the very latest version of Android
The Sony Xperia Z is Sony's latest additionto its smart phone lineup. It sits at the top of the range, replacing last year's disappointing Xperia T as the flagship.
It's toting an impressive set of specs. A quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM slumbers beneath the hood and a 5-inch display with a whopping 1080p resolution shows off the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean interface. You get a 13-megapixel camera too that can apparently record high dynamic range (HDR) video -- the first of its kind we've seen on a phone.
To protect all that top-notch tech, Sony has generously made the Z waterproof to a depth of 1m.
Of course, such an array of high-end specs aren't going to come cheap. It's rumoured to be around the £530 mark, SIM-free. O2, Vodafone, Three and Phones 4U have all said that they will be offering the phone, but haven't announced any prices yet.
It also packs 4G, so it's possible that it will also come to EE, but there's so far been no word. Stay tuned for a full review of the Xperia Z soon.
Design and build quality
With a 5-inch display hogging the front, you'd be right to expect the Z to be a pretty big beast. It's 139mm long and 71mm wide, making it slightly longer and marginally wider than the mighty Samsung Galaxy S3. If you struggle to wrap your mitts around the S3, you're not going to find the Z any easier.
It's just 7.9mm thick though, making it almost as skinny as Apple's iPhone 5. If you can manage to slide its wide frame into your jeans pocket, it at least shouldn't bulge out embarrassingly at the front. With a weight of 146g, it's heavier than both the S3 and iPhone 5, but nowhere near the fearsome bulk of the Nokia Lumia 920 (185g).
Looking dashing in black, white and, er, purple.
The front of the device is every bit as minimal as we've come to expect from Sony of late, although thankfully it's ditched the cheap-looking clear plastic strip on the bottom. The lack of physical buttons on its face means that the glass screen remains unbroken from edge to edge.
On the back you'll find an expanse of shiny glass -- or more likely plastic -- in either white, black or a rather luscious purple. Again, it's extremely minimal, with only the camera lens and subtle Xperia logo on show. If you're into sparse design it'll be right up your street. Even if you're not, it's inoffensive at the very least.
I'll have to leave the verdict on build quality for the full review, when I can put it through my usual barrage of brutal stress tests. A particularly handy addition, however, is the Z's water and dust-proofing. The phone is submersible to a depth of 1 metre for up to 30 minutes. That means it's perfectly happy being used in awful British weather and won't conk out if you accidently drop it in your pint. Smashing.
The Z offers 16GB of built-in storage, but you can also pop in a microSD card, expanding it by another 32GB -- or infinitely if you want to carry a pocketful of cards around.
The Xperia Z's 5-inch display packs in a whopping resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels -- that's Full HD, like your TV. It smashes the iPhone 5's, Galaxy S3's and even the Galaxy Note 2's resolutions. Of course, the iPhone 5 is much smaller, but the Z's 441ppi pixel density easily beats the iPhone 5's 326ppi.
Cramming 1,920x1,080 pixels in a 5-inch screen is quite a feat.
That should make the Z's screen superbly sharp, perfect for watching all the high-definition content you could want. Sony also promises the screen is extremely bold, thanks to the Bravia mobile engine it uses. I'll have to leave my final verdict on the quality of the screen for the full review.
Power and software
The Z is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core processor backed up by a healthy 2GB of RAM. That's a very generous serving of power so should provide a very swift performance for even the most demanding of tasks. The generous 2GB of RAM should also help with multi-tasking and switching between open apps. Again, I'll have to see exactly how well it performs when I get one in the office.
It's running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. That's the latest full build of Android, but Android 4.2 was shown off in the latter half of last year on the excellent Google Nexus 4. It's a shame that the phone won't have the latest, shiniest software on board. Version 4.2 brings various updates, chiefly in the camera, where you can create interesting 360-degree panoramas and benefit from in-camera photo editing.
Speaking of the camera, the Xperia Z is packing a 13-megapixel snapper around the back. It's using Sony's Exmor RS image sensor, which apparently provides richer colour and less noise in low light situations -- we'll be the judge of that.
Most interestingly however is the fact that it offers high dynamic range for both photos and video. True HDR in photos requires you to take three separate photos -- one too dark, one average and one too light -- and then combine them into one very evenly exposed scene.
Sony reckons the 13-megapixel camera is its most advanced phone snapper yet.
I'm not entirely sure at this early point exactly how it manages to capture HDR for video, but I'm assuming it doesn't simultaneously record three videos in the same way. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing the results in the review.
The camera also offers a bunch of features such as face detection, various scene modes and a sweep panorama mode, similar to the one you'll find on the iPhone 5. Hopefully these extras will make up for not having Android 4.2.
On paper, the Xperia Z looks to be a powerhouse of a phone and one well-suited to sit at the top of Sony's range. The quad-core processor and generous RAM should help it power through tasks and the high-resolution screen should make images and video look superbly crisp.
It's likely to be matched in these departments by the rest of the year's flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, so much of its success will depend on the quality of its camera and whether people value it being waterproof. As a terrible butterfingers, I certainly do. We'll be checking out all these features when we put it to the test in our full review soon.